A note on the original song

This is part of the complete Exercises in Song cycle being released on this site.

"A note on the original song" is a bonus exercise, not to be found in Raymond Queneau's original Exercices de Style nor in the translations.

To be sung to the tune of "Show Me The Way To Go Home". More information here.

In the culture in which I grew up, Show Me The Way To Go Home was considered a folk song. Indeed, its melody is likely to be an English or Irish folk tune. My family sang it in this spirit, with little care for accuracy of words or—depending on who was singing—pitch.

When I began this project in 2007–8, I therefore consulted online commentators (I confess: Wikipedia) and found my original suspicions confirmed: the song as a whole was considered as folk. I felt this gave me carte blanche to continue working, happy and carefree.

Since then, and at the time of publication of this edition, I’ve been made aware of a copyright claim, at least on the lyrics, arising from the 1925 composition by James Campbell and Reginald Connelly, under the pseudonym Irving King. I am obliged to respect this and—especially since that songwriting duo did so much to popularize the song—do not reprint their version here.

The original’s folksiness—if not strictly folk—means it has ironically acquired variations of its own. I therefore chose as a template the variant from my youth; an arbitrary decision, but one which hopefully improves the effect of intentional variations made for the purposes of these exercises. Compared to what I believe to be the Irving King lyrics, my template differs in (at least) the following:

    Fourth line begins: And it’s gone…
    Fifth line begins: No matter where…
    Sixth line begins: Over land…
    Seventh line begins: You will always…

There are doubtless variants available online which match this template; perhaps in a future edition I will be able to include it. For now, I won’t judge you if you jot it down—in pencil!—on the inside cover of your copy of the book.

Most of the exercises which follow can be sung to the same (folk) tune as my template, and usually with the same rhythm too: even Free Verse, Telegraphic, the spoken words of Opera English, and Haiku; the last tries to carry the tune, if not the rhythm. Necessary exceptions include Ode—which can be sung to the tune of Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellen Bogen by the Sea—and Sonnet and Alexandrines—either of which readers are welcome to sing however they wish: but perhaps quietly, or at any rate indoors.