Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

"Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is an English nursery rhyme, and a popular children's song/proverb, often sung as a round. It can also be an 'action' nursery rhyme where singers sit opposite one another and 'row' forwards and backwards with joined hands. The tune is credited to Eliphalet Oram Lyte in the publication "The Franklin Square Song Collection" (1881, New York) which also indicates that he adapted the lyric:

:"Row, row, row your boat,":"Gently down the stream.":"Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,":"Life is but a dream."


The lyrics have often been used as a metaphor for life's difficult choices, and many see the boat as referring to one's self or a group with which one identifies. [cite web |url= |title= Life is But a Dream |date= December 2, 2005 |first= Tom |last= Barrett |work= Interlude Meditation Archive |accessdate= 2008-04-13] Rowing is a skillful, if tedious, practice that takes perfection but also directs the vessel. [cite news |url= |date= November 22, 1998 |title= Row, Row, Row |work= The New York Times |first= Caroline |last= Knapp |accessdate= 2008-04-13] When sung as a group, the act of rowing becomes a unifier, as oars must be in sync in a rowboat. The idea that man travels along a certain stream, suggests boundaries in the path of choices and in free will. [cite web |url= |title= Row, Row, Row Your Boat |date= January 5, 2008 |accessdate= 2008-04-13 |first= Steven Lane |last= Taylor] The third line recommends that challenges should be greeted in stride while open to joy with a smile. [cite web |url= |date= June 10, 2006 |title= A Note from the Editor |first= Tracy |last= Steen |work= All-But-Dissertation Survival Guide |accessdate= 2008-04-13] The final line, "life is but a dream", is perhaps the most meaningful. With a religious point of view, life and the physical plane may be regarded as having equivalent value as that of a dream, such that troubles are seen in the context of a lesser reality once one has awakened. [cite web |url= |date= January 4, 2006 |title= Row Your Boat |work= The Innovation Road Map Travelogue |first= Paul |last= Schumann |accessdate= 2008-04-13] Conversely, the line can just as equally convey nihilist sentiments on the meaninglessness of man's actions. The line is also commonly sung as "life is like a dream" rather than "life is but a dream", possibly to sound happier, less meaningful, and more appropriate for its audience of young children.

Additional or alternate verses

Sometimes people sing additional verses, which should probably be considered a form of Children's street culture, sometimes with the intent simply of extending the song, or sometimes (especially in the case of more irreverent versions) with the intent of making it funny, parodying it, or substituting another sensibility for the perceived innocent one of the original.

:"Row, row, row the boat":"Gently down the stream":"Merrily merrily merrily merrily":"Up and down the stream"

:"Row, row, row the boat":"Gently down the stream":"If you see a waterfall":"Don't forget to scream"

:"Row, row, row the boat":"Gently down the river":"If you see a polar bear":"Don't forget to shiver"

:"Row, row, row the boat":"Gently to the shore":"If you see a lion":"Don't forget to roar"

:"Row, row, row the boat":"Gently in the bath":"If you see a spider":"Don't forget to laugh"

:"Row, row, row the boat":"Gently as can be":"'Cause if you're not careful":"You'll fall into the sea!"

:"Row, row, row your boat":"Gently down the lake":"Don't stand up and rock the boat":"That's a big mistake!"

:"Row, row, row the boat":"Gently down the stream":"Throw your teachers overboard":"And listen to them scream!"

:"Rock, rock, rock your boat":"Gently down the stream":"Watch out, give a shout,":"Into the water you go!"

:"Row, row, row your boat,":"Gently down the stream." or "Underneath the stream.":"Ha! Ha! Fool'd ya all!":"I'm a submarine."

Mister Rogers version:

:"Propel, propel, propel your craft,":"Unforcefully down the liquid solution.":"Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically,":"Existence is merely an illusion."

Don Music from "Sesame Street" eventually came up with these lyrics (see below):: "Drive, drive, drive your car,": "Gently down the street.": "Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,": "Life is but a treat."

Mr. Bean in "Bean (film)" variated the lyrics while drunk:: "Row, row, row your boat": "Gently down the stream.": "If you see a crocodile,": "Don't forget to scream.": "Argh!"

Other languages

A Danish version goes like this:

: "Ro, ro, ro din båd": "Tag din åre fat": "Vuggende, vuggende, vuggende, vuggende": "Over Kattegat"

Translated: "Row, row, row your boat, take a grab of your oar, rocking, rocking, rocking, rocking over Kattegat".

A Danish version (with alternate lyrics) goes like this:

: "Drik, drik, drik din øl": "Ta' ved flasken fast": "Hvis du ser en autonom": "Så sku du ta og kast"

Translated: "Drink, drink, drink your beer, take a grab of your bottle, if you se an autonomous you should take a throw".

A Turkish version goes like this:

: "Sür, sür arabanı": "Gez sokakları": "Neşeli, keyifli, tasasız": "Çıkar hayatın tadını"

Translated: "Drive, drive, drive your car, wander the streets, merrily , cheerily, easily, enjoy the life".

A Spanish version goes like this:

: "Vamos a pasear": "en un botecito": "rápido,rápido,rápido,rápido,": "en un botecito"

Translated: "Let's go sail; in a little boat; fast, fast, fast, fast; in a little boat"

There is also a Hungarian version, which is practically the translated version of the original English one.

: "Szaladj, szaladj csónakom": "túl a kis tavon": "vígan, vígan, vígan": "az élet egy álom"

A Norwegian version goes like this:

: "Ro, ro, ro din båt": "Ta din åre fatt": "Vuggeti, vuggeti, vuggeti, vuggeti": "Over Kattegat"

Translated: "Row, row, row your boat, take hold of your oar, rocking, rocking, rocking, rocking over Kattegat".

A Greek version goes like this:

: "Τράβα το κουπί": "σκίσε το νερό": "ήρεμα ήρεμα ήρεμα": "κύλα στον αφρό"

In popular culture


*It is named in "A Series of Unfortunate Events" as Violet Baudelaire's least favorite song. Lemony Snicket describes it as "a well known hymn of naval disaster".
* In the book "The Bad Case of the Giggles, a version goes like this:Row, row, row your boatGently down the streamUntil you hit a waterfallThen you start to scream!


* In , the vacationing family sing the song before the movie's intended opening credit sequence.
* It was sung in the cult Disney Halloween-themed blockbuster "Hocus Pocus" by Jay and I.C.E., two lads held by three witches (the Sanderson sisters) in their torture-cage.
* It was sung by the main character Jamey Meadows, played by Jon Bon Jovi, in the film "Row Your Boat".
*Also sung by Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy at the beginning of the film "". Unfortunately, they could not quite get Mr. Spock to join in, because the Vulcan was "trying to comprehend the words".
*It appears in the film "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind".
* In "Bean", the first Mr. Bean movie, Bean and Langley sing the song while drunk before Langley's wife confronts the boozers.
*A fragment is sung by the virus during the attack on the Ellingson Mineral Corporation mainframe in the film "Hackers"
*In the film "Dante's Peak", the main characters sing it in a round to calm the children down while they are navigating the acidic lake.
*In Dirty Harry the bad guy makes the children in the bus sing it, before Clint Eastwood saves the day.
*In the film "Vanilla Sky", it is the ringtone on Julianna Gianni's cellular phone, one of many references in that film to life being a dream.


* In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Jellyfish Jam", Squidward plays the song very loudly on his clarinet to annoy the wild jellyfish who are partying in SpongeBob's house - with disastrous results.
* In an episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, Lt. George and General Melchett sing an old Cambridge drinking song to the tune of Row Row Row Your Boat; the last two lines are replaced.
*In the "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog" episode "Robolympics", Sonic sings his version of the song.
*In the "Stargate SG-1" series, in episode "Urgo" all members of SG-1 team sing the song.
*In the pilot episode of CBS's night-time soap, "Knots Landing", Diana (Claudia Lonow) and her step-sister, Annie (Karen Allen) drive drunk in the car singing the chorus. with "Belts off, trousers down, isn't life a scream".
*In "The Backyardigans" episode, "The Yeti", sung with modified lyrics.
*It appears in "The Simpsons" episode The Wettest Stories Ever Told, during the Mutiny on the Bounty story. It is sung as a round by the crew of the Bounty and then, after the mutiny, by Groundskeeper Willie on his own, although still attempting to sing a round.
*The rendition from Don Music on "Sesame Street" was decided when Don couldn't remember the last word, then decided on "treat", to which Kermit told Don that "treat" didn't rhyme with "stream", then Don decided to rhyme a word with "treat" rather than "stream", and eventually the lyrics above were born.
*On "The Alvin Show," Alvin and the Chipmunks sang a version with the words "merrily, happily, happily, merrily". The song also contained new verses.
*In the 9th episode of season 2 of "Country Fried Home Videos" on CMT [ Handini] is shown playing the song on "The Hands".
*At the end of the 2nd episode of season 1 of "Deadwood", Calamity Jane and Charlie Utter sing the song, in 1876, 5 years before its publication in 1881.
*The song occurs as part of a fragment of Home by Alexi Murdoch, as the accompaniment to the gravity-aided demise of Charles "Haywire" Patoshik, a lunatic escapee in the TV series "Prison Break".
*Comedian Redd Foxx would often try to get the crowd singing along in various ways during his stand-up shows. Dennis Miller also sang it during the encore of his first HBO special.
*In the second episode of first season of Fringe (TV series) the song is cited by Dr. Bishop which that song was sang by your partner and it maid he sleeps.


*Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys frequently performs "Row Row Row Your Boat" in concert.
*Tom Waits seemingly pays tribute to the nursury rhyme in "Misery is the River of the World" on his "Blood Money" album. He exclaims "Everybody Row! Everybody Row!"
*The song is quoted in the Tool song Third Eye.
*The Pacific Coast Band made Sunset Strip history in June 2008 by dividing their audience into three sections and chanting this song at the legendary Rainbow room. The punk rockers outside were astonished and stayed for the rest of the show.


*A fragment is sung by Lo Wang in the first level of Shadow Warrior.
*In Fallout 2 a trio of street singers in New Reno sing it.


*In the [ 1075th strip] of Questionable Content, Hannelore sings it in a karaoke bar on her birthday.


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