‘Clementine’, re-imagined by Tom Lehrer

In a cavern, in a canyon,
Excavating for a mine
Dwelt a miner, forty niner,
And his daughter Clementine.

How I loved her, how I loved her!
Though her shoes were number nine,
Herring boxes, without topses,
Sandals were for Clementine.

[Chorus:]
Clementine! Clementine!
Oh my darling, Clementine!
You are lost and gone for ever,
Dreadful sorry, Clementine.

Drove she ducklings to the water
Ev’ry morning just at nine,
Hit her foot against a splinter,
Fell into the foaming brine.

Ruby lips above the water,
Blowing bubbles, mighty fine,
But, alas, I was no swimmer,
So I lost my Clementine.

[Chorus]

How I missed her! How I missed her,
How I missed my Clementine,
But I kissed her little sister,
And forgot my Clementine.

[Chorus]

“Oh My Darling, Clementine” is an American western folk ballad usually credited to Percy Montrose (1884), although it is sometimes credited to Barker Bradford. While at first the song seems to be a sad ballad sung by a bereaved lover about the loss of his darling, the daughter of a miner in the 1849 California Gold Rush, as the verses continue it becomes obvious that the song is in fact a tongue-in-cheek parody of a sad ballad. For example, in the second verse we learn that Clementine’s feet are so big that she has to wear boxes instead of shoes (presumably because size 9 shoes are not available), hardly a detail that would be mentioned in a serious romantic ballad. Her “tragic demise” is caused by a splinter in her toe that causes her to fall and drown – clearly a ridiculous accident, but told in a deadpan style. Finally, at the end of the song, the lover forgets his lost love after one kiss from Clementine’s “little sister”.

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About layanglicana

Author of books on Calcutta, Delhi and Dar es Salaam, I am now blogging as a lay person about the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I am also blogging about the effects of World War One on the village of St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.
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