Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Song My Grandmother Sang -- Lady Moon

My grandmother sang a song to all the babies and toddlers in our family entitled, "Lady Moon." This was a lullaby used to entertain the little ones. I never thought much of the song because it was not a catchy tune, the words didn't mean very much, and no opera singer needed to be concerned that Grandma would take over their role. I never learned the words to the song. We also never heard this song from any other source. Until today I thought that Grandma had made up the words or changed them so much that the original would not be recognizable.

Last week my mother was reading the book,
Her Face in the Mirror / edited By Faye Moskowitz. (Boston, MA : Beacon Press, 1994) The book is a collection of biographical and autobiographical stories about Jewish women. One story, "Mother, I hardly knew you," by Letty Cottin Pogrebin caught my mother's attention. Ms. Pogrebin mentions that her mother sang a lullaby, "Old Lady Moon." My mother wondered if this was the same song that her mother sang. Music was a catalyst that reminded Ms. Pogrebin of her childhood. She remembers the songs of the Haggadah and the classical music from radio station WQXR. My mother turned to me for help finding Ms. Pogrebin's email address. I did a Google search for the author's name and didn't find the email address. I did find biographic material about her. I then searched in the data base, Literature Resource Center and found her name easily. I was pointed to Pogrebin's biography in Contemporary Authors Online. (Detroit: Gale, 2005.) I sent my mother the address on Monday.

Immediately my mother sent an e-mail to
Pogrebin. On Tuesday night my mother reported back that a reply was received. The song Pogrebin remembered started "O' Lady Moon, so fair and bright." This is not the same song as my Grandma sang. The first line of the song she sang was, "Lady moon, Lady moon Sailing up so high." I used Books.Google to search for the composer and lyricist.

The song is mentioned in the article, "First steps in language development" / by Harriet Luddington in the periodical The American teacher (vol 4:3, 1890) Luddington says that the singing the song was a good way to help with language development in kindergartners. The full text of the lyrics appears in Pinafore palace by Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin, Nora Archibald Smith (New York : Grosett & Dunlap, c1907) on pages 222-223. I found an alternative name for the song is: "The moon and the baby." Searching for this title led me to the full musical score in : The songs and music of Friedrich Froebel's Mother play / by Friedrich Fröbel, Susan Elizabeth Blow (New York: Appleton, 1903). The composer is Freidrich
Fröbel and the lyrics are by Kate Kellogg. There is a note that the song is from: Songs for Little Children for the kindergarten and primary schools, by Eleanor Smith. Springfield, Mass., Milton Bradley Co., 1887. This book is a fully viewable using Books.Google.

Freidrich Fröbel (1782 - 1852) was well known for the founding of the kindergarten in Germany. Many Germans, trained in his methods emigrated to the United States and started the first kindergartens for children of German immigrants. In 1873 William T. Harris superintendent of the St. Louis public schools was the first to integrate kindergartens as part of the public school systems. His curricula included reciting poems and singing songs as a way of expanding language skills.

My grandmother probably learned, "Lady moon" in kindergarten in St. Louis. By the time my mother was in kindergarten they were no longer singing it. The song that I thought my grandmother was the only one in the world to know is really one of many songs a 19th century German education reformer wrote to help young children learn language.

Here is the version of the song transcribed from a video recording of my grandmother.

The Moon and the Baby

Lady moon, Lady moon
Sailing up so high,
Drop down to baby
From out of the sky.
Baby dear, baby dear
Down far below
I hear you calling,
I hear you calling,
But I cannot go
But lady moon sends to me
Soft shining rays,
The moon loves the baby
The moon must stay
In her house dark and blue
So she must stay
I think she'll watch me
I think she'll watch me
'Til dawn's bright new day.

Here is the version from Kate Kellogg

Lady moon, Lady moon
Sailing up so high,
Drop down to baby
From out the great sky.
Babykin, babykin
Down far below
I hear thee calling,
I hear thee calling, I hear thee calling,
Yet I cannot go
But Lady moon sendith thee
Soft shining rays,
Moon loves the baby
The moon-light says
In her house dark and blue
Though she must stay
Kindly she'll watch thee
Kindly she'll watch thee
Till dawns the new day.


shazz said...

my girls and i are separated, pray..i sang this to them when i had them..they still remember, so do i..thank you for giving hope to a difficult time of life, thank you, this song is emblazoned upon their hearts.... their dad is tested at or near psycho

shazz said...

it means the world to me and my babies...I sang it to them from birth

natasha.keyser said...

Hi Daniel,
I started singing this song when my first child was born 14 years ago and have continued with my baby. She is 18 months old and sings "lady moon" and "baby" with me. I am not sure where I learned this song and can not find any trace of it. I live in France but am originally from the East coast in the USA. Who knows if I am even using the correct tune!
It sees that I changed the lyrics a bit. Here they are:

Lady Moon, Lady Moon
Sailing on high
Come down to baby
From out of the sky
Baby dear, baby dear
Down far below
I hear you calling, I hear you calling
I hear you calling but
I can not go

But lady moon
is sending you
soft, shining rays
The moon loves the baby
the moonlight says
In her house
dark and blue
Though she must stay
Kindly she'll watch you, kindly she'll watch you, kindly she'll
watch you
'til dawn comes your way

Do you have any idea where I can hear the tune?

The information you provided was very interesting. I am going to save it for my children.

Thank you.

Daniel Stuhlman said...


Thanks for your comments. If you look in the article you can find a source for the sheet music. I do not have any digital recordings. My mother has an analog recording of her mother singing "Lady Moon" but I have no way of turning that into a digital version. I did not find a recording in the Internet Archive or Library of Congress.

natasha.keyser said...

Hi. I found a copy of the music. I am going to have a friend of mine play it with me singing (should be interesting) and I will send you a YouTube link. At least we will both have it.
Cheers, Natasha

deneb said...

My grandmother and my mother sang Lady Moon to all 9 of us kids. And I sang it to all 3 of mine. I also sang it to my mother-in-law as she died. I wish I could give you the tune here. My cousin is becoming a grandma and she is going to record it so if you give me your email address, I will send you word:
Lady Moon, Lady Moon
Shining so high,
come down to (insert name here)
From out of the sky.
Little (name). Little (name)
Way down below
I hear you calling but I cannot go.
In my house high above you
Tonight I must stay
But Moon loves you (name)
I heard the moon say.

Daniel Stuhlman said...


Thanks for your comment.
See the web page links for find my e-mail address. The words that you quote differ from the printed version of the song.

Randy and Sarah said...

I have been looking for an original on this song for years. deneb is aunt and my mother sang Lady Moon to me also when I was a child, but her version differs even from deneb's. This is the song that I know sing to my two young children...

Lady Moon, Lady Moon shining so bright
Come down to (name of child) from out in the night
Little (name of child), Little (name of child) way down below
Moon hears you calling, but Moon cannot go
In my house full of darkness alone I must stay
Moon loves little (name of child), the bright Moon says

Thank-you so much for putting this together. It is amazing how many of us have been affected by this song that our mothers and grandmothers have sung.

Mark B. said...

I was looking through photos on the Library of Congress site, and I found a Lewis Hine photo of a classroom. On the blackboard was this rhyme, which made me read it and search for it online.

Lady Moon, Lady Moon
Sailing so high
Drop down to baby
From out the blue sky(sic)
Babykin, Babykin
Down far below
I hear thee calling
Yet I can not go.

But Lady Moon sendeth
Soft shining rays
Mom loves the baby
The moonlight says
In her home, dark and (?)
Though she must stay
Gently she'll watch thee
Till dawns the new day.

The school was the Hancock, in the North End of Boston, 1915. Probably Jewish and mostly Italian at the time.

Daniel D. Stuhlman said...

Mark B. :
See the blog entry for Nov. 9 where I talk about this picture from Library of Congress.

Bobbie Bigwood said...

Has anyone found this in a simpler form? i had it in a cd in 2004 and sang to my daughter and now to my niece. I want to send it to her but cant find it anywhere!