Recent Dorkiness

Countdown to Halloween, Days 19 & 20: The Worms Crawl In

Missed another day, somehow. But, no worries. I’ll make it up to you with not just a two-fer, but a little something extra, as well. First, though, I should tell you what’s on tap for tonight’s entry in the Halloween mixtape. It’s “The Hearse Song,” also known under the title I really prefer: “The Worms Crawl In.”

Worms

(They crawl out, too.)

This is a fun one. The song’s origins are mostly unknown. It may date back as far as the early 19th Century Crimean War, or at the very latest, World War I. It’s believed to have been originally sung by soldiers, either way, a bit of pitch-black gallows humor used to blow off steam. As is sometimes the case with such things, though, it migrated from the soldiers to their children, and became a popular nursery rhyme. Or, more likely, something kids sang on the playground to the dismay of their elders. Because “The Hearse Song,” as you may have guessed, is all about death, and what happens to your body after you’re buried. As such, it’s plenty gross. Delightfully disgusting fare of the type kids really love.

But, here. Give it a listen:

That’s the version recorded by Harley Poe, a sort of “horror folk” outfit who I just discovered in doing my research for this song. I dig their version, but it’s not the one I heard first. That honor goes to the Pogues, who included a brief version of the song as the closing track of their album If I Should Fall From Grace With God. So here’s that version, titled simply “Worms.”

That’s pretty great, too. All minor keys and sonorous vocals, with a backing track that sounds like Tom Waits trying to musically convey the shambling of a graveyard elephant. How can I do anything but love that?

Now, you might notice some lyrical differences here. That’s because, as a true folk song, sung by different people all over the English-speaking world, “The Worms Crawl In” has lots of regional variations. I’ve run across quite a few alternate lyrics out there, enough that I was inspired to pull a bunch of them together into my own version of the song. I had planned to sing it, in fact, and post the results here. But time and a touch of sore throat has spared you that.

So instead, here’s just the lyrics I cobbled together. These are 95% taken from versions of the song found in the wild, with a bit of spackling here and there by me, just to fill out a verse, change a wording, or better-represent the truly amazing array of decaying body parts sung about in the various versions I’ve seen. I suspect Harley Poe did something similar. In the spirit of the thing, in fact, I’ve actually stolen a line or two of theirs (please don’t sue us!). Anyway… For your edification and amusement… Here’s my take:

Don’t ever laugh as the hearse goes by,
For you may be the next to die.
They’ll wrap you up in a bloody sheet,
And bury you under ’bout six feet deep.
They’ll toss you into a big black box,
And cover you up with dirt and rocks.

The men with shovels will all stand ’round,
And bury you in that cold, wet ground.
They’ll shovel in dirt and they’ll throw in rocks.
They don’t give a damn if they break the box!
Still, it all goes well for about a week,
But then your coffin begins to leak.

And the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.
The worms play pinochle on your snout.
They eat your eyes, they eat your nose,
They eat the jelly between your toes.

Then a big fat bug with shiny red eyes
Crawls into your stomach and out ‘tween your thighs.
Your liver turns all slimy and green,
And pus runs out like whipping cream.
You spread it on a slice of bread,
And that’s what you eat when you are dead.

Now, this is what it is to die.
I hope you had a nice goodbye.
You’ll never see your friends again.
You’ll be too busy caving in.
As your eyes fall in and your teeth fall out,
Your brains will turn into sauerkraut.

And the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.
The worms play pinochle on your snout.
They eat your guts, they break your heart.
And then you feel like you’re falling apart.

So don’t ever laugh as that hearse goes by,
For you may be the next to die.
You’ll wind up in the family plot,
Where you will decay, wither, and rot.
They’ll toss you into a dirty sack.
They’ll take you away and you’ll never come back.

And the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.
The worms play pinochle on your snout.
They enter thin, but they exit stout.
Be merry, my friends, be merry!

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About Mark Brett (419 Articles)
Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at http://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at https://dorkforty.wordpress.com/.

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