I have known this song all my life. I heard my mother singing it countless times while nursing whoever that moment my youngest sibling was. She was fond of post-war songs like some people (including me) are fond of the ’80s. I guess we are somehow attached to memories of our youth whenever that is.
The songs that were included in her repertoire (among so many) were: Fraulein, Paper Roses, There goes my Love and Oh My Darling Clementine. I can sing them all by heart except the latter; I only know the first sentence of the chorus, nothing more. So, when I heard the other day an ice cream car playing the tune, I decided to look for the lyrics once and for all.
I wasn’t prepared for it. I didn’t expect a tragic story wrapped in a seemingly upbeat melody and told in a deadpan style. A tongue-in-cheek parody of a sad ballad. More like a limerick than a romantic song. I was shocked! Though it meant to be a joke, I find it altogether sad; so sad…
Here is the lyrics for you so you can be the judge.
Near a cavern, across from a canyon,
Excavating for a mine,
Lived a miner, forty-niner
And his daughter Clementine
Oh my Darling, Oh my Darling,
Oh my Darling Clementine.
You are lost and gone forever,
Dreadful sorry, Clementine.
Light she was and like a fairy,
And her shoes were number nine
Herring boxes without topses
Sandals were for Clementine.
Drove she ducklings to the water
Every morning just at nine,
Hit her foot against a splinter
Fell into the foaming brine.
Ruby lips above the water,
Blowing bubbles soft and fine,
But alas, I was no swimmer,
So I lost my Clementine.
How I missed her! How I missed her!
How I missed my Clementine,
Till I kissed her little sister,
And forgot my Clementine.
Then the miner, forty-niner,
Soon began to peak and pine,
Thought he oughter join his daughter,
Now he’s with his Clementine.
In the church yard in the canyon
Where the myrtle doth entwine
There grows roses and other posies
Fertilized by Clementine.