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. Rowing is a skillful, if tedious, practice that takes perfection but also directs the vessel. 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. The third line recommends that challenges should be greeted in stride while open to joy with a smile. 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. 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.

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
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


Row, row, row your boat Gently down the stream Until you hit a waterfall Then you start to scream!


  • In "Manos" The Hands Of Fate, 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 Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. 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.



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