The Crocodile Song
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

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Lyrics
This song is also known as The Wonderful Crocodile. According to Burl Ives this tune was based on an old Irish air. John and Alan Lomax collected it in Nova Scotia in 1921 from a man who said it was a song he'd known since he was a boy - "one of those that used to be roared out in the back rooms of taverns frequented by seamen forty or so years ago."* Come list ye, landsmen, all to me,
To tell the truth I'm bound-
What happened to me by going to sea
And the wonders that I found.
Shipwrecked I was one sappy rouse
And cast all on the shore,
So I resolved to take a cruise,
The country to explore.
To my ri tol tooral loralido,
Ritol looral lay,
To my ri tol lol fol liddle lol de fol
To my tol looral lay.


Oh, I had not long scurried out,
When close alongside the ocean,
'Twas there that I saw something move,
Like all the earth in motion.
While steering close up alongside
I saw it was a crocodile;
From the end of his nose to the tip of his tail
It measured five hundred mile.
To my ri tol tooral loralido,
Ritol looral lay,
To my ri tol lol fol liddle lol de fol
To my tol looral lay.


This crocodile I could plainly see
Was none of the common race,
For I had to climb a very high tree
Before I could see his face.
And when he lifted up his jaw,
Perhaps you may think it a lie,
But his back was three miles through the clouds
And his nose near touched the sky.
To my ri tol tooral loralido,
Ritol looral lay,
To my ri tol lol fol liddle lol de fol
To my tol looral lay.


Oh, up aloft the wind was high,
It blew a hard gale from the south;
I lost my hold and away I flew
Right into the crocodile's mouth.
He quickly closed his jaws on me,
He thought to nab a victim;
But I slipped down his throat, d'ye see,
And that's the way I tricked 'im.
To my ri tol tooral loralido,
Ritol looral lay,
To my ri tol lol fol liddle lol de fol
To my tol looral lay.


I traveled on for a year or two
Till I got into his maw,
And there were rum kegs not a few
And a thousand bullocks in store.
Through life I banished all my care
For on grub I was not stinted;
And in this crocodile lived ten years,
Very well contented.
To my ri tol tooral loralido,
Ritol looral lay,
To my ri tol lol fol liddle lol de fol
To my tol looral lay.


This crocodile being very old,
One day at last he died;
He was three years in catching cold,
He was so long and wide.
His skin was three miles thick, I'm sure,
Or very near about;
For I was full six months or more
In making a hole to get out.
To my ri tol tooral loralido,
Ritol looral lay,
To my ri tol lol fol liddle lol de fol
To my tol looral lay.


So now I'm safe on earth once more,
Resolved no more to roam.
In a ship that passed I got a berth,
So now I'm safe at home.
But, if my story you should doubt,
Did you ever cross the Nile
'Twas there he fell---you'll find the shell
Of this wonderful crocodile.
To my ri tol tooral loralido,
Ritol looral lay,
To my ri tol lol fol liddle lol de fol
To my tol looral lay.


Related Links
  • Crocodiles! (From Nova)
  • Life at Sea in the Age of Sail
  • The Contemplator's Links to Volumes of the Naval Chronicle
  • The Contemplator's Microencyclopedia: Sea Shanties
  • From The Burl Ives Song Book and
    *American Ballads and Folk Songs
    See Bibliography for full information.