The singer reports on the death of his beloved Clementine, the daughter of a (Forty-Niner). One day, leading her ducklings to water, she trips and falls in. The singer, "no swimmer," helplessly watches her drown
Clementine Complete text(s) *** A *** Oh My Darling Clementine From sheet music published 1884 by Oliver Ditson & Co. Title page inscribed OH MY DARLING CLEMENTINE WORDS & MUSIC BY PERCY MONTROSE 1. In a cabin, In a canyon, an excavation for a mine; Dwelt a miner, A Forty-niner, And his daughter Clementine. CHORUS. Oh my darling, Oh my darling, Oh my darling Clementine, You are lost and gone forever, Drefful sorry, Clementine. 2. She drove her ducklets, To the river, Ev'ry morning just at nine; She stubb'd her toe, against a sliver, And fell into the foaming brine. 3. I saw her lips above the water, Blowing bubbles soft and fine; Alas for me, I was no swimmer, And so I lost my Clementine.
In some of the modern versions, the song ends when the singer kisses Clementine's younger sister and forgets Clementine. - (PJS)
The words to this piece were first published in 1863 under the title "Down by the River Lived a Maiden," credited to H. S. Thompson. This printing had a melody, but it was not the "standard" melody. The text was also rather different (in minstrel dialect); Norm Cohen gives the first verse as
Down by the river there lived a maiden
In a cottage built just 7 x 9;
And all around this lubly bower
The beauteous sunflower blossoms twine.
Chorus: Oh my Clema, oh my Clema, Oh my darling Clementine,
Now you are gone and lost forever,
I'm dreadful sorry Clementine.
In 1864 a text appeared in "Billy Morris' Songs" in which Clementine appears as little short of a legendary monster; she is even reported to have grown wool.
In 1884 the piece reappeared, with the famous tune, this time credited to "Percy Montrose," under the title "Oh My Darling Clementine."
Since neither Thompson nor Montrose is known, the authorship of the song probably cannot be settled.
It is reported by reliable sources that this song was originally intended to be serious. No doubt a few thousand enterprising parodists would be amazed. - RBW