“Rocking the Cradle (and the Child Not His Own)”

Alternate titles: “Tossing the Baby So High (Uncle Dave Macon version)”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1900 (broadside, Bodleian 2806 b.9(282))
Keywords: marriage age wife husband children infidelity bastard
Found in: Ireland US(SE,So) Britain(Wales) Canada(Newf) Australia


The old man laments "about rocking the cradle and the child not his own." Though at the time he had been happy to marry a lighthearted lass, he now finds her out at parties all the time (or keeping company with other men)


An Irish legend has it that the chorus, "Hi-ho, hi-ho, my laddie, lie easy, For perhaps your own daddy might never be known. I'm seein' and sighin' and rockin' the cradle, And nursing the baby that's none of my own," was sung by the Virgin Mary to the baby Jesus. In English, no doubt. - RBW

Also collected and sung by David Hammond, "Rockin' the Cradle" (on David Hammond, "I Am the Wee Falorie Man: Folk Songs of Ireland," Tradition TCD1052 CD (1997) reissue of Tradition LP TLP 1028 (1959)) - BS

Cross references




  1. Randolph 393, "Rock All Our Babies to Sleep" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Warner 166, "Show Me the Man Who Never Done Wrong (or, Rocking the Baby to Sleep)" (1 text, 1 tune -- a curious version in which it appears at first that it is the woman, not the man, who is betrayed)
  3. Meredith/Anderson, pp. 168-169, "The Wee One"; p. 266, "Rock All Our Babies" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  4. Kennedy 212, "Rocking the Cradle" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Tunney-StoneFiddle, pp. 143-145, "Old Man Rocking the Cradle" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Peacock, pp. 478-479, "The Milkman's Lament" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Lomax-FSNA 192, "The Old Man's Lament" (1 text, 1 tune); also 190, "Run Along, You Little Dogies" (1 text, 1 tune, mostly "Get Along Little Dogies" but with a chorus partly from this piece!)
  9. Roud #357
  10. BI, R393