19 November 2023

To Bed, Too Bad

My parents used to quote a rhyme at bedtime, which I recently mentioned to a friend. Naturally, curiosity demanded yet another internet deep dive. Here are two main variations:

“Come, let’s to bed!”
Said Sleepy-head.
“Let’s stay awhile,” said Sloe.
“Put on the pot,”
Said Greedy Sot,
“We'll sup before we go.”
“To bed! To bed!”
Said Sleepyhead.
“Tarry awhile,” said Slow.
“Put on the pan,”
Said Greedy Nan;
“We'll sup before we go.”

The nursery rhyme ‘To Bed, To Bed’ was first printed by Sir Henry Cole in 1843 in Traditional Nursery Songs of England with Pictures by Eminent Modern Artists. Seven decades later, a variation was republished in The Little Mother Goose in 1912.

3 girls preparing for bed

“Okay,” you say, stifling a yawn worthy of Sleepyhead. “So what?”

In internet perambulations, I stumbled upon a homicidal version. It didn’t take much digging to trace this dastardly deadly document to an Australian poet, David Lewis Paget.

“Murder? What sick mind would do such a thing?” you wonder aloud.

Uh, me! Me! But my attempt will have to appear another time. Here now is David Paget’s take where “To bed, to bed,” means deathbed, never to arise again.

To Bed, To Bed (deadly version)
“To bed! To bed!”
Said Sleepy-head.
“Tarry awhile,” said Slow.
“Put on the pan,”
Said Greedy Nan.
“We'll sup before we go.”
They sat at the kitchen table as
The candle flickered low,
And Greedy Nan put on the pan
To indulge her sister, Slow,
While Sleepy Weepy Annabelle
Blotted her book with tears,
And thought of her Beau from long ago
Who she hadn’t seen for years.
“Why doesn’t Roger notice me,
Why doesn’t Alan O’Dell?
I’m wearing the dress cut low for me
And I’ve hitched my skirt as well.
I’ve a pretty turn to my ankle, so
You’d think it would drive them wild.’
“But men are a mystery,” said Slow,
“And Alan O’Dell’s a child.”
While over the pan stood Greedy Nan,
Was cracking a turkey’s egg,
A lump of yeast and a slice of beast
And a single spider’s leg.
With a wing of bat and an ounce of fat
And a toe of frog for the spell,
She needed to turn her sister off
From her crush on Alan O’Dell.
For Greedy Nan was the eldest girl
And would have to marry first,
The other two would wait in the queue
Or their fortunes be reversed,
The omelette sizzled, and in the pan
She added before they saw,
A piece of some Devil’s Trumpet plant
For the mating game meant war.
She sliced the omelette into half
And she served them up a piece,
“Didn’t you want?” said Annabelle
But Slow enjoyed the feast.
“I’m not that terribly hungry now
I’ve cooked it up in the pan,
I think I’ll just have a slice of bread,”
Said the scheming Greedy Nan.
They finished up and they sat awhile,
And they mused about their fate,
“If Greedy Nan isn’t married soon,
For us it will be too late.’
“I’ve set my sights on a country squire,”
Said Nan, without a blink,
Lured them away from her secret fire
To confuse what they might think.
“The room is woozy, spinning around,
I’d better get me to bed,”
Said Annabelle, while Slow with a frown
Saw Dwarves dancing in her head.
But Greedy Nan was cleaning the pan
To clear all signs of the spell,
Her back was turned to her sisters, spurned
For the sake of Alan O’Dell.
And when he came in the morning
Greedy Nan was sat by the door,
While Annabelle and her sister Slow
Were lying dead on the floor,
“I didn’t mean it to kill them all,
It was only a simple spell,”
But as they cuffed and led her away
He frowned, did Alan O’Dell.

Sot in this case means fool. Some readers may have been confused by the term, because another, more modern variation uses the phrase Greedy Gut.


  1. Good stuff. I remember a shorter but also lethal bedtime rhyme: Here comes the candle to Light you to bed, Here comes the chopper to chop off your head! Oh, for the good old days.

    1. Anon, you tickled a distant memory with the last line. I don't recall the candle, but now I'm wondering if someone read that to me when I was little? Hmm.

  2. My grandmother used to tell me the short rhyme, as well as the chopper rhyme too. Lot of nursery rhymes were grimmer than they sound. I wrote a story, "The Devil In Salem Meadows" (published in Mystery Weekly Magazine in Nov. 2020) about this rhyme that my mother told me (having been told it by extremely elderly women when she was a child):
    “One’ry, or’ry, ick’ry, Ann,
    Fillison, follison, Nicholas, John.
    Queevy, quavy, English Navy,
    Stincklum, stanklum... [after a long pause, with a leap]..., Buck!”
    I decided it was a spell...

    1. Eve, those writers of nursery ditties and fairy tales were a bloodthirsty lot. My mom used to hold me on her lap and chant something like yours, then at the final yelp, partially drop me. Nothing like a mum's security.

  3. Elizabeth Dearborn19 November, 2023 14:16

    Well, that attitude is dated AF. I'm the oldest of three girls & was the last to get married. You better believe nobody had the nerve to criticize me for that!!!

    1. Elizabeth, I mirrored your situation, the oldest of three brothers and the last to get married… also the only one whose marriage didn't survive.


Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>