Sunday, January 12, 8842

Eliphalet Oram Lyte (1842-1913) - Row, Row

[Auld Lang Syne, text by Robert Burns (1788) and set to the tune of a traditional folk song (Roud # 6294), in The Franklin Square Song Collection (1881)]

Eliphalet Oram Lyte (1842 - 1913) was an American teacher and author of grammar and composition textbooks. He is credited as the composer of the tune to the popular song, Row, Row, Row Your Boat in the publication The Franklin Square Song Collection (1881, New York). It is also indicated that he adapted the lyrics, previously published to a different melody.

Lyte was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, taught there in Millersville, Pennsylvania, and died there. Dr. Lyte entered Millersville University PA in 1866 after serving in the Civil War and teaching for two years.

He became professor of rhetoric and bookkeeping in 1868 and later a professor of pedagogy and grammar before being named principal.

Lyte was associated with the school for 44 years before his resignation due to ill health.

Credited for the first building boom at Millersville, he designed and directed the construction of the Science Building (since removed), the Library (currently Biemesderfer Executive Center) and the Gymnasium (now Dutcher Hall). He also oversaw the construction of the Model School, formerly Myers Hall and now Charles and Mary Hash Building.

His textbooks include:

Grammar and Composition for Common Schools

Advanced Grammar and Composition

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.

[Crocodiles near Wanseko, Uganda -- Watch that boat!]

Eliphalet Oram Lyte - Row, Row, Row Your Boat (Children of Wanseko)

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.


Do Do Do Re Mi
Mi Re Mi Fa Sol
Do Do Do Sol Sol Sol Mi Mi Mi Do Do Do
Sol Fa Mi Re Do