This is an articulation poem that my mother taught me when I was a child. I’ve used it regularly by myself and in classrooms where I turn it into a call and respond. The version I’ve learned looks like this:
What did you do to die today at a minute or two ‘til two?
A thing distinctly hard to say and harder still to do.
At a minute or two ‘til twenty ‘til two
A rat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat too,
And the dragon will come when he hears the drum,
At a minute or two ‘til two today at a minute or two ‘til two.
You’ll see several different versions if you look for this poem online, and for awhile I thought that it was something of a folk poem. However, thanks to Jed Hartman’s Neology blog, I’ve learned that the poem comes originally from an opera called Merrie England (1902) by Edward German. You can hear a bit here from the Wal-Mart website (track 10 CD 2). The words come from the refrain, and they are slightly different:
Oh! Here’s a to-do to die today
At a minute or two to two;
A thing distinctly hard to say
And harder still to do.
For they’ll beat a tattoo at two to two,
A rat-a-tat-tat tattoo-oo-oo,
And the dragon will come when it hears the drum
At a minute or two to two today,
At a minute or two to two.
So I’ve included two versions for pure rhythm and diction practice. The first (top) is as I’ve learned it and the second has the proper words from the opera, though I’m sure the rhythms are slightly different from the original score. Try it at different tempos and have fun!
Oh yea, Happy Thanksgiving!