September 10, 2008

A rhyme about crows


This morning when I woke up, I heard a crow cawing loudly outside my window. This little rhyme came into my head:

One crow sorrow
Two crows mirth
Three crows wedding
Four crows birth

I read this years ago in Clifton Johnson's 1896 book, What They Say in New England, a Book of Signs, Sayings, and Superstitions. Johnson traveled around western Massachusetts collecting bits of lore from his neighbors, and compiled them by topic (weather, plants, etc.) in one book.

I've never tested the validity of this rhyme by seeing what befalls me immediately after hearing or seeing a crow. I was sad this morning that I had to wake up, so maybe the rhyme was correct about "one crow=sorrow." This rhyme is contradicted by another bit of lore Johnson collected claiming "An even number of crows flying overhead is a sign of bad luck", but is verified by another that "To have a crow fly over the house is a sign of death."

Scientific validity probably isn't the point. Instead, these rhymes and sayings point to the ominous (omenous!) reputation crows have had in American and European folklore for thousands of years.

The rhyme is definitely catchy - it's been stuck in my head since I read it years ago.

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