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Abdul Abulbul Amir -- Percy French

       
(Poem #358) Abdul Abulbul Amir
The sons of the Prophet are brave men and bold
And quite unaccustomed to fear,
But the bravest by far in the ranks of the Shah,
        Was Abdul Abulbul Amir.

If you wanted a man to encourage the van,
Or harass the foe from the rear,
Storm fort or redoubt, you had only to shout
        For Abdul Abulbul Amir.

Now the heroes were plenty and well known to fame
In the troops that were led by the Czar,
And the bravest of these was a man by the name
        Of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

One day this bold Russian, he shouldered his gun
And donned his most truculent sneer,
Downtown he did go where he trod on the toe
        Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

Young man, quoth Abdul, has life grown so dull
That you wish to end your career?
Vile infidel, know, you have trod on the toe
        Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

So take your last look at the sunshine and brook
And send your regrets to the Czar
For by this I imply, you are going to die,
        Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

Then this bold Mameluke drew his trusty skibouk,
Singing, "Allah! Il Allah! Al-lah!"
And with murderous intent he ferociously went
        For Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

They parried and thrust, they side-stepped and cussed,
Of blood they spilled a great part;
The philologist blokes, who seldom crack jokes,
        Say that hash was first made on the spot.

They fought all that night neath the pale yellow moon;
The din, it was heard from afar,
And huge multitudes came, so great was the fame,
        Of Abdul and Ivan Skavar.

As Abdul's long knife was extracting the life,
In fact he was shouting, "Huzzah!"
He felt himself struck by that wily Calmuck,
        Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

The Sultan drove by in his red-breasted fly,
Expecting the victor to cheer,
But he only drew nigh to hear the last sigh,
        Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

There's a tomb rises up where the Blue Danube rolls,
And graved there in characters clear,
Is, "Stranger, when passing, oh pray for the soul
        Of Abdul Abulbul Amir."

A splash in the Black Sea one dark moonless night
Caused ripples to spread wide and far,
It was made by a sack fitting close to the back,
        Of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

A Muscovite maiden her lone vigil keeps,
'Neath the light of the cold northern star,
And the name that she murmurs in vain as she weeps,
        Is Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.
-- Percy French
Ah, the wonders of the World Wide Web.

I first read this poem a good 15 years ago, in one of those marvellous
rainy-day activity books that noone seems to buy any more [1]. Abdul and
Ivan then dropped off my radar screen [2] for many years, and it was
only after starting the Minstrels that I remembered the doughty duo.
From remembrance to recovery, though, was a step both short and sweet,
thanks to 'the invisible dragons of the electronic night' [3]. I love
technology.

I also love the poem. I think that's partly due to the fact that I
discovered it when I was precisely the right age - eight years old - to
get the most out of reading it out loud. And make no mistake, it _is_ a
poem to be read out loud (or sung by drunken sailors) - with a large
crowd of people joining in on the last line of each stanza.

The simple pleasures of life, neh?

thomas.

[1] You know, those big colourful tomes with titles like 'Superbook' and
'The Book Of 1001 Things To Do', chock full of poems and puzzles and
stories and pictures and do-it-yourself projects and recipes and
histories... back when all the world and time was young :-)

[2] If you must know, I lost the book which housed them. It still causes
me trauma, that.

[3] William Gibson's phrase for search engines in general and arbitrage
trackers in particular... written a good decade before Mosaic was
created.

[Links]

Like all good anonymous poems, there are dozens of versions of the
ballad of good Abdullah. One of the more famous ones is called (not
unsurprisingly) 'Ivan Petrofsky Skevar'; you can read it at
[broken link] http://contemplator.com/folk3/ivan.html

The contemplator website also has MIDI files which will let you listen
to the tune as she was meant to be sung. I'd be grateful if someone
would do the needful and let me know what it's like (my computer,
unfortunately, is not MIDI-enabled).

Martin's last few posts (Tennyson's famous 'The Charge of the Light
Brigade' and Kipling's not-so-well-known sequel, 'The Last of the Light
Brigade') have also been about the Crimean War; you can read them (and
much much more) at the Minstrels website,
http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/

'Abdul Abulbul Amir' has that touch of lighthearted bloodthirstyness [4]
which children (of a certain sort, at least) so enjoy [5]. In that, it
reminds me irresistibly of Gilbert's 'Yarn of the Nancy Bell', at
poem #161

[4] The accompanying illustration showed Abdul and Ivan skewering each
other. Gruesome, but oh, so much fun :-)

[5] Roald Dahl, anyone?

[About Abdul and Ivan]

This song was written in 1877 by Percy French at Trinity College for a
college concert. His original title was Abdulla Bulbul Ameer. He sold it
to a publisher for five pounds. It was published without credit to him
and he never received royalties for its later success. Many sources
still list the author as anonymous.

My father was a Navy captain and this was one of his favorite songs.
According to the Book of Navy Songs, "This song is reresentative of the
non-nautical and non-naval songs that frequently become a favorite of
the wardrooms in the fleet. An English correspondent writes that
originally it was a ballad of the Russo-Turkish Wars." Given the date
and author, the Crimean War (1853-1856) is more likely the setting than
the earlier Russo-Turkish Wars.

This tune is also known as The Ballade of Ivan Petrofsky Skevar, for
which there are a few variations in the lyrics.

        -- Lesley Nelson, www.contemplator.com

[Brief Bio]

William Percy French was born on May 1, 1854 near Roscommon, Ireland.
(William would be known as Willie until taking the name Percy as his
stage name much later). His father was a landlord and his mother's
father was a clergyman.

Despite the lack of music background in his family, Willie demonstrated
talent for music and entertaining early in life. He performed as a child
in the district and when he was a student at Trinity College. It was at
Trinity College in 1877 that he wrote Abdulla Bulbul Ameer. He wrote the
song for a concert and sold it to a publisher for five pounds. The
publisher never credited French with authorship, and despite its later
popularity, French never received any royalties. French did not publish
another song (although he wrote many) until 1888 when Andy McElroe was
published.

French graduated from college as an engineer and worked for seven years
in Cavan as the Inspector of Drains. During that time he wrote numerous
songs and painted, which he considered his true talent.

In 1891 French's wife died and he was jobless. He toured the country on
his bicycle with a box of paints, painting and performing. He developed
a one-man show, where he sang the songs he composed. Then in 1891 he
began a partnership with Houston Collisson. Thereafter Collisson wrote
much of the music for the operas they produced, including The Irish
Girl. At the age of fifty French moved to London and worked and
performed on stage until his death in 1920.

Although Mountains of Mourne is his most famous song, Percy French is
best remembered for his comedic songs.

        -- Lesley Nelson, www.contemplator.com

[Endnote]

The one stanza of the poem which doesn't end in either of the
protagonists' names is also (imo) the one with the weakest final couplet
of all.

'They parried and thrust, they side-stepped and cussed,
Of blood they spilled a great part;
The philologist blokes, who seldom crack jokes,
        Say that hash was first made on the spot.'

Oddly, although I quite distinctly remember the first line, I'm pretty
sure that the second read 'Of blood they both spilled a great deal', and
the third and fourth were completely different from the published
version. If anyone out there knows of a variant form, I'd be glad of an
pointer.

245 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

«Oldest   ‹Older   1 – 200 of 245   Newer›   Newest»
Don Laughery said...

Re: Ivan Skavinsky Skavar: I remember my mother singing this song when I
was not more than a toddler. (I'm now 71)
Don Laughery
Brooklyn, MD USA

Abraham Thomas said...

Hi,

Interestingly enough, I received another personal email saying just
the same thing, from an English gentleman also in his seventies. I
wonder if the poem was far more well-known in the 1930s?

cheers,
thomas | The Wondering Minstrels

Jan Barham said...

I too first heard this sung as a child of about nine. I used to spend
my Christmas holidays with relatives on a farm on the western Darling
Downs. Just before Christmas each year I would go with my two uncles up
the paddock to select the Christmas tree. It became traditional for
them to entertain me and my cousins by singing Abdul Abulbul Amir, The
Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, and The Quartermasters Store. I
am now 64, one uncle has long gone, and the other is 94. I was
delighted to find the words to this old song. Hope I can locate the
words to the others. Jan Barham..

Normflormiller said...

My 86 year old father sung this to me as a child. I wanted to find the
lyrics in print while he is still here to enjoy them. I would also like to
find the printed music. The link to the Midi File has a good reproduction of
the way it should sound. As stated, I would like to have the notes so someone
in the family could play it again. Florence Miller

Adam Chace said...

I'm confused by that one stanza, the first line is OK. But the rhyme
between the second and fourth is pathetic and out of the established
pattern, also the last two lines are completely off topic. I have
difficulty believing that the author would write a well thought poem/song
like this and include that poorly written stanza.

Anne Simpson said...

My family loved Abdul Abulbul Ameer, and we also had
a record of Abdul's return, which I remember as follows

The Return of Abdul Abulbul Ameer
---------------------------------

(As remembered by Anne Simpson at age 72 from
a childhood record)

By the sea of Sargossa I wandered one night,
The moon it was shining quite clear.
for no reason at all I heard someone call
for Abdul Abulbul Ameer.

Now Abdul Abulbul I knew to be dead,
the story had spread near and far,
how he lost his life while plunging his knife
into Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

While I pondered the moonbeams descended quite low
casting shadows suffusely, and then,
I discovered that I was standing close by
the tombs of those two famous men.

Then in the tombs shadows there rose from a grave
the form of a Russian Hussar,
and my skin nearly peeled, as he stood there revealed,
it was Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

'Twas he who was calling, I hardly dared breathe,
my heart 'most stopped beating from fear,
when out of a grave, in need of a shave,
arose Abdul Abulbul Ameer.

"Well, wouldst speak with me Ivan?", quoth Abdul quite low.
"I wouldst", replied Ivan quite clear.
"That quarrel we had, 'twas all to the bad.
friend Abdul Abulbul Ameer.

"I've lain here for ages with that on my mind,
and that's why I called you tonight".
"Well, I'm in the same state", quoth Abdul the great,
"Twas foolish for we two to fight".

"Oh friend, thou art blameless", cried Ivan in haste,
"The fault lies in my hands alone".
But Abdul said "Nay, 'twas never that way, the fault
was no one's but mine own."

"Well, dost think I'm a coward?", quoth Ivan Skavar,
"Step forth and I'll slice off thine ear."
"Oh, son of a cat, you'll never do that",
quoth Abdul Abulbul Ameer.

So once more they battled and fought as before,
the multitudes came from afar,
and lauded with cheers these bold buccaneers,
this Turk, and this Russian Hussar.

Twas just at that moment each sword found its mark
and I heard a blood-curdling scream,
I opened my eyes and to my surprise
I found it was only a dream.

Jftatom said...

I happened to think idly of parts of this ballad/poem and remembered studying
it in Byrd High School in Shreveport, Louisiana, committing most of it to
memory back in 1940--I believe. I couldn't quite remember all of it, and had
been looking for a book containing it. I put it aside in my mind and then
decided to take a look on the Internet. I'm still around in my 75th Year.
Thanks for your site and the preservation of this memory.
Jim Tatom, Woodland Hills, California

CHARLES A WALKER JR said...

For some unknown reason this song returned to my memory yesterday. I hadn't thought of it for years. I am 82 years old and remember singing it when I was 10 or 12 years old. Thanks for bringing back days of my childhood.

Charles Walker

Ward Hardman said...

That suspicious quatrain was probably amended from something like this:

They parried and thrust, they sidestepped and cussed,
The blood they shed cost them dear,
But each injury dire just augmented the ire
Of Ivan and Abdul Amir.

This balances the next quatrain, which ends with "Of Abdul and Ivan
Skevar." That stuff about "philology" doesn't ring true to the
rest of the poem.
--Ward Hardman, San Diego, CA

Ward Hardman
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
Phone:, FAX:

La Linda said...

Hello
I read the poem Abdul Abulbul Amir in high school in the sixties. It was in a book of poems. I just liked the sound and the rocking singsong tones. I did not know until this website that it was a song. Thank you all. Oh, by the way, I thought it was elbullbull....childhood perceptions!
Linda in Los Angeles

billrsmith said...

Thank you for posting the lyrics and information. My dad used to sing this ballad to me when I was a little kid about 7 or 8 years old. That would have been in 1940 or '41. It brings back lots of memories.
Bill Smith

oregonmacduff said...

The Looney Tunes cartoon of Abdul the Bulbul Amir was my childhood first exposure to the ballad... Darn, I wish I had it on tape! My father-in-law, a Naval aviator in WWII, would sing the only verse he knew while washing dishes, differing slightly than the one listed above, but rhyming better (at least I think so)... As he sang it:

"Oh, they fought all that night 'neath the pale moonlight,
The din it was heard from afar,
Huge multitudes came for so great was the fame,
Of Abdul and Ivan Skavar"

After studying Ottoman history, Arabic, Turkish and Osmanli, I always thought it interesting that as fierce a warrior as Abdul was in the song, he was still just the Nightingale Prince :)

Thanx for the site. It brings back great memories!
Randy Dodds

Gene Lynch said...

This actually was a song not a poem. I'm 71 years young and used to
listen to this Abdul Abulbul Amir on my folks old Victrola. This is a
great site.
Gene

JKV2001 said...

I was nine or ten years old when I first heard the song at summer camp at
Tannersville, NY. I've been looking for it ever since, these 60 years. (Have
you done the math? I'm almost 70.) Like Linda in L.A., I remembered it as
Abdul el Bulbul Amir (and Ivan Skavitzky Skivar) (close), although I once saw
it in a song book as the out-of-meter Ivan Skizavitzky Skivar. I agree with
Ward Hardman's improvement on the "suspicious quatrain" and I would suggest
the line to rhyme "They fought all that night neath the yellow moonlight."
Thank you for making my ... year!
Jerry Burnam, New York to Los Angeles

Norman Yearley said...

I heard a rather naughty version of this poem in 1947. Danny Morgan recited it to me.Are you out there ,Dan?
e-mail address:.
Can anyone else help me please?
Norman Yearley

Page Stephens said...

This Return of Abdul was written and performed by Frank Crumit who also
wrote The Grandson of Abdul Abulbul Amir and Minnie Skavinsky Skavar. In The
Grandson the fight occurs on the golf course and in Minnie it occurs at the
bridge table. He may have written other sequels but these are the only ones
I have copies of. The B side of The Return was I'm Betting the Roll on
Roamer.

Crumit was a vaudeville, broadway and radio star who is today unfortunately
long forgotten even probably by Ohio State University alumni who no doubt
sing the OSU fight song with no knowledge of the name of the person who
wrote it.

--- Page Stephens
---

Isarel Schneiderman said...

I onece saw a cartoon version of this poem.When was t made by whom?

Israel Schneiderman

Timothy S. Hamilton said...

Hi,
A comment about your lyrics for Abdul Abulbul Amir. There are variant
lyrics quoted by characters in P. C. Wren's book _Beau Sabreur_, the
prequel to his famous _Beau Geste_. Wren knew Arabic, and he writes the
name as "Abdul, the Bul-bul Emir," which I believe would be a translation
of the variant "Abdul el Bulbul Amir," quoted by another person on this
site. He also cleans up Abdul's battle cry into what is probably proper
Arabic, "Allah Akbar!"
More importantly, the lyrics quoted in _Beau Sabreur_ are quite
different in many places than any of the versions I've seen listed on your
website. _Beau Sabreur_ was written in 1926, and if it had anything like
the fame of _Beau Geste_, that might account for some of the popularity of
this song ~70 years ago, as mentioned by several posts. Wren weaves the
lyrics (and even the written tune) into the plot of his novel, and the
name of "Major Ivan" becomes a constant reference to his main character.

Sincerely,
Tim Hamilton

charles eisenhart said...

After hearing the poem from Dad about 50 years ago, I memorized it
myself. There are two other verses missing: Said Ivan, my friend,
your remarks in the end will avail you but little, I fear--for you ne'er
shall survive to repeat them alive, Mr. Abdul Abulbul Amir." And later,
after the sultan comes in, Czar Petrovitch too, in his spectacles blue
drove up in his new crested car-he arrived just in time to exchange a
last line with Ivan Skavinsky Skavar. Note also, that I did som
research and found that Peter the Great used to wear glasses of various
colors because he enjoyed the alternative views of the world they gave
him. Also a Mameluke is sort of a Turkish Special Forces soldier. A
poem with little literary merit, I'm afraid, but like the works of
Robert Service, lots of fun for people of all ages.

Jerry Clerc said...

It has been over sixty years since I have heard or read this poem. I was working in the Montgomery Ward warehouse in Chicago, and a fellow worker there who was studying to become a doctor, recited this poem. I still remember a couple of verses. But because I
could only spell phonetically having never seen the words in print, I could not find it until
I was able to contact your web site with the incorrect spelling of Abdul Abulbul Ameer (sic). Thank you, thank you very much. It is like finding a long lost friend.

Jerry Clerc

Jerry Clerc said...

Thank you for site listing. Very well done and very much enjoyed.

Jerry Clerc

GREGORY BRAMLET said...

Can anyone confirm that this was sung by gary cooper in one of his films? I have been searching for some time now, but to no avail. I recollect this song from my 1950's childhood.

warren rote said...

He could imitate birds, play poker or pool
Or strum on the Spanish guitar
In fact, quite the cream of the Muscovite scheme
Was Ivan Skavinsky Skavar

bwanacushing said...

Wonderful to recoup this ballad, which I
learned 65 years ago, but it was Ivan
Skavitsky Skavar and Abdul el Bulbul
Amir. Some changes over the years
since the Crimean War, one would presume.

Frank Carroll said...

This is a wonderful old song and a favorite of my Dad's. He asked me the other night if I could find the words to "Betting the Roll on Roamer." You mentioned that Betting the Roll on roamer is the B-side to Abdul....Do you have the words to Roamer posted anywhere?

phs1926 said...

Like many of the commentators on the poem, I am also 75 years of age. I have
a very clear memory of where I first heard it, altho I never memorized it or
wrote it down. In the early or mid 1930,s there was a crooner, movie actor,
named Dick Powell. He later became a tough guy PI actor. He made many
musical comedies, two of which pictured him as a Marine and as a Sailor in
the Navy. I believe it was the movie about the sailor that had Powell
receiving punishment consisting or singing the verses to the poem - I can
still sing the tune to the words of the poem but would not receive any
acclaim for my efforts. For several years, in my neighborhood, people spoke
of the SONG saying that there were over 100 verses. I have tried on occasion
to find a longer poem than the one you presented without any luck.

Anyway, I'm happy to see it again and the later poem contained in the
comments.
Also, I'm going to try locating the movie with Dick Powell.

Sincerely,

Phil Shedd

Bud Powell said...

I learned a fourth verse back in the forties, that went like this:

He could imitate Irving, play poker and pool,
And strum on the Spanish guitar.
In fact, quite the cream of the Muskovite team
Was Ivan Skavinski Skavar.

C. W. Powell
New Geneva Theological Seminary
Basket of Figs: [broken link] http://ureach.com/figs

maddy said...

I am learning the song now after years of only knowing the first couple of verses, for 50 years I thought it was "Violin fiddle" now I know it's Vile infidel !!

Tony Miles said...

My Step-father sang this for us 50 years ago. He was 35 then.
I always thought he picked it up in the service. He also sang 'The
Bells of the Deep','Strawberry Roan' and 'Old Zebra Dun'.
Each with a great many verses.
Thanks for reminding me.

Roderick W. Clarke said...

Recorded from memory by Roderick W. Clarke, A song I learned at Camp
Pioneer, Boy Scouts od America in 1936 or 37

The sons of the prophets were hardy and bold,
And quite unaccustomed to fear.
But the bravest of all was a man by the name of
Abdul Al Bulbul Ameer.

If they needed a man to encourage the van
Or to harass the foe from the rear
Or to storm a redoubt they would set up a shout
For Abdul Al Bulbul Ameer.

There were heroes aplenty and men known to fame
Who fought in the ranks of the Tsar.
But none of more fame than a man by the name
Of Ivan Skavinky Skivar.

He could sing like Caruso both tenor and base
And play on the Spanish guitar.
In fact, quite the cream of a muscovite team
Was Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

One day this bold Muscovite shouldered his gun
And walked down the street with a sneer.
He was looking for fun when he happened to run
On Abdul Al Bulbul Ameer.

³Young man¹² said Bulbul,²is existence so dull
That you¹re anxious to end your career.
For infidel know you have trod on the toe
Of Abdul Al Bulbul Ameer.

So take your last look at the sun and th brook
And send your regrets to the Tsar.
By which I imply you are going to die,
Mr. Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

Then this bold Mameluke drew his trusty skibouk,
Shouting, "Allah! Il Allah! Akbar
And with murderous intent he ferociously went
For Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

They fought all that night neath the pale yellow moon;
The din, it was heard from afar,
And huge multitudes came, so great was the fame,
Of Abdul and Ivan Skivar.

On stone by the banks wher the Neva doth flow
It is written in characters clear:
Oh, stranger remember to pray for the soul
Of Abdul Al Bulbul Ameer.

While a Muscovite maiden her vigil doth keep
By the light of a pale northern star.
And the name she does constantly says in her sleep
Is Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

tentrees said...

My Dad often sang this song, I learned it from listening to him. I was
about 10 in the early 1930s and have never forgotten "Abdul" and dozens
of other songs; we sang a lot in our home...Thanks for your major
contribution to memories of my "good old days" in San Francisco.

Patricia Eileen Lewis
Port Charlotte FL

Eileen Rickards Johnson said...

Hi:

What a fun site.

I was just looking the song up to sing the song to my grandson. It was in
my college songbook when I went to Goldsmith's College in London, England,
in 1949, and I've never forgotten it. There were other songs in that book
that I can only remember bits of, too.

I really enjoyed the 'Return' song.

Eileen

Mounce said...

After reading the comments on your web page about Amir and Skevarr, I must admit to fitting the mold of many of the writers--71 years old, retired navy carrier pilot, remembered some of the verses, tried to teach it to my 13 year old grandson during a trip to London last week, learned it in grammar school in the 40's, and glad to find not only the words but info on the author.

Thanks.

C Mounce
4882 Schehin Rd
College Station TX 77845

Bob & Linda said...

I first heard this song on my parents wind-up Victrola hen I was seven or eight, about 65 years ago. I played it over and over and finally could sing along with the artist, I think it was Frank Crumit, For some reason today I started to sing it but could not remember all the words. then I found this web sight and was excited and delighted to find the words again. Thank you for making my day.

Bob F

Randy Ridgel said...

I couldn't sleep and was going mad with these words running through my head:
"You will die! Oh you will die!, Said Ivan Skavinsky Skivar. To Abdoul
Aboulboul Ameer". I am now 72 and although I can't find those exact words
in the versions above, I remember them from a popular version played on our
windup Victrolla and, I believe, on radio in the mid-thirties in Tickfaw,
Louisana.

This computer, Internet, a search engine named Google and this marvelous
website would have been unimaginable to me back then.

How does one get the tune?

Randy Ridgel

Randy Ridgel said...

That's

Allan said...

I am 72 years old and used to hear this ballad on the radio when I was a small boy in the 30's and early 40's. I am not sure who recorded it but I seem to remember it being done by Burl Ives and during the same period he was also doing "Wayfaring Stranger" and "Big Rock Candy Mountain". I may be mistaken but if Burl didn't do it he should have.

Allan Patrick

Doolbykid said...

What a great site. I have seen the sheet music for Abdul El Bulbul Emir. It's
definitely on a website, but I'm blowed if I can find it, now I need it to
accompany the verses in one of the stories in my book 'Dicky Blood's War',
soon to be published. see
www.books4publishing.com
I'll keep checking this site. Someone is bound to trace it.
Geoff Blore

Jerome Shipman said...

I first heard the song on a radio program in the early 1930s, the kind of program on which you could hear operatic arias like "Largo al Factotum" from "The Barber of Seville," songs from light opera, a violinist playing Rimsky Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumble Bee," and humorous numbers like "The Man on the Flying Trapeze" and "Abdul the Bulbul Ameer," as we thought it was called then. I learned the same set of lyrics as Roderick W. Clarke did, within a year or two of the same time that he did, in the same kind of place, Boy Scout camp (specifically Camp Mohican in Blairstown, New Jersey). I had a book of songs for campers, the 1930s counterpart of your 1970s activity book.

I always remembered Mr. Clarke's

"He could sing like Caruso, both tenor and bass [not
"base"]
He could play on the Spanish guitar
In fact quite the cream
Of the Muscovite team
Was Ivan Skavitsky Skivar"

as we thought the name was. That stanza of course would come between your third and fourth stanzas.

I do not remember your thirteenth stanza, which however accurately it may reflect Russian military burial practices during the Crimean War, is completely foreign to the spirit of the rest of the song.

I could probably notate the tune we sang the song to if there were enough interest, and if I could summon up the required patience.

Jerome S. Shipman

Dale Iwan said...

I'm another in his 70's who listened to the scratchy '78 on his parents Victrola. The record was ancient even then. Too bad I don't remember the label.
Larry H

Rob Illing said...

An interesting note on this poem is that two verses are sung in an episode of the TV series "Star Trek: The Next Generation" entitled "Brothers".

Regards,

Rob

richard said...

I recently found your comment on "Abdul Abubul Amir" on the web. I'm
trying to find the music for my father's memorial service. Did you ever
find it?

joe street said...

I first heard it sung in 1931 or 1932 by my 3rd cousin, Tom Bradfield. I've sung it ever since
( the one verse I could recall ). The tune is firmly fixed in my head; but I'm not a musician.
If this will help you in any way, I would like helping with your Dad's Service. Just let me know
how to proceed.
Joe Street

Riley Richard T said...

Thanks, Joe. The service was last week. At the request of the church, we
didn't use Abdul, though I found the music in a book of Navy songs from
Amazon. Instead we used another of my dad's favorites, an Irish song about
the uprising of 1796, "The Rising of the Moon"

I also got a copy of a cartoon of the song that was done in '42 by MGM.
It's on Laserdisk, so I haven't seen it yet. Apparently Groucho narrates
the fight.

Gilbert H. Smith said...

I have never heard this SUNG. I knew it was a song, but I saw the words when I was in College. I'll be 71 in April of 2003.

A couple of the versions here come close to the way I learned it, but not exactly. With your permission, I'll add my version.

The Sons of the Prophet were hardy and bold, and quite unacustomed to fear.
by the bravest of all was a man I am told, named Abdul El Bul-Bul Ameer.

If they wanted a man to encourage the van, or to harass the foe in the rear.
or to storm a redoubt, they would set up a shout, for Abdul El Bul-Bul Ameer.

There were heroes in plenty and men known to fame, who fought in the ranks of the Czar.
but none of more fame than a man by the name of Ivan Skavitsky Skivar.

He could sing like Caruso, both Tenor and Bass, he could play on the Spanish Guitar.
in fact quite the cream of the Muscovite Team was Iran Skavitsky Skivar.

One day, this bold Muscovite shouldered his gun, and walked down the street with a sneer.
he was looking for fun when he happened to run, upon Abdul El Bul-Bul Ameer.

"Young man" said Bul-Bul, "is existence so dull that you're anxious to end your career"?
"for Infidel know, you have trod on the toe, of Abdul El Bul-Bul Ameer".

Then this bold mameluke drew his trusty shibouk, shouting "Allah id Allah Akbar"!
and with murderous intent, he most suddenly went, for Ivan Skavitsky Skivar.

They fought all that night 'neath the pale yellow moon, the din it was heard from afar.
huge multitudes came, so great was the fame, of Abdul and Ivan Skivar.

The Sultan came by in his red-breasted fly, to give to the victor a cheer.
he arrived just in time to exchange a last line, with Abdul El Bul-Bul Ameer.

Czar Petrovich too, in his spectacles blue, drove up in his new-crested car.
he gasped for his breath as he witnessed the death, of Ivan Skavitsky Skivar.

On a stone by the bank, where the Neva doth roll, there is written in characters clear.
"Oh stranger, remember to pray for the soul, of Abdul El Bul-Bul Ameer".

While a Muscovite maiden her vigil doth keep, by the light of the cold Northern Star.
and the name that she constantly shouts in her sleep, is Ivan Skavitsky Skivar.

Gilbert H. Smith
Bowling Green, KY

Goldrup Fred said...

Greetings, O peruser of good verse. I come unto thee
For words of the sequels of Abdul and Ivan Amir.

I've lost much of my hearing - now don't be cheering
It's no pleasure to look at this LP, unhearing.

Frank Crumit recorded all three and on Label X
By RCA, they issued them all, by heck.

But I can't hear the thing,
Or enjoy old Frank's sing
But the words, I would seriously (mmmm - no rhyme)

Would you have the words to "The Grandsons" and "Minnie"?

Mayhaps, if I had the words in front of me, I might bite hard on the
speaker's edge, and let the sound float through my headbones to
the auditory nerves, and thence to that empty chamber wherin
supposedly lies a brain!

I really AM serious. Can you provide the words to the sequels to Abdul?

Arch Scales said...

My Dad used to recite this as a poem in the years after he returned
from four years of sea duty in the Naval Reserve during World War II.
I was four or five. I understood he picked it up in the Navy where it
was wide-spread. I have heard that Naval Academy midshipmen were
required to learn it as a form of discipline. Whether this was true or
is still true, I cannot say. When my Dad and I were roughhousing, he
often quoted the part about "Has life grown so dull that you wish to
end your career?"

Pop died in 1996 at 80. Your Website brought back a lot of fond
memories.

--- Arch Scales
---

Katherine E. Hudson said...

My mother used to sing this to me when I was a child (in the 1940's); my
recollection is of a version much like that supplied by Mr. Clarke.
It's associated in my mind, however, with another song she often
sang--about a Spanish treasure ship sunk by pirates. I can remember
only the refrain (or perhaps it's just a portion of it):

A Spanish ship came down the tide, and bound was she
for Cadiz.
With gems and jewels from far Peru,
The Captain too, and all his crew,
And they sent them down below.
Oh, they rammed her hull and laughed.

I would dearly love to see all the words to that song! Can anyone help?

Katherine E. Hudson

Dan Nuhrah said...

This poem was a favorite of mine when I was a Boy Scout at
the age of 13, (68 years ago). I had forgotten all the words
and I am so happy that they have been preserved for perpetuity.
Dan J. Nuhrah, Tn

Norma Thompson said...

My mother sang this song to me from the time I was a baby. I was born in 1943.
There are several clumsy verses added. One verse left out.
Czar Petrovik, too, and his whole retinue,
Rolled up in a new crested car.
He arrived just in time to hear the last line
Of Ivan Stravinsky Stravar.

Lois Rafferty said...

My brother, Bud, and I also learned this song at Scout camp in the early
30's - Camp Pahatsi, near Donner Summit in California. We talked about it
just last night and he asked for my help remembering a verse that
bastardized Ivan's name as "Ivan spits whiskey too far". Anyone else out
there from Tahoe Area Council that can help. A scout from Roseville, CA,
named Chastain, I believe, used to sing (?) it.
Bob Riley, Auburn, CA

EJerisk said...

My older brother used to sing this song when I was young (I'm 81 now) and I
was delighted to find it on your website. He knew all the verses and I loved
listening to his singing. Now my family is going to hear it too. Thank you
for bringing it to us.

Brian Hampton said...

First of all, in response to Ray, no you are not the only one reading this under the age of 60.(Not anymore anyway!) However, that being said, my story is very much like most of the others. In my case it was High School when I was first introduced to Abdul as a poem. I never new it was a song until now. I had believed this to be a long time ago (1975) until reading these other comments. This and probably always will be my favorite verse. The version I learned had the verse "He could imitate Irving, tell fortunes by cards, and play on the Spanish guitar; In fact quite the cream of the Muscovite team was Ivan Skavinsky Skavar."
I was never aware of any of the sequels and being a Trekkie, was surprised to have missed the verses sung in The Next Generation episodes (I'll have to look that up) Finding this site has been great for reawakening old and extremely fond memories of my formative years. Thanks all,
Brian

Colin Finnie said...

Some correspondents have written plaintively about being unable to get hold
of a recording of Abdul Abulbul Emir, or about being unfamiliar with the
tune. If you have access to a music download site like Piolet, Morpheus or
Kazaa, you can download HANK THOMPSON's recording of Abdul. I certainly
found it on Kazaa, and it was a joy to rediscover the song. Thompson sings
it in a suitably nasal, world-weary tone, and the tune perfectly complements
the rolling cadences of the words and the vivid imagery of the song.
Great site! Keep up the good work!
Colin Finnie

Bill Hatch - Allgoods said...

Hi
How about
They fought all that night by the pale yellow light
of the moon that was seen from afar.
Learnt in the 1950's @ the Methodist College Belfast during a maths lesson ( Mr. Stratford) from a boy named McIvor (first name forgotten)
Great stuff ,the dirty version is extremely funny.
Bill Hatch

jdrp said...

I remember it as Abdul al Bulbul emir and Ivan Skavinsky Skavar
somebody in the song drove up in a "blue crested car"

I'm not clear about the date. Seems to me we sang it as college freshmen which would make it about 1927. I am 93 years old, if that is of any interest. Maybe I ought to teach this ditty to my six great grandchildren. Justine R-P.

Alan Winterrowd said...

Thanks for the site. I learned this song, in the 60's, from my dad and his
book of scouting songs, along with "My Grandfather's Clock", "the
Quartermaster's Store", and others. Now I get to pass them down to my
children, along with other great folk songs.

You should hear us going down the road singing, each in our own key, along
with the Weavers, or Pete Seegar, or Harry Chapin.

Roger Whitney said...

I learned a version of Abdul A Bul Bul Amir from an English comic book annual in the mid-1950s. The words had more or less gone from my mind until I gradually dredged them up from my memory when my children were born in the 1980s and I sang it to them as a bedtime song. It seems from this website that a surprising number of parents have done the same!

My comic-book version's words differ in several places from those of other contributors. The cartoonist also added some interesting information. For instance, in the speech-bubble issuing from Abdul's mouth as he was skewered by Ivan, was the plaintive utterance "Op Yopple Garook!". The cartoonist revealed that Ivan was decapitated whilst Abdul was run through the stomach and that Ivan's (disembodied head's) last words to the Czar were "So long, Boss!"...

Oh the Sons of the Prophet were brave men and bold
And quite unaccustomed to fear
But the bravest of these was a man by the name
Of Abdul A Bul Bul Amir

If you wanted a man to encourage the van
Or to harrass the foe from the rear *
To storm fort or redoubt you had only to shout
For Abdul A Bul Bul Amir

The heroes were many and well known to fame
In the ranks that were led by the Czar
But the bravest of these was a man by the name
Of Ivan Skavinsky Skivar

He could imitate birdies, play euchre and pool
And strum on the Spanish guitar
In fact quite the cream of the Muscovite team
Was Count Ivan Skavinsky Skivar

One day this bold Russian he shouldered his gun
And donned his most truculent leer
Then down town he did go where he trod on the toe
Of Abdul A Bul Bul Amir

"Young fellow" said Abdul "Has life grown so dull
That you now wish to end your career?
Vile Infidel! know you have trod on the toe
Of Abdul A Bul Bul Amir

"So take your last look at the meadow and brook
And pay your respects to the Czar
By this I imply you are going to die
Count Ivan Skavinsky Skivar!"

Then this bold Mameluke drew his trusty skibouk
And loud crying "Allah Akbar!"
With murderous intent he ferociously went
For Count Ivan Skavinsky Skivar

They fought all that night 'neath the pale yellow moon
The din it was heard from afar
Vast multitudes came, so great was the fame
Of Abdul and Ivan Skivar

Just as Abdul's long knife was extracting the life --
In fact he was crying "Akbar!" --
He felt himself struck by that wily Kalmuck
Count Ivan Skavinsky Skivar

The Shah rode up in his red-crested fly
Expecting the victor to cheer
But he only came by to hear the last sigh
Of Abdul A Bul Bul Amir

Czar Petrovich too in his spectacles blue
Drove up in his shiny new car **
But he came just in time to exchange a last line
With Ivan Skavinsky Skivar

A Muscovite maiden her lone vigil keeps
Up there 'neath the cold Northern Star
And the name that she murmurs as oft as she weeps
Is Ivan Skavinsky Skivar

( * possible alternative: "Or to shout "Hullalloo!" from the rear..."
** possible alternative: "gold-plated car..." )

I always felt sad that there was apparently noone to weep for Abdul. So one day on a car journey we came up with the following:

A harem of ladies in old Istanbul
Are drowning their sorrows in beer
Lamenting their love who has now gone above --
Dear Abdul A Bul Bul Amir

Roger Whitney

wfassoc said...

wonderful site... my uncle used to sing this song to his 6 string guitar back in the late '30s.. im 70 now and remember singing along with him. the words are at some variance, but is that a problem? great stories are made that way!!
walt taylor
albuquerque, new mexico

Barry&Joyce said...

Abdul and many other of French's songs were recorded by Brendan O'Dowda. Dodgy name, good voice and the recording is still available. Good Luck to all the baladeers out there. Barry

Bruce McNair said...

There was indeed a filthy version sung by HM Forces, which started I think,

"A travelling brothel by chance came to town,
'Twas owned by a Russian from far,
He issued a challenge etc"

Also sung by undergraduates.

Bruce McNair

David Dickey said...

[broken link] http://us.imdb.com/Title?0041948

"Task Force" in 1949 . I remember Gary Cooper singing the song. A cousin
of my mother, Dr. Newton Gaines, was head of the Physics Department at
TCU in the 50's and was a wonderful folksinger and collector of folk
music. I first heard Abdul from him.

David Dickey

Gordon Braun-Woodbury said...

I have fond memories of my granddad singing about Abdul and Ivan when I was a boy in the 1960s. When I first did a Google search for this tune, the initial 20 links were to bawdy parodies.

John Thompson said...

My father used to drive me mad by singing this song when he was washing up.

He only knew a limited number of lines and would mix these up in various
ways to form a song lasting
several verses that made no sense at all. He would also hum certain lines if
he thought he
was being too repetitive and even make some up as he went along. As long as
the last line featured
one of the combatants names (sung louder than the rest of the verse) he
didn't seem to mind. I always
used to pray that he got to the bottom of the washing up bowl quickly.

I didn't believe it was a real song until I saw a cartoon version one day.
Can anyone explain what a
"calmuck" is?

Martin DeMello said...

> although I once saw it in a song book as the out-of-meter Ivan
> Skizavitzky Skivar.

This would make sense if the proper pronunciation of "Ivan" is i-VAN.
Then the line would scan i VAN skiz a VITZ ky svi VAR. Any Russian
speakers in the audience?

martin

Stanley Kemp said...

Ah yes, more memories of the 50s. My favorite verse (and coincidently, most
cited) had the words:

He could jump 50 yards , tell fortunes at cards
and strum on the spanish guitar
In fact quite the cream of the Moscuvite team
was Ivan Skivitski skavar

Quite a feat without a motorcycle.
Stan

"Opinions expressed are mine and not those of Rohm and Haas Company".

christinebennett said...

My Grandfather used to sing this song in the sixties. The only time I ever heard it sung professionally was on a record played on the radio around 1981. I remember that the recording was from 1928, the year my mother was born.
Christine

Fr. Patrick Reardon said...

My father sang this to ballad when I was a small child in the late 30's and
early 40's. I sang it to my children virtually every night in the late 70's
and early 80's. It bears, to me, the marks of immortality.

Patrick Henry Reardon

Fr. Patrick Reardon said...

Anne

This is marvelous. Thank you so much for posting it.

Pat Reardon

RICHARD D NOLTE said...

Yea, verily, this is the song/ballad as we sang it while camped on Pardee
Field near Culp's Hill on Gettysburg Battlefield in June-July, 1938. This
was the 75th anniversary of the Battle and we were Boy Scouts enjoying
what was to become a high point of our life. We mingled with 90 year-old
Civil War veterans, watched FDR light the Peace Light on Oak Ridge, sang
and frolicked,then broke camp and went home to, unknowingly, ramp up for
our own war 3+ years later. Eerily, I thought of this ballad while
exercising in the pool the other day and the thing flowed out of my
sub-conscious, somehow, 65 years later. Go figure! Dick Nolte,
Clearwater, FL.

BarnB9 said...

THE SON'S OF THE PROPHET WERE HEARTY AND BOLD
AND QUITE UNACUSTOMED TO FEAR...BUT THE BRAVEST OF ALL
IS A MAN I AM TOLD...CALLED ABDUL AL BUL BUL AMEER
NOW THIS BOLD MAMULUKE DREW HIS TRUSTY CHIBOQUE
CRYING...ALLAH AL ALLAH AKBAR...AND WITH MURDEROUS INTENT
HE MOST SUDDENLY WENT FOR IVAN SKISAVITSKY SKIVAR

ON A STONE ON THE BANK WHERE THE NEVA DOTH ROLL
THERE IS WRITTEN IN CHARACTERS CLEAR
OH STRANGER REMEMBER TO PRAY FOR THE SOUL
OF ABDUL AL BUL BUL AMEER

WHILE A MUSCOVITE MAIDEN..HER VIGIL DOTH KEEP
BY THE LIGHT OF THE COLD NORTHERN SKY
AND THE NAME THAT SHE CONSTANTLY CRIES IN HER SLEEP
IS IVAN SKISAVITSKY SKIVAR

BarnB9 said...

I REMEMBER IT AS ABDUL EL BUL BUL AMEER AND IVAN SKISAVITSKI SKIVAR
FROM HIGH SCHOOL CHORUS 60 YRS. AGO...WRITTEN ABOUT THE TURK WAR
WITH RUSSIA...

Kendell Hyde said...

Just checking to see if this is still a valid email address and if you ever found the sheet music to
"Abdul Abulbul Amir". After 65 years, I finally found the midi file at these sites

[broken link] http://www.contemplator.com/folk/abdul.html

[broken link] http://www.acronet.net/~robokopp/shanty/abdul.mid

BUT have not been able to find sheet music.

For 65 years I could only remember words like (Ivan Skabinsky Skabar - I had never seen any written words) that I had heard on an old hand-wound victrola.

Did you ever find the music?

Kendell Hyde

Ron Hallam said...

I heard dirty version 55 yrs ago but can only remember parts which were
coarse but amusing. Can you help with full version? Ron H.

Joan Bledsoe said...

Love this poem, however two stanzas are missing from the version I have. I too became acquanted with the poem around the age of 8 . It is in a book my Mother gave me from her youth. "A Treasury of the Familiar", by Ralph L Woods. The Poet is listed as anonymous After the third stanza it read:
He Could imitate Irving,play poker and pool
And strum on the Spanish guitar,
In fact quite the cream of the Muscovite team
Was Ivan Scavinsky Skavar.

The next stanza missing is after the stanza starting with Young man.
Said Ivan," My friend, your remarks in the end
Will avail you but little, I fear,
For you ne'er will survive to repeat them alive,
Mr. Abdul A-bul-bul A-mir.

After the stanza about the Sultan drove , another stanza is :
Czar Petrovitch too, in his spectacles blue,
Rode up in his new-crested car.
He arrived just in time to exchange a last line,
With Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

Bill Berle said...

For some strange reason, I remember the characters' names as Abdul Abubbul
Amir and Ivan Stravinsky Stravar. It appears as though there are probably
several versions of this old poem/song. My memory is of hearing this as a
recorded song on the Doctor Demento comedy radio show, in the mid 1970's. I
am not quite as old as the majority of the people who posted comments here
:)

John said...

"Abdul Abulbul Amir" was recorded by Frank Crumit on the Victor label # 20715-B, probably sometime in the late 1920s. The flip side is "Frankie and Johnnie" #2715-A. The song was "adapted by Frank Crumit, comedian with guitar."

John said...

Abdul was sung in part by Gregory Peck in the movie On the Beach around 1958 if memory serves. He plays the part of a Submarine skipper in WWIII, I believe. I think it was Peck. Maybe it was Grant. The idea was that the midshipmen had to learn all the verses by heart as part of a tradition.

Curtis Marder said...

I remember this song as sung to me by my father. I think he picked it up
from the movie "On the beach." It also appeared in a magazine as an
advertisement in a modified form, but I am not sure of the product, maybe
beer or razors. I have remembered bits and pieces of the words. There seem
to be many variations. My strongest association however is with my father
singing the song.

jfoster0608 said...

For what it's worth, I heard Ivan on an Edison cylinder and always thought it was Abdul THE Bulbul Emir. Don't remember the performer, and the cylinder, its player and owner are all long gone. Jim Foster

ThomasDPhillip said...

Hail to the "invisible dragons of the electronic night." Like many
contributors, I first head/read this poem in school when I was around l0 years old. I
think the book we used was called Magic Casements--can't remember author or
publisher, but pages were filled with wonderful stories and poems . Book was my
first exposure to some of Kipling, "The Charge of the Light brigade", and the
magic lines of Robert Service ("Strange things are done in the midnight
sun...."). Bits and pieces of this stuff somehow managed to stick in some nether part
of my brain for the next 50 years or so (I'm 63).
I'm delighted to have stumbled across your site for the full text of the tale
of Abdul and Count Ivan.Thank you and those invisible dragons.
Tom Phillips

Jack Lord said...

As a 90 year old I couldn't get fragments of this song out of my mind, so I googled "Ivan Skavinski Skavar" and hit this jackpot!! As a Boy Scout some 75 years ago we used to sing it around the campfire at Camp Tahquitz In the mountains of Southern California. BSA troop 32 in Long Beach. Thank you all I'll enjoy reminiscing with you. Jack Lord, Beaver Patrol

Jenny Brownlee said...

I was so surprised to find these lyrics! I had always thought that my dad learned this song from some hard-partying Canadian Highlanders, but after reading all the comments, it is more likely he learned it in the boy scouts as a kid in the '30's, or even in school. He always sung it with great enthusiasm, usually fueled by some sort of spirits! Thanks, it brought back a lot of fond memories of my father.

OldWhiteJoe said...

I SCROLLED DOWN THROUGH ALL COMMENTS/ADDITIONS/CORRECTIONS
W/ GREAT INTEREST & PLEASURE. I WAS ALSO WAITING TO READ THAT
SOMEONE ELSE HAD SEEN A COMMERCIAL VERSION IN A MAGAZINE...BINGO!
CURTIS MARDER! IT WAS'NT BEER OR RAZORS, HOWEVER; IT WAS SPRINGMAID
SHEETS, AND IT WAS 1958:

There are heroes of fame
With sword or a dame
In ranks that are led by the Czar,
But a man you'd applaud,
At home or abroad, was Ivan Skivinski Skavar.

He could instigate brawls,
Lead charges or balls,
And play on the Spanish Guitar,
In fact, quite the cream
Of the Muskovite Team,
Was Ivan Slivinski Skavar.

The Sons of The Prophet
Are brave men and bold,
And quite unacustomed to fear.
They can ride a wild stallion,
Ambush a battallion,
Or blow the froth off a beer.

But needing a man
To encourage the van,
To harrass the enemy's rear,
Or to charge a redoubt,
You'd always send out
For Abdul The Bulbul Amir.

One day the Bold Russian
Donned his best Fustian
And bared his most truculent sneer;
Downtown for a treat,
He sullied the sheet,
Of Abdul The Bulbul Amir!

"Young Man!" Quoth The Bulbul,
"Has your life grown so dull
That you're anxious
To end your career?
Your Infidel feet
Have just trampled the sheet
Of Abdul The Bulbul Amir!"

[THE NEXT FEW VERSES I REMEMBER PRETTY MUCH THE SAME AS REPORTED
AND AMENDED HERE ON THIS SITE--AND MY TYPING SKILLS TOO POOR TO SUPPORT
REDUNDANCY--HOWEVER, THE FINALO TWO VERSES ARE GOOD]

There's a grave
Where the wave
Of the Blue Danube rolls,
And on it
Is graven so clear:
"Tempest in fleeting,
Don't step on the sheeting
Of Abdul The Bulbul Amir!"

A Muskovite Maiden
Her lone vigil keeps
Where The Volga
And vodka go far,
And the name she repeats
When a ghost tugs her sheets,
Is "Ivan Skivinski Skavar!"

THANKS FOR THE PLEASURABLE REMINDER THAT I'M NOT THE ONLY LOONIE OLD WACKO
WHO ENJOYS RHYTHMIC LANGUAGE & VIVID IMAGERY. JJ
SULLIVAN, KAUAI, HI.

SIMON MARCHANT-JONES said...

Thank you so much for this; I searched because I was with some friends in the South of France last week, May 04, on the beach, and a busker played the tune on his accordion which brought back fond memories - and I'm only 50!

I'm going to learn the words and impress my sons...

Byron or Kay McAllister said...

At camp Diamond O (Boy Scouts of America, Oakland Area Council), back about
1942 or so, one of the troops sang a parody, which may or may not have been
their own invention. Not a gross deviation from one of the many forms
already cited, its principal difference lay in replacing Abdul's name with
"Abdul, the guzzler of beer" and Ivan's with "Ivan spits whiskey too
far." For us kids the deviation was a riot, but age dims the fun a bit
now, and I won't claim that it's something everybody needs to know. Byron
Leon McAllister.

BargainBoards said...

The dodgy stanza is better the way I learned it:

They parried and thrust, they sidestepped and cussed
Of blood they spilled quite a lot
Philologist blokes who seldom crack jokes
Say the hash was first made on this spot.

Leedstyke said...

I have tried several times over the years to obtain the words to this song.
My father used to recite it when we were children while he cooked the Sunday
lunch back in Yorkshire,England about the year 1947 onwards...I remembered
little sections of it, especially the tune. But never found the words until
tonight. I am thrilled and particularly pleased to read all the comments. Thank
you so much for your "gift" to me.

Does anyone remember during the war years there being a recording of "The St
Louis Blues" to a large Military Band with crowds cheering in the background,
and trumpets playing etc. It was much requested during the war years for the
boys overseas and now my brother and I would like to hear it again. I always
thought it was the American Air Force Band or the American Marine Band who
played it. some say there was only the Glen Miller recording. I have contacted
the Marine Band in Wash DC but no one knows what I am referring to. Its a
full marching band sound.
Maybe someone reading this will have some rememberance of what I am trying to
locate.
Jean E Martin. originally from the UK now proud to be an American.

D.M.Pennington said...

But it was the Russo-Turkish War of the 1870s when the Russkies licked (as usual) the Turk after the latter had committed horrendous atrocities and "ethnic cleansing" in the Balkans against fellow Slavs who were subjects then to the Ottoman Empire.

But the western Europeans (noteably the British under Prime Mnister Disraeli) put pressure on the Russian Empire (at the Conference of Berlin, organised by Kanzler Bismarck) to negotiate a peace and to prevent the Russians from controlling "the staits", the access from the Black Sea past Istanbul to the Mediterranean, then a Royal Navy "lake" controlling the Suez Canal.

The Russians were forced to treaty at San Stefano, although the Turkish capital had been there for the taking.

Most of the fighting had occurred around the course of the Danube in the then Wallachia, now Rumania/Moldovia.

(Vlad Dracula country!)

I remember the song well as a kid.

It used often to be heard on the BBC "Children's Favourites radio on a Saturday morning.

D.M.Pennington

Now resident in Moscow.

Born and bred in St. Helens, Lancashire, England.

Leedstyke said...

On Page 19 Randy Ridgel. comments about "You will die!. Oh you will die! Said
Ivan Skavinsky Skavar, but I wonder if these words do not come from a
recording by Bing Crosby. "The Spaniard that blighted my life" I have tried to
check the lyric but cannot see a copy only the title and that Bing recorded it and
also Al Jolson. about 1911.
When I was a child we listened to both Abdul Abulbul Emir and to the Spaniard
that blighted my life. Either the songsters wife or girlfriend were
captivated by the Spaniard who was a bullfighter he goes on to state that "He will
die, he will die, he will die tiddly eye tye tye tye
tye tye tye tye He will die he will die Aye. I'll raise a bunion on his
spanish onion if I catch him bending tonight." I can't remember it all only bits
of it another line says " It was at the bullfight that she met him ....she
had been watching his daring display.....and while I went
out to buy nuts and a program the dirty dog stole her away"

I don't know how to obtain the lyrics but wanted to offer what litle I
remember now being in my late 60's . and this website is absolutely fantastic. to
take yourself back over the years and renew music favourites is wonderful.
Thank you Jean Martin. Boston

Joe and Dorothy said...

We sang it in the late 30s in grammar school--it was in our songbooks.

Burke Willsey said...

What a great find! Thank heaven for Google because I had it Abdul
Abulba Amir. My Mother and uncles sang this song in the 30s and I
recently asked her to write the lyrics for me, which she did at age 93.
At that time her family of 10 siblings and their parents lived in a
house with no electricity, running water or indoor plumbing but the love
simply overflowed. They also sang "Pretty Redwing"; "I Learned about
Women From Her"; "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze"; "Only a
Bird in a Gilded Cage" and "Moonlight and Skies" about a young
bankrobber in prison in Oklahoma.

Burke Willsey - June 2004

stephanie rivera said...

I have been looking for these lyrics for years. My father used to sing this when the family went riding in the car (more than 50 years ago). I looked it up in a university library about 10 years ago and found it listed in The Boy Scout Songbook of 1919, but never could find one. Just thought I would type the name in on the search engine and found this site. Thank you so much!!!!

FMolumby said...

Hi.

Greeting on this the 150 anniversary of birth of Percy French.

I perform a tribute to him idea for concert/cabaret festival.

To paraphrase his own epitaph:

All I ask is to be remembered, it that be too much bother, forget it .

ivan.gleaves said...

I too first heard the song on the BBC's "Children's Hour" hosted by the wonderful "Uncle Mac" in the 1950's and then a 10 year olds imagination did the rest, until today I did not realise it came from a poem, later in my teens and working as an apprentice my Foreman sang it with much gusto, I think he would have sang it much less if my name hadn't have been Ivan.
I now at 58 must try and find a copy of the song, from reading all the wonderful comments it would seem it was more popular in the US than the UK.

Ivan J Gleaves

CKGarabed said...

Dear Richard Riley:

I've been looking for the cartoon that I remember seeing way back when,
but have not been able to ocate a copy anywhere.
I'd appreciate your giving me a clue as to where to go for it.

C.K. Garabed

Charles J. Kurtz said...

I, too, remember my father singing this and Frankie and Johnnie when he put
me to bed in the late 40's. i always attributed this to his membership in a
"singing fraternity" , the Beta's at Ohio State.

Charlie K

robert malson said...

I too learned this as a Beta at Case Institute of Technology, now Case Western Reserve, in Cleveland in the 50's. I am most pleased to be reminded of those less complicated years of my youth. Thank you so much for this site and thanks to all the contributors.

R. F. (Bob) Malson

TomKalmar said...

I woke up singing a line from the filthy version, "for Abdul, poor fool, had
left half of his tool, up Ivan Skavinsky Skevar," and googled, hoping to
recall more. This is how The Push sang it at the Royal George in Sydney,
Australia, in the late 1950's and early 1960's.
Tom Kalmar

EddieBBme said...

I have an original 45RPM recording of Abdullah Bulbul Ameer but I can't find
any record player capable of 45 RPM> Any ideas?

mel said...

I can still hear my wonderful Uncle Walter belting out this song on our yearly outing. He was a genious and kept us amazed trying to teach us the work. I hadn't thought about it it in a while until this latest hurricane (Ivan} brought it to mind. No one could compare to his bravado and I do so wish he were still here to teach it to my daughter.

Steve Pye said...

I have the Frank Crumit recording of Abdul on cassette tape somewhere, much-loved. I think my mother probably still has the 78 record. Part of my happy youth, listening to all their 78s - Phil Harris, Spike Jones and many more - anyone remember "Ernest Tubb's Talking Blues?" "Cigarettes, Whisky & Wild, Wild Women?"

Paul F. Page said...

I cannot believe that anyone would know about this wonder little
poem. I was so surprised to find it on the web. I first learned it by
heart when I was about 7 or 8 years of age about 50 years ago from a
78 rpm recording that my family owned. I still have it. Anyway, what
a treat to find the full set of lyrics. Thank you..

Paul F. Page said...

Thank you for the added lines. I remember them, too, from my first
encounter with this poem some 50 years ago.

JKV2003 said...

As I have written earlier, I learnt this song in the mid-forties(no-no, not
MY mid-forties), and I support the above contributors who wrote (however it
be spelled): Ivan Skavitsky (it has a powerful Russian ring to it) Skivar, and
Abdul el Bulbul Amir. The Arabic phrase must certainly be "Allah il-Allah
akhbar!" based on the fact that "La ilaha il-Allah" means "there is no God
but (one) God" and Allahu Akhbar means "God is great." But I'm sure you
knew that.
Jerry Burnam aka Vernon
Westwood, CA. USA

Nancjc said...

OH BOY!!! I an nearly 74 years old and remember my Dad singing Abdul Abulbul
Ameer as we kids childishly called it. This song and Dunderbeck's Sausage
Machine were always requested in a ploy to 'just stay up a little later'.. . .
Nancy

Ralph Frederick said...

This song was sung at the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity house at the
University of Michigan from the 1940's through the 80's at which time
our chapter minstrel and all-around handy man , Al "Wildcat" Wahl,
sadly passed away. Wildcat sang many other humorous songs and was
always a big hit at our parties. During the 70's a recording was made
of " Wildcat's Greatest Hits", but for some reason this song was not
included. We sang the song again on October 9, at a reunion of several
of our classes from the late 50's and early 60's.
Besides being a wonderful entertainer, Wildcat was a source of good
advice and sound counsel for hundreds of the young men who lived at
"707" (Oxford Road) over the years. We were honored to know him.

Lisa Jones said...

Did anyone ever locate the cartoon?

Tom Gold said...

I first saw these lyrics in "Cooper's Corner" in Guns n' Ammo magazine, and heard Lore [Data's evil twin] sing a verse on Star Trek:NexGen. Thus goaded, I went online & voila!
I sang the whole thing, and, what can I tell you.... shed a tear for past glories.
-Tom thewall@telus .net

Dave Bogart said...

There is indeed a "naughty" version of this classic, and it's the one favored by the U.S. Navy and the Royal Australian Navy (among others). I used to have a recording (Australian), but sadly have lost track of it. I'd love to have another, or just the lyrics, if anybody's got them. It began:

The harems of Egypt are fair to behold,
The Harlots the fairest of fair,
But the fairest, a Greek, was owned by the shiek,
Abdul Abulbul Amir"

Here's hoping.
Bogie

mick &jjenny said...

I first heard "Abdul" as a song on the radio in England About 1947. It was sung by a radio comedy star of that time by the name of Jack Train. In the song he pronounced the words "Vile Infidel" as "Violin Fiddle". Ten years on and I was in the Air Force an I encountered the "risque version" which begins "The knock-shops of Egypt are famed and renouned " etc. Thanks for bringing back some great memories.
Regards,
Jenny & Mick

Barbara Fisher said...

I had just come across mention of this song in a book I was reading by Reeve Lindbergh, and it brought back all sorts of memories. We had a record of this when I was growing up -- I was born in 1932 -- and it all came back to me as if it were just a short time ago. My daughter has all the old 78s that my mother still had when she died in 1996 and there are racks of them in her basement. She lives more than 300 miles from where I do, so I'll have to see if she can go through them (not that I have anything to play 78s on any more). Does anyone know if it's on any CD?
Barbara

Peter Field said...

[broken link] http://www.mining.wits.ac.za/abdul.htm

Peter Field said...

For the dirty version of Abdul Abulbul Ameer go to
[broken link] http://www.mining.wits.ac.za/abdul.htm

Jan Lawson said...

On Narragansett Bay, in 45 and 42 Bill Lawrence taught us sailing and
his sailing songs, including Abdul the Bul Bul Amir. One of our verses
was substantially the same as the one submitted by Bud Powell;

He could imitate Irving, play lotto or pool,
And perform on the Spanish guitar.
In fact, quite the cream of the Muskovite team
Was Ivan Skavinski Skavar.

Our other "sailing songs" included certain Brown University ditties, "A
Capital Ship for an Ocean Trip," and Gilbert and Sullivan's "Yarn of the
Nancy Bell,"-Twas on the shores that round our coast from deal to
Ramsgate Span .. Some lines etched in our brains never seem to fade.

From: "Bud Powell" <budpow@
ment%20%2327%20on%20poem%20%23358%20%2D%20change%20not> >

I learned a fourth verse back in the forties, that went like this:

He could imitate Irving, play poker and pool,
And strum on the Spanish guitar.
In fact, quite the cream of the Muskovite team
Was Ivan Skavinski Skavar.

C. W. Powell
ment%20%2327.2%20on%20poem%20%23358%20%2D%20change%20not> budpow@
New Geneva Theological Seminary
Basket of Figs: [broken link] http://ureach.com/figs

light7 said...

How fascinating to know that SO many other people share a similar experience with me. My daddy was born in 1910 and he sang this song many, many times, but I couldn't remember most of the words. He also sang Strawberry Roan, Isle of Capri, and another one in Russian that he told me was about a little cow. I wish I could remember the words well enough to find that one.

Peter Browne said...

Happy I found your site. I am 73 born and raised in the UK emigrated to
Canada and the US. I learned the poem while cycling 1000 miles around
southern England in 1949. I also learned another Frank Crumit song about
prunes having wrinkles - anyone else know that one?

RICHARD McCORMACK said...

Just another "Searcher" who played Ivan on the wind-up and could not
remember who sang it.
I have the Victor record but alas cannot find same.Flip side was
"Frankie and Johnnie"
For years I have mistakenly thought that it was recorded by Rudy Vallee
since
the Maine stein song was also played a lot.Thanks to this site I have
ordered and
play as I write.."Frank Crumit's- The Gay Cabellero"..(Amazon.UK)..24
tracks
including the above mentioned songs.
Thanks for reviving the "Memories".

bob collins said...

I just turned 65 and remember my Dad singing this to me when I was 5 or 6, right after WWII. He was a full-voiced baritone, and could really put this song across, though he only knew five of the first six verses, omitting the second. I worked as a folksinger through college and after into the early sixties, and tried for years to find the poem or a recording as my Dad had long since passed on. I wanted to perform this tune with my trio, The Village Singers, in memory of him. What a delight to learn all the history surrounding this marvelous poem!

Maybe some of you are familiar with Lou Gottlieb, the leader of the "Limeliters" along with Alex Hassilev and the marvelous tenor Glenn Yarbrough....Lou did a ditty called "Have Some Madeira, M'dear!" that was absolutely hilarious. He had the power of voice and clarity of diction that would have been necessary to do "Abdul".

Thanks from me and Dad,

Bob Collins

bob collins said...

I'm pretty sure is was a Glenn Miller arrangement, called St. Louis Blues March. I played it with a concert band in high school in the late 50's. Hope this helps.

Bob

HarrysPop said...

I'm 76 now and it was in the mid-Thirties when I first heard about Abdul &
Ivan from my father who recited it quite often. Back then, I thought that he had
written it! Maybe he picked it up during WW 1. Was great seeing all the many
versions on your site. Also good to see references to "The Spaniard Who
Blighted my Life" which I think was sung by Al Jolson, and to "Dunderbeck" which I
used to sing in camp in NY in the Thirties (and now sing to my
Grandchildren).

--Martin
HarrysPop

HarrysPop said...

Saw the cartoon many years ago in an advertisement from Springmaid Sheets.

Martin

Walter Slocombe said...

It's fun to read so many recollections of this song. I first learned it
from a song book in elementary school in the Michigan in the 50s. Then
I found it in a book of children's rhymes and sang it to my kids. The
following version has the arguable virtue that (though not "authentic")
Ivan's name is proper Russia --- name, patronymic ("-vich"), and surname
and the Tsar who drives up has a plausible name.:

Now the Sons of the Prophet are hearty and bold
And quite unaccustomed to fear
But the bravest by far in the ranks of the Shah
Was Abdul al Bulbul Amir

If they needed a man to encourage the van
Or to serve as a bold cannoneer
Storm fort or redoubt, they would set up a shout
For Abdul al Bulbul amir

[This son of the desert in battle aroused
Once impaled twenty men on his spear
Much a volatile grouse, whether sober or soused
Was Abdul al Bulbul Amir]

There are heroes aplenty and men known to fame
In the legions that fight for the Tsar
But none of more fame than a man by the name
Of Ivan Petrovich Skivar

He could imitate Irving, tell fortunes by cards
And play on the Spanish guitar
In fact quite the cream of the Muskovite team
Was Ivan Petrovich Skivar

[The ladies all loved him, his rivals were few
He could drink them all under the bar
Come the gallant or tank, there was not one to rank
With Ivan Petrovich Skivar]

One day this bold Muskovite shouldered his gun
And put on his most cynical sneer,
He was looking for fun when he happened to run
Into Abdul al bulbul Amir

Young man, said al Bulbul, is existence so dull
That you're anxious to end your career,
For infidel know you have trod on the toe
Of Abdul al bulbul Amir

So take your last look at the sea, sky, and brook,
And send your regrets to the Tsar
By which I imply you are going to die,
Count Ivan Petrovich Skivar

Said Ivan, my friend, your remarks in the end
Will avail you but little I fear
For you ne'er will survive to repeat them alive
Mr. Abdul al Bulbul Amir

Then the bold Mameluk drew his trusty shibouk
And murmuring "Allah Akhbar"
With murderous intent, he most suddenly went
For Ivan Petrovich Skivar

They fought all that night 'neath the pale northern light
The din, it was heard from afar
And huge multitudes came, for so great was the fame
Of Abdul and Ivan Skivar

[They parried and thrust, they sidestepped and cussed
The blood that they shed cost them both dear
But each injury dire just augmented the ire
Of Ivan and Abdul Ami]

As Abdul's long knife was extracting the life
And he shouted a victor's "hurrah"
He felt himself struck by that wily Calmuk
Count Ivan Petrovich Skivar

Now the Sultan drove by in his red crested fly
Expecting the victor to cheer
But he only drew nigh to hear the last sigh
Of Abdul al Bulbul Amir

Tsar Nicholas, too, with his whole retinue
Drove up in his gold-plated car
But he arrived just to time to exchange a last line
With Ivan Petrovich Skivar

On a stone by the bank where the Danube doth flow
There is written in characters clear
"Oh, Stranger, when passing by, pray for the soul
Of Abdul al Bulbul Amir

A splash in the Black Sea one dark moonless night
Caused ripples to spread near and far
It came from a sack fitting close to the back
Of Ivan Petrovich Skivar

A Muskovite maiden her vigil doth keep
By the light of the cold Northern Star
And the name that murmurs all night in her sleep
Is Ivan Petrovich Skivar

clara jacob said...

It's great to find the lyrics to this song. When I was very young, my
mother would sing it to me at bedtime. Not to break the pattern here,
but I was born in 1958.

When my kids were born, everybody was singing Barney songs to their
children -- "I love you, you love me, we're a happy family." It was
then that it occurred to me that Abdul Abulbul Amir was perhaps
inappropriate as a bedtime song for a small child! But it was fun for
my mom to sing, no doubt, because of the wonderful rhymes, and it sure
was fun to listen to.

Mary said...

Although I'm astounded at the number of septuagenarians who remember this poem/song, I can't count myself among them (until 23 June at least), I was reminded of the poem in 1975 by the April issue of Scientific American(SI). All you septua's should remember the April Fools articles that used to appear in many, many publications, all doing their best to submerge the joke in an otherwise serious-appearing article.
I consider the SI article, written by Martin Gardner, to be the ultimate. Among other things, he had a drawing of a Rodin-type Thinker sitting on a box, all this in sepia tones with mirror writing, supposedly by Da Vinci, proving for all time that Da Vinci had, in fact, invented the flush toilet. Later on in the article, he described an interview with the world's premier numerologist, the esteemed Dr. Matrix (who was invented by Gardner), The good Dr had been missing for some years and was discovered in Egypt along with his beautiful Eurasian daughter. Dr. Matrix claimed that they had been held captive by none other than Abdul el Bulbul Ameer.
I suspect that as the years stack up, it takes longer and longer to get to the point.

LChip51907 said...

My father used to sing this to me as a child, in the mid 1940's.

Best regards,

Maren Thorson said...

Has ANYONE been able to locate the sheet music for
this song, please advise
for "Ivan Skivansky Skivar"
thanks very much

J. Lewis said...

Hello. I'm 79 years of age, and I first learned this song from my Dad singing it to me from my earliest recollections. Both he and I grew up in Utah, U.S.A. I regret that this type of fun song is no longer heard among families. There were so many of them back then.

Helenmarr02 said...

What a wonderful suprise it was to rediscover Ivan and Abdul, I thought them
lost forever.
One of your correspondents was looking for the words to
a song with "He shall die......." " in it. I can recall it, but not in it's
entirity I'm afraid.

...............Twas at the bullfight that we met him.
We were watching his daring display.
And when I went out for some nuts and a programme.
The dirty dog stole her away.
Oh yes, oh no,
But tonight I shall have my revenge!
When I catch Alphonso Spaggoni the toreador,
With one mighty swipe I shall dislocate his bally jaw.
I'll fight that bullfighter I will.
And when I catch him the blighter I'll kill.
He will die, he will die, he will die tiddly I ti ti ti
ti ti ti
He will die, he will die.
I'll raise a bunion on his Spanish onion
If I catch him bending tonight. Ole.

Hope this is of some use.
Helen Marr.

Dale Rice said...

I don't know if this thread is still alive, but if it is ; I think I first
ran into "Abdul the bulbul ameer" just that way on a piano roll. It's in
storage right now so I can't look it up but I think it had lyrics. The roll
would have probably been from 1920 more or less. I'm only 63 so I didn't
hear it the first time around...Dale

smarcus said...

In my father's version of this song, Ivan wasn't the only mourned lover.
The final verse he sang started "Far off in the rurals, a maiden doth weep."
I don't know the remainder of the verse, but Abdul was the object of her
pain. Anyone know the rest? SJM

Alidade said...

I first heard this song (Abdul A Bu lbul Amir) over seventy-five years
ago. My older brother & I were talking about it last night and he
wanted the lyrics to it. Well,
he will have them because I will forward this page to him and since he
is 84 yrs old
I had better do so about right now.

Thanks for the lyrics

Ron McAlister

Bert Åkesson said...

Hello,

Greetings from Sweden. I am a great fan of Percy French. "Abdul" is not
widely known in Sweden. I wouldn't be surprised if I'm the only one to know
of it and I'm pretty sure I'm the only one that can render all the verses.
Now I saw that some people want to know about another song: "The Spaniard
That Blighted My Life". This ought to be the correct title and it was
written by Billy Merson 1911. I heard it many years ago in a television
broadcast in a program called "The Good Old Days" from Leeds in England. The
program was very popular in Sweden. There are three verses and they go like
this:

Verse 1:
List to me while I tell you of the Spaniard that blighted my life;
List to me while I tell you of the man who pinched my future wife.
'Twas at the bull fight where we met him, we'd been watching his daring
display,
And while I went out for some nuts and a program the dirty dog stole her
away
Oh yes! Oh yes! But I've sworn that I'll have my revenge!

Chorus:
If I catch Alphonso Spagoni*, the Toreador,
With a mighty swipe I will dislocate his bally jaw!
I'll find this bullfighter, I will, and when I catch the bounder, the
blighter I'll kill.
He shall die! He shall die! He shall die tiddly-I-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti!
He shall die! He shall die!
For I'll raise a bunion on his Spanish onion if I catch him bending tonight!

Verse 2:
Yes, when I catch Spagoni he will wish that he'd never been born.
And for this special reason, my stiletto I've fetched out of pawn.
If cost me five shillings to fetch it, this expense it has caused me much
pain,
But the pawnbroker's promised when I've killed Spagoni, he'll take it in
pawn once again.
Oh yes! Oh yes! So tonight there will be dirty work.

Chorus:
If I catch Alphonso Spagoni*, the Toreador,
With a mighty swipe I will dislocate his bally jaw!
I'll find this bullfighter, I will, and when I catch the bounder, the
blighter I'll kill.
He shall die! He shall die! He shall die tiddly-I-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti!
He shall die! He shall die!
For I'll raise a bunion on his Spanish onion if I catch him bending tonight!

Verse 3:
I tracked him to London, and he gave me the slip once again,
And they told me this morning that he'd doubled and gone back to Spain.
But whatever it costs me I'll catch him, then no more will he give me the
slip.
With my last one and nine pence on Sunday I'm going to Spain by the Sunday
League trip.
Oh yes! Oh yes! And then the dark deed will be done.

Chorus:
If I catch Alphonso Spagoni*, the Toreador,
With a mighty swipe I will dislocate his bally jaw!
I'll find this bullfighter, I will, and when I catch the bounder, the
blighter I'll kill.
He shall die! He shall die! He shall die tiddly-I-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti!
He shall die! He shall die!
For I'll raise a bunion on his Spanish onion if I catch him bending tonight!

I hope that will please some of you readers. And don't forget that French
wrote a lot of other songs that are delightful.

Best Regards, Bert Åkesson, Malmö, Sweden

Stanley King said...

Thanks to those who have made this available. My father (formerly a 1st
Class Machinist Mate USN) sang this song to me over 50 years ago. I could
remember only a few lines but now have the entirety of several variations.

reddnekk said...

Like most of the commentators, I am in my
seventies, and first heard (and sang) Abdul
the Bulbul Amir in the late 1930s. My mother
played piano, and we sang out of the Golden
Book of Songs (or was the Golden Song Book?)
almost every night. Abdul was my favorite; my
next favorite was I Want to be a Fireman (and
go to every fire). I have been unable to track
that song down.

I am very happy to have found this website and
will probably be back again and again. Merry
Christmas and a Healthy New Year to all!

robert wessing said...

Being only 66, I seem to be the young'un among the commentators! I first heard Abdul sung by Richard A. Ryan of Chicago in the Camp Beard messhall at the Owassippe Scout Camps in the summer of 1957 and it has stuck with me ever since. Occasionally, like today, it just bubbles forth as I clean the house or when I'm playing with the kids. Thanks for a wonderful ballad to Percy and to Dick Ryan, whereever he may be today.

Marc Taubenfeld said...

My father used to "sing" this poem to us at bedtime when I was boy. He
passed away about 10 years ago having never met my sons who were born
after his death, and I never got to get him to tell me the words. I had
a great time thinking of him when I saw it, and will be sure to "sing"
it to my sons when I tuck them in too!

Grrreenrax said...

I remember seeing a cartoon made about this poem when I was between 8 and
10. It was shown as black and white then (I am 57), and I think it was by
the same company that did the “Popeye” characters. It was shown on the old
WXYZ (Channel 7), I think, out of Detroit, or maybe CKLW out of Windsor. It
is funny what makes an impression on a young kid. I memorized “The Charge
of the Light Brigade” after seeing “Alfalfa” try to do it on “The Little
Rascals”. There is something to be said for “popular” entertainment trying
not to always stoop to the “lowest common denominator”.

Lannie Walker said...

HI,
I hope you are still there. I learned to sing Abdul El BulBUl while at boy
scout camp at Cross Lake when I was a Boy. I am now 79+ and still enjoy
singing it. We were only taught two verses of it but I have remembered them all
these years. I am a vet of WWII and Korea & live in Fort Worth for the past 50
years, 36 of which I worked for General Dynamics

cindy.jackson said...

Thank you for sharing the lyrics of The Spaniard that Blighted my Life. I, a mere
baby in my 50's, remember my grandfather, who served in Egypt, France and
England in WWI, singing the first verse and chorus at the top of his voice, usually
while driving us on roadtrips. He had a few of his own variations, such as "gory"
display, and "I went out to buy her some peanuts". Also, it seemed that he ended
the chorus with an expression which sounded like "so swort" but I don't know what
that was supposed to mean. Any ideas? Thanks again!

David Easton said...

I am 70, and heard this poem sung at camp when I was 8 or when I was at another camp at age 12. My dad used to sing it. He is 92, and still delights in it. My brother has been searching for the words for a long time, we are very pleased to find this site. A beautifully illustrated version of this song appeared in an ad for Springmaid Sheets around 1948 +/- 3 years?

Charles Montgomery said...

Was Frank Crumit the same person who had a radio show with Julia Sanderson?
I remember it from childhood. Am 76 years old now. Charles Montgomery.

Basin Brat said...

Hello all,

It seems I really am the young'un here, my father also sang this to me when
I was a young child, but I'm only 19. I believe Dad learned the song from
his grandfather, probably around 1945. It has always been a favourite of
both of ours, though as time went past Dad began to forget some of the
lyrics. I had trouble searching for the song, as I learned the first and
third verses differently.

Oh the heroes of Egypt were well known to fame
And quite unaccustomed to fear
But the bravest of all was a man by the name
Of Abdul the Bulbul Amir.
...

There are brave men and bold, or so I am told
In the ranks that are led by the Tzar
But the bravest of all was a man by the name
Of Ivan Skivinsky Skivar.

This might be Dad's memory, or a local deviation. Im from New Zealand.

Thanks,
Trish.

William J Dobbin said...

I have a recording of an abbreviated form of this poem. It was made by
Bert Parks of Miss America fame.

Joan Hynes said...

I'm 63 and grew up in Australia-Abdul etc was my father's favourite song_I've never heard it on the radio,TVor recorded music- where did it go?

Michael hynes

susan wood said...

I first heard this song from my father as a young kid, when it all seemed like good swashbuckling fun, and then didn't think of it again till the 1990's, when a character on "Star Trek the New Generation" sang a snatch of it, after which I forgot it again until last Monday, when George Bush's address on the anniversary of 9/11 irresistably reminded me of it. Since then, it has run through my head incessantly and infuriatingly, but I wish other people would listen to it as well. There's a lesson for America in the story of two men with more testosterone than brains, who set out to pick a fight on the flimsiest of pretexts and then, once they were in it, decided they had to "stay the course." What happened to them both as a result was fairly predictable.

Reg Hardman said...

In Russia the maidens are fair to behold
The Harlots are fairer by far
The best one to mount is owned by the Count
Ivan Skavinsky Skivar

A travelling brothel had come to the town
Owned by a Turk from quite near
And Ivan did brag that he could outshag
Abdul de bul bul emir.

A date was proclaimed for the spectacle great
A holiday proclaimed by the Czar
And the streets were all lined with the harlots assigned
To Ivan Skavinsky skivar

They arrived at the track with their tools at the slack
The starters guns pissed through the air
They were quick to the rise and gasped at the size
Of Abdul de bul bul emir's.

With no time to waste with amazing haste
Abdul revved up like a car
But he couldn't compete with the long steady beat
Of Ivan Skavinsky skivar

Now Ivan had won and was polishing his gun
And bent down to polish his pair
When up his arse shoot like a long black Cheroot
Went Abdul da bul bul emir.

The women turned green and the men shouted queen
And they were ordered to part by the Czar
But it was jolly hard luck for Abdul was stuck
Up Ivan Skavinsky skivar

Now the cream of this joke when apart they were broke
Was laughed at for years by the Czar
For Abdul poor fool left 3 parts of his tool
Up Ivan Skavinsky Skivar

Lacy said...

Were you a chef in Springfield?

Charles said...

Maybe some of the following will fill in the gaps of "The Spaniard that blighted My Life":

List to me while I tell you
Of the spaniard that blighted my life.
List to me while I tell you
Of the man who stole my future wife.
It was at the bull fights we met him
We were watching his daring display
And when I went out for some nuts and a program.
The dirty dog stole her away!
[Oh no; oh yes; oh no; oh yes]

When I catch Alfonso Spigoni the Toreador,
With one mighty swipe I will dislocate his Spainish jaw.
When I catch him the blighter I will,
When I catch him the blighter I'll kill,
He will die! he will die, he will die tiddly die tiddly etc etc

Thats about all I can recall but this Cosby record was popular in the mid 1940s

Good Luck,
Charles Del Signore

Paul F. Page said...

Charles,
I, too, learned Adbul Abulbul Amir when I was a child in the early
50's -- not quite as old as you, my friend, but it is interesting
that so many people have been touched by this strange, funny tune and
lyric. I found your comment on a site devoted to such nostalgia and
thank you for it. Take care.
Paul

Alfred Milch said...

You are missing the second stanza introducing Ivan:

"He could sing like Caruso both tenor and bass,
"He could play on the Spanish guitar,
"In fact quite the cream of the Mucovite team
"Was Ivan Skavitzy Skevar!"

VTY, Al

Pat McCormick said...

I remember seeing a film of Percy French's life on British television in the late nineteen fifties and they showed it on two separate occasions. The film was named "The Last Minstrel". I enjoyed the film tremendously and would love to get a copy of it. I even wrote to the BBC recently to ask for a copy, but they said they did not have any for sale. If anyone knows where I could get a copy I would really appreciate them telling me at I would love to see it again.

Robert said...

This was a favorite of mine in the mid 30's when I was about five years
old. We had a wind-up victrola and a record with 'Abdullah' on one side
and 'Frankie and Johnny' on the other. Another favorite was 'St James
Infirmary' which my mother sang to me.

Pfbreeman said...

Boy - does this bring back memories, as apparently it does for so many
others - my younger sister and I used to sit in the back of a rowboat, while our
father oared. He'd sing Abdul Abulbul Amir, and we'd join in at the end with
either "Abdul Abulbul Amir" if Daddy held up his thumb, and "Ivan Skavinsky
Skaver" if he held up his pinky. We sang that song exactly that way with him
through our adulthood right up until he died in 1988. He was an Army
veteran of WWII. My sister and I adored him, and singing that song with him was
one of the most loving memories of my entire life. Thanks so much for
supplying the lyrics, and helping relive those lovely lost moments.
Pam Breeman, daughter of Walter Froyland

Mike Littman said...

Many moons ago, about sixty, I had the good fortune to obtain big thick, one sided 78's of Frank Crumit who was famous in his time for great Classical songs such as: "You can always tell a drunk by the company he keeps, (and the pig got up and slowly walked away!) And the "Golf Song" And the little white pill rolled slowly down the hill, and it rolled right into the bunker! AND, of course "Abdul A bulbul Emir" I think I knew every word of every tune, but, alas, memory doesn't serve me well, so I have forgotten all but snippets.

scott kimmich said...

Don, is this you? I've got some comments about Abdul Abulbul Amir.

The sons of the Prophet were hearty and bold
And quite unaccustomed to fear,
But the bravest of all was a man I am told,
Named Abdul Abulbul Amir.

This is the version we sang back in Indiana during the 30's (I'm 77). Note that the rhyme scheme is abab, whereas the rhyme scheme in the Minstrel version and in another version published on the net has a rhyme scheme abcb. So the Hoosier version is slightly richer in rhyming. Also the tale begins in the past tense.

Thus the second verse:

When one was needed to encourage the van,
Or harass the foe from the rear,
The name that was shouted upon every hand,
Was Abdul Abulbul Amir.
Again, you have the rhyme scheme abab

The tune is a nice rollicking melody. Perhaps, I can send you the notes.

Colin Williams said...

I'm a little behind this stream by several years...I remember this as Ivan
Skavinski Skavar...and also remember the return of Abdul Abulbul Amir. My
father used to sing it to me in the early sixties when I was a little boy,
under the gas light in my bedroom in Manchester UK, as I drifted into
slumber. This was before the opening up of information on tv and the www and
always evoked a colourful and atmospheric picture in my head of happenings
in the far/middle east. The song always sent a tingle down my spine as one
verse grew into another. Abdul Abulbul Amir was my favorite carachter and
evoked pictures in my head of fat, bald headed man in colourful attire. I
now marvel, myself performing an amateur singing career, at the abilities of
my father in remembering the numerous verses of this song. I believe that
this song was part of an early thirties musical but not absolutely certain
on this. Its amazing after all these years (now 50) how I can remember the
words and melody. Good to read the number of comments and hear others
personal encounters with this song.
Colin Williams
Plymouth, UK
Jan 2007

ps please send an email

Penny Bartsch said...

I am 57. Tonight, while watching an old episode of Star Trek TNG, I heard
Data's brother singing this ditty, and wham! I was 8 or 9 years old, riding
in the back seat of my parents' 54 Ford with my three younger brothers, on a
family trip, probably to visit relatives, listening to my parents sing this
song while we rode along. This, of course, was back in the day when car
radios either didn't exist, didn't work, or couldn't pick up a station in
the mountains. They knew the entire song by heart, and to this day, almost
50 years later, I still remember whole stanzas of it myself. Memory is
amazing, but sound memories are even more amazing. My father would be so
happy to know I still remember him and my mother this way!

Robert Harris said...

I have to agree with the many rave notices for this site. I am 56
years old and recall this song from an album my parents used to play
when I was a kid that included what I think were college songs
popular some years earlier—among those I remember were "Scarlet
Ribbons" and "Moments to Remember." Perhaps the record was by Fred
Waring? Not sure. Last night I was driving home from a weekend away
and, as sometimes happens, a few bits of the lyrics came back to me
and I found this site (among several others) in my efforts to find
the complete song. I also located two versions available for sale on
iTunes: one by an Irish singer, Charlie King, and another by country
and western crooner Hank Thompson.

Robert Harris

Robert Jones said...

Norman Yearley

I can remember a version that was contained in the “Rugby Songbook” which
someone brought me back from UK in the early 70’s. We hid it in the piano
from the children, then years later sold the piano to the local Plymouth
Brethren who found it and returned it to us – quite embarrassing in a small
town. Anyway the bits I remember were

“ The harems of Egypt were fair to behold………” then something about “the
brothels of the Czar”

then much further on after a contest of a rather different kind to that with
steel daggers was devised.

“Now Ivan had won,

He shouldered his gun,

He bent down and patted his pair

When he felt something pass

Up his great hairy arse –

‘Twas Abdul Abulbul Amir.

The men shouted ‘queen’

The women turned green,

They were ordered apart by the Czar,

………….”

Then a little bit later

“But the cream of the joke

Was the bloody thing broke

Up Abdul Abulbul Amir.”

Followed by the verse of the Muscovite Harlot which regretfully I cannot
recall.

Hope that helps.

Robert Jones

Croombe F. Pensom said...

Being in my early 70s (73 exactly) I cannot remember when I first heard
Abdul Abulbul Amir. But I DO remember keeping friends highly amused from
a very young age because I had committed the thing to heart!!!

Over the years my memory faded so, when a few weeks ago I first heard
the words again after a lapse of decades, it all started to flood back
into my memory.

I know it's probably politically quite incorrect these days, but, hey
folks, look at my age : there was no such thing back then when wogs were
wogs quite openly.....

I like these obscure things : it was with great pleasure that I recently
managed also to retrieve the words of "The Green Eye of the Yellow God"
another batch of nonsense that, again, I had committed to memory since a
very early age (when bombs were dropping all round and one needed some
amusement to take one's mind off outside matters!!).

I find that, even today, these "poems" can still bring a smile if not a
downright laugh! We need such things to cheer us every day and relieve
the doom and gloom of terrorist activities, politics and the price of
gasoline.....

Croombe F. Pensom

THEGAVEL said...

Gary Cooper sings a small snippet of it in "Task Force" about naval
aviation. It was on TCM recently. It also is voiced in a film about Naval aviators
during their Annapolis years. Midshipmen are required to know numerous
verses of it and things like all the verses to the National Anthem.

John Gavel

Barry Pogach said...

For some reason in recent days I've been trying to recall all of the lyrics
to this piece, and found this site with a google. . I learned it as a song
in chorus class at Central HS of Phila., in 1958.

Barry
Barry Pogach

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Checked by AVG Free Edition.
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6:13 AM

MICHAEL LESLIE WILLIAMS said...

my father sang this poem in a ballad form for years as early as I remember about 1959. I think he may have put the poem to memory during his yeards in the Army Air Corp in WWII. I finally found the words after what would be his 88th birthday. He had a lot of silly "diddies" he learned during his 27 years in the service but this and the "beer was spilt on the bar room floor" are two I remember and will forever!
Mike Williams
Portland, Oregon

donal oconnor said...

look up www.mining.wits.ac.za/abdul.htm in google you will see a very funny version of abdulla ameer, we used to sing it in trinity College dublin in the 1960s
DOConnor

Mary Tullberg said...

I was born in 1950 and learned this from my father. We always sang it
as part of the car repertoire and I do remember the lyrics a little
differently. He learned it in Boy Scout Camp and probably sang it in
the Navy as well. The song is to be sung with gusto and drama, for
sure! That's Abdul el Bulbul Emir and Ivan Skvitsy Skvar, I believe,
just to further muddy the waters.

Romeo and Juliet, A Capital Ship for an Ocean Trip and Bloody War are
my other favorites of his ballads. I was not an especially
bloodthirsty girl, but "Horatio at the Bridge" was one of my favorite
bedtime reading requests, speaking of riotous fun as opposed to that
awful, smarmy, saccharin Barney.

Somewhere, I do have the Boy Scout Songbook with this in it...I'll
find it and return to post the lyrics.

Mary

Giles BEE said...

Well I seem to be about the youngest person here to remember this song!!
Still under 40 but I remember my father singing it to me as a small boy,
especially on long car journeys.

I am committing it to memory so that my children can enjoy it too.

Fantastic memories!

Giles, UK

John F Parsons said...

i also heard a naughty version as an apprentice. it went " she laid on her back their tool on the slack his arsole it reved like a car but he had'nt a hope gainst the long easy stroke of count ivan skavinsky skavar"( rather rude)

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JSnyder12 said...

This is a song not a poem. We sang it in our High School chorus 50 years
ago!!!

JOHN CANTWELL said...

It was sung (only a couple lines) by Cooper in the movie "Task Force" (1949).

Anonymous said...

I was trying to remember this driving at night (I sing to keep awake). My father sang it to me when I was a child - he knew the whole lot. I only remembered part of it Now I have the whole song and can sing it to my grandchildren. The internet is wonderful.
Jackie

Mike Seckerson said...

I heard this at my first scout camp in 1954. One of the week’s highlights, the campfire featured several scouters doing music-hall turns, of which Abdul, sung with due pathos, was well received and was vociferously requested ever afterwards.

It’s interesting to read the many variants. I’ve recalled most of this memorable song pretty well over the years, but reading here has brought back stuff I’d lost.

Here it is as, with help, I recall it. I don’t know how good Percy was, but I’ve made a few changes to the site’s opening version - principally to tidy up the scansion, included a popular missing stanza and radically altered the inept eighth: “The philologist blokes, [those] who seldom crack jokes,” are fine, but “…that hash was first made on the spot” is as irrelevant as it is out of tone; it doesn’t even rhyme. Horrible.

Only recently, when using the song elsewhere, has it occurred to me that the name should perhaps be Abdullah Bulbul Emir, even though it sounded – and still does – as it is written below. However, verses 36, 40 and 41 indicate that Abdul etc is the one that works better.

Abdul Abulbul Emir
The sons of the Prophet are brave men and bold
And quite unaccustomed to fear,
But the bravest by far in the ranks of the Shah,
Was Abdul Abulbul Emir.

If you wanted a man who could hurry the van
Or harass the foe from the rear;
To storm fort or redoubt, you had only to shout
For Abdul Abulbul Emir.

Now the heroes were plenty and well known to fame
Yes their names they were known wide and far
But the bravest by far in the ranks of the Czar
Was Ivan Skivinsky Skivar.

This versatile man could play poker and pool
And strum on a Spanish guitar
Oh yes quite the cream of the Muscovite team
Was Ivan Skivinsky Skivar.

One day this bold Russian, had shouldered his gun
And put on his most truculent sneer,
As he strutted the street he tripped over the feet
Of Abdul Abulbul Emir.

Said Abdul, my friend, has your life grown so dull
That you wish so to end it right here?
Vile infidel know you have trod on the toe
Of Abdul Abulbul Emir.

So take your last look at the sky and the brook
And send your regrets to the Czar
For by this I imply you are going to die
Count Ivan Skivinsky Skivar.

Then this bold Mameluke drew his trusty skibouk,
Singing, "Allah! Il Allah! Al-lah!"
And with murderous intent he ferociously went
For Ivan Skivinsky Skivar.

They parried and thrust, and they side-stepped and cussed,
The blood they shed cost them quite dear,
But each injury dire just augmented the ire
Of Ivan and Abdul Ameer. 36

They fought all that night by the moon’s yellow light
And the din, it was heard from afar,
Several multitudes came, for so great was the fame,
Of Abdul and Ivan Skivar. 40

As Abdul's long knife was extracting the life, 41
In fact he was shouting, "Huzzah!"
He was suddenly struck by that wily Calmuck,
Count Ivan Skivinsky Skivar.

The Sultan drove by in his red-breasted fly,
Expecting the victor to cheer,
But he only drew nigh to attend the last sigh,
Of Abdul Abulbul Emir.

There's a tomb rises up where the Blue Danube rolls,
And graved there in characters clear,
Is, "Stranger, when passing, please pray for the soul
Of Abdul Abulbul Emir."

A splash in the Black Sea one dark moonless night
Caused ripples to spread wide and far,
It was made by a sack fitting close to the back,
Of Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

A Muscovite maiden her lone vigil keeps,
'Neath the light of the cold northern star,
And the name that she murmurs in vain as she weeps,
Is Ivan Skivinsky Skivar.

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James Cahill said...

The second stanza, as I remember it from the old Frank Luther (?) recording, really goes:
If they needed a man to encourage the van
Or to harass the foe from the rear,
Or to storm a redoubt, they would set up a shout
For Abdul el Bubul Amir

James Cahill

Anonymous said...

My father used to sing this when I was very young, sitting on the side of the bath while i splashed about. I thought he was making it up and that he was - of course! - quite the cleverest man in the world.

Anonymous said...

My grandparents had this on a 78 which was played on my Dansette (mono) record player, along with numerous other 78's from their hey-days in the 20's and 30's in Ireland.

Dad sang it in the car on those long journeys (as they seemed then) between Cork and where the family lived near Bantry.

I was recently contacted via Facebook by a school friend who now lives in Vancouver - in his mail he mentioned Abdul, and linked to a YouTube video of the song, and to several of the varients!

Isn't it amazing how something can resonate through the years and generations.

Anonymous said...

My apologies - I omitted relevant dates. The Dansette dates back to the late 60's / early 70's, as does my Father's renditions. My school friends contact was this year, 2011. We're both now in our mid 50's.

Leigh York said...

I cried, no, sobbed today when I found this song. For some strange reason, a few days ago the line about fighting 'under the pale yellow moon' and the music popped into my mind. I am 86 and my father sang and whistled that song when I was a child. He died in 1975 at age 74, and that song and the 'Song of the Volga Boatmen' and the popular adaptation of the opera Carmen were what he sang and whistled. He was in his 20s. I never thought I would ever find this song, but I did, words and all. It brought back memories of my wonderful father and my wonderful childhood in a Great Depression wracked country. My two little brothers and I never thought about it as our father sang these songs to us.

Leigh York
Reno, Nevada
Feb 5, 2011.

Anonymous said...

At risk of upsetting many people, I would state that, whilst serving with the Royal Air Force (many years ago), I learn another version. This version would not, normally, be sung/recited in mixed company and I will give only the first verse.
'Now the hareems of Egypt are fair to behold, the women the fairest of fair, but the fairest, a Greek, was owned by the sheik, Abdul the BulBul Emir'.
I am sure that many of you are aware of this version- it's always good for a laugh.

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Anonymous said...

I'm 74 (and 10 months) and learned the shorter version in elementary school. But there is one line we sang that I didn't see in any of the hundreds of posting:

"When they wanted a man to encourage the van
Or serve as a bold canoneer . . . "

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Anonymous said...

There used to be a record pressed of college songs and it had the best rendition of this song I ever heard sung by a quartet. I lost that record and never found another like it. If someone knows where to find this record please let me know at gmvoeth.NOSPAMgmail.com.INVALID it also had songs like we are poor little sheep and be kind to your web footed friends and sweetheart of sigma chi and in her hair she wore a scarlet ribbon.

Anonymous said...

As a child my father would quote from this poem often, he is long gone now and when I think of him I fondly remember it.

He was a mans man and thrived on Hemingway, London, and others.

Anonymous said...

My dad knew and sang the song I suspect from college days there were a few modest changes which make this probably "authorized" version seem oddly pale by comparison. I do know that the Muskovite my dad sang of was "Ivan Sklavinsky Sklivar." The addition of the "L" makes for a wonderful foreign sound -- to my ear. Great fun song for young ears!

Vickie J said...

I, too, spent happy times as a young child singing this with my father. I am a week away from my 50th birthday and am listening to a recording of the two of us singing this. I was five and thought my dad was the best man in the whole world for singing with me and playing guitar for me. Thanks Dad!! Miss you too much sometimes.

Anonymous said...

OMG - I'm 49 and my dad used to sing this song to me my entire life. I simply love it. I've listened to the recordings of it on you tube and they don't do it justice. The voices are too wimpy - too high and lacking in emotion. My dad attended the West Point military academy, sang leads in several school musicals & had a deep, bass voice - so I hear & feel the song differently than any of the recordings I've hear. But to be honest, in my mind, there's absolutely no one who could sing it as well as my dad :-). I sure wish he was here to share this moment with me.

Teresa said...

Does anyone know the origins of the song back in the late 1800's?

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