There Was An Old Lady All Skin And Bones
There was an old lady all skin and bones,
Sure such a lady was never known.
It happened upon a certain day,
This lady went to church to pray.
When she came to the church stile
There she did rest a little while;
When she came to the church yard,
There the bells so loud she heard.
When she came to the church door,
She stopped to rest a little more;
When she came the church within,
The parson prated 'gainst pride and sin.
On looking up, on looking down,
She saw a dead man on the ground;
And from his nose unto his chin,
The worms crawled out, the worms crawled in.
Then she unto the parson said,
"Shall I be so when I am dead?"
"O yes! O yes!" the parson said,
"You will be so when you are dead."
--First printed in Gammer Gurton's Garland, 1784. Ancestor of the American version, "The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out." Traditionally the last line is shrieked to scare the young'uns, all in good fun. In some versions it is the corpse that answers her. Said to have driven the poet Robert Southey (author of "The Three Bears") to hysterics whenever his family members recited it.