Meaning of Nursery Rhyme

an aerial view of a rowing crew in action.

Last night while playing with my little grandson. I began to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

We sang it over and over before he went to bed.  Afterwards, I thought about the meaning of the lyrics.

“Row, row, row, your boat

Gently Down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.”

Could the boat represent one’s journey through life?  The rhyme seems to suggest that we should flow with life’s challenges.   I think it means, we should face the lessons from such challenges and navigate our lives gently in the face of struggles.  We should be positive and remember this life is an illusion.

Love, light and blessings


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The lyrics have often been used as a metaphor for life’s difficult choices, and many see the boat as referring to one’s self or a group with which one identifies.[2] Rowing is a skillful, if tedious, practice that takes perfection but also directs the vessel.[3] When sung as a group, the act of rowing becomes a unifier, as oars should be in sync for the progression of a rowboat. The idea that human beings travel along a certain stream [time] and suggests boundaries in the path of choices and in free will.[4] The third line recommends that challenges should be greeted in stride while open to joy with a smile.[5] Some have questioned the song’s implied necessity to row one’s boat downstream. This may in fact be a commentary on the paradoxical nature of time’s arrow with respect to man’s free will in a universe of materialistic causality.[6] The final line, “life is but a dream”, is perhaps the most meaningful. With a religious point of view, life and the physical plane may be regarded as having equivalent value as that of a dream, such that troubles are seen in the context of a lesser reality once one has awakened.[7]

Lewis Carroll, in his famous poem ending Through the Looking Glass used a variation of Row, Row, Row, Row Your Boat as the poem’s central theme:

A BOAT beneath a sunny sky,

Lingering onward dreamily

In an evening of July —

Children three that nestle near,

Eager eye and willing ear,

Pleased a simple tale to hear —

Long has paled that sunny sky:

Echoes fade and memories die:

Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,

Alice moving under skies

Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,

Eager eye and willing ear,

Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,

Dreaming as the days go by,

Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream —

Lingering in the golden gleam —

Life, what is it but a dream?

Note: The first letter of each line in the poem spells out the full name, Alice Pleasance Liddell, the “real” Alice that was Carroll’s dreamchild muse, and inspiration.

One thought on “Meaning of Nursery Rhyme

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