Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mica, mica, parva stella... (How insanity begins)

I certainly don’t want to bore you, nor do I want, heaven forbid, to become so enamored of my own posts that I wind up talking to myself, but in order to understand this post you must first read every last word of this February 5th post, including the comments. Sorry, but it can’t be helped. After that, we can continue.

I’ll wait.

There now, wasn’t that a fascinating read? I hope you learned a lot of new facts -- well, perhaps not new exactly, but new to you -- such as (a) Charlemagne (742-814) is considered to have been the father of Europe, and (b) the full name of the current Prince of Wales is not, as Princess Diana would have had us believe, Charles Arthur Philip George.


Fast-forward (now there’s an anachronistic term if I ever heard one) three months. After a three-month interlude of absolute quiet on that particular post, jinksy (a blogger from England who has 80, count ’em, 80 followers) posted a comment in which she described Carolina in Nederland thusly: “She’s a star. Which just goes to show she is from another planet, for sure...” (Ruth Hull Chatlien, you will remember, had suggested that Carolina’s father might be from Neptune).

My mind working the way it does, I immediately thought of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

You know, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and all that. Just about everybody knows that Mozart wrote “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

Except he didn’t. You can search Wikipedia’s article on Mozart until the cows come home (Jeannelle, are you listening?) and you will find nary a mention of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

According to this Wikipedia article, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” is one of the most popular English nursery rhymes. It combines the tune of the melody “Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman”, known in France since the 1760s, with an early nineteenth-century English poem, “The Star” by Jane Taylor. The poem, which is in couplet form, was first published in 1806 in Rhymes for the Nursery [Editor’s note. Not to be confused with Rhymeswithplague for the Nursery. -- RWP], a collection of poems by Taylor and her sister Ann. It is often sung to the tune of the French melody “Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman” (earliest known publication 1761) [Editor’s note. Anything a Wikipedia article says twice is true. --RWP]. The English lyrics have five stanzas, although only the first is widely known.

So what did Mozart do? The article states that Mozart wrote twelve variations for piano on the melody. His composition is called, predictably enough, Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”, now catalogued as K. 265/300e in the Köchel-Verzeichnis. It sounds an awful lot like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and now you know why.

Isn’t that special?

I know a woman whose name is Jane Taylor, but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t alive in 1806. One of my neighbors is named Richard Burton but his wife is named Sarah, not Elizabeth Taylor. I wonder if Jane and Elizabeth are related. The person who grooms Jethro is named Karen Carpenter. Remember her? I even know someone named Jane Grey. Lady Jane Grey (not the same person) was queen of England for nine whole days in 1553 before being beheaded by Queen Mary in 1554, but not, apparently, before writing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” using the nom de plume Jane Taylor with her sister Ann, who lived until 1806, if I read Wikipedia correctly. After a while, all those Wikipedia articles start to run together. People named a drink after Queen Mary; it’s made with vodka and tomato juice. I guess they had their reasons. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Andy Rooney wrote this paragraph. For the record, I don’t know anyone named Andy Rooney except that old guy on 60 Minutes.

(The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by French Romantic painter Paul Delaoche, 1833.)

I enjoy reading about the history of the British monarchy. You can read all about Lady Jane Grey here, including the fact that Jane refused to name her husband Dudley as king, but offered to make him Duke of Clarence instead. I don’t think it was this Dudley, however, and I thought Clarence was that angel who got his wings at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life.

But, I can almost hear you asking, why does it say “Mica, mica, parva stella” up there in the title of this post? Well, Mica, mica, parva stella is the first line of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in Latin, and you can find that version in the Wikipedia article along with the French words of “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman” and Lewis Carroll’s well-known parody from Through The Looking Glass that he put into the mouth of the Mad Hatter, “Twinkle, twinkle, little bat, How I wonder what you’re at, Up above the world so high, Like a tea-tray in the sky.”

Any similarity between the Mad Hatter and any blogger you know, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

And by the way, jinksy could benefit from a remedial course in astronomy. For your and her information, a star is not a planet and a planet is not a star. In our atmosphere, stars seem to twinkle. Planets do not. Outside of our atmosphere, neither stars nor planets twinkle. Not that I’ve ever been there.

(Image by Shutterstock)

Incidentally, and also for your information, reading a post that includes “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in Latin, an 1833 painting of the 1554 execution of Lady Jane Grey, a reference to the planets in our solar system, and a link to Dudley Do-Right is how insanity begins.


  1. A multi-faceted post today, RWP, and very enjoyable, even the refresher on the February 5 post.

    "Dudley Do-Right" is one of my favorite cartoon characters, and I thank you for the link to some interesting information on said character. (It takes very little to entertain me, I am enchanted by trivia, and insanity has already begun at my house.) It's not everyday that one encounters even a reference to that hapless creature, even as an aside to a discussion of Lady Jane Grey.

    I am acquainted with two male persons who bear the name Dudley, and they just grin and bear it when I add "Do-Right" when speaking to or of them. As we are of the same approximate age, they know full well to whom I refer, and seem not to be offended.

    On another note (pun intended), if one hums the melody to "Mica, mica, parva stella..." OR “Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman”, repeating the the first stanza four times while vigorously brushing one's teeth, that is about the right amount of brushing, or so I've been informed.

  2. Pat - I don't remember ever humming while vigorously brushing my teeth, but I suppose it's never to late to start.

    I know someone whose last name is Dudley, but no one whose first name is Dudley.

  3. dudley doo right has a first name dudley

  4. Putz - Strictly speaking, I don't know Dudley Do-Right as he is a fictional character. There is also Dudley Moore. I know who he is, or was, but I didn't know him. I was referring to people I know. I'm using "know" in the reciprocal sense that such person would also know me.

    But thank you for your contribution. All comments are important to us and your call will be answered in the order it was received.

  5. Oh, my goodness gracious....yes I was listening and you talked my ear off with this post and its attachments.

    Ignoramus that I am, I was not aware that "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" had more verses.

    I wish I knew someone who had a famous name, but I don't.

    My Mom used to sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" to us in Latin. It sounded like "Duke, duke, raymus duke.....flee-muh-ness-a-kunda....weaviter, weaviter, weaviter, weaviter...._____(forgot that word) in-sa-meena."

    (Do you know anyone named "kyle semp"? It is my word verification....

  6. At least I'll have someone to blame for my insanity. I always say if I get Alzheimers, no one will notice. My mom used to sing something that began Starkle, Starkle, Little Twink, What the heck you are, you think. I don't remember the rest. A boy named Dudley was in love with my sister in high school. Nice guy, maybe not the brightest bulb... I know some people with the last name of Dudley too. And around here we are big Rocky and Bullwinkle fans, including the Dudley Do-Right storyline, although I always empathize with Nell, who was in love with his horse. Now that I've had my culture for the day, I'm off to paint my porch. Why is my verification word "shorti?"

  7. Twinkle twinkle little bat is my favourite version, and it drives my granddaughters wild when I insist it is the correct one.
    And, just for the record, I am well aware of the difference between a star and a planet, but would consider Carolina a star on any planet you care to name! Undisputable fact...

  8. Commenters, one and all - Thank you, thank you, thank you! Y'all come back now, you hear?

    Jeannelle - Could you possibly mean duc, duc, remus duc, flumine secundo??? I found at least three different versions thanks to good old Google. By "weaviter" I assume you mean Vivite, vivite, vivite, vivite, (something) in somnia....

    Tracie - "Starkle, starkle, little twink," how funny! I also remember "Dankee Yoodle tent to wown, piding on a rony"....

    jinksy - I knew you knew the difference, I was just pulling your leg, and I agree with you about Carolina.

  9. Yes, I'm sure I could possibly mean that. I typed it as it sounded from my mother's singing.

  10. Mom also sang a song that went: "Queek, quack, munny-munny-munny-munny garschnick. Oom quack wee, oom quack woe." Can you translate?

  11. Sorry....I comment before my thoughts are done. Mom sang "Sarasponda", too. "Sarasponda, sarasponda, sarasponda ret-set-set. Repeat. Adoray-doe, adoray-boom-day-oh. Adoray-boom-day ret-set-set. Ossay, possay, oh."

    I should Google "sarasponda" sometime.

  12. Jeannelle, Jeannelle, and Jeannelle - Even though I am Pentecostal and believe in spiritual gifts such as tongues and interpretation of tongues, I must confess I have absolutely no idea what your mother was saying....

    If it was a Neptunian lullaby, maybe Carolina can help you.

  13. Hehehehehe, is the only thing I can say.

    Huge smile to you (and to Jinksy, but I will deliver that to her blog personally)

  14. From Wiki-answers:

    "Sarasponda is a dutch folk song that Mothers used to sing while their daughters spun their first thread, and made their first cloth with it by themselves. The song is supposed to immitate the sound of the spinning wheel as the girl spun her thread. It was to ensure that the girl would become skilled in weaving and spinning, and then marry a good husband."