Mastodon Sarah the Whale —

Sarah the Whale

Yesterday, suddenly, a phrase popped into my head:
“You can’t leave food within her reach…”
Where it came from, I don’t know, but there it was. It seemed familiar… an old song maybe? I turned it over and around and around in my mind, and pretty soon another bit floated over and joined it:
“Nor nursemaids, nor airedales, nor chocolate ice-cream sodas.”
And then I knew what it was! A Burl Ives song about a whale named Sarah! I think it was on a record we checked out from the library when I was 7 or so (that’s 30 years ago, folks). Haven’t heard it since. I googled those bits of text and found the complete lyrics:

In San Francisco town there lived a whale.
She ate porkchops by the pail;
By the pillbox, by the suitcase, by the bathtub, by the schooner.
Her name was Sarah, and she’s a peach,
But you can’t leave food within her reach;
Nor nursemaids, nor airedales,
Nor chocolate ice cream sodas.
She eats a lot, but when she smiles
You can see her teeth for miles and miles;
And her adenoids, and her spare ribs,
And things too fierce to mention.
So, what can you do in a case like that?
What can you do but sit on your hat;
Or your toothbrush, or your grandmother,
Or anything else that’s helpless.

If you want to know the tune, I will sing it for you. But only if I get a request to do so.

Here’s Sarah the Whale, sung by me

Category: Blog 15 comments »

15 Responses to “Sarah the Whale”

  1. Kathy

    That was always one of my favorites! I was singing it in the shower about a month ago! It was the first time I’d thought of it in YEARS.

  2. Kathy

    Oh, ps–I think there’s another verse:

    She knows no games
    But when she plays,
    she rolls her eyes for days and days,
    and she yodels, and she vibrates, and she breaks the ten commandments.

  3. Betsie

    Yay! We sang a version of this song at Girl Scout camp when I was a kid!!!

  4. Mike

    Mmmmm… I’ve looked on the net, but I can’t find this tune anywhere. The lyrics sound cute…. were you really serious about doing a fast recording? — Mike ;)

  5. kara

    Yup! Give me a few minutes :)

  6. Jenny

    THANK YOU! These are the REAL lyrics! I have searched and found “fake” lyrics!

  7. kara

    Heheh you’re welcome, Jenny :) I posted a link to the tune up there, in case you want it.

  8. Jordan

    I remember Burl Ives singing “Sarah the Whale”. Now we sing it to our grandchildren.

  9. Alice

    My father sang this song to my sister and me when we were little along with lots of others that are hard to find. Our Sarah lived in “Portland Town”. We lived in New York. Go figure. I’m on a mission to find all those songs my father sang. Currently the only MP3 of this I can find of Sarah is Sharon, Lois, and Bram. Ok, but ….. Does any one know of another recording? I don’t seem to find Burl Ives.

  10. Jan

    Heh heh… the phrase that popped into my head this evening was the bit about sitting on your hat, or your toothbrush, or your grandmother, or anything else that’s helpless. I couldn’t remember where it was from, but google pointed me here. Good ol’ google.

  11. kara

    Yep, good ol’ google. The helpless grandmother bit always cracked us up!

  12. RIck Rodney

    I, too, got here from a search engine – yahoo. Wouldja believe that I also heard this on a Burl Ives recording we borrowed from a library in Denver in 1967!!! Unless I am completely nuts (not a complete improbability) it goes to the tune of “Dixie” (just the verses of Dixie – not the chorus). It has been driving me crazy trying to find out about the album. It also had “Tommy Doolan’s Cat,” “Oriole”, and a song about a robin and a chicken comparing each other

    A plump little robin flew down from a tree,
    to hunt for a worm which he happened to see.
    A frisky young chicken came scampering by
    and gazed at the robin with wondering eye.

    Said the chick “what a queer looking chicken is that!
    It’s wings are so long and its body so flat.”
    While robin remarked, loud enough to be heard
    “Dear me, an exceedingly strange looking bird.”

    I can’t remember the rest but it is, of course, about prejudice and ends up with both leaving thinking they were better than the other. If this jogs any memories for you or anyone else that might help me track this album down, it is greatly appreciated. Contact me at Either way, thanks for posting this so at least I know I am not the ONLY person who ever borrowed this album from a library – lol!

  13. kara

    Hey Rick! There’s a little recording of me singing the Whale song near the bottom of the post. Yeah, the tune is similar to Dixie.

    I remember the Oriole song!!!

    Oh, oriole, oriole, oriole, oh
    oriole oh,
    oriole oh,
    Oh, oriole, oriole, oriole, oh
    Has anyone seen my baby-o?

    I’ll email this too you, too, in case you don’t check back here again.

  14. Nancy Dixon

    I learned it from my grandmother when I was a little girl. (I am 67 now.)
    it was a slightly different version:

    A plump little robin flew down from a tree
    to hunt for a work that he happened to see.
    A frisky young chicken came scampering by and
    gazed at the robin with wondering eye.

    Can you sing, asked the chicken; The robin said no.
    and asked in return if the robin could crow?
    So, the bird sought a tree and the chicken a wall
    and each thought the other knew nothing at all!

  15. Ryan

    Hey, I know this thread is pretty old… So I don’t know if anyone will actually get this message or care. But I wanted to let Rick know that the Burl Ives album was one of a couple that he recorded for Disney. And the only place that I’ve been able to find Oriole. (Last I checked his estate wasn’t able to re-release it because of Disney.) Anyway, it was titled: Walt Disney Presents Burl Ives’ Animal Folk. Great album all around but I am not sure it’s on anything but vinyl.

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