THIS MONTH’S PARODY (May 14) Willow, Titwillow

‘Willow, Titwillow’ from The Mikado

W S Gilbert

There have been many parodies of the ‘Tit Willow’ song, sung by Ko-Ko in Act 2 of Gilbert & Sullivan’s light opera. In fact Gilbert himself may have consciously (or unconsciously) been parodying the lines of the poet Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718):                                                                                                    To the Brook and Willow that heard him complain,                                        Ah Willow, Willow,                                                                                           Poor Colin sat weeping and told them his pain,                                               Ah, Willow, Willow; ah Willow, Willow.                                                               Sweet stream, he cry’d sadly, I’ll teach thee to flow;                                         And the waters shall rise to the brink with my woe,                                         Ah Willow, Willow.

And what exactly is a Tit Willow, anyhow? There is a bird called a Willow Tit but was found only on the Continent and didn’t reach Britain until 1900. And tits only rarely eat worms. Still, it’s a lovely and affecting song. Here is the original followed by Alan Sherman’s wicked parody sung to the same tune (by Arthur Sullivan) with that extra little bit of tenderness.

On a tree by a river a little tom-tit
Sang “Willow, titwillow, titwillow!”
And I said to him, “Dicky-bird, why do you sit
Singing Willow, titwillow, titwillow’?”
“Is it weakness of intellect, birdie?” I cried,
“Or a rather tough worm in your little inside?”
With a shake of his poor little head, he replied,
“Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow!”

He slapped at his chest, as he sat on that bough,
Singing “Willow, titwillow, titwillow!”
And a cold perspiration bespangled his brow,
Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow!
He sobbed and he sighed, and a gurgle he gave,
Then he plunged himself into the billowy wave,
And an echo arose from the suicide’s grave —
“Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow!”

Now I feel just as sure as I’m sure that my name
Isn’t Willow, titwillow, titwillow,
That ’twas blighted affection that made him exclaim
“Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow!”
And if you remain callous and obdurate, I
Shall perish as he did, and you will know why,
Though I probably shall not exclaim as I die,
“Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow!”

 TIT WILLOW  ~ Alan Sherman

 On a branch of a tree sat a little tom-tit

Singing “Willow, titwillow, titwillow.”

An uncomfortable place for a birdy to sit,

Sing “Willow, tit-willow, tit-willow.”

So I said to it “Birdy, why don’t you go ‘way?”

He said, “Thanks very much but I’m planning to stay.

I’m gonna sit on that branch till the end of the day

Singing willow, tit-willow, tit-willow.”


So I said to him, “Birdy, you look so distraught

Singing willow, tit-willow, tit-willow.

You’re gonna be glad when you see what I brought –

A pillow, a pillow, a pillow.”

I said, “Birdy your pardon I humbly would beg.

Put this comfortable pillow right under your leg.”

He said, “Leave me alone while I’m laying an egg.”

Willow, tit-willow, tit-willow.


That night by the light of the silvery moon,

Singing willow, tit-willow, tit-willow,

That birdy was singing the same catchy tune –

Willow, oh willow, tit-willow.

And I came and I took him right down from his branch

And I took him back home to my split-level ranch

And I said to my wife “Here’s a gift for you, Blanche.

He sings willow, tit-willow, tit-willow.”


Next morning I got up and went to the shop

Singing willow, tit-willow, tit-willow.

That tune was so catchy he just couldn’t stop –

Willow, tit-willow, tit-willow.

That night I said “Blanche, how’s the bird?” She said “Well,

The bird was delicious, it tasted just swell,

But as I fricasseed him he let out a yell –

“Oi, willow, tit-willow, tit-willow.”

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