- Row, row, row your boat
- Gently down the stream
- Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
- Life is but a dream
Some additional or alternative lyrics have been created, but the first verse is the most widely used and accepted.
While the origin of the song is not entirely known, it is speculated to have unfortunately arisen out of American Minstrel shows.
The earliest printing of the song is from 1852, though with a different tune than the accepted one. Two years later it was reprinted with yet another tune. The modern, culturally accepted tune was first recorded in 1881. Eliphalet Oram Lyte was credited, though it is unclear whether he adapted or composed the music.
Usage in A Series of Unfortunate Events
It is mentioned most directly by Violet Baudelaire, who says that it was her least favorite nursery rhyme, due to not finding the last line logical. Her mother would sing the song in her doorway if she didn't clean her room.
It is possible that this may have also been a reference to another song in the series; it is seen that "The Little Snicket Lad" was accidentally printed with sheet music matching the tune of "Row Your Boat."
Violet mentions remembering being sung the lyrics "The world is quiet here" as a toddler or infant, and as those are the end lyrics of "The Little Snicket Lad", there is a high likelihood that Violet was sung "The Little Snicket Lad" with the incorrect tune, possibly leading to her dislike of "Row Your Boat;" she may not have recognized the original lyrics when sung to her and subconsciously grew a dislike of them.
- Lemony Snicket referred to this song as "a well-known hymn of naval disaster."
- A parody version of the song was performed in Bean by Peter MacNicol, who later appeared in the Netfix adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events as Ishmael.