Wee Willie Winkie


Version 1

Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,
Upstairs and downstairs, in his nightgown;
Rapping at the window, crying through the lock,
“Are the children in their beds?
Now it’s eight o’clock.”

Source: Wright, The Original Mother Goose (1916)

Version 2

Wee Willie Winkie rins through the town,
Up stairs and doon stairs in his nicht-gown,
Tirling at the window, cryin' at the lock,
Are the weans in their bed, for it's now ten o'clock?

Hey, Willie Winkie, are ye coming ben?
The cat's singing grey thrums to the sleeping hen,
The dog's spelder'd on the floor, and disna gi'e a cheep,
But here's a waukrife laddie! that winna fa' asleep!"

Onything but sleep, you rogue! glow'ring like the mune,
Rattling in an airn jug wi' an airn spoone,
Rumbling, tumbling round about, crawing like a cock,
Skirlin' like a kenna-what, wauk'ning sleeping fock.

"Hey, Willie Winkie - the wean's in a creel!
Wambling aff a bodie's knee like a very eel,
Ruggin' at the cat's lug, and raveling a' her thrums-
Hey, Willie Winkie - see, there he comes!"

Wearied is the mither that has a stoorie wean,
A wee stumple stoussie, that canna rin his lane,
That has a battle aye wi' sleep before he'll close an ee-
But a kiss frae aff his rosy lips gi'es strength anew to me.

Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (1997)


Version 3

Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,
Up stairs and down stairs in his night-gown,
Tapping at the window, crying at the lock,
Are the children in their bed, for it's past ten o'clock?

Hey, Willie Winkie, are you coming in?
The cat is singing purring sounds to the sleeping hen,
The dog's spread out on the floor, and doesn't give a cheep,
But here's a wakeful little boy who will not fall asleep!

Anything but sleep, you rogue! glowering like the moon,'
Rattling in an iron jug with an iron spoon,
Rumbling, tumbling round about, crowing like a cock,
Shrieking like I don't know what, waking sleeping folk.

Hey, Willie Winkie - the child's in a creel!
Wriggling from everyone's knee like an eel,
Tugging at the cat's ear, and confusing all her thrums
Hey, Willie Winkie - see, there he comes!"

Weary is the mother who has a dusty child,
A small short little child, who can't run on his own,
Who always has a battle with sleep before he'll close an eye
But a kiss from his rosy lips gives strength anew to me.

Source: Rose. Spirits, Fairies, Gnomes, and Goblins: an Encyclopedia of the Little People (1996)



Historical Background

With Scottish origins, the extended version of “Wee Willie Winkie” was authored by William Miller (1810 – 1872), and first published in 1841 in “Whistle-binkie: Stories for the Fireside.” It is suggested that Miller used the first verse as a starting point and then wrote additional verses. The first verse was published in “Nursery Rhymes, Tales and Jingles,” published in 1844, and “The Cries of Banbury and London,” which is believed to have appeared earlier. Although the character “Wee Willie Winkie” is widely known as a personification for sleep, the character has also been linked to William III, king of England, Ireland, and Scotland during the seventeenth century. Seen in Jacobite songs, “Willie Winkie” was a nickname for William. According to Robert L. Ripley, the rhyme is about that king.

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