Words: Sir Henry John Newbolt.
Range: 14 half-steps
Grasshoppers three a-fiddling went. Hey, ho, never be still!
They had no money, they paid no rent; but all day long with their elbows bent,
They fiddled a tune called Rillaby-rillaby, fiddled a tune called Rillaby-rill.
In the original 1921 poem, there were four grasshoppers, and six verses. (And a few other bits have changed over the years, probably due to the usual folk process.)
The words have been set to music several times, with different tunes. The earliest instance we’ve seen of the melody that we know dates from 1956, from volume 6 of Together We Sing: Music Across Our Country. But that version may not have been intended as a round. The earliest instance that we’ve seen that explicitly refers to that tune as a round is in 101 Rounds for Singing, which we think was published in 1968.
Despite extensive searching, we’ve been unable to find out who composed the melody that we know. We think that it’s out of copyright, but we’re not certain of that either. If you know who the composer of this melody is, please contact us.