Aiken Drum

‘Aiken Drum’ is an interesting Scottish folksong. It dates back to 1820 and describes what one strange man’s clothes are made out of.

Aiken Drum Nursery Rhyme Visual Representation

There is also a singing game related to this song, as there are for many nursery rhymes. The lyrics could change according to who was singing. This meant that Aiken’s clothing might be made out of one thing one day and something else the next. This made the song and the practice of singing it all the more creative. The character of Aiken Drum has also appeared in Scottish literature. It’s thought that the poem has its origins in a song about the Battle of Sheriffmuir that occurred in 1715. 

Aiken Drum Nursery Rhyme


Summary

‘Aiken Drum’ is an entertaining Scottish folksong. It describes Aiken Drum, a man whose clothes are made out of different foods.

The poem starts with the speaker noting that Drum lives on the moon. He goes on to depict his clothes as made out of everything from haggis to penny loaves, roast beef, and crust pies. The speaker also notes that Aiken plays a ladle. All of this is described through a great deal of repetition with parallelism being used throughout. 

Detailed Analysis 

Stanzas One-Three 

There was a man lived in the moon, lived in the moon, lived in the moon,
There was a man lived in the moon,
And his name was Aiken Drum.

Chorus
And he played upon a ladle, a ladle, a ladle,
And he played upon a ladle,
and his name was Aiken Drum.

And his hat was made of good cream cheese, of good cream cheese, of good cream cheese,
And his hat was made of good cream cheese,
And his name was Aiken Drum.

In the first stanzas of this poem, the speaker begins by introducing a “man.” He lived in the mood and his name was Aiken Drum. This is obviously an intentional fictionalization that’s meant to entertain readers. The following stanzas add to his personality and the strange and entertaining things that he does. He played a ladle as an instrument and had a hat made of “good cream cheese.” There is a great deal of repetition in these lines. It is an integral part of most nursery rhymes, but this one uses it very much to the song’s advantage. 


Readers who are just learning this song and want to sing it won’t have trouble memorizing the lines considering everything is repeated at least twice. 

Stanzas Four-Seven

And his coat was made of good roast beef, of good roast beef, of good roast beef,
And his coat was made of good roast beef,
And his name was Aiken Drum.

And his buttons made of penny loaves, of penny loaves, of penny loaves,
And his buttons made of penny loaves,
And his name was Aiken Drum.

And his waistcoat was made of crust pies, of crust pies, of crust pies,
And his waistcoat was made of crust pies,
And his name was Aiken Drum.

And his breeches made of haggis bags, of haggis bags, of haggis bags,
And his breeches made of haggis bags,
And his name was Aiken Drum.

The following four stanzas take on the same format as the previous three. This is known as parallelism. The author uses the same line structure but replaces words. Here, readers learn that Aiken’s coat was made of ground roast beef, his buttons of penny loaves, his waistcoat of crust pies, and his breeches of haggis bags. The poem’s heritage as a Scottish folksong comes through in these final lines as well. 

Through the use of the refrain, this poem maintains an interesting and consistent feeling of rhyme. It is easy to imagine how its sung and why it’s still interesting for readers today. 

It’s thought that this poem might date back to a Jacobite song written about the Battle of Sheriffmuir. Here are a few lines from the original: 

Ken ye how a Whig can fight, Aikendrum, Aikendrum

Ken ye how a Whig can fight, Aikendrum

He can fight the hero bright, with his heels and armour tight

And the wind of heavenly night, Aikendrum, Aikendrum


Structure and Form

‘Aiken Drum’ is a seven-stanza poem that is divided into sets of three lines, known as tercets. These tercets do not follow a specific rhyme scheme although the examples of exact rhyme within the stanzas do create the feeling of one. For example, the same word is used at the end of lines one and two of every stanza. This could be “moon,” “ladle,” “cream,” or another. 

Literary Devices 

Throughout this piece, there are several literary devices at work. These include: 

  • Alliteration: occurs when the same consonant sounds at used at the beginning of words. For example, “ladle” used three lines in line one of the second stanza. 
  • Hyperbole: can be seen when the poet intentionally exaggerates
  • Refrain: occurs when the writer repeats the same line in totality. For example, “and his name was Aiken Drum” which ends every stanza. 
  • Anaphora: occurs when the poet repeats the same word or phrase at the beginning of lines. For example, “And his” which begins almost every line of the poem. 


FAQs 

What is the purpose of ‘Aiken Drum?’

The purpose of this poem is to entertain readers. It should be amusing, fun to read, and/or fun to sing. Due to its use of nonsense language, it’s easy to change verses around and add to them. 

What is the mood of ‘Aiken Drum?’

The mood of this piece is amused and light-hearted. Readers should walk away entertained by Aiken’s clothing and perhaps curious about where this poem came from and what it really means. 

What is the tone of ‘Aiken Drum?’ 

The tone is upbeat and conversational. Despite the strange language that’s being used, the speaker uses it quite clearly and without hesitation. The weird clothing Aiken wears is what it is for the speaker. It’s just the way things are. 

Who is the speaker in ‘Aiken Drum?’ 

It’s unclear who the speaker is in this nursery rhyme. But, since it’s thought to date back to the 1800s, the meaning has shifted entirely. It doesn’t matter who the speaker is because multiple people often sing this piece at once, alternating verses and changing the words around.


Similar Poetry 

Readers who enjoyed ‘Aiken Drum’ should also consider reading some related nursery rhymes. For example:

  • Hey, diddle diddle’ – may be connected to constellations, such as Taurus and Canis Minor or that it describes the wives of King Henry VIII.
  • Baa, Baa, Black Sheep’ – is one of the oldest English rhymes. It dates to 1731.
  • All the Pretty Little Horses’ – a popular lullaby of the United States of America, is also known as ‘Hush-a-bye’. This song has probably an African-American origin.
  • A Sailor Went to Sea’ – talks about a sailor. He went to the sea to see what he could see. It’s a popular clapping song. 

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Aiken Drum Nursery Rhyme Visual Representation
About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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