They're killing geese in Scotland...
December 27, 2012 11:51 PM   Subscribe

Where did this saying come from: "Snow, snow faster, white alabaster..."

While speaking to an elderly relative this Christmas, she referenced a little song she used to sing when it snowed: "Snow, snow faster, white alabaster!" I am interested to the origins of this little rhyme. I tried googling it and found it connected to another phrase "Killing geese in Scotland, sending feathers here!" But I found nothing on the origins of either of these phrases. Does anyone know?
posted by treehorn+bunny to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Could it be related to the Snow Queen? That sounds like something she would say.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:55 AM on December 28, 2012

Best answer: Here are some alternate versions that may help you search:
- Snow, snow faster, come again at Easter (or Bull, bull faster)
- Snow, snow faster, alley alley aster
- Snow, snow faster, the cow's in the pasture
posted by paperback version at 1:27 AM on December 28, 2012

Best answer: A search on Google Books finds several late-19th-century references to "snow snow faster" in English children's rhymes. One of those has the citation "AV 157", which by the list near the front of the book means Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales, J. O. Halliwell, 1849; the Gutenberg project has an HTML edition, and various versions are available from Google.

"Killing geese in Scotland and sending feathers here" is mentioned in an 1823 letter of Wordsworth as a popular saying in his youth.

So it looks like these things developed in oral tradition a couple hundred years ago or more, which makes me doubt there's much chance of detailed accounts of their origins.
posted by stebulus at 5:44 AM on December 28, 2012

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