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Second Verse Curse
"On the shore, dimly seen Thro' the mists of the deep"
First phrase of "The Star-Spangled Banner"'s second stanza.
The fate of a song when the general public knows only its first verse. In some cases, like "The Star-Spangled Banner", most audiences are aware that it is a longer work with multiple verses but few can say that they know the words. In other cases, most audiences are unaware that the song has more than one verse, which can be a surprise when, as in "This Land is Your Land," the second verse takes the song in a much different direction than the first.
It can be difficult to distinguish this trope from the similar Chorus-Only Song; the difference is that in the Chorus-Only Song the chorus is known but no one remembers the verse, while in this trope the first verse is known but no one remembers the others.
Sheet music publishers who print only the familiar stanzas can be blamed for this. Theme Tunes also tend to be subject to this.
Compare Chorus-Only Song. Contrast Single Stanza Song. Not to be confused with when the singer begins swearing later on in the song.
"O Canada" has four stanzas in both the English and French versions, although the commonly-known first verse in each language are the only official lyrics.
On some occasions, a mixture of the English and French lyrics is sung. However, this doesn't mean one stanza is sung in English and one in French; instead, it switches between the two languages mid-stanza. Since the French version and the English say completely different things, this makes the bilingual version Phrase Salad Lyrics for those who are English/French bilingual and Word Puree Lyrics for those that aren't. It's common for crowds to belt out the lyrics in one language and go completely silent at the other.
"The Star-Spangled Banner" also has four stanzas. You'd think the second one would be more popular, as it answers the question asked in the first. The third one, on the other hand, is often left out even by those who know it for being blatantly anti-British. "Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution" indeed.
"Somebody started the Star Spangled banner, and we sang the first verse - which is all that most people know..."
In a short story by Isaac Asimov, the protagonist caught a German spy by tricking him into revealing that he knew the whole thing, as presumably only a spy extensively coached on the culture he's infiltrating would have bothered to learn anything aside from the first verse.
Among the latter three verses, the fourth is the most well known, often mistaken for being the second verse. It's the only verse that doesn't specifically refer to the War of 1812, but rather to all wars that America will ever fight to preserve freedom, and the aftermath thereof.
"God Save The King/Queen" has five, with only the first usually sung. Occasionally the third one shows up at sporting events, confusing everybody. The second is a request for the politics of Britain's enemies to be confused, among other things and turns up on occasions. Urban Legends abound that the latter verses are Canon Discontinuity due to being anti-Scottish; these are largely bogus - the anti-Scottish verse did exist but was largely just a piece of propaganda and had fallen out of use long before the song was adopted as the official national anthem.
The remaining two original verses referred to specific historical events and figures that stopped being relevant within a generation of writing it - one anti-Scottish one and one anti-Catholic one. There are also, apparently, another five unofficial verses found in virtually unknown alternativeversions.
The Canadian version of "God Save The Queen" has its own stanza; it's never sung these days.
The current national anthem of Germany avoids it by having only one stanza, being the third/last stanza of the 1841 poem "Das Lied der Deutschen" (also known as "Deutschlandlied"), whose three stanzas have been used in various constellations as national anthem since 1922. The Deutschlandlied's first verse, possibly the most widely known, was discarded due to its naming of borders which (due to geographical shrinkage after each of the World Wars) are no longer accurate, while the second one praised the country's culture, women, wine and song. The third stanza, which begins with "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit" (Unity and Justice and Freedom, lyrics much more palatable to modern ears) is now the official national anthem. And there's also the melody's origin as the Austro-Hungarian imperial anthem, which most people are unaware of.
Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser ("God preserve Franz the emperor")? The original lyric was, of course, quickly outdated by Francis' death in 1835. Hoffman von Fallersleben's words were often banned in the various German states, as it preached Pan-Germanism to replace the various autonomous (and later semi-autonomous) kingdoms, Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, and the like. It was usually avoided in Imperial Germany exactly for its Hapsburg connotations, and replaced with the Prussian royal anthem Heil dir im Siegerskranz ("Hail to thee in the victor's wreath") — which had its own complications. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the anthem was kept, but this time as Gott behalte, Gott beschütze unsern Kaiser, unser Land ("May God keep, may God protect our emperor and our country").
The Dutch national anthem has 15 verses. Most people have trouble producing the first. Occasionally the sixth verse is added, most often by university students.
"Advance Australia Fair", in its original form as a poem, has five verses. Its adoption as the official national anthem in the 1970s cherry-picked the first and third verses as the official lyrics, as the other three verses were all quite imperialist and Anglophilic. In addition to that, only the first verse is usually sung, but most schools have the students sing both verses.
The Brazilian anthem has fourteen, with the latter half (identical in melody to the first) being often omitted outside government/school settings. In fact, the instrumental rendition officially must feature only the first half. (And many sports events don't even play that half entirely, choosing to cut the last stanzas to play the intro entirely.)
In some Irish classrooms, there's a small poster detailing the full lyrics to the national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann in both Irish and English. Nobody ever sings any verse other than the first one.
It doesn't help that the national anthem is in a different language (Irish) to the language spoken every day (English) by most of the population.
The Greek national anthem "Hymn to Freedom" (or "Hymn to Liberty") is 158 stanzas long but only two are commonly known.
There's also a state song with several little-known stanzas—"Maryland, My Maryland." Only one of its nine stanzas is commonly sung today, for good reason—it was originally a pro-Confederate rally cry that referred to "Northern scum" and called Lincoln a "Yankee despot."
Also parodied in Monstrous Regiment where a character deliberately sings the second verse which no-one ever remembers and is then described as having a I'm-more-patriotic-that-you grin.
The French national anthem La Marseillaise has, in the mind of most French, only one stanza and the chorus.
Though interestingly, the chorus has a nice Christmasy bit about "let the tainted blood [of the invader] fertilize our soil," which can give all the above neglected verses a run for their money.
Polish national anthem has 5 stanzas, and a chorus. Most people know the first stanza and the chorus. Some also know the second and the third, though it is common for people not to know which is which. Almost nobody knows the fourth stanza, and the fifth one is practically forgotten (not to even mention the fact that there is no chorus after it).
The Swedish national anthem is an odd case. It's a straight example in that it has four verses, of which only the first two are ever sung. However, when sung at sporting events and the like, it's often cut down to one verse. But since the only line everyone knows is the last line of the second verse ("I want to live, I want to die in the North") it's then often inserted into the first verse instead.
Further played around with in that there is a very good explanation for why only the first two verses are ever sung: the third and fourth verses were written by another person over sixty years after the first two, after the song had already made significant progress in becoming a de-facto national anthem. Not only are they unknown to most Swedes, but even amongst those that do know about them, they often aren't recognised as actual third and fourth verses for Thou ancient, Thou free (since, well, they are basically a Fan Fic continuation).
Parodied in Molvanîa: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry, where the national anthem (composed in 1987, to the tune of the Flashdance theme) has an egregiously racist third verse which is "generally considered optional."
Averted at any school birthday celebration, where (probably in an attempt to delay any return to work) the second verse is always included and the above-mentioned counting is followed by a reprise of the song with the lyrics "S/He's X years old..."
The Dutch birthday song, "Lang Zal Hij Leven": The first verse translates innocuously as "Long shall he live, long shall he live in glory!" The rarely-sung second verse translates as "In a hundred years, we'll all be dead in glory!"
The second through fifth verses of "Dixie's Land."
"When the Saints Go Marching In" can have up to a dozen verses. Odds are, the only one known to or used by most people is this one:
Oh when the saints
Go marching in
Oh when the saints go marching in
Lord, I want to be in that number
Where the saints go marching in.
"This Land Is Your Land," by Woody Guthrie, as noted above.
It was, in fact, written as a rebuttal to "God Bless America" and intended as a "worker's national anthem." When Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen performed it at President Obama's inaugural celebration, they included the missing verse.
"Auld Lang Syne" actually has four verses, but most people only know the first (and the chorus). It doesn't help that the first verse is the only one that makes any kind of sense in English.
And even then most people probably don't know what "auld lang syne" refers to. note It literally means "old long since" in Scots and means "the days of long ago".
"Yankee Doodle" has some 16 verses. Most people only know the first verse (the one with the "macaroni") along with the refrain, though the verses starting with "Father and I went down to camp" and "And there was Captain Washington" seem to be popular.
"Winter Wonderland" has a lesser-known intro before the famous "Sleigh bells ring, are you list'nin'?":
Over the ground lies a mantle of white
A heaven of diamonds shine down through the night
Two hearts are thrillin’ in spite of the chill in weather
Love knows no season
Love knows no clime
Romance can blossom any old time
Here in the open
We’re walkin’ and hopin’ together
And the verse about Parson Brown and getting married? By 1953, that was already considered archaic, so this verse was written in its place.
Some renditions keep Parson Brown, while others include both him and the "circus clown" verse. And even those who include the latter only get as far as "Until the other kiddies knock him down" before going back to the familiar "sleigh bells ring, are you list'nin'?".
"Santa Claus is Coming to Town" has an intro that is left out of almost all renditions of the song. Although originally intended to be sung, it's usually spoken in versions that do keep it.
I just came back from a trip along the Milky Way
I stopped off at the North Pole to spend the holiday
I called on old dear Santa Claus to see what I could see
He took me to his workshop and told his plans to me
Now Santa is a busy man he has no time to play
He's got millions of stockings to fill on Christmas Day
You better write your letter now and mail it right away
Because he's getting ready his reindeers and his sleigh
There are also later verses that many versions omit. The one that is omitted least frequently begins with "With little tin horns and little toy drums…"
Many renditions of "Sleigh Ride" leave out the entire B-section (the part that begins "There's a birthday party at the home of Farm—" [whip] "—er Gray...").
Most renditions of "What Child Is This?" omit the second half of the second and third verses, instead using the last half of the first verse as a refrain ("This, this is Christ the King / Whom shepherds guard and angels sing / Haste, haste to bring him laudnote or "bring him praise" / The Babe, the son of Mary!") The missing halves of each verse are: "Nails, spear shall pierce him through / The Cross be borne for me, for you / Hail, hail the Word Made Flesh / The babe, the son of Mary!" and "Raise, raise the song on high / The virgin sings her lullaby / Joy! joy! for Christ is born / The babe, the son of Mary!"
Similarly, there are five verses to "It Came upon the Midnight Clear", but most hymnals only use four. The third verse (which begins "Yet with the woes of sin and strife / The world has suffered long...") is typically the omitted verse, while the Episcopalian Hymnal 1982 omits verse four ("And ye, beneath life's crushing load / Whose forms are bending low…") instead.
Inverted by White Christmas whose first stanza was removed by composer Irving Berlin for its first wide release in 1942:
The sun is shining.
The grass is green.
The orange and palm trees sway.
There's never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it's December the twenty-fourth,
And I'm longing to be up north.
The rarely-seen final verse to "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", probably because it's just not as Christmas-y as the rest of the song.
Come, Desire of nations come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the Woman's conquering Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent's head.
Adam's likeness now efface:
Stamp Thine image in its place;
Second Adam, from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.
On top of that, the original version, written by Charles Wesley, underwent several rewrites to gain its most familiar lyrics. Early on, the fourth verse above was actually a composite of fourth and fifth verses. See more info here.
And in a curious subversion, the Episcopalian Hymnal 1982 does just three verses like nearly everyone else, but inexplicably switches around parts of the third.
"Joy to the World" has four verses, but most renditions will skip the third. In fact, those four come from a poem (based on Psalm 98) that originally had three more stanzas before even getting to the familiar "Christmas" portion of the song.
Hymns and Christian songs
Just about all of them, but a few examples:
The final verse to "Brightest and Best", which totally changes the meaning of the song to an anti-consumerist message, is often omitted.
Vainly we offer each ample oblation Vainly with gifts would His favor secure Richer by far is the heart's adoration Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor
"The Church's One Foundation" was written with seven verses. Most versions skip verse 3, and end on a verse that is a composite of the first halves each of 6 and 7, leaving the second halves of each unaccounted for. Some also omit verse 4.
Charles Wesley's "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" was written with seventeen verses (albeit rather short verses in Common Meter). Most versions snip out the first six (the line that provides the title is actually the seventh verse), typically using 7-12 and sometimes 17. Others also omit verse 12 because of the line "his praise, ye dumb, your loosened tongues employ".
Similarly, his "Come Thou, O Traveler Unknown" had fourteen verses but is pared down to 1, 2, 9 and 10.
Similarly to the "What Child Is This?" example, some versions of "And Can It Be That I Should Gain?" cut off the last two lines of each verse, instead using the last two lines of the first verse ("Amazing love! how can it be / That though, my God, shouldst die for me?") as a refrain. Even those that leave the endings intact will often omit verse 2, and nearly everyone omits verse 5.
"Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face" originally had seven verses. The United Methodist Hymnal has it with five; the Episcopalians actually use four verses as one hymn and the other three as another hymn, titled "This Is the Hour of Banquet and of Song".
Most mid-to-late 20th century praise songs are published in hymnals with only the refrain. Examples include Amy Grant's "El Shaddai" and "Thy Word Is a Lamp unto My Feet", Rich Mullins' "Awesome God", Michael Joncas' "On Eagle's Wings" and just about anything by Andraé Crouch. Sometimes, this trope is subverted by printing the verses only in the song leader's or choir edition of the hymnal, so that the song leader and/or choir sings the verses and the congregation joins on just the refrain.
The "print only the refrain" variant is also present in earlier 20th-century works such as "Fill My Cup, Lord" and "Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus".
Andraé Crouch's "My Tribute" is an unusual example. The song consists of one verse ("How can I say thanks…"), a four-line refrain ("To God be the glory…"), a bridge ("Just let me live my life…"), then a repeat of the last two lines of the refrain. Many versions in hymnals omit the verse so it's just refrain-bridge-second half of refrain, and some trim it even further to just the refrain.
Everyone knows the first verse and chorus of "Jesus Loves Me", but do you know any of the next six verses? Most hymnals stop at three or four.
Amazing Freaking Grace, in its original form, had five verses as originally written by John Newton. The original final verse was:
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call'd me here below,
Will be forever mine.
Most versions omit the above verse, leaving only four. Some replace it with a verse of African American origin:
When we've been therenote or "dead" ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise,
Than when we first begun.
Interestingly, one of the most popular adaptations, "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)" by Chris Tomlin, uses the original final verse.
Some versions of "What Wondrous Love Is This" have only three verses, with the first being a composite of the first two verses. To be fair, the first halves of these verses are very similar.
"Go Down, Moses" can have as many as eleven verses.
Most versions of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" omit Verse 3:
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.
Some also omit Verse 6:
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succournote or "honor" to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Unique Jewish example: The song Ma'oz Tzur is sung on Hanukkah. The poem is six verses long, but most people only know and sing the first verse. Some also sing the fifth verse, which directly relates the the holiday of Hanukkah itself.
Another Jewish example is the Passover song "Dayenu." The whole version of the song is remarkably long: it has a lot of verses, but the real problem is that the traditional tune involves repeating words over and over again and then going back and repeating the same phrase over and over again. ("If-you-had-brought-brought-brought-brought-brought-us-brought-us-brought-us-out-of-Egypt-if-you-had-brought-us-out-of-Egypt..."). It's like the holiday song that Gertrude Stein would write. Singing the whole song to that tune would take half an hour, if you were sober (which you are not). Most families get about a sentence and a half into the lyrics before giving up.
The Transformers Animated version of the Transformers opening theme is actually the only version to contain extra lyrics
Back to Animated, the show's second Japanese opening actually uses the second verse of their version of the show's opening theme, as well as a completely new animation for Megatron.
These often-forgotten lyrics to the DuckTales opening theme:
When it seems to be heading for
The final curtain
Cool deduction never fails
Well, that's for certain
The worst of messes
Can become successes
"Arabian Nights" from Aladdin originally had three verses (four if you count the B-section), in addition to four reprises at various points in the story, but was cut down to a single stanza for the film. Some of the cut verses and reprises later appeared in the sequels, and more recently, all were restored in the stage musical.
Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" has a rarely-heard second interlude (around 2:00) that sounds very different from the main piece. There's also a version with lyrics.
Similarly, the first section of Joplin's "The Entertainer" is well known, the second section a little less, and the third and fourth sections rarely heard.
Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", as originally written, is several dozen verses in length, which according to John Cale took up fifteen pages when Cohen faxed them to him. Cohen's original recording of it featured four of them; John Cale's cover, and the subsequent covers of his cover, used the first two verses of Cohen's recording and three others that he had left out.
Almost everybody in Catalonia can sing by head the first stanza of the hymn of the FC Barcelona. Only true fans know the lyrics to the second stanza, though.
The Norwegian birthday song by Margrethe Munthe, 'Hurra for deg som fyller ditt år'. Sometimes, people will begin singing the second verse for the lols, even though everyone else are already applauding after the first.
Similarly, the theme to Atop the Fourth Wall has a second verse not usually used in-show. At live shows, where Linkara encourages the audience to sing along to the theme, he once caught an audience off-guard by playing the long version.
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star has five stanzas, but most people are only familiar with the first.
America, the Beautiful has four stanzas, of which most people only know the first.
A tremendous number of television theme songs have additional verses that are almost never heard unless the show does a "milestone" episode — examples include the themes from Cheers and Friends.
The Family Guy theme song has two stanzas, but the opening sequence only plays the first. The full song is heard on the Live in Vegas album.
Many songs will cut a verse from the radio edit if the original version is particularly long. For instance:
Reba McEntire's cover of Bobbie Gentry's "Fancy" lost the fourth verse (which begins "It wasn't long after that benevolent man took me off the street…"). The album version is 5 minutes long, which is abnormal for a country song, hence the lost verse.
Kenny Chesney's "When I See This Bar", which 6 minutes long on the album, lost its last verse (which begins "A few have moved on back to Maine, Jacksonville and Key Biscayne…") and a few lines from the coda.
Keith Urban's "Once in a Lifetime" had a repeat of the chorus with different words edited out of the radio version. Interestingly, most lyric sites don't even reflect the album version's additional lyrics.
Ray Stevens' "Ahab the Arab" had the final verses (beginning with "All of a sudden, the Sultan walked in / Ahab knew that this was the end…") excised from the radio edit, and most circulating versions follow suit. Likewise, there is very little trace of said verse on the Internet — most lyric sites cut it off where the single version does.
Alabama's "Dancin', Shaggin' on the Boulevard" had the fourth of its five verses ("Well the Embers singin' up on Ocean Drive…") removed from the radio edit.
Alan Jackson's "Good Time" had two verses and some solos cut from the radio edit. Considering the repetition in the remaining verses, you'd think they'd have cut some of that instead. Oddly, a "Too Hot to Fish" remix was also sent to radio, which had one of the two missing verses restored.
Played with on Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places". He decided to write a more cheeky third verse, and would often sing it in concert. A live recording was sent out as a promo single, and appeared on at least one concert VHS. Come 1998's Double Live, a live album recorded in Central Park, he reached the point where the third verse would normally go, vamped for a few minutes, and then quipped that "the friends in low places" should sing the third verse. Cue an entire audience singing said verse, which they probably only ever heard in other concerts, by themselves.