Bile Them Cabbage Down: About the Song

“Bile Them Cabbage Down,” aka “Boil Them Cabbage Down,” is an American folk song and fiddle tune. A hoecake is a thin, flat cake made from cornmeal, originally baked on a hoe. According to some, this tune can be traced to an English country dance called “Smiling Polly,” first printed in 1765. As it has been played and sung throughout the South, the song integrates African and European musical elements: banjo and fiddle – slave, minstrel, and mountaineer.


Bile them cabbage down, down
Bake that hoecake brown
The only song that I can sing is Bile Them Cabbage Down

Raccoon has a bushy tail
Possum’s tail is bare
Rabbit’s got no tail at all
But a little bunch of hair

Raccoon and the possum
Racin’ cross the prairie
Raccoon ax the possum
Did she want to marry?

Possum is a cunnin’ thing
He travels in the dark
And never thinks to curl his tail
‘Till he hears old Rover bark

Possum up a ‘simmon tree
Raccoon on the ground
Raccoon say to the possum
‘Won’t you shake them ‘simmons down?’

Jaybird died with the whoopin’ cough
Sparrow died with the colic
Along come the frog with a fiddle on his back
Inquirin’ his way to the frolic