The Hymns and Carols of Christmas


From the operetta "Babes in Toyland"

Words by Glenn MacDonough, 1903

Music by Victor Herbert, 1903

1. When you've grown up my dears,
And are as old as I,
You'll often ponder on the years
That roll so swiftly by, my dears,
That roll so swiftly by.
And of the many lands,
You will have journeyed through,
You'll oft recall
The best of all,
The land your childhood knew!
Your childhood knew. Chorus

Toyland. Toyland.
Little girl and boy land.
While you dwell within it,
You are ever happy then.
Childhoodís joy-land.
Mystic merry Toyland,
Once you pass itís borders,
You can never return again.

2. When you've grown up, my dears,
There comes a dreary day.
When 'mid the locks of black appears
The first pale gleam of gray, my dears,
The first pale gleam of gray.
Then of the past you'll dream
As gray-haired grown-ups do,
And seek once more
Its phantom shore,
The land your childhood knew!
Your childhood knew.  Chorus

Victor Herbert, b. Feb. 1, 1859, d. May 26, 1924, was an Irish-American cellist, conductor, and composer whose operettas are continually revived and whose songs have become classics of their genre. Herbert came to the United States from Ireland in 1886 when the Metropolitan Opera engaged him as cellist. From 1898 to 1904 he was conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony. Herbert is best remembered for the operettas Babes in Toyland (1903), The Red Mill (1906), and Naughty Marietta (1910), and for the songs, "Kiss Me Again," "Gypsy Love Song," and "Ah Sweet Mystery of Life." He also wrote the operas Natoma (1911) and Madeleine (1914).

First performance of Babes in Toyland was at the Grand Opera House, Chicago, June 17, 1903. Broadway premier at the Majestic Theater, October 13, 1903. Ran for 192 performances and then traveled America for several years.

One of the first of 30 operettas that Victor Herbert would create, Babes in Toyland was wonderfully successful. It opened to great reviews in Chicago, and continued its very successful run on Broadway. Although the story was a bit of fluff, it had some brilliantly conceived and executed stage effects, and some magnificent and charming music performed. Because it was a fantasy, in no other production did Herbert have the freedom and range of material with which to let him imagination run riot.

William Studwell, The Christmas Carol Reader

Stan Laurel (1890-1965) and Oliver Hardy (1892-1957) have delighted several generations with their zany movie antics. They were at the height of their comedic capabilities when they made the 1934 film Babes in Toyland. The movie, of course, was an offshoot of the 1903 operetta of the same name by the great Irish-American stage composer Victor Herbert (1859-1924). The Piece de resistance of the very charming and melodic depiction of the fanciful "little girl and boy land" was the song "Toyland."

Providing the lyrics for Herbert's smooth and dreamy music was Brooklyn-born Glen MacDonough (1870-1924), who is known for little else. Technically, the words have no direct affiliation with the traditions of Christmas. But the spirit of the song, about the great pleasure that toys bring children, is so very compatible with the loving and giving essence of the December holiday. Herbert and MacDonough, furthermore, have sensitively captured the fleeting moments of childhood in their musical magical realm, so that children of all ages, including the Lauren and Hardy characters, can occasionally return inside the borders of Toyland in spite of the warning with which the song ends ["... you can never return again."]

The four Babes in Toyland movies:

William L. Simon, ed., Readerís Digest Merry Christmas Songbook (1981)

Babes in Toyland, one of Victor Herbertís enchanting operettas, written in 1903, proved that the master could write childrenís entertainments as well as he could sentimental love stores, which meant better than almost anyone else in those turn-of-the-century days. Toward the beginning of the evening, which includes a breathtaking Christmas pageant as well as such songs as "I Canít Do the Sum", and "March of the Toys," the toys all join in a tribute to their fabulous country, "Toyland." One reviewer called Babes in Toyland a "perfect dream of delight," and another, praising the ingenious scenery, rich costumes and dazzling music, write, "What more could the spirit of mortal desire?" The song "Toyland" casts a nostalgic, almost hypnotic spell with its swaying innocent rhythm.


If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.

Related Hymns and Carols