The Collected Calypsos, Sayings, and Songs of Bokonon

From Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Cat’s Cradle (1963). Found on the internet, and rearranged chronologically.

Bokonon’s Rebirth

A fish pitched up
By the angry sea,
I gasped on land,
and I became me.

The People of San Lorenzo

Oh, a very sorry people, yes,
Did I find here.
Oh, they had no music,
And they had no beer.
And, oh, everywhere
Where they tried to perch
Belonged to Castle Sugar, Incorporated,
Or the Catholic Church.

The San Lorenzan National Anthem (1922, Bokonon)

Oh, ours is a land
Where the living is grand,
And the men are as fearless as sharks;
The women are pure,
And we always are sure
That our children will all toe their marks.
San, San Lo-ren-zo!
What a rich, lucky island are we!
Our enemies quail,
For they know they will fail
Against people so reverent and free.

The Quest for Understanding

Tiger got to hunt,
Bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder, ‘Why, why, why?’
Tiger got to sleep,
Bird got to land,
Man got to tell himself he understand.


A lover’s a liar,
To himself he lies.
The truthful are loveless,
Like oysters their eyes![ref]As love conjures its own illusions, so emotions overtake truth; keep your eyes shut (like oysters their pearls), preserve your reason, and forsake love.[/ref]

The Roots of Bokononism

I wanted all things
To seem to make sense,
So we all could be happy, yes,
Instead of tense.
And I made up lies
So that they all fit nice,
And I made this sad world
A par-a-dise.


‘Papa’ Monzano, he’s so very bad,
But without bad ‘Papa’ I would be so sad;
Because without ‘Papa’s’ badness,
Tell me, if you would,
How could wicked old Bokonon
Ever, ever look good?

The Outlawing of Bokonon

So I said good-bye to government,
And I gave my reason:
That a really good religion
Is a form of treason.


In any case, there’s bound to be much crying.
But the oubliette alone will let you think while dying.


We do, doodley do, doodley do, doodley do,
What we must, muddily must, muddily must, muddily must;
Muddily do, muddily do, muddily do, muddily do,
Until we bust, bodily bust, bodily bust, bodily bust.

Bokonon’s 14th Calypso

When I was young,
I was so gay and mean,
And I drank and chased the girls
Just like St Augustine.
St Augustine,
He got to be a saint.
So if I get to be one also,
Please, mama, don’t you faint.

Bokonon’s 119th Calypso

“Where’s my good old gang done gone?”
I heard a man say.
I whispered in that sad man’s ear,
“Your gang’s done gone away.”


If you wish to study a granfalloon,
Just remove the skin of a toy balloon.

The Members of a Karass

Around and around and around we spin,
With feet of lead and wings of tin …

Bokonon’s 53rd Calypso

Oh, a sleeping drunkard
Up in Central Park,
And a lion-hunter
In the jungle dark,
And a chinese dentist,
And a British queen –
All fit together
In the same machine.
Nice, nice, very nice;
Nice, nice, very nice;
Nice, nice, very nice –
So many different people
In the same device.


Be like a baby,
The Bible say,
So I stay like a baby
To this very day.


We will touch our feet, yes,
Yes, for all we’re worth,
And we will love each other, yes,
Yes, like we love our Mother Earth.


Someday, someday, this crazy world will have to end,
And our God will take things back that He to us did lend.
And if, on that sad day, you want to scold our God,
Why go right ahead and scold Him. He’ll just smile and nod.

The Last Rites of the Bokononist Faith

Performed in the Boko-Maru posture, both parties repeat one after the other:

God made mud,
God got lonesome,
So God said to some of the mud, “Sit up!”,
“See all I’ve made,” said God, “the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars.”
And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
Lucky me, lucky mud.
I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.
Nice going, God!
Nobody but You could have done it, God! I certainly couldn’t have.
I feel very unimportant compared to You.
The only way that I can feel the least bit important is to think
of all the mud that didn’t even get to sit up and look around.
I got so much, and most mud got so little.
Thank you for the honour!
Now mud lies down again and goes to sleep.
What memories for mud to have!
What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud I met!
I loved everything I saw!
Good night.
I will go to heaven now.
I can hardly wait …
To find out for certain what my wampeter was …
And who was in my karass
And all the good things our karass did for you.

“Lucky Mud” (unknown artist, photo credit: Jacen Kemp, Houston, Texas)

About Aharon N. Varady

Aharon's Omphalos is the hobbit hole of Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project. He is a community planner and environmental educator working to improve stewardship of the Public Domain, be it the physical and natural commons of urban park systems or the creative and cultural commons of libraries and museums. His advocacy for open-source strategies in the Jewish community has been written about in the Atlantic Magazine, the Yiddish Forverts, Tablet, and Haaretz. He is particularly interested in pedagogies for advancing ecological wisdom, developing creative and emotional intelligence, and realizing effective theurgical praxes. He welcomes your comments, personal messages, and kind words. If you find his work helpful to your own or you'd simply like to support him, please consider donating via his Patreon account.

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