A famous tune from the 1890s onward, this song is very often mistakenly thought to be the work of some anonymous circus entertainer, and is listed as author unknown in many reference books and web pages. Many different version of the song are floating out there, but apparently there is an original and an author. William Sayoran drew on the song for the title story of his collection The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze (1934). It is also prominently featured in the 1934 film It Happened One Night.


"The Flying Trapeze" (Jan. 19, 1867)
(originally published Jan 19., 1867 by Charles Sheard, London; first published in 1868 in America by Oliver Ditson & Co., New York)
{aka "The Man on the Flying Trapeze"}
Written by George Leybourne, 1842-1884
Music by Gaston Lyle
Arranged by Alfred Lee, 1839-1906

{Source: pages 69-72 of "Popular Songs of Nineteenth-Century America"; perhaps based on Jacques Offenbach's "Le Papillon" (1860), in Act 2, Scene 1, in the key of Bb}

1.
Once I was happy, but now I'm forlorn,
Like an old coat, that is tatter'd and torn;
Left on this wide world to fret and to mourn,
Betray'd by a maid in her teens.
The girl that I lov'd, she was handsome,
I tried all I knew, her to please,
But I could not please her one quarter so well,
Like that man upon the Trapeze.

CHORUS
He'd fly thro' the air with the greatest of ease,
A daring young man on the flying Trapeze;
His movements were graceful, all girls he could please,
And my love he purloin'd away.

2.
This young man by name was "Signor Bona Slang;"
Tall, big, and handsome as well made as Chang;
Where'er he appeared, the hall loudly rang
With ovation from all people there,
He'd smile from the bar on the people below,
And one night he smil'd on my love,
She wink'd back at him, and she shouted "Bravo!"
As he hung by his nose up above!

(CHORUS)

3.
His father and mother were both on my side,
And very hard tried to make her my bride;
Her father he sighed, and her mother she cried,
To see her throw herself away.
'Twas all no avail, she went there every night,
And would throw him boquets on the stage,
Which caus'd him to meet her; how he ran me down,
To tell you, would take a whole page.

(CHORUS)

4.
One night I as usual went to her dear home,
Found there her father and mother alone;
I ask'd for my love, and soon they made known,
To my horror, that she'd run away!
She'd pack'd up her box, and eloped in the night
With him, with the greatest of ease;
From two stories high, he had lowered her down
To the ground on his flying Trapeze!

(CHORUS)

5.
Some months ago after this I went to a Hall;
Was greatly suprised to see on the wall
A bill in red letters, which did my heart gall,
That she was appearing with him:
He taught her gymnastics, and dressed her in tights,
To help him to live at his ease,
And made her assume a masculine name,
And now she goes on the Trapeze!

CHORUS for last verse.
She floats thro' the air with the greatest of ease,
You'd think her a man on the flying Trapeze;
She does all the work, while he takes his ease,
And that's what's become of my love.

Source: http://pdmusic.org/1800s.html

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