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"On the shore, dimly seen

Thro' the mists of the deep"
First phrase of the Star Spangled Banner's second stanza.

"They put a big wall there, to try and stop me

There was a sign there, said 'Private Property'

But on the back side, it didn't say nothin'

That side was made for you and me."
Woody Guthrie, one of the more controversial verses of "This Land Is Your Land"

Only the first stanza of a song is known; few people know that a second stanza exists, never mind a third, fourth, etc. It can be difficult to tell apart from the Chorus-Only Song; the difference is in the Chorus-Only Song is only the chorus is known. In this, the chorus may be known, but the existence of more than one verse is little-known.

Sheet music publishers who only print 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.

Examples of Second Verse Curse include:


National Anthems

 "Somebody started the Star Spangled banner, and we sang the first verse - which is all that most people know..."

  • "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 Dis Continuity 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 alternative versions.
    • 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.
  • "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.
    • Though the real national anthem is the one about the suicidal sheep thief. Which also suffers from Second Verse Curse.
    • Inverted in the case of "My Country" by Dorothea Mackeller, which is generally only remembered for its second verse, beginning with "I love a sunburnt country."
  • The Mexican anthem has 10 stanzas, yet only the first and the last ones are usually sung. If you really go overboard and sing the "long" version - the one sung in national anthem singing contests - you'll be singing only the first, the fifth, the sixth, and the last stanzas. Another standard cut is to sing the first two of the "short" official version. Oddly enough, the version used by schools cuts off before the one about washing church bells with the blood of the enemy and making sure to leave very big ruins for the future to marvel at when we get wiped out... (All of the odd stuff in the Mexican anthem can be Handwaved by the fact that it was written by a romantic poet locked in his room by his fiancee, though.)
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Parodied in the Discworld novels, where Ankh-Morpork's civic anthem "We Can Rule You Wholesale" was written with this in mind: the second verse purposefully consists mostly of incomprehensible mumbling on the grounds that no one will remember it anyway.
    • 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 semi-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 Fanfic continuation).

Folk songs and Christmas carols

  • "Molly Malone" ends with a Family-Unfriendly Death.
  • Most people know only the first stanza of "Deck the Halls".
    • The Pogo parody "Deck Us All with Boston Charlie" only has one verse, but few know more than the first half of it, because the rest was rarely (if ever) used in the strip itself.
  • Hardly anyone is aware that "Jingle Bells" has 4 stanzas, including one in which the narrator is mocked after he falls out of his sleigh.
  • Most people sing only the first stanza to "Happy Birthday to You". Probably because the second verse is "How old are you now?", which can be seen as offensive or simply blunt.
  • 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. [1]
  • "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, was already considered archaic, so this verse was written in its place. Some renditions keep Parson Brown; others do both him and this verse, while still others get as far as "until the other kiddies knock him down" and then return to "sleigh bells ring, are you list'nin'?" instead.

 In the meadow, we can build a snowman

And pretend that he's a circus clown

We'll have lots of fun with Mr. Snowman

Until the other kiddies knock him down

When it snows, ain't it thrillin'

Though your nose gets a-chillin'

We'll frolic and play the Eskimo way

Walkin' in a winter wonderland

  • Many renditions of "Sleigh Ride" leave out the bridge (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 "This, this is Christ the King" (the last half of the first verse) as a refrain. 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". Unsurprisingly, it was written by Charles Wesley, who (as seen below) is no stranger to this trope:

 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.

  • Joy to the World has four verses, but most renditions will skip the third.

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

  • 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), using 7-12 and 17. Others also omit 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.
    • And his "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" typically has six. The last two are marked as "may be omitted" in the Methodist hymnal, while the Episcopalians start at verse two ("Love's redeeming work is done / Fought the fight, the battle won…") and use two different melodies that both omit most of the "alleluia"s typically associated with the hymn.
    • 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 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".
    • The full version of Rich Mullins' "Awesome God", in particular, has a line about God pouring out judgment on Sodom.
    • 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 actually has six freaking verses as well. Most congregations will only sing two or three.
    • Phish perform four verses in their version.
    • Most hymnals only publish five.
  • 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 virtually identical.
  • "Go Down, Moses" can have as many as eleven verses.
  • 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.

Other

  • The Transformers Animated version of the Transformers opening theme is actually the only version to contain extra lyrics

 Transformers!

More than they appear

Transformers!

Justice, bolts, and gears!

    • Also, the ending theme from Transformers: The Movie has a full set of verses.
    • 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

(chorus)

  • "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.
  • The full version of The Angry Video Game Nerd's theme has only been used once so far.
  • 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.

Notes

  1. It literally means "old long since" in Scots and means "the days of long ago".
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