The Glow-Worm

This article is about a song. For the insect, see glow worm.

"Das Glühwürmchen", known in English as "The Glow-Worm", is a song from Paul Lincke's 1902 operetta Lysistrata, with German lyrics by Heinz Bolten-Backers. In the operetta, it is performed as a trio with three female solo voices singing alternately and the women's chorus joining in the refrain. Rhythmically, it is in the form of a gavotte.[1] The song, with its familiar chorus, was translated into English and became an American popular song.

It was originally translated into English by Lilla Cayley Robinson, in the early 20th century, and was used in the 1907 Broadway musical The Girl Behind The Counter.[2]

American lyricist Johnny Mercer later expanded and greatly revised Robinson's lyrics, for the 1952 recording by the Mills Brothers.[3] His version was a hit for the Mills Brothers, and it has been performed by several others.

The tune is also quite popular as an orchestral instrumental.


Robinson's English-translation lyrics (circa 1905):

Verse 1:

When the night falls silently,
The night falls silently on forests dreaming,
Lovers wander forth to see,
They wander forth to see the bright stars gleaming.
And lest they should lose their way,
Lest they should lose their way, the glow-worms nightly
Light their tiny lanterns gay,
Their tiny lanterns gay and twinkle brightly.
Here and there and everywhere, from mossy dell and hollow,
Floating, gliding through the air, they call on us to follow.


Shine, little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer
Shine, little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer!
Lead us lest too far we wander.
Love's sweet voice is calling yonder!
Shine, little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer
Shine, little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer
Light the path below, above,
And lead us on to love.

Verse 2:

Little glow-worm, tell me pray,
Oh glow-worm, tell me, pray, how did you kindle
Lamps that by the break of day,
That by the break of day, must fade and dwindle?"
Ah, this secret, by your leave,
This secret, by your leave, is worth the learning!
When true lovers come at eve,
True lovers come at eve, their hearts are burning!
Glowing cheeks and lips betray how sweet the kisses tasted
Till we steal the fire away, for fear lest it be wasted!"

Johnny Mercer kept the original chorus basically intact and added 3 new "verses" to that same tune but did not use music from the original song's verses at all.


  1. Piano-vocal score at IMSLP
  2. "The Girl Behind the Counter" opened October 1, 1907 -
  3. Furia, Philip (1992). Poets of Tin Pan Alley. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 282. ISBN 0-19-507473-4.
  4. "McCain's "Good Unlimited" ad". 2009-11-12. Retrieved 2011-06-08.
Preceded by
I Went to Your Wedding
Cash Box magazine best selling record chart
#1 record

December 6, 1952
Succeeded by
Why Don't You Believe Me?
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