Leonardo’s Mother
copyright 2011 by Tim Griffin

Now Leonardo’s mother had a thing or two to say
About the way he filled his notebooks up with sketches every day
She noted he showed aptitude in science, math, and in art
But Leonardo, won’t you finish what you start?

You’ve designed a fancy bridge to span a quarter of a mile
Thirteen fellas eating dinner and a lady with a smile
I really like the angel who annunciates the news
But if you were really wise, you’d organize your socks and shoes!

As Leonardo grew he got in trouble all the time
Filling every book he read with little notes
When his mother saw him scribbling, she said it was a crime
So she seldom even noticed what he wrote

There were amazing annotations on anatomy and art
Some surprising revelations on the pumping of the heart
There were maps of such precision that they looked like photographs
And a portrait of a Baptist and a Bacchus just for laughs

There were notes on physiology of humans and of birds
And a study of a baby in the womb
And she told him, Everybody likes your pictures and your words
But I’ll really be impressed when you get dressed and clean your room!

Leonardo was the model of the Renaissance, they say
But there were so many things he left undone
Showed his genius in every imaginable way
But I wish he had completed everything he had begun!

Several sketches of a horse to build a giant statue of
And some uncompleted paintings of the ladies that he loved
A handy helicopter to go flying through the air
And a well-proportioned guy inside a circle and a square

One device for cooking food with solar power instead of fire
And another nifty tool to test the tensile strength of wire
A twenty meter crossbow that I wish that I could shoot
And a pyramid that really was an early parachute

One machine he called an organ but was really just a gun
And the geometric figure rhombicuboctahedron
About a dozen paintings done while he was in his groove
There’s a few in the Uffizi and a Lisa in the Louvre

This is just a partial list, you know there are so many others
He began and then completed only part
And now I wish that Leonardo’d only listened to his mother
When she told him Leonardo, won’t you finish what you start!


Everyone marvels at how brilliant the gifted kids are, and I’ve had a lot of fun working with many of them over the years in my own classroom, as well as through Mathletics, MENSA, and a few members of my own family. Working with these kids can be a real challenge, though, especially when the gifted parts come with bonus features such as ADHD or a tendency to switch hyperfixations faster than a puppy in a yard full of squirrels.

Take Leonardo da Vinci, for example. His notebooks are crammed with all kinds of awesome stuff, most of which he never got around to finishing. That’s alright for us, but can you imagine what it must have been like for his parents to see that? I mean, come on! Where’s the follow-through, Leo? So this song is partly about Leonardo’s notebooks but mainly it’s for my fellow teachers and parents of the GATE kids.

I play it in D major; other chords are A, G, E, and B. Yes, they are all major chords. The fingering is easier than it sounds: just pluck the base line with your thumb as your index, middle, and ring fingers pluck on the first three strings. Of course, you could just strum it if you want.