American Ballads and Songs

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XIV
INTRODUCTION
national songs like John Brown, A Hot Time; popular religious songs, like Onward Christian Soldiers; pseudo-negro songs, like Sewanee River, My Old Kentucky Home; sentimental songs, like Juanita, Lorena, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean. For one thing, such songs are very familiar. They are easily accessible in print and there are no fascinating mysteries connected with their history. But of more importance is the fact that they have not been dependent upon oral tradition for their perpetuation. Further, little repre­sentation is given in these pages to children's songs and game songs and nursery rhymes. These form a separ­ate subject; and so, for the most part, do negro and pseudo-negro songs. The most genuine American
oral_literature QJLalL. that_of the American__Indian,
assuredly" forms a separafeancT wholly distinct subject. It needs treatment by itself. It bulks large and is part of the social history of America; but it has been without influence on the native traditional song in the English tongue.
II. The oral versions of folk-song are practically innumerable. A book of the size of the present volume could be filled by the variant versions of half a dozen of the pieces included in it. But it should be borne in mind that the variations of the folk are instinctive and unconscious, not deliberate. There are countless shiftingsanTt~Dmissions or additions in the mouths of varying singers, but they are unintentional. Alteration arises through slips of memory, local adap­tations (as the substitution of names), and through the omissions and the insertions of individual singers. Many are due to confusion with other ballads or to personal tastes or prejudices. Nor is it always the fortunate changes which persist, though some scholars seem to think this. Stupid or garrulous changes






E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III