American Ballads and Songs

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xxxii
INTRODUCTION
of American Folk-Lore) which contains the addresses of Professor Belden.
X. Among the most characteristically American of our folk-songs are slave-songs, and plantation songs, and negro or pseude-negro songs, comic or pathetic. These constitute a separate subject and they deserve treatment in a separate anthology of Afro-American song. Besides these, as characteristically American in flavor, should come Western and frontier pieces, as Starving to Death on a Government Claim, or The Dreary Black Hills, and American humorous songs, like Joe Bowers or Johnny Sands. Apart from these two groups, most of our American traditional songs have upon them the stamp of the Old World and fall into Old World patterns. Prevailingly they are tragic pieces. Their "strong situations" keep them alive and they derive from or are parallel to British songs. Usually they have exaggerated plots and often they have exaggerated morals. There are confessions of murder, like Young McFee, and there are many confes­sion and death-bed pieces in general. The Butcher's Boy is one of the most widely circulated oral ballads in the language. It is known from Nova Scotia to Texas. The Boston Burglar has equally wide currency. Both are serious pieces and both are of British adaptation. The murder ballad is a type which still springs up occasionally, like the ballads of the Meeks murder in Missouri chronicled by Professor H. M. Belden. Professor W. R. Mackenzie has recorded some murder ballads from Nova Scotia, and Professor H. G. Shearin found a number in the Cumberland mountains. But, like all ballads which chronicle local events, this type is likely to be short-lived. In general the gloomy themes, especially the songs of domestic crime, which pleased earlier centuries did not give the same pleasure