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complished violinist's bow-arm. It is sometimes complained that their playing is too rapid and jerky; but the times are composed for this tempo, and no other would be found suitable.
Prominent among the elements of this music is that lead­ing American characteristic, humor; not the sparkling wit of the French, nor the broad, clumsy jollification of the Teu­ton; not sarcasm nor irony, but the keen, wholesome, freak­ish American love of a laugh pervades directly or indirectly almost every line. The music, too, while usually minor, is not of a plaintive tendency; there are few laments, no sob­bing and wailing. In this it differs radically from that of savage peoples. Neither has it any marital throb or clang. It is reflective, meditative, with a vein of genial and sunny philosophy; the tunes chuckle, not merrily, but in any amused contemplation.
The mountaineer is fond of turning the joke on himself. He makes fun of his own poverty, his own shiftlessness, his ignorance, his hard luck, and his crimes:
111 tune up my fiddle and rosin my bow And make myself welcome wherever I go.
Ill eat when I'm hungry and drink when I'm dry; If a tree don't fall on me, I'll live till I die.
I went upon a mountain and give my horn a blow; Ev'ry gal in the valley come running to the do'.
As I went to my old field, I heard a mighty maul in'; The seed-ticks was a-splittin' rails; the chiggers was a-haulin.'
Once touched by religious emotions, however, the moun­taineer seems to lose his sense of the ridiculous entirely— the deeps of his nature are reached at last. The metaphors of Scripture, the natural expression of the Oriental mind, are taken with a literalness and seriousness against which one cannot help thinking a touch of humor might be a sav­ing grace.
Hit's the old Ship of Zion, as she comes, Hit's the old Ship of Zion, as she comes,
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III