Familiar Songs - Their Authors & Histories

300 traditional songs, inc sheet music with full piano accompaniment & lyrics.

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<542                                                         OUR FAMILIAR SONGS.
This most familiar song has been long, though vaguely, associated with the early days of two of America's oldest colleges, Dartmouth and Williams. I quote below the letter which an eminent educator in Massachusetts wrote to The Dartmouth, a periodical pub­lished by the students of that college. "The legend of the Old Pine, on the hill back of the college, in Hanover, was told me when I was a child, more than fifty years ago; and yet a graduate of Dartmouth recently said he had never heard it! The story is, that three Indians, on the day they left Dartmouth, met in a bower, of which the youthful pine, now a venerable tree, was one of the trees, and sang the song, ' When shall we three meet again?' The words and music were composed by one of their number. My mother told me the story, and from her lips I learned both the words and the music, a very plaintive minor strain. The only commencement I ever attended at Dartmouth, was in 1853, when I heard Choate's eulogy of Webster. On the evening of that day I was walking on the hill, for the sake of the prospect, and the pine tree was pointed out to me, which was said to be older than the college. While we were standing there, a company of four or five rather young men, evidently alumni, sang the very song, in the very strain, which I had learned when a child, living in Connecticut.''
The late President Smith of Dartmouth, said in a letter to me: "I do not believe, with Artemus Ward, thatl Indians is pizen wherever you meet 'em,'—but that any Indian undergraduate, or Indian just graduate, ever wrote so beautiful a lyric as that you enquire about, I am slow to think."
On the other hand, a New Hampshire poet gives me the following account of his memory and opinion: "I think there must be something in the legend, because I distinctly remember that, in 1839, one Pierce, an Indian (Cherokee) of the class of 1840, came to my home [Newport, N. H.] with a cousin of mine who was in the same class, to spend a few days of his vacation, and was at my mother's house, and I remember that he sang this same song, and that my younger sister learned both the words and the music, from whom I learned them. Some of the Indian graduates at Dartmouth were smart fellows—I think fully equal to the writing of this song. It is not perfect in its construction, by any means; for instance, the third stanza, which is somewhat incoherent, although a very sweet, pretty thing. The first line of the same stanza is strong evidence of Indian origin, as Lndians* hair is always a 'burnished' black, and here were three black-haired fellows."
From still another quarter comes the legend that the song emanated from Williams College, and that it was sung by three young men, just graduating there, who had met in a meadow, in the shade of a great haystack, to consecrate themselves to the work of foreign missions among the earliest that America had known. One of their number was said to have composed the song entire, and the especial proof lay in the second stanza:
Though in distant lands we sigh, Parched beneath a hostile sky; Though the deep between us rolls,— Friendship shall unite our souls, Still, in Fancy's rich domain, Oft shall we three meet again.
Three standard English collections, published within the past sixty years, have con­tained the song without the stanza to which tradition points in proof of Indian origin. No authorship of the words is given, but the air is spoken of in one place as the work of Samuel Webbe, in another as the work of Dr. William Horsley. Samuel Webbe, was an English composer, born in London in 1740. His father, who was wealthy, died suddenly When about to assume a government office in Minorca, and the property was taken from

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