Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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NUMBER AND CLASSIFICATION.                              55
The fertile imagination of the Negro was ever, transporting his soul to the mount of ecstacy or into the valley of sorrow. While there is a plaintiveness running through all the songs, the emotion of joy is predominant. There is sometimes a triumphant "hallelujah" even in the valley. Truly the maker of these songs was he "who passing through the Valley of Baca maketh it a well."
The happiness of the Negro is truly proverbial, so it would be most unnatural if his songs were not laden with joy, and it is quite significant that this note of joy rises high and clear above the sobs and sighs crushed out of his heart. The Negro passes most of his life on the mountain top. He verifies the legend which describes him as the man of light and the son of the morning. His capacity for joy and its complement in his capacity for sorrow. No sorrow can be deeper; he drains the cup of suffering; he descends into the depths of the valley. But sorrow and suffering have not embittered him, nor have they taken away "the joys that sweeten life."
Mark Twain tells the story of an old negro servant of his, who seemed always to be happy. Her face was ever lighted with a smile and she shed a brightness wherever she went. "She was sixty years old, but her eye was undimmed and her strength unimpaired. It was no more trouble for her to laugh than for a bird to sing." "Aunt Rachel, how is it that you've lived sixty years and have had no trouble?" She told the story of her life. Of course, she had been a slave. She once had as happy a family as a slave could have. She had seen her husband and six children sold from her in one day. She saw them carried away into different directions, some away down South; and only one of whom, a boy, she had ever seen or heird of since. And yet, as Mark Twain says, "it was no more trouble for her to laugh than for a bird to sing." Aunt Rachel is an epitome of her race. She lives at the mountain top.
"Walk Through the Valley."
We shall walk through the valley and the shadow of death, We shall walk through the valley in peace;
If Jesus Himself shall be our leader,
We shall walk through the valley in peace.

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