Music Of The Waters - online book

Sailors' Chanties, Songs Of The Sea, Boatmen's, Fishermen's,
Rowing Songs, & Water Legends with lyrics & sheet music

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Music of the Waters.             287
shown in museums, &c, deftly made by uniting a child's head to a fish's body.
At Bartholomew fair, in 1825, there was exhibited a mer-. maid obtained by a Dutch ship from Japan, and the Ottoman minister to Paris, in 1840, related that he had seen a veritable sea-woman brought from Eastern seas. They have a legend relating that a mermaid prophesied an epidemic.
I must not close these few remarks on Japanese seamen without some mention of the Ainos, that tribe of simple, indolent savages, whose life is so made up of the sea that one can har.dly disassociate them in one's mind. The Ainos are the aborigines of the Yezo; the race is gradually becoming extinct, scarcely to the sorrow of the Japanese, who regard them with feelings of great contempt. They live only on the coasts, and subsist solely on what they reap from the harvest of the sea. As they are without written characters, minus any literature, and apparently most un­willing to give any information concerning themselves— even to those who can understand them—it is almost impossible to learn anything of their music, or even if they have any; but from an account given, in a description of them, of a musical instrument they use, something like a guitar, made of three or six strings formed of whales' sinews cast upon the shore, we may infer that they do sing and probably use this most original instrument to accompany their crooning ditties. That these will be wild, unintelligible performances to us I doubt not, but that they can offer more extraordinary phases of musical history than the general music of Japan I can scarcely believe. It may be that the lonely Aino's song, with only nature for audience, may partake more of the true sweet­ness which marks all her melodies, for the very boom of the surf, the strange cries of the sea-birds, the hoarse notes of the audacious crows, are all in themselves complete and perfect studies of harmony, for nature when left to herself never produces discords, either in sound or colour.

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