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NEGRO FOLK RHYMES
Now let us consider the parodies recorded in our Collection. The Parody on the beautiful little child prayer, ''Now I lay me down to sleep" is but the bitter protest from the heart of the woman who, after putting the little white children piously repeating this child prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep," in their immaculate beds, herself retired to a vermin infested cabin with no time left for cleaning it. It was a tirade against the oppressor but the comic, good-natured "It means nothing" was there to be held up to those calling the one repeating it to task. The parody on "Reign, Master Jesus, Reign!" when heard by the Master meant only a good natured jocular appeal to him for plenty of meat and bread, but with the Negro it was a scathing indictment of a Christian earthly master who muzzled those who produced the food. "He Paid Me Seven" is a mock at the white man for failing to practice his own religion but the clown mask is there to be held up for safety to any who may see the real side and take offense.
Slave parodies, then, are little Rhymes capable of two distinct interpretations, both of which are true. They were so composed that if a slave were accused through one interpretation, he could and would truthfully point out the other meaning to the accuser and thus escape serious trouble.