ON THE TRAIL OF NEGRO FOLK-SONGS

A Collection Of Negro Traditional & Folk Songs with Sheet Music Lyrics & Commentaries - online book

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Because they were starting from theory, neither Emerson nor Whitman were ever fully able to exercise this liberation in their other works. As the Texas folklorist starts from the people's words and works toward theory he has come closer to a realization of the dream.
Miss Scarborough was very much in this tradition. Historically she was a part of the Texas folklore movement, serving as president of the Texas Folklore Society in 1916. More than this, however, not only her books of folksongs but her novels show this same belief in the mystique of the controlling power of traditional words in traditional contexts as the literature of the people. It is not feasible to talk about all of her works from this point of view, but it may be illustrated from two or three of her novels.
Her fiction is nearly always placed in a Texas locale, and uses the folklore of the area as leitmotifs in the unfolding of the story. Quite often these themes are announced in her titles. The Stretch-berry Smile (1932), for example, uses a children's belief that if one chews a stretch-berry with chewing gum, it gives the gum a mar­velous tensile strength so that it can be pulled out to incredible lengths, and can be blown into bubbles. Thus, a stretch-berry smile is not only one which one assumes while blowing the bubbles, but also one which can be held for amazing lengths of time.4 The story is a love triangle where, from childhood, strong, cotton-pick­ing Perla loves her neighbor, hard-working Britt who in turn loves beautiful, spoiled Carita, the only child of the county judge. The story is quite involved, so much so that I won't recount it here. The important movement emphasizes Perla's endurance (that smile!) and Carita's lack of it. In the end Britt goes off with Oarita because she is weak and Perla is strong and able to face life without him. It is her strength, her stretch-berry smile, that makes her the real winner in life.
Similarly, the title of Can't Get A Redbird (1929) is derived from folklore- in this case, the line "Can't get a redbird, bluebird'll do" from the well known play-party game of "Skip to my Lou," Once again the title announces the major theme of persistence, self-re­liance and understanding as the important values of life. The "redbird" is the heroine of this Horatio Alger story: Honey, a girl for whom the hero, John, has waited all his life. He is just a poor farmer and she a college graduate, but he doesn't accept any "blue birds" and wins hen Her love, understanding and persistence
■*I have t>eeu unable to find thin belief prevtoualy recorded in print but my Htudenta and Texas friends tell me it is widely believed and practiced throughout the state. The berries come from a briar bush and will blister your mouth if you use them too often. Ready-made bubble gum seems to have diminished the custom to some extent.
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