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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TRADITIONAL SONGS AND BALLADS
43
story and the spirit of a ballad but changes the wording. The Ne­groes would be particularly attracted to this ballad because of its simple structure and its dramatic story. It is easy to remember, for its repetitions proceed regularly.
My next ballad discovery was made in Waco, Texas, when I was seekmg material for an article on "Negro Ballets and Reels," for the Texas Folk-lore Association. I was wandering about in the suburbs of South Waco, in the Negro section, dropping in at various places. I passed by a cabin where an old woman sat on the steps, rocking a baby to sleep. The garden was neat with rows of vegetables and gay with old-fashioned flowers, Johnny-jump-ups, pinks, larkspur, petunias, and in the back the line showed snowy clothes drying in the sun. The old woman was crooning something to the child, as she swayed her body back and forth.
I turned in at the gate.
"How do you do?" I said. "That's a nice baby."
"Howdy, mistis," she answered cordially. "Yas'm, dat's mah great-grandchild. Ain't he a buster? "
"What was that song you were singing to him?" I inquired, as I sat down on an upturned box.
"Oh, dat's jes' an old thing, I don't recollict de name of it. I doan' know, in fac', ef it has ary name."
"Won't you please sing it for me, mammy?" I begged.
"Oh, I ain't kin sing wuth speaking of," she demurred. "I done los' mah voice."
"Oh, please, sing it for me."
And so she sang her version of the old ballad, Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight: