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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58
NEGRO FOLK-SONGS
So we hunted and we hollered
And the next thing we did find Was an owl in the ivy bush,
And that we left behind.
One said it was an owl, And the other said, "Nay! " One said it was the devil, And we all ran away.
The Forum (Philadelphia Press, March, 1908) gives a song, called Old Circus Song, as sung in Alabama by Negroes seventy years ago, which is evidently a variant of the song Mrs. Diggs learned in Virginia.
Old Circus Song
I went a-whooping and a-hollering, for the first thing I could find Was a frog in a well, and that I left behind. Some said, "It's a frog," but I said, "Nay!" Some said "It's a sea-bird with its feathers torn away.
Look a-there, now!"
I went a-whooping and a-hollering, for the next thing I could find Was an ice-pond in the meadow, and that I left behind. Some said, "It's an ice-pond," but I said, "Nay!" Some said, "It's a pane of glass, but it's nearly washed away.
Look a-there, now!"
I went a-whooping and a-hollering, for the next thing I could find Was an old house on the hill-top, and that I left behind. Some said, "It's an old house," but I said, "Nay!" Some said, "It's a barn, but it's nearly rotted away.
Look a-there, now!"
I went a-whooping and a-hollering, for the next thing I could find Was an owl in a thorn-tree, and that I left behind. Some said, "It's an owl," but I said, "Nay!" Some said, "It's the devil, and let us run away!
Look a-there, now!"1
1 Professor Kittredge writes:" Similar version in Cox,' Folk-Songs of the South/ No. 165, where I have given a number of references. That the song was known as early as 1668 is shown by a passage from Davenant's comedy, The Rivals (licensed and printed in that year), Act 3 foto, p. 34; 'Dramatic Works/ 1874, v, 264):
"'There were three Fools at mid-summer run mad About an Howlet, a quarrel they had, The one said 'twas an Owle, the other he said nay, The third said it was a Hawk but the Bells were cutt away.'"