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A NEGRO musician of Nashville, Tennessee (H. B. P. Johnson), said to me not long ago, "There are two aspects of Negro folk-music which I have never seen touched on, and which deserve to be discussed. . . . One is the children's game-songs. I wish you would write about them in your book." But the difficulty of getting hold of such material is greater than in the case of various other types of song, and but little effort has been made to collect it. Matthew Work, professor in Fisk University, who has done much to preserve the old spirituals and to restore them to the place of dignity they deserve, said to me recently: "I am planning a pageant which shall represent something of the history of our race. I need some children's game-songs, but I am having trouble rinding them."
Perhaps the reason for this difficulty lies in the shyness of children, their reticence about what concerns them as a class. Children, I find, will more readily give you their confidence as to their own personal affairs, than with regard to the close fraternity of childhood. They will speak as themselves more easily than as children. There is a secret fellowship among children from which adults are shut out — save in rare instances where grown-ups still have the childlike heart, the warm, spontaneous sympathy. The "little folk" among mortals are as jealous of their secrets as the fairy tribe themselves, and you must either win them or else surprise them, if you are to learn anything of their hidden ways. No doubt many parents and teachers would be astonished to discover with what tolerance and humorous patronage the youngsters regard them; with what care they conceal their real thoughts and customs, as they hide their faces under puckish masks at Halloween.
By the time you are grown up and can consider the folk-ways of your childhood with detached impersonality, you have forgotten what was of most value. Rarely will a child tell frankly of his lore, and rarely can an adult remember. The years are flaming swords to bar us from the lost paradise of childhood. There is no magic carpet that can transport us at will to enchanted scenes we remember dimly, no time machine to whisk us back to any date we choose.