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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VII
SONGS ABOUT ANIMALS
T HE Negro is perhaps in his happiest mood when he is making songs about animals. The living creatures around him are very-real to him, and eternally interesting. He makes them the objects of his amused observation, his philosophic study, and he delights to rhyme their characteristics. He elevates them to his own range of thought and emotion — anthropomorphizes them, as a theologian would say, endowing them with whatever power of reason or cun­ning he himself possesses. The Negro moralizes little about the much-mentioned but little followed "brotherhood of man," but he makes a good deal in his folk-lore of the confraternity of the animal world. He gives his cordial recognition to whatever draws breath. As he greets his fellow church-member or lodge comrade as "Brother," — or "Sister," —so he speaks of "Bre'r Rabbit," "Bre'r B'ar," "Mr. Tarrepin and Mr. Toad," "OP King Buzzard," and so on. He admires whatever excellent traits they possess, and deprecates their shortcomings with a tolerance that condones lapses from ethical standards, as if mutely requesting similar sympathy with his own failings. His charity, like his humor, is wide and deep. The Negro does not sermonize about a bird or beast, as a sophisti­cated poet might, or seek to tag a Wordsworthian moral to every in­cident. He simply finds all live things entertaining, and likes to talk or sing about them. He is closer to nature than even the ancient Greeks or Romans were, for his nature imagery is more spontaneous and less studied, simpler and not so far-fetched. He stays nearer to the earth. He can be more chummy with his "horny ox" or "mulie" than an ancient could with a centaur or Pegasus, and yet he finds him quite as diverting and as full of surprising traits. A mule never lacks kick for the darky, and a rriild-seeming goat has plenty of punch. A small Negro boy drives a cow to pasture with the air of a courtier escorting a queen; while an old woman converses with her cat or her hen on affairs nearest her heart. The confidential manner of an old colored man toward a slat-ribbed hound is impressive — the attitude of one philosopher in the presence of another. We over­hear only one side of discussions between such friends, but may feel sure that messages too subtle for our comprehension pass wordlessly.







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III