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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RAILROAD SONGS
241
The midnight train and the 'fo' day train,
Run all night long! The midnight train and the 'fo' day train,
Run all night longl The midnight train and the 'to' day train,
Run all night long!
They run until the break of day.
It's the same train that carried your mother away;
Runs all night long. It's the same train that carried your mother away;
Runs all night long. It's the same train that carried your mother away;
Runs all night long.
It runs until the break of day.
This is another of the " family " songs, a stanza being devoted to each relative in turn, so that the singing can be protracted indefinitely.
Mrs. Bartlett says, "On the 'all night long/ right at 'all/ there occurs what the Negroes call a 'turn/ that is, a drop or a rise, either one - I can hardly describe it, but I am sure you are familiar with the change they make so often from a very high tone to a very deep, throaty tone. It is very pretty, and familiar to everyone who has heard Negroes sing."
The train may come in as cruel enginery of fate, to part a Negro from his beloved: a shining sword of fire, to cut the ties that bind one dark heart to another. The rails are steel, indeed, when the lover stands beside them and sees a train that leaves him behind but snatches away his "honey babe." Louise Garwood, of Houston, Texas, reports the tuneful grief experienced on one such occasion.
Well, ah looked down de railroad fuh as ah could see, Looked down dat railroad fuh as ah could see. Saw mah gal a-wavin' back at me. Saw mah gal a-wavin' back at me.
The Negro calls the train or the road by name, or by cabalistic initials, as if he were addressing an intimate friend. He omits the whimsical "Mister" or "Bre'er" by which he is wont to address an animal, and uses no honorary titles, as "Jedge" or "Colonel," or "Cap'n," which he confers upon a white man.
A permanent separation is bewailed in a fragment from Texas. There is real poetic poignancy in this stanza, it seems to me, as tragedy hinted but not told in detail.







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