Studies In Folk-song And Popular Poetry

An Extensive Investigation Into The Sources And Inspiration Of National Folk Song

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6                     AMERICAN SEA SONGS.
the Shenandoah were as mouth-filling and sonorous as the High Barbarie or any of the refrains of the English shanties, and the American sailor sheeted home his canvas with Virginia Ashore, or Balti­more, or Down to Mobile Bay in his remembrance as well as on his lips.
Premising that American shanties are not American sea songs in any definite sense of the term, and fulfill only the conditions to which they are subject as aids to labor and stimulants to exer­tion, we may take a specimen or two to show what they were like. It is needless to say that neither the words nor a musical notation would give any idea of their effect when sung with full-throated chorus to sea and sky, and that their peculiar me­lodious cadence and inflection can be caught only by hearing them. Like the chants of the negro slaves, which they resemble in many respects, musical notes would give only the skeleton of the melody, which depends for its execution upon an element which it defies the powers of art to sym­bolize. They have various forms, — a continued and unbroken melody, as when turning the cap­stan or pumping, or they show an emphatic accen­tuation at regular intervals, as when stretching out a bowline with renewed pulls; and such as they are, they are given precisely as sung, with a de­pendence upon the reader's imagination to supply
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III