Afro-American Folksongs - online book

A Study In Racial And National Music, With Sample Sheet Music & Lyrics.

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I ask de Lord how long I hold 'em— Roll, Jordan, roll!
My sins so heavy I can't get along. Ah! Roll, Jordan, roll!
I cast my sins in de middle ob de sea-Roll, Jordan, roll!
Here the second:
Hurry on, my weary'soul—
And I yearde from heaven to-day! My sin is forgiven and my soul set free—
And I yearde from heaven to-day! A baby born in Bethlehem—
And I yearde from heaven to-dayl De trumpet sound in de odder bright land—
And I yearde from heaven to-day! My name is called and I must go—
And I yearde from heaven to-day! De bell is a-ringin' in de odder bright world—
And I yearde from heaven to-dayl
Relics of ancient ceremonies connected with death and burial have survived amongst the American negroes and have been influential in producing some strangely beautiful and impressive songs. One of these, "Dig My Grave" (see page 104), from the Bahamas, where the songs, though they have much community of both poetical and musical phrase with them, yet show a higher development than do the slave songs of the States, is peculiarly impressive. The first period of its melody—it might be called tripartite —is fairly Schumannesque in breadth and dignity. An­other, "I Look o'er Yander (see page 105), is not com­parable with it from a musical point of view, but derives peculiar interest from the ceremony with which it is associated. This function is one of those which I call a relic of ancient ceremonies, because, like the peculiar idioms of the melodies, it cannot have been copied from any of the funeral rites which the slaves saw among their white masters, but does show affinity with Old World and oldtime ceremonies.
Like the ancient Romans, the slaves were in the habit of burying their dead at night. Like their savage ancestors in Africa, they expressed their sorrow in nocturnal song. It is remotely possible, too, that once they indulged in funeral dances, even in such wild orgies as travellers have described. These dances, like most others, have passed
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