Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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children they accepted the sounds without inquiring into the sense, or gave them meanings of their own. Such terms as "iggle-quarter," "count-aquils" and "ginny-bank" in the working song "Ho, round the corn, Sally," may be corruptions of French words heard from the Huguenot refugees. (Unless, indeed, "iggle-quarter" be eagle-quarter, "ginny-bank," the Bank of Virginia, and the lines have a financial sense.) Others have a more or less obvious inter­pretation. "Oh, my body rock 'long fever" may have well been carried away from a sickroom as the remark of master or mistress: "My body has long been racked by a fever." "Body racked wid pain" is a line in one of the songs which I have printed—"O'er the Crossing." I cannot accept the interpretation of "Daniel rock de lion joy" as "Daniel racked the lion's jaw," given in a footnote of "Slave Songs"; "locked the lion's jaw" is too obviously the correct reading. "An' de nineteen wile in his han'" is pretty plainly indicated as once having read: "The anoint­ing oil in his hand" by the context, and "John sittin' on de golden order" was probably "John sitting on the golden altar"—a picture which could not fail to appeal to the fancy of the negroes, though I do not know where they found it.
The survival of words from African languages seems much smaller in the songs than in the folktales from Ba­hama which Professor Edwards prints in his book.1 As I have intimated, these words would naturally be retained in songs connected with superstitious ceremonies , and forbidden dances.
In his preface to "Slave Songs" Mr. Allen points out that "phonetic" decay had gone very far in the speech of the slaves, and with it "an extreme simplification of ety­mology and syntax." Th and v or f had been softened into d and b; v and w had been interchanged; words had been shorn of syllables which seemed redundant—as illus­trated in "lee' bro' " for "little brother." The letters n, v and r were sometimes used euphonically, perhaps to grat­ify a melodic sense, as the vowel a frequently was for 1 "Bahama Songs and Stories."
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