American Ballads and Songs

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distinguishes the serious songs of our own day, in contrast with those popular earlier, is their "glad" note, their optimistic endeavor to look on the bright side of things; this is evidenced by such songs as Smile, Smile, Smile, or Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag. There was a stronger military note in the songs emerging from earlier American wars; and the zest for fighting which was characteristic of the songs of mediaeval wars is somewhat conspicuously wanting in the songs popularized by the war which has passed.
When set over against Old-World texts brought together by collectors, the American texts of the same songs seem noticeable for their brevity. Possibly the same curtailment might be apparent for British texts of the present, when compared with their earlier coun­terparts; but it is certain that existing American variants show marked abridgment alongside the versions current across the Atlantic. Even when an immigrant piece has not been shortened as to the number of its stanzas or lines, there is likely to be loss in the details of narration. That there is no shrinkage in length may be the result merely of garrulous pro­traction or repetition, arising as essential features are lost. The American tendency toward brevity may be viewed as the result of the decaying influence of time and migration; or it may be looked upon as part of the general trend toward shortening seen in the drama, the essay, and prose fiction, as well as in verse narratives. Neither twentieth century singers nor twentieth century audiences have the patience and the sustained interest which were characteristic of days less hurried and eager for variety. When every­thing else has been shortened or is in the process of shortening, it should not be surprising that folk-songs have shortened too.