English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians

122 Songs and Ballads, and 323 Tunes With Lyrics & sheet Music - online book

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of the obsequiousness of manner which, since the Enclosure Acts robbed him of his economic independence and made of him a hired labourer, has unhappily characterized the English villager. The difference is seen in the way the mountaineer, as I have already said, upon meeting a stranger, removes his hat, offers his hand and enters into conversation, where the English labourer would touch his cap," or pull his forelock, and pass on.
A few of those we met were able to read and write, but the majority were illiterate. They are, however, good talkers, using an abundant vocabulary racily and often picturesquely. Although uneducated, in the sense in which that term is usually understood, they possess that elemental wisdom, abundant knowledge and intuitive understanding which those only who live in constant touch with Nature and face to face with reality seem to be able to acquire. It is to be hoped that the schools which are beginning to be established in some districts, chiefly in the vicinity of the Missionary Settlements, will succeed in giving them what they lack without infecting their ideals, or depriving them of the charm of manner and the many engaging qualities which so happily distinguish them.
Physically, they are strong and of good stature, though usually spare in figure. Their features are clean-cut and often handsome; while their complexions testify to wholesome, out-of-door habits. They carry themselves superbly, and it was a never-failing delight to note their swinging, easy gait and the sureness with which they would negotiate the foot-logs over the creeks, the crossing of which caused us many anxious moments. The children usually go about barefooted, and, on occasion their elders too, at any rate in the summer time. Like all primitive peoples, or those who live under primitive conditions, they attain to physical maturity at a very early age, especially the women, with whom marriage at thirteen, or even younger, is not unknown.
I have been told that in past days there were blood-feuds—a species of vendetta—which were pursued for generations between members of certain families or clans; but, whenever circumstances connected with these were related to me, I was always given to understand that this barbarous custom had long since been discontinued. I have heard, too, that there is a good deal of illicit distilling of corn spirit by "moonshiners", as they are called, in defiance of the State excise laws; but of this, again, I personally saw nothing and heard but little. Nor did I see any con­sumption of alcohol in the houses I visited. On the other hand, the chewing or snuffing of tobacco is a common habit amongst young and old; but, curiously enough, no one smokes. Indeed, many looked