Familiar Songs - Their Authors & Histories

300 traditional songs, inc sheet music with full piano accompaniment & lyrics.

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George P. Morris's songs have in them the something which lives in the memory and the heart. They seem like happy accidents of a mind that could arrange and make available the talent of other men, rather than originate. General Morris was best known as a successful editor of journals of polite literature, when our country most needed such journalism. He is inseparably associated with N. P. Wilhs, with whom he conducted the Mirror, the New Mirror, and the Home Journal. Samuel Woodworth, whose " Old Oaken Bucket" is founded on the same sentiments that make Mr. Morris's songs popular, started the Mirror with him, when Morris was but twenty-one years old; but Woodworth very soon left the firm. General Morris was born in Philadelphia, October 10, 1802, but his life is entirely associated with New York City, where he died July 6, 1864.
The following is his own account of the way in which "Woodman, Spare that Tree" came to be written: " Riding out of town a few days since, in company with a friend, who was once the expectant heir of the largest estate in America, but over whose worldly prospects a blight has recently come, he invited me to turn down a little romantic wood­land pass, not far from Bloomingdale. 'Your object?' inquired I. 'Merely to look once more at an old tree planted by my grandfather, near a cottage that was once my father's.' ' The place is yours, then V said I. 'No, my poor mother sold it,'— and I observed a slight quiver of the lip, at the recollection. ' Bear mother!' resumed my companion, ' we passed many, many happy days in that old cottage; but it is nothing to me now. Father, mother, sisters, cottage—all are gone!' After a moment's pause he added, 'Bon't think me foolish. I don't know how it is, I never ride out but I turn down this lane to look at that old tree. I have a thousand recollections about it, and I always greet it as a familiar and well-remembered friend. In the by-gone summer-time it was a friend indeed. Its leaves are all off now, so you won't see it to advantage, for it is a glorious old fellow in summer, but I like it full as well in winter-time.' These words were scarcely uttered, when my com­panion cried out, ' There it is!' Near the tree stood an old man, with his coat off, sharp­ening an axe. He was the occupant of the cottage. 'What do you intend doing?' asked my friend, in great anxiety. 'What is that to you?' was the blunt reply. 'You are not going to cut that tree down, surely ?' 'Yes, I am, though/ said the woodman. ' What for?' inquired my companion, almost choked with emotion. 'What for? Why, because I think proper to do so. What for ? I like that! Well, I'll tell you what for. This tree makes my dwelling unhealthy; it stands too near the house. It renders us liable to fever-
and-ague. ' Who told you that?' 'Dr. S-----.' 'Have you any other reason for wishing
it cut down ?' ' Yes,—I am getting old; the woods are a great way off, and this tree is of some value to me to burn.' He was soon convinced, however, that the story about the fever-and-ague was a mere fiction, for there had never been a case of that disease in the neighborhood; and was then asked what the tree was worth for firewood. ' Why, when it's down, about ten dollars.' ' Suppose I make you a present of that amount, will you let it stand?' 'Yes.' 'You are sure of that?' 'Positive.' 'Then give me a bond to that effect.' I drew it up, it was witnessed by his daughter, the money was paid, and we left the place with an assurance from the young girl, who looked as smiling and beautiful as a Hebe, that the tree should stand as long as she lived."
Henry Russell composed the appropriate melody, and the tree which the woodman had spared was crowned with undying greenery. He says: " After I had sung the noble ballad of 'Woodman, spare that tree,' at Boulogne, an old gentleman among the audience, who was greatly moved by the simple and touching beauty of the words, rose and said, ' I beg your pardon, Mr. Russell, but was the tree really spared ?' ' It was,' said I. ' I am very glad to hear it,' said he, as he took his seat amidst the applause of the whole assem­bly. I never saw such excitement in anv concert-room."