Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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16                     FOLK SONG OF THE AMERICAN NEGRO.
Transmigration and Transition of Song.
"What bird is that? It's song is good."
I N the year of our Lord, one thousand six hundred and nineteen,, the same year that marks the birth of popular government on this western continent and only a short time before the Puritans, who had sacrificed home for conscience sake, landed at Plymouth Rock, there sailed up the James River a Dutch man-of-war. This ves�sel came to port at Jamestown, and there, in return for provisions, bartered to the settlers, twenty human beings, dark children of darker Africa. From what port or tribe they came is not known; the name of the ship as well as that of the ship's master, are also unknown. In fact, the only reliable information concerning the whole transac�tion is found in the chronicles of John Rolfe, the husband of Poca�hontas, which make mention of a "Dutch man-of-war who sold us twenty Negars." It is probable that these twenty "Negars" were snatched from some point on the west coast of Africa. That such an event, so full of mighty possibilities, should be so veiled in uncer�tainty, is itself a deep mystery and leads us straight into these lines of Cowper's:
"God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform."
The voyage had been long and wearisome; and to those children of the tropics, bound and fettered, it was like passing through the fires of purgatory. Then, too, everything was so new and overwhelming that their souls were plunged into abysmal despair. Many a time they had faced the spears of their enemies; many a time they had tasted the bitterness of defeat; they had struggled for life with the wild beasts of the forests; but now life had changed, and everything was so new, so strange; home was so far away in another world, that all its dearest relations had vanished into fading dreams, which, nevertheless, started bitter pangs of longings and sorrows that would not die. The past was dead, and freedom was no more. Henceforth they must serve