Negro Folk Rhymes Wise & Otherwise - online book

A detailed study of Negro folk music, includes lyrics & sheet music samples.

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"Steal away to Jesus, I hain't sot long to stay here." Late in the afternoons when the slaves on any plan­tation sang it, it served as a notice to slaves on other plantations that a secret religious meeting was to be held that night at the place formerly mutually agreed upon for meetings.
Now here is where the parody comes in under the Negro standard: To the slave master the words meant that his good, obedient slaves wTere only study­ing how to be good and to get along peaceably, be­cause they considered, after all, that their time upon earth was short and not of much consequence; but to the listening Negro it meant both a notification of a meeting and slaves disobedient enough to go where they wanted to go. To the listening master it meant that the Negro was thinking of what a short time it would be before he would die and leave the earth, but to the listening slaves it meant that he was thinking of how short a time it would be before he left the cotton field for a pleasant religious meet­ing. All these meanings were truly literally present but the meaning apparent depended upon the view­point of the listener. It wTas composed thus, so that if the master suspected the viewpoint of the slave hearers, the other viewpoint, intended for him,, might be held out in strong relief.