The tune and lyrics in the Digital Tradition are from Songs of the Great American West, by Silber and Robinson. I checked the tune and lyrics with the book, and found it's a pretty accurate transcription. The lyrics are almost exactly the same in Katie Lee's Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, and in Folksinger's Wordbook (Silber & Silber). I found the song in one other book, Cowboy and Western Songs (Austin and Alta Fife). the Fife book has the same lyrics that are in the DT, but it also has this alternate version. The Fifes identify this second text as Hendren 131 (I don't know what that means), which they say was encountered in Idaho.
SPANISH IS THE LOVING TONGUE
I learned Spanish from a girl
Who lived down Sonora way,
Sparkling eyes as black as jet,
Hair as fine as softest spray.
I don't claim to be a lover
Conquering hearts the whole world over,
There's but one whose heart I won,
Mi amor, mi corazon.
'Neath the mellow yellow moon
We would meet and part too soon,
We'd converse in tones so low
So the madre wouldn't know.
Oft I kissed her lips so tender,
Little stars blinked on in wonder,
While the gentle breeze would moan,
"Mi amor, mi corazon."
While señora nodded near
We would meet where none could hear,
Whispering love as we sat there
While the moonbeams kissed her hair.
Tender were her words of greeting,
How my heart would start stampeding,
I still hear her tender tone,
"Adios, mi corazon."
'Twas a foolish gambling fight
That took place that starry night,
Had to say a swift goodbye,
So we parted, she and I.
On the breeze her words were ringing,
I still feel her arms a-clinging,
I still hear her pleading tone,
Adios, mi corazon.
Oft I long to go back where
I can touch her violet hair,
Kiss her lips as soft as down,
Tell her that my love lives on.
If I dared to cross the border,
They'd hang me in just short order,
Never more we'll be alone,
Adios, mi corazon.
Q and I have found a variety of tunes for this song. As I said before, the tune in the Digital Tradition is from Silber & Robinson, Songs of the Great American West:
Click to play (Silber/Robinson)
Q sent me a scan of the tune from John White's book Git Along Little Dogies (Songs and songmakers of the American West):
Click to play (White)
The Fife book has a tune that is completely different, very similar to the one we all learned from the Ian and Sylvia recording:
Click to play (Fife)
The Katie Lee book has yet another tune, derived from the tune I found in Fife:
Click to play (Lee)
Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song:
Spanish Is the Loving Tongue (A Border Affair)DESCRIPTION: The singer tells of his love for (and language lessons from) a Mexican girl. "But one time I had to fly For a foolish gambling fight." Though the affair may have been a mistake, he still misses her and her farewell, "Adios, mi corazon."
AUTHOR: Words: Charles Badger Clark
EARLIEST DATE: 1920
KEYWORDS: love separation abandonment gambling fight foreigner
FOUND IN: US(Ro,SW)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Fife-Cowboy/West 52, "Border Affair" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Darling-NAS, pp. 278-279, "Spanish Is a Loving Tongue" (1 text)
Silber-FSWB, p. 141, "Spanish Is The Loving Tongue" (1 text)
Pete Seeger, "Spanish is the Loving Tongue" (on PeteSeeger30)
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The Ballad Index Copyright 2003 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.