The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #13592   Message #1304442
Posted By: Haruo
22-Oct-04 - 10:53 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Rosin the Beau parodies
Subject: Lyr Add: The Tale of Two Cities

The Tale of Two Cities (1898)

Lyrics by Jessie Lee (Reno) Odlin

On the banks of the Mighty Skagit,
In the haunts of the Siwash and slug.
Some time in the early eighties,
Rose a brisk little town, called Bug.

There are tales of the valor and prowess,
Of those knights of the saw and the ax,
Who made through the forest primeval
The first irretraceable tracks,

There are tales of soul-stirring adventure;
Of bears that were bigger than barns;
Of salmon with whalelike proportions—
But I cannot spin all these yarns.

Soon the little town grew so pretentious,
That it no longer fitted its name;
So out of regard for the cedars,
It finally Sedro became.

Now, to the northwestward of Sedro,
Rose Woolley; and lo! there began,
A strife that was long and unhappy—
Raging fiercely, as clan against clan

But Woolley kept creeping southeastward,
And Sedro kept growing northwest
Till it became clear to all people
That peaceable union was best.

So they formally buried the hatchet
And all was henceforward serene;
The two became Sedro-Woolley,
With only a hyphen between.

And I sing of a glorious future,
Well worthy the deeds of the past:
3 cheers for our own Sedro-Woolley,
Long may its prosperity last!

I learned this poem in the early 1960's from my mother and uncle, who had moved away from Sedro-Woolley during the Depression, while they were in their teens. I learned it as a poem, not a song, and it wasn't until the advent of the Internet that I learned the author's name. I learned it without the last stanza, and with several other minor differences in wording (see the HTML code at the linked page for hidden version notes). I was also not aware until fairly recently of the derogatory sense in which "Siwash" was often, perhaps usually, employed by whites. I recommend singing it with a native pronunciation ("shawash") to ameliorate its racist overtones (it is, natively pronounced, the normal Chinuk Wawa term for "Indian"). I began singing the text to "Old Rosin the Beau" on my own, but subsequently discovered it was sung to that tune already in Sedro-Woolley (including in the schools there).
Notes: Siwash: This was a local ethnonym, denotatively synonymous with "(American) Indian". Etymologically, it is derived from French sauvage, via Chinook Jargon (where it is properly shawash), and when used in English by Euroamericans (such as, decidedly, Jessie Odlin) it was presumptively derogatory. Cf. redskin.
Bug: According to local historian Noel Bourasaw, originally the founder of Sedro, Mortimer Cook, wanted to name the town "Cook", but Washington Territory already had one of those, so he named it "Bug" in honor of the mosquitos; later, under pressure from his wife and neighbors, he amended the name to "Cedra", which soon of its own accord became "Sedro".