The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #128220   Message #3124259
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
29-Mar-11 - 02:36 PM
Thread Name: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
There's a typ-o in my lyrics transcription: "massa".

John M --

Nor have I been able to find anything on the song after poking around a little. And the usual translation to "minstrel language" phrases "I lub de blue mountains ob Tennessee" did nothing. Ha!


Thanks for booking a fare on my Doubting Harlow Train! :)

The lyrics really do sound "off." Actually, to put it in an unhelpful and subjective way: to me they just sound bad! You may be on to something in suspecting a later dating.

After this reading of Harlow, I got the feeling that perhaps most of his "negro" (not minstrel) shanties are labeled as such based on his profound experience and observations in Barbados on that one trip. Certainly all the songs labeled as "'Badian hand over hand" throughout the book are likely from that incident.

"Harlow's unreliable reconstruction" sounds like a good possibility. He wanted to give the song as he'd heard it in Barbados, but could not remember the exact wording. He used evocative lynchpins like "massa" and "pickaninny," but his efforts came out in his own, later language.

By his statement, "These words are of negro origin and different from those used by our crew", I'd guess that he presumed the song to be of Black origins due to its popularity with the Bajans. His own crew, I'd guess, picked up the song afterwards, but used different lyrics. Here, Harlow is attempting to recall what he believed were the original words.

FWIW the melody also sounds awkward to me in the way it fits the words. Certain melodic and rhythmic emphases don't seem as "natural" as they could be. Perhaps they are just unfamiliar, and from my current perspective I perceive them as less natural.