The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #128220   Message #3182004
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
05-Jul-11 - 04:16 PM
Thread Name: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
1843 [Dec.]        Unknown. "Sketches of East-Florida (Part Three)." _The Knickerbocker_ 22(6) (Dec. 1843). 560-567.

This section of these "sketches" is speaking generally about travel to St. Augustine, but from earlier parts one gets the sense that the author's experiences came from 1836, perhaps up through the publication date (1843).

There are references to Black workers singing while threshing, described as "sad and wild." In Savannah, the singing of cotton-stowers is mentioned. The author only mentions Black slave workers. In other words, the interaction with workers of other ethnicities, which might have led to the exchange giving birth to some chanties, is not there. One possible explanation is that Savannah was a different "scene" from the Gulf. However, another fascinating, possible explanation is that non-Blacks had yet to join this work. When Gosse wrote about 1838, he didn't mention other ethnicities. The observations of C. Erskine and Nordhoff, where European sailors were taking part, did not come until at least 1845. Here, the author is talking about 1836-1843. So one speculate that it was the early 1840s when Euro/American workers began to join in cotton-stowing.

But we have forgotten St. Augustine.,,The pleasantest route is by way of Savannah, …
On the edge of the bluff, which looks down upon the rice-fields and the river, there is a small circular opening in the live-oaks; and standing about that circle, are fifty to a hundred blacks threshing out rice. There are old men and women, and young men and maidens, and all varieties of dress, …all with a head-dress of some kind, and all singing whatever happens to be the impromptu of the occasion The boys question and the girls answer in a kind of chant, and this is repeated opera-fashion once or twice, when the young and old all join in a regular break-down, and then the flails come down all as one, and exact as the bow-tip of an orchestra-leader. The young girl sings with a roguish cast of the eye, and a smile on her lip, but the old men, and the old hags of women, how frantic they look as they burst into the chorus! Here and there is an old African, who hardly knows what it all means, but with a guess at the subject, he joins in with his native lingo, and his notes are as well timed and unearthly as the best of them. The song may affect to be lively and joyous, but it is not so. There is something so sad and wild about it, that I defy any one who knows the tones of the heart, to look on and listen without something of a shudder. …and on the other side of the group is an old, blind, gray-headed negro sitting in the straw, …Occasionally he starts, as though he heard and understood the song of the threshers, and with a fling of his arms, as if there again at his old post, he breaks out with some old, forgotten ditty,…
In this lounging way a day or two passes pleasantly, during which the ship has drifted up to Savannah, …The wide street that opens to the south (every one knows how beautiful are the streets in Savannah) leads past a cemetery, where of course it is very still and solemn, but it is equally so in every other, save the one that skirts the river bank; and even there the cawing of the crows a mile distant over the river comes to the ear as distinctly as in the shut-up mountains of the Highlands. Fifty feet below are the outwardbound ships, stowing away their cotton for the East, and from their gloomy depths comes up the half-smothered, never-ending song of the negro slave. All day long you may hear the same monotonous, melancholy cry, a little exaggerated as the labor varies; …