Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Clar de Kitchen" - quotes

"Negro Folk Expression: Spirituals, Seculars, Ballads and Work Songs" by Sterling Brown http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/brown/folkexpression.htm


Verses for reels made use of the favorite animals of the fables. "Brer Rabbit, Brer Rabbit, yo' eare mighty long; Yes, My Lord, they're put on wrong; Every little soul gonna shine; every little soul gonna shine!" Often power and pomp in the guise of the bullfrog and bulldog have the tables turned on them by the sassy blue-jay and crow:
A bullfrog dressed in soldier's clothes
Went in de field to shoot some crows,
De crows smell powder and flyaway,
De bullfrog mighty mad dat day.
Even the easy going ox or sheep or hog acquired characteristics:
De ole sow say to de boar
I'll tell you what let's do,
Let's go and git dat broad-axe
And die in de pig-pen too.
Die in de pig-pen fighting,
Die wid a bitin' jaw!
* * *

from Phylon (Winter 1953). NOTE: For a further selection of Brown's prose, see Sanders, Mark A. (ed.) A Son's Return: Selected Essays of Sterling A. Brown. Boston, Northeastern UP


American Humor: A Study of the National Character by Constance Rourke (1931)

Chapter III "That Long-Tail'd Blue" http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/Rourke/ch03.html


The songs and to a large extent the dances show Negro origins, though they were often claimed by white composers. Dan Emmett declared that he wrote "Ole Dan Tucker" as a boy of fifteen or sixteen, but this song of the older minstrelsy had a curious history for an independent piece of musical composition. The air resembles Negro airs; the chorus with its shouting dance refrain breaks away from the verses in the habitual manner of Negro choruses. And Emmett offered more than one version of the words in which appear those brief and cryptic bird and animal fables that have proved to be a consistent Negro creation--
Jaybird in de martin's nest,

To sabe his soul he got no rest.

Ole Tucker in de foxes' den,

Out come de young ones nine or ten.

High-hole in de holler tree,

He poke his bill in for to see,

De lizard cotch 'im by de snout,

He call for Tucker to pull 'im out.

In, another version of the song, a touch of woe is mingled in an odd colloquy--
Sheep an' hog a walkin' in de pasture,

Sheep says, "Hog, can't you go no faster?"

Hush! Hush! honey, hear de wolf a howlin',

Ah, ah, de Lawd, de bulldog growlin'.
Most of these fables contained a simple allegory: the crow was a comic symbol for the Negro himself, though he might at times take the form of a sheep or a hog, while the master or the overseer or the patrol-the "patter-roller"-was the bulldog or sometimes the bullfrog. The jaybird habitually took a sinister part, descending into hell on Fridays; and other birds and animals were freely drawn in symbolical relations. In "Clar de Kitchen," one of Rice's most popular dance-songs, a fragmentary bird and animal fable appears with triumph for the Negro submerged and disguised.
A jaybird sot on a hickory limb,

He winked at me and I winked at him,

I picked up a stone and I hit his shin,

Says he, you better not do that agin.

A bullfrog dressed in soger's close

Went in de field to shoot some crows,

De crows smell powder an' fly away,

De bullfrog mighty mad dat day.
In all these fables touches of satire were present, directed toward the white man, or toward the Negro himself when he figured as the lumbering hog or sheep, or gave himself wit as a fox. Self-parody appeared in such dances with bird calls as "Turkey in de Straw," which Emmett claimed, but which surely went back to a common dance of the Negro.

Rice and Emmett can only have borrowed the fables, probably with their tunes. Apparently neither had a gift for imitation of the Negro mode of story-telling, for they mixed such stanzas with others of their own composition, or at least plainly not of Negro origin. ...

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