Monday, April 22, 2013

Some campaign songs for Henry Clay to the tune of "Rosin the Bow"

See also my posts of 2009 on the history, sources and variants of "Old Rosin the Bow" (along with "St. Patrick Was a Gentleman") and the lyrics of "When Sherman Marched Down to the Sea" ("Our campfires shone bright on the mountains, / That frown'd on the river below ..."), written in 1865 by an officer of the 5th Iowa Cavalry to the same tune.

Carl Sandburg, in his introduction to "Lincoln and Liberty Too" in the American Songbag, notes that the tune of "Old Rosin the Bow" was first used for campaign songs when Henry Clay ran for president on the Whig ticket in 1844. He quotes this fulsome example of the political songster's art:

So, freemen, come on to the rally,
This motto emblazons your crest:
that lone star of Hope yet is shining,
It lightens the skies of the West.
Hark! freedom peals far in her thunder,
Her lightning no force can arrest,
She drives the foul army asunder.
"Hail, gallant old Hal of the West!
Edifying, huh? But not all the political ditties went in for elevated rhetoric. Sandburg adds that when Horace Greeley ran against U.S. Grant in later years, "Then let Greeley go to the dickens, too soon he has counted his chickens" (American Songbag 167).

Other songs for Clay's unsuccessful presidential campaign, with political lyrics set to popular melodies of the day, were collected in The Clay Minstrel; or, National Songster, published jointly by Greeley's New York Tribune and a Whig publisher in Philadelphia. Excerpts and sound files available on line at Northern Illinois University's National Political Campaign Materials, 1840-1860 website (if you have the right software to play the sound files).

Screen shot below of one of the songs from The Clay Minstrel; or, National Songster: To Which is Prefixed a Sketch of the Life, Public Services, and Character of Henry Clay, ed. John Stockton Littell (New York and Philadelphia, 1843). (Google eBook):


scott davidson said...
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Pete said...

What pretty designs, the screen shots? Looks like spam to me.