13 Jul

The Deep Deep Sea


“Oh, bury me not in the deep, deep sea,” these words came faint and mournfully,
From the pallid lips of a youth who lay on his cabin couch from day to day,
He had wasted and pined till o’er his brow the death shade slowly passed, and now,
When the land of his fond loved home was nigh they had gathered around to see him die.

For in fancy we listened to well-known words, the free wild winds and the songs of the birds,
“I had thought of home, of cot and bower, and of scenery I loved in childhood’s hour,
I had ever hoped to be laid when I died in the church-yard there on the green hill-side,
By the home of my father my grave should be. Oh, bury me not in the deep, deep sea.”

“Let my death slumbers be where a father’s prayer and a sister’s tears will be blended there,
Oh, it will be sweet ere the heart-throb is o’er to know where its fountains will gush no more,
Let those it so fondly has yearned for to come and plant wild flowers of spring on my tomb,
Let me lie where my loved ones will weep o’er me, oh, bury me not in the deep, deep sea.”

And there is another that tears shall shed for him that lies in the cold ocean bed,
“In hours that it pains me to think of now she hath twined these locks and kissed the brow,
In the hair she wreathed will the sea-serpent hiss, the brow she pressed will the cold wave kiss,
For the sake of that bright one who waits for me, oh, bury me not in the deep, deep sea.”

“She hath been in my dreams…” His voice failed there, they gave no heed to his dying prayer,
They lowered him slow o’er the vessel’s side and above him closed the dark blue tide,
Where to dip her wing the sea fowl rests, where the blue waves dance with their foaming crest,
Where the billows bound and the winds sport free, oh, bury me not in the deep, deep sea.

____________
I had had a string of inquiries lately about this song which Randy Gosa and I recorded on our Falling of the Pine album so it seemed like a good time to cover it in this column. The above version is closely based on one collected from Sarah Neilson of Hoople, North Dakota in the early 1920s by Franz Rickaby. Hoople is about 60 miles northwest of Grand Forks and about as far away as one can get from the deep, deep sea!

The song began as a poem called “The Ocean Buried” first published in 1839 and written by American Universalist preacher Edwin Hubbell Chapin on the east coast. It was later set to music by George N. Allen and distributed widely as a song sheet in the eastern US. The song entered oral tradition in New England and Atlantic Canada and eventually became the model for another widespread folk song “Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie.” Interestingly, Neilson (born in Canada) did not sing Allen’s (rather bland in my opinion) melody but rather a variant of the beautiful tune associated with “The Parting Glass.”

27 Dec

What a Time on the Way (Revisited)

Now that the harvest days are through,
To old D-kotey we will bid you adieu,
Back to the jack pines we will go,
To haul these saw logs in the snow.  

Fol-da-lee-dle-o, fol-da-lee-dle-ay,
Hi-fol-da-lo, what a time on the way.

Now you might say that we felt big,
We were in a silver mounted rig,                          
For Akeley town we hoisted our sails,        
They all thought we were the Prince of Wales.

Neddy he’s a splendid cook,
Always stops beside some brook,
Scrambled eggs three times a day,
Lotsa bread and a big cuppa tay.

We jogged along til we came through,
There we met with the rest of the crew,
Handsome boys both young and stout,
The pick of the town there is no doubt.

Into the buggy we jerked our boots,
You can bet our teamster fed long oats,
As to the camp we drove along,
We all joined up in a sing song.

We stayed all winter ‘til we got through,
And started home with the same old crew.
Now we’re home, we got our pay,
We think of the time that we had on the way.

——–

“What a Time on the Way” was one of only two songs Gordon recorded from Israel Lawrence Phillips (1883-1967) who lived near Akeley, Minnesota. Israel was the son of Reuben Phillips who was also recorded by Gordon.

Israel was the first of his farming family to come to Minnesota from Iowa around 1910. He settled south of Akeley near Chamberlain. The Red River Lumber Company, whose sawmill was in Akeley, was quite active at the time so it is likely that Israel worked for them in some capacity. The mention of heading back to haul “saw logs in the snow” after working on the harvest in “old D-kotey” matches the common practice of balancing seasonal harvest work in the Dakotas with a winter job in the pineries of northern Minnesota. Lumberjack Ed Springstead of Bemidji told Franz Rickaby in 1923 that “Harvesting in Dakota was about as common a practice for the lumber jacks… …as lumbering in the winter for the farmer boys.”

Like most songs in the collection, Gordon only recorded two verses of Phillips’ version. Unlike most other songs Gordon collected, he unfortunately did not obtain a manuscript version to flesh out the full text. I featured Gordon’s two verse fragment (verses one and three above) in the October 2013 Northwoods Songs. To create the longer version above, I adapted some verses from similar songs collected in Ontario by Edith Fowke.

Special thanks to everyone that has supported The Lost Forty Project this year!  Please consider taking the Minnesota Folksong Challenge and learning a song yourself!

14 Oct

What a Time on the Way


What a Time On the Way

Neddy he’s a splendid cook,
Always stops beside some brook,
Scrambled eggs three times a day,
Lotsa bread and a big cuppa tay,
And a fol-da-lee-dle-o, fol-da-lee-dle-ay,
Hi-fol-da-lo, what a time on the way.

Now that the harvest days are through,
To old D-kotey we will bid you adieu,
Back to the jack pines we will go,
To haul these saw logs in the snow.
And a fol-da-lee-dle-o, fol-da-lee-dle-ay,
Hi-fol-da-lo, what a time on the way.

______________________________________________________________

Folklorist Robert Winslow Gordon could not resist making a few song-collecting detours as he traveled from Berkeley, California to a new job at Harvard in 1924. He later recalled that he had spent “too much time on the way, especially in Northern Minnesota, where I got a number of good things.” The good things he got were several recordings of songs sung by of members of the Phillips family of Akeley, Minnesota.

Gordon recorded the above song fragment from Israel Lawrence [Lorentz] Phillips (1883-1967). It is quite similar in content and, to some extent, melody to another song called “How We Got Up to the Woods Last Year” that was collected in Ontario and Michigan.  “What a Time on the Way” references the common practice among itinerant young men to work the harvest in the Dakotas (here referred to as “old D-kotey”) before returning to a winter job in a Minnesota logging camp.

This song’s chorus also brings to mind one of the earliest accounts I have found of lumber camp singing in Minnesota. Any aficionado of traditional folk song will be familiar with the type of nonsense syllables (“fol-da-lee-dle-o,” etc.) here. Perhaps it was a similar chorus that confused J. M. Tuttle of Harpers New Monthly Magazine who witnessed the evening activities in “Moses’s Camp” near the East Branch of the Rum River in March 1867:

Thirty fine-looking, healthy, robust, well-behaved men sat down at the supper-table, and who, when their appetites were sated, broke up the evening in various ways. Some mended their clothes, some darned their socks, some, using the sinews of the deer, obtained of the Indians, for thread, repaired their moccasins, while others employed their time in reading. The hours were relieved, too, by a little entertainment in the shape of music and dancing.  One young man, who had swung the axe all day, rosined up his bow and gave us few lively airs on his fiddle, while two other logmen, who had tramped in twelve inches of snow since the early morn, engaged in a “double shuffle,” or something of the kind, on one of the planks of the floor.  A pleasant-voiced son of Erin sang two or three songs, substituting simple musical sounds where he was unable to recall the words. Others still filled the intervals between the music with conversation on a variety of topics, breaking out now and then in loud, hearty laughter.

(J. M. Tuttle, Harpers New Monthly Magazine Vol 36 Issue 214“Minnesota Pineries” edited by Henry Mills Alden, March 1868)