Legend

Ralph Stanley at home, Coeburn, Virginia, 1974; photograph from Henry Horenstein, Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music, 2012.
Ralph Stanley at home, Coeburn, Virginia, 1974; photograph from Henry Horenstein, Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music, 2012.

I’m thankful that I have lived long enough to become a legend, and I hope I deserve it.

Ralph Stanley, 25 February 1927 – 23 June 2016.

So Bid Farewell

The Idiot.
Stan Rogers.

I often take these nightshift walks when the foreman’s not around.
I turn my back on the cooling stacks and make for open ground.
Far out beyond the tank-farm fence where the gas-flare makes no sound,
I forget the stink and I always think back to that Eastern town.

I remember back six years ago, this Western life I chose.
And every day, the news would say some factory’s going to close.
Well, I could have stayed to take the dole, but I’m not one of those.
I take nothing free, and that makes me an idiot, I suppose.

So I bid farewell to the Eastern town I never more will see;
But work I must, so I eat this dust and breathe refinery.
Oh I miss the green and the woods and streams, and I don’t like cowboy clothes,
But I like being free, and that makes me an idiot, I suppose.

So come all you fine young fellows who’ve been beaten to the ground.
This western life’s no paradise, but it’s better than lying down.
Oh, the streets aren’t clean, and there’s nothing green, and the hills are dirty brown,
But the government dole will rot your soul back there in your home town.

So bid farewell to the Eastern town you never more will see.
There’s self-respect and a steady cheque in this refinery.
You will miss the green and the woods and streams and the dust will fill your nose.
But you’ll be free, and — just like me — an idiot, I suppose.

A Disgraceful Race

We soon learned all the particulars of the memorable battle; how the festive congressmen had come with their wives, daughters, and sweethearts, on the outskirts of the army, seated in luxurious carriages, with hampers packed with champagne and all good things, to regale themselves withal, as from a safe place they would view the triumphant career of their Invincibles as they made the rebels bite the dust, and then to march over their traitorous corpses to Richmond. There, there was to be a grand ball; ladies had provided themselves with magnificent dresses, certainly expecting, after the battle was over, and the rebels were wiped out, to proceed serenely on their way to the Confederate Capital without meeting an obstacle.

When the “rebels” had been reinforced by the arch-rebels, Johnston and Jackson, with their wornout but gallant men, and when the Federals with their splendid army had turned and were frantically flying before those same “rebels,” they cared for nothing but to get away. The flight of that panic-stricken mob has often been described, and by many pens, none however so graphic as that which after treating of their disgraceful race, styled them the “Bull Runners”; the London Punch was, I believe, the author of that appropriate name.

Cornelia Peake McDonald, A Diary with Reminiscences of the War and Refugee Life in the Shenandoah Valley, 1860-1865.

FLIGHT OF DOODLES.

I come from old Manassas with a pocketful of fun,
I killed forty Yankees with a single barreled gun;
It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Big Yankee, little Yankee, all run or die!

I saw all the Yankees at Bull Run,
They fought like the devil when the battle first begun.
But it don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
They took to their heels, boys — you oughta seen ’em fly!

I saw Old Fuss-and-Feathers Scott, twenty miles away,
His horses both stuck up their ears — you oughta hear ’em neigh;
But it don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Old Scott fled like the devil, boys — root hog or die!

I then saw a “Tiger” from the Old Cresecent City,
He cut down the Yankees without any pity;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
We whipped the Yankee boys and made the boobies cry.

I saw South Carolina, the first in The Cause,
Shake the dirty Yankees till she broke all their jaws;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
South Carolina give ’em hell, boys — root hog or die!

I saw old Virginia, standing firm and true,
She fought mighty hard to whip a mighty dirty crew;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Old Virginia’s blood and thunder — root hog or die!

I saw old Georgia, the next in the van,
She cut down the Yankees almost to a man;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Georgia fought the fight, boys — root hog or die!

I saw Alabama in the middle of the storm,
She stood like a giant in the contest so warm;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Alabama fought the Yankees, boys, till the last one did fly!

I saw Texas go in with a smile,
But I tell you what it is, she made the Yankees bile.
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Texas is the devil, boys — root hog or die!

I saw North Carolina in the deepest of the battle.
She knocked down the Yankees and made their bones rattle;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
North Carolina’s got the grit, boys — root hog or die!

Old Florida came in with a terrible shout,
She frightened all the Yankees till their eyes stuck out;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Florida’s death on Yankees, boys — root hog or die!

— Anonymous.

Those Who Never Knew

In speaking of the rock and roll genre, I certainly do not want to be lumped with those preachers who once condemned Ragtime music, or even Chesterton who in an unmeasured moment called Jazz “the song of the treadmill.” But I am a pastor of a section of Manhattan called Hell’s Kitchen. I recently had the funeral of a young man who died of a drug overdose, and whose musical world was Corybantic. His cousin, a client of the rock and drug scene, is in prison for murder. So I speak not only as an aesthete who publicly avows that he prefers Mozart and Chopin to Jackson and Bowie, but as a priest who has to pick up the pieces of those who never knew they had a choice. And I object to comfortable prelates in a higher realm, penning panegyrics for the doyens of a culture that destroys my children.

Fr. George W. Rutler, “A Misplaced Grief,” Crisis Magazine, 13 January 2016.

A Regular and General Musical Education

Sheet Music: Dixie’s Land, c. 1859, by Daniel Decatur Emmett, Virginia Historical Society, Mss2 Em 645 a1.
Sheet Music: Dixie’s Land, c. 1859, by Daniel Decatur Emmett, Virginia Historical Society, Mss2 Em 645 a1.

No one can tell us, we verily believe, why vocal music ought not to be a branch of common school education in Virginia, just as much as in Prussia. A resolution that it should be so, entered into this day, by those who have power to carry their resolutions into execution, would be a greater blessing to the State, we verily believe, than either of the railroads which have been chartered, or have received legislative donation this winter. It would be a direct contribution to the children of the land, of a large mass of solid enjoyment, of an innocent character, and worth more to them than an ingot to each, massy as they could bear home, of Californian gold. But we know our country too well to hope that such is going to be case very soon. It will probably be long, before that very obvious idea, very obvious when distinctly looked at, that music is a branch of common education, and one of the most valuable branches, will be admitted into the craniums of the old-world people, — health and long life to their honours! — who yet linger among us, and who are averse to one-half the means and instrumentalities of a genuine civilization, either as sinful things, or as new and proud inventions. In default of a regular and general musical education, such as ought to be given to both sexes, let us try diligently the best practical means — singing schools — if the teacher be not a stray Yankee — singing societies, singing classes of all descriptions. There are no happier re-unions of young people than such. Southern Literary Messenger, Volume XIX, no. 2, April 1853 (Richmond, Virginia).

Barefooted Tatterdemalions

Woodcut depicting James Rivington being hanged in effigy, as it appeared in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer, April 20, 1775.
Woodcut depicting James Rivington being hanged in effigy, as it appeared in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer, April 20, 1775.

It cannot have escaped the notice of the most inattentive observer, that this country has been brought to its present state of distress and confusion, chiefly by the art and industry of pretended patriots, both in England and America, who were stimulated by indigence, avarice, or ambition, to embroil the government, and mislead the people. The Pennsylvania Ledger or the Philadelphia Market-Day Advertiser, February 28, 1778.

THE REBELS (1778)
(sung to the tune: Black Joak)

THE REBELS.

YE brave, honest subjects, who dare to be loyal,
And have stood the brunt of every trial,
Of hunting-shirts, and rifle-guns:
Come listen awhile, and I’ll sing you a song;
I’ll show you, those Yankees are all in the wrong,
Who, with blustering look and most awkward gait,
‘Gainst their lawful sovereign dare for to prate,
With their hunting-shirts, and rifle-guns.

The arch-rebels, barefooted tatterdemalions,
In baseness exceed all other rebellions,
With their hunting-shirts, and rifle-guns.
To rend the empire, the most infamous lies,
Their mock-patriot Congress, do always devise;
Independence, like the first of rebels, they claim,
But their plots will be damn’d in the annals of fame,
With their hunting-shirts, and rifle-guns.

Forgetting the mercies of Great Britain’s king,
Who saved their forefathers’ necks from the string;
With their hunting-shirts, and rifle-guns.
They renounce allegiance and take up their arms,
Assemble together like hornets in swarms,
So dirty their backs, and so wretched their show,
That carrion-crow follows wherever they go,
With their hunting-shirts, and rifle-guns.

With loud peals of laughter, your sides, sirs, would crack,
To see General Convict and Colonel Shoe-black,
With their hunting-shirts, and rifle-guns.
See cobblers and quacks, rebel priests and the like,
Pettifoggers and barbers, with sword and with pike,
All strutting, the standard of Satan beside,
And honest names using, their black deeds to hide.
With their hunting-shirts, and rifle-guns.

This perjured banditti, now ruin this land,
And o’er its poor people claim lawless command,
With their hunting-shirts, and rifle-guns.
Their pasteboard dollars, prove a common curse,
They don’t chink like silver and gold in our purse;
With nothing their leaders have paid their debts off,
Their honor’s, dishonor, and justice they scoff,
With their hunting-shirts, and rifle-guns.

For one lawful ruler, many tyrants we’ve got,
Who force young and old to their wars, to be shot,
With their hunting-shirts, and rifle-guns.
Our good king, God speed him ! never usèd men so,
We then could speak, act, and like freemen could go;
But committees enslave us, our Liberty’s gone,
Our trade and church murder’d; our country’s undone,
By hunting-shirts, and rifle-guns.

Come take up your glasses, each true loyal heart,
And may every rebel meet his due dessert,
With his hunting-shirt, and rifle-gun.
May Congress, Conventions, those damn’d inquisitions,
Be fed with hot sulphur, from Lucifer’s kitchens,
May commerce and peace again be restored,
And Americans own their true sovereign lord.
Then oblivion to shirts, and rifle-guns.
God save the King.

(Originally published in The Pennsylvania Ledger, 1778.)
Lyrics: Captain Smyth, Simcoe’s Queen’s Rangers.

This is Your Flag

Recruitment poster for the 207th (Ottawa-Carleton) Battalion, CEF.
Recruitment poster for the 207th (Ottawa-Carleton) Battalion, CEF.

This is your flag — Fight for it.

This slogan of the 207th has
been made the title of a
stirring song dedicated to
the 207th Battalion — Read it —

Words by Miss Esther Knott.
Music by Donald Heins.

How would you care to see the old flag down, boys,
Would you care to see her dragged in the mire?

Could you bear to hear it said
That you crawled beneath the bed,
While the rest of us were standing up to fire?

Would you care to hear the Kaiser was in England;
That his fleet was on the way to Old Quebec?

Would you care to have the girls
With the pretty golden curls,
See you get a German bayonet in the neck?

Chorus:

Come on the (sic) boys, this is your flag,
And it surely means to you
That the world expects to see your tag
And believes that you’ll be true.
Come on, boys, this is your flag,
Show the red blood — and the blue —
For the men are white —
Who join the fight —
And surely you’ll be true.