barrens, and, entering the camp, have silently approached some glimmering fire, round which the dusky figures moved in the rhythmical barbaric dance the negroes call a “shout,” chanting, often harshly, but always in the most perfect time, some monotonous refrain.
Writing down in the darkness, as I best could,--perhaps with my hand in the safe covert of my pocket,--the words of the song, I have afterwards carried it to my tent, like some captured bird or insect, and then, after examination, put it by. Or, summoning one of the men at some period of leisure,--Corporal Robert Sutton
, for instance, whose iron memory held all the details of a song as if it were a ford or a forest,--I have completed the new specimen by supplying the absent parts.
The music I could only retain by ear, and though the more common strains were repeated often enough to fix their impression, there were others that occurred only once or twice.
The words will be here given, as nearly as possible, in the original dialect; and if the spelling seems sometimes inconsistent, or the misspelling insufficient, it is because I could get no nearer.
I wished to avoid what seems to me the only error of Lowell
papers” in respect to-dialect,--the occasional use of an extreme misspelling, which merely confuses the eye, without taking us any closer to the peculiarity of sound.
The favorite song in camp was the following,--sung with no accompaniment but the measured clapping of hands and the clatter of many feet.
It was sung perhaps twice as often as any other.
This was partly due to the fact that it properly consisted of a chorus alone, with which the verses of other songs might be combined at random.