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Yankee Doodle,

A popular air, the origin of which is involved in obscurity. It seems to be older than the United States government. It is said to be the tune of an old English nursery-song called Lucy Locket, which was current in the time of Charles I. In New England in colonial times it was known as Lydia Fisher's Jig. Among other verses of the song was this:

Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
Lydia Fisher found it;
Not a bit of money in it,
Only binding round it.

A song composed in derision of Cromwell by a loyal poet commenced with

Nankey Doodle came in town,
Riding on a pony,
With a feather in his hat
Upon a macaroni.

A “doodle” is defined in the old English dictionaries as “a sorry, trifling fellow,” and this tune was applied to Cromwell in that sense by the Cavaliers. A “macaroni” was a knot in which the feather was fastened. In a satirical poem [471] accompanying a caricature of William Pitt in 1766, in which he appears on stilts, the following verse occurs:

Stamp Act! le diable! dat is de job, sir:
Dat is de Stiltman's nob, sir,
To be America's nabob, sir,
Doodle, noodle, do.

Kossuth, when in the United States, said that when Hungarians heard the tune they recognized it as an old national dance of their own.

Did Yankee Doodle come from Central Asia with the great migrations? A secretary of the American legation at Madrid says a Spanish professor of music told him that Yankee Doodle resembled the ancient sword-dance of St. Sebastian. Did the Moors bring it into Spain many centuries ago? A Brunswick gentleman told Dr. Ritter, Professor of Music at Vassar College, that the air is that of a nursery-song traditional in the Duchy of Brunswick. A surgeon in the British army, who was with the provincial troops under Johnson at the head of Lake George, being impressed with the uncouth appearance of the provincial soldiers, composed a song to the air, which he called Yankey, instead of Nankey, Doodle, and commended it to the motley soldiers as “very elegant.” They adopted it as good martial music, and it became very popular. The air seems to have been known in the British army, for it is recorded that when, in 1768, British troops arrived in Boston Harbor “the Yankee Doodle tune” (says a writer of that time) “was the capital piece in the band of music” at Castle William. The change in the spelling of the word “Yankey” was not yet made. Trumbull, in his McFingal, uses the original orthography.

While the British were yet in Boston, after the arrival of Washington at Cambridge in the summer of 1775, some poet among them wrote the following piece in derision of the New England troops. It is the original Yankee Doodle song:

Father and I went down to camp,
Along with Captain Goodwin,
Where we see the men and boys
As thick as hasty-puddina.

There was Captain Washington
Upon a slapping stallion,
A giving orders to his men:
I guess there was a million.

And then the feathers on his hat,
They looked so tarnal finea,
I wanted pockily to get,
To give to my Jemima.

And then they had a swampina gun,
As large as log of maple,
On a deuced little cart—
A load for father's cattle.

And every time they fired it off
It took a horn of powder;
It made a noise like father's gun,
Only a nation louder.

I went as near to it myself
As Jacob's underpinnina,
And father went as near agin-
I thought the deuce was in him.

Cousin Simon grew so bold,
I thought he would have cocked it;
It scared me so, I shrinked off,
And hung by father's pocket.

And Captain Davis had a gun,
He kind a clapped his hand on't,
And stuck a crooked stabbing-iron
Upon the little end on't.

And there I see a pumpkin-shell
As big as mother's basin,
And every time they touched it off
They scampered like the nation.

And there I see a little keg,
Its heads were made of leather:
They knocked upon't with little sticks,
To call the folks together.

And then they'd fife away like fun,
And play on cornstalk fiddles;
And some had ribbons red as blood,
All wound about their middles.

The troopers, too, would gallop up
And fire right in our faces;
It scared me almost half to death
To see them run such races.

Old Uncle Sam come then to change
Some pancakes and some onions
For 'lasses cakes, to carry home
To give his wife and young ones.

I see another snarl of men
A digging graves, they told me,
So tarnal long, so tarnal deep,
They 'tended they should hold me.

It scared me so, I hooked it off,
Nor slept, as I remember,
Nor turned about till I got home,
Locked up in mother's chamber.

Yankee Doodle appears to be “a child of thirty-six fathers.” It has been suggested by a witty lady that perhaps Yankee Doodle “composed itself,” as the Germans say of folk-songs. It is [472] accepted as our national air, and is in positive contrast in spirit to the stately God save the King of old England. The tune is so associated with the patriotic deeds of Americans that it always inspires a love of country in the heart of every good citizen.

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