Black History Month: Thomas Washington Talley’s “Negro Folk Rhymes –– Wise and Otherwise” (1922)

Vintage Valentine 1

Selections from: Thomas Washington Talley’s “Negro Folk Rhymes –– Wise and Otherwise” (1922)
. . .

Love is just a Thing of Fancy
Love is jes a thing o’ fancy,
Beauty’s jes a blossom;
If you wants to git yo’ finger bit,
Stick it at a ‘possum.
Beauty, it’s jes skin deep;
Ugly, it’s to de bone.
Beauty, it’ll jes fade ‘way;
But Ugly’ll hold ‘er own.
. . .
Joe and Malinda Jane
Ole Joe jes swore upon ‘is life
He’d make Merlindy Jane ‘is wife.
W’en she hear ‘im up ‘is love an’ tell,
She jumped in a bar’l o’ mussel shell.
She scrape ‘er back till de skin come off.
Nex’ day she die wid de Whoopin’ Cough.
. . .
I love Somebody
I loves somebody, yes I do;
An’ I wants somebody to love me too.
Wid my chyart an’ oxes stan’in ‘roun’,
Her pretty liddle foot needn’ tetch de groun’.
I loves somebody, yes I do,
Dat randsome, handsome, Stickamastew.
Wid her reddingoat an’ waterfall,
She’s de pretty liddle gal dat beats ’em all.
. . .
Likes and Dislikes
I sho’ loves Miss Donie! Oh yes, I do!
She’s neat in de waist,
Lak a needle in de case;
An’ she suits my taste.
I’se gwineter run wid Mollie Roalin’! Oh yes, I will!
She’s pretty an’ nice
Lak a bottle full o’ spice,
But she’s done drap me twice.
I don’t lak Miss Jane! Oh no, I don’t.
She’s fat an’ stout,
Got her mouf sticked out,
An’ she laks to pout.
. . .
Sugar Loaf Tea
Bring through yo’ Sugar-lo’ tea, bring through yo’ Canday,
All I want is to wheel, an’ tu’n, an’ bow to my Love so handy.
You tu’n here on Sugar-lo’ tea, I’ll turn there on Candy.
All I want is to wheel, an tu’n, an’ bow to my Love so handy.
Some gits drunk on Sugar-lo’ tea, some gits drunk on Candy,
But all I wants is to wheel, an’ tu’n, an’ bow to my Love so handy.
. . .
Kissing Song
A sleish o’ bread an’ butter fried,
Is good enough fer yo’ sweet Bride.
Now choose yo’ Lover, w’ile we sing,
An’ call ‘er nex’ onto de ring.
“Oh, my Love, how I loves you!
Nothin’ ‘s in dis worl’ above you.
Dis right han’, fersake it never.
Dis heart, you mus’ keep forever.
One sweet kiss I now takes from you;
Caze I’se gwine away to leave you.”

. . .

Kneel on this Carpet
Jes choose yo’ Eas’; jes choose yo’ Wes’.
Now choose de one you loves de bes’.
If she hain’t here to take ‘er part
Choose some one else wid all yo’ heart.
Down on dis chyarpet you mus’ kneel,
Shore as de grass grows in de fiel’.
Salute yo’ Bride, an’ kiss her sweet,
An’ den rise up upon yo’ feet.
. . .
Sweet Pinks and Roses
Sweet pinks an’ roses, strawbeers on de vines,
Call in de one you loves, an’ kiss ‘er if you minds.
Here sets a pretty gal,
Here sets a pretty boy;
Cheeks painted rosy, an’ deir eyes battin’ black.
You kiss dat pretty gal, an’ I’ll stan’ back.
. . .
You love your Girl
You loves yo’ gal?
Well, I loves mine.
Yo’ gal hain’t common?
Well, my gal’s fine.
I loves my gal,
She hain’t no goose –
Blacker ‘an blackberries,
Sweeter ‘an juice.
. . .
Down in the Lonesome Garden
Hain’t no use to weep, hain’t no use to moan;
Down in a lonesome gyardin.
You cain’t git no meat widout pickin’ up a bone,
Down in a lonesome gyardin.
Look at dat gal! How she puts on airs,
Down in de lonesome gyardin!
But whar did she git dem closes she w’ars,
Down in de lonesome gyardin?
It hain’t gwineter rain, an’ it hain’t gwineter snow;
Down in my lonesome gyardin.
You hain’t gwineter eat in my kitchen doo’,
Nor down in my lonesome gyardin.
. . .
A Wind-Bag
A Nigger come a-struttin’ up to me las’ night;
In his han’ wus a walkin’ cane,
He tipped his hat an’ give a low bow;
“Howdy-doo! Miss Lize Jane!”
But I didn’t ax him how he done,
Which make a hint good pinned,
Dat I’d druther have a paper bag,
When it’s sumpin’ to be filled up wid wind.
. . .
Why look at Me?
What’s you lookin’ at me for?
I didn’ come here to stay.
I wants dis bug put in yo’ years,
An’ den I’se gwine away.
I’se got milk up in my bucket,
I’se got butter up in my bowl;
But I hain’t got no Sweetheart
Fer to save my soul.
. . .
A Short Letter
She writ me a letter
As long as my eye.
An’ she say in dat letter:
“My Honey –– Good-by!
. . .
A Request to Sell
Gwineter ax my daddy to sell ole Rose,
So’s I can git me some new clo’s.
Gwineter ax my daddy to sell ole Nat,
So’s I can git a bran’ new hat.
Gwineter ax my daddy to sell ole Bruise,
Den I can git some Brogran shoes.
Now, I’se gwineter fix myse’f “jes so”,
An’ take myse’f down to Big Shiloh.
I’se gwine right down to Big Shiloh
To take dat t’other Nigger’s beau.

. . .
Coffee grows on White Folks’ Trees
Coffee grows on w’ite folks’ trees,
But de Nigger can git dat w’en he please.
De w’ite folks loves deir milk an’ brandy,
But dat black gal’s sweeter dan ‘lasses candy.
Coffee grows on w’ite folks’ trees,
An’ dere’s a river dat runs wid milk an’ brandy.
De rocks is broke an’ filled wid gold,
So dat yaller gal loves dat high-hat dandy.
. . .
Kept Busy
Jes as soon as de sun go down,
My True-love’s on my min’.
An’ jes as soon as de daylight breaks
De white folks is got me a gwine.
She’s de sweetes’ thing in town;
An’ when I sees dat Nig,
She make my heart go “pitty-pat”,
An’ my head go “whirly-gig.”
. . .
Pretty little Pink
My pretty liddle Pink,
I once did think,
Dat we-uns sho’ would marry;
But I’se done give up,
Hain’t got no hope,
I hain’t got no time to tarry.
I’ll drink coffee dat flows,
From oaks dat grows,
‘Long de river dat flows wid brandy.
. . .
A bitter Lovers’ Quarrel – side One
You nasty dog! You dirty hog!
You thinks somebody loves you.
I tells you dis to let you know
I thinks myse’f above you.
. . .
Do I Love You?
Does I love you wid all my heart?
––I loves you wid my liver;
An’ if I had you in my mouf,
I’d spit you in de river.
. . .
She hugged Me and kissed Me
I see’d her in de Springtime,
I see’d her in de Fall,
I see’d her in de Cotton patch,
A cameing from de Ball.
She hug me, an’ she kiss me,
She wrung my han’ an’ cried.
She said I wus de sweetes’ thing
Dat ever lived or died.
She hug me an’ she kiss me.
Oh Heaben! De touch o’ her han’!
She said I wus de puttiest thing
In de shape o’ mortal man.
I told her dat I love her,
Dat my love wus bed-cord strong;
Den I axed her w’en she’d have me,
An’ she jues say “Go long!”
. . .
You have made Me weep
You’se made me weep,
you’se made me mourn,
you’se made me tears an’ sorrow.
So far’ you well, my pretty liddle gal,
I’se gwine away to-morrow.
. . .
Me and my Lover
Me an’ my Lover, we fall out.
How d’you reckon de fuss begun?
She laked licker, an’ I laked fun,
An’ dat wus de way de fuss begun.
Me an’ my Lover, we fall out.
W’at d’you reckon de fuss wus ’bout?
She loved bitters, an’ I loved kraut,
An’ dat wus w’at de fuss wus ’bout.
Me an’ my Lover git clean ‘part.
How d’you reckon dat big fuss start?
She’s got a gizzard, an’ I’se got a heart,
An’ dat’s de way dat big fuss start.
. . .
I wish I was an Apple
I wish I wus an apple,
An’ my Sallie wus anudder.
What a pretty match we’d be,
Hangin’ on a tree togedder!
If I wus an apple,
An’ my Sallie wus anudder;
We’d grow up high, close to de sky,
Whar de Niggers couldn’ git ‘er.
We’d grow up close to de sun
An’ smile up dar above;
Den we’d fall down ‘way in de groun’
To sleep an’ dream ’bout love.
W’en we git through a dreamin’,
We’d bofe in Heaben wake.
No Nigger shouldn’t git my gal
W’en ‘is time come to bake.
. . .
Invited to take the Escort’s Arm
Miss, does you lak strawberries?
Den hang on de vine.
Miss, does you lak chicken?
Den have a wing dis time.
. . .
Sparking or Courting
I’se heaps older dan three.
I’se heaps thicker dan barks;
An’ de older I gits,
De mo’ harder I sparks.
I sparks fast an’ hard,
For I’se feared I mought fail.
Dough I’se gittin’ ole,
I don’t co’t lak no snail.
. . .
A clandestine Letter
Kind Miss,
If I sent you a letter,
By de crickets,
Through de thickets,
How’d you answer better?
Kind Suh,
I’d sen’ you a letter,
By de mole,
Not to be tol’;
Fer dat’s mo’ secretter.
. . .
Antebellum Marriage Proposal
(A proposal of marriage with the answer deferred)
De ocean, it’s wide; de sea, it’s deep.
Yes, in yo’ arms I begs to sleep,
Not fer one time, not fer three;
But long as we-uns can agree.
Please gimme time, Suh, to “reponder”;
Please gimme time to “gargalize”;
Den ‘haps I’ll tu’n to “cattlegog”,
An’ answer up ‘greeable fer a s’prise.
. . .
(A proposal of marriage with its acceptance)
Kind Miss,
I’se on de stage o’ action,
Pleadin’ hard fer satisfaction,
Pleadin’ ‘fore de time-thief late;
Darfore, Ma’m, now, “cravenate”.*
If I brung to you a gyarment;
To be cut widout scissors,
An’ to be sewed widout thread;
How (I ax you) would you make it,
Widout de needle sewin’
An’ widout de cloth spread?
Kind Suh,
I’d make dat gyarment
Wid love from my heart,
Wid tears on yo’ head;
We never would part.
. . .
Presenting a Hat to Phoebe
Sister Phoebe,
Happy wus we,
W’en we sot under dat Juniper tree.
Take dis hat it’ll keep yo’ head warm.
Take dis kiss, it’ll do you no harm.
Sister Phoebe,
De hours, dey’re few;
But dis hat’ll say I’se thinkin’ ’bout you.
Sugar, it’s sugar; an’ salt, it’s salt;
If you don’t love me, it’s sho’ yo’ own fault.
. . .
W’at is dat a wukin
At yo’ han’bill on de wall,
So’s yo’ sperit, it cain’t res’,
An’ a gemmun’s heat, it call?
Is you lookin’ fer sweeter berries
Growin’ on a higher bush?
An’ does my combersation suit?
If not, w’at does you wush?
. . .
When I go to marry
W’en I goes to marry,
I wants a gal wid money.
I wants a pretty black-eyed gal
To kiss an’ call me “Honey”.
Well, w’en I goes to marry,
I don’t wanter git no riches.
I wants a man ’bout four foot high,
So’s I can w’ar de britches.
. . .
Good-by, Wife!
I had a liddle wife,
An’ I didn’ want to kill ‘er;
So I tuck ‘er by de heels,
An’ I throwed ‘er in de river.
“Good-by, Wife! Good-by, Honey!
Hadn’t been fer you,
I’d a had a liddle money.”
My liddle fussy wife
Up an’ say she mus’ have scissors;
An’ druther dan to fight,
I’d a throwed ‘er in three rivers.
But she crossed dem fingers, w’en she go down,
An’ a liddle bit later
She walk out on de groun’.
. . .
My Baby
I’se de daddy of dis liddle black baby.
He’s his mammy’s onliest sweetes liddle Coon.
Got de look on de forehead lak his daddy,
Pretty eyes jes as big as de moon.
I’se de daddy of dis liddle black baby.
Yes, his mammy keep de “Sugar” rollin’ over.
She feed him wid a tin cup an’ a spoon;
An’ he kick lak a pony eatin’ clover.
. . .
My Folks and your Folks
If you an’ yo’ folks
Likes me an’ my folks
Lak me an’ my folks
Likes you an’ yo’ folks;
You’s never seed folks
Since folks ‘as been folks
Like you an’ yo’ folks
Lake me an’ my folks.
. . .
Fed from the Tree of Knowledge
I nebber starts to break my colt,
Till he’s ole enough to trabble.
I nebber digs my taters up
W’en dey’s only right to grabble.
So w’en you sees me risin’ up
To structify in meetin’,
You can know I’se climbed de Knowledge Tree
An’ done some apple eatin’.
. . .
The Tongue
Got a tongue dat jes run when it walk?
It cain’t talk.
Got a tongue dat can hush when it talk?
––It cain’t squawk.
. . .
Don’t tell All You know
Keep dis in min’, an’ all ‘ll go right;
As on yo’ way you goes;
Be shore you knows ’bout all you tells,
But don’t tell all you knows.
. . .
Thomas Washington Talley (1870 – 1952) taught chemistry and biology at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He also sang with the New Fisk Jubilee Singers and conducted the Fisk choir for several seasons. But mainly, today, he is known as a seminal scholar of African-American rhymes and folksongs. Some of the rhymes he compiled dated as far back as the mid-19th-century – the final decades of slavery. In middle age Talley had begun to search out and collect rural black folk songs, many of which were disappearing with the gradual demise of the older generation. Professor Talley compiled several hundred rhymes and songs, and in 1922 published his anthology: Negro Folk Rhymes (Wise and Otherwise).

Negro Folk Rhymes is divided into sections: nursery rhymes, child’s-play call&response rhymes, dance rhymes, “wise sayings” and so forth. But it being Valentine’s Day today, we have chosen our selection from the Love, Courtship, and Marriage chapters of Talley’s volume!

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