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Tiger Origins: Yankee Doodle - an old source (21) Lyr Add: Yankee Doodle - an old source 30 Apr 03


I got this from one of my really old songbooks, which contains lots of background material on all its songs.

From "Songs that Never Die" compiled by Henry Frederic Reddall, 1894

If the United States has no purely indigenous national anthem, she is rich in political songs that in every great crisis have borne no slight part in "firing the popular heart." The Revolution gave birth to "Yankee Doodle.'' The impending war with France, in 1798, brought forth "Hail Columbia;" the war of 1812 evoked the "Star Spangled Banner;" the late civil war was the cause of more stirring words and music than had ever before appeared in the history of a single republic. As, for want of a better, the "Star Spangled Banner" seems to be regarded as the national anthem of the United States, that will be noticed under national songs. Here we proceed to give some account of other historic and political American lyrics.

The origin of the American national air, "Yankee Doodle is enveloped in almost great obscurity as that which surrounds the authorship of "God Save the King." Though the song is but little more than a century old, the number of different accounts of its origin which are given is extremely bewildering.

In Littel's Living Age (1861) a story is told, on the authority of a writer in the New York Evening Post, to the effect that the song is sung in Holland by German harvesters, whence it may have come to America. Unfortunately for the credibility of this account, its inventor has fitted some words to the tune which are in no known language, conclusively proving the story to be a hoax, though the Duyckinks have thought it worth reproducing in their Cyclopaedia.

It is stated that in Burgh's "Anecdotes of Music," (1814) the air of "Yankee Doodle" is said to occur in J. C. Smith's " Ulysses " a statement we have been unable to verify as no copy of that opera is accessible.

A writer in All the Year Round,(1870) alleges that T. Moncrieff had traced the air to a Fife-Major of the Grenadier Guards, who composed it as a march in the last century. It is most probable that the air was originally a military quickstep, but this account of its authorship is too vague to be accepted implicitly.

In Admiral Preble's "History of the Flag of the United States" it is stated that the tune occurs in an opera of Arne's to the words, "Did little Dickey ever trick ye?" This is an error; the song in question is in Arnold's "Two to One," (1784) and there the tune is called "Yankee Doodle."

Passing by the fanciful opinions that "Yankee Doodle " is of Spanish or Hungarian origin, we come to the traditional account of its origin, which agrees with what may be gathered from the above accounts, viz: that the tune is of English origin and not older than the middle of the last century. The Boston Journal of the Times for September, 1768, is said to contain the earliest mention of it, in the following paragraph: The British fleet was brought to anchor near Castle William; that night * * * those passing in boats observed great rejoicings, and that the 'Yankee Doodle' song was the capital piece in the band of music." It is only a few years before this that the traditional account places the origin of the song.

In 1755, during the French and Indian war, General Amherst had under his command an army of regular and provincial troops. Among the former was a Dr. Schuckburgh (whose commission as surgeon is dated June 25, 1737) to whom the tune is traditionally ascribed, though it seems more probable that he was only the author of the words. It is said that "the fantastic appearance of the colonial contingent, with their variegated, ill-fitting, and incomplete uniforms, " was a continual butt for the humor of the regular troops, and that Dr. Schuckburgh recommended the tune to the colonial officers "as one of the most celebrated airs of martial musick." The joke took, to the no small amusement of the British corps. Brother Jonathan exclaimed that it was "nation fine," and in a few days nothing was heard in the provincial camp but the air of "Yankee Doodle."

This account is said to have appeared in the Albany Statesman early in the present century; it is also to be found in Vol. III. of the " New Hampshire Collections, Historical and Miscellaneous," (1824). The words evidently date from about the year 1765. The original name of the song is "The Yankee's Return from Camp," and it begins:

"Father and went down to camp,
Along with Captain Gooding;
There we see the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding."

The author of the account of the song in the "New Hampshire Collections" quotes a version printed about 1790, and there are several others extant, though even in 1829 it is said that the burlesque song was passing into oblivion. It is noticeable that in the later versions of the song the early notices of "Captain Washington " are replaced by the following:

"And there was Captain Washington,
And gentlefolks about him;
They say he's grown so 'tarnal proud
He will not ride without 'em."

The tune itself seems to have suffered several changes. As a melody it has little beyond simplicity in its favor, but there is a quaint, direct and incisive character about it which redeems it from vulgarity, beside which the historical associations of the tune, connected as it is with the establishment of American Independence, should have saved it from some of the criticisms to which it has been subjected. In the words of the Hon. Stephen Salisbury, "Yankee Doodle" is national property, but it is not a treasure of the highest value. It has some antiquarian claims for which its friends do not care. It cannot be disowned and it will not be disused. In its own words:

"It suits for feasts, it suits for fun,
And just as well for fighting."

A recent writer quotes the following anecdote related by John Quincy Adams: "After the Ministers Plenipotentiary of Great Britain and the United States had nearly concluded their pacific labors at Ghent, the burghers of that quaint old Dutch city resolved to give an entertainment in their honor, and desired to have the national airs of the two treaty-making powers performed as a part of the programme. So the musical director was requested to call upon the American Ministers and obtain the music of the national air of the United States. No one knew exactly what to give, and a consultation ensued, at which Bayard and Gallatin favored 'Hail Columbia,' while Clay, Russell and Adams were decidedly in favor of 'Yankee Doodle.'

"The director then inquired if any of the gentlemen had the music, and receiving a negative reply, suggested that perhaps one of them could sing or whistle the air. 'I can't,' said Mr. Clay, 'I never whistled or sung a tune in my life. Perhaps Mr. Bayard can.' 'Neither can I,' replied Mr. Bayard. 'Perhaps Mr. Russell can.' Each confessed his lack of musical ability. 'I have it,' exclaimed Mr. Clay, and ringing the bell he summoned his colored body-servant. 'John, said Mr. Clay, 'whistle "Yankee Doodle" for this gentleman.' John did so, the chief musician took down the notes, and at the entertainment the Ghent Burghers' Band played the national air of the United States, with variations, in grand style."


Yankee Doodle
Attributed to a Dr. Schuckburgh, ca. 1765

Father and I went down to camp,
Along with Captain Goodin';
And there we saw the men and boys,
As thick as hasty puddin'.

    CHORUS (occasionally)
    Yankee doodle, keep it up,
    Yankee doodle dandy;
    Mind the music and the step,
    And with the girls be handy.
And there we see a thousand men
As rich as Squire David;
And what they wasted ev'ry day
I wish it could be saved.

And 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 very fine, ah!
I wanted peskily to get
To give to my Jemima.

And then we saw a swamping gun,
Large as a log of maple;
Upon a mighty 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.

And there saw a little log,
Its heads all made of leather,
They knocked upon't with little sticks,
To call the folks together.

And Cap'n Davis had a gun,
He kind o' clapt his hand on't,
And stuck a crooked stabbing iron
Upon the little end on't.

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

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

    Yankee doodle, keep it up,
    Yankee doodle dandy;
    Mind the music and the step,
    And with the girls be handy.


VERSES FROM OTHER VERSIONS I'VE FOUND

I went as nigh to one myself,
As Siah's underpinning;
And father went as nigh agin,
I thought the deuce was in him.

And there they'd fife away like fun,
And play on cornstalk fiddles,
And some had ribbons red as blood,
All bound around their middles.

Uncle Sam came there to change
Some pancakes and some onions,
For' lasses cake to carry home
To give his wife and young ones.

But I can't tell half I see
They kept up such a smother;
So I took my hat off, made a bow,
And scampered home to mother.

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

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


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