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New York Folklore Quarterly, Vol. VIII, No. 4, Winter 1952

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NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. VIII, No. 4, Winter 1952

A DELANSON MANUSCRIPT OF SONGS
Harry Oster

IN 1932, Harold W. Thompson purchased at an antique shop in Delanson, Schenectady County, a manuscript containing forty songs. The first few pages were written originally in a blue ink which later faded and was retraced with black ink. The spelling is very erratic. The songs, almost without exception, fall into a few obvious categories which give us a good insight into the tastes in popular music of a typical family in Delanson between 1845 and 1880—also an insight into the vagaries of spelling and punctuation.

1. Prohibition songs. The two songs in the collection which strike a blow against the demon rum are—by an ironic twist—examples of the familiar device of pouring new wine into old bottles; that is, of setting topical words to a popular, tried-and-true tune. Though the manuscript does not tell what tune one should use for “The Cottage Home,” the words and stanza-pattern suggest a link with a very familiar melody. The prohibitionist song runs thus:


I dreamt a dream the other night
When all around was still
I dreamed I saw a cottage white
Upon yon flowery hill
The grass plot green before the door
The porch with vines o’er grown...


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