Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Examples Of Subversive Rhymes From Thomas W. Talley's 1922 Book " Negro Folk Rhymes"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents text (word only) examples of subversive rhymes from African American scholar Dr. Thomas W. Talley's Negro Folk Rhymes, Wise & Otherwise, With A Study (originally published in 1922).

This post isn't meant to be a comprehensive compilation of the rhymes from Talley's collection that I believe are subversive.

The content of this post is provided for historical, folkloric, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Thomas W. Talley for collecting and publishing these examples. Thanks also to Project Gutenberg for publishing a digital edition of this compilation November 7, 2008 [EBook #27195].

"the act of subverting : the state of being subverted; especially : a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government or political system by persons working secretly from within"
In the context of this post, "subversive African American slavery rhymes" are those which directly or indirectly refer to African Americans contemplating, encouraging, or engaging in acts and/or ideas that benefit themselves and are therefore counterproductive to the institution of slavery, and/or the wellbeing of their slave masters/mistresses.

These examples are presented in alphabetical order by their titles that are found in The Project Gutenberg EBook of Negro Folk Rhymes, by Thomas W. Talley is also included in these examples.


Bullfrog put on de soldier clo's.
He went down yonder fer to shoot at de crows;
Wid a knife an' a fo'k between 'is toes,
An' a white hankcher fer to wipe 'is nose.

Bullfrog put on de soldier clo's.
He's a "dead shore shot," gwineter kill dem crows.
He takes "Pot," an' "Skillet" from de Fiddler's Ball.
Dey're to dance a liddle jig while Jim Crow fall.

Bullfrog put on de soldier clo's.
He went down de river fer to shoot at de crows.
De powder flash, an' de crows fly 'way;
An' de Bullfrog shoot at 'em all nex' day.

I saddled dat mule to go to town.
I mounted up an' he buck'd me down.
Den I jumped up from out'n de dust,
An' I rid him till I thought he'd bust.
I added this example to this post on September 8, 2014 after re-reading it and just realizing that it might be about more than bullfrogs and crows.

Missus an' Mosser a-walkin' de street,
Deir han's in deir pockets an' nothin' to eat.
She'd better be home a-washin' up de dishes,
An' a-cleanin' up de ole man's raggitty britches.
He'd better run 'long an' git out de hoes
An' clear out his own crooked weedy corn rows;
De Kingdom is come, de Ni&&&rs* is free.
Hain't no Ni&&&r*
slaves in de Year Jubilee.
* This word was completely spelled out in this book.

Dat ole sow said to de barrer:
"I'll tell you w'at let's do:
Let's go an' git dat broad-axe
And die in de pig-pen too."

"Die in de pig-pen fightin'!
Yes, die, die in de wah!
Die in de pig-pen fightin',
Yes, die wid a bitin' jaw!"



Ole Aunt Dinah, she's jes lak me.
She wuk so hard dat she want to be free.
But, you know, Aunt Dinah's gittin' sorter ole;
An' she's feared to go to Canada, caze it's so cōl'.

Dar wus ole Uncle Jack, he want to git free.
He find de way Norf by de moss on de tree.
He cross dat river* a-floatin' in a tub.
Dem Patterollers** give 'im a mighty close rub.

Dar is ole Uncle Billy, he's a mighty good Nigger.
He tote all de news to Mosser a little bigger.
When you tells Uncle Billy, you wants free fer a fac';
De nex' day de hide drap off'n yō' back.

[Note written by Thomas W. Talley]:
"The writer wishes to give explanation as to why the rhyme "Jack and
Dinah Want Freedom" appears under the Section of Psycho-composite Rhymes as set forth in "The Study----" of our volume. The Negroes repeating this rhyme did not always give the names Jack, Dinah, and Billy, as we here record them, but at their pleasure put in the individual name of the Negro in their surroundings whom the stanza being repeated might represent. Thus this little rhyme was the scientific dividing, on the part of the Negroes themselves, of the members of their race into three general classes with respect to the matter of Freedom."...

*The Ohio River.

**White guards who caught and kept slaves at the master's home.

Jackson, put dat kittle on!
Fire, steam dat coffee done!
Day done broke, an' I got to run
Fer to meet my gal by de risin' sun.

My ole Mosser say to me,
Dat I mus' drink [10]sassfac tea;
But Jackson stews dat coffee done,
An' he shō' gits his po'tion: Son!


Mosser killed a big bull,
Missus cooked a dish full,
Didn't give poor Ni&&&r* a mouf full.
Humph! Humph!

Mosser killed a fat lam'.
Missus brung a basket,
An' give poor Ni&&&r* de haslet.
Eh-eh! Eh-eh!

Mosser killed a fat hog
Missus biled de middlin's,
An' give poor Ni&&&r* de chitlin's.
Shō! Shō!
* This word was completely spelled out in this book.

Mosser is six foot one way, an' free foot tudder;
An' he weigh five hunderd pound.
Britches cut so big dat dey don't suit de tailor,
An' dey don't meet half way 'round.

Mosser's coat come back to a claw-hammer p'int.
(Speak sof' or his Bloodhound'll bite us.)
His long white stockin's mighty clean an' nice,
But a liddle mō' holier dan righteous.

Well: I look dis a way, an' I look dat a way,
An' I heared a mighty rumblin'.
W'en I come to find out, 'twus dad's black sow,
A-rootin' an' a-grumblin'.

Den: I slipped away down to de big White House.
Miss Sallie, she done gone 'way.
I popped myse'f in de rockin' chear,
An' I rocked myse'f all day.

Now: I looked dis a way, an' I looked dat a way,
An' I didn' see nobody in here.
I jes run'd my head in de coffee pot,
An' I drink'd up all o' de beer.

I'se off from Richmon' sooner in de mornin'.
I'se off from Richmon' befō' de break o' day.
I slips off from Mosser widout pass an' warnin'
Fer I mus' see my Donie wharever she may stay.

My ole Mistiss promise me,
W'en she died, she'd set me free.
She lived so long dat 'er head got bal',*
An' she give out'n de notion a dyin' at all.

My ole Mistiss say to me:
"Sambo, I'se gwine ter set you free."
But w'en dat head git slick an' bal',
De Lawd couldn' a' killed 'er wid a big green maul.

My ole Mistiss never die,
Wid 'er nose all hooked an' skin all dry.
But my ole Miss, she's somehow gone,
An' she lef' "Uncle Sambo" a-hillin' up co'n.**

Ole Mosser lakwise promise me,
W'en he died, he'd set me free.
But ole Mosser go an' make his Will
Fer to leave me a-plowin' ole Beck still.

Yes, my ole Mosser promise me;
But "his papers" didn' leave me free.
A dose of pizen he'ped 'im along.
May de Devil preach 'is fūner'l song.
*bal' = bald

** "co'n" - corn


Sail away, ladies! Sail away!
Sail away, ladies! Sail away!
Nev' min' what dem white folks say,
May de Mighty bless you. Sail away!

Nev' min' what yō' daddy say,
Shake yō' liddle foot an' fly away.
Nev' min' if yō' mammy say:
"De Devil'll git you." Sail away!

Go 'way from dat window, "My Honey, My Love!"
Go 'way from dat window! I say.
De baby's in de bed, an' his mammy's lyin' by,
But you cain't git yō' lodgin' here.

Go 'way from dat window, "My Honey, My Love!"
Go 'way from dat window! I say;
Fer ole Mosser's got 'is gun, an' to Miss'ip' youse been sōl';
So you cain't git yō' lodgin' here.

Go 'way from dat window, "My Honey, My Love!"
Go 'way from dat window! I say.
De baby keeps a-cryin'; but you'd better un'erstan'
Dat you cain't git yō' lodgin' here.

Go 'way from dat window, "My Honey, My Love!"
Go 'way from dat window! I say;
Fer de Devil's in dat man, an' you'd better un'erstan'
Dat you cain't git yō' lodgin' here.

[Talley's Note: The story went among Negroes that a runaway slave husband returned every night, and knocked on the window of his wife's cabin to get food. Other slaves having betrayed the secret that he was still in the vicinity, he was sold in the woods to a slave trader at reduced price. This trader was to come next day with bloodhounds to hunt him down. On the night after the sale, when the runaway slave husband knocked, the slave wife pinched their baby to make it cry. Then she sang the above song (as if singing to the baby), so that he might, if possible, effect
his escape.

Hush boys! Hush boys! Don't make a noise,
While ole Mosser's* sleepin'.
We'll run down de Graveyard, an' take out de bones,
An' have a liddle Banjer pickin'.

I takes my Banjer on a Sunday mornin'.
Dem ladies, dey 'vites me to come.
We slips down de hill an' picks de liddle chune:
"Walk, Tom Wilson Here Afternoon."

"Walk Tom Wilson Here Afternoon";
"You Cain't Dance Lak ole Zipp Coon."
Pick "Dinah's Dinner Ho'n" "Dance 'Round de Room."
"Sweep dat Kittle Wid a Bran' New Broom."
Mosser = master

I'se de bigges' rascal fer my age.
I now speaks from dis public stage.
I'se stole a cow; I'se stole a calf,
An' dat hain't more 'an jes 'bout half.

Yes, Mosser!--Lover of my soul!--
"How many chickens has I stole?"
Well; three las' night, an' two night befo';
An' I'se gwine 'fore long to git four mō'.

But you see dat hones' Billy Ben,
He done e't more dan erry three men.
He e't a ham, den e't a side;
He would a e't mō', but you know he died.



Ni&&&&s*, has you seed ole Mosser;
(Red mustache on his face.)
A-gwine 'roun' sometime dis mawnin',
'Spectin' to leave de place?

Ni&&&r* Hands all runnin' 'way,
Looks lak we mought git free!
It mus' be now de Kingdom Come
In de Year o' Jubilee.

Oh, yon'er comes ole Mosser
Wid his red mustache all white!
It mus' be now de Kingdom Come
Sometime to-morrer night.

Yanks locked him in de smokehouse cellar,
De key's throwed in de well:
It shō' mus' be de Kingdom Come.
Go ring dat Ni&&&r field-bell!

[Talley's Note: Kingdom Come = Freedom.]
* This word was completely spelled out in this book.

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