Monday, August 5, 2013

"Jenny Jones" (and other related folk songs)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a four part series that presents examples of and source songs/rhymes for the African American children's rhyme "Aunt Jenny Died" (or alternative titles).

This post presents information about and text examples of the song "Jenny Jones" (or related titles). A video of a United Kingdom version of a Morris Dance group performing the song & dance "Sweet Jenny Jones" is also included in this post.

Click for Part I of this post.

Part I presents examples of & information about the African American American playground rhyme "Aunt Jenny Died" (or variant titles).

Click for Part III of this series.

Part III provides information & examples of the song "Jenny Jenkins".


Part IV of this seriess provides an example of the Jamaican song "Come To See Janie".

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, recreational, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Editor's note:
The United Kingdom (Welsh, Scottish, English) song "Jenny Jones" is closely related to, if not the source of, the song American "Jenny Jenkins. [See notes found below].

It's my position that "Jenny Jones" is also a primary source for the African American playground rhyme "Aunt Jenny Died" and the Jamaican folk song song "Come To See Janie".

From Book of Games for Home, School, And Playground (William Byron Forbush, Harry A. Allen; Chicago, The John C. Winston Co, 1927}

This song is in the chapter on singing games, and is said to have more than 30 verses. The words given in that book are:

1 verse: We've come to see poor Jenny Jones, Jenny Jones, Jenny Jones
We've come to see poor Jenny Jones, How is she now?

2 verse: Jenny is washing, washing, washing. etc
You can't see her now.
Book of Games for Home, School, And Playground" {William Byron Forbush, Harry A. Allen; Chicago, The John C. Winston Co} and found a song called "Jenny Jones" or "Jennia Jones". This song is in the chapter on singing games, and is said to have more than 30 verses. The words given are:

1. We've come to see poor Jenny Jones, Jenny Jones, Jenny Jones
We've come to see poor Jenny Jones, How is she now?
2. Jenny is washing, washing, washing. etc
You can't see her now.
3. Jenny is ironing etc

Refrain for 2-3
Very well, ladies
Ladies and Gentlemen, too

4-8 Jenny is ironing {both 3&4?}, sewing, baking, sick, dead.

9. I think I saw a ghost under the apple tree.

This game is described as a circle game with one girl in the middle playing the part of Jenny.
The editors of that book indicate that authors "Jenny Jones" is said to have more than 30 verses. The book describes two girls in the center of the circle. The biggest girl iplays the role of the mother and the smaller is Jenny Jones.

Jenny hides behind her "mother" while the mother performs the actions for the chores. The children in the circle move "forward and back" while they sing. At the end of last verse all the girls making up the circle gives a loud shriek, and "Jenny" {or the ghost of Jenny Jones} runs out and tries to tag someone, who now becomes the new 'Jenny'.

The authors wrote that "Jenny Jones" was probably originally "Jenny my joe", or "joy".

Note: I first provided information about this song in this discussion thread that I started in 2004
"The Origin Of Aunt Jenny Died".
25. [presents lyrics to the song "Jenny O Jones" as sung by Pansy Richardson, Mobile, July 10, 1947.
Here are the notes about that song:
"This game has a well-developed dramatic structure and has as its prevailing theme the nature of death. It appears in Gomme, in Newell, and in the Opies (1985:254-60) as well as in other collections. Gomme (1:260-83) has seventeen variants, with slightly different instructions, and apparently received so many submissions that she didn't print them all. The game has been the subject of poetry, and was the source of a popular American song, "Jennie Jenkins."

The plot is a resurrection drama, but with several fascinating twists. A line of suitors approach in a courtship appeal, but a "mother" character has the spoken part and keeps Jenny hidden. The mother rejects the suitors with excuses ("ironing," etc.), which proceed by various routes to the eventual discovery of Jenny's death. Jenny, who has been hidden behind the mother, is revealed laying dead. Then there are various enactments of Jenny's funeral, and she is sometimes brought back to life. "The appeal of the game," say the Opies (1985:258), "must have lain in the mesmeric to-ing and fro-ing of the request and repulse, and the mock solemnity of the funeral, which burst into sudden excitement when 'Janet jo' or 'Jenny' came to life and chased the mourners...

"...Newell says "Jenny Jones" "has been familiar in the Middle States since the memory of the oldest inhabitant" (1883:63). "Jones" derives from terms of endearment related to the English "Jo" and French "joie."...

[Performance] "Directions: This is a line game. The person taking the part of Miss Jenny O. Jones is seated. The line comes up to her singing and she answers. At the end, her ghost chases the group and the one who is caught becomes Miss Jenny O. Jones."
From Notes for the song "Jenny Jenkins"
"Opie-Games: "And at some time, long ago, a song-writer in America turned it ['Jenny Jones'] into the song 'Jennie Jenkins.'" - BS
This is of course possible; certainly "Jenny Jenkins" appears to be primarily if not exclusively American. But given that "Jenny Jenkins" is attested at least as early as "Jenny Jones," I don't think we can be absolutely assured that the dependence is in the direction given. - RBW
"Lyr Req: Sweet Jenny Jones
From: Margaret V
Date: 08 Dec 00 - 06:52 PM

When I was young, my grandmother, from whom I got my interest in Wales and things Welsh, gave me a horse brass that pictured Jenny Jones. At the time I didn't know who Jenny Jones was (just that she was Welsh) and I still don't really know what a horse brass is (just that I had one). Perhaps Jenny Jones horse brasses are common and that is why they were discussing her on that pub's website. Anyway, later in life I saw Jenny Jones again in the form of Staffordshire china figurines of the 19th century. Here is what Kovel's has to say regarding the Jenny Jones of Staffordshire figurine fame:
"Jenny Jones was a dairymaid at Pontblyddin Farm. Her sweetheart, Edward Morgan, was a ploughman. Morgan spent 20 years with the navy and returned and married Jones. In 1825 actor Charles James Mathews met the Morgans and heard their story. He composed the 'Song of Jenny Jones and Ned Morgan,' which was used in a show in 1836. The romantic ditty was popular for the next 20 years. Figurines of Jenny Jones, Edward Morgan, and the pair leaning on a milestone were made in the 1840s."..."
"A horse brass is a brass plaque used for the decoration of horse harness gear, especially for shire and parade horses. They became especially popular in England from the mid-19th century until their general decline alongside the use of the heavy horse, and remain a collectors item today."

Hammersmith Morris Men - Sweet Jenny Jones (with singing, and hordes)

westminstermorrismen, Published on Jul 19, 2012

The Smiffs demonstrating their impressive vocal range with "Sweet Jenny Jones" in front of The Anchor on South Bank on the Westminster & Hammersmith South Bank Tour 2012. Having sung it, they then dance it - with gusto.
"Sweet Jenny Jones" may be most widely known as an instrumental. Additional videos of this tune are found on YouTube.

The inclusion of this video isn't meant to imply that this Morris Dance song & performance is related to the African American playground rhyme "Aunt Jenny Died", except that both that song & that rhyme are probably derived from the song "Jenny Jones".

This completes Part II of this series.

Thanks to all those who I have quoted in this post. Thanks also to the performers in the featured video and to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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