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therefore as early as 1745 or 1758. The joke of the stanza may have
consisted in this, to picture the Yankee Aminidab as such a country
bumpkin and so absurdly behind the times, that "all the news that
he cou'd tell" was the taking of Cape Breton. The more years had
elapsed since that memorable event, the more effective the joke.
Whether this was the intention of the author or not, we at least
need not hesitate to date the stanza later than several months after
July 26, 1758, because it would really be carrying historical accuracy
too far to consider seriously the year 1745 in connection with any
"Yankee Doodle" song.

The first stanza is still more puzzling. It may refer either to the
French-Canadian war, and more particularly again to the year 1758,
or to our own expedition to Canada in 1776. In the latter case the
allusion to "The Frenchman" would be a little troublesome, though
here again the joke may consist in ridiculing Brother Ephraim's
anachronistic notions. That in older times the stanza was con-
nected with the French-Canadian war rather than with the war of
the Revolution may be argued from the fact that the two verses
quoted on page 130 clearly refer to the expedition against Cape
Breton in 1758, and these two verses, it will be noticed, are strikingly
kin to the "Brother Ephraim" stanza. So kin indeed that one must
have been evolved from the other. The two four liners, whatever
their date of origin, were not recorded until far into the nineteenth

Yankee Doodle. 133

century, whereas the "Brother Ephraim" stanza was published
possibly as early as 1777. Consequently, in absence of proof to the
contrary, the natural assumption must be that the "Brother
Ephraim" stanza was the prototype.

The inferences to be drawn from this text interpretation are these:

(1) If the poem including the title was a unit, then it must have
been written some time after April 18, 1775 (battle of Lexington and
Concord), but not very much later than June 17, 1775 (Warren's

(2) If the poem was a unit, originally without the title "Yankee
Doodle or the Lexington -March," then it might have been written
not much later than June 17, 1775, and not earlier than 1764.

(3) If the poem printed in this form, was a composite, then the
single verses were written any time after July 26, 1758 (Amherst's
victory at Cape Breton), and before the date of publication.

Whatever inference be preferred, with all its consequences, no dis-
agreement seems possible on the point that this text was not written
by a New Englander, but can only have been penned by either an
American Tory or a Britisher. Here attention must be called to
the statement of Reverend Gordon (see p. 95), who under date of
"Roxbury, April 26, 1775," calls "Yankee Doodle" "a song com-
posed in derision of the New Englanders." In view of such contem-
porary evidence it would be folly to deny the substantial correctness
of this statement. Whether or not the story recorded by the anony-
mous author in Farmer & Moore's Collections, May, 1824, correctly
adds the detail "composed by a British officer of the Revolution"
is immaterial. The fact remains that verses composed, i. e., written
in derision of the New Englanders must have existed before April 26,
1775, in form of a specific well-known song, to which, of course, any
number of verses might have been added later on ad libitum. If
the first of the three inferences enumerated above be adopted, then
the shortness of the interval between April 18 and April 26, 1775,
would seem to exclude the possibility that Reverend Gordon had
"Yankee Doodle or the Battle of Lexington" in mind, and in that
case the "Yankee Doodle came to town" verses would offer them-
selves more readily for a solution of the problem. If, on the other
hand, inferences second or third be preferred, we would have our
choice between two texts without much evidence in favor of either.
However, there exists a third text, and the inability to keep the three
asunder has caused much of the frightful confusion surrounding our
"Yankee Doodle."

In the history of the American drama, Royall Tyler's comedy "The
Contrast" holds the place of a pioneer work. Though not published
until 1790, at Philadelphia, the play was acted as early as April, 1787,
at New York, and performed there and elsewhere with more or less

134 Yankee Doodle.

success. In "The Contrast " we find in Act III, scene I, this amusing
bit of dialogue. Jonathan, the first stage Yankee, when asked to sing
a song, says:

all my tunes go to meeting tunes Jpealm tunes], save one, and I count you
won't altogether like that 'ere.

Jenny: What is it called?

Jonathan: I am sure you have heard folks talk about it, it ia called Yankee

Jenny: Ohl it is the tune I am fond of, and, if I know any thing of my mistress,
she would be glad to dance to it. Pray, sing?

Jonathan [Sings]:

Father and I went up to camp,

Along with Captain Goodwin;
And there we saw the men and boys,

As thick as hasty-pudding.
Yankee doodle do, etc.

And then we saw a swamping gun

Big as a log of maple,
On a little deuced cart,

A load for father's cattle.
Yankee Doodle do, etc.

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.

Yankee Doodle do, etc.

There was a man in our town
His name was

No, no, that won't do. . . . [after some dialogue]

Jonathan: No, no, I can sing no more, some other time, when you and I are
better acquainted, I'll sing the whole of it no, no that's a fib I can't sing but
a hundred and ninety-nine verses: Our Tabitha at home can sing it all [Sings]

Marblehead'sarocky place,

And Cape-Cod is sandy;
Charlestown is burned down,

Boston is the dandy.
Yankee doodle, doodle do, etc.

I vow my own town song has put me into such topping spirits, that I believe I'll
begin to do a little, as Jessamy says we must when we go a courting . . .

Enough of the dialogue has been quoted to make it self-evident
that Royall Tyler did not write these verses himself, but merely
borrowed them for his purposes from what the Germans so happily
call the "Volksmund. " Discounting some of the hundred and
ninety-nine verses as part of Tyler's humorous poetic license, it is
clear that many folk poets must have been at work to form such an
endless chain of verses for Yankee Doodle, the single links of which
would be left out or inserted according to local preferences, as is so
often the case with folk songs. It is, furthermore, clear that the text,
whole or hi part, could not have become so well known and popular
in one or two or three years in a country like America to make a
reference to more than 199 ballad verses an effective bit of humorous

Yankee Doodle. 135

exaggeration and comedy writing. Thus we seem to drift back toward
Revolutionary times, but it is also significant that at least the verse
"Marblehead's a rocky place" can not have been written before June
17, 1775, the day on which Charlestown was burned down by General
Gage. Nor would there have been any sense in writing them after
1785, when the town was rapidly rising from the ashes.

Curiously enough, this verse, which seems to have been written
between middle of June, 1775 and 1785, appears in none of the
historically important sources of the publications of the "Yankee
Doodle" text. No safe inference is to be drawn from this fact, but
one is naturally inclined to believe that it was a local interpolation
not belonging to the original text.

The publications of the text alluded to are the following:

(1) A broadside entitled "The Yankee's Return From Camp,"
containing fifteen stanzas and adorned in the upperhand corners by
two grotesque woodcuts. This broadside is in the possession of the
American Antiquarian Society, Worcester. The Library of Congress
possesses, by courtesy of this institution, a photographic facsimile of
this broadside (See Appendix, PI. XXI), as also of the following
broadside preserved at the American Antiquarian Society:

(2) "The Yankey's Return From Camp. Together with the
favorite Song of the Black Bird. " This version of " Yankee Doodle, "
too, has fifteen stanzas. (See Appendix, PI. XXII.)

(3) "The Farmer and his Son's return from a visit to the Camp."
The whereabouts of the original of this broadside are now unknown,
but Mr. Worthington C. Ford, while still with the Boston Public
Library, had a blueprint made of the original, and this blueprint he
presented to Mr. Albert Matthews of Boston. Mr. Matthews, in turn,
permitted the Library of Congress to photograph this doubly unique
blueprint for this report. A description is unnecessary, as Plate
XXIII shows this blueprint in facsimile.

(4) Under title of "Yankee Doodle" eleven stanzas contributed by
an anonymous writer to Farmer and Moore's Collections (1824, vol. 3,
p. 159-160), with five stanzas added by the editors:


1. Father and I went down to camp,

Along with Captain Goodwin,
Where we see the men and boys
As thick as Hasty -puddin.

2. There was captain Washington

Upon a slapping stallion,
A giving orders to his men
I guess there was a million.

3. And then the feathers on his hat,

They look'd so tarnaljina,
I wanted pockily to get
To give to my Jemima.

136 Yankee Doodle.

4. And there they had a swampin gun

As large as log of maple,
On a deuced little cart
A load for father's cattle;

5. And every time they fired it off,

It took a horn of powder:
It made a noise like father's gun,
Only a notion louder.

6. I went as near to it myself

As Jacob's underpinnin,
And father went as near again
I thought the deuce was in him.

7. And there I see a little keg,

Its heads were made of leather
They knock 'd upon 't with little sticks
To call the folks together.

8. And there they'd fife away like fun,

And play on cornstock fiddles,
And some had ribbands red as blood,
All wound about their middles.

9. The troopers, 'too, would gallop up

And fire right in our faces;
It scar'd me almost half to death
To see them run such races.

10. Old uncle Sam. come there to change

Some pancakes and some onions,
For lasses-cakes, to carry home
To give his wife and young ones.

11. But I can't tell you half I see

They kept up such a smother;
So I took my hat off made a bow,
And scamper 'd home to mother.

[The editors are in possession of a copy of Yankee Doodle which contains several
verses more than the foregoing. We will add them, though we are not certain but
that they are interpolations.]
After verse 6:

Cousin Simon grew so bold,

I thought he would have cock'd it,
It scar'd me so, I shrink'd it off,
And hung by father's pocket.

And Captain Davis had a gun,

He kind a clapt his hand: on 't,
And stuck a crooked stabbing iron

Upon the little end on 't.

And there I see a pumpkin shell,

As big as mother's bason,
And every time they touch 'd it off,

They scam per 'd like the nation.
After verse 10:

I see another snarl of men

A digging graves, they told me,
So tarnal long, so tarnal deep,

They tended they should hold me.

It scar'd me so. I hook'd it off

Nor stopt as I remember.
Nor turn'd about till I got home,

Lock'd up in mother's chamber.

Yankee Doodle. 137

A comparison of the three broadsides given in the Appendix in
photographic facsimile proves that the texts are identical, though
the titles and the orthography differ a little. Each broadside has
fifteen stanzas in the same sequence, each has the spelling "Yankey
Doodle" in the chorus, and what is not without importance, each
has "Captain Gooding" in the second line of the first stanza. These
three broadsides therefore represent three issues of one and the same
poem not only, but of the poem in a concrete and accepted form.

The anonymous contributor to Farmer & Moore's Collections re-
marked that his was a "copy of the song as it was printed thirty-five
years since, and as it was troll'd in our Yankee circles of that day."
This would establish the year 1789 as approximate date of the original
publication, but it does not follow that he actually copied the words
from a printed broadside or page before him at the time of writing
his article. He may have copied from memory, as it were, the song
as printed and current about 1789. Though no broadside or sheet
song appears to have come down to us with the unquestionable date
of 1789, we are not justified in assuming that the anonymous invented
the existence of a publication of the "Yankee Doodle" text about
1789, and in absence of negative proof are permitted only to regret
that no copy of this publication is accessible.

It is clear that this Yankee Doodle story lends itself to endless
variation and expansion, and Royall Tyler's humorous "one hundred
and ninety-nine verses" is an illusion to the fertility of the folk mind
in inventing new stanzas with or without local flavor. Between 1 789
and 1824 our anonymous therefore must have heard many stanzas
not printed in the nonextant publication of 1789. If he then, in 1824,
did not copy the text from a broadside before him, but from memory,
very probably he no longer was able to distinguish such stanzas as
actually occurred in the 1789 edition from those added later on. Nor
would he be absolutely successful in adhering to the original order
of the stanzas or in every instance to the original text. That this
conjecture, and not the one which would imply actual copy of a
broadside before the anonymous contributor to Farmer & Moore,
comes nearer the truth may be inferred from the facts that the first
seven stanzas of the eleven, though not in the same sequence, appear
in the old broadsides, that the five stanzas added by Farmer & Moore
appear in the same broadsides, and that only three of the fifteen
stanzas in these broadsides do not appear in Farmer & Moore. Con-
sequently Farmer & Moore used a copy of one of these three broad-

a This attitude involves certain consequences, for instance, as the tenth stanza con-
tains a reference to "old Uncle Sam." This Americanism possibly was derived from
Yankee Doodle verses current about 1789, and did not originate as late as about 1812.

138 Yankee Doodle.

sides, and since it will become clear that they contain in all proba-
bility the original text in an accepted form it follows that not the
five stanzas added by Farmer & Moore, but, on the contrary, the
stanzas eight to eleven in the version of our anonymous are interpo-
lations. It will be further noticed that three of the stanzas appear
also in Royall Tyler's comedy. Consequently, everything tends to
safeguard the assumption that here we have the text of the" Yankee's
Return from Camp" in its best-known, oldest, and presumably original
form. The question now is whether or not the broadsides them-
selves help to trace the date of origin of this text. The "Yankee's
Return from Camp" has the imprint, "N. Coverly, jr., Printer, Milk-
Street, Boston." Reference to the Boston City Directories proves
that this printer flourished between 1810 and 1823, the "jr." disappear-
ing from the directory of 1818. However, the broadside can not
have been printed after 1813, since it forms part of the curious collec-
tion of songs, ballads, etc., in three volumes, presented to the Amer-
ican Antiquarian Society by Isaiah Thomas in 1814, with the state-
ment that it was "purchased from a ballad printer and seller in
Boston, 1813. Bound up for preservation to shew that the articles
of this kind are in vogue with the vulgar at this time, 1814." Con-
sequently the date of this particular broadside is fixed as between
1810 and 1813.

No such definite clew is given in the broadside of "The Yankey'a
Return from Camp. Together with the favorite Song of the Black
Bird." The spelling of YanJcey instead of Yankee suggests the sec-
ond half of the eighteenth century rather than the first half of the
nineteenth, but the argument is not a safe one, since the spelling
with y is easily traced in early nineteenth-century literature. Indeed,
it appears in the very chorus of Coverly's broadside, 1810-1813. In
his amazingly minute monograph on the Americanism "Uncle Sam"
(p. 61 of the reprint from Proceedings of the Am. Ant. Soc., 1908),
Mr. Matthews infers from Isaiah Thomas's dedicatory words accom-
panying the gift of this ballad collection that our anonymous broad-
side was "probably printed in 1813." In private correspondence
(November 30, 1908) Mr. Matthews asserts that "The burden of the
proof lies on him who asserts that the ' Yankey's Return' was printed
before 1813." I utterly fail to see how even a strictly literal inter-
pretation leads to a definite year. Isaiah Thomas merely says that
he purchased the entire collection, not merely this broadside, from
a ballad printer and seller in 1813. Even without the fact that
some of the ballads were printed earlier, it would have been contrary
to common sense to assume that the three volumes of ballads were
actually printed in one and the same year, 1813. Thomas's words
do not really give any clew to the dates of publication of his ballads,

Yankee Doodle. 139

except that they can not have been later than 1813, and that they
are somewhat limited by the remark "in vogue with the vulgar
at this time, 1814." But if they were in vogue one year after the
collection was purchased by him, they may, at the very least, have
been in vogue one year before, 1812. But I doubt that Isaiah Thomas
intended his remarks to be taken thus narrowly, and it will be
methodically just as correct to give his words enough elasticity to
prevent literal interpretations from ending unnecessarily in blind
alleys. "At this time, 1814," may safely be taken to mean about
this time, or, in round figures, as we are dealing with popular ballads
more or less in vogue, the first quarter of the nineteenth century.

We also fail to find a definite clew to the date of publication of
this particular broadside, if we turn our attention to "The favorite
song of the Black Bird." All authorities (see f. i., Christie's Tradi-
tional ballad airs) agree that the song appears in the very earliest
edition of Ramsay's Tea Table Miscellany, 1724-1727, and Mr. Grat-
tan Flood, in his History of Irish Music, 1906, asserts that he found
allusion to the song in 1709. Of course, the broadside can not have
been published before "The Black Bird" became a favorite, and
probably was not published after the song had ceased to be a favor-
ite. Different melodies have been recorded for this song, but the
texts preserved are practically identical and the text proves "The
Black Bird" to be a Jacobite song. One version is given on page 68
of the second volume of Hogg's Jacobite Relics, 1821, and it is very
significant that the author says in his note on the song (p. 288):

The Blackbird, seems to have been one of the street songs of the day; at least,
it is much in that style, and totally different from the manner of most Jacobite
songs. It has had, however, considerable popularity. This copy was commu-
nicated by Mr. Fairley, schoolmaster in Tweedsmuir.

This surely does not read as if "the Blackbird" was still a favorite
in Scotland in 1821. Furthermore, while it is claimed that the words
appear in "The American Songster," Baltimore, 1830, it is a fact
that most American songsters of the first quarter of the nineteenth
century do not contain the song, nor can it be found in such stand-
ard collections of Scotch songs as Smith's "Scottish Minstrel " [182-];
Graham's "Songs of Scotland," 1848-1850; Johnson's "Scotish musical
museum," 1859-; Johnson's "Scots Musical Museum" [1787], There
are still other reasons for holding that the song had passed its popu-
larity in 1813. The words of "The Blackbird," as printed in the
broadside and as anybody can see, clearly make veiled allusion to
the Pretenders or their cause. The farther away from this time the
song is removed chronologically the less popular it presumably was.
Not only this, but the sentimental and once so popular song "The
Maid's Lamentation," so the authorities in English folk song like

140 Ya nkee Doodle.

Baring-Gouid and Chappell tell us, had one of its earliest appear-
ances in print in the "Songster's Magazine," 1804, and this song has
all the appearance of being a mere imitation and variation of "The
Blackbird," or at least of having been poetically influenced by it.
The "Maid's Lamentation" in its early form begins:

Early one morning, just as the sun was rising
I heard a young damsel sigh and complain

Oh gentle shepherd, why am I forsaken?
On why should I in sorrow remain!

After that the lines differ widely, yet the underlying poetic motive
is the same a lamentation on the loss of a beloved "blackbird," or
sailor, or shepherd, etc.

All this seems to substantiate the impression that the broadside
with "The favorite song of the Blackbird" should be dated away
from the year 1813 rather than toward it. However, one part is
undeniable: The Blackbird can not have been printed together with
"The Yankey's return from Camp" before the words of the latter
were written.

The mysterious F. B. N. S. wrote in 1857 and promised to prove
in a book:

The verses commencing " Father and I went down to the camp" were written
by a gentleman of Connecticut a short time after Gen. Washington's last visit
to New England ....

This visit occurred in the fall of 1789, and therewith collapses the
statement of F. B. N. S. In fact, in this form it is so absurd that
one is almost led to suspect that he did not mean exactly what he
wrote. The absurdity would disappear if F. B. N. S., either not
knowing of or forgetting Washington's last visit, really alluded to
his forelast visit. This would carry us to the so-called "Provincial
Camp," Cambridge, Mass., where George Washington arrived on
July 2, 1 775, after his appointment as commander in chief of the
American Army, and from where he removed headquarters after the
evacuation of Boston on March 25, 1776. Unfortunately the book
of ballads in which F. B. N. S. promised proof of his statement (see
p. 100) has not been traced, and therefore we are also entirely in the dark
as to the reasons for assigning the authorship of the text to a gentle-
man of Connecticut. Nor would this gentleman be without a com-
petitor since Dr. Edward Everett Hale when printing the " Yankey's
Return" in his "New England History in Ballads," 1903, remarked:

An autograph note of Judge Dawes, of the Harvard class of 1777, addressed to
my father, says that the author of the well-known lines was Edward Bangs,
who graduated with him.

The historian would have preferred to see the autograph note of
Judge Dawes printed in full, as in this form it merely assigns the
poem to a member of the Harvard class of 1777 without defining the

Ya nkee Doodle. 141

date or place of Edward Bangs's poetic effusion. According to Doctor
Hale's meager information, Edward Bangs might have written the
lines any year between the time he was able to mount Pegasus and
1787, when part of the text was quoted in "The Contrast" written
as Mr. Matthews suggestively pointed out in his monograph on
"Uncle Sam" by a member of the Harvard class of 1776. In this
connection it is also suggestive that Bangs had, as a college boy,
joined the Middlesex farmers in the pursuit of April 19, 1775, that
Harvard College was transferred from Cambridge to Concord in
September, 1775, and returned to Cambridge in 1776. On the other
hand there appears to exist no evidence, positive, circumstantial, or
even traditional, that the words of the "Yankey's Return from
Camp" were written or known before the war for independence, that
is, before 1775.

If we turn to the text itself, it clearly reveals an American origin.
It is so full of American provincialisms, slang expressions of the time,
allusions to American habits, customs, that no Englishman could
have penned these verses. Even if he could have done so, he would
not have done so, because his poetic efforts in this form would
largely have been a puzzle to his comrades. Had this text been a
British production, it would have found its way to England, which
apparently is not the case. To be a British satire on the unmilitary
appearance of provincial American troops, as has been said, the
verses would have to be derisively satirical, which they are not.
They breathe good-natured humor and they deal not at all with the
uncouth appearance of American soldiery, but with the experience of
a Yankee greenhorn in matters military who went down to a military
camp and upon his return narrates in his own naive style the impres-

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Online LibraryOscar George Theodore SonneckReport on The Star-Spangled Banner, Hail Columbia, America, Yankee Doodle; → online text (page 15 of 19)