Songs from The American Songbag by Carl Sandburg

I Was Born Almost Ten Thousand Years Ago

"Folk lore tells of giants and long-lived men. On far travels they saw and heard much… Also hoary legends have dealt with the Champion Liar… We have in this instance a vest pocket encyclopedia, an outline of history with numerous references to picturesque peronages… It packs a wicked lot of biography."

1. I was born almost ten thousand years ago,
And there's nothin' in the world that I don't know;
I saw Peter, Paul and Moses,
Playing ring-around-the-roses
And I'm here to lick the guy what says 'tain't so.

2. I saw Satan when he looked the garden o'er,
Then saw Adam and Eve driven from the door,
And behind the bushes peeping,
Saw the apple they were eating,
And I'll swear that I'm the guy what ate the core.

3. I saw Jonah when he'mbarked within the whale,
And thought that he'd never live to tell the tale.
But old Jonah'd eaten garlic
And he gave the whale a colic,
So he coughed him up and let him out o' jail.

4. I saw Samson when he laid the village cold,
And saw Daniel tame the lions in the hold,
And helped build the tower of Babel,
Up as high as they were abel,
And there's lots of other things I haven't told.

5. I taught Solomon his little A-B-C's
I helped Brigham Young to make Limburger cheese,
And while sailing down the bay
With Methuselah one day,
I saved his long flowing whiskers from the breeze.

6. Queen Elizabeth, she fell in love with me.
We were married in Milwaukee secretly,
But I schemed around and shook her,
And I went with General Hooker
To shoot mosquitoes down there in Tennessee.

7. I remember when the country had a king.
I saw Cleopatra pawn her wedding ring,
And I saw the flags a-flyin'
When George Washington stopped lyin',
On the night when Patti first began to sing.

When the Curtains of Night are Pinned Back

"The cowboys of Colorado took a garrulous popular song of the 1870's, and kept a fragment, the heart's essence of it. It is impressive when sung by a lone horseman silhouetted against a distant horizon. Given anywhere with ease, feeling, control, it may leave echoes as thin and air-hung as certain apparitions of a clear night's sky of stars. That is, it holds an honest and independent poetry. Text and tune are from Jane Ogle of Rock Island, Illinois."

1. When the curtains of night
Are pinned back by the start,
And the beautiful moon sweeps the sky,
I'll remember you,
In my prayers.

2. When the curtains of night
Are pinned back by the start,
And the dew drops of heav'n kiss the rose,
I'll remember you,
In my prayers.

Hallelujah, I'm a Bum

"This old song heard at the water tanks of railroads in Kansas in 1897 and from harvest hands who worked in the wheat fields of Pawnee County, was picked up later by the I.W. W.'s, who made verses of their own for it, and gave it a wide fame. The migratory workers are familiar with the Salvation Army missions, and have adopted the Army custom of occasionally abandoning all polite formalities and striking deep into the common things and ways for their music and words. A "handout" is food handed out from a back door as distinguished from a "a sit down" which means an entrance into a house and a chair at a table."

1. Oh, why don't you work
Like other men do?
How the hell can I work
When there's no work to do?
Hallelujah, I'm a bum,
Hallelujah, bum again,
Hallelujah, give us a handout,
To revive us again!

2. Oh, I love my boss
And my boss loves me,
And that is the reason
I'm so hungry,
Hallelujah, etc.

3. Oh, the springtime has came
And I'm just out of jail,
Without any money,
Without any bail.
Hallelujah, etc.

4. I went to a house,
And I knocked on the door;
A lady came out, says,
"You been here before."
Hallelujah, etc.

5. I went to a house,
And I asked for a piece of bread;
A lady came out, says,
"The baker is dead."
Hallelujah, etc.

6. When springtime does come,
O won't we have fun,
We'll throw up our jobs
And we'll go on the bum.
Hallelujah, etc.

from The American Songbag, Harcourt Publishers

Close Window