Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kingdom Coming

No matter what President Lincoln claimed in his first inaugural address, some people, both North and South, realized that the Civil War would eventually bring emancipation to the almost four million African Americans held in bondage.

One person that apparently saw the handwriting on the wall was Henry Clay Work. In 1862 Clay published "Kingdom Coming." Work was born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1832, and his father was an antislavery man and apparently passed on his sentiments to the son.

"Kingdom Coming," written in the then popular blackface dialect, now viewed as offensive to many people, is regardless a skillfully written tune that showed that the mere presence of the Union army would aid slaves in their search for freedom.

The lyrics:

Say, darkeys, hab you seen de massa,
Wid de muffstash on his face,
Go long de road some time dis mornin',
Like he gwine to leag de place?
He seen a smoke, way up de ribber,
Whar de Linkum gumboats lay;
He took his hat, an' lef berry sudden,
An' I spec he's run away!

De massa run? ha, ha!
De darkey stay? ho, ho!
It mus' be now de kingdom comin',
An' de year of Jubilo!

He six foot one way, two foot tudder,
An' he weigh tree hundred pound,
His coat so big, he couldn't pay de tailor,
An' it won't go half way round.
He drill so much they call him Cap'an,
An' he get so drefful tann'd,
I spec he try an' fool dem Yankees
For to tink he's contraband.

De darkey's feel so lonesome libing
in de loghouse on de lawn,
Dey move dar things to massa's parlor
For to keep it while he's gone.
Dar's wine an' cider in de kitchen,
An' de darkey's dey'll hab some;
I spose dey'll all be cornfiscated
When de Linkum sojers come.

De oberseer he make us trouble,
An' he dribe us round a spell;
We lock him up in de smokehouse cellar,
Wid de key trown in de well.
De whip is lost, de han'cuff broken,
But de massa'll hab his pay;
He's ole enough, big enough, ought to known better
Dan to went an' run away.

Reading the words does not do the song truly has to be heard to do it justice. Here's a version by the 2nd South Carolina String Band -

Work wrote a number of other Civil War standards, including "Babylon is Fallen," "Come Home Father," and probably his most well known tune, "Marching Through Georgia." He continued to pen songs long after the war was over passing away in Hartford, Connecticut in 1884.

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