Folklore from the Working Folk of America

By Tristram Potter Coffin; Hennig Cohen | Go to book overview

VERSE

The folk have long had a fondness for verse and rhyme, particularly in those areas where the folk group is semiliterate or exists near literate people. "Ballet books," as collections of sentimental poetry and song texts without music are called; rhymed autograph books; children's chants; graffiti; tongue twisters; limericks; and newspaper memorial verse continually turn up among folk informants. Obviously, a greater variety of verse and rhyme can be collected from people who can read than from people who cannot, from the semifolk than from the true folk groups. In fact, broadsheets, chapbooks, magazines, and newspapers have long distributed petty poems, memorials, and rhymed wisdom to the marginally educated market. Still, it is not unusual to find much of this very material among the treasures of someone who is quite illiterate, who recalls what the writing says even if he cannot read it off exactly.

The folk have always seen fit to rhyme superstitions, riddles, proverbs, and the like and to chant in verse as they have danced, played games, and amused youngsters; while highly literate people have composed or memorized verse, weather or "Little Willie" rhymes, even long poems, that they would no more write down than they would a dirty joke. The result is a vast, loosely defined field of which folklorists have made no formal study, although specific areas such as children's games, limericks, and epitaphs have been carefully probed. The most convenient bibliography to these special studies is in Jan H. Brunvand's The Study of American Folklore ( New York, 1968) at the end of Chapter 7. Brian Sutton-Smith 's essay, "The Folk Games of the Children" in Our Living Traditions ( New York, 1968) introduces its reader to the sociological and psychological forces that play upon one area of folk verse and rhyme.

-112-

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Folklore from the Working Folk of America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Sources xxi
  • Folk Literature 1
  • Songs 50
  • Verse 112
  • Riddles 144
  • Superstitions, Practices, and Customs 177
  • Folk Expressions 258
  • Games 296
  • Ritual, Drama, and Festival 328
  • Famed in Song and Story: A Dozen Legendary Figures 369
  • Occupations 452
  • Index 454
  • Collectors, Informants, Sources 457
  • Titles and First Significant Lines of Songs and Verse 460
  • Index 463
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