Massa's in de Cold Ground

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Massa's in de Cold Ground  (1852) 
by Stephen Foster
First edition
"Massa's in de Cold Ground" is minstrel song by Stephen Foster (1826-1864) published by Firth, Pond & Co. of New York in 1852. The song is written in common time and in the key of D major with a tempo marked poco lento. Ken Emerson, author of Doo-Dah!, writes that Foster followed up the success of "Old Folks at Home" with two more blackface songs: "Farewell My Lily Dear" published in December 1851 and "Massa" seven months later. "Massa" closely resembles "Old Folks" in its D major key, its 4/4 time, its six phrase structure, and its leap from D to high D in the opening measures. Emerson thinks the title may have been suggested by the Thomas Moore ballad "When Cold in the Ground", but the scenario, he points out, is the "flip-side" of "Uncle Ned" and "Oh! Boys, Carry Me 'Long". In "Massa", slaves are crying for a deceased slave owner - rather than the slave owner and his wife crying for a deceased slave. Emerson decides "Massa" has "a staying power that cannot be denied" (in spite of the expressed viewpoints of relations between master and slave, which are controversial in today's world), and attributes this power to Foster's "personal involvement" in the song. Massa is Foster's father William Barclay Foster who died not a wealthy but poor man. Emerson writes "{Stephen's] lyrics are both patricidal and anticipatory, a compound of guilt and grief." The song was the first of only four songs Foster published in 1852. Emerson speculates that the songwriter was simply played out, or he was living well enough on the royalties of his past successes to take some time off. Another "Cold" was added to the title following the American Civil War. (Ken Emerson. 1998. Doo-dah!: Stephen Foster and the rise of American popular culture. Da Capo Press. pp. 184-5)

Round de meadows am a ringing
De darkeys' mournful song,
While de mocking-bird am singing,
Happy as de day am long.
Where de ivy am creeping
O'er de grassy mound,
Dare old massa am a sleeping,
Sleeping in de cold, cold ground.
Chorus: (2 times)
Down in de cornfield
Hear dat mournful sound:
All de darkeys am a weeping --
Massa's in de cold, cold ground.

When de autumn leaves were falling,
When de days were cold,
'Twas hard to hear old massa calling,
Cayse he was so weak and old.
Now de orange tree am blooming
On de sandy shore,
Now de summer days am comming,
Massa nebber calls no more.

Massa made de darkeys love him,
Cayse he was so kind,
Now dey sadly weep above him,
Mourning cayse he leave dem behind.
I cannot work before tomorrow,
Cayse de tear drops flow,
I try to drive away my sorrow
Pickin on de old banjo.

This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.