Mudcat Café message #3119356 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46147   Message #3119356
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
22-Mar-11 - 06:42 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: Huckleberry Hunting (Pumping Chantey)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Huckleberry Hunting (Pumping Chantey)

Thanks for that confirmation on the associations of huckleberries!

We do see, however, that they have also been associated with elsewhere. As you say,
Any collector of chanteys had her or his world view which affected how they perceived their subject. Ego, prejudice, morals and more determined what collectors included, so how could we ever be confident that any of them speak truth; it will always be their version of the truth, right?

The point of my critique is to demonstrate that how they perceived their subject was not based on just their life experiences generally but also more specifically on what they'd read. Additionally, it is to caution that we do not let their version of the truth become ours, unwittingly. The gist of my specific argument is that Whall may have put the idea of a Downeast origin on the table, after which Colcord, Doerflinger, and Hugill accepted it, and after which we know have the false appearance of consensus.

That Colcord did fieldwork is not in question. It is her manner of compiling the text and her analysis that I am critiquing. Hugill's pedigree was also impeccable. But he made assumptions that have come to be viewed as accurate but which really don't hold up to criticism.

Colcord's second and third verses are exactly the same as Whall's. How likely is it that two chanty texts in the oral tradition (in those days) would come out exactly the same? Well it is possible. But it is more likely IMO that Colcord (in the manner of Hugill) adopted these from Whall. Note that Whall states, "This was a chanty with regulation words to the first three verses." If Colcord took that at face value, she may have felt it was safe to assume that her second and third verses (perhaps she had only collected one verse) could be safely taken from Whall.

And again, Whall is the one to state first that "beau" and "feller", not *huckleberries*, point to Downeast. No matter how much fieldwork Colcord had done, she could have been inspired to make her "certain" conclusion from reading Whall. She doesn't say why the language makes it certain, and I am unwilling to assume her fieldwork and upbringing gave her a special intuitive sense to know the chanty originated Downeast. This is especially the case when we see that the lyric pops up in Appalachian and Southern blues songs.

It seems to be Doerflinger who then brings huckleberries into the picture, as if reading into Colcord's vague statement about language. The idea of Downeast origins was there on the table, and Doerflinger could form an association, just as we can today if we want to. But these huckleberries are like "blood red roses." If someone hadn't initially put them there, I don't believe we'd be swallowing them.

There is a general problem with these canonical chanty collectors' texts in this way they influence and borrow from each other in subtle ways. Individually, they are not necessarily any more flawed or biased than any book. But they have come to form a sort of bloc of standard reference that in some instances makes it hard to envision their subject in alternative ways. They have certainly created much of the reality of chanties that we now live with.