White Man, Let Me Go
DESCRIPTION: The Indian begs to be allowed to return to his land: "Let me go to my home in the far distant west... Let me go to my father... Let me go to the hills... Let me go to... my dark-eyed maid... And there let my body in ashes lie low"
AUTHOR: unknown (see NOTES)
EARLIEST DATE: 1844 (Journal from the Marcus)
KEYWORDS: Indians(Am.) lament homesickness
FOUND IN: US(MA,MW,SE) Canada(Mar,Newf) Australia
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Thompson-Pioneer 76, "The Indian Hunter" (1 text)
BrownIII 270, "The Indian Hunter" (1 text)
Huntington-Whalemen, pp. 180-181, "The Indian Hunter" ( text)
Fowke/Johnston, pp. 32-34, "White Man, Let Me Go" (1 text, 1 tune)
Peacock, pp. 164-165, "White Man, Let Me Go" (1 text, 1 tune)
Meredith/Anderson, pp. 228-229, "White Man, Let Me Go" (1 text, 1 tune)
WolfAmericanSongSheets, #1043, p. 71, "The Indian Hunter" (2 references)
ST FJ032 (Partial)
Vince Ledwell, "White Man Let Me Go" (on MUNFLA/Leach)
Richard Pennell, "To My Home In the Forest Let Me Go" (on MUNFLA/Leach)
NOTES: The notes in Brown cite Kittredge to the effect that this was printed in 1835. The source involved, however, is not listed. I wonder if this might not in fact be a reference to the 1835 song "The American Indian Girl" by J. M. Smith and Charles Edward Horn, a small portion of which is printed on pp. 242-243 of Jon W. Finson, The Voices That Are Gone: Themes in Nineteenth-Century American Popular Song, Oxford University Press, 1994. The themes of the two are similar, but based on the partial text in Finson, I would not call them the same song.
It IS, however, clearly the same song as one cited on p. 243 of Finson, "The Indian's Prayer," which is said to be by Isaac B. Woodbury and to have been published in 1846.
Since the song was copied aboard the Marcus n 1844, this was not the original. It appears that, in fact, Woodbury set a tune to an existing poem. Based on the Wikipedia entry for "The Indian's Prayer," the original version "The Indian's Entreaty" was published in 1833 by John Perry of Pennsylvania. But while Perry's version is identical thematically, it is not the same metrically. There must have been a rewrite somewhere, to convert the 11-syllable lines of the Perry version to the 12-syllable lines of the song. I have not found any reference to who did the rewriting, but since both the Marcus version and Woodbury's use the 12-syllable version, it must have been very early. Indeed, I wonder if just possibly the 12-syllable version is the original and Perry's the adaption. I also wonder if, perhaps, there might not have been a folk version of this song, with tune, independent of the Woodbury version. But I have not researched the point. - RBW
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