Maggie by My Side
DESCRIPTION: "The land of my home is flitting, Flitting from my view; A gale in the sails is sitting; Toils the merry crew." The sailor wishes this were his home, with Maggie sitting by his side. Not even the storm can threaten him when she is there
AUTHOR: Stephen C. Foster
EARLIEST DATE: 1854 (sheet music by FIrth, Pond & Co.)
KEYWORDS: sailor home love
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Huntington-Gam, pp. 282-283, "Maggy By My Side/Maggie By My Side" (2 texts, 1 tune)
LOCSheet, sm1854.750390, "Maggie By My Side," Firth, Pond & Co. (New York), 1854 (tune)
NOTES: Like most Foster songs, it describes a life Foster knew nothing about, and like most Foster songs, it shows. This one is rare in tradition (in fact, I know of no actual field collections), but Foster's grip on the popular consciousness is shown by the fact that it was included in at least two ships' logbooks within two years of its composition.
William W. Austin, Susanna, Jeannie and the Old Folks at Home: The Songs of Stephen C. Foster from his time to ours, Macmillan, 1975, p. 117, reports "worst of all [in a series of sappy songs] is a cheerful song copyrighted in October 1853 and destined to sell more copies than any other song in the series [of love songs], including [I Dream of] 'Jeanie.' This is 'Maggie by My Side,' dedicated to a Pittsburg girl, Eliza Denniston, about whom nothing is known.... Such defiant good cheer is unique among the Foster songs."
Austin adds that it brought in $278.01 in royalties by 1857, and that the manuscript of the song sold in 1868 for $4500.
John Tasker Howard, Stephen Foster, America's Troubadour, 1934 (I use the 1939 Tudor Publishing edition), p. 211, based on Digging around on the Internet, I found an hypothesis that Maggie was the sailor's dog. While Stephen Foster was fond of dog songs, I find it hard to believe; the singer sounds too fond of Maggie.
Foster's manuscripts, says that it was originally a blackface song, and the heroine was Fanny; I think this additional evidence that a woman is meant. - RBW
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