Went to the River (I)
DESCRIPTION: "I went to the river an' I couldn't get across, I jumped on a (log/alligator/nigger/possum/etc.) an' thought it was a horse."
EARLIEST DATE: 1907 (Jekyll)
KEYWORDS: river floatingverses
FOUND IN: US(SE,So) West Indies(Jamaica)
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Randolph 258, "Ease that Trouble in the Mind" (1 fragment)
BrownIII 193, "Went to the River and I Couldn't Get Across" (1 fragment)
Scarborough-NegroFS, pp. 184-185, (no title) (3 fragments plus an item entitled "Sister Cyarline" which has a chorus and might perhaps be something else)
Jekyll 130, ("Oh we went to the river an' we couldn' get across!") (1 fragment, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Paul G Brewster, Archer Taylor, Bartlett Jere Whiting, George P Wilson, Stith Thompson, Eds, _The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, Volume One: Games and Rhymes, Beliefs and Customs, Riddles, Proverbs, Speech, Tales and Legends_, (Durham: Duke University Press, 1952), p. 190-192, "Went to the River" (3 texts)
cf. "Johnny Booker (Mister Booger)" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Limber Jim" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Mary Mack (I)" (floating lyrics)
NOTES: Another of those ubiquitous floating verses, filed separately because it so often *appears* separately.
Randolph's version of this has a chorus: "I went to the river an' I couldn't get across, Ease that trouble in the mind, I jumped on a log an' thought it was a horse, Ease that trouble in the mind." But he has only a single four-line stanza, so it's not clear if the verse floated into something else or if there is a complete song. - RBW
Opie-Oxford2 362, "My mother said that I never should" includes an "I came to a river and I couldn't get across" verse: "'I came to a river' has had a long life as a make-weight verse in American play-party and minstrel songs. It is first noted in 'Clare de Kitchen, or Old Virginia Never Tire' (c.1838)." (cf. "Charleston Gals (Clear the Kitchen)")
TakingOpie-Oxford2's lead, the Public Domain Music site has an entry from "Minstrel Songs, Old and New" (1883) pp 152-153 for "'Clare de Kitchen; or, De Kentucky Screamer' (1832) Words and Music by Thomas Dartmouth (Daddy) Rice, 1808-1860" with verse 2 "I went to de creek, I couldn't git across, I'd nobody wid me but an old blind horse; But old Jim Crow came riding by, Says he, 'old feller, your horse will die.'" - BS
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