Harvard Student, The (The Pullman Train)
DESCRIPTION: As the train pulls into a village, a girl gets on and openly sits next to the "tall and stout and swell" (Harvard student). He gets "soot" in his eye; she offers to remove it. They enter a tunnel, and after kissing sounds her earring is found in his beard
AUTHOR: Louis Shreve Osborne?
EARLIEST DATE: 1871 (Harvard Advocate)
KEYWORDS: courting train humorous
FOUND IN: US(So)
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Randolph 391, "The Harvard Student" (1 text, 1 tune)
Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged, pp. 218-320, "The Harvard Student" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 391)
Spaeth-ReadEmAndWeep, pp. 109-110, "The Eastern Train" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-LongSteelRail, pp. 50-52, "In the Tunnel" (1 text)
Cohen-AmericanFolkSongsARegionalEncyclopedia1, pp. 9-10, "In the Tunnel" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Harold Nestler, "Songs from the Hudson Valley" (article in _New York Folklore Quarterly_, Volume V, #2, Summer 1949), pp. 87-88 "The Eastern Train" (1 text)
The Pullman Train
Riding Down from Bangor
NOTES [304 words]: According to Cohen, the 1871 printing in the Harvard Advocate is credited to "S. O. L." It was printed under the title "In the Tunnel." He speculates that "S. O. L." might be a distortion of the initials of poet Louis S. Osborne, who attended Harvard at the time.
His speculation has external support. Having read Cohen's comments, I went looking for works of Louis Shreve Osborne's. I found exactly one in Granger's Index to Poetry, that being "Riding Down from Bangor," in Hazel Felleman's The Best Loved Poems of the American People, p. 515. Which proves to be this very poem. But it may be that Felleman followed the same line of logic; her attributions are not very reliable. I think, on the whole, we have to list this as a "probable" case of authorship.
Jim Dixon brings to my attention "The Kiss in the Railway Train" (words by Watkin Williams, music by C. H. Mackney, published by B. Williams, 1864 -- i.e. seven years before the earliest date which I can currently demonstrate for this song), which occurs in the Roud Index as V20269, typically titled "Riding in a Railway Train." Jim mentions some thematic similarities but also differences: "it is told in the first person by the young woman; instead of her earring being transferred to him, his false moustache is transferred to her! And he turns out to be a purse-snatcher. Also, the verse structure is much different." He wonders about the relationship. I do, too -- I don't think there is direct literary dependence, but there probably is thematic dependence -- there was some story or poem or something which stands behind both pieces. "The Kiss in the Railway Train" almost sounds like a parody of this mixed with "The Charming Young Widow I Met on the Train." But that's all speculation. Further research is left as an exercise for the reader. - RBW
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