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Yankee Doodle

发表时间: 2008-04-04
"Yankee Doodle" is a well-known US song, often sung patriotically today. It is the state anthem of Connecticut.

The first verse and refrain, as often sung today, run thus:

Yankee Doodle went to town,
A-Riding on a pony;
He stuck a feather in his hat,
And called it macaroni.

Yankee Doodle, keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy;
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy

The tune has become synonymous with the United States. The Voice of America begins and ends all broadcasts with the interval signal of "Yankee Doodle".

"Yankee Doodle" is one of America's oldest and most endearing marching airs. It was written several years before the American Revolution, but like so much folk music, its exact origin is obscure.

In 1909, the American musicologist Oscar Sonneck set out to document the origins of this happy, impertinent tune. He discovered a reference to it in 1767's The Disappointment, one of the first American operas. The next year, a Boston newspaper article that discussed the arrival of a British warship mentioned that ". . . the 'Yankee Doodle' song was the Capital piece in their Band of Music." Tradition and other more official sources have it that the American version of the song was written, at least in part, by a Dr. Richard Schackburg, a British army surgeon during the French and Indian Wars while at the home of the Van Rensselaer family. Schackburg's lyrics were said to be composed to make fun of the colonials who fought alongside the British troops.

There are many theories regarding the origins of the words "Yankee" and "Doodle." One theory suggests that "Yankee" (or "Yankey") was derived from "Nankey," which can be found in an unpleasant jingle about Oliver Cromwell. Another possibility holds that the Indians corrupted the pronunciation of "English," resulting in "Yengees." By the mid-1700s it certainly referred to America's English colonists.

"Doodle," as found in old English dictionaries, meant a sorry, trifling fellow; a fool or simpleton. "Dandy," on the other hand, survived also as a description of a gentleman of affected manners, dress, and hairstyle. All taken, "Yankee Doodle" is a comic song and a parody. Indeed, the British made fun of rag-tag American militiamen by playing "Yankee Doodle" even as they headed toward the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

Of humble origin and perhaps questionable in matters of lyrical "taste," "Yankee Doodle" has survived as one of America's most upbeat and humorous national airs. In the fife and drum state of Connecticut, it is the official state song. George M. Cohan revived the tune in his "Yankee Doodle Boy" (also known as "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy") of 1904. It should surprise no one that John Philip Sousa was immensely fond of this work. He employed it in many of his arrangements and patriotic fantasies. He even used it as a counter-melody in his march "America First."

The song's origins were in a pre-Revolutionary War song originally by British military officers to mock the disheveled, disorganized colonial "Yankees" with whom they served in the French and Indian War. At the time, the most common meaning of the word doodle was that of "simpleton" or "fool". It is believed that the tune comes from the nursery rhyme Lucy Locket. One version of the Yankee Doodle lyrics is attributed to Doctor Richard Shuckburgh, a British Army surgeon.

The Boston Journal of the Times wrote about a British band declaring "that Yankee Doodle song was the Capital Piece of their band music."

Early versions
The earliest known version of the lyrics comes from 1775:

Brother Ephraim sold his Cow
And bought him a Commission;
And then he went to Canada
To fight for the Nation;
But when Ephraim he came home
He proved an arrant Coward,
He wouldn't fight the Frenchmen there
For fear of being devour'd.
(Note that the sheet music which accompanies these lyrics reads, "The Words to be Sung through the Nose, & in the West Country drawl & dialect.")

The Ephraim referenced here was Ephraim Williams, a popularly known Colonel in the Massachusetts militia who was killed in the Battle of Lake George. He left his land and property to the founding of a school in Western Massachusetts, now known as Williams College.

During the Revolutionary War, the Americans embraced the song and made it their own, turning it back on those who had used it to mock them. A newspaper account after the Battle of Lexington and Concord, a Boston newspaper reported: "Upon their return to Boston [pursued by the Minutemen], one [Briton] asked his brother officer how he liked the tune now, — 'Damn them,' returned he, 'they made us dance it till we were tired' — since which Yankee Doodle sounds less sweet to their ears."

The British responded with another set of lyrics following the Battle of Bunker Hill:

The seventeen of June, at Break of Day,
The Rebels they supriz'd us,
With their strong Works, which they'd thrown up,
To burn the Town and drive us.
Also on February 6, 1788. Massachusetts ratified the Constitution by a vote of 186 to 168. To the ringing of bells and the booming of cannons, the delegates trooped out of Brattle Street Church. Before many days had passed, the citizens sang their convention song to the tune of "Yankee Doodle." Here are the lyrics to their song...

The vention did in Boston meet,
The State House could not hold 'em
So then they went to Fed'ral Street,
And there the truth was told 'em...
And ev'ry morning went to prayer,
And then began disputing,
Till oppositions silenced were,
By arguments refuting.

Now politicians of all kinds,
Who are not yet decided,
May see how Yankees speak their minds,
And yet are not divided.
So here I end my Fed'ral song,
Composed of thirteen verses;
May agriculture flourish long
And commerce fill our purses!

Full version
A full version of the song, as it is known today, goes:

Source: Gen. George P. Morris - "Original Yankee Words", The Patriotic Anthology, Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc. publishers, 1941. Introduction by Carl Van Doren. Literary Guild of America, Inc., New York N.Y.

Fath'r and I went down to camp,
Along with Cap'n Goodin',
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty puddin'.
Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.
And there we saw a thousand men
As rich as Squire David,
And what they wasted every day,
I wish it could be saved.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up, etc.
The 'lasses they eat it every day,
Would keep a house a winter;
They have so much, that I'll be bound,
They eat it when they've mind ter.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up, etc.
And there I see a swamping gun
Large as a log of maple,
Upon a deuced little cart,
A load for father's cattle.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up, etc.
And every time they shoot it off,
It takes a horn of powder,
and makes a noise like father's gun,
Only a nation louder.
Yankee Doodle , keep it up, etc.
I went as nigh to one myself
As 'Siah's inderpinning;
And father went as nigh again,
I thought the deuce was in him.
Yankee Doodle , keep it up, etc.
Cousin Simon grew so bold,
I thought he would have cocked it;
It scared me so I shrinked it off
And hung by father's pocket.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up, etc.
And Cap'n Davis had a gun,
He kind of clapt his hand on't
And stuck a crooked stabbing iron
Upon the little end on't
Yankee Doodle, keep it up, etc.
And there I see a pumpkin shell
As big as mother's bason,
And every time they touched it off
They scampered like the nation.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up, etc.
I see a little barrel too,
The heads were made of leather;
They knocked on it with little clubs
And called the folks together.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up, etc.
And there was Cap'n Washington,
And gentle folks about him;
They say he's grown so 'tarnal proud
He will not ride without em'.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up, etc.
He got him on his meeting clothes,
Upon a slapping stallion;
He sat the world along in rows,
In hundreds and in millions.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up, etc.
The flaming ribbons in his hat,
They looked so tearing fine, ah,
I wanted dreadfully to get
To give to my Jemima.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up, etc.
I see another snarl of men
A digging graves they told me,
So 'tarnal long, so 'tarnal deep,
They 'tended they should hold me.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up, etc.
It scared me so, I hooked it off,
Nor stopped, as I remember,
Nor turned about till I got home,
Locked up in mother's chamber.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up, etc.
Gen. George P. Morris

Civil war
During the American Civil War, Southerners added some new lines of their own:

Yankee Doodle had a mind
To whip the Southern rebels,
Because they did not choose to live
On codfish from his tables.
Yankee Doodle, fa, so la,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
And so to keep his courage up,
He took a drink of brandy.
Also popular in the South was a further customized version called "Dixie Doodle":

Dixie whipped old Yankee Doodle
Early in the morning.
Yankeedom had best look out
And take a timely warning.
Hurrah! for our Dixie land,
Hurrah! for our borders!
Southern boys to arms will stand
And whip the dark marauders.

Variations and parodies
Many other variations and parodies have since arisen, including the one taught to schoolchildren today:

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
He stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni
Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Yankee Doodle round the world
As sweet as sugar candy

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
He stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni
Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
and with the girls be handy!
Some believe that these were alternative lyrics used by the British army during the revolutionary war. A "macaroni", in mid-18th-century , was a fashionable person; the joke being that the Yankees believed that a feather in the hat was sufficient to make them the height of fashion. Whether or not these were alternative lyrics sung in the British army, they were enthusiastically taken up by the Yanks themselves.

In the 1930s jazz vocalist Billie Holiday sung her own parodical version of the song, which began:

Yankee Doodle never went to town
I've just discovered the story was phony
Let me give you all the real low-down
He didn’t even own a pony