Glory & Shame




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by Ernest Thompson Seton

Glory and Shame Rhymes

When men were more spontaneous and maybe more generally vocal in a musical sense than now, they had in use a great many glory chants or acclaims as well as some of shame or reprobation.

Thus Scott in the "Lady of the Lake" as the new Chief's bodyguard chant the Gaelic acclaim "Hail to the Chief!"

There are one or two of these in the Old Testament, and among the singing nations of Central Europe, we hear references to these greetings of high honor.

Among ourselves, the historical chant that I fear is dying out, thanks to its poor literary quality, is that to the memory of Washington. The leader chants: "Who was Washington?" And the group chant in response

He was first in peace,
First in war,
And first in the hearts of his countrymen!

It would be easy to gather a long array of similar honor greetings, but alas, they are all, or nearly all, obsolete.

As I scan our daily life-school or business--I find remaining one or two, chiefly shame rhymes, such as--

When a school boy has tattled, the rest express their detestation of this crime of crimes by singing in unison, as they point the finger of scorn at him:

Your tongue shall be slit,
Every dog in the town
Shall get a wee bit.

Or if a boy comes late, the rest sing:

Dilly dilly dollar,
A ten o'clock scholar.

Another version of this is

A dilly, a dollar,
A ten o'clock scholar,
What makes you come so soon?
You used to come at ten o'clock,
And now you come at noon.

Or a child too ready to cry is ridiculed as

Cry-baby, cry,
Put your finger in your eye,
Cry-baby, cry!

But no honor rhymes at all in school.  I cannot at this moment recall a single glory rhyme among adults, except perhaps the occasional and uninspiring

He's a jolly good fellow,
Which nobody can deny.

In most assemblages today the best we can do to recognize the entrance of some one we wish to honor is simply by stamping the feet or even standing up in dead silence. Isn't it pitiful!

Here is a perfectly natural and desirable instinct followed by a surge of admirable emotion. We wish to voice it and don't know how.

Our Woodcraft summer camps are so natural and so conducive to healthy spontaneous sentiment that they are digging up and evolving both glory and shame chants.

Thus at one camp when a boy smashed a dish, all the rest broke out into their established and disapproving

Ah-ah--ah-ah-ah !
Ah-ah--ah-ah-ah !
Ah-ah--ah-ah-ah !

But the glory rhymes are fortunately developing faster.  Quite a number of the tribes now use

Some folks say Blankety ain't got no style.
He's got style all the while, all the while, etc.

It is pretty poor, but a start in the right direction.

A feeble attempt is seen in

"What's the matter with Blankety?"
"He's all right!"
"Who's all right?"
"Blankety !"

It is sadly bad as art, yet it is correct in frame-work, for it begins with a question or announcement by the leader, indicating the one to be honored, followed by a rousing response from all.

All of which scattered observations go to show that here is a proper and admirable instinct that prompts us to express an honor greeting in an established rhyme or acclaim by a group.  We need some good ones.

The Danish Honor Chant

The Birch Bark Roll






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Peer- Level Topic Links:
Nation Awaits ] [ Glory & Shame ] Danish Honor ] Lullaby ] Canoeist ] Death Song ] Zuni Sunset ] Zon-zi-mon ] Hither Thunder! ] Muje Mukesin ] Alouette ] Omaha Tribal ] Ah, Yi! ] Deep Dark ] Cuna Bird ] Zuni Sunrise ] Pussy Willow ] Chippewa Cradle ] Prayer Warriors ] Ghost Dance ] Omaha Call ] Peace Pact ] Zuni Council ]

Parent- Level Topic Links:
Native Skills ] Totem Poles ] Indian Sign Language ] Indian Ceremonies ] Indian Dance ] Indian Songs ] Birch Bark Dances ] Birch Bark Songs ] Birch Bark Plays ] Indian Games for Boys ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.