Message: America's First Rap Song

Landau, James James.Landau at NGC.COM
Wed May 17 13:14:20 UTC 2006

The date given is wrong.

"BEAUREGARD.-------------------------Then I'll stow my wid,
  Button my bone-box and do as FLOYD did."

The reference to "FLOYD" is to the Confederate General of that name, who
was in command at Fort Donelson and who, once Grant attacked Donelson,
fled and left a subordinate to surrender the troops to Grant.  This
occurred in February of 1862 and provides a terminus ad quem for the

I'm afraid this is one topical allusion that cannot be disregarded.

Once the date is corrected, this poem is a possible antedating for the
word "bingo" (for which MWCD10 gives 1925)

    - Jim Landau

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Lighter [mailto:wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM] 
Sent: Tuesday, May 16, 2006 11:14 PM
Subject: America's First Rap Song

How rare it is to find so perfect and proficient an example of the
rapper's art !  Novices could do far worse than to adopt the following
adept effusion as their model, taking pains to observe the length of
line, the forward-driving power of the measure, the delightful surprise
of the judiciously selected feminine rimes, strewn as tastefully as are
the gay flowers in the wild vales of Nature.  Observe, too, the
appearance--sternly required by the _genre_--of the so-called "N-word"
(for once spelled correctly, may it be noted ! ).  The dramatic rrole of
the "Cove" (who in actuality one of the rapper's own "pals," suitably
costumed) is an exceptionally artistic touch, as is the appearance of
fully-uniformed Lincoln soldiers on stage.  A scintillating syncopation
wonderfully designed to maintain our closest attention is also in great

  So finely realized is this piece, that one may dispense entirely with
explication of the topical allusions, and plunge in directly.

  _Vanity Fair_ (N.Y.C.), Nov. 9, 1861, p. 216:

  I see a crib that no one South can crack,
  We lost our "JIMMY," would we had him back !--
  Old ABE's a prig that all my coves do fear,
  And with McCLELLAN, keeps me quiet here.
  Else quick I'd cross and bienly dub the jigger,
  Pinch all the swag and put the darbies on each nigger;
  Then nap the regulars and go a hazard,
  Cramp BILLY SEWARD, stave in CHASE'S mazzard.
  Show all the North the Constitution's played out,
  And lay out mudsills until all are laid out.
  At WILLARD'S afterwards we'll call the roll,
  Order up booze and never post the cole.
  Mounting my prad, I'd go then to the forts,
  Take all my bob culls and my bene' morts.
  I'd hold high revel, sluice my gob alway,
  Ne'er fash myself, nor think of cramping-day,
  But Bingavast's the word !  I must namaze,
  McCLELLAN'S cutty eyed and knows my lays;
  _He's_ fly enough to shut up every boozing ken;
  If _I_ did that each day I would be losing men.
  Kinchins and cullies, all must have their bingo,
  Keep the lush from them and they'll lope, by jingo !
  Our game is dusty but we cannot stop ;
  It's either fight or take the morning drop.
       [_Enter one of Beauregard's coves, hurriedly._]
  COVE.--The cops are coming !
  BEAUREGARD.-------------------------Then I'll stow my wid,
  Button my bone-box and do as FLOYD did.
      [_Runs off (R.) as Federal skirmishers enter (L.)_]

The American Dialect Society -

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