Hog Meat - (2007)
Daniel Webster Davis
for medium high voice and piano
Deze eatin' folks may tell me ub de gloriz ub spring lam',
toofsumnis ub tuckey et wid cel'ry an' wid jam;
Ub beef-st'ak fried wid
unyuns, an' sezoned up so fine--
But you' jes' kin gimme hog-meat, an'
I'm happy all de time.
When de fros' is on de pun'kin an' de sno'-flakes
in de ar',
I den begin rejoicin'--hog-killin' time is near;
vizhuns ub de fucher den fill my nightly dreams,
Fur de time is fas' a-comin'
fur de 'lishus pork an' beans.
We folks dat's frum de kuntry may be
behin' de sun--
We don't like city eatin's, wid beefsteaks dat ain'
'Dough mutton chops is splendid, an' dem veal cutlits fine,
me 'tain't like a sphar-rib, or gret big chunk ub chine.
Jes' talk to
me 'bout hog-meat, ef yo' want to see me pleased,
Fur biled wid beans tiz
gor'jus, or made in hog-head cheese;
An' I could jes' be happy, 'dout
money, cloze or house,
Wid plenty yurz an' pig feet made in ol'-fashun
I 'fess I'm only humun, I hab my joys an' cares--
days de clouds hang hebby, sum days de skies ar' fair;
But I forgib my
in'miz, my heart is free frum hate,
When my bread is filled wid cracklins
an' dar's chidlins on my plate.
'Dough 'possum meat is glo'yus wid
'taters in de pan,
But put 'longside pork sassage it takes a backward
Ub all yer fancy eatin's, jes gib to me fur mine
Sum souse or
pork or chidlins, sum sphar-rib, or de chine.
[ 7 pages, circa 4' 40" ]
Daniel Webster Davis
Daniel Webster Davis (1862-1913) was an educator, Baptist minister, popular,
orator, historian, poet and a leader of Richmond Virginia's African-American
community for over three decades. The following, delightfully quaint
biographical sketch is taken from Twentieth Century Negro Literature Or,
A Cyclopedia of Thought on the Vital Topics Relating to the American Negro,
edited by D. W. Culp, A. M., M. D., 1902, J. L. Nichols & Company,
Randall and Charlotte Davis, who were valued servants on a Caroline
County farm, found themselves, March 25, 1862, the parents of a little
black boy, who brought gladness and sorrow to their hearts. Gladness,
because the Lord had sent them a boy, and he was their boy, bone of
their bone, flesh of their flesh, blood of their blood. Sorrow, because,
while he was their child, he was "Marster's" child too; he belonged to "Marster"
more than he did to them.
War was raging. The Negro cabins knew little else but muffled prayers,
stifled songs, unuttered sermons—all for deliverance. From the cabin to
the broad fields of tobacco these emotions and utterances were carried
daily. Father preached, mother prayed. Singing was but the opening of
the oppressed heart. Those were troublous years, heart-aching years.
Years of consecration, fixed and unceasing, to the God of Freedom. In
such an atmosphere the boy was nurtured and reared.
The war was over. The boy over whom mother and father had prayed had
changed from a chattel, a thing of barter, to a free child, belonging
only to mother and father. What a change!
Entering the public schools of Richmond, step by step, grade by grade
was passed with honor and public commendation, until June, 1878, when D.
Webster Davis graduated from the Richmond High and Normal School,
receiving at the same time the Essayist Medal.
In 1880 the subject of our sketch commenced to teach in the public
schools of Richmond and has taught therein continuously ever since, and
is to-day rated as one of the best and most progressive in the system.
September 8, 1893, Mr. Davis married Miss Lizzie Smith, a teacher in the
Richmond public schools. From this happy union three children have been
In October, 1895, feeling that the time had come for him to be about his
Father's business he was ordained to the ministry.
From a child he babbled in verse, and the poetic muse brought in 1896,
"Idle Moments" and in 1898, "Weh Down Souf." These two books established
the name of Rev. Mr. Davis as a poet and have given him front rank with
his contemporaries in verse-making.
Guadaloupe College, Seguin, Texas, recognizing the meritorious work of
Rev. Davis bestowed upon him the degree of A. M. in 1898.
Rev. Mr. Davis is at present pastor of the Second Baptist Church of
Manchester, where he has an ideal growing church of young folks, which
work he began in 1895.
In the winter of 1900, the Central Lyceum Bureau of Rochester, N. Y.,
engaged the services of Rev. Davis for a four-weeks' reading tour,
reading selections from his own works. The whole tour was an ovation,
showing that texture of hair and color of skin cannot destroy that
aristocracy of intellect, that charmed inner circle wherein "a man is a
man for a' that."
The Lord has been good to Rev. Daniel Webster Davis, blessing him with
intellectual force, blessing him with poetic utterance, blessing him
with oratorical ability, blessing him in domestic felicity. Not yet in
his prime, yet so richly endowed in the gifts which make men strong and
powerful, it is hoped that he may be spared many years to work in the
Master's vineyard, and many years to labor for the uplift of his race,
oppressed and downtrodden.
May he expand and grow greater, remembering that he is God's servant,
endowed for the benefit of his race, blessed, so that he may bless his
people made strong, so that he may reach down and lift his people up,
growing brighter and better unto the present day.
Written for medium high voice, the setting is in an "American" style. The
text may be found in The Book of American Negro Poetry. Ed. James
Weldon Johnson. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922. The
poem's verses are at first kept synchronous with the "verses" of the
setting, stanzas 1 and 3 set to the first style, and stanzas 2 and 4 to a
second contrasting style.
As the poet has chosen to write in a slang of American English, I enclose
below for those whose first language is not English a translation as
[ 1 ]
The second style is far less "music hall" and direct, as the season is
greeted directly -- "hog-killin' time is near."
As the fourth stanza is broken in half architecturally in the setting,
another musical change accompanies the next mood change. There comes a
relative peace alongside the excitement of "hog-killin' time" as the speaker
finds peace from the mere contemplation of the many varieties of "hog meat"
soon to come.
The sixth stanza becomes "strut-like" and more enthusiastic, as the litany
of other meats and their accompanying dressings are contrasted to this
glorious time and season. The utter charm of this text is in its use of a
lower class or slang parlance to sing the praises of meats -- something
lower classes were not always fortunate enough to enjoy. It is in this way a
sign of advancement and even emancipation for the American black in the time
in which this and other fine texts were written.
[ 2 ]
The score for Hog Meat is available as a free PDF download, though
any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited
without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for
this piano-vocal score.
[ 1 ]
What follows is an far less artistic rendition of Davis' text, as assistance
to those who would find at first his parlance difficult. To make this
translation shows how wonderfully artistic and interesting is Davis' capture
of a parlance now generally gone from the overall American tapestry of
English language dialects. I apologize herein for robbing from Davis' text
as a help to others who do not at first feel comfortable with this
distinctly American dialect.
These eating folks may tell me of the glories of spring lamb,
And the toothsome-ness of turkey eaten with wild celery and with jam;
Of beef steak fried with onions, and seasoned so fine --
But you just can give me hog meat, and I am happy all the time.
When the frost is on the pumpkin and the snowflakes in the air,
I then begin rejoicing -- hog killing time is near;
And the visions of the future then fill my nightly dreams,
For the time is fast coming for delicious pork and beans.
We folks that are from the country may be behind the sun -- [backwards]
We do not like city eating, with beef steak that is not done --
Though mutton chops are splendid, and those veal cutlets fine,
To me it is not like a spare rib, or a great big chunk of shin.
Just talk to me about hog meat, if you want to see me pleased,
For boiled with beans it is gorgeous, or made into hog's head cheese;
And I could just be happy, without money, clothes or house,
With plenty of years and pigs' feet made in an old-fashioned sauce.
I confess I am only human, I have my joys and cares --
Some days the clouds hang heavy, some days the skies are fair;
But I forgive my enemies, my heart is free from hate,
When my bread is filled with cracklings and there is chitterlings on my
Though opossum meat is glorious with potatoes in the pan,
But put alongside pork sausage it takes a backward stance;
Of all your fancy eating, just give to me for mine
Some sauce or pork or chitterlings, some spare rib, or the shin.
Chitterlings (chit´linz, and sometimes pronounced with three rather than the
preferred two syllables) is not a well-known word even to many English
speakers. Webster's New World Dictionary defines the word as "the
small intestines of pigs, used for food, usually fried in deep fat."
A delightful little quote says, "We were well along in years before we
discovered that the name of this dish had an "e," an "r," a "g" -- and 3
syllables, and still farther along before we found these were the base for
the sausage, Andouillette, the French set store by. Just after slaughtering,
empty the intestines of a young pig while still warm, by turning them inside
out and scraping the mucous covering off completely." [p. 512, Joy of
Cooking, Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (1975 edition). 1931,
Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, New York.] For further instructions on
preparation, I leave it to the interested to find the recipe noted above in
[ 2 ] Professor W. H. Crogman, chair of Greek and Latin in Clark University,
Atlanta, wrote in the Introduction to Twentieth Century Negro Literature,
"The first generation of Negroes after emancipation exhibited to a painful
degree the spirit of dependence, an inclination to lean on something and on
somebody—now on the politician, now on the philanthropist. The reason for
this, of course, is not far to fetch. The spirit of dependence is invariably
a characteristic of weakness."
It is a tragic commentary on the continuing nostalgia for socialist theory
and thinking that a "spirit of independence" is not further encouraged, but
rather a "spirit of dependence, an inclination to lean on something and on
somebody" which the modern white-led Left tries to instill in American black
culture today, as if the aspirations of the movement captured in the life
work of Martin Luther King have become corrupted by an elite seeking wealth
at the expense of the greater community's independence, twisting it back
into dependence which American history visited upon earlier generations of
blacks. May this be corrected as authors like Culp, Davis and Crogman have
so clearly expressed above, with further emancipation, pride in culture and
independence of spirit which is evolving still.