I Like Americans -
medium voice and piano
They are so unlike Canadians.
They do not take their
They come to Montreal to drink.
Not to criticize.
They claim they won the war.
But they know at heart that they didn't.
They have such respect for Englishmen.
They like to live abroad.
do not brag about how they take baths.
But they take them.
are so good.
And they wear B.V.D.'s all the year round.
I wish they
didn't brag about it.
They have the second best navy in the world.
they never mention it.
They would like to have Henry Ford for president.
But they will not elect him.
They saw through Bill Bryan.
gotten tired of Billy Sunday.
Their men have such funny hair cuts.
They are hard to suck in on Europe.
They have been there once.
They produced Barney Google, Mutt
They do not hang lady murderers.
They put them
They read the Saturday Evening Post
And believe in
When they make money
They make a lot of money.
are fine people.
pages, circa 3' 00" ]
First published under the pseudonym, By a Foreigner, in the
Toronto Star Weekly in 1923, this poetic rendering is a set
of short, terse sentences, something like reporting and something like
poetry as well. For more on Hemingway, please see
Montparnasse (1920), a setting of another of his early early
Hemingway writes of Americans, "They come to Montreal to drink. Not to
criticize." According to the
Canadian Encyclopedia, Edmonton, Hurtig, 1988, as to the
disastrous experimentation with prohibition in the United States, "Québec
rejected [prohibition] as early as 1919 and became known as the 'sinkhole'
of N[orth] America, but tourists flocked to 'historic old Québec' and the
provincial government reaped huge profits from the sale of booze." Some
things seem not to change, as the current enthusiasm for prohibiting smoking
is beginning to undermine government revenues from tobacco sales which has
been planned to support various health programs, in another odd "kill the
golden goose" game wherein government sees itself as source for moral and
medical authority, thereby undermining freedom. Even so, smokers in some
states bordering on Canada found smuggling to undercut state taxes a
profitable adventure. This continues with pharmaceuticals coming from Canada
which undercut the controlled market in drugs in the U. S. "La plus
change, la plus même chose."
Hemingway's reference to "B.V.D.'s" is to a particular maker of
underwear whose trademark was the abbreviation; BVD, founded in 1876 by
three gentlemen, Messrs. Bradley, Voorhees and Day, was one of the most
famous and historically innovative brands in America, and the expression
remains in the patois of American English. American entrepreneur Henry Ford
(1863-1947) used the newly invented assembly line to manufacture
automobiles, creating the Ford Motor Company, and" Bill Bryan" refers to
William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), an American lawyer and politician who
lost his bid for U.S. Presidency. "Billy Sunday" was the popular name for
William Ashley Sunday (1862-1935), an American evangelist who ran revivals
throughout the country.
Hemingway writes of Americans, "They are hard to suck in on Europe. They
have been there once." "Suck in" means to trick, or to deceive. The
reference to "once" refers to the United States' involvement in World War I
under President Woodrow Wilson, an avowed pacifist who nonetheless was
forced to assist free nations in Europe by means of America's military and
industrial might. This reference also explains the "second best navy in the
world," for later the U. S. again came to free Europe's aid and thereby
built the best navy in that time out of sheer necessity.
"Barney Google," "Mutt and Jeff," and "Jiggs" were all popular American
newspaper comic strip characters in the era from 1910-1920.
for medium voice, the song begins with a syncopation to capture the text, "I
like Americans." Though marked
the tempo is better described as that by which the singer might best
enunciate the text clearly.
change in accompaniment texture stands as a second section of the song
setting, with its arpeggios and opposite motion breaking the insistent
syncopated accompaniment for a short while.
release of the rhythmic drive comes as the text speaks of Americans "seeing
through" various issues, especially as regards politics and religion. Again,
as in the time when Hemingway wrote this text, it seems as if things have
not changed significantly in terms of an abiding American skepticism for
political movements, especially of an internationalist sort, and the faults
which so easily hide behind a mask of religion.
Hemingway wrote a companion piece under the same pseudonym, By a Foreigner,
titled "I Like Canadians." It too was published in the
Toronto Star Weekly. Should one imagine that a Canadian
composer might someday set this text? Shall I? The text is also included
below, for amusement.
The score to I Like Americans in the medium key 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.
I Like Americans
I Like Canadians
By A Foreigner
They are so unlike Americans.
They go home at
Their cigarets don't smell bad.
Their hats fit.
really believe that they won the war.
They don't believe in
They think Art has been exaggerated.
But they are
wonderful on ice skates.
A few of them are very rich.
they are rich they buy more horses
Than motor cars.
calls Toronto a puritan town.
But both boxing and horse-racing
Nobody works on Sunday.
That doesn't make me mad.
There is only one Woodbine.
you ever at Blue Bonnets?
If you kill somebody with a motor car
You are liable to go to jail.
So it isn't done.
There have been over 500 people killed by motor cars
So far this year.
It is hard to get rich in Canada.
But it is
easy to make money.
There are too many tea rooms.
there are no cabarets.
If you tip a waiter a quarter
Instead of calling the bouncer.
They let women
stand up in the street cars.
Even if they are good-looking.
They are all in a hurry to get home to supper
And their radio
They are a fine people.
I like them.