Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund



Scamp - (2013)    

Paul Laurence Dunbar

for baritone and piano


Ain't it nice to have a mammy
W'en you kin' o' tiahed out
Wid a-playin' in de meddah,
An' a-runnin' roun' about
Till hit's made you moughty hongry,
An' yo' nose hit gits to know
What de smell means dat's a-comin'
F'om de open cabin do'?
She wash yo' face,
An' mek yo' place,
You's hongry as a tramp;
Den hit's eat you suppah right away,
You sta'vin' little scamp.

W'en you's full o' braid an' bacon,
An' dey ain't no mo' to eat,
An' de lasses dat's a-stickin'
On yo' face ta'se kin' o' sweet,
Don' you t'ink hit's kin' o' pleasin'
Fu' to have som'body neah
Dat'll wipe yo' han's an' kiss you
Fo' dey lif' you f'om yo cheah?
To smile so sweet,
An' wash yo' feet,
An' leave 'em co'l an' damp;
Den hit's come let me undress you, now
You lazy little scamp.

Don' yo' eyes git awful heavy,
An' yo' lip git awful slack,
Ain't dey som'p'n kin' o' weaknin'
In de backbone of yo' back?
Don' yo' knees feel kin' o' trimbly,
An' yo' head go bobbin' roun',
W'en you says yo' "Now I lay me,"
An' is sno'in' on de "down"?
She kiss yo' nose,
She kiss yo' toes,
An' den tu'n out de lamp,
Den hit's creep into yo' trunnel baid,
You sleepy little scamp.

5 pages, circa 4' 15"

Paul Laurence Dunbar



The three strophes are vocally the same, while the accompaniment's harmonic gestures are re-voiced, such that the second strophe inverts the top and bottom, while the last strophe raises the accompaniment into the treble range. The opening gestures is marked piano. Throughout and a slowing of the tempo in the last is meant to be something like tiptoeing away from the sleeping "scamp's" trundle bed. The major-minor seven chords implied mostly with four notes each, move C-D-E and back, and thence to the subdominant transposition before returning to the tonic, and yet the melodic structure is an easy blues. The text was published in Dunbar's anthology, Lyrics Of Sunshine and Shadow (1901) and included later in Howdy, Honey, Howdy (1905).


The charming dialect is Dunbar's written attempt (as with many other poems he wrote) to capture a time, culture and place. Mammy is mother, and the time is long before this modern age of so much confusion and complexity. The child's play space is a meadow, the home is a cabin, and the parents are shown as tender and caring. Such should be reflected in a performance of this setting.  For other settings of Dunbar's texts, click here.



The score for Scamp 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.