Noddin' By The Fire


Noddin' By The Fire - (2010)    

Paul Laurence Dunbar

for medium or low voice and piano


Some folks t’inks hit ‘s right an’ p’opah,
Soon ez bedtime come erroun’,
Fu’ to scramble to de kiver,
Lak dey ‘d hyeahed de trumpet soun’.
But dese people dey all misses
Whut I mos’ly does desiah;
Dat ‘s de settin’ roun’ an’ dozin’,
An’ a-noddin’ by de fiah.

When you ‘s tiahed out a-hoein’,
Er a-followin’ de plough,
Whut ‘s de use of des a-fallin’
On yo’ pallet lak a cow?
W’y, de fun is all in waitin’
In de face of all de tiah,
An’ a-dozin’ and a-drowsin’
By a good ol’ hick’ry fiah.

Oh, you grunts an’ groans an’ mumbles
Case yo’ bones is full o’ col’,
Dough you feels de joy a-tricklin’
Roun’ de co’nahs of yo’ soul.
An’ you ‘low anothah minute
‘S sho to git you wa’m an’ dryah,
W’en you set up pas’ yo’ bedtime,
Case you hates to leave de fiah.

Whut ‘s de use o’ downright sleepin’?
You can’t feel it while it las’,
An’ you git up feelin’ sorry
W’en de time fu’ it has pas’.
Seem to me dat time too precious,
An’ de houahs too short entiah,
Fu’ to sleep, w’en you could spen’ ‘em
Des a-noddin’ by de fiah.

[ 3 pages, circa 4' 35" ]

Paul Laurence Dunbar


The text is found in Dunbar's collection published in 1896, When Malindy. This is among that range of Dunbar's work which is written in dialect, endings to some words dropped and "yo" replacing "your," among other details of language.



The four stanzas are set in a standard song form, two verses, a bridge and then final verse with a repeated phrase. With a limited vocal range and piano accompaniment marked mostly with quiet dynamics, this is a musing about that special time of day in which weariness lingers awake.




The bridge material captures the grunts and groans and mumbles with a light agitation, a complaint against complaints, so to speak. Through the middle of the stanza, this agitation drops away as the half-note chords replace the previous, short-lived syncopations.




The score for Noddin' By The Fire 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.


Noddin' By The Fire