Old Black Joe

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Old Black Joe exemplifies Stephen Foster at his height of expression and grace.  Note that the song is devoid of any affectations of black dialect. The language is poetic. If one can take away the bias of the modern era, indeed the century and more that has passed since its composing, and see it as a ballad telling us of the longing of the era in which it was written, one can truly appreciate the longing that goes beyond age and race.

Gone are the days when my heart was young and gay,

Gone are my friends from the cotton fields away.

Gone from the earth to a better land I know,

I hear their gentle voices calling “Old Black Joe.”

Chorus

I’m coming, I’m coming for my head is bending low;

I hear those gentle voices calling “old Black Joe.”

Why do I weep when my heart should feel no pain

Why do I sigh that my friends come not again,

Grieving for forms Now departed long ago?

I hear their gentle voices calling “Old Black Joe.”

Chorus

Where are the hearts once so happy and so free?

The children so dear that I held upon my knee,

Grone to the shore where my soul has longed to go.

I hear their gentle voices calling “Old Black Joe.”

Chorus

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