The Country Fiddler

by Baxter Taylor

The other day I chanced to hear
A fiddler fiddling on the air;
Those lively tunes brought back to me
The fiddling days of Tennessee.
Now let me tell you, if I can,
Just how the fiddlers fiddled then;
The fiddler's bow like quiv'ring wing
Tripped lightly o'er each vibrant string,
And lo! burst forth in joyous mood
Hilarious notes in tuneful flood!
They swelled in shouts and danced in glee,
They sang and laughed in ecstacy!
Now rolled the notes from touch of bow
As smooth as placid waters flow:
The mellow bass, the treble clear
Put hallelujah in the air!
The fiddler rocked and closed his eyes
And dreamed of heaven in the skies.
He made November bright as June
For in each lively, moving tune
Were wine and song untouched by woe
Brought forth by magic of his bow.
On top and sides and in the middle
Danced his bow all over the fiddle;
By simple quiver of his wrist
A nimble jerk and magic twist—
And now in high and then in low,
And thus the fiddler swang his bow.
Oh, when he touched the treble string
He made that fiddle shout and sing!
And as the fiddler waxed in zeal
He pat his foot from toe to heel.
His mingled notes from high to bass,
Like fox-hounds in a full-sight race,
Now filled the air with ringing glee
As did a dance in Tennessee.
In every fiddler's repertoire
This classic of the puncheon floor:
Wherein the swain his "pie and puddin'"
Gave all away "to hug Sally Goodin'";
"Billy in the Low Ground" marched in the van
With "Shake that little foot, Sally Ann,"
Then "Liza Ross" and "Forky Deer"
And "Hell Among the Yearlins" here,
And "Money Musk," and "Leather Breeches,"
He wore in bed and full of stitches—
"Wagoner," "Luly," "Cheatam"—and then,
The old "Barnyard," and "Cackling Hen";
Of course he gave the bow a draw
And played the "Turkey in the Straw."
In hill or plain or lonely dunes
The Monarch of all fiddle tunes—
"The Arkansas Traveler"'s first and best
'Mong all God's humble East and West,
Its buoyant strain forever thrills
Like glories of the Ozark Hills.
And thus the fiddler played and played;
He rocked and reeled and pat and swayed.
And thus goes life of simple men,
Whate'er the race or kith or kin,
And when we hear those fiddlers play,
We're carried back to youth's sweet day!