Dixie

Ironically, the Confederate national anthem, officially so for having been played at Jefferson Davis’s inauguration in 1862, was neither written in support of his cause nor by a Southerner. In April 1859, Daniel Decatur Emmett, an Ohioan, was working with Bryant’s Minstrels in New York City when he hastily composed “I Wish I Was In Dixie’s Land” as a walk-around for that same evening’s performance. Copyrighted a year later, the tune was widely pirated and made its appearance at the New Orleans Varieties theater in 1860 in a drama entitled, “Pocahontas.” By then its Confederate adoption was secure, although Northerners continued for some years to enjoy its lively melody. One version, “Union Dixie,” castigated the South as the land of “traitors, / Rattlesnakes and alligators.” Thirty-nine versions have been documented, testifying to the song’s pervasive appeal on both sides.

When Emmett learned of his song’s appeal in the South he remarked, “If I had known to what use they were going to put my song, I will be damned if I’d have written it.” But “Dixie” did eventually come home. A favorite of Lincoln’s since 1860, it was played at his request in April 1865, at the White House, the day after Richmond fell. “The Attorney General,” he quipped, “gave me his legal opinion that it is now our property. So I ask the band to play ‘Dixie.'”

Included on the following page are the lyrics of the original. Note stanza one, originally (and thence usually) omitted because Emmett’s boss’s wife feared the religious scruples of the audience.


I Wish I Was in Dixie’s Land

Dis worl’ was made in jiss six days,
An’ finished up in various ways;
Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixie land.
Dey den made Dixie trim and nice,
But Adam called it “Paradise,”
Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixie land.
I wish I was in de land ob cotton,
Old times dar am not forgotten,
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie land.
In Dixie land whar I was born in
Early on one frosty mornin’
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie land.

CHORUS:
Den I wish I was in Dixie, Hooray! Hooray!
In Dixie Land I’ll take my stand,
To lib and die in Dixie,
Away, away, away down south in Dixie.
Away, away, away down south in Dixie.

Old Missus marry “Will-de-weaber,”
Willyum was a gay deceber,
Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixie land.
But when he put his arms around her,
He smiled as fierce as a forty-pounder.
Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixie land.
His face was sharp as a butcher’s cleaber,
But dat did not seem to grieb’er,
Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixie land.
Old Missus acted de foolish part,
And died for a man dat broke her heart.
Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixie land. (Chorus)

Now here’s a health to de next old Missus,
An’ all de gals dat want to kiss us;
Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixie land.
But if you want to drive ‘way sorrow,
Come and hear dis song tomorrow.
Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixie land.
Dar’s buckwheat cakes and Injun batter,
Makes you fat, or a little fatter,
Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixie land.
Den hoe it down and scratch your grabble,
To Dixie’s land I’m bound to trabble.
Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixie land. (Chorus)

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