Sunday, July 07, 2013

We Take So Long in Learnin'

The Deserted Adobe
by Anonymous


Round the 'dobe rank sands are thickly blowin',
Its ridges fill the deserted field;
Yet on this claim young lives once hope were sowing
For all the years might yield;
And in strong hands the echoing hoof pursuin'
A wooden share turned up the sod,
The toiler brave drank deep the fresh air's brewin'
And sang content to God.
The toiler brave drank deep the fresh air's brewin'
And sang content to God.

A woman fair and sweet has smilin' striven
Through long and lonesome hours;
A blue-eyed babe, a bit of earthly heaven,
Laughed at the sun's hot towers;
A bow of promise made this desert splendid,
This 'dobe was their pride.
But what began so well, alas, has ended —,
The promise died.
But what began so well alas soon ended —,
The promise died.

Their plans and dreams, their cheerful labor wasted
In dry and mis-spent years;
The spring was sweet, the summer bitter tasted,
The autumn salt with tears.
Now "gyp" and sand do hide their one-time yearnin';
'Twas theirs; 'tis past.
God's ways are strange, we take so long in learnin',
To fail at last.
God's ways are strange, we take so long in learnin',
To fail at last.

This splendid bit of verse is collected in John A. Lomax's Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads. In a note, Lomax remarks:

As for the songs of this collection, I have violated the ethics of ballad-gatherers, in a few instances, by selecting and putting together what seemed to be the best lines from different versions, all telling the same story. Frankly, the volume is meant to be popular. The songs have been arranged in some such hap-hazard way as they were collected,---jotted down on a table in the rear of saloons, scrawled on an envelope while squatting about a campfire, caught behind the scenes of a broncho-busting outfit....The songs of this collection, as a rule, have been taken down from oral recitation. In only a few instances have I been able to discover the authorship of any song. They seem to have sprung up as quietly and mysteriously as does the grass on the plains. (xxv-xxvi)

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