Yankee Doodle

Without a doubt . . .

"Yankee Doodle" was the most popular song on this side of the Atlantic Ocean during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It was well known for many years before being published in 1793 on a "broadside"—a single sheet containing the words only, selling for a penny—in Salem, Massachusetts, and sold at a shop called The Bible and Heart. It was titled "A Yankee Song." The refrain is sung after every verse:

Yankee Doodle, keep it up,1
Yankee Doodle, dandy.
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy!

Perform it as a series of solo verses, with all joining to sing the refrain. To offset its inherent monotony, have the soloist(s) modulate up a half-step every three or four stanzas. For a finale, repeat the last two lines of the refrain, pause four beats after the third line, and finish in either double time or half time, and top it off with a shouted "Huzzah!"

A Yankee Song

Father and I went down to camp
Along with Captain Goodin',
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty puddin',2


And there we saw a thousand men
As rich as 'squire David,
And what they wasted every day,
I wish it could be savéd.

The 'lasses3 they eat every day
Would keep a house a winter.
They have as much that I'll be bound,
They eat it when th're a mind to.

And there we see a swamping gun,4
Big as a log of Maple,
Upon a deuced little cart,
A load for father's cattle.

And every time they shoot it off,
It takes a horn of powder,
And makes a noise like Father's gun,
Only a nation louder.

I went as nigh to one myself,
As 'Siah's underpinning:
And Father went as nigh again,
I thought the deuce5 was in him.

Cousin Simon grew so bold
I thought he would have cock't it:
It scared me so, I shriek'd it off,
And hung by Father's pocket.

And Captain Davis had a gun,
He kind of clapt his hand on't,
And stuck a crooked stabbing iron6
Upon the little end on't.

And there I see a pumpkin shell7
As big as mother's bason.
And every time they touch'd it off
They scamper'd like the nation.

I see a little barrel too,
The heads were made of leather.
They knock'd upon with little clubs,
And call'd the folks together.8

And there was Captain Washington,
And Gentlefolks about him.
They say he's grown so tarnal9 proud
He will not go without them.

He got him on his greeting clothes,
Upon a slapping Stallion.
He set the world along in rows,
In hundreds and in millions.

The flaming ribbons in his hat
They look'd so tearing fine ah,
I wanted pockily10 to get
To give to my Jemimah.

I see another snarl of men
A-digging graves, they told me,
So tarnal long, so tarnal deep,
They 'tended they should hold me.

It scar'd me so I hook'd it off,
Nor stopt as I remember,
Nor turn'd about till I got home
Lock'd up in mother's chamber.

—From The Columbian Songster. Being a Large Collection of Fashionable Songs. Published in Wrentham, Massachusetts, 1799.

Sing Yankee doodle, that fine tune
Americans delight in;
It suits for peace, it suits for fun,
It suits as well for fighting.


Bold ADAMS did in seventy six,
Our independence sign, Sir,
And he will not give up a jot,
Tho' all the world combine, Sir.

Brother Ephraim sold his cow
And bought him a commission,11
And then he went to Canada
To fight for the nation.

But when Ephraim he came home,
He proved an arrant coward.
He wouldn't fight the Frenchmen there
For fear of being devour'd.

Sheep's head and vinegar
Buttermilk and tansy,12
Boston is a yankee town .
Sing Hey Doodle Dandy.

First we'll take a pinch of snuff,
And then a drink of water,
And then we'll say, "How do you do,"
And that's a Yankee's supper.

Stand up, Jonathan,
Figure in thy neighbor;
Vathen, stand a little off
And make the room some wider.

Christmas is a-coming, boys,
We'll go to Mother Chase's,
And there we'll get a sugar dram
Sweetened with molasses.

Punkin' pie is very good
And so is apple lantern,
Had you been whipp'd as oft as I
You'd not have been so wanton.

Uncle is a Yankee man,
I' faith, he pays us all off,
And he has got a fiddle
As big as Daddy's hog trough.

Yankee Doodle went to town
Riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it "macaroni."13

1. Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, Universal Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence (1811; facsimile. Northfield, Illinois: Digest Books, 1971). A Doodle was "a silly fellow, or noodle." A Noodle was a simpleton, or foolish fellow.

2. Ibid. "Oatmeal and milk boiled to a moderate thickness, and eaten with sugar and butter. Figuratively, a wet, muddy road: as, The way through Wandsworth is quite a hasty pudding. To eat hot hasty pudding for a laced hat, or some other prize, is a common feat at wakes and fairs."

3. Molasses is a thick syrup, often dark brown, produced during the refinement of raw cane sugar. it can also be made, with a somewhat different, more nutritious result, from sugar beets. Sorghum syrup, sometimes called sorghum molasses, is distilled from sorghum grass (Sorghum spp., esp. Sorghum bicolor); it is favored in the southern U.S.

4. A cannon.

5. The devil.

6. A bayonet.

7. A pumpkin shell was a mortar round filled with powder, often loaded with small balls to use against shipboard personnel. Noah Webster, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language (1806), s.v. "bomb."

8. In those days drums alone were used to broadcast signals of various kinds, especially on the battlefield. Bugles were not used for signaling until the Civil War.

9. Eternally, extremely.

Earnestly, passionately.

11. Officers' commissions in the Army or Navy could be purchased in those days.

12. "Tansy" (Tanacetum vulgare L.), is an aromatic plant with medicinal uses. Lewis and Clark gave the name Tansy Creek to a stream on Point Adams.

13. Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: Macaroni had two definitions back then. It was "An Italian paste made of flour and eggs. Also a fop, which name arose from a club, called the Maccaroni Club, instituted by some of the most dressy traveled gentlemen about town, who led the fashions; whence a man foppishly dressed, was supposed a member of that club, and by contraction styled a Maccaroni."