FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs

 

FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD
The “Drinking Gourd” is another name for the Big Dipper asterism. The asterism is laid
out in such a way that it is always seen in the north sky. Two of the stars line directly up
with Polaris. The name drinking gourd is based upon the shape resemblance of the
would-be constellation to a dipper.
According to legend, the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd” was used by a conductor of
the Underground Railroad, called Peg Leg Joe to guide some fugitive slaves. However,
the authenticity of the legend is disputed. It is based on the field notes of a single
folklorist, H. B. Parks. He records overhearing the song on a few chance occasions. The
related story of Peg Leg Joe was recounted in a conversation with an elderly man and his
grandson in 1912. Since then, no confirming evidence has emerged. No record of the
song has been located in old hymn books, historical documents or family traditions.
While the song may possibly refer to some lost fragment of history, the origin and context
remain a mystery. One source asserts that it was a favorite of Harriet Tubman, who sang
it while leading slaves north.
Follow the drinking gourd,
Follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is waiting
for to carry you to freedom
If you follow the drinking gourd
When the sun comes back
and the first quail calls,
Follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is waiting
for to carry you to freedom
If you follow the drinking gourd
The riverbank will make a very good road,
The dead trees show you the way,
Left foot, peg foot traveling on,
Following the drinking gourd.
The river ends between two hills,
Follow the drinking gourd,
There’s another tree on the other side,
Follow the drinking gourd.
Where the great big river meets the little river,
Follow the drinking gourd,
The old man is waiting,
for to carry you to freedom
If you follow the drinking gourd