Monday, February 9, 2009

Death Ain't You Got No Shame

"Death Ain't You Got No Shame" is a white spiritual, a folk song collected by Alan Lomax. The words are simple and repetitive, but the power of the sorrow is rich. I haven't found a free example of the song that's "listenable" to my ears, but the lyrics (truncated) are: 

Death ain't you got no shame. 

Left his pappy to moan. 

Left his widder alone. 

Left his mammy to weep. 

Death ain't you got no shame. 

The folk song speaks to me, because the bereaved do often personify death. When we make it a someone, all be it a mysterious and unknown someone, but, when we make it a someone it makes it possible to express our anger, sorrow, and pain at this someone. It gives us a place to put our thoughts and feelings. You can't shake your finger at an event and "ain't you got no shame," but you can at a mysterious someone. Once again, it seems that it is the arts that allow us to manage the unmanageable, in this case the literary and poetic art of the words and the sounds over time that express those words. 

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