Many song sheets in America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets illustrate a number of poetic devices and provide an opportunity to examine how these techniques convey certain ideas. Topics available for discussion include the treatment of familiar themes such as patriotism, love, and war, as well as the relationship between parody and satire. Additionally, works by songwriters such as Stephen Foster can be used to discuss common themes and styles that appear throughout an artist's work. Many of the lyrics also lend themselves to both interpretation and imitation, thereby allowing for a number of creative writing exercises.
A search on the term, parody, produces parodies of songs on a number of topics, including food ("The Last Potato"), the Civil War ("Parody on When This Cruel War is Over"), temperance ("Parody on Uncle Sam's Farm"), and westward expansion ("Parody on To The West"). In most cases, the parodies can be directly compared to the songs on which they are based.
To the west! to the west! to the land of the free,
Where the mighty Missouria rolls down to the sea,
Where a man is a man if he is willing to toil,
And the humblest may gather the fruits of the soil,
Where children are blessings, and he who hath most
Has aid to his fortune, and riches to boast;
Where the young may exult, and the aged may rest,
Away, far away, to the land of the west.
From "To the West."
To the west! to the west, I once went, do you see,
And one visit, I'm sure, was sufficient for me;
Oh, the things that I saw there, they frightened me quite,
And ever since then, sirs, I've scarcely been right.
My children got sick every day, sirs, almost,
And my wife took the chills, and got deaf as a post;
Oh, there's some may exult, but for me, sirs, I'm bless'd
If I haven't as much as I want of the west!
From "Parody on To The West."
- How do these parodies use the rhyme schemes, imagery, and ideas of the original works?
- What is the effect of this mimicry?
- How does a parody differ from the original work?
- What is the purpose of a parody? What are the values and ideas conveyed in a parody?
- Do you think that these parodies are effective?
- Do you think that it is mportant to have access to the original song in order to understand the goal of a parody?
- Select a popular contemporary song and write a parody.