Eugene Field was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 3, 1850 and died in Chicago, Illinois, on November 4, 1895. He was a popular writer of light verse. This poem, commemorating a trip to New Orleans, has to be among the first of the "hoodoo-exploitation" genre of Anglo-American fiction, a true fore-runner to the fantasies of Robert tallant and Dr. John the Night-Tripper. It is included here by virtue of the fact that although it is highly fanciful, it corroborates the later claim by Jelly Roll Morton that in New orleans, what white folks called "Voodoo" was being called "Hoodoo" by blacks and close white observers of the scene. Field even correctly uses the word "hoodooed," which was unusual for one of his race at that time.
Needless to say (i hope), realism can only carry a maker of light humourous verse so far, amd the magical ingredients Field ascribes here to his fictitious "Hoodoo-Doctor Sam" owe more to William Shakespeare's Three Witches in "Macbeth" than to any actual conjure doctor's trick bag. The "Evil eye" referred to in the second verse is a feature of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern magic, not African American folklore, and "the tooth of a senile 'coon" would in reality be the penis bone of a mature male racoon, if this were anything but a silly poem. Still, it has its late Victorian charm, and so it bears reprinting in this collection.
By the way, if someone can tell me who "Miss Grace King" was and why Field dedicated this poem to her, i should be very grateful to add the information to this site, with a credit to the contributor.
WARNING: The material on this page was written by a
European-American who was describing African-American
spirituality as an outsider. This author was racist or
race-derogatory and the conclusions he or she drew while
writing this eye-witness account are grossly offensive.
However, the text is included in full because it
accurately describes practices and customs of the
African-American South during the 19th century (albeit not
always with complete understanding) -- and it also serves as
a political reminder of how far we have some in our struggle
for race equality and respect in the ensuing years. Read
with caution and compassion.
This material is reprinted from
Songs and Other Verse
by Eugene Field
pages 126 - 128
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