The Tobacco Song (Anita Best) score, video

sheet music

#1158: YouTube video by oldirishladdie
℗2010 ~ Used with permission ~

Ye fellows smokes tobacco, come pity my case,
I'm here on this island without a damn taste;
Surrounded by ice and encompassed with snow,
In search of that weed I don't know where to go.

Oh, the great God of Heaven have pity on I,
And send me some 'baccy or else I will die;
'tis six weeks or better since I had a draw,
And I can't remember when I had a chaw.

Ye fellows smokes tea, well ye'd better beware,
It is very scarce and most damnable dear;
And my opinion a good cup of tea,
Would suit you far better than to smoke it away.

Ye fellows smokes moss, the worse robbers of all,
Goes away with their bags picking that in the Fall;
If they'd leave it alone,
sure 'twould keep their house tight,
But they're only just making a fool of the pipe.

I can't smoke the stuff I sees some people smoke,
Such as withrod and shavings
and strands of old rope;
Some they do say wax it is good to chaw,
But it loosens your teeth - puts a kink in your jaw.

If the wind veers northeast then the ice it will go,
We'll all get some 'baccy St Peter's I know;
Every man with his tavern stuck out of his gob,
And to hell we'll shove shavings,
spruce rind, and withrod.

####.... Peter Leonard [1890-1964] of Little Harbour, Placentia Bay, NL ...####
This variant was collected by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best in 1977 from Anita Best of St John's, NL, and published as #109, The Tobacco Song in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.186-187, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press, ©1985/2003).

The variant in the video above was recorded as Tobacco by Anita Best (Crosshanded, 1997 CD, trk#2, Amber Music, Topsail, NL).

Anita Best noted that this is a popular song in Placentia Bay which is often bewildering to those not familiar with certain terms: 'withrod' is a common enough plant in Newfoundland, some call it the wild raisin - it has the unfortunate fragrance of cat's piss; 'shavings' are pieces of kindling wood which have been 'shaved' out on the end so that curls of wood are still attached; a 'draw' is a smoke from either a pipe or a cigarette and a 'chaw' is a chew of tobacco; 'spruce rind' is the bark of the spruce tree; 'moss' was used to fill up the spaces between the 'studs' of old houses. The studs were round sticks flattened on two sides and nailed together vertically to form the wall of the house; 'tavern' is a type of clay pipe they used to get in St Pierre (a French island off the south coast of Newfoundland, often called St Peter's by Newfoundlanders). Anita Best also noted that Peter Leonard wrote this song after ice had drifted into Placentia Bay and blocked up most of the harbours on Isle Valen where he lived. Anita Best concluded by noting that the air is not the original one she learned from Pius Power, but one of her own

See more Anita Best songs.

From the Dictionary Of Newfoundland English:
Tavern - long-stemmed tobacco pipe with large bowl.
Withrod; also witherod, witrod - shrub with thin, pliant branches; northern wild raisin [Viburnum nudum]; gadberry, thrashberry [Viburnum cassinoides]; the branch from this shrub


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