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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Memorable Melodies: Home Again, Home Again From a Foreign Shore!

Although the song “Home Again” was written around 1850, when author Mary Jane Holmes quoted it in Dora Deane in 1858 she referred to it as an “old” song. Perhaps it already seemed older than it really was because of its enormous popularity. A quick search of Google Books reveals that it was quoted or referenced in dozens of books, magazines, and even plays over the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Mark Twain mentioned it in his Life on the Mississippi. It was played, sung or quoted to celebrate countless homecomings in real life as well as in fiction. American journalist Mildred Aldrich (1853–1928) remembered going to meet friends returning from summer vacations in Europe, with bands playing “Home Again” and the crowds of people singing along as the ship docked. Only the first line was quoted in Dora Deane, but all of the lyrics fit the story and the scene beautifully:

Home again, home again
From a foreign shore!
And oh, it fills my soul with joy,
To meet my friends once more.
Here I dropped the parting tear,
To cross the ocean’s foam,
But now I’m once again with those
Who kindly greet me home.

(Chorus) Home again, home again,
From a foreign shore,
And oh, it fills my soul with joy,
To meet my friends once more.

Happy hearts, happy hearts,
With mine have laughed in glee,
But oh, the friends I loved in youth
Seem happier to me;
And if my guide should be the fate,
Which bids me longer roam,
But death alone can break the tie
That binds my heart to home.


Music sweet, music soft,
Lingers round the place,
And oh, I feel the childhood charm
That time cannot efface.
Then give me but my homestead roof,
I’ll ask no palace dome,
For I can live a happy life
With those I love at home.


Sheet music for “Home Again,” an arrangement for quartet and piano, may be viewed and downloaded here.

The song was written by Marshall Spring Pike (1818–1901), a popular songwriter and minstrel performer of the 1800s, and was probably his most famous composition. During the Civil War, Pike served as the drum major of the 22nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, and after he was taken prisoner at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill, he helped organize a glee club at Libby Prison to entertain his fellow inmates. “Home Again” was undoubtedly played and sung with special meaning during the Civil War, as soldiers in the field and their families waiting at home longed for the day when they could celebrate a homecoming and a reunion as joyful as the one portrayed in the lyrics.

POSTED BY:  Elisabeth Grace Foley

Dora Deane by Mary Jane Holmes
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