November 19, 2010

The Gettysburg Address – and Lord Buckley’s “hipster version”


On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered what came to be known as “The Gettysburg Address” at the dedication of the cemetery for Union soldiers who were killed in that bloody Civil War battle four months earlier.

His brief speech includes two of the most famous of many famous Lincoln quotations.

One is the opening sentence:

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

The other is in the closing line, which contains the oft-cited phrase: “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

As noted in The Quote Verifier and other sources, this is the best known use of the of/by/for the people formula, but Lincoln probably adapted his version from a similar phrase used in the 1850s by abolitionist preacher Theodore Parker. And, there are other versions that predate Parker’s.

In commemoration of the anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, I’m posting the entire speech below.

And, in commemoration of one of my other favorite orators – Lord Buckley – I’m posting his great “hipster version” of the Gettysburg Address next to Lincoln’s original words.

Richard Buckley (1906-1960) performed as a vaudeville-style comedian from the late 1920s to the late 1940s.

Starting in 1947 and throughout the 1950s, he performed as the character “Lord Buckley,” an ultra-cool cat who told stories and recited poems using the hipster slang of black jazz musicians and beatniks.

In 1956, HIP Records released a recording of Lord Buckley doing his “hip translation” of the Gettysburg Address. You can hear it on the CD His Royal Hipness.

And, now ladies and gentleman, cats and kitties, here — in a historic side-by-side appearance — are President Abraham Lincoln and Lord Buckley...


Abraham Lincoln:
The Gettysburg Address***
 

Lord Buckley:
The hip translation…
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Four big hits and seven licks ago, our before-daddies swung forth, upon this sweet groovy land a swingin’, stompin’, jumpin’, blowin’, wailin’ new nation, hip to the cool groove of liberty and solid sent with the ace lick dat all the studs, chicks, cats and kitties – red, white, or blue – is created level in front. In straight talk, the same, dig what I mean?

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure.

Now we are hung with a king-size main-day civil drag, soundin’ of whether that nation or any up-there nation, so hip and so solid sent can stay with it all the way.

We are met here on a great battlefield of that war.

We’s here to dig this chop-beatin’ session on the site of the worst jazz blown in the entire issue – Gettys-mother-burg.

We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

We have stomped out here to turn on a small soil stash of the before-mentioned hassle site, as a final sweet sod pad for those who laid it down and left it there, so that this jumpin’ happy beat might blow forevermore.
It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. And we all dig that this is the straightest lick ever dug.

But in a larger sense we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled, here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

But diggin’ it harder from afar, we cannot take no wailin’ bows, we cannot mellow, we cannot put down the stamp of the Nazz on this sweet sod, ‘cause the strong non-stop studs, both diggin’ it and dug under it, who hassled here have mellowed it with such a wild mad beat that we can hear it, but we can't touch it.
The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. Now the world cats will short dig, you hear what I say, short dig nor long stash in their wigs what we is beatin’ our chops around here, but it never can successively shade what they vanced here.

It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us.

It is for us, the swingin’, to pick up the dues of these fine studs who cut out here and fly it through to Endsville. It is hipper for us to be signifyin’ to the glorious gig that we can’t miss with all these bulgin’ eyes.
That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

***NOTE: There are
five written versions of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, with slight wording variations among them. The version above is from the “Hay Copy,” stored in The Library of Congress. Some scholars believe it is the version Lincoln used, but this is not known with certainty.

That from all these A-stamp studs we double our love kick, to that righteous ride for which these cats hard sounded the last 'nth bong of the bell of their bell. That we here want it stuck up straight for all to dig that these departed studs shall not have split in vain; that this nation, under the great swingin’ Nazz, shall ring up a whopper of endless Mardi Gras, and that the Big Law of you straights, by you studs, and for you kitties, shall not be scratched from the big race.”

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