Yellow Rose of Texas was planted for the TALE9 event themed around the flora and fauna of Texas. Really, now, what could be more interesting than the human animals who lived, loved and fought here?
It all starts with a love song, written by a “darkey” (black man)* longing for the company of his “yellow rose.” (Or written minstrel-style to appear that way.)* An unpublished, handwritten copy from 1836 dating back to the time of the Battle of San Jacinto, (that *I must forewarn you I have not personally seen and should therefore be subject to the same skepticism wholly lacking in all things related to the Yellow Rose of Texas*) which makes what (they later say) happened very convenient.
There's a yellow rose in Texas, that I am going to see,
No other darky [sic] knows her, no darky only me
She cryed [sic] so when I left her it like to broke my heart,
And if I ever find her, we nevermore will part.
She's the sweetest rose of color this darky ever knew,
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew;
You may talk about your Dearest May, and sing of Rosa Lee,
But the Yellow Rose of Texas beats the belles of Tennessee.
When the Rio Grande is flowing, the starry skies are bright,
She walks along the river in the quite [sic] summer night:
She thinks if I remember, when we parted long ago,
I promised to come back again, and not to leave her so.
Oh now I'm going to find her, for my heart is full of woe,
And we'll sing the songs togeather [sic], that we sung so long ago
We'll play the bango gaily, and we'll sing the songs of yore,
And the Yellow Rose of Texas shall be mine forevermore.
The song has taken on many variations, was adapted informally (*see disclaimer) by Confederate soldiers, advertisements, politicians and contemporary singers, each changing the lyrics as they saw fit. The song wallows in obscurity*, then regains popularity* in the mid 1950’s, just as references to Emily Morgan surface in historical accounts*. Inevitably, the suggestion is made, after 100 years, that Emily is the “yellow rose” of the song.
Emily is reported to be a) a mulatto (mixed race or "yellow") slave owned by James Morgan of Morgan’s Point, TX, who freed her in gratitude for her heroism during the battle of San Jacinto b) a mulatto slave owned by James Morgan of Morgan’s Point, who registered her as an indentured servant to circumvent the laws against slavery in Texas c) a mulatto servant to James Morgan named Emily D. West, who changed her name to Morgan after voluntarily indenturing herself to him d) a mulatto free woman who worked as a hotel housekeeper.
Not one to stand on mere coincidence, (like the mulatto part being the only common denominator here) various historians quote with absolute certainty statements of fact that have no supporting evidence, but are so ubiquitous as to be accepted without question. Ahhhh. How like a human! Being a true and loyal Texian* (or not) she willingly* (or not) sacrifices her virtue (or not?*****) by seducing Santa Anna, who being so smitten and duly preoccupied mounting Emily, cannot recover in time to mount a defense against Sam Houston’s men.* One intrepid historian actually implies that Houston planted this story himself!* Houston’s troops, though vastly outnumbered, rout the enemy at San Jacinto and Santa Anna barely has time to grab an enlisted man’s uniform and make his escape. (Just how many people were in that tent anyway?) Another version has Sam Houston, after spying out the enemy camp, spotting Emily with Santa Anna before the battle* and remarking* (or not) that he hopes she keeps him busy a long time.* After the battle, Morgan rewards her bravery* (or rape*) by freeing her* (or not*).
True to form, the song has been adopted in one form or another by a wide range of people, much as the stories surrounding it. The truth is, no one knows for sure. There are so many versions and refutations of this story, and so little corroborating documentation), it strains imagination. Frankly, we are just enamored by the romance of it all. As a simple story of a man who idealizes and longs for his woman, the song emotes a human condition as compelling as our need for a good story. As to the legends, Texans are known for their yarns. And, well, you know the longhorn cattle aren’t the only reason you needs boots around here.
To the box, where we glimpse Emily leaving Santa Anna’s tent. Forgive the fact that smug self-satisfaction is beyond my carving skills.
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