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O ho the pretty chain
That binds us all together
O ho its links are love
Thats wrought by faithful labor.

And while this love we do maintain
Our spirits flow together
Within this chain we will remain
Its linked in pretty Mother's.

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Source: Patterson, D W, 1979, The Shaker Spiritual, Princeton University Press, New Jersey

Patterson wrote:

"O ho the Pretty Chain" shows an even more complete indebtedness to traditional melodies. The piece is attributed to a sister at South Union, a community founded chiefly by settlers who, late in the eighteenth century, pushed their way into Kentucky from the mountains of Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. In the regions from which they came, twentieth-century collectors have recorded tunes for the ballad "The Gypsy Laddie" clearly related to that of the Shaker song. The closest variant is one that Cecil Sharp recorded in 1915 at Flag Pond, Tennessee:

[tune omitted]

The Shaker sister must have known a variant of the ballad closely resembling this, for the second phrase of the ballad tune (or third and fourth phrases if Bertand Bronson is correct in regarding it as a tune of four short phrases with an external refrain) is almost identical to the second phrase of the Shaker song. The sister also used the same phrase to make the first and fourth phrases of her tune, slightly altering the closing and opening notes respectively. The third phrase of her song has a contrasting acending line:

[tune omitted]

This closely parallels the beginning of a dance tune common in the Appalachians and the midWest "My Pretty Little Pink":

[tune omitted]

The resulting Shaker song is treated as a dance tune, each half being sung twice.


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