Puslapio vaizdai

The original Gipsies appeared in Europe at about the beginning of the sixteenth century. It is probable that they were of Hindu origin and were either exiled because of their religious beliefs or ran away from the persecution of Tamerlane, or Timur, the great Tatar conqueror who invaded India. As their origin was a mystery to Europe when they appeared on its Eastern plains, some German savant decreed that they were Egyptians. The popular corruption of the word "Egyptian" is the name by which they are now known the world over.

Three reasons are generally given for travel: necessity, pleasure, and accomplishment. Every Gipsy tribe can claim any and all of these three reasons. Except the peasants, who, by the very nature of their occupation, are compelled to remain in the same place, the rest of the people of every nation, whether artisans, merchants, or artists, are continually

searching for some device or excuse to take them away from the places in which they happen to be.

The Gipsies are merely a lower stratum of this nomadic world, and because of that they have until recently used only primitive means of transportation and travel. But even they are now beginning, as we shall presently see, to use automobiles instead of horse-drawn wagons.

The slang of traveling salesmen, the argot of most of our travelers, is composed of all the languages now spoken, plus a number of invented words of mysterious origin that continually creep into every language. The lore of traveling salesmen, and the superstitions and fetishes that spring up from their journeying, would in themselves make a study as interesting as, if not more so than, a study of the Gipsy proper. No language can remain pure when other people than those born to it speak it. The train as

well as the caravan is a corrupter of gers, the small distances covered daily, language.

The German slang contains a great number of Hebrew words. The French argot is burdened with the same. The Austrian Waltzer uses almost as much Sanscrit and Hebrew as the two others enumerated, and the slang of the American hobo contains part of all this, plus a number of Indian words and words the origin of which cannot be traced. The only difference is that in the case of the modern traveling element we have all the vices without any of the virtues of the Gipsy, and none of their poetry and song.

Extract the Gipsy element from European music, from Palestrina on through Beethoven, Bach, Schubert, Schumann, and Liszt, and there remains as little of it worth listening to as in our American music. Almost the same could be said of the rest of European folk-lore. The Russian, Rumanian, Hungarian, and almost all Balkan lore is Gipsy. The manner in which the old Gipsies traveled lent itself to poetic inspiration, to song and melody; and as they were living by their wits, their wares were the stories and the songs, the products of their brains. One can hardly be inspired in an automobile or on a train. They are too rapid, too prosaic. One does not travel; one is only carried away. Even the old sailor ballads died with the advent of our modern sea-crossing palaces. The engines and the funnels have killed song. A sailor is no longer a sailor; he is a workingman. A caravan stopping in the forest, with its camp-fire, a group of horses pasturing near by, the stars above, is pictorially more beautiful than any steam-driven, electrically pulled vehicle. The leisure of caravan-traveling, the possible dan

the frequent stopping-places, and therefore the possible association with people on the road; the bathing in the rivers before fording them, and the thousand and one other occurrences weave themselves into poetry and song. Really, art has never even begun to pay its debt to the Gipsy.

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An old Spanish document urging the governor to punish the Gipsies for their relations with the Indians proves that there were Gipsies this side of the ocean as early as 1580. The governor, replying to his king, assured him he would comply with his request, but that he had until then been unable to find the Gipsies. It is very possible that these Gipsies, then in the Barbadoes, sought refuge with the Indians, intermarried, and were completely assimilated by the aborigines. Perhaps this might also account for some customs common to the American Indians and the Hindus.

In the seventeenth century, the Portuguese transported a number of Gipsies to Brazil, and in his book Dr. Moraes asserts that the whole Brazilian nation is strongly tinctured with Gipsy blood. At about the same time the French Government sent over a load of Gipsies to Louisiana. Whether these Gipsies were of real Hindu stock or Romanichels cannot be told now, but in time they became very wealthy, and assimilated themselves with the French living in Louisiana. A number of the French Gipsies intermarried with the mulattoes.

I have frequently met the descendents of partly mulatto-Gipsies. Their dialect contains a great number of

French words, which they pronounce with the same accent as that of the Canadian French. In fact, the few tribes of these mulatto descendents that I met roamed through Canada, chiefly in the province of Quebec. As there are a number of Sanscrit words in the language of the Bretons, it is quite possible that the Sanscrit of these Gipsies could be traced to travels of their ancestors through Brittany. Curiously enough, all Gipsies, whether they are zingaras, gitanos, or tzigans, have a tendency to appropriate to their language words of Sanscrit origin that they meet in languages of other people.

The first English Gipsies that came over to this country were transported from Glasgow to a Virginia plantation on the ship Greenock in the year 1715. This first transport of English Gipsies formed the original stock from which sprung the great number of EnglishAmerican Gipsies now living in the United States. Some of these early Gipsies settled in different States, and their descendants are now resident business men, especially in the horsetrade, in the principal cities of the Union. A curious document in Schenectady containing the charge of four pounds ten shillings for whipping Gipsies proves that torturing Gipsies was a lucrative business for the men in charge of the whipping-posts in Schenectady and elsewhere, for nowhere is any reason given for inflicting this punishment. There was the same cry against them here as in Europe; that their women were witches and their men thieves and poisoners of cattle and wells. If an epidemic happened to break out somewhere in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, and if there were Gipsies within a hundred miles, they

were blamed for the epidemic and were severely punished.

The English Gipsies living here divide themselves into Irish clans and Scotch tribes. There is not much love lost between the clans and the tribes.

It is idle to speak of a Romany language common to these Gipsies. Not one fifth of the words are alike. The Romany of the clans is based on old Irish of a thousand or fifteen hundred years ago. A good deal of it is really "tinker's talk," and the Hindustani words that flow through the language are few and far between. The ogam, or secret language of these Gipsies, the so-called "deep" Romany, consists mostly of inverted old Irish words. So for instance ad (two) in Romany is inverted from da of the Irish. Kam (son) is inverted from the Irish Mac. the Irish Mac. Nab (white) is inverted from Irish ban, and so forth. This practice of inversion is used even to-day by the Gipsies. I have frequently been taken unaware by it, and thought I was hearing some new word, but when my attention was drawn to it, I discovered hundreds of words so inverted from English, French, German, Hebrew, and Spanish. The Hebrew words are especially cherished. It is because their meaning can more easily be kept secret from other people.

This particular childish practice is as common with other Gipsies, and I have no doubt that even the Hindustani dialect was frequently so inverted. The same thing is also to be found in thieves' slang of all nations. Known as it is that children also practise inversion of words to deceive grown-ups, it tends to prove a lower intelligence among the peoples using

inversions as a secret language. We must not forget that the original Gipsies were tribes of "nutts," acrobats in India. The traveling acrobats of Europe to-day belong to the same fraternity that uses thieves' slang.

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Some time ago Mr. Cosgrave of the Sunday "World" called my attention to a Gipsy tribe then living in the Bronx which had got into trouble with the department of education because their children were not sent to school. I visited the tribe, which had just located itself in a vacant butcher store, and found that my friend Yanko, a Brazilian Gipsy, was in trouble with almost every authority in the United States. The department of health had come to criticize the living quarters when they were living in tents, and compelled them to rent rooms. The store in which they went to live was next to a rag-sorting establishment. The Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children had taken away their children because they were improperly clad, and a number of other departments had swooped down upon the poor Gipsies, each for a different infraction of some rule. Yanko was a good coppersmith, and as coppersmiths were then in demand, he was making a good income. Unable to get his children back from the S. P. C. C., he quit his job and disappeared, leaving his wife and children in a precarious situation. The women of Yanko's household, three in all, young and noisy and beautiful, would not tell any one where Yanko had gone or when he would return.

In due time the children were discharged from the hospitals, and, clad in conventional garb, they were sent

to school to comply with the demands of the authorities. I visited the tribe three weeks later. Yanko had still failed to put in an appearance. The women were very nervous and cried. Yanko was the only male in the family. The three women said they were sisters. I was beginning to suspect that the unusual had happened, and that the Gipsy man had left his family when in trouble and was hiding. But one day when I arrived at the store, Yanko was loading his family into a big van to which he had hitched two newly bought horses, and was taking to the road again. While, before they were compelled to go to school, all the children had been strong and healthy despite the scanty clothing they wore in winter days, it was pitiful to see the pale faces and haggard eyes of the same children after their few months of civilization. I shall never forget the ill-smelling carpet the Gipsy women had been advised to put on the floor by some woman of a welfare committee in order that she might be able to report that she had succeeded in civilizing Gipsies.


Although the women and Yanko had full confidence in me, none of them would tell me where they intended to go, and Yanko would not even tell me where he had been. A year later I happened to meet the tribe again near Boston, and only then did Yanko confide to me where he had been during his absence from New York. He had gone to warn a number of other tribes who were on the road against coming to New York. It took him three months before he accomplished that, but Yanko never regretted it. He was

in mortal fear lest the authorities, in compelling the children of the Gipsies to go to school, might thus destroy the race. Two weeks of life in a "home" had been enough for Yanko.

Meanwhile one of Yanko's children had died, and the family was absolutely sure, and I am inclined to believe it to be so, that the child died because of her experience with civilization. The other child, however, was again looking well, happy in her dirty clothes and bare feet, and was making considerable show with the few letters she could recognize in a printed book. She made her people believe she was actually reading fairy-tales from the book. She was inventing them as she went along, most of them such fairy-tales as she had heard and that would occur only to a Gipsy child.

The same dread of school is to be observed in the Rumanian Gipsies,

of which several thousands are now living in the United States and Canada. It is the principal reason why they do not stay longer than they do in or around any of the larger cities, though these larger places offer greater earning possibilities for them. Gipsy musicians in the larger cities live in regular apartmenthouses and send their children to school, but the mortality among both adults and children is appalling.

With the English Gipsies the case is slightly different, for I have met among them a number of women and girls who could read and write. The men were almost always illiterate. Indeed, one of the women, Terna O'Hara, belonging to the O'Hara clan, one of the oldest in the United States, is so greatly interested in the history of her own clan and in Gipsies in general that she obtained from libraries and bought or otherwise obtained a number of books on Gipsy lore, which she read. It was Terna who first told me that Sir Richard Burton, the great English explorer, had been a Gipsy. She also claimed Charles Lamb and a number of other English authors as Gipsies. According to Terna, there hardly ever has been a man or woman worth while who did not have Gipsy blood. But just because of her great accomplishments, Terna is the least reliable on the subject of Gipsy lore. She has a very lively imagination. The ballads she sings, and for which she claims old

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