In 1769 John Adams was at a dinner meeting of the Boston Sons of Liberty in Dorchester and was impressed when two songs were sung, John Dickinson’s “Liberty Song” and another that he attributed to Benjamin Church (Lambert 1:1113-17, 262-67).
We had also the Liberty Song that by the Farmer, and that by Dr. Church, and the whole Company joined in the Chorus. This is cultivating the Sensations of Freedom. (Adams, Diary 1:341)
Dickinson’s song begins, “Come join hand in hand brave American’s all” and was frequently printed, first in the Pennsylvania Chronicle on July 4, 1768, and notably, with its music in Bickerstaff’s Boston Almanack for 1769, which was published in fall 1768.
Dickinson’s song was soon parodied by a loyalist in the Boston Gazette on September 26, 1768, with a song beginning “Come shake your dull Noddles, ye Pumpkins and bawl.” The following week a third song, for which the lyrics are on this broadside, appeared in the Boston Gazette entitled, “The Parody Parodized.” From the statement by Adams quoted above, he understood it to be by Church.
There is no indication that this text was ever popular in its own time. Thus far, the only known period copies are the now unlocated “hand-bill” from which the editor of the Boston Gazette said he copied it, and the copy in Bickerstaff’s Boston Almanack (Ford, Broadsides #1456; Bristol #B 2926). This edition in the Thomas collection was probably printed at the beginning of the War of 1812 to encourage Americans in the effort to protect the gains of the Revolutionary War.
For his original song, Dickinson selected a stage tune composed by William Boyce for a text by David Garrick to be sung in Harlequin’s Invasion (1759). This patriotic piece celebrated recent worldwide victories over the French. Originally called “Come Cheer Up My Lads,” it was later known as “Heart of Oak” from the internal chorus line. It became one of the most popular tune bases for American topical songs from 1760 to 1783 (British Library song sheet G 307, #41; R. Keller, Early American Secular Music and Its European Sources; Corry).
The little filler piece, “Cease Ye Fountains,” is a curious combination of two verses that do not match. The first four lines are a sophisticated eighteenth-century verse that can be found with other titles such as “The Unhappy Swain,” “Damon to Delia,” and “The Gentle Murmer,” often with additional verses. In the version of “Cease Ye Fountains” printed in the American Musical Miscellany (1798), the lyrics of three other songs have been added to the first verse. Despite the fact that the editor put them all under the “Cease Ye Fountains” tune, each of these circulated independently, each with its own tune: “Lovely nymph, assuage my anguish” (verses 2-4); “Ah! [Oh!] my Delia, must I leave thee” (verses 5-7); and “If ’tis Joy to wound a lover” (verse 8) (R. Keller, Early American Secular Music and Its European Sources).
Thus it is no surprise to find the “Cease Ye Fountains” lyric with an extra verse on the Coverly broadside. But this extra verse is different from the added lyrics described above. While they continue the topic of the opening verse, the Coverly addition reflects a dramatic shift in expression from classic to romantic poetry. A sheet music edition of the song explains what happened. The original piece was written to an Italian air composed by Gioacchino Cocchi (1715-1804). It was arranged for the pianoforte by Rayner Taylor and published in Philadelphia by G. E. Blake between 1804 and 1806 (Wolfe, Secular Music #1973). In the space below the end of the piece on the second page of the sheet music is a second verse, the same romantic verse of the Coverly broadside. Below is an attribution: “This verse the production of Mr. James N. Barker.” James Nelson Barker (1784-1858) was a playwright active in Philadelphia in the early nineteenth century (Porter, With an Air 412).
Thus, it was probably the sheet music version that was Coverly’s source and Cocchi’s music that was intended, not the much simpler tune found in the American Musical Miscellany and in several manuscript collections.