Songs of the Soil
By Fenton Johnson
Author of "Visions of the Dusk" and "A Little Dreaming'
F. J. 35 West 131st Street New York.
We beg to acknowledge permission from the Editor of The Citizen for the republication of certain selections that originally appeared in that magazine. Copyright, 1916 By FENTON JOHNSON
MAR 3 1916
Press of TRACHTENBERG CO., NEW YORK CITY.
To E. J. B. For the Gift of Enduring Faitk
2. Dreamin' Lan'
3. Step Right In
4. The Miracle
5. In Lonely Lan'
7. A Plantation Christmas
8. Plantation Revery
9. Harlem: The Black City
10. De Music Call
11. Your Soul and Mine
12. The Lonely Mother
13. The Woman of My Dreams 1
15. De Po' Ol' Man
16. God Be With You
17. De or Sojer 1
18. Voices of the Dusk
20. Ah's Gwine Away
21. Injun Summah
22. John Crossed The' Island
23. Lif ' Up De Spade
24. Last Days
25. Uncle Rufus
26. Shuffle 'Long
27. Plantation Prayer
28. His Song
29. Wait Fu' Me ,
30. De Windin' Road..,..
31. The Parted
32. De Elduh
33. De Witch 'Ooman
34. Wintah On De Plantashun
35. A Plantation Santa Claus
36. The Song of the Fish Market
37. Shout, My Brother, Shout
38. De Dyin' Ca'line Lou
39. Ol' Louisville
41. The Golden City
42. Close De Book
The reader may notice that this third sheaf of verse, slight as it is, purports to represent Negro life; — the Negro life in the rural districts of the South. In my previous volumes I devoted myself to attempts at vers- ification in the language of the academies and colleges; now I cast aside the English of the Victorians and as- sume the language of the plantation and levee. The Georgian poets and writers arjg seeking romance out of their environment. I feel that a true artist can go no further than the American Negro for romantic inspiration. If romance is the element of strangeness then it is predominant in the race that claims my allegiance. Behind the Negro there is a wealth of buried tradi- tion. He is the most misunderstood creature in our lat- ter day civilization. Builder of empires that have crum- bled, and enslaved during the age of pirates and adven- turers, lie has taken his place in the greatest of republics as a peasant and menial. He has preserved none of his traditions, but has added to wliat we call Americanism his droll racial instincts. Oriental and primitive, he is richly endowed with emotion. He is more keenly attuned to the chords of human feeling. A Negro can feel sorrow to a greater extent than his Anglo-Saxon neighbor; likewise he can display greater sensitiveness to humour. Flis humour is the humour of a vivid imagination; his pathos is born of deep sincerity. He has not been ruined by the culture of a decadent age, but through segregation and other methods, oppressive as they may be, he has been permit- ted to develop into a distinct group, original in ideas and expression. To the Negro slavery is his epic hour. The freedom from restraint he enjoyed in his own circles kept alive those qualities he brought with him from Africa. The language he used during that period is so typical of him that the sons of the masters constantly associate it with him. (Nothing disgusts me more than to read in a met- ropolitan newspaper an interview with a colored man in which dialect is e^mployed.) The heroes of that period, such as Turner, Douglass and Vesey, live in the popular imagination because they were w^hat they were during the darkest days of Negro existence. Romance thrived. The cabin, the slave market, the crude but sincere songs of the bondmen had about them a glamour that grows more intense as the years advance. No institution in American life is more exploited than the Negro mammy. Her loyalty to Southern ideals has endeared her to every true son of Dixie. The Confederacy is dead, but Mammy lives on and on, the most glorious tradition in either race. In these poems I have attempted to preserve that spirit. It is my earnest conviction that there is no true friction between the races. Race prejudice is not a pro- duct of the soil, but of propagandists who attempt to keep a certain political balance in the South. The mass- es of white people, if let alone, would love the Negro. and the masses of black people, if they were not disturbed by the result of propaganda, would love the white man.
There is no natural reason for bitterness when we must consider that a large proportion of our Negro population has Caucasian blood in their veins and that the Negro has contributed more than his share to American welfare. Tlie Negro is of all creatures intensely religious. His religion is built upon emotion. As it is wdth all emotional creatures he makes vivid in his imagination the ideals of his faith. His Devil is an actual being who haunts him night and day, ready to pitch him any moment into a flaming dungeon. God and the angels dv/ell with him in his daily life. . He awaits the Judgment Day as anxiously as a troubled world await? the dawn of peace. As it was in the primitive days his ministers are both his leaders and his teachers. They administer to him a theology picturesque with the super- stitions of a bygone world. They bring out of Nature, as all primitive people do, those forces they deem worthy of idealization. The writer who purports to gain his inspiration from Negro life must not ignore such a religion. Neither must he treat it ludricously. The average Negro worshiper is not a hypocrite. He is sincere in his beliefs, probablv more sincere than some of our New Thought followers or our Billy Sundays. He attends revival not as if it were a duty, but as part of a natural earthly routine. To miss such an opportunity to express his emotion would be more disastrous to his peace of mindthan to miss his humble meals or his night's repose . It has reconciled him to conditions that no other race would or could endure.
It is out of this re]igion that I have built my so-called Negro "Spirituals." For them I have discarded dialect; the barbaric splendor of those songs are lost in the dialect of the plantation. To clothe a Negro hymn with dialect is like writing the ancient Hebrew psalms in the Yiddish of the Ghetto. So far as the reviewers are concerned my position will not be misunderstood. The kind notices that they have given me indicate that they desire me to do as I have out- lined. But there is a group within my own race who ibtterly oppose the writing of dialect. To that group I say that unless one gains inspiration from the crudest of his fellows, the greatest of his kind cannot be elevated. But I do not hope to complete my career as merely a singer of the plantation. As I said in the beginning of this introduction there is a wealth of buried Negro tra- dition. I hope that it shall be my fortune to unearl:h it and give it to the world in some attractive form so that men may realize that the Negro has a history and is something more than a peasant.
Fenton Johnson. December 26, 1915 New York City.
Songs of the Soil
De road to Dreamin' Lan' is mighty long,
But not so te jus when you hab a song
Dat's sprinkled wid de sweetness ob de June
An' meller wid de sof'ness ob de moon.
Daih's anguls ha' f way down to Dreamin' Lan'
Dat's brown lak Sal wid eyes lak Lou Su'ran
An' all de night dey play de dreamin' ha'p
Ontwell at Dreamin' Gate yo' trab'lin'' stop.
So, honey babe, dat's sleepin' on mah breas'
Ef you am su'chin' fo' yo' hones' res'
Mak' frien's wid all de anguls passin' by,
An' when to talk wid you dey's drawin' nigh
Jes' grab f'um out daih pack a meller song
An' ring de dreamin' bell, "Sweet ding a dong."
Den, honey babe, befo' de mawnin's roun'
You's boun' to find yo'se'f in Dreamin' Town.
STEP RIGHT IN.
Wen Ah th'ows down de hoe, an' tells de' wu'k good night
An' f'om de cabin windii' flickahs candleliglit,
'Tis den Ah dresses spick an' span to see mah gal
An' to de one hoss caht Ah hitch ol' speckled Sal.
Oh, long de road befo' mah Dinah's face Ah see.
Oh, long de road befo' Ah hold huh on mah knee.
But twice de longness would Ah tak' if Ah wuld grin
Jes' lak Ah do w'en Dinah's sayin', "Step right in."
In days to come de Mastuh's gwine to tak' de Book
F'um out de 'Co'din' Angul's han', and' gib a look
An' say, "Po' Sam dat lives in Cayolina's Ian'
hould w^alk de Golden Street wid all de angul ban.
Come hyeah, you Gab'rul, spread yo' wings an' fly away
An' tell dat Sam to come to Me sometahm to-day."
Oh, den you's gwine to see erpon mah face a grin
Wen Gab'rul say, "De Mastuh want you step right in."
Though I was dwelling in a prison house.
My soul was wandering by the carefree stream
Through fields of green with gold eyed daisies strewn,
And daffodils and sunflower cavaliers.
And near me played a little browneyed child,
A winsome creature God alone conceived,
"Oh, little friend," I begged. "Give me a flower
That I might bear it to my lonely cell."
He plucked a dandelion, an ugly bloom,
But tenderly he placed it in my hand.
And in his eyes I saw the sign of love.
'Twas then the dandelion became a rose.
IN LONELY LAN'.
Wen you's in Lonely Lan' jes' think ob me,
How long Ah sit beneaf de wilier tree
F'om mawnin' till de drappin' ob de dew
A-wondrin' if mah honey gal am true;
How long at night Ah walk de cabin flo'
A-trimblin' in mah shoes jes' fu' to know
If eb'ry rose am raid, an' vi'let blue.
An' if mah sugah loves me thoo an' thoo.
Wen you's in Lonely Lan' jes' think ob me
All achin' fu' to hoi' you on mah knee.
To whispuh hone}^ wu'ds into yo' eah
An' wipe f'um off yo' face a drappin' teah.
To feel yo' fingah stroke upon mah haid
So gintle lak de angul 'mong de daid,
An' hyeah you say, "Ah loves you, honey boy.
You sho' is Dinah's hea't an' livin' joy."
I. Jes' livin' hyeah an' dreamin' ain't mah way.
An' doin' nuffin' kase Ah's ol' an' gray,
Ah'd lak to be a-wu'kin' in de fiel'
A-he'pin' fo' to mak' mah boa'd an' meal
Ah'd lak to be among de thick an' thin
A-he'pin' fo' to mak' dis worl' a din,
Ah'd lak to shuffle 'long wid all de res'
Ontwell Ah fin' mahse'f in Glohry's dress,
Ef Ah could only dance de' Ginny reel
Ontwell de mo'nin' light to earf do steal,
Ef Ah could only pick a banjo chune
Or go a-fiddlin' 'way beneaf de moon
Dis lazin' 'roun' would be a simple thing
Jes' lak de songs de Elduh's chillun sing,
An' me an' Dinah would be happy heah
Ontwell we hyeah ol' Gab'rul's trumpet neah.
A PLANTATION CHRISTMAS.
De Chris'mus mo'n he's up an' come erroun'
An' joy's erbroad thoo all de livin' town, or
Zeke's a-dancin' to de fiddle chune.
An* dance he will 'twell late dis aftu'noon
An' all de chillun's at mah cabin do'
While good ol' Mammy's croonin' sof an* low
"Mary's rockin' Jesus in de crib,
Mary's rockin' Jesus in de crib,
Mary's rockin' Jesus in de crib.
Rock erway, O Mary! Rock erway!"
Ol Cunnle Beavuh's manshiin's bright an' gay
Wid chandeliah dat mak's de night lak day,
But in mah cabin shine de light of Gawd,
De light dat made de Chris'mus baby Lawd.
De white folks got daih eddicated cho'ds
While All's got nuffin' 'cept mah cabin boa'ds.
But, honey, dat am good while sweet de song
Dat Mammy's croonin' thoo' de Chris'mus long
"Mary's rockin' Jesus in de crib,
Mary's rockin' Jesus in de crib,
Mary's rockin' Jesus in de crib.
Rock erway, O Mary ! Rock erway!"
Jes' lazin' 'roun', wid nuffin' 'tall to do,
De fishin' bad, de hoein' dev'lish ha'd,
De weathuh hottah dan de pits ob Hell,
De cooles' spot ol' Cunnle Duncan's sod.
Ah see de shadders jumpin' 'cross de pon*.
Ah hyeah de bu'ds a-singin' sof to me,
"Oh, honey, res' yo' soul, yo' labour's done,
Yo' Marstuh's gwine to tote you 'cross de sea."
'Jes' lazin' 'roun' befo' de break o' night.
No angul come to ease mah achin' hea't,
Ah wondah whethali Dinah's callin' me
Whaih Jawdon's stream f om earfly things de pa't,
Ah wondah whethuh Gabriil's made mah baid
Befo' Ah th'ow aside dis heavy frame,
Ah wondah whethuh on de Golden Book or
Marstuh Peter's wrote mah lowly name.
HARLEM: THE BLACK CITY.
We live and die, and what we reap
Is merely chaff from life's storehouse;
For devil's grain we barter souls
And in his wine our bodies souse;
We build to Pleasure monuments;
But Pleasure always passes by.
The grave -- the grave ! our only hope,
The grave where where dust grimed failures lie.
We ask for life, men give us wine,
We ask for rest, men give us death;
We long for Pan and Phoebus harp.
But Bacchus blows on us his breath.
O Harlem, weary are thy sons
Of living that they never chose;
Give not to them the lotus leaf.
But Ma-ry's wreath and England's rose.
DE MUSIC CALL
Wen de music plays
Ah pats de feet,
Kase de music feeds de hungry soul,
Wen de music plays
Ah bows mah haid
Thinkin' dat ol' Gab'rul calls de roll.
ISIak's no diff'unce whethah fiddle chune
O' de banjo hangin' on de wall,
Mak's no diff'unce if its 'Lindy's voice
am boun' to heah de music ^call.
Summahtahm jes' lose huh nach'ul heat
Wen she heahs a good ol' cabin chune,
Wintah feel his breas' a-gittin' wahm
Wen he heahs a song erbout de moon.
Rabbit prick his eahs, an' dance erway
'Wen de fiddle man's erpon de hill,
An' de 'possum wid de ol' raccoon
Cut de pigeon wing jes' fit to kill.
D'aint no wondah dat in olden tahm
Adam gib de angul Eden's Ian',
Kase widout a chune dat's sweet o' gay
Eden's lonely fu' mos' any man.
D'ain't no wondah dat de grave am dull
Kase no music goes beneaf de groun',
An' de man dat's daid, jes' lak a stone,
'Cose its nachu'l he kain't lieah a soun'.
IV. Honey* tak* dat banjo f'om de wall!
Play de chune you played in slav'y tahm,-
"Cuddle, cuddle to yo' lovah's breas'."
Lawdy! but dat music's got a cha'm.
Fifty yealis, an' yet its meller, lak
Moonlight streamin' on de cabin flo'.
Hoi' mah ban', mah honey, sing de song
While mah soul goes out de cabin do*.
YOUR SOUL AND MINE.
Your soul and mine have gone the way of life: —
The dusty road where toiled the elfin strife —
Your hand entwined this hand of mine in love.
Your heart induced to scorn the clouds abovi
And all the world was like a rose crowned song.
Your soul and mine have gone the way of life: —
We twain have bleeding wounds from Love's deep knife.
But you have kissed the tears that moist my cheeks
And lifted me beyond the cragged peaks —
And now the world is like a rose crowned song.
THE LONELY MOTHER, (a negro spiritual)
Oh, my mother's moaning by the river,
My poor mother's moaning by the river.
For her son who walks the earth in sorrow.
Long my mother's moaned beside the river.
And her tears have filled an angel's pitcher,
"Lord of Heaven, bring to me my honey.
Bring to me the darling of my bosom.
For a lonely mother by the river."
Cease, O mother, moaning by the river.
Cease, good mother, moaning by the river;
I have seen the star of Michael shining
Michael shining at the Gates of Morning;
Row, O mighty Angel, down the twilight.
Row until I find a lonely woman.
Swaying long beneath a tree of cypress.
Swaying for her son who walks in sorrow.
THE WOMAN OF MY DREAMS.
In a City by the Sea
Dwells the Woman of my Dreams,
And she weaves a wondrous net.
Wondrous with the golden gleams
Of her Juno eye and her Juno soul ;
And the burden of her song
Thrills my veins with wine a-new.
Thrills my veins for ages long.
"Tirra lirra, tirra lirra"
Sings the Woman of my Dreams,
"Tirra lirra, tirra lirra.
Lover of mine, lover of mine.*'
To that City by the Sea
I am going forth to-day.
In my hand a golden staff,
On my brow the flowers of May;
And a woman's love for mine.
And a woman's soul I claim,
Where the winged creatures dance
To the music of the flame.
"Tirra lirra, tirra lirra"
Sings the Woman of my Dreams,
"Tirra lirra, tirra lirra.
Lover of mine, lover of mine."
EULOGY. I. Oh, daih's a fun'ul in de town to day, — Go hitch de maih, an* let us gwi away, — Dey say de Elduh preach, an preach him well, Erbout de sinnah dancin' straight to Hell, But dat he preach ol' Zeke to Glohry's Ian' Dough Zeke was fiddlah in de colo'ed ban'. n. 'Po' Zeke ! No mo' he mak' de Christ'un dance, No mo' he mak' de congregashun prance, De pine tree dat was growin' by his do' Is now a coffin fu' to lay him low, De rags dat cove'ed him is now a shroud An' fu' his def de 'ooman's wailin' loud. III. Dey nevah called him saint o' Christ'un man, Dey say de Debbil made his fiddlin' han', Dey 'low dat when he winked ol' Nick was daih An' at his def he rode him thoo de aih. But many hea'ts have lost daih stony ways Wen Zeke de good ol' fashioned music plays. 11
* DE PO' OL' MAN. Heish ! De po' ol' man is daid. Heish! Sweet peace upon his haid; He nevah knowed no wrongs, He made his life a song, — De lowly an' de po', j De'flicted an' de so'. He gib tuh dem his crust. (De way dey et would bu'st De boss an' Gunnel, too). An' now his wu'k is thoo We drap de teahs lak dew An' day tu'ns black an' blue, Heish ! De po' ol' man is daid. Heish r Sweet peace upon his haid.
GOD BE WITH YOU.
Supposed to Have Been Sung at the Deathbed of a Slave.
1. God be with you in the morning,
God be with you in the evening.
God be with you on the mountain,
God with you in the valley,
I am going home.
God be with you in the starlight,
God be with you in the moonlight,
God be with you in the twilight,
God be with you in the dewtime,
I am going home.
3. Good Michael, hitch those horses.
Good Michael, swing those lashes.
Oh, I must see the God of Glory
Within the land of happy shouting;
I am going home.
DE OL' SOJER.
You say dat Ah ain't got no kintry nor no flag? Dat Ah's a man dat's lowah dan de wustes' beast? Look hyeah, you heish yo' mouf ! You's dumb as any brute! You see de stahs? You see de stripes dat mak' dis rag? Ah cai'ed dem clean thoo all de thickes' ob de fight i\t Gettj^sbu'g an' Chattanooga w'en ol' Def Was rakin' in de men lak leaves dat drap an' drap \n lay erpon de groun' ontwell dey tu'n to ash an' dust. 13
Ah fought to mak' dis Ian' a Ian' dat's free f'om wrong, Dat dipped in blood will rise again^ befo No'th an' Souf, Ontwell it reach de blessed Th'one ob Gawd Hisse'f. Wen Marstuh Lincum called de colo'ed man to fight Huh ! huh ! Ah left de ol' plantashun quick as sin, An' ran to whaih de Yankee ahmy held daih camp. De Cunnle wrapped de flag erroun' mah achin' bones, — ■ "Dis man is free!" he sayed, an' held up high his swo'd. De sojers bowed, an' trumpets blowed — an' Ah was free. Ah loved de Cunnle, an' Ah loved dat shiny flag, — De stahs jes' lak de eyes ob Gawd on Freedom's night, De stripes jes' lak v/hat anguls waih on battlefiel's ; An' deep down' neaf de coat o' blue dey put on me Mah hea't was beatin' fu' to see dat flag triumph. Thoo M'intah snow, thoo summah heat Ah wu'ked an' bled. An' faced de bullets dat de ribels shot at us, Ontwell one day w'en Johnny'ribs was lickin' us De Cunnle say, "What man is brave enough to go An' place his kintry's flag erpon de 'Federate fo't.''" Not one would speak, de braves' 'mongst dem white wid feah, An' Ah mahse'f all trimblin' to mah ve'y boot tops. De Cunnle add: "Unless we git dat fo't we fail." 'Twas den Ah spoke, an' spoke mah wo'ds so brave an' true, "Gib me de flag! To-night, good sah, dat fo't is yo'n!" W'en night come on Ah ma'ched ahaid ob all de troops, troops, 14
De Stahs an' Stripes awavin' in de summah breeze, De gray coat bayonets a-p'intin' at mah breas'. All ready fu' to jab dis body thoo an' thoo; But w'en de moonlight pou'ed upon dis face o' mine White tu'ned de ribel Gin'ul, an' he cried, "A slave! A da'ky slave ! O Gawd, hab mussy on us all !" De graycoats fiahed, de bullets rainin' thick as hail, Dey got me in de hip, dey got me in de leg, But Gawd dat led ol' Isr'ul was erpon mah side An' Ah was strong enough to keep f'om earf dat flag. De bluecoats an' de graycoats fought lak brothahs fight While Ah went on an' on ontwell Ah fetched de fo't An' nailed ol' Marstuh Lincum's flag erpon de post. Dey tote me back erpon de stretchah, so' wid' pain, But on mah face de smile dat only fightahs smile, A hero in de cause ob kintry, home an' Gawd. An' w'en de kintry say dat Cuby must be free Mah boy, mah Lizy's Sam went fo'th to wah. Ah gib him to de cause, an' tol' him fight lak sin To keep de Stahs an' Stripes f'om drappin' to the groun'. He lies somewhaih — mah Lizy's boy ! — he lies some- whaih, A bullet in his hea't, de flag erpon his breas'. O Gawd ob Jacob, smile erpon dis Glohry rag An' tell de folks dat he who fought to save daih Ian* Am jes' as much a sojer ob de Stahs an' Stripes As any livin' No'th o' South, East o' West.
VOICES OF THE DUSK.
I. Do you hear the witches wailing?
Witches wailing, wailing, wailing,
Do you see the ghost robes trailing?
Ghost robes trailing, trailing, trailing
It is but a nighttime whisper,
But a whisper of the zephyr?
Or my soul in secret meeting
That dim soul whose fate is loving?
Tell me, tell me, tell me, Voices of the Dusk.
II. Do you see those spirits lonely?
Spirits lonely, lonely, lonely.
Can they be for lost souls only?
Lost souls only, only, only.
Are they but the fearful phantoms,
Fearful phantoms from my fancy?
Or the sprites of conscience stricken
From a region long forgotten?
Tell me, tell me, tell me, Voices of the Dusk.
I. Ah'll follow you, mah husban', tlioo de thickes' ob de night, TIioo briali patch, thoo witch's cave, an' down de steep ravine; Ah'll comfo't you w'en trubble's bu'nin' you to ash an' dust An' you's a squ'min' in ol' Mastah Debbil's sin machine ; Ah'll chase erway de clouds an' mak' de sun to shine by night, De stalls to run erroun' lak happy pickaninnies do ; Ah'll wade thoo crick an' thoo de risin' ob de tide fu' you An' walk wid you in Beulahlan' w'en dis hyeah life am thoo. II. Ali'll follow you, mah husban', 'twell de s talis to earf do drap, A flutt'rin' lak de bu'ds de huntah shoot Octobah mo'n; Ah'll go wid you beyon' de aidge ob all dat Gawd calls good An' hide wid you behin* de stone w'en Gabr'ul toot his ho'n. Ah'll mak yo' pa'f as rosy as de gahden in de June, All drippin' wid de honey dew dat folkses call true love; Ah'll be to you what you have alius longed dat All should be, Yo' precious one, yo' angul chile, yo' faif'ul tu'tle dove. 17
AH'S GWINE AWAY.
I. Daih's a lone stah in de sky, All's gwine away! Daih's a road dat totes me high, All's gwine away ! Loose yo' houn' dawgs on mah scent, 'Twill be foolish talim you spent, Ah am mighty tiahed of wu'k, Gib to me a restful nu'k. All's gwine away! II. Daih's a song dat soothes mah breas' All's gwine away ! Daih's a lia'p dat totes me res'. All's gwine away ! Nevahmo' to ten' de hoe an' plow, Nevahmo' to ben' an' scrape an' bow. Ah is gwine to sahve a king Dat will alius let me sing, Ah's gwine away !
I. Wen de Injun summah's in de aih Apple cidali's oozin' f'om de press, Sweetin' tater's ripenin' on de vine, Bobtail squ'ls de drappin' nuts caress, Tu'key gobblah's struttin' in de j^a'd Savin' "Howdy do" to all de folks, Kase he's slio' Thanksgivin's comin' soon An' he knows dat's w'en de tu'key chokes. "• Mammy's sittin' front de cabin do' Breathin' in de aih dat breathes lak mo'. An' she listen to de bumble bee 'Twell lak him she sta't to hummin' low, Daddy's in de co'nfiel', shu'kin' 'way, Longin' fu' to heah de dinnah ho'n, Dreams o' huntin' possum in his haid Evah since dis Injun day was bo'n III. Banjo tummin' 'hin' de gread, big ba'n, Waitin' fu' dat ha'ves' moon to come; Sally, dressed in brightes' calico, Wid huh lovah man is flu'tin' some ; Triflin' Zeke am sleepin' in de 'baccy fiel'. Stomach full o' cidah, ha'd as sin. — Wu'k am out o' season when its wa'm An' de Injun summah weathah's in. 19
JOHN CROSSED THE ISLAND (a negro spiritual)
I. John crossed the island on his knees, John crossed the island on his knees, John crossed the island on his knes To see the Good Lord home. IL John kissed my Saviour on his brow, John kissed my Saviour on his brow, John kissed my Saviour on his brow And shouted. Bless the Lord! LIF' UP DE SPADE. I. Lif ' up de spade ; th'ow down de du't, De Mastah's called me home at las'. Lif up de spade ; th'ow down de du't. An' lay mah body 'neaf de grass. De angul's sittin' at mah foot, Anothah's sittin' at mah haid, An' sto'm win's croonin' mou'nful songs Erbove de moun' dey call mah baid. 20
II. Lif ' up de spade ; th'ow down de dn't, An' keep Miss Lizy's tealis away. Lif up de spade ; th'ow down de du't, An' let me sleep 'twell Jidgement Day. Ah's b'en thoo' trubble mighty long, Ah's fotched an' toted all mah life An' now Ah want to res' dese bones Erway f'om all de woe an' strife. LAST DAYS. dh, whaih's de chillun gone dat useter climb upon mah knee? Dh whaih's ol* Tige dat useter run along beside o' me ? De lonely yeahs have drapped upon dis po' ol' haid o' mine \n' f rien's have lef ' me lak de needles on a wo'n out pine ; \h's leanin' on a crutch, no one to comfo't me but Gawd, Vlah eyes erpon de Golden Street whaih walks de Shinin' Lawd, Tis daih dey say de chillun wait fu' me beside de Pu'ly Gate \n' ask or Marstuh Petuh why daih Uncle Ned is late. 21
II. Oh wliaih's de brothalis gone dat useter shout' in Belliel'^ chu'ch ? Oil whaih de boys dat useter hunt de possum 'hin' d:' bu'ch ? Las* night Ah hobbled down to Bethel fu' to say good bye An', sotted on de empty bench, fu' dem Ah gib a sighj No mo' dey wu'k de sugahcane, no mo' de baccy leaves, or Natur's sifted dem as Mammy do de flouah in sieves. But Ah will jine 'em soon as Ah kin lose mah achin' bones An' laif an' talk wid dem whaih Christun nevah weeps nor moans UNCLE RUFUS. I. Daih's men dat's ol' an' men o' middlin* age An' men dat's young but nevah wisah sage Dan Uncle Rufus down to Fiddlin' Bay. His haid is neithah white nor black nor gray But jes* as smoove as Mammy Jinny's pa'm. While he's got eyes dat's gintle lak a lam* An' tongue dat's nimble lak a rompin' goat. He sits befo' his cabin 'thout his coat An' tells de passahs by jes' what is what. He say, "De squ'l kaint live widout his nut, De ovahseah mus' have his toddy glass An' daihfo' Uncle Rufus chance to gass.'* He ahgy on de Bible fust of all 22
Wid dose who say dey had ob Gawd daih call. He tell you whethah sun go East o' Wes' An' what fu' ailin' trubbles he thinks bes'. We nevah christen chillun anymo' Ontwell we tak' 'em straight to Uncle's do*. An' ax him what he thinks daih name should be An' if dey's gwine to die on Ian' o' sea; We nevah bury 'thout we have his wo'd To whethah him who's daid hab seen de Lo'd An' w'en we have a dance we call him roun' Kase nevah kin a gayah man be foun'. An' dat am why w'en Mammies cook daih food Dey save fu' Rafus w^liat dey think is gude. Go whaih you will, no wisah man's alive, Go whaih you will, a bettah man kaint thrive, Kase he am good to all dat come his way, Dis talkin' man 'way down to Fiddlin' Bay. SHUFFLE 'LONG. I. Shuffle 'long bef o' de break o' day, Shuffle 'long wid Sue an' Sal an' May, Sta't dat fiddle gwine, ol' long haihed Pete, Dancin' on de levee sho' am sweet, All de boys rigged out in Sunday bes', All de gals in cutes' gingham dress, What caih I if mo'nin' nevah come So de fiddle play, de banjo turn. 23
II. Shuffle 'long, de heavy wu'k am done. Shuffle 'long befo' to-morrer's sun, Ba'n am groanin' wid de sto'ed up food. All de folks fu' miles in happy mood, Do de pigeon wing an' tu'n aroun', Howdy Lady' Lize an' covah groun', Swing yo' pahtnuh while de fiddle piay^ Shuffle 'long befo' de break o' day.
PLANTATION PRAYER. I. No othah joy, O Lawd, but jes' to wu'k. No othah joy but jes' to love mah folks. To sweat an' toil beneaf de bi'lin' sun An' in de ebenin' tell mah chillun jokes. No othah joy but jes' to read yo' Book By candlelight o' in de bright moonshine, No othah joy but jes' to shout fu' You At Bethel's chu'ch 'way down behin' de pine. IL O Lawd, w'en Ah am ol' an' cross an* stiff Jes' sen' Yo' angul fu' to row me home; An', Lawd, be good to those who's gone befo', De happy crowd beneaf de crystal dome. 24.
Ah want to pluck de lilies in Yo' Ian', An' play de ha'p upon de Golden Street, Ah want mah haid to have a Glohry crown An* sit wid all de res' at Gospul meat. HIS SONG. I. Some folks am mighty fon' o* mockin-' bu'ds, Some fools will walk a mile to heah a la'k. Some call de robin's chu'pin' mighty sweet An' listen to it 'twell de day tu'ns da'k, But Ah am thoo wid all b'ud foolishness An' only caihs fu' dem w'en dey is food Kase w'en de moon am high Ah heahs a song Dat to mah po' ol' eahs soun' mighty gude II. Nowaih in all de dwellin' place ob man. Up Simpson's Crick o' down to Green's Bayou, Kin such a na'chul song be hu'd at all F'um tho'ats ob Ca'line Jones o' Man^y Lou; Its sung by green eyed fellah, yallah striped, A hoppin' in de stream f 'om lawg to lawg, An' dat is why Ah pray to Gawd Hisse'f An* thank Him dat He made de ol' bullfrawg. 25
WAIT FU' ME. I. Wait f u' me, mah honey, wait f u* me *Twell Ah mak' yo' pa'f a pa'f ob rose. Wait fu' me ontwell de stahs go down An' de worl' wid laughtah ovahflows ; Oh Ah want to build f u' you, mah love, ; Cabin f'om de oak an' f'om de pine. An' Ah want to know you's free f'om grief, F'om de grief dat kills you, honey mine. II. Nevah moon go down upon mah love, Nevah watah cool dis hungry flame, Drappin' teahs an' def on hangman's tree If dey nevah let me change yo' name; Oh, de sweet magnoly on de branch Sho' will die an' nevah be no mo'. Oh de crick will be mo' dry dan san' If Ah nevah tak's you to mah do*. DE WINDIN' ROAD. I. W*en Love is tiahed o* wu'k an' cabin faih He tak's his pack an' seeks anothah laih, De Windin' Road dat leads to Jaspuh Crick, An' daih he po's his conjuh lotion thick. 26
He shows you trees dat drap magnoly sweet An' in de spa'klin' watuh bathes yo' feet, He teach de lovesick bu'ds to sing daih songs An' slyly hide f'om you de lovah's wrongs. II. Oh, Love is cute tuh tak' dat Windin' Road An' ease f'om off yo' back de hebby load, But Love is wrong tuh tak' yo' tendah hea't An' rudely hu't it wid his sha'pes' da't. So you who's happy in de fiei' o' home Leave not yo' cabin dwellin' fu' to roam Wid deb'lish Love along de Windin' Road, F'om whence no soul retu'ns widout a load.
THE PARTED. I. Retu'n, mah honey, to yo' lovah's breas'! Fu' all de night an' day Ah's seekin' res' F'om longin' dat is bu'nin' out mah liea't. Retu'n, mail honey ! Ah will do mah paht To mak' yo' life lak dat anguls know Up yondah whaih de sweetes' lilies grow, An' nevah will Ah say a cruel wo'd But keep mah tempah pu'fcc' lak a bu'd. 27
II. All's achin' fu' to tech dat levin' han' An' fu' to let mah honey undahstan' His voice is lak de rushin' ob de stream Dat mak's Kaintucky lak a summah dream. Ah's achin- fu' to roam de hills agayne, Beyon de fence an' up de lovah's lane, Wid you in su'ch ob greens an' jimson weed^ Mayapple root, wild rose an' tu'nip seed III. O stall dat climbs 'v/ay up de No'the'n sky. Sen' down yo' ray upon mah lovah's eye An' tell him how Ah pray de Lawd above Dat He will gib me back mah honey's love. Oh tell him dat behin' de ol' grapevine All cry fu' him an' call him "precious mine," An' whispuh dat befo' de end o' day Unless he come dey'll drap me 'neaf de clay. DE ELDUH. Heish, 'Lindy Jane! Dat Elduh's mighty fine. He knows de Gospul an' de 'Pistles nine; He's b'en thoo fiiah, he's b'en thoo watah too; He's dim' f'om Satan's way to Hebben blue An' nov/ de worl' am sittin' at his feet. He tak' a tex', dat holy man ob Gawd, An' when he's thoo vou's walkin' wid de Lawd; 28
He tak' de weary f'om de trubble seat An' in de coolin' watah bathes daih feet; He tak's men f'om de pa'f dat's paved wid stone To whaih in Glohry shines de Mastah's Th'one. Dey say dat Jesus when He was on earf An' made Jerusalem His restin' berf Tol' folks erbout a kin' ol' shephu'd man Dat cai'ed de po'lil lam's widin his han'. Dat man was sho' de Elduh, wise an' good An' feedin' all de flock on Gospul food; He totes us 'neaf de mantle ob his faif Ontwell we reach de Refuge City safe. Oh many tahm he's walked thoo rain an' win' To save a pusson f'om his load o' sin; An' many tahm he's eased a dyin' baid An' many tahm he's blessed a nevvbo'n haid — His only hope to sahve his Mastah well. You Debbil, go on dancin' down in Hell, Go sha'pen up yo' pitchfo'k an' yo' speah, Befo' you's thoo you's gwine to shake wid feah, Kase him dat wu'ks fu' Gawd hab won de day An' kep' f'om out yo' cletches dem dat's clay.
DE WITCH 'OOWAM. Oh de ol' witch 'ooman's ridin' roun' — Broomstick fu' to sweep de spidah down, Eyes dat's reddali dan a bloody shu't, Haih dat's thick wid mud an' sticks an' du't- 29
Terror she to all de wide, wide worl'. Anguls hide behin' de Gates o' Pearl, Stahs go out awhile w'en witch flies pas'. Pries' tak' out his book an' say his mass, Moon blows out huh light an' goes to baid, 'Kase de moon's so awful, awful 'fraid, iSiilky Way gits dryah dan mah th'oat, I\Iockin' bu'd too skaihed to sing a note — iMightly scumptious doin's in de aili W'en witcli 'ooman rides huh broomstick maih. Now, mah lioney chile, dis witcli will git you sho' 'Less you hide yo' haid an' try to sno' ; She will slam you in huh grip an' sack An' bef'o' you know it on huh back She will tote you fa' Tom home an' kin An' will drap you in huh ol' coal bin. Po' chile'!
WINTAH ON DE PLANTASHUN. I. Col' win's blowin' roun' mah cabin; What caili I w'en co'n's a poppin'? Col' win's howlin' tlioo de valley; What caih I w'en Johhnie's hoppin' Roun' de iiahplace in de ebenin'? Let ol' Natur' do huh wustes'; W'en Ah's got a pipe an' 'baccy : Dat's de tahm Ah e-its de cus'n.es' 1) iu 30 as;
Songs ob^ the Soil II. Mandy's got a ball o' cotton, Knittin' me a good thick stockin* Granny's pipin' hallelujia, In de ol' ahm chaih a-rockin'. Oh mah stomach's full o' cookin*. Injun cake f'om off de griddle. An' Ail's feelin' miglity frisky As Ah heah mah daddy's fiddle. III. Kaln't go out to do de plowin' ! Dat is why Ah sits a grinnin'. Restin' talim don' las' fu'evah An' to tak' it Ah ain't sinnin'. Wintah's best ob all de seasons Kase its jes' de tahm fu' playin' An' de man dat wu'ks is lucky Kase in snoozin' he's a hayin'.
A PLANTATION SANTA CLAUS. Las' night Ah saw ol' Santy Claus, yessah ! Hov7 was he dressed? Jes' lak an ugly bah. How did he look.f* You know ol' Deacon Jones Dat's brown lak me an' lean as sparerib bones, Dat's got a tuf o' haih as white as snow An' walks to meetin' house wid step dat's sIoav. 31
Well let me see? Dat man sho' looks de paht; He's jes' lak Santy 'cep' widin his hea't. Fn Santy's brown an' Santy's lean an' tall An' waits mos' evah day in Mastah's hall. You thought him white? What put dat in yo' haid Wen Santy's mammy was a colo'ed maid? Dey say he come f'om Georgy? P'raps dat's so, But den ah'low he's f'om an islan' sho' An' strictly brought to 'fess de Baptis' faif. Now, Sammy, let me tell you you is safe If you's a secret you would tell de saint. You want some 'lasses candy an' some paint? Well you'll git yo' wishes. Jes' you see ! You tol' ol' Santy's brothah ? Huh ! huh ! huh ! Dat's me.
THE SONG OF THE FISH MARKET. I. Ah's fotchin' fish to ma'ket, Howdy, Lindy Lou! Want gol' to fill mail pocket. Howdy, Lindy Lou ! B'en rowin' down de rivah, Mah fisliin' undah kivah. Got trout an' bass an' othahs Wid uncles, aunts an' brothahs Howdy, Lindy Lou!
II. Wen fishin' Ah ain't crazy. Howdy, Lindy Lou! Wen wu'kin' Ah ain't lazy, Howdy, Lindy Lou! Jes' bo'n to do you sahvice, To mak' o' fish a ha'ves', Ah'd rathah be a-sellin' Den foolish stohries tellin', Howdy, Lindy Lou !
SHOUT, MY BROTHER, SlIOUT. (a negro spiritual) L Working in the cornfields for the Master, Bringing in the sheaves to stack the garner. Shout, my brother ! Shout ! Sleeping in the Master's Glory cabin , Dreaming of the mighty Bridegroom's coming Shout, my sister! Shout! II. Hoeing cotton 'till day of Judgment We will reign with God in Heaven Sliout, my brother ! Shout ! Turning cheek to overseer and tyrant We will walk the fields of God's plantation. Shout, my sister! Shout! 33
DE DYIN' CA' LINE LOU. I. Jes' a cloud o' dust on Chris'mus mo'n, Jes' li'l sunshine fu' to wa'm you thoo, Jes' a promise dat de rain will fall An' we know dat trubble's 'gin to brew, Fu' ouah Ca'line Lou's been ailin' long An' de doctah 'low she sho' will die — Mail po' honey dat kin do no wrong — When de Chris'mus green am drawin' nigh. 11. Oh we raised huh lak a tendah bud, Gib huh all dat humble folkses could, An' we shouted lak a mou'nah saved Vv^hen in Olivet one night she stood, Washed by Jesus ob huh sca'let sins, An' Imh angel eyes to Glohry cast, — One mo' membah on de roll o' Christ, One mo' lost soul clingin' to de mast. III. How de boys would come an' tak' huh fo'th Fu' to walk along de Lovah's Lane ! How de boys would fotch huh violets, Sweetes' jessamine all kissed by April rain An' de jonquils bloomin' by de road! 3i
Oh, Ah hyeah huh laughtah all de time. Oh, Ah see de gleamin' ob huh teef An' Ah th'ow mahse'f across de baid Fa' too weak to baih dis awful grief. IV. Nevah will Ah fail to see de dress Dat Ah sewed fu' huh a yeah ago ! 'Twas o' cotton f'om de Mastah's crop An' 'twas whitah dan de newbo'n snow. Nevah will mah mem'ry fail to see Eb'ry ribbon dat was in huh haih. An' Ah wish dat she was well agin Fu' to waih dem at de County Faih. V. Oh, mah Gawd dat keeps de win' in check, Dat on sco'chin' dayspo's out de sun, If You love Yo' chillun, as dey say. An' would keep a Christ'un free f'om pain Jes' tak' caih to drap f'om out Yo' sieve 'Stid o' rain an' heat a lot o' snow Fu' to mak' de Chris'mus mo'n so white Dat mah Ca'line Lou will stay below. 35
OL' LOUISVILLE. I. Ah long to be in deah ol' Louisville Wliaili all de folks am wa'm o' hea't an' han'. Ah long to be in deah ol' Louisville Whaili bu'ds an' trees am bes' in all de Ian' ; No pavement shine so red wid Hebben's gol'. No sky so full o' Spring an' song an' cheah, No sojers ma'ehin' fo'th to fight daih foes Have souls so free f'om hatred an' f'om feah. 11. Oh, many nights in Louisville Ah slep' An' smelled de sweetness ob de summah earf. Oh, many nights Ah hu'd de boys an' gals A-singin' 'neaf mah windah songs o' mirf. An' on a Sund'y Ah would go to chu'ch An' kneelin' Ah would thank de Gawd ob all Dat simple folks an' simple ways whar mine Whaih many othahs hu'd de No'the'n call. III. Daih's big ol' Lunnon fa' across de sea, Daih's good Chicago wid huh open do', Daih's New O'leans whaih men waih stripe'd dress An' once a yeah a thousan' trumpets blow. But in de valley kissed by snow an' heat De Gawd mah fathuhs wo'shipped built His home. An' Gabrul in de night wid bresh o' fiah Wrote Louisville across its spa'klin' dome. 36
SPINNING. I. Thou art deftly spinning. Mother mine, Cloth of gold a-weaving, Mother mine! In the shadow dusk, When the blood of moon Drips upon the leaves. Slowly, slowly, slowly From my spinnet wheel Fate of thee and thine Draw I ere I die. Daughter mine. II. Thou art deftly spinning, Mother mine. Shroud of gold a-weaving. Mother mine ! 'Tis the web of love From the threads we spun Out of moonlight dream, Slowly, slowly, slowly Spun we threads of love For a silken web Of the milk white glow, Daughter mine. 37
III. Thou art deftly spinning Mother mine, Ages long a-weaving, Mother mine! 'Tis my spirit robe Grown from silken web That I spun erstwhile; Slowly, slowdy, slowly Spun I fate of thee. Spun I web of love For a shroud of death, Daughter mine. THE GOLDEN CITY. I. I never knew the Golden City was so near; — The purple dreams, the haunting melody of Youth, The votive offerings of winged Love sincere, The rugged purpose and the lofty heights of Truth. For I had wandered through the cavern of the Years, And shrouded faced the bitter wind eternity; But naught had been my lot save foolish tears Until I saw within thy eyes maternity. — Ah ! then the Golden City gleamed upon her crest. 38
II. But little did I ween the splendour of that world; — The golden hours restored, the mended arcli of Love, The crowning joys through sweeping time upon me hurled, The mercies from the jewelled Throne of God above — But laughed a season with the dryads in the grove And dashed the cup of Love into the boundless sea. For I had heard sweet Pleasure whisper, "We shall rove Where duty pines and men v»'ith souls are ever free." 'Twas then the Golden City faded as a dream. CLOSE DE BOOI^'! Close de book, Maria Jane ! Let's go walkin' down de lane. Daih we'll hyeali a sweetuh song Dan we kin' f'om minstrel throng; Daih we'll hyeah de mockin' bu'd Tellin' robin 'bout de bu'd Dat chu'ps svv'eetes' in de June. Daih we'll see de face ob noon Shinin' in de bubblin' stream, Brightuh dan an angel gleam. What's de use o' readin' now W'en behin' ol' Mastah's plow W^e kin walk wid Gawd Hisse'f, Drinkin' in ol' Natur's bre'f ?