Precepts at Parting

by Irwin Russell

Irwin Russell

Well , son, so you's gwine for to leab us, yo' lubbin' ol' mammy an' me,
An' set yo'se'f up as a waiter, aboa'd ob de Robbut E. Lee ,
Along wid dem fancy young niggers, what's 'shamed fur to look at a hoe,
An' acts like a passel ob rich folks, when dey isn't got nuffin to show.

You's had better trainin' dan dey has—I hopes 'at you'll zibit more sense;
Sech niggers is like a young rooster, a-settin' up top ob a fence:
He keeps on a-stretchin' an' crowin', an', while he's a-blowin' his horn,
Dem chickens what ain't arter fussin' is pickin' up all ob de corn.

Now listen, an' min' what I tell you, an' don't you forgit what I say;
Take advice ob a 'sperienced pussen, an' you'll git up de ladder an' stay:
Who knows? You mought git to be Pres'dent, or jestice, perhaps, ob de peace—
De man what keeps pullin' de grape-vine shakes down a few bunches at leas'.

Dem niggers what runs on de ribber is mos'ly a mighty sharp set;
Dey'd fin' out some way fur to beat you, ef you bet 'em de water wuz wet;
You's got to watch out for dem fellers; dey'd cheat off de horns ob a cow.
I knows 'em; I follered de ribber 'fore ebber I follered a plow.

You'll easy git 'long wid de white folks,—de Cappen an' steward an' clerks,—
Dey won't say a word to a nigger, as long as dey notice he works;
An' work is de onlies' ingine we's any 'casion to tote,
To keep us gwine on troo de currents dat pesters de spirichul boat.

I heered dat idee from a preacher: he 'lowed 'at dis life wuz a stream,
An' ebry one's soul wuz a packet dat run wid a full head ob steam;
Dat some ob 'em's only stern-wheelers, while oders wuz mons'ously fine—
An' de trip wuz made sates' an' quickes' by boats ob de Mefodis line.

I wants you, my son, to be 'tic'lar, an' 'sociate only wid dey
Dat's 'titled to go in de cabin—don't neber hab nuffin to say
To dem low-minded roustabout niggers what han'les de cotton below—
Dem common brack rascals am't fittin' for no cabin-waiter to know.

But nebber git airy: be 'spectful to all de white people you see;
An' nebber go back on de raisin' you's had from your mammy an' me.
It's hard on your mudder, your leabin'—I don' know whatebber she'll do;
An' shorely your fader'll miss you—I'll alluz be thinkin' ob you.

Well, now I's done tol' you my say-so. Dar ain't nuffin more as I knows—
'Cept dis: don't you nebber come back, sah, widout you has money an' clo'es.
I's kep' you as long as I's gwine to, an now you an' me we is done—
An' calves is too skace in dis country to kill fur a prodigal son.

Last updated September 05, 2017