by Sidney Lanier
or, The First Steamboat up the Alabama.
You, Dinah! Come and set me whar de ribber-roads does meet.
De Lord, HE made dese black-jack roots to twis' into a seat.
Umph, dar! De Lord have mussy on dis blin' ole nigger's feet.
It 'pear to me dis mornin' I kin smell de fust o' June.
I 'clar', I b'lieve dat mockin'-bird could play de fiddle soon!
Dem yonder town-bells sounds like dey was ringin' in de moon.
Well, ef dis nigger IS been blind for fo'ty year or mo',
Dese ears, DEY sees the world, like, th'u' de cracks dat's in de do'.
For de Lord has built dis body wid de windows 'hind and 'fo'.
I know my front ones IS stopped up, and things is sort o' dim,
But den, th'u' DEM, temptation's rain won't leak in on ole Jim!
De back ones show me earth enough, aldo' dey's mons'ous slim.
And as for Hebben, -- bless de Lord, and praise His holy name --
DAT shines in all de co'ners of dis cabin jes' de same
As ef dat cabin hadn't nar' a plank upon de frame!
Who CALL me? Listen down de ribber, Dinah! Don't you hyar
Somebody holl'in' "Hoo, Jim, hoo?" My Sarah died las' y'ar;
IS dat black angel done come back to call ole Jim f'om hyar?
My stars, dat cain't be Sarah, shuh! Jes' listen, Dinah, NOW!
What KIN be comin' up dat bend, a-makin' sich a row?
Fus' bellerin' like a pawin' bull, den squealin' like a sow?
De Lord 'a' mussy sakes alive, jes' hear, -- ker-woof, ker-woof --
De Debble's comin' round dat bend, he's comin' shuh enuff,
A-splashin' up de water wid his tail and wid his hoof!
I'se pow'ful skeered; but neversomeless I ain't gwine run away:
I'm gwine to stand stiff-legged for de Lord dis blessed day.
YOU screech, and swish de water, Satan! I'se a gwine to pray.
O hebbenly Marster, what thou willest, dat mus' be jes' so,
And ef Thou hast bespoke de word, some nigger's bound to go.
Den, Lord, please take ole Jim, and lef young Dinah hyar below!
'Scuse Dinah, 'scuse her, Marster; for she's sich a little chile,
She hardly jes' begin to scramble up de homeyard stile,
But dis ole traveller's feet been tired dis many a many a mile.
I'se wufless as de rotten pole of las' year's fodder-stack.
De rheumatiz done bit my bones; you hear 'em crack and crack?
I cain'st sit down 'dout gruntin' like 'twas breakin' o' my back.
What use de wheel, when hub and spokes is warped and split, and rotten?
What use dis dried-up cotton-stalk, when Life done picked my cotton?
I'se like a word dat somebody said, and den done been forgotten.
But, Dinah! Shuh dat gal jes' like dis little hick'ry tree,
De sap's jes' risin in her; she do grow owdaciouslee --
Lord, ef you's clarin' de underbrush, don't cut her down, cut me!
I would not proud persume -- but I'll boldly make reques';
Sence Jacob had dat wrastlin'-match, I, too, gwine do my bes';
When Jacob got all underholt, de Lord he answered Yes!
And what for waste de vittles, now, and th'ow away de bread,
Jes' for to strength dese idle hands to scratch dis ole bald head?
T'ink of de 'conomy, Marster, ef dis ole Jim was dead!
Stop; -- ef I don't believe de Debble's gone on up de stream!
Jes' now he squealed down dar; -- hush; dat's a mighty weakly scream!
Yas, sir, he's gone, he's gone; -- he snort way off, like in a dream!
O glory hallelujah to de Lord dat reigns on high!
De Debble's fai'ly skeered to def, he done gone flyin' by;
I know'd he couldn' stand dat pra'r, I felt my Marster nigh!
You, Dinah; ain't you 'shamed, now, dat you didn' trust to grace?
I heerd you thrashin' th'u' de bushes when he showed his face!
You fool, you think de Debble couldn't beat YOU in a race?
I tell you, Dinah, jes' as shuh as you is standin' dar,
When folks starts prayin', answer-angels drops down th'u' de a'r.
YAS, DINAH, WHAR 'OULD YOU BE NOW, JES' 'CEPTIN' FUR DAT PRA'R?
Last updated May 02, 2015