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The Rivals Post by :ksmason Category :Poems Author :James Weldon Johnson Date :October 2011 Read :3255

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The Rivals

Look heah! Is I evah tole you 'bout de curious way I won
Anna Liza? Say, I nevah? Well heah's how de thing wuz done.

Lize, you know, wuz mighty purty--dat's been forty yeahs ago--
'N 'cos to look at her dis minit, you might'n spose dat it wuz so.

She wuz jes de greates' 'traction in de county, 'n bless de lam'!
Eveh darkey wuz a-co'tin, but it lay 'twix me an' Sam.

You know Sam. We both wuz wukin' on de ole John Tompkin's place.
'N evehbody wuz a-watchin' t'see who's gwine to win de race.

Hee! hee! hee! Now you mus' raley 'scuse me fu' dis snickering,
But I jes can't he'p f'om laffin' eveh time I tells dis thing.

Ez I wuz a-sayin', me an' Sam wuked daily side by side,
He a-studyin', me a-studyin', how to win Lize fu' a bride.

Well, de race was kinder equal, Lize wuz sorter on de fence;
Sam he had de mostes dollars, an' I had de mostes sense.

Things dey run along 'bout eben tel der come Big Meetin' day;
Sam den thought, to win Miss Liza, he had foun' de shoest way.

An' you talk about big meetin's! None been like it 'fore nor sence;
Der wuz sich a crowd o' people dat we had to put up tents.

Der wuz preachers f'om de Eas', an' 'der wuz preachers f'om de Wes';
Folks had kilt mos' eveh chicken, an' wuz fattenin' up de res'.

Gals had all got new w'ite dresses, an' bought ribbens fu' der hair,
Fixin' fu' de openin' Sunday, prayin' dat de day'd be fair.

Dat de Reveren' Jasper Jones of Mount Moriah, it wuz 'low'd,
Wuz to preach de openin' sermon; so you know der wuz a crowd.

Fu' dat man wuz sho a preacher; had a voice jes like a bull;
So der ain't no use in sayin' dat de meetin' house wuz full.

Folks wuz der f'om Big Pine Hollow, some come 'way f'om Muddy Creek,
Some come jes to stay fu' Sunday, but de crowd stay'd thoo de week.

Some come ridin' in top-buggies wid de w'eels all painted red,
Pulled by mules dat run like rabbits, each one tryin' to git ahead.

Othah po'rer folks come drivin' mules dat leaned up 'ginst de shaf',
Hitched to broke-down, creaky wagons dat looked like dey'd drap in half.

But de bigges' crowd come walkin', wid der new shoes on der backs;
'Scuse wuz dat dey couldn't weah em 'cause de heels wuz full o' tacks.

Fact is, it's a job for Job, a-trudgin' in de sun an' heat,
Down a long an' dusty clay road wid yo' shoes packed full o' feet.

'Cose dey stopt an' put dem shoes on w'en dey got mos' to de do';
Den dey had to grin an' bear it; dat tuk good religion sho.

But I mos' forgot ma story,--well at las' dat Sunday came
And it seemed dat evehbody, blin' an' deef, an' halt an' lame,

Wuz out in de grove a-waitin' fu' de meetin' to begin;
Ef dat crowd had got converted 'twould a been de end o' sin.

Lize wuz der in all her glory, purty ez a big sunflowah,
I kin 'member how she looked jes same ez 'twuz dis ve'y houah.

But to make ma story shorter, w'ile we wuz a-waitin' der,
Down de road we spied a cloud o' dus' dat filled up all de air.

An' ez we kep' on a-lookin', out f'om 'mongst dat ve'y cloud,
Sam, on Marse John's big mule, Caesar, rode right slam up in de crowd.

You jes oughtah seed dat darkey, 'clar I like tah loss ma bref;
Fu' to use a common 'spression, he wuz 'bout nigh dressed to def.

He had slipped to town dat Sat'day, didn't let nobody know,
An' had car'yd all his cash an' lef it in de dry goods sto'.

He had on a bran' new suit o' sto'-bought clo'es, a high plug hat;
He looked 'zactly like a gen'man, tain't no use d'nyin' dat.

W'en he got down off dat mule an' bowed to Liza I could see
How she looked at him so 'dmirin', an' jes kinder glanced at me.

Den I know'd to win dat gal, I sho would need some othah means
'Sides a-hangin' 'round big meetin' in a suit o' homespun jeans.

W'en dey blow'd de ho'n fu' preachin', an' de crowd all went inside,
I jes felt ez doh I'd like tah go off in de woods an' hide.

So I stay'd outside de meetin', set'n underneat' de trees,
Seemed to me I sot der ages, wid ma elbows on ma knees.

W'en dey sung dat hymn, "Nobody knows de trouble dat I see,"
Seem'd to me dat dey wuz singin' eveh word o' it fu' me.

Jes how long I might ha' sot der, actin' like a cussed fool,
I don't know, but it jes happen'd dat I look'd an' saw Sam's mule.

An' de thought come slowly tricklin' thoo ma brain right der an' den,
Dat, perhaps, wid some persuasion, I could make dat mule ma fren'.

An' I jes kep' on a-thinkin', an' I kep' a-lookin' 'roun',
Tel I spied two great big san' spurs right close by me on de groun'.

Well, I took dem spurs an' put em underneat' o' Caesar's saddle,
So dey'd press down in his backbone soon ez Sam had got a-straddle.

'Twuz a pretty ticklish job, an' jes ez soon ez it wuz done,
I went back w'ere I wuz set'n fu' to wait an' see de fun.

Purty soon heah come de people, jes a-swa'min' out de do',
Talkin' 'bout de "pow'ful sermon"--"nevah heah'd de likes befo'."

How de "monahs fell convicted" jes de same ez lumps o' lead,
How dat some wuz still a-layin' same es if dey'd been struck dead.

An' to rectly heah come Liza, Sam a-strollin' by her side,
An' it seem'd to me dat darky's smile wuz 'bout twelve inches wide.

Look to me like he had swelled up to 'bout twice his natchul size,
An' I heah'd him say, "I'd like to be yo' 'scort to-night, Miss Lize."

Den he made a bow jes like he's gwine to make a speech in school,
An' walk'd jes ez proud ez Marse John over to untie his mule,

W'en Sam's foot fust touched de stirrup he know'd der wuz sump'n wrong;
'Cuz de mule begin to tremble an' to sorter side along.

Wen Sam raised his weight to mount him, Caesar bristled up his ear,
W'en Sam sot down in de saddle, den dat mule cummenced to rear.

An' he reared an' pitched an' caper'd, only ez a mule kin pitch,
Tel he flung Sam clean f'om off him, landed him squar' in a ditch.

Wen dat darky riz, well raly, I felt kinder bad fu' him;
He had bust dem cheap sto' britches f'om de center to de rim.

All de plug hat dat wuz lef' him wuz de brim aroun' his neck,
Smear'd wid mud f'om top to bottom, well, he wuz a sight, I 'speck.

Wuz de folks a-laffin'? Well, su', I jes sholy thought dey'd bus';
Wuz Sam laffin'? 'Twuz de fus' time dat I evah heah'd him cuss.

W'ile Sam slink'd off thoo de backwoods I walk'd slowly home wid Lize,
W'en I axed her jes one question der wuz sump'n in her eyes

Made me know der wuz no need o' any answer bein' said,
An' I felt jes like de whole world wuz a-spinnin' 'roun' ma head.

So I said, "Lize, w'en we marry, mus' I weah some sto'-bought clo'es?"
She says, "Jeans is good enough fu' any po' folks, heaben knows!"


Envoy

If homely virtues draw from me a tune
In happy jingle or a half-sad croon;
Or if the smoldering future should inspire
My hand to strike the seer's prophetic lyre;
Or if injustice, brutishness and wrong
Should make a blasting trumpet of my song;
O God, give beauty and strength--truth to my words,
Oh, may they fall like sweetly cadenced chords,
Or burn like beacon fires from out the dark,
Or speed like arrows, swift and sure, to the mark.



(The end)
James Weldon Johnson's poem: Rivals

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