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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Elizabeth Williams Champney (1850–1922)

How Persimmons Took Care ob der Baby

PERSIMMONS was a colored lad

’Way down in Lou’siany,

And all the teaching that he had

Was given him by his granny.

But he did his duty ever

As well as you, it may be;

With faithfulness and pride always,

He minded missus’s baby.

He loved the counsels of the saints,—

And sometimes those of sinners,

To run off ’possum-hunting and

Steal “watermilion” dinners.

And fervently at meetin’ too,

On every Sunday night,

He’d with the elders shout and pray

By the pine-knots’ flaring light,

And sing their rudest melodies

With voice so full and strong

You could almost think he learned them

From the angels’ triumph song.

“We be nearer to de Lord

Dan de white folks,—and dey knows it:

See de glory-gate unbarred;

Walk in darkies, past de guard—

Bet you dollar he won’t close it.

“Walk in, darkies, troo de gate:

Hear de kullered angels holler;

Go ’way, white folks, you’re too late,—

We’s de winnin’ kuller. Wait

Till de trumpet blow to foller.”

He would croon this over softly

As he lay out in the sun;

But the song he heard most often—

His granny’s favorite one—

Was—“Jawge Washington

Thomas Jefferson

Persimmons Henry Clay, be

Quick! shut de do’,

Get up off dat flo’,

Come heah and mind de baby.”

One night there came a fearful storm,—

Almost a second flood;

The river rose, a torrent swoln

Of beaten, yellow mud.

It bit at its embankments,

And lapped them down in foam,

Till surging through a wide crevasse,

The waves seethed round their home.

They scaled the high veranda,

They filled the parlors clear,

Till floating chairs and tables

Clashed against the chandelier.

’Twas then Persimmons’s granny,

Stout of arm and terror-proof,

By means of axe and lever,

Pried up the veranda roof;

Bound mattresses upon it

With stoutest cords of rope,

Lifted out her fainting mistress,

Saying, “Honey, dar is hope!

“You, Jawge Washington

Thomas Jefferson

Persimmons Henry Clay, be

Quick on dat raf’;

Don’t star’ like a calf,

But take good cah ob baby!”

The frothing river lifted them

Out on its turbid tide,

And for a while they floated on

Together, side by side;

Till, broken by the current strong,

The frail raft snapt in two,

And Persimmons saw his granny

Fast fading from his view.

The deck-hands on a steamboat

Heard, as they passed in haste,

A child’s voice singing in the dark,

Upon the water’s waste,

A song of faith and triumph,

Of Moses and the Lord;

And throwing out a coil of rope,

They drew him safe on board.

Full many a stranger city

Persimmons wandered through,

“A-totin’ ob der baby,” and

Singing songs he knew.

At length some City Fathers

Objected to his plan,

Arresting as a vagrant

Our valiant little man.

They carried out their purposes,

Persimmons “’lowed he’d spile ’em,”

So, sloping from the station-house,

He stole baby from the ’sylum.

And on that very afternoon,

As it was growing dark,

He sang, beside the fountain in

The crowded city park,

A rude camp-meeting anthem,

Which he had sung before,

While on his granny’s fragile raft

He drifted far from shore:—

“Moses smote de water, and

De sea gabe away;

De chillen dey passed ober, for

De sea gabe away.

O Lord! I feel so glad,

It am always dark ’fo’ day;

So, honey, don’t yer be sad,

De sea ’ll gib away.”

A lady dressed in mourning

Turned with a sudden start,

Gave one glance at the baby,

Then caught it to her heart;

While a substantial shadow

That was walking by her side

Seized Persimmons by the shoulder,

And while she shook him, cried:—

“You, Jawge Washington

Thomas Jefferson

Persimmons Henry Clay, be

Quick! splain yerself, chile,—

Stop dat ar fool smile,—

Whar you done been wid baby?”