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James Weldon Johnson, ed. (1871–1938). The Book of American Negro Poetry. 1922.


MERRY voices chatterin’,

Nimble feet dem patterin’,

Big an’ little, faces gay,

Happy day dis market day.

Sateday, de marnin’ break,

Soon, soon market-people wake;

An’ de light shine from de moon

While dem boy, wid pantaloon

Roll up obey dem knee-pan,

’Tep across de buccra lan’

To de pastur whe’ de harse

Feed along wid de jackass,

An’ de mule cant’ in de track

Wid him tail up in him back,

All de ketchin’ to defy,

No ca’ how dem boy might try.

In de early marnin’-tide,

When de cocks crow on de hill

An’ de stars are shinin’ still,

Mirrie by de fireside

Hots de coffee for de lads

Comin’ ridin’ on de pads

T’rown across dem animul—

Donkey, harse too, an’ de mule,

Which at last had come do’n cool.

On de bit dem hol’ dem full:

Racin’ ober pastur’ lan’,

See dem comin’ ebery man,

Comin’ fe de steamin’ tea

Ober hilly track an’ lea.

Hard-wuk’d donkey on de road

Trottin’ wid him ushal load,

Hamper pack’ wi’ yam an’ grain,

Sour-sop, and Gub’nor cane.

Cous’ Sun sits in hired dray,

Drivin’ ’long de market way;

Whole week grindin’ sugar cane

Trough de boilin’ sun an’ rain,

Now, a’ter de toilin’ hard,

He goes seekin’ his reward,

While he’s thinkin’ in him min’

Of de dear ones lef’ behin’,

Of de loved though ailin’ wife,

Darlin’ treasure of his life,

An’ de picknies, six in all,

Whose ’nuff burdens ’pon him fall:

Seben lovin’ ones in need,

Seben hungry mouths fe feed;

On deir wants he thinks alone,

Neber dreamin’ of his own,

But gwin’ on wid joyful face

Till him re’ch de market-place.

Sugar bears no price to-day,

Though it is de mont’ o’ May,

When de time is hellish hot,

An’ de water cocoanut

An’ de cane bebridge is nice,

Mix’ up wid a filly ice.

Big an’ little, great an’ small,

Afou yam is all de call;

Sugar tup an’ gill a quart,

Yet de people hab de heart

Wantin’ brater top o’ i’,

Want de sweatin’ higgler fe

Ram de pan an’ pile i’ up,

Yet sell i’ fe so-so tup.

Cousin Sun is lookin’ sad,

As de market is so bad;

’Pon him han’ him res’ him chin,

Quietly sit do’n thinkin’

Of de loved wife sick in bed,

An’ de children to be fed—

What de laborers would say

When dem know him couldn’ pay;

Also what about de mill

Whe’ him hire from ole Bill;

So him think, an’ think on so,

Till him t’oughts no more could go.

Then he got up an’ began

Pickin’ up him sugar-pan:

In his ears rang trough de din

“Only two-an’-six a tin’.”

What a tale he’d got to tell,

How bad, bad de sugar sell!

Tekin’ out de lee amount,

Him set do’n an’ begin count

All de time him min’ deh doubt

How expenses would pay out;

Ah, it gnawed him like de ticks,

Sugar sell fe two-an’-six!

So he journeys on de way,

Feelin’ sad dis market day;

No e’en buy a little cake

To gi’e baby when she wake,—

Passin’ ’long de candy-shop

’Douten eben mek a stop

To buy drops fe las’y son,

For de filly cash nea’ done.

So him re’ch him own a groun’,

An’ de children scamper roun’,

Each one stretchin’ out him han’,

Lookin’ to de poor sad man.

Oh, how much he felt de blow,

As he watched dem face fall low,

When dem wait an’ nuttin’ came

An’ drew back deir han’s wid shame!

But de sick wife kissed his brow:

“Sun, don’t get down-hearted now;

Ef we only pay expense

We mus’ wuk we common-sense,

Cut an’ carve, an’ carve an’ cut,

Mek gill sarbe fe quattiewut;

We mus’ try mek two ends meet

Neber mind how hard be it.

We won’t mind de haul an’ pull,

While dem pickny belly full.”

An’ de shadow lef’ him face,

An’ him felt an inward peace,

As he blessed his better part

For her sweet an’ gentle heart:

“Dear one o’ my heart, my breat’,

Won’t I lub you to de deat’?

When my heart is weak an’ sad,

Who but you can mek it glad?”

So dey kissed an’ kissed again,

An’ deir t’oughts were not on pain,

But was ’way down in de sout’

Where dey’d wedded in deir yout’,

In de marnin’ of deir life

Free from all de grief an’ strife,

Happy in de marnin’ light,

Never thinkin’ of de night.

So dey k’lated eberyt’ing;

An’ de profit it could bring,

A’ter all de business fix’,

Was a princely two-an’-six.