Sidney Lanier ( )

The Power of Prayer

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 niggers feet.

It pear to me dis mornin I kin smell de fust o June.
I clar, I blieve 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 foty year or mo,
Dese ears, DEY sees the world, like, thu de cracks dats 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, thu DEM, temptations rain wont leak in on ole Jim!
De back ones show me earth enough, aldo deys monsous slim.

And as for Hebben, -- bless de Lord, and praise His holy name --
DAT shines in all de coners of dis cabin jes de same
As ef dat cabin hadnt nar a plank upon de frame!

Who CALL me? Listen down de ribber, Dinah! Dont you hyar
Somebody hollin Hoo, Jim, hoo? My Sarah died las yar;
IS dat black angel done come back to call ole Jim fom hyar?

My stars, dat caint 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 Debbles comin round dat bend, hes comin shuh enuff,
A-splashin up de water wid his tail and wid his hoof!

Ise powful skeered; but neversomeless I aint gwine run away:
Im gwine to stand stiff-legged for de Lord dis blessed day.
YOU screech, and swish de water, Satan! Ise a gwine to pray.

O hebbenly Marster, what thou willest, dat mus be jes so,
And ef Thou hast bespoke de word, some niggers bound to go.
Den, Lord, please take ole Jim, and lef young Dinah hyar below!

Scuse Dinah, scuse her, Marster; for shes sich a little chile,
She hardly jes begin to scramble up de homeyard stile,
But dis ole travellers feet been tired dis many a many a mile.

Ise wufless as de rotten pole of las years fodder-stack.
De rheumatiz done bit my bones; you hear em crack and crack?
I cainst 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?
Ise like a word dat somebody said, and den done been forgotten.

But, Dinah! Shuh dat gal jes like dis little hickry tree,
De saps jes risin in her; she do grow owdaciouslee --
Lord, ef yous clarin de underbrush, dont cut her down, cut me!

I would not proud persume -- but Ill 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 thow away de bread,
Jes for to strength dese idle hands to scratch dis ole bald head?
Tink of de conomy, Marster, ef dis ole Jim was dead!

Stop; -- ef I dont believe de Debbles gone on up de stream!
Jes now he squealed down dar; -- hush; dats a mighty weakly scream!
Yas, sir, hes gone, hes gone; -- he snort way off, like in a dream!

O glory hallelujah to de Lord dat reigns on high!
De Debbles faily skeered to def, he done gone flyin by;
I knowd he couldn stand dat prar, I felt my Marster nigh!

You, Dinah; aint you shamed, now, dat you didn trust to grace?
I heerd you thrashin thu de bushes when he showed his face!
You fool, you think de Debble couldnt 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 thu de ar.

Sidney Lanier's other poems:
  1. On Huntingdons "Miranda"
  2. Laus Mariae
  3. Resurrection
  4. My Springs
  5. A Birthday Song

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