Verse > Anthologies > Louis Untermeyer, ed. > Modern American Poetry
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Louis Untermeyer, ed. (1885–1977). Modern American Poetry.  1919.
 
Alice Corbin.
 
85. Echoes of Childhood
(A Folk-Medley)
 
UNCLE JIM

OLD Uncle Jim was as blind as a mole,
 
But he could fiddle Virginia Reels, 
Till you felt the sap run out of your heels, 
Till you knew the devil had got your soul— 
  
  Down the middle and swing yo' partners,         5
  Up agin and salute her low, 
  Shake yo' foot an' keep a-goin', 
  Down the middle an' do-se-do! 
  
  Mind yo' manners an' doan git keerless, 
  Swing yo' lady and bow full low,  10
  S'lute yo' partner an' turn yo' neighbor, 
  Gran'-right-an-'left, and aroun' you go!

      *      *      *
 
  
DELPHY

Delphy's breast was wide and deep,
 
A shelf to lay a child asleep, 
  Swing low, sweet chariot, swing low;  15
Rocking like a lifted boat 
On lazy tropic seas afloat, 
  Swing low, sweet chariot, swing low. 
  
Delphy, when my mother died, 
Taught me wisdom, curbed my pride,  20
  Swing low, sweet chariot, swing low; 
And when she laid her body down, 
It shone, a jewel, in His crown, 
  Swing low, sweet chariot, swing low.

      *      *      *
 
  
(Underneath the southern moon  25
I was cradled to the tune 
Of the banjo and the fiddle 
And the plaintive negro croon.)

      *      *      *
 
  
MANDY'S RELIGION

I'se got religion an' I doan care
 
Who knows that God an' I are square,  30
I wuz carryin' home my mistis' wash 
When God came an' spoke to me out'n de hush. 
  
An' I th'ew de wash up inter de air, 
An' I climbed a tree to de golden stair, 
Ef it hadn't a been fur Mistah Wright  35
I'd had ter stayed dere all de night!

      *      *      *
 
  
(Underneath the southern moon 
I was cradled to the tune 
Of the banjo and the fiddle 
And the plaintive negro croon.)

      *      *      *
  40
  
BETSY'S BOY

Betsy's boy could shuffle and clog,
 
Though you couldn't get him to saw a log, 
Laziest boy about the place 
Till he started to dance—and you saw his face! 
It was all lit up like a mask of bronze  45
Set in a niche between temple gongs— 
For he would dance and never stop 
Till he fell on the floor like a spun-out top, 
His feet hung loose from his supple waist, 
He danced without stopping, he danced without haste.  50
Like Shiva the Hindu his feet were bound 
In the rhythm of stars and of streams underground: 
  
  Banjo playin' and de sanded floor, 
  Fiddle cryin', always callin' more, 
  Can't help dancin' though de preacher says  55
  Can't git to heaven doin' no sich ways, 
  Can't help dancin' though de devil stan's 
  With a pitch-fork waitin' in his brimstone han's; 
  Got—ter—keep—dancin',—can't—stop—now, 
  Got—ter—keep—dancin', I—doan—know—how...  60
  
  Banjo playin' and de sanded floor, 
  Fiddle cryin', always callin' more, 
  People's faces lookin' scared an' white, 
  Hands a clappin' an' eyes starin' bright. 
  Can't help dancin' though de candle's dyin',  65
  Can't help dancin' while de fiddle's cryin'; 
  Got—ter—keep—dancin', can't—stop—now, 
  Got—ter—keep—dancin',—I—doan—know—how! 
 
 
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