Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE RIVALS, by JAMES WELDON JOHNSON

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE RIVALS, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: Look heah! Is I evah tole you 'bout de curious / way I won
Last Line: "folks, heaben knows!"
Subject(s): African Americans; Courtship; Hearts; Love; Single People; Negroes; American Blacks; Bachelors; Unmarried People

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

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 fat-
tenin' 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'
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
Ef dat crowd had got converted 'twould a been
de end o' sin.

Lize wuz der in all her glory, purty ez a big sun
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, Cæsar, 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'
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'
Cæsar'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

W'en Sam raised his weight to mount him,
Cæsar 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.

W'en 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!"

Discover our Poem Explanations and Poet Analyses!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net