Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, RATTLIN' JOE'S PRAYER, by JOHN WALLACE CRAWFORD



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RATTLIN' JOE'S PRAYER, by            
First Line: Jist pile on some more o' them pine knots
Last Line: So I guess I hed best turn in too.
Alternate Author Name(s): Jack, Captain
Subject(s): Bible; Coffins; Mass; Prayer; War


JIST pile on some more o' them pine knots,
An' squat yoursel's down on this skin,
An', Scotty, let up on yer growlin' —
The boys are all tired o' yer chin.
Alleghany, jist pass round the bottle,
An' give the lads all a square drink,
An' as soon as yer settled I'll tell ye
A yarn as'll please ye, I think.

'T was the year eighteen hundred an' sixty,
A day in the bright month o' June,
When the Angel o' Death from the Diggin's
Snatched "Monte Bill" — known as M'Cune.
Wal, Bill war a favorite among us,
In spite o' the trade that he had,
Which are gamblin'; but — don't you forget it —
He often made weary hearts glad;
An', pards, while he lay in that coffin,
Which we hewed from the trunk o' a tree,
His face war as calm as an angel's
An' white as an angel's could be.

An' thar's war the trouble commenced, pards;
Thar war no Gospel sharps in the camps,
An' Joe said, "We can't drop him this way,
Without some directions or stamps."
Then up spoke old Sandy M'Gregor:
"Look'ee yar mates, I'm reg'lar dead stuck,
I can't hold no hand at religion,
An' I'm feared Bill's gone in out o'luck.
If I knowed a darned thing about prayin',
I'd chip in and say him a mass,
But I ain't got no show in the lay-out.
I can't beat the game, so I pass."

Rattlin' Joe war the next o' the speakers,
An' Joe war a friend o' the dead;
The salt water stood in his peepers,
An' these are the words as he said:
"Mates, you know as I ain't any Christian,
An' I'll gamble the good Lord don't know
That thar lives sich a rooster as I am;
But thar once war a time long ago,
When I war a kid, I remember,
My old mother sent me to school,
To the little brown church every Sunday —
Whar they said I war dumb as a mule,
An' I reckon I've nearly forgotten
Purty much all thet ever I knew.
But still, if ye'll drop to my racket,
I'll show ye jist what I kin do.

"Now I'll show you my Bible," said Joseph —
"Jist hand me them cards off that rack;
I'll convince ye that this are a Bible";
An' he set to work shufflin' the pack.
He spread out the cards on the table,
An' begun kinder pious-like: "Pards,
If ye'll jist cheese yer racket an' listen,
I'll show ye the Pra'ar Book in cards.

"The 'ace' that reminds us of one God,
The 'deuce' of the Father an' Son,
The 'tray' of the Father an' Son, Holy Ghost,
For, ye see, all them three are but one.
The 'four-spot' is Matthew, Luke, Mark, an' John,
The 'five-spot' the Virgins who trimmed
Thar lamps while yet it was light o' the day,
And the five foolish Virgins who sinned.
The 'six-spot' — in six days the Lord made the world,
The sea, an' the stars in the heaven;
He saw it war good w'at He made, then He said,
'I'll jist go the rest' on the 'seven.'
The 'eight-spot' is Noah, his wife an' three sons,
An' Noah's three sons has their wives;
God loved the hull mob, so bid'em embark —
In the freshet He saved all their lives.
The 'nine' war the lepers of Biblical fame,
A repulsive and hideous squad —
The 'ten' are the holy Commandments, which came
To us perishin' creatures from God.
The 'queen' war of Sheba in old Bible times,
The 'king' represents old king 'Sol.'
She brought in a hundred young folks, gals an' boys,
To the King in his Government hall.
They were all dressed alike, an' she axed the old boy
(She'd put up his wisdom as bosh)
Which war boys an' which gals. Old Sol said, 'By Joe,
How dirty their hands! Make'em wash!'
And then he showed Sheba the boys only washed
Their hands and a part o' their wrists,
While the gals jist went up to their elbows in suds.
Sheba weakened, an' shook the king's fists.
Now, the 'knave,' that's the devil, an', God, ef ye please,
Jist keep his hands off'n poor Bill.
An' now, lads, jist drop on yer knees for a while
Till I draw, and perhaps I kin fill;
An' hevin' no Bible, I'll pray on the cards,
Fur I've showed ye they're all on the squar',
An' I think God'll cotton to all that I say,
If I'm only sincere in the pra'ar.
Jist give him a corner, good Lord — not on stocks,
Fur I ain't such a durned fool as that,
To ax ye fur anything worldly fur Bill,
Kase ye'd put me up then fur a flat.
I'm lost on the rules o' yer game, but I'll ax
Fur a seat fur him back o' the throne,
And I'll bet my whole stock that the boy'll behave
If yer angels jist lets him alone.
Thar's nothin' 'bout him unless he gets riled,
The boys'll all back me in that;
But if any one treads on his corns, then, you bet,
He'll fight at the drop o' the hat.
Jist don't let yer angels run over him, Lord,
Nor shut off all't once on his drink;
Break him in kinder gentle an' mild in the start,
An' he'll give ye no trouble, I think.
An' couldn't ye give him a pack of old cards,
To amuse himself once in a while?
But I warn ye right hyar, not to bet on his game,
Or he'll get right away with yer pile.
An' now, Lord, I hope thet ye've tuck it all in,
An' listened to all that I've said.
I know thet my prayin' is jist a bit thin,
But I've done all I kin fur the dead.
An' if I hain't troubled yer Lordship too much —
So I'll cheese it by axin', again,
Thet ye won't let the 'knave' git his grip on poor Bill.
Thet's all, Lord — yours truly — Amen."

Thet's "Rattlin' Joe's prayer," old pardners,
An' — what! you all snorin'? Say, Lew,
By thunder! I've talked every rascal to sleep,
So I guess I hed best turn in too.





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