AUNT CHLOE - Frances Ellen Watkins Poems


Poems » frances ellen watkins » aunt chloe


I remember, well remember,
    That dark and dreadful day,
When they whispered to me, "Chloe,
    Your children's sold away!"

It seemed as if a bullet
    Had shot me through and through,
And I felt as if my heart-strings
    Was breaking right in two.

And I says to cousin Milly,
    "There must be some mistake;
Where's Mistus?" "In the great house crying --
    Crying like her heart would break.

"And the lawyer's there with Mistus;
    Says he's come to 'ministrate,
'Cause when master died he just left
    Heap of debt on the estate.

"And I thought 'twould do you good
    To bid your boys good-bye --
To kiss them both and shake their hands,
    And have a hearty cry.

"Oh! Chloe, I knows how you feel,
    'Cause I'se been through it all;
I thought my poor old heart would break,
    When master sold my Saul."

Just then I heard the footsteps
    Of my children at the door,
And then I rose right up to meet them,
    But I fell upon the floor.

And I heard poor Jakey saying,
    "Oh, mammy, don't you cry!"
And I felt my children kiss me
    And bid me, both, good-bye.

Then I had a mighty sorrow,
    Though I nursed it all alone;
But I wasted to a shadow,
    And turned to skin and bone.

But one day dear uncle Jacob
    (In heaven he's now a saint)
Said, "Your poor heart is in the fire,
    But child you must not faint."

Then I said to uncle Jacob,
    If I was good like you,
When the heavy trouble dashed me
    I'd know just what to do.

Then he said to me, "Poor Chloe,
    The way is open wide:"
And he told me of the Saviour,
    And the fountain in His side.

Then he said "Just take your burden
    To the blessed Master's feet;
I takes all my troubles, Chloe,
    Right unto the mercy-seat."

His words waked up my courage,
    And I began to pray,
And I felt my heavy burden
    Rolling like a stone away.

And a something seemed to tell me,
    You will see your boys again --
And that hope was like a poultice
    Spread upon a dreadful pain.

And it often seemed to whisper,
    Chloe, trust and never fear;
You'll get justice in the kingdom,
    If you do not get it here.

Master only left old Mistus
    One bright and handsome boy;
But she fairly doted on him,
    He was her pride and joy.

We all liked Mister Thomas,
    He was so kind at heart;
And when the young folkes got in scrapes,
    He always took their part.

He kept right on that very way
    Till he got big and tall,
And old Mistus used to chide him
    And say he'd spile us all.

But somehow the farm did prosper
    When he took things in hand;
And though all the servants liked him,
    He made them understand.

One evening Mister Thomas said,
    "Just bring my easy shoes;
I am going to sit by mother,
    And read her up the news."

Soon I heard him tell old Mistus
    We're bound to have a fight;
But we'll whip the Yankees, mother,
    We'll whip them sure as night!"

Then I saw old Mistus tremble;
    She gasped and held her breath;
And she looked on Mister Thomas
    With a face as pale as death.

"They are firing on Fort Sumpter;
    Oh! I wish that I was there! --
Why, dear mother! what's the matter?
    You're the picture of despair."

"I was thinking, dearest Thomas,
    'Twould break my very heart
If a fierce and dreadful battle
    Should tear our lives apart."

"None but cowards, dearest mother,
    Would skulk unto the rear,
When the tyrant's hand is shaking
    All the heart is holding dear."

I felt sorry for old Mistus;
    She got too full to speak;
But I saw the great big tear-drops
    A running down her cheek.

Mister Thomas too was troubled
    With choosing on that night,
Betwixt staying with his mother
    And joining in the fight.

Soon down into the village came
    A call for volunteers;
Mistus gave up Mister Thomas,
    With many sighs and tears.

His uniform was real handsome;
    He looked so brave and strong;
But somehow I could'nt help thinking
    His fighting must be wrong.

Though the house was very lonesome,
    I thought 'twould all come right,
For I felt somehow or other
    We was mixed up in that fight.

And I said to Uncle Jacob,
    "How old Mistus feels the sting,
For this parting with your children
    Is a mighty dreadful thing."

"Never mind," said Uncle Jacob,
    "Just wait and watch and pray,
For I feel right sure and certain,
    Slavery's bound to pass away;

"Because I asked the Spirit,
    If God is good and just,
How it happened that the masters
    Did grind us to the dust.

"And something reasoned right inside,
    Such should not always be;
And you could not beat it out my head,
    The Spirit spoke to me."

And his dear old eyes would brighten,
    And his lips put on a smile,
Saying, "Pick up faith and courage,
    And just wait a little while."

Mistus prayed up in the parlor,
    That the Secesh all might win;
We were praying in the cabins,
    Wanting freedom to begin.

Mister Thomas wrote to Mistus,
    Telling 'bout the Bull's Run fight,
That his troops had whipped the Yankees
    And put them all to flight.

Mistus' eyes did fairly glisten;
    She laughed and praised the South,
But I thought some day she'd laugh
    On tother side her mouth.

I used to watch old Mistus' face,
    And when it looked quite long
I would say to Cousin Milly,
    The battle's going wrong;

Not for us, but for the Rebels. --
    My heart would fairly skip,
When Uncle Jacob used to say,
    "The North is bound to whip."

And let the fight go as it would --
    Let North or South prevail --
He always kept his courage up,
    And never let it fail.

And he often used to tell us,
    "Children, don't forget to pray;
For the darkest time of morning
    Is just 'fore the break of day."

Well, one morning bright and early
    We heard the fife and drum,
And the booming of the cannon --
    The Yankee troops had come.

When the word ran through the village,
    The colored folks are free --
In the kitchens and the cabins
    We held a jubilee.

When they told us Mister Lincoln
    Said that slavery was dead,
We just poured our prayers and blessings
    Upon his precious head.

We just laughed, and danced, and shouted
    And prayed, and sang, and cried,
And we thought dear Uncle Jacob
    Would fairly crack his side.

But when old Mistus heard it,
    She groaned and hardly spoke;
When she had to lose her servants,
    Her heart was almost broke.

'Twas a sight to see our people
    Going out, the troops to meet,
Almost dancing to the music,
    And marching down the street.

After years of pain and parting,
    Our chains was broke in two,
And we was so mighty happy,
    We didn't know what to do.

But we soon got used to freedom,
    Though the way at first was rough;
But we weathered through the tempest,
    For slavery made us tough.

But we had one awful sorrow,
    It almost turned my head,
When a mean and wicked cretur
    Shot Mister Lincoln dead.

'Twas a dreadful solemn morning,
    I just staggered on my feet;
And the women they were crying
    And screaming in the street.

But if many prayers and blessings
    Could bear him to the throne,
I should think when Mister Lincoln died,
    That heaven just got its own.

Then we had another President, --
    What do you call his name?
Well, if the colored folks forget him
    They would'nt be much to blame.

We thought he'd be the Moses
    Of all the colored race;
But when the Rebels pressed us hard
    He never showed his face.

But something must have happened him,
    Right curi's I'll be bound,
'Cause I heard 'em talking 'bout a circle
    That he was swinging round.

But everything will pass away --
    He went like time and tide --
And when the next election came
    They let poor Andy slide.

But now we have a President,
    And if I was a man
I'd vote for him for breaking up
    The wicked Ku-Klux Klan.

And if any man should ask me
    If I would sell my vote,
I'd tell him I was not the one
    To change and turn my coat;

If freedom seem'd a little rough
    I'd weather through the gale;
And as to buying up my vote,
    I hadn't it for sale.

I do not think I'd ever be
    As slack as Jonas Handy;
Because I heard he sold his vote
    For just three sticks of candy.

But when John Thomas Reeder brought
    His wife some flour and meat,
And told he had sold his vote
    For something good to eat,

You ought to seen Aunt Kitty raise,
    And heard her blaze away;
She gave the meat and flour a toss,
    And said they should not stay.

And I should think he felt quite cheap
    For voting the wrong side;
And when Aunt Kitty scolded him,
    He just stood up and cried.

But the worst fooled man I ever saw,
    Was when poor David Rand
Sold out for flour and sugar;
    The sugar was mixed with sand.

I'll tell you how the thing got out;
    His wife had company,
And she thought the sand was sugar,
    And served it up for tea.

When David sipped and sipped the tea,
    Somehow it didn't taste right;
I guess when he found he was sipping sand
    He was mad enough to fight.

The sugar looked so nice and white --
    It was spread some inches deep --
But underneath was a lot of sand;
    Such sugar is mighty cheap.

You'd laughed to seen Lucinda Grange
    Upon her husband's track;
When he sold his vote for rations
    She made him take 'em back.

Day after day did Milly Green
    Just follow after Joe,
And told him if he voted wrong
    To take his rags and go.

I think that Samuel Johnson said
    His side had won the day,
Had not we women radicals
    Just got right in the way.

And yet I would not have you think
    That all our men are shabby;
But 'tis said in every flock of sheep
    There will be one that's scabby.

I've heard, before election came
    They tried to buy John Slade;
But he gave them all to understand
    That he wasn't in that trade.

And we've got lots of other men
    Who rally round the cause,
And go for holding up the hands
    That gave us equal laws,

Who know their freedom cost too much
    Of blood and pain and treasure,
For them to fool away their votes
    For profit or for pleasure.

Of course, I don't know very much
    About these politics,
But I think that some who run 'em,
    Do mighty ugly tricks.

I've seen 'em honey-fugle round,
    And talk so awful sweet,
That you'd think them full of kindness
    As an egg is full of meat.

Now I don't believe in looking
    Honest people in the face,
And saying when you're doing wrong,
    That 'I haven't sold my race.'

When we want to school our children,
    If the money isn't there,
Whether black or white have took it,
    The loss we all must share.

And this buying up each other
    Is something worse than mean,
Though I thinks a heap of voting,
    I go for voting clean.

Very soon the Yankee teachers
    Came down and set up school;
But, oh! how the Rebs did hate it, --
    It was agin' their rule.

Our masters always tried to hide
    Book learning from our eyes;
Knowledge did'nt agree with slavery --
    'Twould make us all too wise.

But some of us would try to steal
    A little from the book,
And put the words together,
    And learn by hook or crook.

I remember Uncle Caldwell,
    Who took pot liquor fat
And greased the pages of his book,
    And hid it in his hat.

And had his master ever seen
    The leaves upon his head,
He'd have thought them greasy papers,
    But nothing to be read.

And there was Mr. Turner's Ben,
    Who heard the children spell,
And picked the words right up by heart,
    And learned to read 'em well.

Well, the Northern folks kept sending
    The Yankee teachers down;
And they stood right up and helped us,
    Though Rebs did sneer and frown.

And I longed to read my Bible,
    For precious words it said;
But when I begun to learn it,
    Folks just shook their heads,

And said there is no use trying,
    Oh! Chloe, you're too late;
But as I was rising sixty,
    I had no time to wait.

So I got a pair of glasses,
    And straight to work I went,
And never stopped till I could read
    The hymns and Testament.

Then I got a little cabin
    A place to call my own --
And I felt as independent
    As the queen upon her throne.

Uncle Jacob often told us,
    Since freedom blessed our race
We ought all to come together
    And build a meeting place.

So we pinched, and scraped, and spared,
    A little here and there:
Though our wages was but scanty,
    The church did get a share.

And, when the house was finished,
    Uncle Jacob came to pray;
He was looking mighty feeble,
    And his head was awful gray.

But his voice rang like a trumpet;
    His eyes looked bright and young;
And it seemed a mighty power
    Was resting on his tongue.

And he gave us all his blessing --
    'Twas parting words he said,
For soon we got the message
    The dear old man was dead.

But I believe he's in the kingdom,
    For when we shook his hand
He said, "Children, you must meet me
    Right in the promised land;

"For when I done a moiling
    And toiling here below,
Through the gate into the city
    Straightway I hope to go."

Well, one morning real early
    I was going down the street,
And I heard a stranger asking
    For Missis Chloe Fleet.

There was something in his voice
    That made me feel quite shaky.
And when I looked right in his face,
    Who should it be but Jakey!

I grasped him tight, and took him home --
    What gladness filled my cup!
And I laughed, and just rolled over,
    And laughed, and just give up.

"Where have you been? O Jakey, dear!
    Why didn't you come before?
Oh! when you children went away
    My heart was awful sore."

"Why, mammy, I've been on your hunt
    Since ever I've been free,
And I have heard from brother Ben, --
    He's down in Tennessee.

"He wrote me that he had a wife,"
    "And children?" "Yes, he's three."
"You married, too?" "Oh, no, indeed,
    I thought I'd first get free."

"Then, Jakey, you will stay with me,
    And comfort my poor heart;
Old Mistus got no power now
    To tear us both apart.

"I'm richer now than Mistus,
    Because I have got my son;
And Mister Thomas he is dead,
    And she's nary one.

"You must write to brother Benny
    That he must come this fall,
And we'll make the cabin bigger,
    And that will hold us all.

"Tell him I want to see 'em all
    Before my life do cease:
And then, like good old Simeon,
    I hope to die in peace."