Swing dat hammer--hunh-- Steady, bo'; Swing dat hammer--hunh-- Steady, bo'; Ain't no rush, bebby, Long ways to go. Burner tore his--hunh-- Black heart away; Burner tore his--hunh-- Black heart away; Got me life, bebby, An' a day. Gal's on Fifth Street--hunh-- Son done gone; Gal's on Fifth Street--hunh-- Son done gone; Wife's in de ward, bebby, Babe's not bo'n. My ole man died--hunh-- Cussin' me; My ole man died--hunh-- Cussin' me; Ole lady rocks, bebby, Huh misery. Doubleshackled--hunh-- Guard behin'; Doubleshackled--hunh-- Guard behin'; Ball an' chain, bebby, On my min'. White man tells me--hunh-- Damn yo' soul; White man tells me--hunh-- Damn yo' soul; Got no need, bebby, To be tole. Chain gang nevah--hunh-- Let me go; Chain gang nevah--hunh-- Let me go; Po' los' boy, bebby, Evahmo' . . .
A man git his feet set in a sticky mudbank,
A man git dis yellow water in his blood,
No need for hopin', no need for doin',
Muddy streams keep him fixed for good.
Little Muddy, Big Muddy, Moreau and Osage,
Little Mary's, Big Mary's, Cedar Creek,
Flood deir muddy water roundabout a man's roots,
Keep him soaked and stranded and git him weak.
Lazy sun shinin' on a little cabin,
Lazy moon glistenin' over river trees;
Ole river whisperin', lappin' 'gainst de long roots:
"Plenty of rest and peace in these . . ."
Big mules, black loam, apple and peach trees,
But seems lak de river washes us down
Past de rich farms, away from de fat lands,
Dumps us in some ornery riverbank town.
Went down to the river, sot me down an' listened,
Heard de water talkin' quiet, quiet lak an' slow:
"Ain' no need fo' hurry, take yo' time, take yo'
time . . ." Heard it sayin'—"Baby, hyeahs de way life go . . ."
Dat is what it tole me as I watched it slowly rollin',
But somp'n way inside me rared up an' say,
"Better be movin' . . . better be travelin' . . .
Riverbank'll git you ef you stay . . ."
Towns are sinkin' deeper, deeper in de riverbank,
Takin' on de ways of deir sulky Ole Man—
Takin' on his creepy ways, takin' on his evil ways,
"Bes' git way, a long way . . . whiles you can. Man got his
sea too lak de Mississippi Ain't got so long for a whole lot longer way,
Man better move some, better not git rooted Muddy water fool you, ef you stay . . ."