Thursday, November 22, 2012

Signs of the Times

Air is getting cool and cooler,
   Frost is coming in the night,
Hickory nuts and walnuts falling,
   Possum keeping out of sight.
Turkey strutting in the barnyard,
   Nary a step as proud as his;
Keep on strutting Mr. Turkey
   You do know what time it is.

Cider press commence to squeaking
   Eating apples stored away,
Children swarm around like hornets,
   Hunting eggs among the hay.
Mr. Turkey keep on gobbling
   At the geese flying south,
Oomph! That bird doesn't know what's coming;
   If he did he'd shut his mouth.

The pumpkin is getting good and yellow
   Makes me open up my eyes;
It seems like it is looking at me
   Just laying there saying, "Pies!"
Turkey gobbler going around blowing,
   Going around giving sass and slack;
Keep on talking Mr. Turkey,
   You haven't seen the Almanac.

The farmer walks through the barnyard
   Seeing how things are coming on,
He sees if all the fowls are getting fat —
   Good times are coming, as sure as you are born.
Here's that turkey gobbler bragging,
   Then his face breaks in a smile —
Never mind, you sassy rascal,
   He's going to nab you after a while.

Chopping suet in the kitchen,
   Stoning raisins in the hall,
Beef is cooking for the mincemeat,
   Spices ground — I smell them all.
Look here Turkey, stop that gobbling,
   You haven't learned the sense of fear,
You old fool, your neck's in danger,
   Do you know Thanksgiving's here?

— Paul Laurence Dunbar   

 (Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was an early practitioner of dialect poetry and one of the first black men in America to find fame as a poet. His second volume of poetry Majors and Minors from 1895 was divided into two groups of poems — standard English poems (Majors) and dialect poetry (Minors). The original version of Signs of the Times follows for comparison of the two styles that Dunbar crafted through his poetry.)

Air a-gittin' cool an' coolah,
   Frost a-comin' in de night,
Hicka' nuts an' wa'nuts fallin',
   Possum keepin' out o' sight.
Tu'key struttin' in de ba'nya'd,
   Nary a step so proud ez his;
Keep on struttin', Mistah Tu'key,
   Yo' do' know whut time it is.

Cidah press commence a-squeakin'
   Eatin' apples sto'ed away,
Chillun swa'min' 'roun' lak ho'nets,
   Huntin' aigs ermung de hay.
Mistah Tu'key keep on gobblin'
   At de geese a-flyin' souf,
Oomph! dat bird do' know whut's comin';
   Ef he did he'd shet his mouf.

Pumpkin gittin' good an' yallah
   Mek me open up my eyes;
Seems lak it's a-lookin' at me
   Jes' a-la'in' dah sayin' "Pies."
Tu'key gobbler gwine 'roun' blowin',
   Gwine 'roun' gibbin' sass an' slack;
Keep on talkin', Mistah Tu'key,
   You ain't seed no almanac.

Fa'mer walkin' th'oo de ba'nya'd
   Seein' how things is comin' on,
Sees ef all de fowls is fatt'nin' —
   Good times comin' sho's you bo'n.
Hyeahs dat tu'key gobbler braggin',
   Den his face break in a smile —
Nebbah min', you sassy rascal,
   He's gwine nab you atter while.

Choppin' suet in de kitchen,
   Stonin' raisins in de hall,
Beef a-cookin' fu' de mince meat,
   Spices groun' — I smell 'em all.
Look hyeah, Tu'key, stop dat gobblin',
   You ain' luned de sense ob feah,
You ol' fool, yo' naik's in dangah,
   Do' you know Thanksgibbin's hyeah?

— Paul Laurence Dunbar

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