Frances Ellen Wat Harper

24 September 1825 – 22 February 1911 / Baltimore, Maryland

Aunt Chloe

.
I remember, well remember,
.
That dark and dreadful day,
.
When they whispered to me, "Chloe,
.
Your children's sold away!" 1.
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. 1.
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. 1.

"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. 1.

"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. 1.

"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." 1.

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. 1.

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. 1.

Then I had a mighty sorrow,
.

Though I nursed it all alone;
.

But I wasted to a shadow,
.

And turned to skin and bone. 1.

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." 1.

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. 1.

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. 1.

Then he said "Just take your burden
.

To the blessed Master's feet;
.

I takes all my troubles, Chloe,
.

Right unto the mercy-seat." 1.

His words waked up my courage,
.

And I began to pray,
.

And I felt my heavy burden
.

Rolling like a stone away. 1.

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. 1.

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. The Deliverance 2.
Master only left old Mistus
.
One bright and handsome boy;
.
But she fairly doted on him,
.
He was her pride and joy. 2.
We all liked Mister Thomas,
.
He was so kind at heart;
.
And when the young folkes got in scrapes,
.
He always took their part. 2.
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. 2.

But somehow the farm did prosper
.

When he took things in hand;
.

And though all the servants liked him,
.

He made them understand. 2.

One evening Mister Thomas said,
.

"Just bring my easy shoes;
.

I am going to sit by mother,
.

And read her up the news." 2.

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!" 2.

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. 2.

"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." 2.

"I was thinking, dearest Thomas,
.

'Twould break my very heart
.

If a fierce and dreadful battle
.

Should tear our lives apart." 2.

"None but cowards, dearest mother,
.

Would skulk unto the rear,
.

When the tyrant's hand is shaking
.

All the heart is holding dear." 2.

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. 2.

Mister Thomas too was troubled
.

With choosing on that night,
.

Betwixt staying with his mother
.

And joining in the fight. 2.

Soon down into the village came
.

A call for volunteers;
.

Mistus gave up Mister Thomas,
.

With many sighs and tears. 2.

His uniform was real handsome;
.

He looked so brave and strong;
.

But somehow I could'nt help thinking
.

His fighting must be wrong. 2.

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. 2.

And I said to Uncle Jacob,
.

"How old Mistus feels the sting,
.

For this parting with your children
.

Is a mighty dreadful thing." 2.

"Never mind," said Uncle Jacob,
.

"Just wait and watch and pray,
.

For I feel right sure and certain,
.

Slavery's bound to pass away; 2.

"Because I asked the Spirit,
.

If God is good and just,
.

How it happened that the masters
.

Did grind us to the dust. 2.

"And something reasoned right inside,
.

Such should not always be;
.

And you could not beat it out my head,
.

The Spirit spoke to me." 2.

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." 2.

Mistus prayed up in the parlor,
.

That the Secesh all might win;
.

We were praying in the cabins,
.

Wanting freedom to begin. 2.

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. 2.

Mistus' eyes did fairly glisten;
.

She laughed and praised the South,
.

But I thought some day she'd laugh
.

On tother side her mouth. 2.

I used to watch old Mistus' face,
.

And when it looked quite long
.

I would say to Cousin Milly,
.

The battle's going wrong; 2.

Not for us, but for the Rebels. --
.

My heart would fairly skip,
.

When Uncle Jacob used to say,
.
"The North is bound to whip." 2.
And let the fight go as it would --
.
Let North or South prevail --
.
He always kept his courage up,
.
And never let it fail. 2.
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." 2.
Well, one morning bright and early
.
We heard the fife and drum,
.
And the booming of the cannon --
.
The Yankee troops had come. 2.
When the word ran through the village,
.
The colored folks are free --
.
In the kitchens and the cabins
.
We held a jubilee. 2.
When they told us Mister Lincoln
.
Said that slavery was dead,
.
We just poured our prayers and blessings
.
Upon his precious head. 2.
We just laughed, and danced, and shouted
.
And prayed, and sang, and cried,
.
And we thought dear Uncle Jacob
.
Would fairly crack his side. 2.
But when old Mistus heard it,
.
She groaned and hardly spoke;
.
When she had to lose her servants,
.
Her heart was almost broke. 2.
'Twas a sight to see our people
.
Going out, the troops to meet,
.
Almost dancing to the music,
.
And marching down the street. 2.
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. 2.
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. 2.
But we had one awful sorrow,
.
It almost turned my head,
.
When a mean and wicked cretur
.
Shot Mister Lincoln dead. 2.
'Twas a dreadful solemn morning,
.
I just staggered on my feet;
.
And the women they were crying
.
And screaming in the street. 2.
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. 2.
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. 2.
We thought he'd be the Moses
.
Of all the colored race;
.
But when the Rebels pressed us hard
.
He never showed his face. 2.
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. 2.
But everything will pass away --
.
He went like time and tide --
.
And when the next election came
.
They let poor Andy slide. 2.
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. 2.
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; 2.
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. 2.
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. 2.
But when John Thomas Reeder brought
.
His wife some flour and meat,
.
And told he had sold his vote
.
For something good to eat, 2.
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. 2.
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. 2.
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. 2.
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. 2.
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. 2.
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. 2.
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. 2.
Day after day did Milly Green
.
Just follow after Joe,
.
And told him if he voted wrong
.
To take his rags and go. 2.
I think that Samuel Johnson said
.
His side had won the day,
.
Had not we women radicals
.
Just got right in the way. 2.
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. 2.
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. 2.
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, 2.
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. Aunt Chloe's Politics 3.
Of course, I don't know very much
.
About these politics,
.
But I think that some who run 'em,
.
Do mighty ugly tricks. 3.
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. 3.
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.' 3.

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. 3.

And this buying up each other
.

Is something worse than mean,
.

Though I thinks a heap of voting,
.

I go for voting clean. Learning to Read 4.
Very soon the Yankee teachers
.
Came down and set up school;
.
But, oh! how the Rebs did hate it, --
.
It was agin' their rule. 4.
Our masters always tried to hide
.
Book learning from our eyes;
.
Knowledge did'nt agree with slavery --
.
'Twould make us all too wise. 4.
But some of us would try to steal
.

A little from the book,
.

And put the words together,
.

And learn by hook or crook. 4.

I remember Uncle Caldwell,
.

Who took pot liquor fat
.

And greased the pages of his book,
.

And hid it in his hat. 4.

And had his master ever seen
.

The leaves upon his head,
.

He'd have thought them greasy papers,
.

But nothing to be read. 4.

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. 4.

Well, the Northern folks kept sending
.

The Yankee teachers down;
.

And they stood right up and helped us,
.

Though Rebs did sneer and frown. 4.

And I longed to read my Bible,
.

For precious words it said;
.

But when I begun to learn it,
.

Folks just shook their heads, 4.

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. 4.

So I got a pair of glasses,
.

And straight to work I went,
.

And never stopped till I could read
.

The hymns and Testament. 4.

Then I got a little cabin
.

A place to call my own --
.

And I felt as independent
.

As the queen upon her throne. Church Building 5.
Uncle Jacob often told us,
.
Since freedom blessed our race
.
We ought all to come together
.
And build a meeting place. 5.
So we pinched, and scraped, and spared,
.
A little here and there:
.
Though our wages was but scanty,
.
The church did get a share. 5.
And, when the house was finished,
.

Uncle Jacob came to pray;
.

He was looking mighty feeble,
.

And his head was awful gray. 5.

But his voice rang like a trumpet;
.

His eyes looked bright and young;
.

And it seemed a mighty power
.

Was resting on his tongue. 5.

And he gave us all his blessing --
.

'Twas parting words he said,
.

For soon we got the message
.

The dear old man was dead. 5.

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; 5.

"For when I done a moiling
.

And toiling here below,
.

Through the gate into the city
.

Straightway I hope to go." The Reunion 6.
Well, one morning real early
.
I was going down the street,
.
And I heard a stranger asking
.
For Missis Chloe Fleet. 6.
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! 6.
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. 6.

"Where have you been? O Jakey, dear!
.

Why didn't you come before?
.

Oh! when you children went away
.

My heart was awful sore." 6.

"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. 6.

"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." 6.

"Then, Jakey, you will stay with me,
.

And comfort my poor heart;
.

Old Mistus got no power now
.

To tear us both apart. 6.

"I'm richer now than Mistus,
.

Because I have got my son;
.

And Mister Thomas he is dead,
.

And she's nary one. 6.

"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. 6.

"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."
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