Maurice Thompson

A Creole Slave-Song...

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What bird is that, with voice so sweet,
Sings to the sun from yonder tree?
What girl is that so slim and fleet,
Comes through the cane her love to meet?
Foli zo-zo, sing merrily.
The pretty girl she comes to me!


What wind is that upon the cane?
What perfume from a far-off rose
Fills me with dreams? What strange, vague pain
Stirs in my heart? What longing vain
Is this that through my bosom goes?
Oh, south wind, perfume and desire,
You kiss, you soothe, you burn like fire!


Ah, no! Ah, no! It is a cheat.
There is no bird; my love comes not;
The wind chills me from head to feet,
And oh, it brings no perfume sweet.
My slender girl the white man bought,
And took her far across the bay--
I cannot cut the cane to-day!


I cannot cut the cane to-day--
O zo-zo, moqueur, come and sing!
O warm wind, through the cane-field stray,
Wave the long moss so soft and gray!
I have no heart for anything;
But life was Heaven and work was play
When my love loved me every day!


White man, how I worked for you,
When I was young and blithe and strong!
The earth was green, the sky was blue,
My love's eyes were as bright as dew;
And life was like the zo-zo's song!
But you--you sold my love away--
I cannot cut the cane to-day!


I did not dream a slave could be
A man, and right a grievous wrong.
I writhed and bore your cruelty;
I felt the soul go out of me;
And yet, I was so lion-strong
I could have torn your heart away--
I cannot cut the cane to-day!


Freedom! I feel it when too late,
Like Spring wind on a blasted tree,
A waft of mockery and hate!
Bring back my chains, O cruel Fate!
Bring youth and slavery back to me;
Bring back the lash, the hound, the pain,
So that my own love come again!


But hark! A gentle voice afar
Calls me to go, I know not where--
Yes, past the sun and past the star,
Into God's land. A golden car
And milk-white horses--she is there!
So sweet--I dream--I float away--
I cannot cut the cane to-day!

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Maurice Thompson