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Nine From Eight - Poem by Sidney Lanier

I was drivin' my two-mule waggin,
With a lot o' truck for sale,
Towards Macon, to git some baggin'
(Which my cotton was ready to bale),
And I come to a place on the side o' the pike
Whar a peert little winter branch jest had throw'd
The sand in a kind of a sand-bar like,
And I seed, a leetle ways up the road,
A man squattin' down, like a big bull-toad,
On the ground, a-figgerin' thar in the sand
With his finger, and motionin' with his hand,
And he looked like Ellick Garry.
And as I driv up, I heerd him bleat
To hisself, like a lamb: 'Hauh? nine from eight
Leaves nuthin' -- and none to carry?'

And Ellick's bull-cart was standin'
A cross-wise of the way,
And the little bull was a-expandin',
Hisself on a wisp of hay.
But Ellick he sat with his head bent down,
A-studyin' and musin' powerfully,
And his forrud was creased with a turrible frown,
And he was a-wurken' appearently
A 'rethmetic sum that wouldn't gee,
Fur he kep' on figgerin' away in the sand
With his finger, and motionin' with his hand,
And I seed it WAS Ellick Garry.
And agin I heard him softly bleat
To hisself, like a lamb: 'Hauh? nine from eight
Leaves nuthin' -- and none to carry!'

I woa'd my mules mighty easy
(Ellick's back was towards the road
And the wind hit was sorter breezy)
And I got down off'n my load,
And I crep' up close to Ellick's back,
And I heerd him a-talkin' softly, thus:
'Them figgers is got me under the hack.
I caint see how to git out'n the muss,
Except to jest nat'ally fail and bus'!
My crap-leen calls for nine hundred and more.
My counts o' sales is eight hundred and four,
Of cotton for Ellick Garry.
Thar's eight, ought, four, jest like on a slate:
Here's nine and two oughts -- Hauh? nine from eight
Leaves nuthin' -- and none to carry.

'Them crap-leens, oh, them crap-leens!
I giv one to Pardman and Sharks.
Hit gobbled me up like snap-beans
In a patch full o' old fiel'-larks.
But I thought I could fool the crap-leen nice,
And I hauled my cotton to Jammel and Cones.
But shuh! 'fore I even had settled my price
They tuck affidavy without no bones
And levelled upon me fur all ther loans
To the 'mount of sum nine hundred dollars or more,
And sold me out clean for eight hundred and four,
As sure as I'm Ellick Garry!
And thar it is down all squar and straight,
But I can't make it gee, fur nine from eight
Leaves nuthin' -- and none to carry.'

Then I says 'Hello, here, Garry!
However you star' and frown
Thare's somethin' fur YOU to carry,
Fur you've worked it upside down!'
Then he riz and walked to his little bull-cart,
And made like he neither had seen nor heerd
Nor knowed that I knowed of his raskilly part,
And he tried to look as if HE wa'nt feared,
And gathered his lines like he never keered,
And he driv down the road 'bout a quarter or so,
And then looked around, and I hollered 'Hello,
Look here, Mister Ellick Garry!
You may git up soon and lie down late,
But you'll always find that nine from eight
Leaves nuthin' -- and none to carry.'


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