Cicely Fox Smith
Mobile Bay - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
There's a song has gone through my mind all day,
As a song will sometimes do;
It takes me back to the years of youth
And the men and the ways I knew -
To the men I knew in a time that's gone
And a ship of old renown,
When I sailed on a day to Mobile Bay,
Where they roll the cotton down!
I remember the feel of the noonday sun
And the warm wet Indian smells -
Rum and sugar, niggers and mud,
And the dear Lord knows what else:
The shuffle and stamp of the naked feet
On the levees once again:
They all come back from the years that were
To the sound of that old refrain.
'Roll the cotton down, bullies,
Roll the cotton down!'
I am far away from the dingy street
And the drab grey Northern town:
I remember the yarns my shipmates spun
And the great old songs we sung,
The way of a ship at a twelve-knot clip
In the years when the world was young.
It's the width of a world from here, worse luck,
It's the half of my life since then,
And it's ill to tread, so I've heard said,
A trail you've left again;
And I may sail east, or I may sail west,
Where the folks are yellow or brown,
But I'll sail no more to Mobile Bay
Where they roll the cotton down.
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