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Uncle Jim's Baptist Revival Hymn

Sidney Lanier 1842 (Macon) – 1881 (Lynn)



By Sidney and Clifford Lanier.

[Not long ago a certain Georgia cotton-planter, driven to desperation
by awaking each morning to find that the grass had
quite outgrown the cotton overnight, and was likely to choke it,
in defiance of his lazy freedmen's hoes and ploughs,
set the whole State in a laugh by exclaiming to a group of fellow-sufferers:
"It's all stuff about Cincinnatus leaving the plough to go into politics
FOR PATRIOTISM; he was just a-runnin' from grass!"

This state of things -- when the delicate young rootlets of the cotton
are struggling against the hardier multitudes of the grass-suckers --
is universally described in plantation parlance by the phrase "in the grass";
and Uncle Jim appears to have found in it so much similarity
to the condition of his own ("Baptis'") church, overrun, as it was,
by the cares of this world, that he has embodied it in the refrain
of a revival hymn such as the colored improvisator of the South
not infrequently constructs from his daily surroundings.
He has drawn all the ideas of his stanzas from the early morning phenomena of
those critical weeks when the loud plantation-horn is blown before daylight,
in order to rouse all hands for a long day's fight against the common enemy
of cotton-planting mankind.

In addition to these exegetical commentaries, the Northern reader
probably needs to be informed that the phrase "peerten up" means substantially
`to spur up', and is an active form of the adjective "peert"
(probably a corruption of `pert'), which is so common in the South,
and which has much the signification of "smart" in New England, as e.g.,
a "peert" horse, in antithesis to a "sorry" -- i.e., poor, mean, lazy one.]

Solo. -- Sin's rooster's crowed, Ole Mahster's riz,
De sleepin'-time is pas';
Wake up dem lazy Baptissis,
Chorus. -- Dey's mightily in de grass, grass,
Dey's mightily in de grass.

Ole Mahster's blowed de mornin' horn,
He's blowed a powerful blas';
O Baptis' come, come hoe de corn,
You's mightily in de grass, grass,
You's mightily in de grass.

De Meth'dis team's done hitched; O fool,
De day's a-breakin' fas';
Gear up dat lean ole Baptis' mule,
Dey's mightily in de grass, grass,
Dey's mightily in de grass.

De workmen's few an' mons'rous slow,
De cotton's sheddin' fas';
Whoop, look, jes' look at de Baptis' row,
Hit's mightily in de grass, grass,
Hit's mightily in de grass.

De jay-bird squeal to de mockin'-bird: "Stop!
Don' gimme none o' yo' sass;
Better sing one song for de Baptis' crop,
Dey's mightily in de grass, grass,
Dey's mightily in de grass."

And de ole crow croak: "Don' work, no, no;"
But de fiel'-lark say, "Yaas, yaas,
An' I spec' you mighty glad, you debblish crow,
Dat de Baptissis's in de grass, grass,
Dat de Baptissis's in de grass!"

Lord, thunder us up to de plowin'-match,
Lord, peerten de hoein' fas',
Yea, Lord, hab mussy on de Baptis' patch,
Dey's mightily in de grass, grass,
Dey's mightily in de grass.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:43 min read
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Sidney Lanier

Sidney Lanier was a poet, writer, composer, critic, professor of literature at Johns Hopkins and first flutist with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra in Baltiimore. He wrote the Centennial cantata for the opening ceremony of the 1876 Centennial celebration in Philadelphia. more…

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