Notes

Original poem
by C. Fox Smith

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Mobile Bay

Poem by C. Fox Smith
From Punch Magazine, Volume 186, February 28, 1934, p. 248
Adapted and musically arranged by Charlie Ipcar, 7/22/08
Tune: inspired by You Gave Me a Song by Hazel Dickens

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Chorus:
"Roll the cotton down, bullies,
Roll the cotton down!"
I thought I heard the Old Man say,
"Roll the cotton down!"

There's a song I hear resounding,
As a song will sometimes do;
It takes me away to my younger days
And the men and the ships I knew
To the men I knew in a time long gone
And a ship of some renown,
When I sailed away to Mobile Bay
Where they roll the cotton down!

(Chorus)

I mind the feel of the noonday sun
And them warm wet dockside smells
Rum and spice, and the stevedores,
And the Cajun demoiselles,
The shuffle and beat of the naked feet
On the levees all around
How I longed to stay in Mobile Bay
Where they roll the cotton down.

(Chorus)

It takes me away from the dingy streets
Of this cold grey Northern town;
I can hear the yarns my shipmates spun
The rum old songs we sung,
The way of a ship at a twelve-knot clip
When we sailed the wide world round,
And I mind that day in Mobile Bay
When they rolled the cotton down.

(Chorus)

It's the width of a world from here to there,
It's the half of my life since then,
And it's ill to tread, so I've heard said,
A trail where you've lost a friend;
So I may sail east or I may sail west,
Far from this northern town,
But I'll not stray to Mobile Bay
Where they roll the cotton down.

(Chorus)

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Notes:

This poem contains phrases from the traditional stevedore/halliard shanty "Roll the Cotton Down," a version of which the poet collected and published in A Book of Shanties, 1927.

The illustration is drawn by Stan Hugill and is titled "New Orleans Waterfront - 1840's", and is from Sailortown, by Stan Hugill, published by Rutledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., London, UK, 1967, p. 185.

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Mobile Bay

Original poem by Cicely Fox Smith,
From Punch Magazine, Volume 186, February 28, 1934, p. 248

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.

The poem is prefaced with the note "An Old Song Re-sung."

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