I Am New
I am New Orleans
Queen City of the South;
As fabulous -- as fantastic and
unreal as the cities of Arabian Nights.
I am America epitomized:
A blending of everything -- Latin,
Nordic, and Negro,
Indian, European, and American.
I inflamed the mind of John Law
And aroused his ambition and
His partners were Avarice and
Crime and Lust:
I knew Envy and Hatred, Shame and
Yet I made them picture me then as
I am now --
A Dream City -- then nestling in
the lap of wildernesses.
I brought souls reeling
Out of the jails and assignation
houses of France,
Out of the Parisian cabarets and
the sleepy bourgs of far
I herded them together upon huge
Bound for the New Eldorado. . . .
Lofty ships bearing the names of
Such as le Grand Duc du Maine, le
Comte de Toulousse,
le Marichal de Villars, le Dauphine, le
Prince de Conti,
and le Duc de Noailles.
When fame outstripped the ambling
winds of truth,
I stretched forth strong hands
And plucked men out of the green
fields of Alsace,
Out of German beer-gardens --
Out of Mainz and Bremen, Baden and
Out of Switzerland and Spain,
Ireland and England,
I brought them to my New Land of
And when the cry went forth for
men -- more men
-- to till my bounteous valley,
I took my vessels with resounding
And set their sails for the Dark
Continent. . . .
Murderers, salt smugglers,
thieves, counterfeiters, tobacco smugglers
Femmes de force, filles
de joie, and filles a la cassette;
German and Irish Redemptioners
sold for their passage over
and whipped like black slaves --
Black slaves sold like cattle and
labeled, piece d'Inde:
Such was my beginning.
Huguenots fleeing Catholics and
Catholics fleeing Protestants;
Red Republicans fleeing
Proud Monarchists shunning the
of the head-hungry
Indians fleeing the stake, only to
be bound as slaves;
Blacks hiding from slavery and the
And whites in frenzied,
terror-stricken flight before
fires of black rebellion.
Throughout those cruel years of
hounds and hares,
My soil became a refuge for the
This was my destiny.
I saw the Ursuline Sisters with
their heavy Rosaries,
Their Catechisms, and their black
I welcomed the Jesuits and the
Dressed in their brown-black
And the sandalled feet of Pere
Dagobert and Pere Antonio de Sedella
fell softly upon me.
I am New Orleans.
Over my cobblestones and muddy
Have passed the coureurs de
bois, the pioneer, the aristocrat,
the slave, the soldier, the pirate, and the
And they within whose veins the
blood of many races mingled.
Out of the swamps of Louisiana,
Out of the blue mud and sand of
Out of hurricanes, storms, and
Out of Indian massacres and slave
Phoenix-like have I risen;
Out of French, Spanish, and
I have preserved my soul.
I have seen so many flags go up
above my soil --
I have changed hands so often --
Until I have grown wise -- as
a woman grows wise
who has known many
I broke the might of English sails
Up over the rim of the sea --
White gulls skimming before the
red winds of war.
But I am New Orleans;
I was not afraid . . .
I took my unwieldly elements--
Of Creoles, Americans, Frenchmen,
mix-bloods, Germans, Irishmen, and Indians,
And welded them into one common
bond of defense
That drove the invader back into
I have known many people --
Many voices --
I have heard the soft cries of the
Jargoning an European tongue:
"Belles des figures!"
"Bon petit calas! Tout
chauds, chere, tout chauds!"
"Pralines -- pistaches!
Pralines -- pecanes!"
"Ah got duh nice yahlah
"Peenotsa! Peenotsa! Cuma
"Ah wanna qua'tee red beans,
Ena qua'tee rice,
Ena piece uh salt meat --
Tuh makkit tas'e nice:
En hurry up, Mr. Groceryman,
En put dat lan-yap in mah han'!"
"Papa Bonnibee, beat dem hot
licks out! --
Ah sed, Poppa Stoppa, let dat jazz
En efyuh donh feet it,
'Tain't no use tellin' yuh
Jess what it's all about!
Now, gimme sum High C's on dat
horn 'n' let dem Saints go
"'Way Down Yonder In New
Orleans." . . .
Take it away, Mister
I am New Orleans
Where plump little brown girls
With heavy-lade grocery pushcarts
Follow their double-jointed
Good-naturedly heckling them
through acres of supermart goodies.
"Donh fergit now, Daddy,
Mammah say tuh gittah hambone tuh
put endy beans!"
"Baby, Ole Daddy ainh gonh
nevah fergit nut'n lak dat!
Ahm gonh gittah hambone dat's gonh
make dem stink!"
"Gonh makdy beans stink, hunh,
Daddy sayee gonh makdy beans
"Yeah, Baby, Ole Daddy gonh
gittah hambone dat'll
make dem beans
lackah ole-fashion' country privy!"
"Un-n-n-n-h, Daddy! donh
bleev Ah wanenny efdy gonh stink dat much!"
Many voices -- many languages.
I have been alternately cursed and
praised in the hoarse
of the African and the German;
I have been condemned and cajoled
in the machine-gun
polysyllables of the Italian;
I have been damned and glorified
the French of the Sorbonne, of Paris Communes.
have been alternately execrated and blessed by the Indian.
Spaniard, and the Irishman.
mulatto Creoles have cursed and excoriated me
French and Spanish that shamed their betters--
wiped my dust from their disdainful feet
star-cross'd destinies in foreign lands,
they returned to grovel in my dust and weep;
no more, but lovers.
have known epidemics, vicissitudes, and calamities:
flaming at street-corners, and big
guns barking defiance to plague-stricken air, yet
Asiatics cholera scourged me hard in drunken, beserk
fury; they who danced the night before died
in the hush of dawn.
when the cry raced forward: "El Vomito!"
men lost courage--quitted loved ones--fled!
fever epidemics have left me shrivelled and shrunken;
have swept through and gutted me;
passions have done likewise;
after all is done.
arise from the still warm ashes
beautiful than ever.
have played upon my heart-strings
symphonies of human emotions
love, envy, anger, malice, hatred, and greed.
Bienville, Perrier, de Vaudreuil, Galvez,
Andy Jackson, and Ben Butler.
the revolutionary Bambara king;
Coupé, the one-armed black brigand
a price upon his head:
do-or-die stand of the Savarys at the Battle of New Orleans;
Lavaud, the simple-minded holy woman,
and lied upon by every passing scribbler;
Catherine, whose faithful flock still awaits her resurrection;
Brother Isiah, who looked like Christ and healed
the sick and afflicted:
these have I known.
hands have been lifted for and against me;
like Bloody O'Reilly have left their trails of human blood,
I, in turn,
the blood of despot and despised
each, in turn, became a part of me.
hell has flamed upon my very streets
men fought bloody duels to the death--
later children sang their songs at play
* * * * *
grass-tuh, green grass-tuh--how green duh grass grow!
over, all over, it seems to be so!
Walker, Miss Walker, your true love is dead;
sent you a letter to turn back your head."
* * * * *
are two gentlemen just from Spain,
came to court your daughter Jane;
daughter Jane she is too young
be control-led by anyone:
back, go back, you sassy man,
choose the faires' in duh lan' . . . ."
faires' one that I can see--
. . . Come, Loretta, and go wid me. . . ."
is gone, Loretta is gone, widda Guinea-gold ring on her finger;
Loretta! Good-bye, Loretta!
never see you no more."
* * * * *
Up and down
To see the
Till next July
* * * * *
duh yahlah house
all duh girls on Kuh-nell Street
dead-'n'-gone in love
who she really loves?--
loves Albert and Albert loves her.
bells upon her fingers,
bells upon her toes,
a baby in her arms
that's the way she goes."
* * * * *
all the girls on Canal Street are dead-and-gone in love!
to them sing!
on the levee,
for the steamboat coming 'round the bend;
for the Pargoud--
for the Natchez--
for the Robert E. Lee--
gotta man on duh Pargo';
gotta man on duh Lee
gotta man on duh Natchez;
he's comin' wid money fuh me--
he's comin' wid money fuh me."
O, my children, sing!
of a day that long was,
fondly remembered, still is,
can never come back again!
one long keening ride the wayward winds
spend itself on yonder hills and valleys.
come now, little childun,
you done had yo'day;
set down heah wid Grandpa,
nigh tuh close o' day.
lapin, Compair Bouki,
be wid us tunight,
we's tiahed o' ole Brer Rabbit--
tell me, ain't dat right?
tole yall all dem bedtime tales,
on dis night Ah means
sing tuh yall uh nice li'l song
good one New Awleans.
sebenteen-eighteen it wuz foun'
Ben Ville sailed in safe en soun'
fifty mens tuh clear duh groun'
(String it out with a long gravy.)
(Now a lightning-fast yodel.)
kumd bout thuh middle o' Febuwary,
fo' duh rivah cud git cuntrary
flood duh lan' en duh tremblin' prarie."
duh rich mens' wives wuz proud en col'
dey dress'd in satin, silk, en gol'
duh maidens fair wuz brash en bol'."
wuz skinny en sum wuz fat.
dey walked lak dis en dey walked lak dat;
dey'd all kiss uh man at duh drappin o' uh hat;"
back in 1781
Galvez kumd wid his big gun,
capchud ev'y Englishman."
dey tried tuh tek duh town!
Andy Jackson he kumd down
rund 'em en duh rivah en made 'em drown!"
lock up duh cabin--th'ow out duh greens--
on duh calico en yahlah jeans,
let's go down tuh New Awleens. . . .
am New Orleans
perpetual Mardi Gras
wild Indians, clowns, lords and ladies,
Street Jezebels, Baby Dolls, and Fat Cats;
chimney-sweepers, and fortune-tellers,
then, at the end, bone-rattling skeletons
and flying ghosts.
am New Orleans--
city that is a part of, and yet apart from all
collection of contradictory environments;
conglomeration of bloods and races and classes
the New tickling the ribs of the Old;
the Ludicrous making faces at the Sublime.
in the graceful curve of Ole Man Mississippi,
the lazy old father of the waters
down to the gulf,
sing my song:
sing the song of the Siren, the Voluptuary, the sybarite;
within this ever-green valley and under warm tropical skies
guitars tinkle softly deep in a moonlit night
softer voices whisper of my beauty,
sing of the newest phases of my greatness;
in the quickening of progress within and around me.
I sing of the bewildering expanses of far-reaching bridges
sing of glittering cities of the sky thrusting themselves
up from the Delta mud,
the clouds of heaven
dreams of Recilian beauty and grace;
sing of far vistas of asphalt streets and highways
us on to fantastic future years;
sing of the Past, the Present, and the boundless Future;
sing of Love, Adventure, and Enchantment.
* * *