Creole Poetry
Les Cenelles Calinda Dance Tignon


Creole Poems



The Candy and Flower Vendors

The Candy Man, according to the Daily Picayune of July 15, 1846, ‘carried his caraway comfits and other sweets in a large green tin chest upon which was emblazoned, in the brightest yellow, two razors affectionately crossed over each other.’ Unlike the other vendors, this Candy Man had no cry, buy attracted attention by beating on a metal triangle. Until a few years ago, late Candy Men, driving squarish, high wagons, paused at corners, blew piercing blasts on trumpets and sold taffy in long, wax-paper-wrapped sticks.

Pralines have been sold on New Orleans streets through all the city’s history, and always the delicious Creole confections of brown sugar and pecans have been vended by Negresses of the ‘Mammy’ type. Today they appear, garbed in gingham and starched white aprons and tignons, usually in the Vieux Carre, though now they represent modern candy shops. ‘Belles pralines! They cry. ‘Belles pralines’. Day by day they sit in the shadows of the ancient buildings, fat black faces smiling at the passers-by, fanning their candies with palmetto fans or strips of brown wrapping paper. Usually, besides the pralines, Mammy dolls and other souvenirs are sold.

Flowers are not sold on the streets as frequently as they are in some other cities, but in the Vieux Carre elderly flower women and young girls and boys peddle corsages of rosebuds and camellias in the small bars and cafes, chanting at you table, ‘Flowers? Pretty flowers for the lady?

Street Criers


The MULE-DRAWN WAGON PULLS UP AT A corner in one of the residential sections of New Orelans. The Creole vendor cups his hands before his mouth and bellows:

I sell to the rich,
I sell to the po’;
I’m gonna sell the lady
Standin’ in that do’.

Watermelon, Lady!
Come and git your nice red watermelon, Lady!
Red to the rind, Lady!
Come on, Lady, and get ‘em!
Gotta make the picnic fo’ two o’clock,
No flat tires today.
Come on, Lady!

The Bread and Cake Vendors

The most famous of these were the cala vendors. A cala is a pastry which originated among Creoles – a thin fritter made with rice and yeast sponge. Creoles did not have the prepared yeast cakes sold today, so yeast was concocted the night before, of boiled potatoes, corn meal, flour and cooking soda, left in the night air to fement, then mixed with the boiled rice and made into a sponge.

The next morning flour, eggs, butter and milk were added, a stiff batter mixed, and the calas formed by dropping into a skillet.
Belles calas, Madam! Tout chauds, Madame, Two cents!’ thus called the cala vendors for years. A long cry was,

Creole English 
Madame, mo gaignin calas,
Madame, mo gaignin calas;
Mo guarranti vous ye bons
Beeelles calas… Beeelles calas.

Madame, mo gaignin calas,
Madame, mo gaignin calas,
Si vous pas gaignin l’argent,
Goutez c’est le mem chose,
Madame, mo gaignin calas tou, tou cho

Beeles calas… Beeelles calas,

Tou cho, tou cho, tou cho.
Madame, mo gaignin calas,
Madame, mo gaignin calas,
Tou cho, tou cho, tou cho.


Madame, I have rice fritters,
Madame, I have rice fritters;
I guarantee you they are good
Fine rice fritters… Fine rice fritters.

Madame, I have rice fritters,
Madame, I have rice fritters;
If you have no money,
Taste, it’s all the same,
Madame, I have rice fritters, quite,
Quite hot.

Fiiiine rice fritters… Fiiiine rice fritters.
All hot, all hot, quite hot.
Madame, I have rice fritters,
Madame, I have rice fritters,
Quite hot, quite hot, quite hot.


The Garden of Eden


Bogaluse, some thirty miles north of New Orleans, was at one time an important sawmill town. The following two line are sung without any particular reason or provocation.

New Orleans is a city, Bogalusa is a sawmill town;
I rang up Cleveland and dere was de capitol justa burnin’ down.
Adam and Eve are popular subjects for the songs the workers sing. There are many favorites like the following.

Adam and Eve they went out to play,
When Eve saw the apple then she gave ‘way.
Adam said, ‘Hold on, fool,
Dat’s the forbidden fruit
‘Cause you knows God’s rule
And you know it’s the trut’.’
Just about then the Devil appeared,
He looked at Eve and said, ‘Come over here,
Don’t be nobody’s fool, ‘cause dere ain’t
No such thing as God’s rule.
I command you go, Eve, and take a bite,
And lo! and behold you’ll find the light –
So eve done as she was told.

God called Adam

Adam was in the garden,
He didn’t have nothin’ to worry ‘bout,
Eve made Adam sin and that’s when the trouble begin to start.
God called Adam, Adam refused to answer.
God called Adam, Adam refused to answer.
Adam said here am I, Lord,
I’m most done waggin’ with my crosses.

The Hard Times

When the depression started in 1929, the Creole met hard times with characteristic good humor, and composed songs about the debacle.

It’s only depression in old New Orleans,
The jobs are so scanty you can hardly buy red beans.

It’s a tumble-down town, where only tramps hang around,
The parks are so crowded, they sleep on the ground.

I gave up my room ‘cause I couldn’t pay rent,
I went to the Welfare, they wouldn’t give me a cent. 

You can all plainly see
It’s the poorhouse for me.
In a tumble-down town in New Orleans.

Real privation and hunger are displayed in this one – to the tune of Storm Weather.

Don’t know why Mammy don’t make no apple pie –
Starvation –
Sinca Pa lost his occupation –
Keep hungry all the time.

Since Pa went away
The blues walked in and got us,
If Pa stay away it will be in charge of the undertaker.
Can’t go wrong, things in life is always dull,

Since Pa lost his occupation –
Keep hungry all the time.
If Pa stay the landlord will run us away.
Don’t know why Mammy don’t bake no banana and lemon pie.
Starvation –
Pa didn’t have to take no vacation –
Keep hungry all the time.

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