Alabama Sounds, 1936


Walker EvansAlabama Tenant Farmer Family Singing Hymns, 1936

Outside, from near, there is a new sound. It happens every night, and it is most sorrowful. It is the voice of a blond, fat, and craven rooster, a creature half-frightened of his own wives; and in this poor voice of his, lugubrious, almost surreptitious, he is making a statement he so misbelieves that it is rather a question that expects no answer save the utter scorn and denial of silence; and it gets none: but serves only to remind one of the noises of the night, which perhaps have not at any time ceased.

They have perhaps at no time ceased, but that will never be surely know, they are, after a while, so easily lost: and one hears them once again with a quiet sort of surprise, that only slowly becomes the realization, or near certainty, that they have been there all the while:

They are still there, they still convey to one no merely intimate vicinity, but the whole blind earth dispread: they chainlike stream like water violins, a straight and upward rain extracted from the world: yet they are in this hour so profoundly retired upon themselves, they are scarcely the echo of an echo, music’s remembrance in a dying dream, lashed through with weltering whippoorwill, the mourner and genius of great summer night: and even that weeping bird now twice has faltered, and on blurred bark-hued flight has taken his song more deeply among the groves.

James Agee, from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

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