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By John I. Blair

Looming high over Natchez
Longwood lifts its shining dome
Into the Mississippi sky,

Shows rows of arching windows,
Lace-trimmed galleries,
Massive chimneys.

What overweening pride
Wrought this octagon
Of brick and wood?

How many sweating
Black bodies strained, died
To pile it all together,

Slaved painfully in cotton fields
To raise the cash that paid
To build this final excess?

The raw inside, unfinished,
Echoes now to tourist steps,
Greets gaping stares,

But has no answer
To the thought
Was this ever worth the cost?

©2020 John I. Blair, 8/23/2020

Author Note:

I wrote this after watching the series “Many Rivers to Cross” on PBS. One bit of the documentary was about Natchez, built on cotton fortunes and the scarred backs of thousands of slave laborers. One of the sights of Natchez today is the enormous octagonal mansion named “Longwood”, intended to be the biggest mansion of them all in the antebellum South. Started but never finished. Dazzling on the outside, hollow on the inside.

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