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Best Famous Vachel Lindsay Poems

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Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

How a Little Girl Danced


(Being a reminiscence of certain private theatricals.
) Oh, cabaret dancer, I know a dancer, Whose eyes have not looked on the feasts that are vain.
I know a dancer, I know a dancer, Whose soul has no bond with the beasts of the plain: Judith the dancer, Judith the dancer, With foot like the snow, and with step like the rain.
Oh, thrice-painted dancer, vaudeville dancer, Sad in your spangles, with soul all astrain, I know a dancer, I know a dancer, Whose laughter and weeping are spiritual gain, A pure-hearted, high-hearted maiden evangel, With strength the dark cynical earth to disdain.
Flowers of bright Broadway, you of the chorus, Who sing in the hope of forgetting your pain: I turn to a sister of Sainted Cecilia, A white bird escaping the earth's tangled skein:— The music of God is her innermost brooding, The whispering angels her footsteps sustain.
Oh, proud Russian dancer: praise for your dancing.
No clean human passion my rhyme would arraign.
You dance for Apollo with noble devotion, A high cleansing revel to make the heart sane.
But Judith the dancer prays to a spirit More white than Apollo and all of his train.
I know a dancer who finds the true Godhead, Who bends o'er a brazier in Heaven's clear plain.
I know a dancer, I know a dancer, Who lifts us toward peace, from this earth that is vain: Judith the dancer, Judith the dancer, With foot like the snow, and with step like the rain.
Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

The Tale of the Tiger-Tree

 A Fantasy, dedicated to the little poet Alice Oliver Henderson, ten years old.
The Fantasy shows how tiger-hearts are the cause of war in all ages.
It shows how the mammoth forces may be either friends or enemies of the struggle for peace.
It shows how the dream of peace is unconquerable and eternal.
I Peace-of-the-Heart, my own for long, Whose shining hair the May-winds fan, Making it tangled as they can, A mystery still, star-shining yet, Through ancient ages known to me And now once more reborn with me: — This is the tale of the Tiger Tree A hundred times the height of a man, Lord of the race since the world began.
This is my city Springfield, My home on the breast of the plain.
The state house towers to heaven, By an arsenal gray as the rain.
And suddenly all is mist, And I walk in a world apart, In the forest-age when I first knelt down At your feet, O Peace-of-the-Heart.
This is the wonder of twilight: Three times as high as the dome Tiger-striped trees encircle the town, Golden geysers of foam.
While giant white parrots sail past in their pride.
The roofs now are clouds and storms that they ride.
And there with the huntsmen of mound-builder days Through jungle and meadow I stride.
And the Tiger Tree leaf is falling around As it fell when the world began: Like a monstrous tiger-skin, stretched on the ground, Or the cloak of a medicine man.
A deep-crumpled gossamer web, Fringed with the fangs of a snake.
The wind swirls it down from the leperous boughs.
It shimmers on clay-hill and lake, With the gleam of great bubbles of blood, Or coiled like a rainbow shell.
I feast on the stem of the Leaf as I march.
I am burning with Heaven and Hell.
II The gray king died in his hour.
Then we crowned you, the prophetess wise: Peace-of-the-Heart we deeply adored For the witchcraft hid in your eyes.
Gift from the sky, overmastering all, You sent forth your magical parrots to call The plot-hatching prince of the tigers, To your throne by the red-clay wall.
Thus came that genius insane: Spitting and slinking, Sneering and vain, He sprawled to your grassy throne, drunk on The Leaf, The drug that was cunning and splendor and grief.
He had fled from the mammoth by day, He had blasted the mammoth by night, War was his drunkenness, War was his dreaming, War was his love and his play.
And he hissed at your heavenly glory While his councillors snarled in delight, Asking in irony: "What shall we learn From this whisperer, fragile and white?" And had you not been an enchantress They would not have loitered to mock Nor spared your white parrots who walked by their paws With bantering venturesome talk.
You made a white fire of The Leaf.
You sang while the tiger-chiefs hissed.
You chanted of "Peace to the wonderful world.
" And they saw you in dazzling mist.
And their steps were no longer insane, Kindness came down like the rain, They dreamed that like fleet young ponies they feasted On succulent grasses and grain.
Then came the black-mammoth chief: Long-haired and shaggy and great, Proud and sagacious he marshalled his court: (You had sent him your parrots of state.
) His trunk in rebellion upcurled, A curse at the tiger he hurled.
Huge elephants trumpeted there by his side, And mastodon-chiefs of the world.
But higher magic began.
For the turbulent vassals of man.
You harnessed their fever, you conquered their ire, Their hearts turned to flowers through holy desire, For their darling and star you were crowned, And their raging demons were bound.
You rode on the back of the yellow-streaked king, His loose neck was wreathed with a mistletoe ring.
Primordial elephants loomed by your side, And our clay-painted children danced by your path, Chanting the death of the kingdoms of wrath.
You wrought until night with us all.
The fierce brutes fawned at your call, Then slipped to their lairs, song-chained.
And thus you sang sweetly, and reigned: "Immortal is the inner peace, free to beasts and men.
Beginning in the darkness, the mystery will conquer, And now it comforts every heart that seeks for love again.
And now the mammoth bows the knee, We hew down every Tiger Tree, We send each tiger bound in love and glory to his den, Bound in love.
and wisdom.
and glory,.
to his den.
" III "Beware of the trumpeting swine," Came the howl from the northward that night.
Twice-rebel tigers warning was still If we held not beside them it boded us ill.
From the parrots translating the cry, And the apes in the trees came the whine: "Beware of the trumpeting swine.
Beware of the faith of a mammoth.
" "Beware of the faith of a tiger," Came the roar from the southward that night.
Trumpeting mammoths warning us still If we held not beside them it boded us ill.
The frail apes wailed to us all, The parrots reëchoed the call: "Beware of the faith of a tiger.
" From the heights of the forest the watchers could see The tiger-cats crunching the Leaf of the Tree Lashing themselves, and scattering foam, Killing our huntsmen, hurrying home.
The chiefs of the mammoths our mastery spurned, And eastward restlessly fumed and burned.
The peacocks squalled out the news of their drilling And told how they trampled, maneuvered, and turned.
Ten thousand man-hating tigers Whirling down from the north, like a flood! Ten thousand mammoths oncoming From the south as avengers of blood! Our child-queen was mourning, her magic was dead, The roots of the Tiger Tree reeking with red.
IV This is the tale of the Tiger Tree A hundred times the height of a man, Lord of the race since the world began.
We marched to the mammoths, We pledged them our steel, And scorning you, sang: — "We are men, We are men.
" We mounted their necks, And they stamped a wide reel.
We sang: "We are fighting the hell-cats again, We are mound-builder men, We are elephant men.
" We left you there, lonely, Beauty your power, Wisdom your watchman, To hold the clay tower.
While the black-mammoths boomed — "You are elephant men, Men, Men, Elephant men.
" The dawn-winds prophesied battles untold.
While the Tiger Trees roared of the glories of old, Of the masterful spirits and hard.
The drunken cats came in their joy In the sunrise, a glittering wave.
"We are tigers, are tigers," they yowled.
"Down, Down, Go the swine to the grave.
" But we tramp Tramp Trampled them there, Then charged with our sabres and spears.
The swish of the sabre, The swish of the sabre, Was a marvellous tune in our ears.
We yelled "We are men, We are men.
" As we bled to death in the sun.
Then staunched our horrible wounds With the cry that the battle was won.
And at last, When the black-mammoth legion Split the night with their song: — "Right is braver than wrong, Right is stronger than wrong," The buzzards came taunting: "Down from the north Tiger-nations are sweeping along.
" Then we ate of the ravening Leaf As our savage fathers of old.
No longer our wounds made us weak, No longer our pulses were cold.
Though half of my troops were afoot, (For the great who had borne them were slain) We dreamed we were tigers, and leaped And foamed with that vision insane.
We cried "We are soldiers of doom, Doom, Sabres of glory and doom.
" We wreathed the king of the mammoths In the tiger-leaves' terrible bloom.
We flattered the king of the mammoths, Loud-rattling sabres and spears.
The swish of the sabre, The swish of the sabre, Was a marvellous tune in his ears.
V This was the end of the battle.
The tigers poured by in a tide Over us all with their caterwaul call, "We are the tigers," They cried.
"We are the sabres," They cried.
But we laughed while our blades swept wide, While the dawn-rays stabbed through the gloom.
"We are suns on fire" was our yell — "Suns on fire.
But man-child and mastodon fell, Mammoth and elephant fell.
The fangs of the devil-cats closed on the world, Plunged it to blackness and doom.
The desolate red-clay wall Echoed the parrots' call: — "Immortal is the inner peace, free to beasts and men.
Beginning in the darkness, the mystery will conquer, And now it comforts every heart that seeks for love again.
And now the mammoth bows the knee, We hew down every Tiger Tree, We send each tiger bound in love and glory to his den, Bound in love.
and wisdom.
and glory,.
to his den.
" A peacock screamed of his beauty On that broken wall by the trees, Chiding his little mate, Spreading his fans in the breeze.
And you, with eyes of a bride, Knelt on the wall at my side, The deathless song in your mouth.
A million new tigers swept south.
As we laughed at the peacock, and died.
This is my vision in Springfield: Three times as high as the dome, Tiger-striped trees encircle the town, Golden geysers of foam; — Though giant white parrots sail past, giving voice, Though I walk with Peace-of-the-Heart and rejoice.
Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

The Proud Farmer

 [In memory of E.
Frazee, Rush County, Indiana] Into the acres of the newborn state He poured his strength, and plowed his ancient name, And, when the traders followed him, he stood Towering above their furtive souls and tame.
That brow without a stain, that fearless eye Oft left the passing stranger wondering To find such knighthood in the sprawling land, To see a democrat well-nigh a king.
He lived with liberal hand, with guests from far, With talk and joke and fellowship to spare, — Watching the wide world's life from sun to sun, Lining his walls with books from everywhere.
He read by night, he built his world by day.
The farm and house of God to him were one.
For forty years he preached and plowed and wrought — A statesman in the fields, who bent to none.
His plowmen-neighbors were as lords to him.
His was an ironside, democratic pride.
He served a rigid Christ, but served him well — And, for a lifetime, saved the countryside.
Here lie the dead, who gave the church their best Under his fiery preaching of the word.
They sleep with him beneath the ragged grass.
The village withers, by his voice unstirred.
And tho' his tribe be scattered to the wind From the Atlantic to the China sea, Yet do they think of that bright lamp he burned Of family worth and proud integrity.
And many a sturdy grandchild hears his name In reverence spoken, till he feels akin To all the lion-eyed who built the world — And lion-dreams begin to burn within.
Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

The Angel and the Clown

 I saw wild domes and bowers 
And smoking incense towers 
And mad exotic flowers 
In Illinois.
Where ragged ditches ran Now springs of Heaven began Celestial drink for man In Illinois.
There stood beside the town Beneath its incense-crown An angel and a clown In Illinois.
He was as Clowns are: She was snow and star With eyes that looked afar In Illinois.
I asked, "How came this place Of antique Asian grace Amid our callow race In Illinois?" Said Clown and Angel fair: "By laughter and by prayer, By casting off all care In Illinois.
Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

The Perfect Marriage


I hate this yoke; for the world's sake here put it on:
Knowing 'twill weigh as much on you till life is gone.
Knowing you love your freedom dear, as I love mine— Knowing that love unchained has been our life's great wine: Our one great wine (yet spent too soon, and serving none; Of the two cups free love at last the deadly one).
II We grant our meetings will be tame, not honey-sweet No longer turning to the tryst with flying feet.
We know the toil that now must come will spoil the bloom And tenderness of passion's touch, and in its room Will come tame habit, deadly calm, sorrow and gloom.
Oh, how the battle sears the best who enter life! Each soidier comes out blind or lame from the black strife.
Mad or diseased or damned of soul the best may come— It matters not how merrily now rolls the drum, The fife shrills high, the horn sings loud, till no steps lag— And all adore that silken flame, Desire's great flag.
III We will build strong our tiny fort, strong as we can— Holding one inner room beyond the sword of man.
Love is too wide, it seems to-day, to hide it there.
It seems to flood the fields of corn, and gild the air— It seems to breathe from every brook, from flowers to sigh— It seems a cataract poured down from the great sky; It seems a tenderness so vast no bush but shows Its haunting and transfiguring light where wonder glows.
It wraps us in a silken snare by shadowy streams, And wildering sweet and stung with joy your white soul seems A flame, a flame, conquering day, conquering night, Brought from our God, a holy thing, a mad delight.
But love, when all things beat it down, leaves the wide air, The heavens are gray, and men turn wolves, lean with despair.
Ah, when we need love most, and weep, when all is dark, Love is a pinch of ashes gray, with one live spark— Yet on the hope to keep alive that treasure strange Hangs all earth's struggle, strife and scorn, and desperate change.
IV Love? .
we will scarcely love our babes full many a time— Knowing their souls and ours too well, and all our grime— And there beside our holy hearth we'll hide our eyes— Lest we should flash what seems disdain without disguise.
Yet there shall be no wavering there in that deep trial— And no false fire or stranger hand or traitor vile— We'll fight the gloom and fight the world with strong sword-play, Entrenched within our block-house small, ever at bay— As fellow-warriors, underpaid, wounded and wild, True to their battered flag, their faith still undefiled!
Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

The Chinese Nightingale

 A Song in Chinese Tapestries

"How, how," he said.
"Friend Chang," I said, "San Francisco sleeps as the dead— Ended license, lust and play: Why do you iron the night away? Your big clock speaks with a deadly sound, With a tick and a wail till dawn comes round.
While the monster shadows glower and creep, What can be better for man than sleep?" "I will tell you a secret," Chang replied; "My breast with vision is satisfied, And I see green trees and fluttering wings, And my deathless bird from Shanghai sings.
" Then he lit five fire-crackers in a pan.
"Pop, pop," said the fire-crackers, "cra-cra-crack.
" He lit a joss stick long and black.
Then the proud gray joss in the corner stirred; On his wrist appeared a gray small bird, And this was the song of the gray small bird: "Where is the princess, loved forever, Who made Chang first of the kings of men?" And the joss in the corner stirred again; And the carved dog, curled in his arms, awoke, Barked forth a smoke-cloud that whirled and broke.
It piled in a maze round the ironing-place, And there on the snowy table wide Stood a Chinese lady of high degree, With a scornful, witching, tea-rose face.
Yet she put away all form and pride, And laid her glimmering veil aside With a childlike smile for Chang and for me.
The walls fell back, night was aflower, The table gleamed in a moonlit bower, While Chang, with a countenance carved of stone, Ironed and ironed, all alone.
And thus she sang to the busy man Chang: "Have you forgotten.
Deep in the ages, long, long ago, I was your sweetheart, there on the sand— Storm-worn beach of the Chinese land? We sold our grain in the peacock town Built on the edge of the sea-sands brown— Built on the edge of the sea-sands brown.
"When all the world was drinking blood From the skulls of men and bulls And all the world had swords and clubs of stone, We drank our tea in China beneath the sacred spice-trees, And heard the curled waves of the harbor moan.
And this gray bird, in Love's first spring, With a bright-bronze breast and a bronze-brown wing, Captured the world with his carolling.
Do you remember, ages after, At last the world we were born to own? You were the heir of the yellow throne— The world was the field of the Chinese man And we were the pride of the Sons of Han? We copied deep books and we carved in jade, And wove blue silks in the mulberry shade.
" "I remember, I remember That Spring came on forever, That Spring came on forever," Said the Chinese nightingale.
My heart was filled with marvel and dream, Though I saw the western street-lamps gleam, Though dawn was bringing the western day, Though Chang was a laundryman ironing away.
Mingled there with the streets and alleys, The railroad-yard and the clock-tower bright, Demon clouds crossed ancient valleys; Across wide lotus-ponds of light I marked a giant firefly's flight.
And the lady, rosy-red, Flourished her fan, her shimmering fan, Stretched her hand toward Chang, and said: "Do you remember, Ages after, Our palace of heart-red stone? Do you remember The little doll-faced children With their lanterns full of moon-fire, That came from all the empire Honoring the throne?— The loveliest fête and carnival Our world had ever known? The sages sat about us With their heads bowed in their beards, With proper meditation on the sight.
Confucius was not born; We lived in those great days Confucius later said were lived aright.
And this gray bird, on that day of spring, With a bright bronze breast, and a bronze-brown wing, Captured the world with his carolling.
Late at night his tune was spent.
Peasants, Sages, Children, Homeward went, And then the bronze bird sang for you and me.
We walked alone.
Our hearts were high and free.
I had a silvery name, I had a silvery name, I had a silvery name — do you remember The name you cried beside the tumbling sea?" Chang turned not to the lady slim— He bent to his work, ironing away; But she was arch, and knowing and glowing, And the bird on his shoulder spoke for him.
"Darling .
darling .
darling .
darling .
" Said the Chinese nightingale.
The great gray joss on a rustic shelf, Rakish and shrewd, with his collar awry, Sang impolitely, as though by himself, Drowning with his bellowing the nightingale's cry: "Back through a hundred, hundred years Hear the waves as they climb the piers, Hear the howl of the silver seas, Hear the thunder.
Hear the gongs of holy China How the waves and tunes combine In a rhythmic clashing wonder, Incantation old and fine: `Dragons, dragons, Chinese dragons, Red fire-crackers, and green fire-crackers, And dragons, dragons, Chinese dragons.
'" Then the lady, rosy-red, Turned to her lover Chang and said: "Dare you forget that turquoise dawn When we stood in our mist-hung velvet lawn, And worked a spell this great joss taught Till a God of the Dragons was charmed and caught? From the flag high over our palace home He flew to our feet in rainbow-foam — A king of beauty and tempest and thunder Panting to tear our sorrows asunder.
A dragon of fair adventure and wonder.
We mounted the back of that royal slave With thoughts of desire that were noble and grave.
We swam down the shore to the dragon-mountains, We whirled to the peaks and the fiery fountains.
To our secret ivory house we were bourne.
We looked down the wonderful wing-filled regions Where the dragons darted in glimmering legions.
Right by my breast the nightingale sang; The old rhymes rang in the sunlit mist That we this hour regain — Song-fire for the brain.
When my hands and my hair and my feet you kissed, When you cried for your heart's new pain, What was my name in the dragon-mist, In the rings of rainbowed rain?" "Sorrow and love, glory and love," Said the Chinese nightingale.
"Sorrow and love, glory and love," Said the Chinese nightingale.
And now the joss broke in with his song: "Dying ember, bird of Chang, Soul of Chang, do you remember? — Ere you returned to the shining harbor There were pirates by ten thousand Descended on the town In vessels mountain-high and red and brown, Moon-ships that climbed the storms and cut the skies.
On their prows were painted terrible bright eyes.
But I was then a wizard and a scholar and a priest; I stood upon the sand; With lifted hand I looked upon them And sunk their vessels with my wizard eyes, And the stately lacquer-gate made safe again.
Deep, deep below the bay, the sea-weed and the spray, Embalmed in amber every pirate lies, Embalmed in amber every pirate lies.
" Then this did the noble lady say: "Bird, do you dream of our home-coming day When you flew like a courier on before From the dragon-peak to our palace-door, And we drove the steed in your singing path— The ramping dragon of laughter and wrath: And found our city all aglow, And knighted this joss that decked it so? There were golden fishes in the purple river And silver fishes and rainbow fishes.
There were golden junks in the laughing river, And silver junks and rainbow junks: There were golden lilies by the bay and river, And silver lilies and tiger-lilies, And tinkling wind-bells in the gardens of the town By the black-lacquer gate Where walked in state The kind king Chang And his sweet-heart mate.
With his flag-born dragon And his crown of pearl.
jade, And his nightingale reigning in the mulberry shade, And sailors and soldiers on the sea-sands brown, And priests who bowed them down to your song— By the city called Han, the peacock town, By the city called Han, the nightingale town, The nightingale town.
" Then sang the bird, so strangely gay, Fluttering, fluttering, ghostly and gray, A vague, unravelling, final tune, Like a long unwinding silk cocoon; Sang as though for the soul of him Who ironed away in that bower dim: — "I have forgotten Your dragons great, Merry and mad and friendly and bold.
Dim is your proud lost palace-gate.
I vaguely know There were heroes of old, Troubles more than the heart could hold, There were wolves in the woods Yet lambs in the fold, Nests in the top of the almond tree.
The evergreen tree.
and the mulberry tree.
Life and hurry and joy forgotten, Years on years I but half-remember.
Man is a torch, then ashes soon, May and June, then dead December, Dead December, then again June.
Who shall end my dream's confusion? Life is a loom, weaving illusion.
I remember, I remember There were ghostly veils and laces.
In the shadowy bowery places.
With lovers' ardent faces Bending to one another, Speaking each his part.
They infinitely echo In the red cave of my heart.
`Sweetheart, sweetheart, sweetheart.
' They said to one another.
They spoke, I think, of perils past.
They spoke, I think, of peace at last.
One thing I remember: Spring came on forever, Spring came on forever," Said the Chinese nightingale.
Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

The Mysterious Cat

 A chant for a children's pantomime dance, suggested by a picture painted by George Mather Richards.
I saw a proud, mysterious cat, I saw a proud, mysterious cat Too proud to catch a mouse or rat— Mew, mew, mew.
But catnip she would eat, and purr, But catnip she would eat, and purr.
And goldfish she did much prefer— Mew, mew, mew.
I saw a cat—'twas but a dream, I saw a cat—'twas but a dream Who scorned the slave that brought her cream— Mew, mew, mew.
Unless the slave were dressed in style, Unless the slave were dressed in style And knelt before her all the while— Mew, mew, mew.
Did you ever hear of a thing like that? Did you ever hear of a thing like that? Did you ever hear of a thing like that? Oh, what a proud mysterious cat.
Oh, what a proud mysterious cat.
Oh, what a proud mysterious cat.
Mew .
mew .
Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

The Hope of the Resurrection

 Though I have watched so many mourners weep
O'er the real dead, in dull earth laid asleep—
Those dead seemed but the shadows of my days
That passed and left me in the sun's bright rays.
Now though you go on smiling in the sun Our love is slain, and love and you were one.
You are the first, you I have known so long, Whose death was deadly, a tremendous wrong.
Therefore I seek the faith that sets it right Amid the lilies and the candle-light.
I think on Heaven, for in that air so dear We two may meet, confused and parted here.
Ah, when man's dearest dies,'tis then he goes To that old balm that heals the centuries' woes.
Then Christ's wild cry in all the streets is rife:— "I am the Resurrection and the Life.
Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

Yankee Doodle

 This poem is intended as a description of a sort of Blashfield mural painting on the sky.
To be sung to the tune of Yankee Doodle, yet in a slower, more orotund fashion.
It is presumably an exercise for an entertainment on the evening of Washington's Birthday.
Dawn this morning burned all red Watching them in wonder.
There I saw our spangled flag Divide the clouds asunder.
Then there followed Washington.
Ah, he rode from glory, Cold and mighty as his name And stern as Freedom's story.
Unsubdued by burning dawn Led his continentals.
Vast they were, and strange to see In gray old regimentals:— Marching still with bleeding feet, Bleeding feet and jesting— Marching from the judgment throne With energy unresting.
How their merry quickstep played— Silver, sharp, sonorous, Piercing through with prophecy The demons' rumbling chorus— Behold the ancient powers of sin And slavery before them!— Sworn to stop the glorious dawn, The pit-black clouds hung o'er them.
Plagues that rose to blast the day Fiend and tiger faces, Monsters plotting bloodshed for The patient toiling races.
Round the dawn their cannon raged, Hurling bolts of thunder, Yet before our spangled flag Their host was cut asunder.
Like a mist they fled away.
Ended wrath and roaring.
Still our restless soldier-host From East to West went pouring.
High beside the sun of noon They bore our banner splendid.
All its days of stain and shame And heaviness were ended.
Men were swelling now the throng From great and lowly station— Valiant citizens to-day Of every tribe and nation.
Not till night their rear-guard came, Down the west went marching, And left behind the sunset-rays In beauty overarching.
War-god banners lead us still, Rob, enslave and harry Let us rather choose to-day The flag the angels carry— Flag we love, but brighter far— Soul of it made splendid: Let its days of stain and shame And heaviness be ended.
Let its fifes fill all the sky, Redeemed souls marching after, Hills and mountains shake with song, While seas roll on in laughter.
Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

The Knight in Disguise

 [Concerning O.
Henry (Sidney Porter)] "He could not forget that he was a Sidney.
" Is this Sir Philip Sidney, this loud clown, The darling of the glad and gaping town? This is that dubious hero of the press Whose slangy tongue and insolent address Were spiced to rouse on Sunday afternoon The man with yellow journals round him strewn.
We laughed and dozed, then roused and read again, And vowed O.
Henry funniest of men.
He always worked a triple-hinged surprise To end the scene and make one rub his eyes.
He comes with vaudeville, with stare and leer.
He comes with megaphone and specious cheer.
His troupe, too fat or short or long or lean, Step from the pages of the magazine With slapstick or sombrero or with cane: The rube, the cowboy or the masher vain.
They over-act each part.
But at the height Of banter and of canter and delight The masks fall off for one queer instant there And show real faces: faces full of care And desperate longing: love that's hot or cold; And subtle thoughts, and countenances bold.
The masks go back.
'Tis one more joke.
Laugh on! The goodly grown-up company is gone.
No doubt had he occasion to address The brilliant court of purple-clad Queen Bess, He would have wrought for them the best he knew And led more loftily his actor-crew.
How coolly he misquoted.
'Twas his art — Slave-scholar, who misquoted — from the heart.
So when we slapped his back with friendly roar Æsop awaited him without the door, — Æsop the Greek, who made dull masters laugh With little tales of fox and dog and calf .
And be it said, mid these his pranks so odd With something nigh to chivalry he trod And oft the drear and driven would defend — The little shopgirls' knight unto the end.
Yea, he had passed, ere we could understand The blade of Sidney glimmered in his hand.
Yea, ere we knew, Sir Philip's sword was drawn With valiant cut and thrust, and he was gone.
Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

Our Mother Pocahontas

 (Note: — Pocahontas is buried at Gravesend, England.
) "Pocahontas' body, lovely as a poplar, sweet as a red haw in November or a pawpaw in May — did she wonder? does she remember — in the dust — in the cool tombs?" CARL SANDBURG.
I Powhatan was conqueror, Powhatan was emperor.
He was akin to wolf and bee, Brother of the hickory tree.
Son of the red lightning stroke And the lightning-shivered oak.
His panther-grace bloomed in the maid Who laughed among the winds and played In excellence of savage pride, Wooing the forest, open-eyed, In the springtime, In Virginia, Our Mother, Pocahontas.
Her skin was rosy copper-red.
And high she held her beauteous head.
Her step was like a rustling leaf: Her heart a nest, untouched of grief.
She dreamed of sons like Powhatan, And through her blood the lightning ran.
Love-cries with the birds she sung, Birdlike In the grape-vine swung.
The Forest, arching low and wide Gloried in its Indian bride.
Rolfe, that dim adventurer Had not come a courtier.
John Rolfe is not our ancestor.
We rise from out the soul of her Held in native wonderland, While the sun's rays kissed her hand, In the springtime, In Virginia, Our Mother, Pocahontas.
II She heard the forest talking, Across the sea came walking, And traced the paths of Daniel Boone, Then westward chased the painted moon.
She passed with wild young feet On to Kansas wheat, On to the miners' west, The echoing cañons' guest, Then the Pacific sand, Waking, Thrilling, The midnight land.
On Adams street and Jefferson — Flames coming up from the ground! On Jackson street and Washington — Flames coming up from the ground! And why, until the dawning sun Are flames coming up from the ground? Because, through drowsy Springfield sped This red-skin queen, with feathered head, With winds and stars, that pay her court And leaping beasts, that make her sport; Because, gray Europe's rags august She tramples in the dust; Because we are her fields of corn; Because our fires are all reborn From her bosom's deathless embers, Flaming As she remembers The springtime And Virginia, Our Mother, Pocahontas.
III We here renounce our Saxon blood.
Tomorrow's hopes, an April flood Come roaring in.
The newest race Is born of her resilient grace.
We here renounce our Teuton pride: Our Norse and Slavic boasts have died: Italian dreams are swept away, And Celtic feuds are lost today.
She sings of lilacs, maples, wheat, Her own soil sings beneath her feet, Of springtime And Virginia, Our Mother, Pocahontas.
Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

The Congo: A Study of the Negro Race

THEIR BASIC SAVAGERY Fat black bucks in a wine-barrel room, Barrel-house kings, with feet unstable, Sagged and reeled and pounded on the table, A deep rolling bass.
Pounded on the table, Beat an empty barrel with the handle of a broom, Hard as they were able, Boom, boom, BOOM, With a silk umbrella and the handle of a broom, Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM.
THEN I had religion, THEN I had a vision.
I could not turn from their revel in derision.
Solemnly chanted.
Then along that riverbank A thousand miles Tattooed cannibals danced in files; Then I heard the boom of the blood-lust song And a thigh-bone beating on a tin-pan gong.
A rapidly piling climax of speed & racket.
And "BLOOD" screamed the whistles and the fifes of the warriors, "BLOOD" screamed the skull-faced, lean witch-doctors, "Whirl ye the deadly voo-doo rattle, Harry the uplands, Steal all the cattle, Rattle-rattle, rattle-rattle, Bing.
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM," A roaring, epic, rag-time tune With a philosophic pause.
From the mouth of the Congo To the Mountains of the Moon.
Death is an Elephant, Torch-eyed and horrible, Shrilly and with a heavily accented metre.
Foam-flanked and terrible.
BOOM, steal the pygmies, BOOM, kill the Arabs, BOOM, kill the white men, HOO, HOO, HOO.
Listen to the yell of Leopold's ghost Like the wind in the chimney.
Burning in Hell for his hand-maimed host.
Hear how the demons chuckle and yell Cutting his hands off, down in Hell.
Listen to the creepy proclamation, Blown through the lairs of the forest-nation, Blown past the white-ants' hill of clay, Blown past the marsh where the butterflies play: -- "Be careful what you do, Or Mumbo-Jumbo, God of the Congo, All the "O" sounds very golden.
Heavy accents very heavy.
Light accents very light.
Last line whispered.
And all of the other Gods of the Congo, Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you, Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you, Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you.
" II.
THEIR IRREPRESSIBLE HIGH SPIRITS Wild crap-shooters with a whoop and a call Rather shrill and high.
Danced the juba in their gambling-hall And laughed fit to kill, and shook the town, And guyed the policemen and laughed them down With a boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM.
THEN I SAW THE CONGO, CREEPING THROUGH THE BLACK, Read exactly as in first section.
A negro fairyland swung into view, Lay emphasis on the delicate ideas.
Keep as light-footed as possible.
A minstrel river Where dreams come true.
The ebony palace soared on high Through the blossoming trees to the evening sky.
The inlaid porches and casements shone With gold and ivory and elephant-bone.
And the black crowd laughed till their sides were sore At the baboon butler in the agate door, And the well-known tunes of the parrot band That trilled on the bushes of that magic land.
A troupe of skull-faced witch-men came With pomposity.
Through the agate doorway in suits of flame, Yea, long-tailed coats with a gold-leaf crust And hats that were covered with diamond-dust.
And the crowd in the court gave a whoop and a call And danced the juba from wall to wall.
But the witch-men suddenly stilled the throng With a great deliberation & ghostliness.
With a stern cold glare, and a stern old song: -- "Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you.
" .
Just then from the doorway, as fat as shotes, With overwhelming assurance, good cheer, and pomp.
Came the cake-walk princes in their long red coats, Canes with a brilliant lacquer shine, And tall silk hats that were red as wine.
And they pranced with their butterfly partners there, With growing speed and sharply marked dance-rhythm Coal-black maidens with pearls in their hair, Knee-skirts trimmed with the jassamine sweet, And bells on their ankles and little black-feet.
And the couples railed at the chant and the frown Of the witch-men lean, and laughed them down.
(O rare was the revel, and well worth while That made those glowering witch-men smile.
) The cake-walk royalty then began To walk for a cake that was tall as a man To the tune of "Boomlay, boomlay, BOOM," While the witch-men laughed, with a sinister air, With a touch of negro dialect, and as rapidly as possible toward the end.
And sang with the scalawags prancing there: -- "Walk with care, walk with care, Or Mumbo-Jumbo, God of the Congo, And all the other Gods of the Congo, Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you.
Beware, beware, walk with care, Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom.
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom.
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom.
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM.
" Oh rare was the revel, and well worth while Slow philosophic calm.
That made those glowering witch-men smile.
THE HOPE OF THEIR RELIGION A good old negro in the slums of the town Heavy bass.
With a literal imitation of camp-meeting racket, and trance.
Preached at a sister for her velvet gown.
Howled at a brother for his low-down ways, His prowling, guzzling, sneak-thief days.
Beat on the Bible till he wore it out Starting the jubilee revival shout.
And some had visions, as they stood on chairs, And sang of Jacob, and the golden stairs, And they all repented, a thousand strong From their stupor and savagery and sin and wrong And slammed with their hymn books till they shook the room With "glory, glory, glory," And "Boom, boom, BOOM.
" THEN I SAW THE CONGO, CREEPING THROUGH THE BLACK, Exactly as in the first section.
Begin with terror and power, end with joy.
And the gray sky opened like a new-rent veil And showed the Apostles with their coats of mail.
In bright white steel they were seated round And their fire-eyes watched where the Congo wound.
And the twelve Apostles, from their thrones on high Thrilled all the forest with their heavenly cry: -- "Mumbo-Jumbo will die in the jungle; Sung to the tune of "Hark, ten thousand harps and voices.
" Never again will he hoo-doo you, Never again will he hoo-doo you.
" Then along that river, a thousand miles With growing deliberation and joy.
The vine-snared trees fell down in files.
Pioneer angels cleared the way For a Congo paradise, for babes at play, For sacred capitals, for temples clean.
Gone were the skull-faced witch-men lean.
There, where the wild ghost-gods had wailed In a rather high key -- as delicately as possible.
A million boats of the angels sailed With oars of silver, and prows of blue And silken pennants that the sun shone through.
'Twas a land transfigured, 'twas a new creation.
Oh, a singing wind swept the negro nation And on through the backwoods clearing flew: -- "Mumbo-Jumbo is dead in the jungle.
To the tune of "Hark, ten thousand harps and voices.
" Never again will he hoo-doo you.
Never again will he hoo-doo you.
Redeemed were the forests, the beasts and the men, And only the vulture dared again By the far, lone mountains of the moon To cry, in the silence, the Congo tune: -- "Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you, Dying down into a penetrating, terrified whisper.
"Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you.
Mumbo .
Jumbo .
will .
hoo-doo .
Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

Queen Mab in the Village

 Once I loved a fairy, 
Queen Mab it was.
Her voice Was like a little Fountain That bids the birds rejoice.
Her face was wise and solemn, Her hair was brown and fine.
Her dress was pansy velvet, A butterfly design.
To see her hover round me Or walk the hills of air, Awakened love's deep pulses And boyhood's first despair; A passion like a sword-blade That pierced me thro' and thro': Her fingers healed the sorrow Her whisper would renew.
We sighed and reigned and feasted Within a hollow tree, We vowed our love was boundless, Eternal as the sea.
She banished from her kingdom The mortal boy I grew — So tall and crude and noisy, I killed grasshoppers too.
I threw big rocks at pigeons, I plucked and tore apart The weeping, wailing daisies, And broke my lady's heart.
At length I grew to manhood, I scarcely could believe I ever loved the lady, Or caused her court to grieve, Until a dream came to me, One bleak first night of Spring, Ere tides of apple blossoms Rolled in o'er everything, While rain and sleet and snowbanks Were still a-vexing men, Ere robin and his comrades Were nesting once again.
I saw Mab's Book of Judgment — Its clasps were iron and stone, Its leaves were mammoth ivory, Its boards were mammoth bone, — Hid in her seaside mountains, Forgotten or unkept, Beneath its mighty covers Her wrath against me slept.
And deeply I repented Of brash and boyish crime, Of murder of things lovely Now and in olden time.
I cursed my vain ambition, My would-be worldly days, And craved the paths of wonder, Of dewy dawns and fays.
I cried, "Our love was boundless, Eternal as the sea, O Queen, reverse the sentence, Come back and master me!" The book was by the cliff-side Upon its edge upright.
I laid me by it softly, And wept throughout the night.
And there at dawn I saw it, No book now, but a door, Upon its panels written, "Judgment is no more.
" The bolt flew back with thunder, I saw within that place A mermaid wrapped in seaweed With Mab's immortal face, Yet grown now to a woman, A woman to the knee.
She cried, she clasped me fondly, We soon were in the sea.
Ah, she was wise and subtle, And gay and strong and sleek, We chained the wicked sword-fish, We played at hide and seek.
We floated on the water, We heard the dawn-wind sing, I made from ocean-wonders, Her bridal wreath and ring.
All mortal girls were shadows, All earth-life but a mist, When deep beneath the maelstrom, The mermaid's heart I kissed.
I woke beside the church-door Of our small inland town, Bowing to a maiden In a pansy-velvet gown, Who had not heard of fairies, Yet seemed of love to dream.
We planned an earthly cottage Beside an earthly stream.
Our wedding long is over, With toil the years fill up, Yet in the evening silence, We drink a deep-sea cup.
Nothing the fay remembers, Yet when she turns to me, We meet beneath the whirlpool, We swim the golden sea.
Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

To the United States Senate

 And must the Senator from Illinois 
Be this squat thing, with blinking, half-closed eyes? 
This brazen gutter idol, reared to power 
Upon a leering pyramid of lies? 

And must the Senator from Illinois 
Be the world's proverb of successful shame, 
Dazzling all State house flies that steal and steal, 
Who, when the sad State spares them, count it fame? 

If once or twice within his new won hall 
His vote had counted for the broken men; 
If in his early days he wrought some good — 
We might a great soul's sins forgive him then.
But must the Senator from Illinois Be vindicated by fat kings of gold? And must he be belauded by the smirched, The sleek, uncanny chiefs in lies grown old? Be warned, O wanton ones, who shielded him — Black wrath awaits.
You all shall eat the dust.
You dare not say: "To-morrow will bring peace; Let us make merry, and go forth in lust.
" What will you trading frogs do on a day When Armageddon thunders thro' the land; When each sad patriot rises, mad with shame, His ballot or his musket in his hand? In the distracted states from which you came The day is big with war hopes fierce and strange; Our iron Chicagos and our grimy mines Rumble with hate and love and solemn change.
Too many weary men shed honest tears, Ground by machines that give the Senate ease.
Too many little babes with bleeding hands Have heaped the fruits of empire on your knees.
And swine within the Senate in this day, When all the smothering by-streets weep and wail; When wisdom breaks the hearts of her best sons; When kingly men, voting for truth, may fail: — These are a portent and a call to arms.
Our protest turns into a battle cry: "Our shame must end, our States be free and clean; And in this war we choose to live and die.
Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

Ghosts in Love

 "Tell me, where do ghosts in love 
Find their bridal veils?" 

"If you and I were ghosts in love 
We'd climb the cliffs of Mystery, 
Above the sea of Wails.
I'd trim your gray and streaming hair With veils of Fantasy From the tree of Memory.
'Tis there the ghosts that fall in love Find their bridal veils.