Part 2 out of 2
I see you there, your thorn-crown on the ground,
I see you there, half-buried in the sand.
I see you there, your white bones glistening, bare,
*The carrion-birds a-wheeling round your head*.
Love and Law
True Love is founded in rocks of Remembrance
In stones of Forbearance and mortar of Pain.
The workman lays wearily granite on granite,
And bleeds for his castle 'mid sunshine and rain.
Love is not velvet, not all of it velvet,
Not all of it banners, not gold-leaf alone.
'Tis stern as the ages and old as Religion.
With Patience its watchword, and Law for its throne.
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).
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 scars the best who enter life!
Each soldier 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.
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.
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!
Darling Daughter of Babylon
Too soon you wearied of our tears.
And then you danced with spangled feet,
Leading Belshazzar's chattering court
A-tinkling through the shadowy street.
With mead they came, with chants of shame.
DESIRE'S red flag before them flew.
And Istar's music moved your mouth
And Baal's deep shames rewoke in you.
Now you could drive the royal car;
Forget our Nation's breaking load:
Now you could sleep on silver beds --
(Bitter and dark was our abode.)
And so, for many a night you laughed,
And knew not of my hopeless prayer,
Till God's own spirit whipped you forth
From Istar's shrine, from Istar's stair.
Darling daughter of Babylon --
Rose by the black Euphrates flood --
Again your beauty grew more dear
Than my slave's bread, than my heart's blood.
We sang of Zion, good to know,
Where righteousness and peace abide. . . .
What of your second sacrilege
Carousing at Belshazzar's side?
Once, by a stream, we clasped tired hands --
Your paint and henna washed away.
Your place, you said, was with the slaves
Who sewed the thick cloth, night and day.
You were a pale and holy maid
Toil-bound with us. One night you said: --
"Your God shall be my God until
I slumber with the patriarch dead."
Pardon, daughter of Babylon,
If, on this night remembering
Our lover walks under the walls
Of hanging gardens in the spring,
A venom comes from broken hope,
From memories of your comrade-song
Until I curse your painted eyes
And do your flower-mouth too much wrong.
Ah, in the night, all music haunts me here. . . .
Is it for naught high Heaven cracks and yawns
And the tremendous Amaranth descends
Sweet with the glory of ten thousand dawns?
Does it not mean my God would have me say: --
"Whether you will or no, O city young,
Heaven will bloom like one great flower for you,
Flash and loom greatly all your marts among?"
Friends, I will not cease hoping though you weep.
Such things I see, and some of them shall come
Though now our streets are harsh and ashen-gray,
Though our strong youths are strident now, or dumb.
Friends, that sweet town, that wonder-town, shall rise.
Naught can delay it. Though it may not be
Just as I dream, it comes at last I know
With streets like channels of an incense-sea.
The Alchemist's Petition
Thou wilt not sentence to eternal life
My soul that prays that it may sleep and sleep
Like a white statue dropped into the deep,
Covered with sand, covered with chests of gold,
And slave-bones, tossed from many a pirate hold.
But for this prayer thou wilt not bind in Hell
My soul, that shook with love for Fame and Truth --
In such unquenched desires consumed his youth --
Let me turn dust, like dead leaves in the Fall,
Or wood that lights an hour your knightly hall --
Two Easter Stanzas
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 clear
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."
We meet at the Judgment and I fear it Not
Though better men may fear that trumpet's warning,
I meet you, lady, on the Judgment morning,
With golden hope my spirit still adorning.
Our God who made you all so fair and sweet
Is three times gentle, and before his feet
Rejoicing I shall say: -- "The girl you gave
Was my first Heaven, an angel bent to save.
Oh, God, her maker, if my ingrate breath
Is worth this rescue from the Second Death,
Perhaps her dear proud eyes grow gentler too
That scorned my graceless years and trophies few.
Gone are those years, and gone ill-deeds that turned
Her sacred beauty from my songs that burned.
We now as comrades through the stars may take
The rich and arduous quests I did forsake.
Grant me a seraph-guide to thread the throng
And quickly find that woman-soul so strong.
I dream that in her deeply-hidden heart
Hurt love lived on, though we were far apart,
A brooding secret mercy like your own
That blooms to-day to vindicate your throne.
(To a Man who maintained that the Mausoleum is the Stateliest Possible
Manner of Interment)
I would be one with the dark, dark earth: --
Follow the plough with a yokel tread.
I would be part of the Indian corn,
Walking the rows with the plumes o'erhead.
I would be one with the lavish earth,
Eating the bee-stung apples red:
Walking where lambs walk on the hills;
By oak-grove paths to the pools be led.
I would be one with the dark-bright night
When sparkling skies and the lightning wed --
Walking on with the vicious wind
By roads whence even the dogs have fled.
I would be one with the sacred earth
On to the end, till I sleep with the dead.
Terror shall put no spears through me.
Peace shall jewel my shroud instead.
I shall be one with all pit-black things
Finding their lowering threat unsaid:
Stars for my pillow there in the gloom, --
Oak-roots arching about my head!
Stars, like daisies, shall rise through the earth,
Acorns fall round my breast that bled.
Children shall weave there a flowery chain,
Squirrels on acorn-hearts be fed: --
Fruit of the traveller-heart of me,
Fruit of my harvest-songs long sped:
Sweet with the life of my sunburned days
When the sheaves were ripe, and the apples red.
The North Star Whispers to the Blacksmith's Son
The North Star whispers: "You are one
Of those whose course no chance can change.
You blunder, but are not undone,
Your spirit-task is fixed and strange.
"When here you walk, a bloodless shade,
A singer all men else forget.
Your chants of hammer, forge and spade
Will move the prairie-village yet.
"That young, stiff-necked, reviling town
Beholds your fancies on her walls,
And paints them out or tears them down,
Or bars them from her feasting-halls.
"Yet shall the fragments still remain;
Yet shall remain some watch-tower strong
That ivy-vines will not disdain,
Haunted and trembling with your song.
"Your flambeau in the dusk shall burn,
Flame high in storms, flame white and clear;
Your ghost in gleaming robes return
And burn a deathless incense here."
A Miscellany called "the Christmas Tree"
This Section is a Christmas Tree
This section is a Christmas tree:
Loaded with pretty toys for you.
Behold the blocks, the Noah's arks,
The popguns painted red and blue.
No solemn pine-cone forest-fruit,
But silver horns and candy sacks
And many little tinsel hearts
And cherubs pink, and jumping-jacks.
For every child a gift, I hope.
The doll upon the topmost bough
Is mine. But all the rest are yours.
And I will light the candles now.
The Sun Says his Prayers
"The sun says his prayers," said the fairy,
Or else he would wither and die.
"The sun says his prayers," said the fairy,
"For strength to climb up through the sky.
He leans on invisible angels,
And Faith is his prop and his rod.
The sky is his crystal cathedral.
And dawn is his altar to God."
Popcorn, Glass Balls, and Cranberries (As it were)
I. The Lion
The Lion is a kingly beast.
He likes a Hindu for a feast.
And if no Hindu he can get,
The lion-family is upset.
He cuffs his wife and bites her ears
Till she is nearly moved to tears.
Then some explorer finds the den
And all is family peace again.
II. An Explanation of the Grasshopper
The Grasshopper, the grasshopper,
I will explain to you: --
He is the Brownies' racehorse,
The fairies' Kangaroo.
III. The Dangerous Little Boy Fairies
In fairyland the little boys
Would rather fight than eat their meals.
They like to chase a gauze-winged fly
And catch and beat him till he squeals.
Sometimes they come to sleeping men
Armed with the deadly red-rose thorn,
And those that feel its fearful wound
Repent the day that they were born.
IV. The Mouse that gnawed the Oak-tree Down
The mouse that gnawed the oak-tree down
Began his task in early life.
He kept so busy with his teeth
He had no time to take a wife.
He gnawed and gnawed through sun and rain
When the ambitious fit was on,
Then rested in the sawdust till
A month of idleness had gone.
He did not move about to hunt
The coteries of mousie-men.
He was a snail-paced, stupid thing
Until he cared to gnaw again.
The mouse that gnawed the oak-tree down,
When that tough foe was at his feet --
Found in the stump no angel-cake
Nor buttered bread, nor cheese, nor meat --
The forest-roof let in the sky.
"This light is worth the work," said he.
"I'll make this ancient swamp more light,"
And started on another tree.
Where does Cinderella sleep?
By far-off day-dream river.
A secret place her burning Prince
Decks, while his heart-strings quiver.
Homesick for our cinder world,
Her low-born shoulders shiver;
She longs for sleep in cinders curled --
We, for the day-dream river.
VI. The Spider and the Ghost of the Fly
Once I loved a spider
When I was born a fly,
A velvet-footed spider
With a gown of rainbow-dye.
She ate my wings and gloated.
She bound me with a hair.
She drove me to her parlor
Above her winding stair.
To educate young spiders
She took me all apart.
My ghost came back to haunt her.
I saw her eat my heart.
VII. Crickets on a Strike
The foolish queen of fairyland
From her milk-white throne in a lily-bell,
Gave command to her cricket-band
To play for her when the dew-drops fell.
But the cold dew spoiled their instruments
And they play for the foolish queen no more.
Instead those sturdy malcontents
Play sharps and flats in my kitchen floor.
How a Little Girl Danced
Dedicated to Lucy Bates
(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.
In Praise of Songs that Die
After having read a Great Deal of Good Current Poetry
in the Magazines and Newspapers
Ah, they are passing, passing by,
Wonderful songs, but born to die!
Cries from the infinite human seas,
Waves thrice-winged with harmonies.
Here I stand on a pier in the foam
Seeing the songs to the beach go home,
Dying in sand while the tide flows back,
As it flowed of old in its fated track.
Oh, hurrying tide that will not hear
Your own foam-children dying near:
Is there no refuge-house of song,
No home, no haven where songs belong?
Oh, precious hymns that come and go!
You perish, and I love you so!
Factory Windows are always Broken
Factory windows are always broken.
Somebody's always throwing bricks,
Somebody's always heaving cinders,
Playing ugly Yahoo tricks.
Factory windows are always broken.
Other windows are let alone.
No one throws through the chapel-window
The bitter, snarling, derisive stone.
Factory windows are always broken.
Something or other is going wrong.
Something is rotten -- I think, in Denmark.
*End of the factory-window song*.
To Mary Pickford
(On hearing she was leaving the moving-pictures for the stage.)
Mary Pickford, doll divine,
Year by year, and every day
At the moving-picture play,
You have been my valentine.
Once a free-limbed page in hose,
Baby-Rosalind in flower,
Cloakless, shrinking, in that hour
How our reverent passion rose,
How our fine desire you won.
Kitchen-wench another day,
Shapeless, wooden every way.
Next, a fairy from the sun.
Once you walked a grown-up strand
Fish-wife siren, full of lure,
Snaring with devices sure
Lads who murdered on the sand.
But on most days just a child
Dimpled as no grown-folk are,
Cold of kiss as some north star,
Violet from the valleys wild.
Snared as innocence must be,
Fleeing, prisoned, chained, half-dead --
At the end of tortures dread
Roaring cowboys set you free.
Fly, O song, to her to-day,
Like a cowboy cross the land.
Snatch her from Belasco's hand
And that prison called Broadway.
All the village swains await
One dear lily-girl demure,
Saucy, dancing, cold and pure,
Elf who must return in state.
(After seeing the reel called "Oil and Water".)
Beauty has a throne-room
In our humorous town,
Spoiling its hob-goblins,
Laughing shadows down.
Rank musicians torture
Ragtime ballads vile,
But we walk serenely
Down the odorous aisle.
We forgive the squalor
And the boom and squeal
For the Great Queen flashes
From the moving reel.
Just a prim blonde stranger
In her early day,
Hiding brilliant weapons,
Too averse to play,
Then she burst upon us
Dancing through the night.
Oh, her maiden radiance,
Veils and roses white.
With new powers, yet cautious,
Not too smart or skilled,
That first flash of dancing
Wrought the thing she willed: --
Mobs of us made noble
By her strong desire,
By her white, uplifting,
Though the tin piano
Snarls its tango rude,
Though the chairs are shaky
And the dramas crude,
Solemn are her motions,
Stately are her wiles,
Filling oafs with wisdom,
Saving souls with smiles;
'Mid the restless actors
She is rich and slow.
She will stand like marble,
She will pause and glow,
Though the film is twitching,
Keep a peaceful reign,
Ruler of her passion,
Ruler of our pain!
For a Very Little Girl, Not a Year Old. Catharine Frazee Wakefield.
The sun gives not directly
The coal, the diamond crown;
Not in a special basket
Are these from Heaven let down.
The sun gives not directly
The plough, man's iron friend;
Not by a path or stairway
Do tools from Heaven descend.
Yet sunshine fashions all things
That cut or burn or fly;
And corn that seems upon the earth
Is made in the hot sky.
The gravel of the roadbed,
The metal of the gun,
The engine of the airship
Trace somehow from the sun.
And so your soul, my lady --
(Mere sunshine, nothing more) --
Prepares me the contraptions
I work with or adore.
Within me cornfields rustle,
Niagaras roar their way,
Vast thunderstorms and rainbows
Are in my thought to-day.
Ten thousand anvils sound there
By forges flaming white,
And many books I read there,
And many books I write;
And freedom's bells are ringing,
And bird-choirs chant and fly --
The whole world works in me to-day
And all the shining sky,
Because of one small lady
Whose smile is my chief sun.
She gives not any gift to me
Yet all gifts, giving one. . . .
An Apology for the Bottle Volcanic
Sometimes I dip my pen and find the bottle full of fire,
The salamanders flying forth I cannot but admire.
It's Etna, or Vesuvius, if those big things were small,
And then 'tis but itself again, and does not smoke at all.
And so my blood grows cold. I say, "The bottle held but ink,
And, if you thought it otherwise, the worser for your think."
And then, just as I throw my scribbled paper on the floor,
The bottle says, "Fe, fi, fo, fum," and steams and shouts some more.
O sad deceiving ink, as bad as liquor in its way --
All demons of a bottle size have pranced from you to-day,
And seized my pen for hobby-horse as witches ride a broom,
And left a trail of brimstone words and blots and gobs of gloom.
And yet when I am extra good and say my prayers at night,
And mind my ma, and do the chores, and speak to folks polite,
My bottle spreads a rainbow-mist, and from the vapor fine
Ten thousand troops from fairyland come riding in a line.
I've seen them on their chargers race around my study chair,
They opened wide the window and rode forth upon the air.
The army widened as it went, and into myriads grew,
O how the lances shimmered, how the silvery trumpets blew!
When Gassy Thompson Struck it Rich
He paid a Swede twelve bits an hour
Just to invent a fancy style
To spread the celebration paint
So it would show at least a mile.
Some things they did I will not tell.
They're not quite proper for a rhyme.
But I WILL say Yim Yonson Swede
Did sure invent a sunflower time.
One thing they did that I can tell
And not offend the ladies here: --
They took a goat to Simp's Saloon
And made it take a bath in beer.
That ENTERprise took MANagement.
They broke a wash-tub in the fray.
But mister goat was bathed all right
And bar-keep Simp was, too, they say.
They wore girls' pink straw hats to church
And clucked like hens. They surely did.
They bought two HOtel frying pans
And in them down the mountain slid.
They went to Denver in good clothes,
And kept Burt's grill-room wide awake,
And cut about like jumping-jacks,
And ordered seven-dollar steak.
They had the waiters whirling round
Just sweeping up the smear and smash.
They tried to buy the State-house flag.
They showed the Janitor the cash.
And old Dan Tucker on a toot,
Or John Paul Jones before the breeze,
Or Indians eating fat fried dog,
Were not as happy babes as these.
One morn, in hills near Cripple-creek
With cheerful swears the two awoke.
The Swede had twenty cents, all right.
But Gassy Thompson was clean broke.
Rhymes for Gloriana
I. The Doll upon the Topmost Bough
This doll upon the topmost bough,
This playmate-gift, in Christmas dress,
Was taken down and brought to me
One sleety night most comfortless.
Her hair was gold, her dolly-sash
Was gray brocade, most good to see.
The dear toy laughed, and I forgot
The ill the new year promised me.
II. On Suddenly Receiving a Curl Long Refused
Oh, saucy gold circle of fairyland silk --
Impudent, intimate, delicate treasure:
A noose for my heart and a ring for my finger: --
Here in my study you sing me a measure.
Whimsy and song in my little gray study!
Words out of wonderland, praising her fineness,
Touched with her pulsating, delicate laughter,
Saying, "The girl is all daring and kindness!"
Saying, "Her soul is all feminine gameness,
Trusting her insights, ardent for living;
She would be weeping with me and be laughing,
A thoroughbred, joyous receiving and giving!"
III. On Receiving One of Gloriana's Letters
Your pen needs but a ruffle
To be Pavlova whirling.
It surely is a scalawag
A-scamping down the page.
A pretty little May-wind
The morning buds uncurling.
And then the white sweet Russian,
The dancer of the age.
Your pen's the Queen of Sheba,
Such serious questions bringing,
That merry rascal Solomon
Would show a sober face: --
And then again Pavlova
To set our spirits singing,
The snowy-swan bacchante
All glamour, glee and grace.
IV. In Praise of Gloriana's Remarkable Golden Hair
The gleaming head of one fine friend
Is bent above my little song,
So through the treasure-pits of Heaven
In fancy's shoes, I march along.
I wander, seek and peer and ponder
In Splendor's last ensnaring lair --
'Mid burnished harps and burnished crowns
Where noble chariots gleam and flare:
Amid the spirit-coins and gems,
The plates and cups and helms of fire --
The gorgeous-treasure-pits of Heaven --
Where angel-misers slake desire!
O endless treasure-pits of gold
Where silly angel-men make mirth --
I think that I am there this hour,
Though walking in the ways of earth!
Twenty Poems in which the Moon is the Principal Figure of Speech
Once More -- To Gloriana
Girl with the burning golden eyes,
And red-bird song, and snowy throat:
I bring you gold and silver moons
And diamond stars, and mists that float.
I bring you moons and snowy clouds,
I bring you prairie skies to-night
To feebly praise your golden eyes
And red-bird song, and throat so white.
First Section: Moon Poems for the Children/Fairy-tales for the Children
Old Euclid drew a circle
On a sand-beach long ago.
He bounded and enclosed it
With angles thus and so.
His set of solemn greybeards
Nodded and argued much
Of arc and of circumference,
Diameter and such.
A silent child stood by them
From morning until noon
Because they drew such charming
Round pictures of the moon.
II. The Haughty Snail-king
(What Uncle William told the Children)
Twelve snails went walking after night.
They'd creep an inch or so,
Then stop and bug their eyes
Some folks . . . are . . . deadly . . . slow.
Twelve snails went walking yestereve,
Led by their fat old king.
They were so dull their princeling had
No sceptre, robe or ring --
Only a paper cap to wear
When nightly journeying.
This king-snail said: "I feel a thought
Within. . . . It blossoms soon. . . .
O little courtiers of mine, . . .
I crave a pretty boon. . . .
Oh, yes . . . (High thoughts with effort come
And well-bred snails are ALMOST dumb.)
"I wish I had a yellow crown
As glistering . . . as . . . the moon."
III. What the Rattlesnake Said
The moon's a little prairie-dog.
He shivers through the night.
He sits upon his hill and cries
For fear that *I* will bite.
The sun's a broncho. He's afraid
Like every other thing,
And trembles, morning, noon and night,
Lest *I* should spring, and sting.
IV. The Moon's the North Wind's Cooky
(What the Little Girl Said)
The Moon's the North Wind's cooky.
He bites it, day by day,
Until there's but a rim of scraps
That crumble all away.
The South Wind is a baker.
He kneads clouds in his den,
And bakes a crisp new moon *that . . . greedy
North . . . Wind . . . eats . . . again!*
V. Drying their Wings
(What the Carpenter Said)
The moon's a cottage with a door.
Some folks can see it plain.
Look, you may catch a glint of light,
A sparkle through the pane,
Showing the place is brighter still
Within, though bright without.
There, at a cosy open fire
Strange babes are grouped about.
The children of the wind and tide --
The urchins of the sky,
Drying their wings from storms and things
So they again can fly.
VI. What the Gray-winged Fairy Said
The moon's a gong, hung in the wild,
Whose song the fays hold dear.
Of course you do not hear it, child.
It takes a FAIRY ear.
The full moon is a splendid gong
That beats as night grows still.
It sounds above the evening song
Of dove or whippoorwill.
VII. Yet Gentle will the Griffin Be
(What Grandpa told the Children)
The moon? It is a griffin's egg,
Hatching to-morrow night.
And how the little boys will watch
With shouting and delight
To see him break the shell and stretch
And creep across the sky.
The boys will laugh. The little girls,
I fear, may hide and cry.
Yet gentle will the griffin be,
Most decorous and fat,
And walk up to the milky way
And lap it like a cat.
Second Section: The Moon is a Mirror
I. Prologue. A Sense of Humor
No man should stand before the moon
To make sweet song thereon,
With dandified importance,
His sense of humor gone.
Nay, let us don the motley cap,
The jester's chastened mien,
If we would woo that looking-glass
And see what should be seen.
O mirror on fair Heaven's wall,
We find there what we bring.
So, let us smile in honest part
And deck our souls and sing.
Yea, by the chastened jest alone
Will ghosts and terrors pass,
And fays, or suchlike friendly things,
Throw kisses through the glass.
II. On the Garden-wall
Oh, once I walked a garden
In dreams. 'Twas yellow grass.
And many orange-trees grew there
In sand as white as glass.
The curving, wide wall-border
Was marble, like the snow.
I walked that wall a fairy-prince
And, pacing quaint and slow,
Beside me were my pages,
Two giant, friendly birds.
Half-swan they were, half peacock.
They spake in courtier-words.
Their inner wings a chariot,
Their outer wings for flight,
They lifted me from dreamland.
We bade those trees good-night.
Swiftly above the stars we rode.
I looked below me soon.
The white-walled garden I had ruled
Was one lone flower -- the moon.
III. Written for a Musician
Hungry for music with a desperate hunger
I prowled abroad, I threaded through the town;
The evening crowd was clamoring and drinking,
Vulgar and pitiful -- my heart bowed down --
Till I remembered duller hours made noble
By strangers clad in some surprising grace.
Wait, wait, my soul, your music comes ere midnight
Appearing in some unexpected place
With quivering lips, and gleaming, moonlit face.
IV. The Moon is a Painter
He coveted her portrait.
He toiled as she grew gay.
She loved to see him labor
In that devoted way.
And in the end it pleased her,
But bowed him more with care.
Her rose-smile showed so plainly,
Her soul-smile was not there.
That night he groped without a lamp
To find a cloak, a book,
And on the vexing portrait
By moonrise chanced to look.
The color-scheme was out of key,
The maiden rose-smile faint,
But through the blessed darkness
She gleamed, his friendly saint.
The comrade, white, immortal,
His bride, and more than bride --
The citizen, the sage of mind,
For whom he lived and died.
V. The Encyclopaedia
"If I could set the moon upon
This table," said my friend,
"Among the standard poets
And brochures without end,
And noble prints of old Japan,
How empty they would seem,
By that encyclopaedia
Of whim and glittering dream."
VI. What the Miner in the Desert Said
The moon's a brass-hooped water-keg,
A wondrous water-feast.
If I could climb the ridge and drink
And give drink to my beast;
If I could drain that keg, the flies
Would not be biting so,
My burning feet be spry again,
My mule no longer slow.
And I could rise and dig for ore,
And reach my fatherland,
And not be food for ants and hawks
And perish in the sand.
VII. What the Coal-heaver Said
The moon's an open furnace door
Where all can see the blast,
We shovel in our blackest griefs,
Upon that grate are cast
Our aching burdens, loves and fears
And underneath them wait
Paper and tar and pitch and pine
Called strife and blood and hate.
Out of it all there comes a flame,
A splendid widening light.
Sorrow is turned to mystery
And Death into delight.
VIII. What the Moon Saw
Two statesmen met by moonlight.
Their ease was partly feigned.
They glanced about the prairie.
Their faces were constrained.
In various ways aforetime
They had misled the state,
Yet did it so politely
Their henchmen thought them great.
They sat beneath a hedge and spake
No word, but had a smoke.
A satchel passed from hand to hand.
Next day, the deadlock broke.
IX. What Semiramis Said
The moon's a steaming chalice
Of honey and venom-wine.
A little of it sipped by night
Makes the long hours divine.
But oh, my reckless lovers,
They drain the cup and wail,
Die at my feet with shaking limbs
And tender lips all pale.
Above them in the sky it bends
Empty and gray and dread.
To-morrow night 'tis full again,
Golden, and foaming red.
X. What the Ghost of the Gambler Said
Where now the huts are empty,
Where never a camp-fire glows,
In an abandoned canyon,
A Gambler's Ghost arose.
He muttered there, "The moon's a sack
Of dust." His voice rose thin:
"I wish I knew the miner-man.
I'd play, and play to win.
In every game in Cripple-creek
Of old, when stakes were high,
I held my own. Now I would play
For that sack in the sky.
The sport would not be ended there.
'Twould rather be begun.
I'd bet my moon against his stars,
And gamble for the sun."
XI. The Spice-tree
This is the song
The spice-tree sings:
"Hunger and fire,
Hunger and fire,
Sky-born Beauty --
Spice of desire,"
Under the spice-tree
Watch and wait,
And lads that mate.
The spice-tree spreads
And its boughs come down
Shadowing village and farm and town.
And none can see
But the pure of heart
The great green leaves
And the boughs descending,
And hear the song that is never ending.
The deep roots whisper,
The branches say: --
And love to-day,
And till Heaven's day,
And till Heaven's day."
The moon is a bird's nest in its branches,
The moon is hung in its topmost spaces.
And there, to-night, two doves play house
While lovers watch with uplifted faces.
Two doves go home
To their nest, the moon.
It is woven of twigs of broken light,
With threads of scarlet and threads of gray
And a lining of down for silk delight.
To their Eden, the moon, fly home our doves,
Up through the boughs of the great spice-tree; --
And one is the kiss I took from you,
And one is the kiss you gave to me.
XII. The Scissors-grinder
(What the Tramp Said)
The old man had his box and wheel
For grinding knives and shears.
No doubt his bell in village streets
Was joy to children's ears.
And I bethought me of my youth
When such men came around,
And times I asked them in, quite sure
The scissors should be ground.
The old man turned and spoke to me,
His face at last in view.
And then I thought those curious eyes
Were eyes that once I knew.
"The moon is but an emery-wheel
To whet the sword of God,"
He said. "And here beside my fire
I stretch upon the sod
Each night, and dream, and watch the stars
And watch the ghost-clouds go.
And see that sword of God in Heaven
A-waving to and fro.
I see that sword each century, friend.
It means the world-war comes
With all its bloody, wicked chiefs
And hate-inflaming drums.
Men talk of peace, but I have seen
That emery-wheel turn round.
The voice of Abel cries again
To God from out the ground.
The ditches must flow red, the plague
Go stark and screaming by
Each time that sword of God takes edge
Within the midnight sky.
And those that scorned their brothers here
And sowed a wind of shame
Will reap the whirlwind as of old
And face relentless flame."
And thus the scissors-grinder spoke,
His face at last in view.
*And there beside the railroad bridge
I saw the wandering Jew*.
XIII. My Lady in her White Silk Shawl
My lady in her white silk shawl
Is like a lily dim,
Within the twilight of the room
Enthroned and kind and prim.
My lady! Pale gold is her hair.
Until she smiles her face
Is pale with far Hellenic moods,
With thoughts that find no place
In our harsh village of the West
Wherein she lives of late,
She's distant as far-hidden stars,
And cold -- (almost!) -- as fate.
But when she smiles she's here again
Rosy with comrade-cheer,
A Puritan Bacchante made
To laugh around the year.
The merry gentle moon herself,
Heart-stirring too, like her,
Wakening wild and innocent love
In every worshipper.
XIV. Aladdin and the Jinn
"Bring me soft song," said Aladdin.
"This tailor-shop sings not at all.
Chant me a word of the twilight,
Of roses that mourn in the fall.
Bring me a song like hashish
That will comfort the stale and the sad,
For I would be mending my spirit,
Forgetting these days that are bad,
Forgetting companions too shallow,
Their quarrels and arguments thin,
Forgetting the shouting Muezzin:" --
"I AM YOUR SLAVE," said the Jinn.
"Bring me old wines," said Aladdin.
"I have been a starved pauper too long.
Serve them in vessels of jade and of shell,
Serve them with fruit and with song: --
Wines of pre-Adamite Sultans
Digged from beneath the black seas: --
New-gathered dew from the heavens
Dripped down from Heaven's sweet trees,
Cups from the angels' pale tables
That will make me both handsome and wise,
For I have beheld her, the princess,
Firelight and starlight her eyes.
Pauper I am, I would woo her.
And -- let me drink wine, to begin,
Though the Koran expressly forbids it."
"I AM YOUR SLAVE," said the Jinn.
"Plan me a dome," said Aladdin,
"That is drawn like the dawn of the MOON,
When the sphere seems to rest on the mountains,
Half-hidden, yet full-risen soon."
"Build me a dome," said Aladdin,
"That shall cause all young lovers to sigh,
The fullness of life and of beauty,
Peace beyond peace to the eye --
A palace of foam and of opal,
Pure moonlight without and within,
Where I may enthrone my sweet lady."
"I AM YOUR SLAVE," said the Jinn.
XV. The Strength of the Lonely
(What the Mendicant Said)
The moon's a monk, unmated,
Who walks his cell, the sky.
His strength is that of heaven-vowed men
Who all life's flames defy.
They turn to stars or shadows,
They go like snow or dew --
Leaving behind no sorrow --
Only the arching blue.
War. September 1, 1914
Intended to be Read Aloud
I. Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight
(In Springfield, Illinois)
It is portentous, and a thing of state
That here at midnight, in our little town
A mourning figure walks, and will not rest,
Near the old court-house pacing up and down,
Or by his homestead, or in shadowed yards
He lingers where his children used to play,
Or through the market, on the well-worn stones
He stalks until the dawn-stars burn away.
A bronzed, lank man! His suit of ancient black,
A famous high top-hat and plain worn shawl
Make him the quaint great figure that men love,
The prairie-lawyer, master of us all.
He cannot sleep upon his hillside now.
He is among us: -- as in times before!
And we who toss and lie awake for long
Breathe deep, and start, to see him pass the door.
His head is bowed. He thinks on men and kings.
Yea, when the sick world cries, how can he sleep?
Too many peasants fight, they know not why,
Too many homesteads in black terror weep.
The sins of all the war-lords burn his heart.
He sees the dreadnaughts scouring every main.
He carries on his shawl-wrapped shoulders now
The bitterness, the folly and the pain.
He cannot rest until a spirit-dawn
Shall come; -- the shining hope of Europe free:
The league of sober folk, the Workers' Earth,
Bringing long peace to Cornland, Alp and Sea.
It breaks his heart that kings must murder still,
That all his hours of travail here for men
Seem yet in vain. And who will bring white peace
That he may sleep upon his hill again?
II. A Curse for Kings
A curse upon each king who leads his state,
No matter what his plea, to this foul game,
And may it end his wicked dynasty,
And may he die in exile and black shame.
If there is vengeance in the Heaven of Heavens,
What punishment could Heaven devise for these
Who fill the rivers of the world with dead,
And turn their murderers loose on all the seas!
Put back the clock of time a thousand years,
And make our Europe, once the world's proud Queen,
A shrieking strumpet, furious fratricide,
Eater of entrails, wallowing obscene
In pits where millions foam and rave and bark,
Mad dogs and idiots, thrice drunk with strife;
While Science towers above; -- a witch, red-winged:
Science we looked to for the light of life.
Curse me the men who make and sell iron ships,
Who walk the floor in thought, that they may find
Each powder prompt, each steel with fearful edge,
Each deadliest device against mankind.
Curse me the sleek lords with their plumes and spurs,
May Heaven give their land to peasant spades,
Give them the brand of Cain, for their pride's sake,
And felon's stripes for medals and for braids.
Curse me the fiddling, twiddling diplomats,
Haggling here, plotting and hatching there,
Who make the kind world but their game of cards,
Till millions die at turning of a hair.
What punishment will Heaven devise for these
Who win by others' sweat and hardihood,
Who make men into stinking vultures' meat,
Saying to evil still "Be thou my good"?
Ah, he who starts a million souls toward death
Should burn in utmost hell a million years!
-- Mothers of men go on the destined wrack
To give them life, with anguish and with tears: --
Are all those childbed sorrows sneered away?
Yea, fools laugh at the humble christenings,
And cradle-joys are mocked of the fat lords:
These mothers' sons made dead men for the Kings!
All in the name of this or that grim flag,
No angel-flags in all the rag-array --
Banners the demons love, and all Hell sings
And plays wild harps. Those flags march forth to-day!
III. Who Knows?
They say one king is mad. Perhaps. Who knows?
They say one king is doddering and grey.
They say one king is slack and sick of mind,
A puppet for hid strings that twitch and play.
Is Europe then to be their sprawling-place?
Their mad-house, till it turns the wide world's bane?
Their place of maudlin, slavering conference
Till every far-off farmstead goes insane?
IV. To Buddha
Awake again in Asia, Lord of Peace,
Awake and preach, for her far swordsmen rise.
And would they sheathe the sword before you, friend,
Or scorn your way, while looking in your eyes?
Good comrade and philosopher and prince,
Thoughtful and thoroughbred and strong and kind,
Dare they to move against your pride benign,
Lord of the Law, high chieftain of the mind?
* * * * *
But what can Europe say, when in your name
The throats are cut, the lotus-ponds turn red?
And what can Europe say, when with a laugh
Old Asia heaps her hecatombs of dead?
V. The Unpardonable Sin
This is the sin against the Holy Ghost: --
To speak of bloody power as right divine,
And call on God to guard each vile chief's house,
And for such chiefs, turn men to wolves and swine: --
To go forth killing in White Mercy's name,
Making the trenches stink with spattered brains,
Tearing the nerves and arteries apart,
Sowing with flesh the unreaped golden plains.
In any Church's name, to sack fair towns,
And turn each home into a screaming sty,
To make the little children fugitive,
And have their mothers for a quick death cry, --
This is the sin against the Holy Ghost:
This is the sin no purging can atone: --
To send forth rapine in the name of Christ: --
To set the face, and make the heart a stone.
VI. Above the Battle's Front
St. Francis, Buddha, Tolstoi, and St. John --
Friends, if you four, as pilgrims, hand in hand,
Returned, the hate of earth once more to dare,
And walked upon the water and the land,
If you, with words celestial, stopped these kings
For sober conclave, ere their battle great,
Would they for one deep instant then discern
Their crime, their heart-rot, and their fiend's estate?
If you should float above the battle's front,
Pillars of cloud, of fire that does not slay,
Bearing a fifth within your regal train,
The Son of David in his strange array --
If, in his majesty, he towered toward Heaven,
Would they have hearts to see or understand?
. . . Nay, for he hovers there to-night we know,
Thorn-crowned above the water and the land.
VII. Epilogue. Under the Blessing of Your Psyche Wings
Though I have found you like a snow-drop pale,
On sunny days have found you weak and still,
Though I have often held your girlish head
Drooped on my shoulder, faint from little ill: --
Under the blessing of your Psyche-wings
I hide to-night like one small broken bird,
So soothed I half-forget the world gone mad: --
And all the winds of war are now unheard.
My heaven-doubting pennons feel your hands
With touch most delicate so circling round,
That for an hour I dream that God is good.
And in your shadow, Mercy's ways abound.
I thought myself the guard of your frail state,
And yet I come to-night a helpless guest,
Hiding beneath your giant Psyche-wings,
Against the pallor of your wondrous breast.
[End of original text.]
Nicholas Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931):
(Vachel is pronounced Vay-chul, that is, it rhymes with `Rachel').
"The Eagle that is Forgotten" and "The Congo" are two of his best-known poems,
and appear in his first two volumes of verse, "General William Booth
Enters into Heaven" (1913) and "The Congo" (1914).
Lindsay himself considered his drawings and his prose writings
to be as important as his verse, all coming together to form a whole.
His "Collected Poems" (1925) gives a good selection.
From an anthology of verse by Jessie B. Rittenhouse (1913, 1917):
"Lindsay, Vachel. Born November 10, 1879. Educated at Hiram College, Ohio.
He took up the study of art and studied at the Art Institute, Chicago,
1900-03 and at the New York School of Art, 1904-05. For a time
after his technical study, he lectured upon art in its practical relation
to the community, and returning to his home in Springfield, Illinois,
issued what one might term his manifesto in the shape of
"The Village Magazine", divided about equally between prose articles,
pertaining to beautifying his native city, and poems,
illustrated by his own drawings. Soon after this, Mr. Lindsay,
taking as scrip for the journey, "Rhymes to be Traded for Bread",
made a pilgrimage on foot through several Western States
going as far afield as New Mexico. The story of this journey is given
in his volume, "Adventures while Preaching the Gospel of Beauty".
Mr. Lindsay first attracted attention in poetry by "General William Booth
Enters into Heaven", a poem which became the title of his first volume,
in 1913. His second volume was "The Congo", published in 1914.
He is attempting to restore to poetry its early appeal as a spoken art,
and his later work differs greatly from the selections contained
in this anthology."