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166 Works of Vachel Lindsay

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Would I might wake St. Francis in you all, Brother of birds and trees, God’s Troubadour, Blinded with weeping for the sad and poor; Our wealth undone, all strict Franciscan men, Come, let us chant the canticle again Of mother earth and the enduring sun. God make each soul the lonely leper’s slave; God make […]

Are these your presences, my clan from Heaven? Are these your hands upon my wounded soul? Mine own, mine own, blood of my blood be with me, Fly by my path till you have made me whole!

Buddha

Story type: Poetry

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Would that by Hindu magic we became Dark monks of jeweled India long ago, Sitting at Prince Siddartha’s feet to know The foolishness of gold and love and station, The gospel of the Great Renunciation, The ragged cloak, the staff, the rain and sun, The beggar’s life, with far Nirvana gleaming: Lord, make us Buddhas, […]

I am unjust, but I can strive for justice. My life’s unkind, but I can vote for kindness. I, the unloving, say life should be lovely. I, that am blind, cry out against my blindness. Man is a curious brute–he pets his fancies– Fighting mankind, to win sweet luxury. So he will be, tho’ law […]

‘Tis not too late to build our young land right, Cleaner than Holland, courtlier than Japan, Devout like early Rome, with hearths like hers, Hearths that will recreate the breed called man.

[Written while a field-worker in the Anti-Saloon League of Illinois.] King Arthur’s men have come again. They challenge everywhere The foes of Christ’s Eternal Church. Her incense crowns the air. The heathen knighthood cower and curse To hear the bugles ring, BUT SPEARS ARE SET, THE CHARGE IS ON, WISE ARTHUR SHALL BE KING! And […]

Star Of My Heart

Story type: Poetry

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Star of my heart, I follow from afar. Sweet Love on high, lead on where shepherds are, Where Time is not, and only dreamers are. Star from of old, the Magi-Kings are dead And a foolish Saxon seeks the manger-bed. O lead me to Jehovah’s child Across this dreamland lone and wild, Then will I […]

An endless line of splendor, These troops with heaven for home, With creeds they go from Scotland, With incense go from Rome. These, in the name of Jesus, Against the dark gods stand, They gird the earth with valor, They heed their King’s command. Onward the line advances, Shaking the hills with power, Slaying the […]

Heart Of God

Story type: Poetry

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O great heart of God, Once vague and lost to me, Why do I throb with your throb to-night, In this land, eternity? O little heart of God, Sweet intruding stranger, You are laughing in my human breast, A Christ-child in a manger. Heart, dear heart of God, Beside you now I kneel, Strong heart […]

At Mass

Story type: Poetry

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No doubt to-morrow I will hide My face from you, my King. Let me rejoice this Sunday noon, And kneel while gray priests sing. It is not wisdom to forget. But since it is my fate Fill thou my soul with hidden wine To make this white hour great. My God, my God, this marvelous […]

Look you, I’ll go pray, My shame is crying, My soul is gray and faint, My faith is dying. Look you, I’ll go pray– “Sweet Mary, make me clean, Thou rainstorm of the soul, Thou wine from worlds unseen.”

The Empty Boats

Story type: Poetry

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Why do I see these empty boats, sailing on airy seas? One haunted me the whole night long, swaying with every breeze, Returning always near the eaves, or by the skylight glass: There it will wait me many weeks, and then, at last, will pass. Each soul is haunted by a ship in which that […]

I saw Lord Buddha towering by my gate Saying: “Once more, good youth, I stand and wait.” Saying: “I bring you my fair Law of Peace And from your withering passion full release; Release from that white hand that stabbed you so. The road is calling. With the wind you go, Forgetting her imperious disdain– […]

The Gamblers

Story type: Poetry

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Life’s a jail where men have common lot. Gaunt the one who has, and who has not. All our treasures neither less nor more, Bread alone comes thro’ the guarded door. Cards are foolish in this jail, I think, Yet they play for shoes, for drabs and drink. She, my lawless, sharp-tongued gypsy maid Will […]

Even the shrewd and bitter, Gnarled by the old world’s greed, Cherished the stranger softly Seeing his utter need. Shelter and patient hearing, These were their gifts to him, To the minstrel, grimly begging As the sunset-fire grew dim. The rich said “You are welcome.” Yea, even the rich were good. How strange that in […]

On the road to nowhere What wild oats did you sow When you left your father’s house With your cheeks aglow? Eyes so strained and eager To see what you might see? Were you thief or were you fool Or most nobly free? Were the tramp-days knightly, True sowing of wild seed? Did you dare […]

In this, the City of my Discontent, Sometimes there comes a whisper from the grass, “Romance, Romance–is here. No Hindu town Is quite so strange. No Citadel of Brass By Sinbad found, held half such love and hate; No picture-palace in a picture-book Such webs of Friendship, Beauty, Greed and Fate!” In this, the City […]

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 […]

Incense

Story type: Poetry

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Think not that incense-smoke has had its day. My friends, the incense-time has but begun. Creed upon creed, cult upon cult shall bloom, Shrine after shrine grow gray beneath the sun. And mountain-boulders in our aged West Shall guard the graves of hermits truth-endowed: And there the scholar from the Chinese hills Shall do deep […]

The wide Pacific waters And the Atlantic meet. With cries of joy they mingle, In tides of love they greet. Above the drowned ages A wind of wooing blows:– The red rose woos the lotos, The lotos woos the rose . . . The lotos conquered Egypt. The rose was loved in Rome. Great India […]

The Drunkards in the street are calling one another, Heeding not the night-wind, great of heart and gay,– Publicans and wantons– Calling, laughing, calling, While the Spirit bloweth Space and Time away. Why should I feel the sobbing, the secrecy, the glory, This comforter, this fitful wind divine? I the cautious Pharisee, the scribe, the […]

The Trap

Story type: Poetry

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She was taught desire in the street, Not at the angels’ feet. By the good no word was said Of the worth of the bridal bed. The secret was learned from the vile, Not from her mother’s smile. Home spoke not. And the girl Was caught in the public whirl. Do you say “She gave […]

Climbing the heights of Berkeley Nightly I watch the West. There lies new San Francisco, Sea-maid in purple dressed, Wearing a dancer’s girdle All to inflame desire: Scorning her days of sackcloth, Scorning her cleansing fire. See, like a burning city Sets now the red sun’s dome. See, mystic firebrands sparkle There on each store […]

[During an anti-saloon campaign, in central Illinois.] In the midst of the battle I turned, (For the thunders could flourish without me) And hid by a rose-hung wall, Forgetting the murder about me; And wrote, from my wound, on the stone, In mirth, half prayer, half play:– “Send me a picture book, Send me a […]

Where is David? . . . O God’s people, Saul has passed, the good and great. Mourn for Saul the first-anointed– Head and shoulders o’er the state. He was found among the Prophets: Judge and monarch, merged in one. But the wars of Saul are ended And the works of Saul are done. Where is […]

We are the smirched. Queen Honor is the spotless. We slept thro’ wars where Honor could not sleep. We were faint-hearted. Honor was full-valiant. We kept a silence Honor could not keep. Yet this late day we make a song to praise her. We, codeless, will yet vindicate her code. She who was mighty, walks […]

Kiss me and comfort my heart Maiden honest and fine. I am the pilgrim boy Lame, but hunting the shrine; Fleeing away from the sweets, Seeking the dust and rain, Sworn to the staff and road, Scorning pleasure and pain; Nevertheless my mouth Would rest like a bird an hour And find in your curls […]

Who Knows?

Story type: Poetry

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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 […]

A Curse For Kings

Story type: Poetry

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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 […]

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 […]

To Buddha

Story type: Poetry

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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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

[To be sung to the tune of ‘The Blood of the Lamb’ with indicated instrument] I [Bass drum beaten loudly.] Booth led boldly with his big bass drum– (Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?) The Saints smiled gravely and they said: “He’s come.” (Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?) […]

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 […]

(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 […]

The Spice-Tree

Story type: Poetry

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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, Burning maidens 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 […]

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, […]

“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 […]

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 […]

(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, […]

(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.

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 […]

The Encyclopaedia

Story type: Poetry

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“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.”

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 […]

(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 […]

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. […]

(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 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.

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Euclid

Story type: Poetry

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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 […]

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.

(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 And blow. 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 […]

(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!

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.

(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 […]

(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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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. […]

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, […]

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.

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 […]

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.

Parvenu

Story type: Poetry

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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.

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.

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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, […]

(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 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 […]

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 […]

The Grasshopper, the grasshopper, I will explain to you:– He is the Brownies’ racehorse, The fairies’ Kangaroo.

The Lion

Story type: Poetry

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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.

A Broadside distributed in Springfield, Illinois Censers are swinging Over the town; Censers are swinging, Look overhead! Censers are swinging, Heaven comes down. City, dead city, Awake from the dead! Censers, tremendous, Gleam overhead. Wind-harps are ringing, Wind-harps unseen– Calling and calling:– “Wake from the dead. Rise, little city, Shine like a queen.” Soldiers of […]

I went down into the desert To meet Elijah– Arisen from the dead. I thought to find him in an echoing cave; For so my dream had said. I went down into the desert To meet John the Baptist. I walked with feet that bled, Seeking that prophet lean and brown and bold. I spied […]

Sometimes we remember kisses, Remember the dear heart-leap when they came: Not always, but sometimes we remember The kindness, the dumbness, the good flame Of laughter and farewell. Beside the road Afar from those who said “Good-by” I write, Far from my city task, my lawful load. Sun in my face, wind beside my shoulder, […]

I 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; […]

Love And Law

Story type: Poetry

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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 […]

The Amaranth

Story type: Poetry

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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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

The angels guide him now, And watch his curly head, And lead him in their games, The little boy we led. He cannot come to harm, He knows more than we know, His light is brighter far Than daytime here below. His path leads on and on, Through pleasant lawns and flowers, His brown eyes […]

I look on the specious electrical light Blatant, mechanical, crawling and white, Wickedly red or malignantly green Like the beads of a young Senegambian queen. Showing, while millions of souls hurry on, The virtues of collars, from sunset till dawn, By dart or by tumble of whirl within whirl, Starting new fads for the shame-weary […]

Incense and Splendor haunt me as I go. Though my good works have been, alas, too few, Though I do naught, High Heaven comes down to me, And future ages pass in tall review. I see the years to come as armies vast, Stalking tremendous through the fields of time. MAN is unborn. To-morrow he […]

The Leaden-Eyed

Story type: Poetry

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Let not young souls be smothered out before They do quaint deeds and fully flaunt their pride. It is the world’s one crime its babes grow dull, Its poor are ox-like, limp and leaden-eyed. Not that they starve, but starve so dreamlessly, Not that they sow, but that they seldom reap, Not that they serve, […]

A Poem Dedicated to All Crusaders against the International and Interstate Traffic in Young Girls Galahad… soldier that perished… ages ago, Our hearts are breaking with shame, our tears overflow. Galahad… knight who perished… awaken again, Teach us to fight for immaculate ways among men. Soldiers fantastic, we pray to the star of the sea, […]

There dwelt a widow learned and devout, Behind our hamlet on the eastern hill. Three sons she had, who went to find the world. They promised to return, but wandered still. The cities used them well, they won their way, Rich gifts they sent, to still their mother’s sighs. Worn out with honors, and apart […]

(In the Beginning) The sun is a huntress young, The sun is a red, red joy, The sun is an Indian girl, Of the tribe of the Illinois. (Mid-morning) The sun is a smouldering fire, That creeps through the high gray plain, And leaves not a bush of cloud To blossom with flowers of rain. […]

A chant to which it is intended a group of children shall dance and improvise pantomime led by their dancing-teacher. I A master deep-eyed Ere his manhood was ripe, He sang like a thrush, He could play any pipe. So dull in the school That he scarcely could spell, He read but a bit, And […]

To be intoned, all but the two italicized lines, which are to be spoken in a snappy, matter-of-fact way. Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong. Here lies a kitten good, who kept A kitten’s proper place. He stole no pantry eatables, Nor scratched the baby’s face. He let the alley-cats alone. He had no yowling vice. His shirt […]

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 […]

Written for Lorado Taft’s Statue of Black Hawk at Oregon, Illinois To be given in the manner of the Indian Oration and the Indian War-Cry. Hawk of the Rocks, Yours is our cause to-day. Watching your foes Here in our war array, Young men we stand, Wolves of the West at bay. Power, power for […]

Yankee Doodle

Story type: Poetry

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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 […]

(The poem shows the Master, with his work done, singing to free his heart in Heaven.) This poem is intended to be half said, half sung, very softly, to the well-known tune:– “Last night I lay a-sleeping, There came a dream so fair, I stood in Old Jerusalem Beside the temple there,–” etc. Yet this […]

An Argument for the Maintenance of Peace and Goodwill with the Japanese People Glossary for the uninstructed and the hasty: Jimmu Tenno, ancestor of all the Japanese Emperors; Nikko, Japan’s loveliest shrine; Iyeyasu, her greatest statesman; Bushido, her code of knighthood; The Forty-seven Ronins, her classic heroes; Nogi, her latest hero; Fuji, her most beautiful […]

We find your soft Utopias as white As new-cut bread, and dull as life in cells, O, scribes who dare forget how wild we are How human breasts adore alarum bells. You house us in a hive of prigs and saints Communal, frugal, clean and chaste by law. I’d rather brood in bloody Elsinore Or […]

I. Their Basic Savagery Fat black bucks in a wine-barrel room, Barrel-house kings, with feet unstable, [# A deep rolling bass. #] Sagged and reeled and pounded on the table, 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 […]

(A Humoresque) I asked the old Negro, “What is that bird that sings so well?” He answered: “That is the Rachel-Jane.” “Hasn’t it another name, lark, or thrush, or the like?” “No. Jus’ Rachel-Jane.” I. In which a Racing Auto comes from the East [# To be sung delicately, to an improvised tune. #] This […]

Section One “Give the engines room, Give the engines room.” Louder, faster The little band-master Whips up the fluting, Hurries up the tooting. He thinks that he stands, [# To be read, or chanted, with the heavy buzzing bass of fire-engines pumping. #] The reins in his hands, In the fire-chief’s place In the night […]

Beyond The Moon

Story type: Poetry

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[Written to the Most Beautiful Woman in the World] My Sweetheart is the TRUTH BEYOND THE MOON,And never have I been in love with Woman,Always aspiring to be set in tuneWith one who is invisible, inhuman. O laughing girl, cold TRUTH has stepped between,Spoiling the fevers of your virgin face:Making your shining eyes but lead […]

The Proud Farmer

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Into the acres of the newborn stateHe poured his strength, and plowed his ancient name,And, when the traders followed him, he stoodTowering above their furtive souls and tame. That brow without a stain, that fearless eyeOft left the passing stranger wonderingTo find such knighthood in the sprawling land,To see a democrat well-nigh a king. He […]

Down, down beneath the daisy beds,O hear the cries of pain!And moaning on the cinder-pathThey’re blind amid the rain.Can murmurs of the worms ariseTo higher hearts than mine?I wonder if that gardener hearsWho made the mold all fineAnd packed each gentle seedling downSo carefully in line? I watched the red rose reaching upTo ask him […]

Let not our town be large, rememberingThat little Athens was the Muses’ home,That Oxford rules the heart of London still,That Florence gave the Renaissance to Rome. Record it for the grandson of your son–A city is not builded in a day:Our little town cannot complete her soulTill countless generations pass away. Now let each child […]

O you who lose the art of hope,Whose temples seem to shrine a lie,Whose sidewalks are but stones of fear,Who weep that Liberty must die,Turn to the little prairie towns,Your higher hope shall yet begin.On every side awaits you thereSome gate where glory enters in. Yet when I see the flocks of girls,Watching the Sunday […]

Caught In A Net

Story type: Poetry

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Upon her breast her hands and hairWere tangled all together.The moon of June forbade me not–The golden night time weatherIn balmy sighs commanded meTo kiss them like a feather. Her looming hair, her burning hands,Were tangled black and white.My face I buried there. I pray–So far from her to-night–For grace, to dream I kiss her […]

Genesis

Story type: Poetry

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I was but a half-grown boy,You were a girl-child slight.Ah, how weary you were!You had led in the bullock-fight . . .We slew the bullock at lengthWith knives and maces of stone.And so your feet were torn,Your lean arms bruised to the bone. Perhaps ’twas the slain beast’s bloodWe drank, or a root we ate,Or […]

Eden In Winter

Story type: Poetry

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[Supposed to be chanted to some rude instrument at a modern fireplace] Chant we the story nowTho’ in a house we sleep;Tho’ by a hearth of coalsVigil to-night we keep.Chant we the story now,Of the vague love we knewWhen I from out the seaRose to the feet of you. Bird from the cliffs you came,Flew […]

Once I loved a fairy,Queen Mab it was. Her voiceWas like a little FountainThat 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 meOr walk the hills of air,Awakened love’s deep pulsesAnd boyhood’s first despair;A passion like a sword-bladeThat […]

[How different people and different animals look upon the moon:showing that each creature finds in it his own mood and disposition] The Old Horse in the City The moon’s a peck of corn. It liesHeaped up for me to eat.I wish that I might climb the pathAnd taste that supper sweet. Men feed me straw […]

The Dandelion

Story type: Poetry

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O dandelion, rich and haughty,King of village flowers!Each day is coronation time,You have no humble hours.I like to see you bring a troopTo beat the blue-grass spears,To scorn the lawn-mower that would beLike fate’s triumphant shears.Your yellow heads are cut away,It seems your reign is o’er.By noon you raise a sea of starsMore golden than […]

[What the Man of Faith said] The dew, the rain and moonlightAll prove our Father’s mind.The dew, the rain and moonlightDescend to bless mankind. Come, let us see that all menHave land to catch the rain,Have grass to snare the spheres of dew,And fields spread for the grain. Yea, we would give to each poor […]

“Down cellar,” said the cricket,“I saw a ball last nightIn honor of a ladyWhose wings were pearly-white.The breath of bitter weatherHad smashed the cellar pane:We entertained a drift of leavesAnd then of snow and rain.But we were dressed for winter,And loved to hear it blowIn honor of the ladyWho makes potatoes grow–Our guest, the Irish […]

Ah, she was music in herself,A symphony of joyousness.She sang, she sang from finger tips,From every tremble of her dress.I saw sweet haunting harmony,An ecstasy, an ecstasy,In that strange curling of her lips,That happy curling of her lips.And quivering with melodyThose eyes I saw, that tossing head. And so I saw what music was,Tho’ still […]

[Written for a picture] The Youth speaks:–“Why do you seek the sunIn your bubble-crown ascending?Your chariot will melt to mist.Your crown will have an ending.” The Goddess replies:–“Nay, sun is but a bubble,Earth is a whiff of foam–To my caves on the coast of ThuleEach night I call them home.Thence Faiths blow forth to angelsAnd […]

Ghosts In Love

Story type: Poetry

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“Tell me, where do ghosts in loveFind their bridal veils?” “If you and I were ghosts in loveWe’d climb the cliffs of Mystery,Above the sea of Wails.I’d trim your gray and streaming hairWith veils of FantasyFrom the tree of Memory.‘Tis there the ghosts that fall in loveFind their bridal veils.”

Sweetheart Spring Our Sweetheart, Spring, came softly,Her gliding hands were fire,Her lilac breath upon our cheeksConsumed us with desire. By her our God began to build,Began to sow and till.He laid foundations in our lovesFor every good and ill.We asked Him not for blessing,We asked Him not for pain–Still, to the just and unjustHe sent […]

[A Poem for Aviators] How the Wings Were Made From many morning-gloriesThat in an hour will fade,From many pansy budsGathered in the shade,From lily of the valleyAnd dandelion buds,From fiery poppy-budsAre the Wings of the Morning made. The Indian Girl Who Made Them These, the Wings of the Morning,An Indian Maiden wove,Intertwining subtilelyWands from a […]

The Sorceress!

Story type: Poetry

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I asked her, “Is Aladdin’s lampHidden anywhere?”“Look into your heart,” she said,“Aladdin’s lamp is there.” She took my heart with glowing hands.It burned to dust and airAnd smoke and rolling thistledownBlowing everywhere. “Follow the thistledown,” she said,“Till doomsday, if you dare,Over the hills and far away.Aladdin’s lamp is there.”

[John P. Altgeld. Born Dec. 30, 1847; died March 12, 1902] Sleep softly * * * eagle forgotten * * * under the stone.Time has its way with you there, and the clay has its own. “We have buried him now,” thought your foes, and in secret rejoiced.They made a brave show of their mourning, […]

Michelangelo

Story type: Poetry

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Would I might wake in you the whirl-wind soulOf Michelangelo, who hewed the stoneAnd Night and Day revealed, whose arm aloneCould draw the face of God, the titan highWhose genius smote like lightning from the sky–And shall he mold like dead leaves in the grave?Nay he is in us! Let us dare and dare.God help […]

The Cornfields

Story type: Poetry

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The cornfields rise above mankind,Lifting white torches to the blue,Each season not ashamed to beMagnificently decked for you. What right have you to call them yours,And in brute lust of riches burnWithout some radiant penance wrought,Some beautiful, devout return?

Titian

Story type: Poetry

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Would that such hills and cities round us sang,Such vistas of the actual earth and manAs kindled Titian when his life began;Would that this latter Greek could put his gold,Wisdom and splendor in our brushes boldTill Greece and Venice, children of the sun,Become our every-day, and we aspireTo colors fairer far, and glories higher.

[This is the hymn to Eleanor, daughter of Mab and a golden drone, sung by the Locust choir when the fairy child marries her God, the yellow rose] This is a song to the white-armed oneCold in the breast as the frost-wrapped Spring,Whose feet are slow on the hills of life,Whose round mouth rules by […]

We are happy all the timeEven when we fight:Sweet briars of the stairways,Gay fairies of the grime;WE, WHO ARE PLAYING TO-NIGHT. “Our feet are in the gutters,Our eyes are sore with dust,But still our eyes are bright.The wide street roars and mutters–We know it works because it must–WE, WHO ARE PLAYING TO-NIGHT! “Dirt is everlasting.– […]

[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 pressWhose slangy tongue and insolent addressWere spiced to rouse on Sunday afternoonThe man with yellow journals round him strewn.We […]

The following verses were written on the evening of March 1, 1911, and printed next morning in the Illinois State Register. They celebrate the arrival of the news that the United States Senate had declared the election of William Lorimer good and valid, by a vote of forty-six to forty. [Revelation 16: Verses 16-19] And […]

[Concerning Edgar Allan Poe] Who now will praise the Wizard in the streetWith loyal songs, with humors grave and sweet–This Jingle-man, of strolling players born,Whom holy folk have hurried by in scorn,This threadbare jester, neither wise nor good,With melancholy bells upon his hood? The hurrying great ones scorn his Raven’s croak,And well may mock his […]

(A Negro Sermon.) Once, in a night as black as ink,She drove him out when he would not drink.Round the house there were men in waitAsleep in rows by the Gaza gate.But the Holy Spirit was in this man.Like a gentle wind he crept and ran.(“It is midnight,” said the big town clock.) He lifted […]

I “Down cellar,” said the cricket,“Down cellar,” said the cricket,“Down cellar,” said the cricket,“I saw a ball last night,In honor of a lady,In honor of a lady,In honor of a lady,Whose wings were pearly-white.The breath of bitter weather,The breath of bitter weather,The breath of bitter weather,Had smashed the cellar pane.We entertained a drift of leaves,We […]

To Lady Jane

Story type: Poetry

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Romance was always young.You come todayJust eight years oldWith marvellous dark hair.Younger than Dante found youWhen you turnedHis heart into the wayThat found the heavenly stair. Perhaps we must be strangers.I confessMy soul this hour is Dante’s,And your careShould be for dollsWhose painted hands caressYour marvellous dark hair. Romance, with moonflower faceAnd morning eyes,And lips […]

I know a seraph who has golden eyes,And hair of gold, and body like the snow.Here in the wind I dream her unbound hairIs blowing round me, that desire’s sweet glowHas touched her pale keen face, and willful mien.And though she steps as one in manner bornTo tread the forests of fair Paradise,Dark memory’s wood […]

The King of Yellow Butterflies,The King of Yellow Butterflies,The King of Yellow Butterflies,Now orders forth his men.He says “The time is almost hereWhen violets bloom again.”Adown the road the fickle routGoes flashing proud and bold,Adown the road the fickle routGoes flashing proud and bold,Adown the road the fickle routGoes flashing proud and bold,They shiver by […]

Oh, once I walked in Heaven, all aloneUpon the sacred cliffs above the sky.God and the angels, and the gleaming saintsHad journeyed out into the stars to die. They had gone forth to win far citizens,Bought at great price, bring happiness for all:By such a harvest make a holier townAnd put new life within old […]

(To Eudora, after I had had certain dire adventures.) When Dragon-fly would fix his wings,When Snail would patch his house,When moths have marred the overcoatOf tender Mister Mouse, The pretty creatures go with hasteTo the sunlit blue-grass hillsWhere the Flower of Mending yields the waxAnd webs to help their ills. The hour the coats are […]

A little colt–broncho, loaned to the farmTo be broken in time without fury or harm,Yet black crows flew past you, shouting alarm,Calling “Beware,” with lugubrious singing …The butterflies there in the bush were romancing,The smell of the grass caught your soul in a trance,So why be a-fearing the spurs and the traces,O broncho that would […]

Last night at black midnight I woke with a cry,The windows were shaking, there was thunder on high,The floor was a-tremble, the door was a-jar,White fires, crimson fires, shone from afar.I rushed to the door yard. The city was gone.My home was a hut without orchard or lawn.It was mud-smear and logs near a whispering […]

(To Edgar Lee Masters, with great respect.) Here upon the prairieIs our ancestral hall.Agate is the dome,Cornelian the wall.Ghouls are in the cellar,But fays upon the stairs.And here lived old King Silver Dreams,Always at his prayers. Here lived grey Queen Silver Dreams,Always singing psalms,And haughty Grandma Silver Dreams,Throned with folded palms.Here played cousin Alice.Her soul […]

The Raft

Story type: Poetry

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The whole world on a raft! A King is here,The record of his grandeur but a smear.Is it his deacon-beard, or old bald pateThat makes the band upon his whims to wait?Loot and mud-honey have his soul defiled.Quack, pig, and priest, he drives camp-meetings wildUntil they shower their pennies like spring rainThat he may preach […]

“Yes,” said the sister with the little pinched face,The busy little sister with the funny little tract:–“This is the climax, the grand fifth act.There rides the proud, at the finish of his race.There goes the hearse, the mourners cry,The respectable hearse goes slowly by.The wife of the dead has money in her purse,The children are […]

Two Old Crows

Story type: Poetry

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Two old crows sat on a fence rail,Two old crows sat on a fence rail,Thinking of effect and cause,Of weeds and flowers,And nature’s laws.One of them muttered, one of them stuttered,One of them stuttered, one of them muttered.Each of them thought far more than he uttered.One crow asked the other crow a riddle.One crow asked […]

(Being a Chant of the American Soap-Box and the Russian Revolution.) O market square, O slattern place,Is glory in your slack disgrace?Plump quack doctors sell their pills,Gentle grafters sell brass watches,Silly anarchists yell their ills.Shall we be as weird as these?In the breezes nod and wheeze? Heaven’s mass is sung,Tomorrow’s mass is sungIn a spirit […]

I opened the ink-well and smoke filled the room.The smoke formed the giant frog-cat of my doom.His web feet left dreadful slime tracks on the floor.He had hammer and nails that he laid by the door.He sprawled on the table, claw-hands in my hair.He looked through my heart to the mud that was there.Like a […]

Where a river roars in rapidsAnd doves in maples fret,Where peace has decked the pasturesOur guardian angels met. Long they had sought each otherIn God’s mysterious name,Had climbed the solemn chaos tidesAlone, with hope aflame: Amid the demon deeps had woundBy many a fearful way.As they beheld each otherTheir shout made glad the day. No […]

In “Man’s Genesis”, “The Wild Girl of the Sierras”, “The Wharf Rat”, “A Girl of the Paris Streets”, etc. I The arts are old, old as the stonesFrom which man carved the sphinx austere.Deep are the days the old arts bring:Ten thousand years of yesteryear. II She is madonna in an artAs wild and young […]

I. Edwin Booth An old actor at the Player’s Club told me that Edwin Booth first impersonated Hamlet when a barnstormer in California. There were few theatres, but the hotels were provided with crude assembly rooms for strolling players. The youth played in the blear hotel.The rafters gleamed with glories strange.And winds of mourning ElsinoreHowling […]

The Merciful Hand

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Written to Miss Alice L. F. Fitzgerald, Edith Cavell memorial nurse, going to the front. Your fine white hand is Heaven’s giftTo cure the wide world, stricken sore,Bleeding at the breast and head,Tearing at its wounds once more. Your white hand is a prophecy,A living hope that Christ shall comeAnd make the nations merciful,Hating the […]

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 […]

I. God Send the Regicide Would that the lying rulers of the worldWere brought to block for tyrannies abhorred.Would that the sword of Cromwell and the Lord,The sword of Joshua and Gideon,Hewed hip and thigh the hosts of Midian.God send that ironside ere tomorrow’s sun;Let Gabriel and Michael with him ride.God send the Regicide. II. […]

(Note:–Pocahontas is buried at Gravesend, England.) “Pocahontas’ body, lovely as a poplar, sweet asa red haw in November or a pawpaw in May–didshe wonder? does she remember–in the dust–inthe 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 strokeAnd the […]

When Yankee soldiers reach the barricadeThen Joan of Arc gives each the accolade. For she is there in armor clad, today,All the young poets of the wide world say. Which of our freemen did she greet the first,Seeing him come against the fires accurst? Mark Twain, our Chief, with neither smile nor jest,Leading to war […]

“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 […]

(Matthew 5:38-48) Who can surrender to Christ, dividing his best with the stranger,Giving to each what he asks, braving the uttermost dangerAll for the enemy, MAN? Who can surrender till deathHis words and his works, his house and his lands,His eyes and his heart and his breath? Who can surrender to Christ? Many have yearned […]

When Bryan Speaks

Story type: Poetry

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When Bryan speaks, the town’s a hive.From miles around, the autos drive.The sparrow chirps. The rooster crows.The place is kicking and alive. When Bryan speaks, the bunting glows.The raw procession onward flows.The small dogs bark. The children laughA wind of springtime fancy blows. When Bryan speaks, the wigwam shakes.The corporation magnate quakes.The pre-convention plot is […]

(Written with the hope that the socialists might yet dethrone Kaiser and Czar.) Here’s to the mice that scare the lions,Creeping into their cages.Here’s to the fairy mice that biteThe elephants fat and wise:Hidden in the hay-pile while the elephant thunder rages.Here’s to the scurrying, timid miceThrough whom the proud cause dies. Here’s to the […]

Two Poems, written on the Sinking of the Lusitania.Appearing in the Chicago ‘Herald’, May 11, 1915. I. Speak Now for Peace Lady of Light, and our best woman, and queen,Stand now for peace, (though anger breaks your heart),Though naught but smoke and flame and drowning is seen. Lady of Light, speak, though you speak alone,Though […]

Oh, gipsies, proud and stiff-necked and perverse,Saying: “We tell the fortunes of the nations,And revel in the deep palm of the world.The head-line is the road we choose for trade.The love-line is the lane wherein we camp.The life-line is the road we wander on.Mount Venus, Jupiter, and all the restAre finger-tips of ranges clasping roundAnd […]

IN PRAISE OF JOHNNY APPLESEED[1] ( Born 1775. Died 1847 ) [Footnote 1: The best account of John Chapman’s career, under the name “Johnny Appleseed,” is to be found in Harper’s Monthly Magazine, November, 1871.] I. ~Over the Appalachian Barricade~ [Sidenote: To be read like old leaves on the elm tree of Time. Sifting soft […]