The Congo and Other Poems: Part 18

This is the sin against the Holy Ghost:-- To speak of b.l.o.o.d.y power as right divine, And call on G.o.d 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 G.o.d 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.]

Biographical Note:

Nicholas Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931):

(Vachel is p.r.o.nounced 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 Inst.i.tute, 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, ill.u.s.trated 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 t.i.tle 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."

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