Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
The Moon is a Mirror—Twelve Poems
By Vachel Lindsay
 
A SENSE OF HUMOR
Spoken by the Author in his own person

NO man should stand before the moon,
To make sweet song thereon,
With dandified importance,
His sense of humor gone.
 
Nay, let him don the motley cap,        5
The jester’s chastened mien,
If he would woo that looking-glass
And see what should be seen.
 
O mirror on fair Heaven’s wall!
We find there what we bring;        10
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, and merry friendly things        15
Throw kisses through the glass.
 
THE SOUL OF THE GAMBLER

Where now the huts are empty,
Where never a camp-fire glows,
In an abandoned cañon
A gambler’s ghost arose.        20
 
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        25
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.        30
I’d bet my moon against His stars,
And gamble for the Sun.”
 
WHAT THE MINER IN THE DESERT SAID

The moon’s a brazen water-keg,
A wondrous water-feast.
If I could climb the sands and drink        35
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,        40
 
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.
 
WHAT THE MOON SAW

Two statesmen met by moonlight;
        45
Their ease was partly feigned.
They glanced about the prairie,
Their faces were constrained.
 
In various ways aforetime
They had misled the state,        50
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 …        55
Next day the deadlock broke.
 
THE MOON IS COMPARED TO A CITY
What the Tired Reformer Said

The moon’s a perfect city, with
Curved walls encompassed round;
With yellow palaces upreared
Upon a glittering ground.        60
 
Sometimes a disk, a planet dead;
But on this splendid night,
When all the sky is shining clear,
When my whole heart is light,
 
I think it is a place for friends.        65
My soul is there in mirth,
With golden-robed good-citizens,
Far from the dusty earth.
 
Hail to the perfect city then!
I love your doors and domes,        70
Your turrets and your palaces,
Your terraces, your homes.
 
THE MOON IS A KNIGHT IN ARMOR
What the Soldier Said

Oh, see the knight in armor,
Who keeps his visor down
And charges with a moon-beam spear        75
On hard hearts of the town;
 
Who makes the shabby fountain-square
A flowering, glimmering park,
Who pierces with a sharp-sweet dream
The crabbed minds and dark;        80
 
Who conquers those who see him not,
Their brooding heads bent down;
The knight whose scarcely-heeded strokes
Have cleansed and cleared the town!
 
EUCLID

Old Euclid drew a circle
        85
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        90
Of arc and of circumference,
Diameter and such.
 
A silent child stood by them
From morning until noon,
Because they drew such charming        95
Round pictures of the moon.
 
DRYING THEIR WINGS
What the Carpenter Said to the Child

The moon’s a cottage with a door—
Some folk can see it plain.
Look! You may catch a glint of light
A-sparkle through the pane,        100
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,        105
The urchins of the sky,
Drying their wings from storms and things
So they again can fly.
 
YET GENTLE WILL THE GRIFFIN BE
What Grandpa Told the Children

The Moon? It is a griffin’s egg,
Hatching tomorrow night;        110
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,        115
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.        120
 
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        125
Like every other thing,
And trembles morning, noon and night
Lest I should spring and sting.
 
THE RECREANT QUEENS
To be tied to a pebble and thrown through a palace window

The Moon’s a mirror where dim shades
Of queens are doomed to peer,        130
The beauteous queens that loved not love
Or faith or godly fear.
The night-wind makes their mirror grey.
The breath of Autumn drear,
And many mists of time and change        135
Have clouded it apace,
In mercy veiled it lest each queen
Too clearly see her face,
With long-past sins deep written there,
And ghostly rags she now must wear,        140
While slain men o’er her shoulders glare,
Leering at her disgrace.
 
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        145
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.        150
 
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        155
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,        160
And see the 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        165
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.        170
 
“The ditches must flow red, the Plague
Go stark and screaming by,
Each time the sword of God takes edge
Within the midnight sky.
 
“And those that scorned their brothers here        175
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.        180
And there beside the railroad-bridge
I saw the Wandering Jew.
 
WHAT THE YOUNG RHYMER SAID

No poet spent with visions,
Bit by the City’s teeth,
Laughing at fortune, seeking        185
Fame and the singer’s wreath,
But must grow brave this evening,
Humming a wilder tune,
Armed against men and nations.
Why? He beholds the moon!        190
 
 
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