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 Santa Fé Trail—A Humoresque
By Vachel Lindsay
 
        I asked the old negro, “What is that bird who sings so well?” He answered, “That is the Rachel-Jane.” “Hasn’t it another name—lark, or thrush, or the like?” “No, jes’ Rachel-Jane.”

I
In which a racing auto comes from the east.

This is the order of the music of the morning:
First, from the far east comes but a crooning;To be sung or read delicately to an improvised tune
The crooning turns to a sunrise singing—
Hark to the calm-horn, balm-horn, psalm-horn;
Hark to the faint-horn, quaint-horn, saint-horn….        5
 
Hark to the pace-horn, chase-horn, race-horn!To be sung or read with great speed
And the holy veil of the dawn has gone,
Swiftly the brazen car comes on.
It burns in the East as the sunrise burns—
I see great flashes where the far trail turns:        10
Its eyes are lamps, like the eyes of dragons;
It drinks gasoline from big red flagons.
Butting through the delicate mists of the morning,
It comes like lightning, goes past roaring.
It will hail all the wind-mills, taunting, ringing;        15
Dodge the cyclones,
Count the milestones,
On through the ranges the prairie-dog tills,
Scooting past the cattle on the thousand hills….
Ho for the tear-horn, scare-horn, dare-horn,        20
Ho for the gay-horn, bark-horn, bay-horn!Deliberately in a rolling bass
Ho for Kansas, land that restores us
When houses choke us, and great books bore us!
Sunrise Kansas, harvester’s Kansas—
A million men have found you before us!        25
 
II
In which many autos pass westward.

I want live things in their pride to remain.
In a deliberate narrative manner
I will not kill one grasshopper vain,
Though he eats a hole in my shirt like a door.
I let him out, give him one chance more.
Perhaps, while he gnaws my hat in his whim,        30
Grasshopper lyrics occur to him.
 
I am a tramp by the long trail’s border,
Given to squalor, rags and disorder.
I nap and amble and yawn and look,
Write fool-thoughts in my grubby book;        35
Recite to the children, explore at my ease,
WORK when I work, beg when I please;
Give crank drawings, that make folks stare,
To the half-grown boys in the sunset-glare;
And get me a place to sleep in the hay        40
At the end of a live-and-let-live day.
I find in the stubble of the new-cut weeds
A whisper and a feasting, all one needs:
The whisper of the strawberries, white and red,
Here where the new-cut weeds lie dead.        45
But I would not walk all alone till I die
Without SOME life-drunk horns going by.
Up round this apple-earth they come,
Blasting the whispers of the morning dumb:
Cars in a plain realistic row—        50
And fair dreams fade, when the raw horns blow.
On each snapping pennant
A big black name—
The careering city
Whence each car came.        55
They tour from Memphis, Atlanta, Savannah,Like a train caller in a railroad station
Tallahassee and Texarkana.
They tour from St. Louis, Columbus, Manistee;
They tour from Peoria, Davenport, Kankakee.
Cars from Concord, Niagara, Boston,        60
Cars from Topeka, Emporia and Austin;
Cars from Chicago, Hannibal, Cairo,
Cars from Alton, Oswego, Toledo;
Cars from Buffalo, Kokomo, Delphi.
Cars from Lodi, Carmi, Loami.        65
Ho for Kansas, land that restores us
When houses choke us, and great books bore us!
While I watch the highroad
And look at the sky,
While I watch the clouds in amazing grandeur        70
Roll their legions without rain
Over the blistering Kansas plain—
While I sit by the milestone
And watch the sky,
The United States        75
Goes by!
Listen to the iron horns, ripping, racking—Harshly with a snapping explosiveness
Listen to the quack horns, slack and clacking!
Way down the road, trilling like a toad,
Here comes the dice-horn, here comes the vice-horn,        80
Here comes the snarl-horn, brawl-horn, lewd-horn,
Followed by the prude-horn, bleak and squeaking.
(Some of them from Kansas, some of them from Kansas!)
Here comes the hod-horn, plod-horn, sod-horn,
Nevermore-to-roam-horn, loam-horn, home-horn,        85
(Some of them from Kansas, some of them from Kansas!)
 
        Far away the Rachel-Jane,To be read or sung well-nigh in a whisper
        Not defeated by the horns,
        Sings amid a hedge of thorns:
        “Love and life,        90
        Eternal youth
        Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet!
        Dew and glory,
        Love and truth
        Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet!”        95
 
While smoke-black freights on the double-tracked railroad,Louder and faster
Driven as though by the foul-fiend’s ox-goad,
Screaming to the west coast, screaming to the east,
Carry off a harvest, bring back a feast,
Harvesting machinery and harness for the beast.        100
The hand-cars whiz, and rattle on the rails;
The sunlight flashes on the tin dinner-pails.In a rolling bass with increasing deliberation
And then, in an instant,
Ye modern men,
Behold the procession once again!        105
 
Listen to the iron horns, ripping, racking!With a snapping explosiveness
Listen to the wise-horn, desperate-to-advise horn—
Listen to the fast-horn, kill-horn, blast-horn….
 
        Far away the Rachel-Jane,To be sung or read well-nigh in a whisper
        Not defeated by the horns,        110
        Sings amid a hedge of thorns:
        “Love and life,
        Eternal youth
        Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet!
        Dew and glory,        115
        Love and truth
        Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet!”
 
The mufflers open on a score of cars
With wonderful thunder,
CRACK, CRACK, CRACK,        120
CRACK-CRACK, CRACK-CRACK,To be brawled with a snapping explosiveness ending in a languorous chant
CRACK-CRACK-CRACK,….
Listen to the gold-horn….
Old-horn….
Cold-horn….        125
And all of the tunes, till the night comes down
On hay-stack, and ant-hill, and wind-bitten town.
 
Then far in the west, as in the beginning,To be sung to the same whispered tune as the first five lines
Dim in the distance, sweet in retreating,
Hark to the faint-horn, quaint-horn, saint-horn,        130
Hark to the calm-horn, balm-horn, psalm-horn….
 
They are hunting the goals that they understand—Beginning sonorously—ending in a languorous whisper
San Francisco, and the brown sea-sand.
My goal is the mystery the beggars win.
I am caught in the web the night-winds spin.        135
The edge of the wheat-ridge speaks to me;
I talk with the leaves of the mulberry tree.
And now I hear, as I sit all alone
In the dusk, by another big Santa-Fé stone,
The souls of the tall corn gathering round,        140
And the gay little souls of the grass in the ground.
Listen to the tale the cotton-wood tells;
Listen to the wind-mills singing o’er the wells.
Listen to the whistling flutes without price
Of myriad prophets out of Paradise….        145
 
Hearken to the wonder that the night-air carries.The same cadenced whisper as the Rachel-Jane song
Listen to the whisper
Of the prairie fairies….
Singing over the fairy plain:
“Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet!        150
Love and glory, stars and rain,
Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet!”
 
 
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