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.
 
Booker Washington Trilogy
By Vachel Lindsay
 
A Memorial to Booker T. Washington

I  A NEGRO SERMON—SIMON LEGREE

(To be read in your own variety of negro dialect)

LEGREE’S big house was white and green.
His cotton-fields were the best to be seen.
He kept strong horses and fine swine.
He had cool jugs of cider and wine.
His garret was full of curious things:        5
Books of magic, bags of gold,
And rabbits’ feet on long twine strings.
  But he went down to the Devil.
 
Legree he sported a brass-buttoned coat,
A snake-skin necktie, a blood-red shirt.        10
Legree he had a beard like a goat,
And a thick hairy neck and eyes like dirt.
His puffed-out cheeks were fish-belly white,
He had great long teeth and an appetite.
He ate raw meat ’most every meal,        15
And rolled his eyes till the cat would squeal.
His fist was an enormous size
To mash poor niggers that told him lies:
He was surely a witch-man in disguise.
  But he went down to the Devil.        20
 
He wore hip-boots, and would wade all day
To capture his slaves who had fled away.
  But he went down to the Devil.
 
He beat kind Uncle Tom to death,
Who prayed for Legree with his parting breath.        25
Then Uncle Tom to Eva flew,
To the high sanctoriums bright and new;
And Simon Legree stared up beneath,
And cracked his heels, and ground his teeth:
  And went down to the Devil.        30
 
He crossed the yard in the storm and gloom;
He went into his grand front room.
He said, “I killed him, and I don’t care.”
He kicked a hound, he gave a swear;
He tightened his belt, he took a lamp,        35
Went down cellar to the webs and damp.
There in the middle of the mouldy floor
He heaved up a slab, he found a door—
  And went down to the Devil.
 
His lamp blew out, but his eyes burned bright.        40
Simon Legree stepped down all night—
Down, down to the devil.
Simon Legree he reached the place,
He saw one half of the human race;
He saw the Devil on a wide green throne,        45
Gnawing the meat from a big ham-bone,
And he said to Mister Devil:
 
  “I see that you have much to eat—
  A raw ham-bone is surely sweet.
  I see that you have lion’s feet;        50
  I see your frame is fat and fine,
  I see you drink your poison wine—
  Blood and burning turpentine.”
 
  And the Devil said to Simon Legree:
  “I like your style, so wicked and free.        55
  Come sit and share my throne with me,
  And let us bark and revel.”
  And there they sit and gnash their teeth,
  And each one wears a hop-vine wreath.
  They are matching pennies and shooting craps,        60
  They are playing poker and taking naps.
  And old Legree is fat and fine:
  He eats the fire, he drinks the wine—
  Blood and burning turpentine—
    Down, down with the Devil;        65
      Down, down with the Devil;
        Down, down with the Devil.
 
II  JOHN BROWN

  (To be sung by a leader and chorus, the leader singing the body of the poem while the chorus interrupts with the question.)

I’ve been to Palestine.
    What did you see in Palestine?
I saw the Ark of Noah—        70
It was made of pitch and pine.
I saw old Father Noah
Asleep beneath his vine.
I saw Shem, Ham and Japhet
Standing in a line.        75
I saw the tower of Babel
In a gorgeous sunrise shine—
By a weeping-willow tree
Beside the Dead Sea.
 
I’ve been to Palestine.        80
    What did you see in Palestine?
I saw abominations
And Gadarene swine.
I saw the sinful Canaanites
Upon the shewbread dine,        85
And spoil the temple vessels
And drink the temple wine.
I saw Lot’s wife, a pillar of salt
Standing in the brine—
By a weeping-willow tree        90
Beside the Dead Sea.
 
I’ve been to Palestine.
    What did you see in Palestine?
Cedars on Mount Lebanon,
Gold in Ophir’s mine,        95
And a wicked generation
Seeking for a sign;
And Baal’s howling worshippers
Their god with leaves entwine.
And …        100
I SAW THE WAR-HORSE RAMPING
AND SHAKE HIS FORELOCK FINE
By a weeping-willow tree
Beside the Dead Sea.
 
I’ve been to Palestine.        105
    What did you see in Palestine?
Old John Brown,
Old John Brown.
I saw his gracious wife
Dressed in a homespun gown.        110
I saw his seven sons
Before his feet bow down.
And he marched with his seven sons,
His wagons and goods and guns,
To his campfire by the sea,        115
By the waves of Galilee.
 
I’ve been to Palestine.
    What did you see in Palestine?
I saw the harp and psaltery
Played for Old John Brown.        120
I heard the Ram’s horn blow,
Blow for Old John Brown.
I saw the Bulls of Bashan—
They cheered for Old John Brown.
I saw the big Behemoth—        125
He cheered for Old John Brown.
I saw the big Leviathan—
He cheered for Old John Brown.
I saw the Angel Gabriel
Great power to him assign.        130
I saw him fight the Canaanites
And set God’s Israel free.
I saw him when the war was done
In his rustic chair recline—
By his camp-fire by the sea,        135
By the waves of Galilee.
 
I’ve been to Palestine.
    What did you see in Palestine?
Old John Brown,
Old John Brown.        140
And there he sits
To judge the world.
His hunting-dogs
At his feet are curled.
His eyes half-closed,        145
But John Brown sees
The ends of the earth,
The Day of Doom.
AND HIS SHOT-GUN LIES
ACROSS HIS KNEES        150
Old John Brown,
Old John Brown.
 
III  KING SOLOMON AND THE QUEEN OF SHEBA

  “And when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon,… she came to prove him with hard questions.”
  [This chorus is an adaptation of the tune, You shall be free when the Good Lord sets you free. It is supposed to be sung at a camp meeting of thousands of colored people, the crowd weaving and dancing and humming after their accustomed manner.]

  Interlocutor.  The Queen of Sheba came to see King Solomon.
  Men’s Leader.  I was King Solomon.
  Women’s Leader.  I was the Queen.        155
  Congregation.  YOU shall be king and queen,
      Reigning on mountains green,
      Happy and free
      For ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s.
 
  Interlocutor.  K..i..n..g … Solomon he had four hundred oxen.        160
  Field Hands.  We were the oxen.
  Congregation.  YOU shall feel goads no more,
      Walk dreadful roads no more,
      Free from your loads
      For ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s.        165
 
  Interlocutor.  K..i..n..g … Solomon he had four hundred sweethearts.
  Women’s Chorus.  We were the sweethearts.
  Congregation—(delicately).  YOU shall dance round again,
      Cymbals shall sound again,
      Wild-flowers be found        170
      For ten thousand years … y..e..a..r..s.
 
  Interlocutor.  And every sweetheart had four hundred swans.
  Women’s Chorus.  We were the swans.
  Congregation—(delicately).  YOU shall spread wings again,
      Fly in soft rings again,        175
      Swim by cool springs
      For ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s.
  Interlocutor.  K..i..n..g … S..o..l..o..m..o..n..
      K..i..n..g … S..o..l..o..m..o..n …
 
  Women’s Leader.  The Qu..een.. of Sheba asked him like a lady,        180
      Bowing most politely:
      “What makes the roses bloom
      Over the mossy tomb,
      Driving away the gloom
      Ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s?”        185
 
  Men’s Leader.  K..i..ng.. Solomon made answer to the lady,
      Bowing most politely:
      “They bloom forever thinking of your beauty,
      Your step so queenly and your eyes so lovely.
      That keeps the roses fair,        190
      Young and without a care,
      Making so sweet the air
      Ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s.
 
  Interlocutor.  King Solomon he had four hundred sons.
  Field Hands.  We were the sons.        195
  Congregation.  CROWNED by the throngs again,
      You shall make songs again,
      Singing along
      For ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s.
 
  Interlocutor.  He gave each son four hundred prancing ponies.        200
  Field Hands.  We were the ponies.
  Congregation.  YOU shall eat hay again,
      In forest play again,
      Rampage and neigh
      For ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s.        205
 
  Men’s Leader.  K..i..n..g Solomon he asked the Queen of Sheba,
      Bowing most politely:
      “What makes the oak-tree grow
      Hardy in sun and snow,
      Never by wind brought low        210
      Ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s?”
 
  Women’s Leader.  The Queen of Sheba answered like a lady,
      Bowing most politely:
      “It blooms forever thinking of your wisdom,
      Your brave heart and the way you rule your kingdom.        215
      That makes the oak secure,
      Weaving its leafy lure,
      Dreaming by fountains pure
      Ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s.”
 
  Interlocutor.  The Queen of Sheba had four hundred sailors.        220
  Field Hands.  We were the sailors.
  Congregation.  YOU shall bring spice and ore
      Over the ocean’s floor,
      Shipmates once more,
      For ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s.        225
 
  Women’s Leader—(softly).  The Queen of Sheba asked him like a lady,
      Bowing most politely:
      “Why is the sea so deep,
      What secret does it keep
      While tides a-roaring leap        230
      Ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s?”
 
  Men’s Leader—(solemnly and ornately).  K..i..n..g … Solomon made answer to the lady,
      Bowing most politely:
      “My love for you is like the stormy ocean—
      Too deep to understand,        235
      Bending to your command,
      Bringing your ships to land
      Ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s.”
 
  Interlocutor.  K..i..n..g … S..o..l..o..m..o..n.
      K..i..n..g … S..o..l..o..m..o..n.        240
  Congregation—(rapidly, with heavy accents).  The teeth of all his chiefs were set with diamonds.
  Field Hands.  We were the chieftains.
  Congregation.  YOU shall be proud again,
      Dazzle the crowd again,
      Laughing aloud        245
      For ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s.
 
  Interlocutor—(slowly and softly).  K..i..n..g Solomon he had four hundred shepherds,
  Field Hands.  We were the shepherds.
  Congregation.  YOU shall have torches bright,
      Watching the folds at night,        250
      Guarding the lambs aright
      Ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s.
 
  Men’s Leader—(loud) and Field-hand Chorus—(softly).  K..i..n..g Solomon he asked the Queen of Sheba,
      Bowing most politely:
      “Why are the stars so high,        255
      There in the velvet sky
      Rolling in rivers by
      Ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s?”
 
  Women’s Leader—(loud) and Women’s Chorus—(softly).  The Queen of Sheba answered like a lady,
      Bowing most politely:        260
      “They’re singing of your kingdom to the angels;
      They guide your chariot with their lamps and candles.
      Therefore they burn so far—
      So you can drive your car
      Up where the prophets are        265
      Ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s.”
 
  Interlocutor—(loud and full throated).  K..i..n..g … S..o..l..o..m..o..n …
      K..i..n..g … S..o..l..o..m..o..n …
      King Solomon he kept the Sabbath holy,
      And spoke with tongues in prophet-words so mighty—        270
      We stamped and whirled and wept and shouted, “Glory!”
      We were his people.
 
  Men’s and Women’s Leaders—(very softly and slowly).  YOU shall be wild and gay,
      Green trees shall deck your way,
      Sunday be every day        275
      Ten thousand … y..e..a..r..s …
      K..i..n..g … S..o..l..o..m..o..n …
      K..i..n..g … S..o..l..o..m..o..n …
 
 
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