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Vachel Lindsay - The Master of the Dance

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 he figured not well.
A bare-footed fool,
Shod only with grace;
Long hair streaming down
Round a wind-hardened face;
He smiled like a girl,
Or like clear winter skies,
A virginal light
Making stars of his eyes.
In swiftness and poise,
A proud child of the deer,
A white fawn he was,
Yet a fwn without fear.
No youth thought him vain,
Or made mock of his hair,
Or laughed when his ways
Were most curiously fair.
A mastiff at fight,
He could strike to the earth
The envious one
Who would challenge his worth.
However we bowed
To the schoolmaster mild,
Our spirits went out
To the fawn-looted child.
His beckoning led
Our troop to the brush.
We found nothing there
But a wind and a hush.
He sat by a stone
And he looked on the ground,
As if in the weeds
There was something profound.
His pipe seemed to neigh,
Then to bleat like a sheep,
Then sound like a stream
Or a waterfall deep.
It whispered strange tales,
Human words it spoke not.
Told fair things to come,
And our marvellous lot
If now with fawn-steps
Unshod we advanced
To the midst of the grove
And in reverence danced.
We obeyed as he piped
Soft grass to young feet,
Was a medicine mighty,
A remedy meet.
Our thin blood awoke,
It grew dizzy and wild,
Though scarcely a word
Moved the lips of a child.
Our dance gave allegiance,
It set us apart,
We tripped a strange measure,
Uplifted of heart.


II

We thought to be proud
Of our fawn everywhere.
We could hardly see how
Simple books were a care.
No rule of the school
This strange student could tame.
He was banished one day,
While we quivered with shame. 
He piped back our love
On a moon-silvered night,
Enticed us once more
To the place of delight.
A greeting he sang
And it made our blood beat,
It tramped upon custom
And mocked at defeat.
He builded a fire
And we tripped in a ring,
The embers our books
And the fawn our good king.
And now we approached
All the mysteries rare
That shadowed his eyelids
And blew through his hair.
That spell now was peace
The deep strength of the trees,
The children of nature
We clambered her knees.
Our breath and our moods
Were in tune with her own,
Tremendous her presence,
Eternal her throne.
The ostracized child
Our white foreheads kissed,
Our bodies and souls
Became lighter than mist.
Sweet dresses like snow
Our small lady-loves wore,
Like moonlight the thoughts
That our bosoms upbore.
Like a lily the touch
Of each cold little hand.
The loves of the stars 
We could now understand.
O quivering air!
O the crystalline night!
O pauses of awe
And the faces swan-white!
O ferns in the dusk!
O forest-shrined hour!
O earth that sent upward
The thrill and the power,
To lift us like leaves,
A delirious whirl,
The masterful boy
And the delicate girl!
What child that strange night-time
Can ever forget?
His fealty due
And his infinite debt
To the folly divine,
To the exquisite rule
Of the perilous master,
The fawn-looted fool?


III

Now soldiers we seem,
And night brings a new thing,
A terrible ire,
As of thunder awing.
A warrior power,
That old chivalry stirred,
When knights took up arms,
As the maidens gave word.
THE END OF OUR WAR,
WILL BE GLORY UNTOLD.
WHEN THE TOWN LIKE A GREAT
BUDDING ROSE SHALL UNFOLD!
Near, nearer that war,
And that ecstasy comes,
We hear the trees beating
Invisible drums.
The fields of the night
Are starlit above,
Our girls are white torches
Of conquest and love.
No nerve without will,
And no breast without breath,
We whirl with the planets
That never know death! 


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Poet: Vachel Lindsay
Poem: The Master of the Dance
Poem of the Day: Mar 20 2013
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