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Vachel Lindsay - The Tree of Laughing Bells

[A Poem for Aviators]


How the Wings Were Made

From many morning-glories 
That in an hour will fade, 
From many pansy buds 
Gathered in the shade, 
From lily of the valley 
And dandelion buds, 
From fiery poppy-buds 
Are the Wings of the Morning made. 


The Indian Girl Who Made Them

These, the Wings of the Morning, 
An Indian Maiden wove, 
Intertwining subtilely 
Wands from a willow grove 
Beside the Sangamon  
Rude stream of Dreamland Town. 
She bound them to my shoulders 
With fingers golden-brown. 
The wings were part of me; 
The willow-wands were hot. 
Pulses from my heart 
Healed each bruise and spot 
Of the morning-glory buds, 
Beginning to unfold 
Beneath her burning song of suns untold. 


The Indian Girl Tells the Hero Where to Go to Get the Laughing Bell

"To the farthest star of all, 
Go, make a moment's raid. 
To the west  escape the earth 
Before your pennons fade! 
West! west! o'ertake the night 
That flees the morning sun. 
There's a path between the stars  
A black and silent one. 
O tremble when you near 
The smallest star that sings: 
Only the farthest star 
Is cool for willow wings. 

"There's a sky within the west  
There's a sky beyond the skies 
Where only one star shines  
The Star of Laughing Bells  
In Chaos-land it lies; 
Cold as morning-dew, 
A gray and tiny boat 
Moored on Chaos-shore, 
Where nothing else can float 
But the Wings of the Morning strong 
And the lilt of laughing song 
From many a ruddy throat: 

"For the Tree of Laughing Bells 
Grew from a bleeding seed 
Planted mid enchantment 
Played on a harp and reed: 
Darkness was the harp  
Chaos-wind the reed; 
The fruit of the tree is a bell, blood-red  
The seed was the heart of a fairy, dead. 
Part of the bells of the Laughing Tree 
Fell to-day at a blast from the reed. 
Bring a fallen bell to me. 
Go!" the maiden said. 
"For the bell will quench our memory, 
Our hope, 
Our borrowed sorrow; 
We will have no thirst for yesterday, 
No thought for to-morrow." 


The Journey Starts Swiftly

A thousand times ten thousand times 
More swift than the sun's swift light 
Were the Morning Wings in their flight 
On  On  
West of the Universe, 
Thro' the West 
To Chaos-night. 


He Nears the Goal

How the red bells rang 
As I neared the Chaos-shore! 
As I flew across to the end of the West 
The young bells rang and rang 
Above the Chaos roar, 
And the Wings of the Morning 
Beat in tune 
And bore me like a bird along 
And the nearing star turned to a moon 
Gray moon, with a brow of red  
Gray moon with a golden song. 

Like a diver after pearls 
I plunged to that stifling floor. 
It was wide as a giant's wheat-field 
An icy, wind-washed shore. 
O laughing, proud, but trembling star! 
O wind that wounded sore! 


He Climbs the Hill Where the Tree Grows

On  
Thro' the gleaming gray 
I ran to the storm and clang  
To the red, red hill where the great tree swayed  
And scattered bells like autumn leaves. 
How the red bells rang! 
My breath within my breast 
Was held like a diver's breath  
The leaves were tangled locks of gray  
The boughs of the tree were white and gray, 
Shaped like scythes of Death. 
The boughs of the tree would sweep and sway  
Sway like scythes of Death. 
But it was beautiful! 
I knew that all was well. 

A thousand bells from a thousand boughs 
Each moment bloomed and fell. 
On the hill of the wind-swept tree 
There were no bells asleep; 
They sang beneath my trailing wings 
Like rivers sweet and steep. 
Deep rock-clefts before my feet 
Mighty chimes did keep 
And little choirs did keep. 


He Receives the Bells

Honeyed, small and fair, 
Like flowers, in flowery lands  
Like little maidens' hands  
Two bells fell in my hair, 
Two bells caressed my hair. 
I pressed them to my purple lips 
In the strangling Chaos-air. 


He Starts on the Return Journey

On desperate wings and strong, 
Two bells within my breast, 
I breathed again, I breathed again  
West of the Universe  
West of the skies of the West. 
Into the black toward home, 
And never a star in sight, 
By Faith that is blind I took my way 
With my two bosomed blossoms gay 
Till a speck in the East was the Milky way: 
Till starlit was the night. 
And the bells had quenched all memory  
All hope  
All borrowed sorrow: 
I had no thirst for yesterday, 
No thought for to-morrow. 
Like hearts within my breast 
The bells would throb to me 
And drown the siren stars 
That sang enticingly; 
My heart became a bell  
Three bells were in my breast, 
Three hearts to comfort me. 
We reached the daytime happily  
We reached the earth with glee. 
In an hour, in an hour it was done! 
The wings in their morning flight 
Were a thousand times ten thousand times 
More swift than beams of light. 


He Gives What He Won to the Indian Girl

I panted in the grassy wood; 
I kissed the Indian Maid 
As she took my wings from me: 
With all the grace I could 
I gave two throbbing bells to her 
From the foot of the Laughing Tree. 
And one she pressed to her golden breast 
And one, gave back to me. 

From Lilies of the valley  
See them fade. 
From poppy-blooms all frayed, 
From dandelions gray with care, 
From pansy-faces, worn and torn, 
From morning-glories  
See them fade  
From all things fragile, faint and fair 
Are the Wings of the Morning made! 

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Added: Jun 15 2005 | Viewed: 2047 times | Comments and analysis of The Tree of Laughing Bells by Vachel Lindsay Comments (0)

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Poet: Vachel Lindsay
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