The Santa-Fe Trail (A Humoresque) by Vachel Lindsay
I asked the old Negro, "What is that bird that sings so well?" He answered: "That is the Rachel-Jane." "Hasn't it another name, lark, or thrush, or the like?" "No. Jus' 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. 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. . . .
Hark to the pace -horn, chase -horn, race -horn. And the holy veil of the dawn has gone. Swiftly the brazen ear comes on. It burns in the East as the sunrise burns. I see great flashes where the far trail turns.
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, 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, Ho for the gay -horn, bark -horn, bay -horn. 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.
II. IN WHICH MANY AUTOS PASS WESTWARD
I want live things in their pride to remain. 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, 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, 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 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.
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. And fair dreams fade When the raw horns blow.
On each snapping pennant A big black name:— The careering city Whence each car came. They tour from Memphis, Atlanta, Savannah, Tallahassee and Texarkana. They tour from St. Louis, Columbus, Manistee, They tour from Peoria, Davenport, Kankakee. Cars from Concord, Niagara, Boston, 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. 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 Roll their legions without rain Over the blistering Kansas plain— While I sit by the milestone And watch the sky, The United States Goes by.
Listen to the iron-horns, ripping, racking. 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, Here comes the snarl -horn, brawl -horn, lewd -horn, Followed by the prude -horn, bleak and squeaking: — (Some of them from Kansas, some of themn from Kansas.) Here comes the hod -horn, plod -horn, sod -horn, Nevermore-to-roam -horn, loam -horn, home -horn.
(Some of them from Kansas, some of them from Kansas.) Far away the Rachel-Jane Not defeated by the horns Sings amid a hedge of thorns:— "Love and life, Eternal youth— Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, Dew and glory, Love and truth, Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet." WHILE SMOKE-BLACK FREIGHTS ON THE DOUBLE-TRACKED RAILROAD, 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. THE HAND-CARS WHIZ, AND RATTLE ON THE RAILS, THE SUNLIGHT FLASHES ON THE TIN DINNER-PAILS.
And then, in an instant, Ye modern men, Behold the procession once again, Listen to the iron-horns, ripping, racking, Listen to the wise -horn, desperate-to-advise horn, Listen to the fast -horn, kill -horn, blast -horn. . . . Far away the Rachel-Jane Not defeated by the horns Sings amid a hedge of thorns:— Love and life, Eternal youth, Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, Dew and glory, Love and truth. Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet. The mufflers open on a score of cars With wonderful thunder, CRACK, CRACK, CRACK, CRACK-CRACK, CRACK-CRACK, CRACK-CRACK-CRACK, . . . Listen to the gold-horn . . . Old-horn . . . Cold-horn . . .
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, Dim in the distance, sweet in retreating, Hark to the faint-horn, quaint-horn, saint-horn, Hark to the calm-horn, balm-horn, psalm-horn. . . .
They are hunting the goals that they understand:— 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. 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-Fe stone, The souls of the tall corn gathering round 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. Harken to the wonder That the night-air carries. . . . Listen . . . to . . . the . . . whisper . . . Of . . . the . . . prairie . . . fairies Singing o'er the fairy plain:— "Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet. Love and glory, Stars and rain, Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet . . . . "