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The Tree of Laughing Bells by Vachel Lindsay
[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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