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The Congo: A Study Of The Negro Race - Poem by Vachel Lindsay


Fat black bucks in a wine-barrel room,
Barrel-house kings, with feet unstable,
Sagged and reeled and pounded on the table,
A deep rolling bass.
Pounded on the table,
Beat an empty barrel with the handle of a broom,
Hard as they were able,
Boom, boom, BOOM,
With a silk umbrella and the handle of a broom,
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM.
THEN I had religion, THEN I had a vision.
I could not turn from their revel in derision.
More deliberate. Solemnly chanted.
Then along that riverbank
A thousand miles
Tattooed cannibals danced in files;
Then I heard the boom of the blood-lust song
And a thigh-bone beating on a tin-pan gong.
A rapidly piling climax of speed & racket.
And "BLOOD" screamed the whistles and the fifes of the warriors,
"BLOOD" screamed the skull-faced, lean witch-doctors,
"Whirl ye the deadly voo-doo rattle,
Harry the uplands,
Steal all the cattle,
Rattle-rattle, rattle-rattle,
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM,"
A roaring, epic, rag-time tune
With a philosophic pause.
From the mouth of the Congo
To the Mountains of the Moon.
Death is an Elephant,
Torch-eyed and horrible,
Shrilly and with a heavily accented metre.
Foam-flanked and terrible.
BOOM, steal the pygmies,
BOOM, kill the Arabs,
BOOM, kill the white men,
Listen to the yell of Leopold's ghost
Like the wind in the chimney.
Burning in Hell for his hand-maimed host.
Hear how the demons chuckle and yell
Cutting his hands off, down in Hell.
Listen to the creepy proclamation,
Blown through the lairs of the forest-nation,
Blown past the white-ants' hill of clay,
Blown past the marsh where the butterflies play: --
"Be careful what you do,
Or Mumbo-Jumbo, God of the Congo,
All the "O" sounds very golden. Heavy accents very heavy. Light accents very light. Last line whispered.
And all of the other
Gods of the Congo,
Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you,
Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you,
Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you."


Wild crap-shooters with a whoop and a call
Rather shrill and high.
Danced the juba in their gambling-hall
And laughed fit to kill, and shook the town,
And guyed the policemen and laughed them down
With a boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM.
Read exactly as in first section.
A negro fairyland swung into view,
Lay emphasis on the delicate ideas. Keep as light-footed as possible.
A minstrel river
Where dreams come true.
The ebony palace soared on high
Through the blossoming trees to the evening sky.
The inlaid porches and casements shone
With gold and ivory and elephant-bone.
And the black crowd laughed till their sides were sore
At the baboon butler in the agate door,
And the well-known tunes of the parrot band
That trilled on the bushes of that magic land.

A troupe of skull-faced witch-men came
With pomposity.
Through the agate doorway in suits of flame,
Yea, long-tailed coats with a gold-leaf crust
And hats that were covered with diamond-dust.
And the crowd in the court gave a whoop and a call
And danced the juba from wall to wall.
But the witch-men suddenly stilled the throng
With a great deliberation & ghostliness.
With a stern cold glare, and a stern old song: --
"Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you." ...
Just then from the doorway, as fat as shotes,
With overwhelming assurance, good cheer, and pomp.
Came the cake-walk princes in their long red coats,
Canes with a brilliant lacquer shine,
And tall silk hats that were red as wine.
And they pranced with their butterfly partners there,
With growing speed and sharply marked dance-rhythm
Coal-black maidens with pearls in their hair,
Knee-skirts trimmed with the jassamine sweet,
And bells on their ankles and little black-feet.
And the couples railed at the chant and the frown
Of the witch-men lean, and laughed them down.
(O rare was the revel, and well worth while
That made those glowering witch-men smile.)

The cake-walk royalty then began
To walk for a cake that was tall as a man
To the tune of "Boomlay, boomlay, BOOM,"
While the witch-men laughed, with a sinister air,
With a touch of negro dialect, and as rapidly as possible toward the end.
And sang with the scalawags prancing there: --
"Walk with care, walk with care,
Or Mumbo-Jumbo, God of the Congo,
And all the other
Gods of the Congo,
Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you.
Beware, beware, walk with care,
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom.
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom.
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom.
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay,
Oh rare was the revel, and well worth while
Slow philosophic calm.
That made those glowering witch-men smile.


A good old negro in the slums of the town
Heavy bass. With a literal imitation of camp-meeting racket, and trance.
Preached at a sister for her velvet gown.
Howled at a brother for his low-down ways,
His prowling, guzzling, sneak-thief days.
Beat on the Bible till he wore it out
Starting the jubilee revival shout.
And some had visions, as they stood on chairs,
And sang of Jacob, and the golden stairs,
And they all repented, a thousand strong
From their stupor and savagery and sin and wrong
And slammed with their hymn books till they shook the room
With "glory, glory, glory,"
And "Boom, boom, BOOM."
Exactly as in the first section. Begin with terror and power, end with joy.
And the gray sky opened like a new-rent veil
And showed the Apostles with their coats of mail.
In bright white steel they were seated round
And their fire-eyes watched where the Congo wound.
And the twelve Apostles, from their thrones on high
Thrilled all the forest with their heavenly cry: --
"Mumbo-Jumbo will die in the jungle;
Sung to the tune of "Hark, ten thousand harps and voices."
Never again will he hoo-doo you,
Never again will he hoo-doo you."

Then along that river, a thousand miles
With growing deliberation and joy.
The vine-snared trees fell down in files.
Pioneer angels cleared the way
For a Congo paradise, for babes at play,
For sacred capitals, for temples clean.
Gone were the skull-faced witch-men lean.
There, where the wild ghost-gods had wailed
In a rather high key -- as delicately as possible.
A million boats of the angels sailed
With oars of silver, and prows of blue
And silken pennants that the sun shone through.
'Twas a land transfigured, 'twas a new creation.
Oh, a singing wind swept the negro nation
And on through the backwoods clearing flew: --
"Mumbo-Jumbo is dead in the jungle.
To the tune of "Hark, ten thousand harps and voices."
Never again will he hoo-doo you.
Never again will he hoo-doo you.

Redeemed were the forests, the beasts and the men,
And only the vulture dared again
By the far, lone mountains of the moon
To cry, in the silence, the Congo tune: --
"Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you,
Dying down into a penetrating, terrified whisper.
"Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you.
Mumbo ... Jumbo ... will ... hoo-doo ... you."

Comments about The Congo: A Study Of The Negro Race by Vachel Lindsay

  • Gold Star - 4,921 Points John Richter (11/24/2014 8:40:00 AM)

    Generally I abhor sending pieces to history and shame for having been written at a time ago when feelings and therefore laws were different than our own. I think it sad that today's children will probably never read the great tales of Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer because the stories of Injun' Joe or ol' Black Jim are seen by some as racist.. Or lose the chance to read Captain's Ahab's adventures with Moby Dick and Queesqueg, his expert spearman. Such treasures these. But Lindsay's piece above is simply boring to me, shocking to the senses, and a loss to my time spent reading it. (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Gold Star - 39,822 Points Aftab Alam Khursheed (11/24/2014 1:08:00 AM)

    Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM, poem contains thrills and music within it Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you.
    Mumbo... Jumbo... will... hoo-doo... you. very interesting write (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Hugh Keel (2/21/2014 2:21:00 PM)

    Excellent rhyme and meter. Unfortunately in today's PC climate it will be misinterpreted by many (Report) Reply

Read all 5 comments »

Poems About Forest

  1. 1. The Congo: A Study Of The Negro Race , Vachel Lindsay
  2. 2. Evangeline: A Tale Of Acadie , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  3. 3. Axis , Octavio Paz
  4. 4. The Cloud Messenger - Part 01 , Kalidasa
  5. 5. Endymion: Book Iv , John Keats
  6. 6. Isabella Or The Pot Of Basil , John Keats
  7. 7. Village Song , Sarojini Naidu
  8. 8. Hiawatha's Childhood , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  9. 9. Courtship Of Miles Standish, The , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  10. 10. The Georgics , Virgil
  11. 11. The Ballad Of The White Horse , Gilbert Keith Chesterton
  12. 12. Lover's Gifts Xix: It Is Written In The .. , Rabindranath Tagore
  13. 13. Famine, The , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  14. 14. The Hunting Of Pau-Puk Keewis, , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  15. 15. Ich Habe Dich Nie Je So Geliebt , Bertolt Brecht
  16. 16. through The Old Oak Tree , Is It Poetry
  17. 17. The Ardennes Forest , Zbigniew Herbert
  18. 18. Shakuntala Act 1 , Kalidasa
  19. 19. Evangeline: Preface , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  20. 20. Isabella; Or, The Pot Of Basil: A Story .. , John Keats
  21. 21. The Green Roads , Edward Thomas
  22. 22. ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' Telling The Wav.. , Dónall Dempsey
  23. 23. Romance , Andrew Lang
  24. 24. The Enchanted Forest , Joseph T. Renaldi
  25. 25. Tristram And Iseult , Matthew Arnold
  26. 26. A New Forest Ballad , Charles Kingsley
  27. 27. The Woodcutter's Hut , Archibald Lampman
  28. 28. A Forest Without Trees , Marilyn Lott
  29. 29. The Adirondacs , Ralph Waldo Emerson
  30. 30. Ashtaroth: A Dramatic Lyric , Adam Lindsay Gordon
  31. 31. The Hunting Of Pau-Puk Keewis , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  32. 32. Worth Forest , Wilfrid Scawen Blunt
  33. 33. Untitled: Figure Which Has Long Dwelt In.. , Georg Trakl
  34. 34. The Sleepout , Les Murray
  35. 35. A Spark Of Fire , Subramanya Bharathi
  36. 36. Laws Of Forest , ramesh rai
  37. 37. Anything For A Friend , Sunprincess
  38. 38. Forest History , George Meredith
  39. 39. House And Man , Edward Thomas
  40. 40. A Man's Best Friend(Not A Poem, But A St.. , Chom Chom
  41. 41. Kairos And Logos , WH Auden
  42. 42. A Forest Fire , Mr. Bean
  43. 43. The Courtship Of Miles Standish , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  44. 44. The Avowyng Of Arthur , Anonymous Olde English
  45. 45. The Landgraff , Frances Anne Kemble
  46. 46. Der Enkel Respektvoll Mit Yuan , starseven0 starseven0
  47. 47. Something About A Forest , Sophia White
  48. 48. A Burning Mountain , MELVIN BANGGOLLAY
  49. 49. Orlando Furioso Canto 1 , Ludovico Ariosto
  50. 50. The Odyssey , Homer
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