Vachel Lindsay

(November 10, 1879 – December 5, 1931 / Springfield, Illinois)

Simon Legree - Poem by Vachel Lindsay

A Negro Sermon.
(To be read in your own variety of negro dialect.)


Legree’s big house was white and green.
His cotton-fields were the best to be seen.
He had strong horses and opulent cattle,
And bloodhounds bold, with chains that would rattle.
His garret was full of curious things:
Books of magic, bags of gold,
And rabbits’ feet on long twine strings.
BUT HE WENT DOWN TO THE DEVIL.

Legree he sported a brass-buttoned coat,
A snake-skin necktie, a blood-red shirt.
Legree he had a beard like a goat,
And a thick hairy neck, and eyes like dirt.
His puffed-out cheeks were fish-belly white,
He had great long teeth, and an appetite.
He ate raw meat, ‘most every meal,
And rolled his eyes till the cat would squeal.
His fist was an enormous size
To mash poor niggers that told him lies:
He was surely a witch-man in disguise.
BUT HE WENT DOWN TO THE DEVIL.

He wore hip-boots, and would wade all day
To capture his slaves that had fled away.
BUT HE WENT DOWN TO THE DEVIL.

He beat poor Uncle Tom to death
Who prayed for Legree with his last breath.
Then Uncle Tom to Eva flew,
To the high sanctoriums bright and new;
And Simon Legree stared up beneath,
And cracked his heels, and ground his teeth:
AND WENT DOWN TO THE DEVIL.

He crossed the yard in the storm and gloom;
He went into his grand front room.
He said, “I killed him, and I don’t care.”
He kicked a hound, he gave a swear;
He tightened his belt, he took a lamp,
Went down cellar to the webs and damp.
There in the middle of the mouldy floor
He heaved up a slab, he found a door—
AND WENT DOWN TO THE DEVIL.

His lamp blew out, but his eyes burned bright.
Simon Legree stepped down all night—
DOWN, DOWN TO THE DEVIL.
Simon Legree he reached the place,
He saw one half of the human race,
He saw the Devil on a wide green throne,
Gnawing the meat from a big ham-bone,
And he said to Mister Devil:

“I see that you have much to eat—
A red ham-bone is surely sweet.
I see that you have lion’s feet;
I see your frame is fat and fine,
I see you drink your poison wine—
Blood and burning turpentine.”

And the Devil said to Simon Legree:
“I like your style, so wicked and free.
Come sit and share my throne with me,
And let us bark and revel.”
And there they sit and gnash their teeth,
And each one wears a hop-vine wreath.
They are matching pennies and shooting craps,
They are playing poker and taking naps.
And old Legree is fat and fine:
He eats the fire, he drinks the wine—
Blood and burning turpentine—
DOWN, DOWN WITH THE DEVIL;
DOWN, DOWN WITH THE DEVIL;
DOWN, DOWN WITH THE DEVIL.


Comments about Simon Legree by Vachel Lindsay

  • Susan Williams (12/15/2015 2:56:00 PM)


    Lindsay really got into this description of cruel men everywhere- and he certainly revels in their fate although he is aware that cruel men of this caliber revel in their fate (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 10, 2010



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