Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, VOODOO, by ANNICE CALLAND



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VOODOO, by            
First Line: Ho, the pan-pipes call to bassin bleu
Last Line: And ever the woman sang.
Subject(s): Drums; Musical Instruments; Rites & Ceremonies; Voodooism; Bizango; Obeah; Gaga


Ho, the pan-pipes call to Bassin Bleu
To dance the dance of the great voodoo;
The big drums boom, the conch shells blare,
The signal fires, flame and flare;
Oh-o-ay-o-eyah, the strange songs sound
While the dancers gather at the singsing ground.

The tympani louder and louder boom,
Echoing far their song of doom;
Oh-o-ay-o-eyah, the wild songs seem
The echo of the conch's scream.
Ho, the pan-pipes call to Bassin Bleu
To dance the dance of the great voodoo!

And ever the great drum beat, and beat,
And ever the woman sang.

The voodoo priest came looming near,
A piece of shell in each black ear;
Oh his wizard's skull aigrets and plumes,
(Ever the great drum booms and booms),
About his neck as black as jet
White bone and shell and metal met;
About his legs it clinked and wound
Like a slithering serpent there unbound.
Painted and decked the witch-man stood
Among his people in the singsing wood.
The full moon flooded the place with light
Yellow, misty, strangely bright.
A low chant rose from the singsing ground,
And in and out and through they wound;
They took their places, legs spread wide,
They stood like statues side by side.

And ever the great drum beat, and beat,
And ever the woman sang.

Voices and instruments sudden ceased,
Only the voice of the drum increased;
Stirred by the booming the big drum made,
To its savage rhythm the voodooists swayed.
The witch doctors formed a circle about
The voodoo priest who in and out
Whirled like a dervish in the wheel
Of the lecheurs swirling toe and heel.
Again the chant, now soft and low
In regular tempo clear and slow;
The voodoo priest still whirling led
To the slower rhythm, whirling sped
Swifter and swifter as the rhythm grew fast
His violence grew until at last
Contorted, twisted, a half-crazed thing
He squatted, spent with his spell-making.

And ever the great drum beat, and beat,
And ever the woman sang.

All was quiet, no other sound
Broke the silence of the singsing ground.

And ever the great drum beat, and beat,
And ever the woman sang.

Now was the time of sacrifice;
A cock was bound in a strange device
That only a savage could contrive,
Where he was slowly roasted alive.
A kid came next, a cow, a goat,
Then a spectacle on which to gloat --
A goat without horns, an offering dear,
Caught where a blanc may not appear
And guilty of killing the Sacred Snake
Sacrosanct for Obeah's sake --
A man in khaki was proudly led
To where the fire burned fiercely red;
There starved and weak he firmly stood
Before the priest in the singsing wood.

And ever the great drum beat, and beat,
And ever the woman sang.

His staring eyes were open wide;
His broken arms hung by his side;
With death before him, fiendish, grim,
Never a whimper came from him,
Never a murmur, never a moan;
His heart within him cold as a stone.

And ever the great drum beat, and beat,
And ever the woman sang.

He uttered no useless plea or cry,
Silent he waited his time to die;
Only his blue eyes bulged and stared,
Stared, and stared, and stared, and stared,
As they laid him down on the gleaming fire
That was become his funeral pyre.
The voodoo priest performed the rite
Of sacrifice for the full moonlight.

And ever the great drum beat, and beat,
And ever the woman sang.

The head witch doctor, Almazo
Led their song, Oh-o-ay-o-eyah-oh,
And to its rhythm led the files about
In a savage serpentine, in and out;
The song became a barbaric paean,
Oh-o-ay-o-eyah, again and again.
High over the fires they leaped and sped;
In the crimson glare black flesh shone red.
The high moon shining silver where
It fell on their skins, sweating and bare.

And ever the great drum beat, and beat,
And ever the woman sang.





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