Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE MOUNTAIN CAT; INSCRIBED TO STEPHEN GRAHAM, by NICHOLAS VACHEL LINDSAY



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THE MOUNTAIN CAT; INSCRIBED TO STEPHEN GRAHAM, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I read the aspens like a book, every leaf was signed
Last Line: Are in bloom.
Alternate Author Name(s): Lindsay, Vachel


I read the aspens like a book, every leaf was signed.
Then I climbed above the aspen-grove, reading what I could find,
On Mount Clinton Colorado. And I met a mountain cat

Some words about singing this song are written this border along:

I will call him Andrew Jackson, and I mean no harm by that.
He was growling, and devouring a terrific mountain rat.
But when the feast was ended, the mountain-cat was kind,
And showed a pretty smile, and spoke his mind.
"I am dreaming of old Boston," he said, and wiped his jaws.
"I have often heard of Boston," and he folded in his paws --
"Boston, Massachusetts, a mountain bold and great.
I will tell you all about it, if you care to curl and wait.

[If I cannot sing in the aspen's tongue
If I know not what they say
Then I have never gone to school,
And have wasted all my day.
Come let us whisper of men and beasts
And joke as the aspens do.
And yet be solemn in their way,]

"In the Boston of my beauty-sleep, when storm-flowers
Are in bloom,
When storm-lilies, and storm-roses, and storm liacs are in bloom,
The faithful cats go creeping through the cat-nip ferns
And gloom
And pounce upon the Boston mice, that tremble underneath the roses,
And pounce upon the Boston rats, and drag them to the tomb.
For we are tom-policemen vigilant and sure.
We keep the Back Bay ditches and potato cellars pure.
Apples are not bitten into, cheese is let alone.
Sweet corn is left upon the cob and the beef left on the bone.

[And tell our thoughts
All summer through,
In the morning,
In the frost;
In the midnight dew.

The mountain cat seems violent
And of no good intent
Yet read his words so gently
No bird will leave its tree]
Every Sunday morning, the Pilgrims give us codfish balls
Because we keep the poisonous rodents from the Boston halls."

[No child will hate the simper or the noise]

And then I contradicted him, in a manner firm and flat.
"Not in all of Boston are there hunting scenes like that."
"So much the worse for Boston," said the whiskery mountain-cat.

[And hurry away from you and me.
Read like a gnarled meditative
Cat-like willow-tree.]

And the cat continued his great dream, closing one shrewd eye: --
"The Tower-of-Babel cactus blazes above the sky.
Fangs and sabres guard the buds and crimson fruits on high.
Yet the cactus-eating eagles and black hawks hum through the air.
When the pigeons weep in Copley Square, look up, those wings are there,
Proud Yankee birds of prey, overshadowing the land,
Screaming to younger Yankees of the self-same brand --
Whose talk is like the American flag, snapping on the summit pole
Sky-rocket and star spangled words, round sunflower words, they use them whole.
There are no tailors in command, men seem like trees in honest leaves.
Their clothes are but their bark and hide and sod and binding for their sheaves.
Men are as the shocks of corn, as natural as alfalfa fields.
And no one yields to purse or badge, only to sweating manhood yields,
To natural authority, to wisdom straight from the new sun.
Who is the bull god of the herd? The strongest and the shaggiest one.
Of if they preen at all, they preen with Walter Raleigh's gracious pride: --
The forest ranger! One grand show! With gun and spade slung at his side.
Up on the dizzy timber line, arbiter of life and fate,
Where sacred frost shines all the year, and freezing bee and moss-flower mate.

Boston is tough country, and the ranger rides with death,
Plunges to stop the forest-fire against the black smoke's breath,
Buries the cattle killed by eating larkspur lush and blue,
Shoots the calf-thieves, lumber thieves, and gets train robbers too.
Governor and sheriff obey his ordering hand
Following his ostrich plume across the amber sand.

[Read like the Mariposa with the stately stem

With green-jade leaves like ripples and like waves,
And white jade petals,

Smooth as foam can be --]

"But often for lone days he goes, exploring cliffs afar,
And chants his King James' Bible to tarantula and star.
He reads his rainwashed Shakespear on horseback, in the dawn.
He has made me quite a college cat. My western ways are gone.
He spells in Greek, that Homer, as he hurries on alone.
I hear him scan at Virgil as I hide behind a stone.
He has kept me fond of fierce John Brown, and Thoreau, cold and wise.
The silvery waves of Walden Pond gleam in a bobcat's eyes.

He has taught us grateful beasts to sing, like Orpheus of old.
The Boston forest ranger brings back the Age of Gold."

[The Mariposa lily That is leaning upon the young stream's hem.

Speaking grandly to that larger flower

That grows down t'ward the sea hour after hour,
Hunting for the
Pacific storm and
caves.]

And then I contradicted him, in a manner firm and flat.
"I have never heard, in the cultured Hub, of rowdy men like that."
"So much the worse for Boston," said the Rocky Mountain cat.
And the cat purred on in his great dream as one who seeks the noblest ends: --
"Higher than the Back Bay whales that huff and puff and bite their friends,
Higher than those Moby-Dicks the Boston Lovers' path ascends.
Higher than the Methodist or Unitarian spire,
Beyond the range of any fence of boulder or barbed wire
Telling to each other what the Boston Boys have done
The lodge-pole pines go towering to the timber-line and sun.
And their whisper stirs love's fury in each pantherish girl-child

[Sing like the Mariposa to the stream that seeks the sea.
Speak like that flower

With slow Olympian jest

And cup-like word
Filling the hour.]

Till she dresses like a columbine, or a bleeding heart, gone wild.
Like a hare-bell, golden aster, blue bell, Indian arrow,
Blue-jay, squirrel, meadow-lark, loco, mountain-sparrow.
Mayflower, sage brush, dying swan, they court in disarray.
The masquerade in Love's hot name, is like a forest-play.
And she is held in worship who adores the noblest boys.
So miner-lovers bring her new amazing pets and toys.
Mewing prowling hunters bring her grizzlies in chains.
Ranchers bring red apples through the silver rains.
In the mountain of my beauty-sleep, when storm-flowers
Are in bloom,
The Boston of my beauty-sleep, when storm-flowers
Are in bloom.

"There are just such naked waterfalls as are roaring there below.
For the springs of Boston Common are from priceless summer snow.
Serene the wind-cleared Boston peaks, and there white rabbits run
Like funny giant snow flakes, hopping in the sun.
The ptarmigan will leap and fly and clutter through the drift
And the baby ptarmigans "peep, peep," when the weasel eyelids lift.
And where the pools are still and deep dwarf willows see themselves
And the Boston Mariposas bend, like mirror-kissing elves.
White is the gypsum cliff, and white the snow-bird's warm deep-feathered home,
White are the cottonwood and birch, white is the fountain-foam.

"In the waterfalls from the sunburnt cliffs, the bold nymphs leap and shriek
The wrath of the water makes them fight, its kisses make them weak.
With shoulders hot with sunburn, with bodies rose and white
And streaming curls like sunrise rays, or curls like flags of night
Flowing to their dancing feet, circling them in storm
And their adorers glory in each lean Ionic form.
Oh the hearts of women then set free! They live the life of old
That chickadees and bobcats sing, the famous Age of Gold. . . .
They sleep and star-gaze on the grass, their red ore campfires shine
Like heaps of unset rubies spilled on velvet superfine.
And love of man and maid is when the granite weds the snow white stream.
The ranch house bursts with babies. Their laughing, deep eyes gleam,
Buffalo children, barking wolves, fuming cinnamon bears.
Human mustangs kick the paint from the breakfast-table chairs."
And then I contradicted him, in a manner firm and flat.
"I have never heard, in the modest Hub of a stock ill-bred as that."
"So much the worse for Boston," said the merry mountain-cat.

And the cat continued with the dream, as the snow blew round in drifts: --
"The caves beneath the craggy sides of Boston hold tremendous
gifts
For many youths who enter there, and lift up every stone that lifts.
They wander in and wander on, finding all new things they can
Some forms of jade, of chrysoprase, more rare than radium for man.
And the burro-trains to fetch the loot, are jolly fool-parades.
The burros flap their ears and bray, and take the steepest grades.
Or loaded with long mining drills and railroad rails and boards for flumes,
Up Beacon Hill with fossil fish, swine-bones from geologic tombs,
Or loaded with cliff-mummies of lost dwellers of the land.
Explorers' yells and bridle bells sound above the sand.

"In the desert of my beauty sleep, when rain flowers
Will not bloom,
In the Boston of my beauty-sleep, when storms
Will not bloom,
By Bunker Hill's tall obelisk, till the August sun awakes
I brood and stalk blue shadows, and my mad heart breaks.
Thoughts of a hunt unutterable ring the obelisk around,
And a thousand glorious sphinxes spring singing from the ground.
Very white young Salem witches ride them down the west.
The gravel makes a flat, lone track, the eye has endless rest.
Fair girls and beasts charge dreaming through the salt-sand white as snow,
Hunting the three-toed pony while
Mysterious slaughters flow.
And the bat from the salt desert sucks the clouds on high
Until they turn to ashes, and all the sky is dry.
Oh the empty Spanish Missions, where the bells ring without hand.
As we drive the shadowy dinosaurs and mammoths through the sand."

And then I contradicted him, in a manner firm and flat.
"I have never seen, in the sun-kissed Hub, circuses like that."
"So much the worse for you, my cub," said the slant-eyed
mountain-cat.

And the cat continued with his yarn, while I stood there marvelling: --
"I here proclaim that I am not a vague, an abstract thing.
I like to eat the turkey-leg, the lamb, the chicken-wing.
Yet the cat that knows not fasting, the cat that knows not dream,
That has not drunk grey mammoth-blood from the long-dead desert stream,
That has not rolled in the alkali-encrusted pits of bones
By the sabre-toothed white tiger's cave, where he kicked the ancient stones
Has not known sacred Boston. Our gods are burning ore.
Our Colorado gods are the stars of heaven's floor.
But the god of Massachusetts is a Tiger they adore.

"From that Sabre-Tooth's ghost -- purring goes the whispered word of power
In the sunset, in the moonlight, in the purple sunrise hour: --
That an Indian chief is born, in a tepee to the west,
That a school of rattlesnakes is rattling on the mountain's breast.
That an opal has been grubbed from the ground by a mole.
That a bumble-bee has found a new way to save his soul.
In Egyptian granite Boston, the rumor has gone round
That new ways to tame the whirlwind have been marvellously found.
That a balanced rock has fallen, that a battle has been won
In the soul of some young touch-me-not, some tigerish Emerson."

And then I contradicted him, in a manner firm and flat.
"Boston people do not read their Emerson like that."
"So much the worse for Boston," said the self-reliant cat.

Then I saw the cat there towering, like a cat cut from a hill,
A prophet-beast of Nature's law, staring with stony will,
Pacing on the icy top, then stretched in drowsy thought,
Then listening, on tiptoe, to the voice the snow-wind brought,
Tearing at the fire-killed pine trees, kittenish again,
Then listening like a lion, long made president of men: --
"There are such holy plains and streams, there are such sky-arched spaces,
There are life-long trails for private lives, and endless whispering places
Range is so wide there is no room for lust and poison breath
And flesh may walk in Eden, forgetting shame and death."

And then I contradicted him, in a manner firm and flat.
"I have never heard in Boston, of anything like that."
"So much the worse for Boston," said the wise, fastidious cat,
And turned again to lick the skull of his prey, the mountain-rat.

And the cat had ended his great dream of a perfect human race.
And I walked down to the aspen grove where is neither time nor place
Nor measurement nor space, except that grass has room
And aspen leaves whisper on forever in their grace.
All day they watch along the banks, all night the perfume goes
From the Mariposa's chalice to the marble mountain-rose,
In the mountain of their beauty-sleep when storm flowers
Are in bloom,
In the mystery of their beauty-sleep, when storm flowers
Are in bloom.





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