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The Firemen's Ball

Vachel Lindsay 1879 (Springfield) – 1931 (Springfield)


"Give the engines room,
Give the engines room."
Louder, faster
The little band-master
Whips up the fluting,
Hurries up the tooting.
He thinks that he stands,
[*] The reins in his hands,
In the fire-chief's place
In the night alarm chase.
The cymbals whang,
The kettledrums bang: —
"Clear the street,
Clear the street,
Clear the street — Boom, boom.
In the evening gloom,
In the evening gloom,
Give the engines room,
Give the engines room.
Lest souls be trapped
In a terrible tomb."
The sparks and the pine-brands
Whirl on high
From the black and reeking alleys
To the wide red sky.
Hear the hot glass crashing,
Hear the stone steps hissing.
Coal black streams
Down the gutters pour.
There are cries for help
From a far fifth floor.
For a longer ladder
Hear the fire-chief call.
Listen to the music
Of the firemen's ball.
Listen to the music
Of the firemen's ball.
"'Tis the
Of doom,"
Say the ding-dong doom-bells.
Of doom,"
Say the ding-dong doom-bells.

Faster, faster
The red flames come.
"Hum grum," say the engines,
"Hum grum grum."
"Buzz, buzz,"
Says the crowd.
"See, see,"
Calls the crowd.
And the high walls fall:—
Listen to the music
Of the firemen's ball
"'Tis the
Of doom,"
Say the ding-dong doom-bells.
Of doom,
Say the ding-dong doom-bells.
Whangaranga, whangaranga,
Whang, whang, whang,
Clang, clang, clangaranga,
Clang, clang, clang.
Of the firemen's ball—


"Many's the heart that's breaking
If we could read them all
After the ball is over."

(An old song.)

Scornfully, gaily
The bandmaster sways,
Changing the strain
That the wild band plays.
With a red and royal intoxication,
A tangle of sounds
And a syncopation,
Sweeping and bending
From side to side,
Master of dreams,
With a peacock pride.
A lord of the delicate flowers of delight
He drives compunction
Back through the night.
Dreams he's a soldier
Plumed and spurred,
And valiant lads
Arise at his word,
Flaying the sober
Thoughts he hates,
Driving them back
From the dream-town gates.
How can the languorous
Dancers know
The red dreams come
When the good dreams go?
'"Tis the
Of love,"
Call the silver joy-bells,
Of love,"
Call the silver joy-bells.
"Honey and wine,
Honey and wine.
Sing low, now, violins,
Sing, sing low,
Blow gently, wood-wind,
Mellow and slow.
Like midnight poppies
The sweethearts bloom.
Their eyes flash power,
Their lips are dumb.
Faster and faster
Their pulses come,
Though softer now
The drum-beats fall.
Honey and wine,
Honey and wine.
'Tis the firemen's ball,
'Tis the firemen's ball.

"I am slain,"
Cries true-love
There in the shadow.
"And I die,"
Cries true-love,
There laid low.
"When the fire-dreams come,
The wise dreams go."

And now great gongs whang,
Sharper, faster,
And kettledrums rattle
And hide the shame
With a swish and a swirk
In dead love's name.
Red and crimson
And scarlet and rose
Magical poppies
The sweethearts bloom.
The scarlet stays
When the rose-flush goes,
And love lies low
In a marble tomb.
"'Tis the
Of doom,"
Call the ding-dong doom-bells.
Of Doom,"
Call the ding-dong doom-bells.
Hark how the piccolos still make cheer.
'Tis a moonlight night in the spring of the year."
CLANG . . . CLANG . . . CLANG.
CLANG . . . A . . . RANGA . . .
CLANG . . . A . . . RANGA . . .
CLANG . . . CLANG . . . CLANG . . .
LISTEN . . . TO . . . THE . . . MUSIC . . .
OF . . . THE . . . FIREMEN'S BALL . . .
LISTEN . . . TO . . . THE . . . MUSIC . . .
OF . . . THE . . . FIREMEN'S . . . BALL . . .


In Which, contrary to Artistic Custom, the moral of the piece is placed before the reader.

(From the first Khandaka of the Mahavagga: "There Buddha thus addressed his disciples: 'Everything,
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:10 min read

Vachel Lindsay

Nicholas Vachel Lindsay was an American poet. more…

All Vachel Lindsay poems | Vachel Lindsay Books

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