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The Jingo and the Minstrel

Vachel Lindsay 1879 (Springfield) – 1931 (Springfield)



AN ARGUMENT FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF PEACE AND GOODWILL WITH THE JAPANESE PEOPLE

Glossary for the uninstructed and the hasty: Jimmu Tenno, ancestor of all the Japanese Emperors; Nikko, Japan's loveliest shrine; Iyeyasu, her greatest statesman; Bushido, her code of knighthood; The Forty-seven Ronins, her classic heroes; Nogi, her latest hero; Fuji, her most beautiful mountain.

"Now do you know of Avalon
That sailors call Japan?
She holds as rare a chivalry
As ever bled for man.
King Arthur sleeps at Nikko hill
Where Iyeyasu lies,
And there the broad Pendragon flag
In deathless splendor flies."

"Nay, minstrel, but the great ships come
From out the sunset sea.
We cannot greet the souls they bring
With welcome high and free.
How can the Nippon nondescripts
That weird and dreadful band
Be aught but what we find them here:—
The blasters of the land?"

"First race, first men from anywhere
To face you, eye to eye.
For that do you curse Avalon
And raise a hue and cry?
These toilers cannot kiss your hand,
Or fawn with hearts bowed down:
Be glad for them, and Avalon,
And Arthur's ghostly crown.

"No doubt your guests, with sage debate
In grave things gentlemen
Will let your trade and farms alone
And turn them back again.
But why should brawling braggarts rise
With hasty words of shame
To drive them back like dogs and swine
Who in due honor came?"

"We cannot give them honor, sir.
We give them scorn for scorn.
And Rumor steals around the world
All white-skinned men to warn
Against this sleek silk-merchant here
And viler coolie-man
And wrath within the courts of war
Brews on against Japan!"

"Must Avalon, with hope forlorn,
Her back against the wall,
Have lived her brilliant life in vain
While ruder tribes take all?
Must Arthur stand with Asian Celts,
A ghost with spear and crown,
Behind the great Pendragon flag
And be again cut down?

"Tho Europe's self shall move against
High Jimmu Tenno's throne
The Forty-seven Ronin Men
Will not be found alone.
For Percival and Bedivere
And Nogi side by side
Will stand,—with mourning Merlin there,
Tho all go down in pride.

"But has the world the envious dream—
Ah, such things cannot be,—
To tear their fairy-land like silk
And toss it in the sea?
Must venom rob the future day
The ultimate world-man
Of rare Bushido, code of codes,
The fair heart of Japan?

"Go, be the guest of Avalon.
Believe me, it lies there
Behind the mighty gray sea-wall
Where heathen bend in prayer:
Where peasants lift adoring eyes
To Fuji's crown of snow.
King Arthur's knights will be your hosts,
So cleanse your heart, and go.

"And you will find but gardens sweet
Prepared beyond the seas,
And you will find but gentlefolk
Beneath the cherry-trees.
So walk you worthy of your Christ
Tho church bells do not sound,
And weave the bands of brotherhood
On Jimmu Tenno's ground."

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:31 min read
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Vachel Lindsay

Nicholas Vachel Lindsay was an American poet. more…

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