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The Congo and Other Poems

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The Congo A Study of the Negro Race I. Their Basic SavageryFat black bucks in a wine-barrel room,Barrel-house kings, with feet unstable,A deep rolling bass.Sagged and reeled and pounded on the table,Pounded on the table,Beat an empty barrel with the handle of a broom,Hard as they were able,Boom, boom, BOOM,With a silk umbrella and the handle of a broom,Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM.THEN I had religion, THEN I had a vision.I could not turn from their revel in derision.More deliberate. Solemnly chanted.THEN I SAW THE CONGO, CREEPING THROUGH THE BLACK,CUTTING THROUGH THE FOREST WITH A GOLDEN TRACK.Then along that riverbankA thousand milesTattooed cannibals danced in files;Then I heard the boom of the blood-lust songA rapidly piling climax of speed and racket.And a thigh-bone beating on a tin-pan gong.And "BLOOD" screamed the whistles and the fifes of the warriors,"BLOOD" screamed the skull-faced, lean witch-doctors,"Whirl ye the deadly voo-doo rattle,Harry the uplands,Steal all the cattle,Rattle-rattle, rattle-rattle,Bing.Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM,"With a philosophic pause.A roaring, epic, rag-time tuneFrom the mouth of the CongoTo the Mountains of the Moon.Death is an Elephant,Shrilly and with a heavily accented metre.Torch-eyed and horrible,Foam-flanked and terrible.BOOM, steal the pygmies,BOOM, kill the Arabs,BOOM, kill the white men,HOO, HOO, HOO.Like the wind in the chimney.Listen to the yell of Leopold's ghostBurning in Hell for his hand-maimed host.Hear how the demons chuckle and yellCutting his hands off, down in Hell.Listen to the creepy proclamation,Blown through the lairs of the forest-nation,Blown past the white-ants' hill of clay,Blown past the marsh where the butterflies play:—"Be careful what you do,All the o sounds very golden. Heavy accents very heavy.Light accents very light. Last line whispered.Or Mumbo-Jumbo, God of the Congo,And all of the otherGods of the Congo,Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you,Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you,Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you." II. Their Irrepressible High SpiritsRather shrill and high.Wild crap-shooters with a whoop and a callDanced the juba in their gambling-hallAnd laughed fit to kill, and shook the town,And guyed the policemen and laughed them downWith a boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM.Read exactly as in first section.THEN I SAW THE CONGO, CREEPING THROUGH THE BLACK,CUTTING THROUGH THE FOREST WITH A GOLDEN TRACK.Lay emphasis on the delicate ideas.Keep as light-footed as possible.A negro fairyland swung into view,A minstrel riverWhere dreams come true.The ebony palace soared on highThrough the blossoming trees to the evening sky.The inlaid porches and casements shoneWith gold and ivory and elephant-bone.And the black crowd laughed till their sides were soreAt the baboon butler in the agate door,And the well-known tunes of the parrot bandThat trilled on the bushes of that magic land.With pomposity.A troupe of skull-faced witch-men cameThrough the agate doorway in suits of flame,Yea, long-tailed coats with a gold-leaf crustAnd hats that were covered with diamond-dust....