Sivun näyttöjä yhteensä

13. elokuuta 2006


The Congo

A Study of the Negro Race

I. Their Basic Savagery

Fat 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 along that riverbank
A thousand miles
Tattooed cannibals danced in files;
Then I heard the boom of the blood-lust song
# A 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,
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM,"
# With a philosophic pause. #
A roaring, epic, rag-time tune
From the mouth of the Congo
To 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,
# Like the wind in the chimney. #
Listen to the yell of Leopold's ghost
Burning in Hell for his hand-maimed host.
Hear how the demons chuckle and yell
Cutting 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 other
Gods 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 Spirits

# Rather shrill and high. #
Wild crap-shooters with a whoop and a call
Danced the juba in their gambling-hall
And laughed fit to kill, and shook the town,
And guyed the policemen and laughed them down
With a boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM.
# Read exactly as in first section. #
# Lay emphasis on the delicate ideas.
Keep as light-footed as possible. #
A negro fairyland swung into view,
A minstrel river
Where dreams come true.
The ebony palace soared on high
Through the blossoming trees to the evening sky.
The inlaid porches and casements shone
With gold and ivory and elephant-bone.
And the black crowd laughed till their sides were sore
At the baboon butler in the agate door,
And the well-known tunes of the parrot band
That trilled on the bushes of that magic land.

# With pomposity. #
A troupe of skull-faced witch-men came
Through the agate doorway in suits of flame,
Yea, long-tailed coats with a gold-leaf crust
And hats that were covered with diamond-dust.
And the crowd in the court gave a whoop and a call
And danced the juba from wall to wall.
# With a great deliberation and ghostliness. #
But the witch-men suddenly stilled the throng
With a stern cold glare, and a stern old song: --
"Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you." . . .
# With overwhelming assurance, good cheer, and pomp. #
Just then from the doorway, as fat as shotes,
Came the cake-walk princes in their long red coats,
Canes with a brilliant lacquer shine,
And tall silk hats that were red as wine.
# With growing speed and sharply marked dance-rhythm. #
And they pranced with their butterfly partners there,
Coal-black maidens with pearls in their hair,
Knee-skirts trimmed with the jassamine sweet,
And bells on their ankles and little black feet.
And the couples railed at the chant and the frown
Of the witch-men lean, and laughed them down.
(O rare was the revel, and well worth while
That made those glowering witch-men smile.)

The cake-walk royalty then began
To walk for a cake that was tall as a man
To the tune of "Boomlay, boomlay, BOOM,"
# With a touch of negro dialect,
and as rapidly as possible toward the end. #
While the witch-men laughed, with a sinister air,
And sang with the scalawags prancing there: --
"Walk with care, walk with care,
Or Mumbo-Jumbo, God of the Congo,
And all of the other
Gods of the Congo,
Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you.
Beware, beware, walk with care,
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom.
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom,
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom,
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay,
# Slow philosophic calm. #
Oh rare was the revel, and well worth while
That made those glowering witch-men smile.

III. The Hope of their Religion

# Heavy bass. With a literal imitation
of camp-meeting racket, and trance. #
A good old negro in the slums of the town
Preached at a sister for her velvet gown.
Howled at a brother for his low-down ways,
His prowling, guzzling, sneak-thief days.
Beat on the Bible till he wore it out
Starting the jubilee revival shout.
And some had visions, as they stood on chairs,
And sang of Jacob, and the golden stairs,
And they all repented, a thousand strong
From their stupor and savagery and sin and wrong
And slammed with their hymn books till they shook the room
With "glory, glory, glory,"
And "Boom, boom, BOOM."
# Exactly as in the first section.
Begin with terror and power, end with joy. #
And the gray sky opened like a new-rent veil
And showed the apostles with their coats of mail.
In bright white steele they were seated round
And their fire-eyes watched where the Congo wound.
And the twelve Apostles, from their thrones on high
Thrilled all the forest with their heavenly cry: --
# Sung to the tune of "Hark, ten thousand
harps and voices". #
"Mumbo-Jumbo will die in the jungle;
Never again will he hoo-doo you,
Never again will he hoo-doo you."

# With growing deliberation and joy. #
Then along that river, a thousand miles
The vine-snared trees fell down in files.
Pioneer angels cleared the way
For a Congo paradise, for babes at play,
For sacred capitals, for temples clean.
Gone were the skull-faced witch-men lean.
# In a rather high key -- as delicately as possible. #
There, where the wild ghost-gods had wailed
A million boats of the angels sailed
With oars of silver, and prows of blue
And silken pennants that the sun shone through.
'Twas a land transfigured, 'twas a new creation.
Oh, a singing wind swept the negro nation
And on through the backwoods clearing flew: --
# To the tune of "Hark, ten thousand harps and voices". #
"Mumbo-Jumbo is dead in the jungle.
Never again will he hoo-doo you.
Never again will he hoo-doo you."

Redeemed were the forests, the beasts and the men,
And only the vulture dared again
By the far, lone mountains of the moon
To cry, in the silence, the Congo tune: --
# Dying down into a penetrating, terrified whisper. #
"Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you,
Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you.
Mumbo . . . Jumbo . . . will . . . hoo-doo . . . you."

This poem, particularly the third section, was suggested by an allusion
in a sermon by my pastor, F. W. Burnham, to the heroic life and death
of Ray Eldred. Eldred was a missionary of the Disciples of Christ
who perished while swimming a treacherous branch of the Congo.
See "A Master Builder on the Congo", by Andrew F. Hensey,
published by Fleming H. Revell.
= = =

Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931) is fondly remembered in this country because this poem was so often recited by Yrjö Jyrinkoski, giving readings in Finnish schools on 50ies and 60ies.

I later noticed that the text is rather difficult to find in USA and is consistently omitted from anthologies, although it is i supergn "jazz-poem" written decades before jazz and jazz-poems.

The reason might be itse alleged racism. Some American scholars have been in pains to point out, how people of color published exactly the same kind of poetry in same time and how even the critics of Lindsay took him as an ally to them.

For Europeans this seems rather ludicrous. In the same vein Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" would be a criminally racist and imperialist piece of writing.

As you see, I have difficulties to read old texts through modern sensibilities.

Posting the text now is a present for my readers. It turned up in a discussion with an old friend and I believe many remember the recitation mentioned - something like Dylan Thomas in Finland.

It is my belief "Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you" is still today sometimes heard as a quotation, even in the corridors of the mighty.

3 kommenttia:

  1. Vanhojen tekstien ja kuvien lukeminen "modernin silmin" ei sulje pois sitä, etteikö niitä voisi ymmärtää luomishetkensä kontekstissa - kuten vaikkapa näitä Afrikkalaisia veitikoita.

    Hieno riimi Lindsayn runossa:
    Listen to the yell of Leopold's ghost
    Burning in Hell for his hand-maimed host.

  2. Ad Lurker:

    "Tällä tavoin rangaistaan neekereiden käteensilpojaa - helveti tulessa nyt hän palaa saa..."

    Oman lapsuuteni muisto: Arvily (Arvid Lydecken) Kotoa ja kaukaa - mm. "Pepe oli musta, niin mustanmusta, ja sekös vsata herättääkin kummstusta.

    Eräs luokkatoverini pääsi käymään Helsingin olymialaisissa ja kehui nähneensä neekerin. Pidimme juttua perättömänä.

  3. Leopoldilla oli niin Kongossa kuin Ruandassakin käytettävissään käsikirja, jonka kauan uskottiin löytyneen kiven alta valmiina, ja jossa sanotaan (Hesekiel) mm.

    ”Se on kansalle koettelemus, mutta syystä.

    Kansa ei ole taipunut kuriin -- näin sanoo Herra Jumala.

    Ennusta, ihminen, iske kätesi yhteen ja ennusta:

    -- Kahdesti, kolmesti miekka iskee,
    ja ihmisiä kaatuu,
    ihmisjoukkoja kaatuu,
    kun se riehuu heidän keskellään.

    Kaikki ovat kauhun vallassa,
    vapisevat ja kompastelevat.

    Kaupungin jokaiselle portille
    olen pannut pyövelin miekan.

    Voi, siihen on hiottu salaman välke, sen terä on taottu juomaan verta!

    Iske oikeaan, viillä vasempaan,
    minne vain teräsi ohjaan!

    Minäkin isken käteni yhteen ja päästän vihani valloilleen.
    Minä, Herra, olen puhunut."

    Eikös liene selvää etteivät kiinalaisetkaan maailman valloituskisassa voineet meille läntisille pärjätä?

    Vai olisivatko tekstit syntyneetkin ihmsenkädestä noiden valloituskokemusten kirjaamiseksi?

    Kauhistuttaa ajatellakin.