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The Bronco That Would Not Be Broken -- Vachel Lindsay

Guest poem sent in by Gregg Morgan
(Poem #1477) The Bronco That Would Not Be Broken
 A little colt -- bronco, loaned to the farm
 To be broken in time without fury or harm,
 Yet black crows flew past you, shouting alarm,
 Calling "Beware," with lugubrious singing...
 The butterflies there in the bush were romancing,
 The smell of the grass caught your soul in a trance,
 So why be a-fearing the spurs and the traces,
 O bronco that would not be broken of dancing?

 You were born with the pride of the lords great and olden
 Who danced, through the ages, in corridors golden.
 In all the wide farm-place the person most human.
 You spoke out so plainly with squealing and capering.
 With whinnying, snorting, contorting, and prancing,
 As you dodged your pursuers, looking askance.
 With Greek-footed figures, and Parthenon paces.
 O bronco that would not be broken of dancing.

 The grasshoppers cheered. "Keep whirling," they said
 The insolent sparrows called from the shed,
 "If men will not laugh, make them wish they were dead."
 But arch were your thoughts, all malice displacing,
 Though the horse-killers came, with snake-whips advancing.
 You bantered and cantered away from your last chance.
 And they scourged you, with Hell in their speech and their faces,
 O bronco that would not be broken of dancing.

 "Nobody cares for you," rattled the crows,
 As you dragged the whole reaper, next day, down the rows.
 The three mules held back, yet you danced on your toes.
 You pulled like a racer, and kept the mules chasing.
 You tangled the harness with bright eyes side-glancing,
 While the drunk driver bled you -- a pole for a lance --
 And the giant mules bit at you -- keeping their places.
 O bronco that would not be broken of dancing.

 In that last afternoon your boyish heart broke.
 The hot wind came down like a sledge-hammer stroke.
 The blood-sucking flies to a rare feast awoke.
 And they searched out your wounds, your death-warrant tracing.
 And the merciful men, their religion enhancing,
 Stopped the red reaper, to give you a chance.
 Then you died on the prairie, and scorned all disgraces,
 O bronco that would not be broken of dancing.
-- Vachel Lindsay
This is one of my many favorite Vachel Lindsay poems. The message
is simple, and full of devices that pull the reader to save the little
donkey -- to be the one who stands for he who will not be "broken"
and fights though winning is not an option, but the fight to be
free, your own man is also not an option...Genius!


[Martin adds]

There are echoes of Invictus [Poem #221] and The Slave's Dream [Poem #629],
both worth rereading alongside this one for the several perspectives on a
common theme.

55 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Tim Reynolds said...

This one is mine:

Vachel Lindsay with a beller and a whoop
and an epileptic condition and a mother fixation
just a touch of that Neanderthal tarbrush

(intoned triumphantly)

built Heaven in his own Home Town


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nadia said...
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nadia said...

Thank you so much for posting this poem! I read this in middle school and it had such a profound effect on myself and my mother. It was as though it was written to me. A few years later we tried to find the poem and I thought I had the title incorrect. This was long before the internet. I have looked every few years and alas you have answered my wishes. I do not know how I have missed it for nearly 9 years though!
I am now the woman who cannot be broken and I am still going strong!

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k4f said...

In the third verse, the line should be "You bantered and cantered away your last chance." The "from" that crept in is incorrect. This was a sneaky mistake to catch - I had to read the poem three times!

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