Main Street and other poems/The Big Top
THE BIG TOP
THE boom and blare of the big brass band is cheering to my heart
And I like the smell of the trampled grass and elephants and hay.
I take off my hat to the acrobat with his delicate, strong art,
And the motley mirth of the chalk-faced clown drives all my care away.
I wish I could feel as they must feel, these players brave and fair,
Who nonchalantly juggle death before a staring throng.
It must be fine to walk a line of silver in the air
And to cleave a hundred feet of space with a gesture like a song.
Sir Henry Irving never knew a keener, sweeter thrill
Than that which stirs the breast of him who turns his painted face
To the circling crowd who laugh aloud and clap hands with a will
As a tribute to the clown who won the great wheel-barrow race.
Now, one shall work in the living rock with a mallet and a knife,
And another shall dance on a big white horse that canters round a ring,
By another's hand shall colours stand in similitude of life;
And the hearts of the three shall be moved by one mysterious high thing.
For the sculptor and the acrobat and the painter are the same.
They know one hope, one fear, one pride, one sorrow and one mirth,
And they take delight in the endless fight for the fickle world's acclaim;
For they worship art above the clouds and serve her on the earth.
But you, who can build of the stubborn rock no form of loveliness,
Who can never mingle the radiant hues to make a wonder live,
Who can only show your little woe to the world in a rhythmic dress—
What kind of a counterpart of you does the three-ring circus give?
Well—here in the little side-show tent to-day some people stand,
One is a giant, one a dwarf, and one has a figured skin,
And each is scarred and seared and marred by Fate's relentless hand,
And each one shows his grief for pay, with a sort of pride therein.
You put your sorrow into rhyme and want the world to look;
You sing the news of your ruined hope and want the world to hear;
Their woe is pent in a canvas tent and yours in a printed book.
O, poet of the broken heart, salute your brothers here!