The Reason That Every Poem Cannot Be of Good Cheer – Vachel Linsay – The Light of the Moon


Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I detest poetry that drones and groans and moans–all for the sake of dragging along. It becomes the worst pity party imaginable–a pretentious pity party. Unfortunately, I have read too much of that long dribble and quit reading poetry completely. Consider it: I have an MA in English Literature, with Emphasis in Writing, and I quit reading–and I quit doing any creative writing, too. My WordPress Writing 201 Poetry Class has nudged me beyond that place. Thank you, Ben Huberman.

Ben gave us the assignment to read poetry and share our favorite poem. After one night of empty searches, I shared Hey Diddle Diddle and The Owl and the Pussy-cat. From what I could tell, not much great had happened for hundreds of years; but I am not a quitter. I continued to search.

Because both Hey Diddle Diddle and The Owl and the Pussy-cat both allude to the moon, and because I saw that I was doing the same in my first poems, I decided to focus on poems about the moon. I read poem upon poem that interested me a bit. When I discovered The Light of the Moon by Vachel Lindsay, however, I knew that I was back.

Along the way, I gave up on adult poetry, and I began to write manuscripts for picture books. I did not submit them for publication, but that problem is another blog post. My poetic voice became a child’s, blinded by many of the nuances of life. I didn’t want to become the person that my dad called Meyer the Cryer; therefore, I just danced from high to high [or not!].

In The Light of the Moon, Vachel Lindsay very adeptly changes his words to reflect the multifarious moods of life. Life is not all highs and it is not all lows. Not many can beat me on the downer experiences in life. I have had more than my share; yet, I continue to buoy. From my perspective, that is the only choice!

Other poets also focused on the fact that the way that we see the moon is variable, according to our perspectives; but none that I have found do it better than Lindsay. He writes an entirely different stanza for each mood. Brilliant!

After all, life does have its ups and downs. If we can only write about the ups, we are really not writing at all. We are high-lighting–or at the very best, high-writing.

In order to better see Lindsay’s poems, I broke it into stanzas and provided a separate image for each stanza. Keep in mind that I have masters’ degrees in both writing and painting. A picture to me is truly worth a thousand words; and that is why I prefer poetry to prose.

The Old Horse in the City

The moon’s a peck of corn. It lies
Heaped up for me to eat.
I wish that I might climb the path
And taste that supper sweet.

Men feed me straw and scanty grain
And beat me till I’m sore.
Some day I’ll break the halter-rope
And smash the stable-door,

Run down the street and mount the hill
Just as the corn appears.
I’ve seen it rise at certain times
For years and years and years.

What the Hyena Said

The moon is but a golden skull,
She mounts the heavens now,
And Moon-Worms, mighty Moon-Worms
Are wreathed around her brow.

The Moon-Worms are a doughty race:
They eat her gray and golden face.
Her eye-sockets dead, and molding head:
These caverns are their dwelling-place.

The Moon-Worms, serpents of the skies,
From the great hollows of her eyes
Behold all souls, and they are wise:
With tiny, keen and icy eyes,
Behold how each man sins and dies.

When Earth in gold-corruption lies
Long dead, the moon-worm butterflies
On cyclone wings will reach this place —
Yea, rear their brood on earth’s dead face.

What the Snow Man Said

The Moon’s a snowball. See the drifts
Of white that cross the sphere.
The Moon’s a snowball, melted down
A dozen times a year.

Yet rolled again in hot July
When all my days are done
And cool to greet the weary eye
After the scorching sun.

The moon’s a piece of winter fair
Renewed the year around,
Behold it, deathless and unstained,
Above the grimy ground!

It rolls on high so brave and white
Where the clear air-rivers flow,
Proclaiming Christmas all the time
And the glory of the snow!

What the Scare-crow Said

The dim-winged spirits of the night
Do fear and serve me well.
They creep from out the hedges of
The garden where I dwell.

I wave my arms across the walk.
The troops obey the sign,
And bring me shimmering shadow-robes
And cups of cowslip-wine.

Then dig a treasure called the moon,
A very precious thing,
And keep it in the air for me
Because I am a King.


What Grandpa Mouse Said

The moon’s a holy owl-queen.
She keeps them in a jar
Under her arm till evening,
Then sallies forth to war.

She pours the owls upon us.
They hoot with horrid noise
And eat the naughty mousie-girls
And wicked mousie-boys.

So climb the moonvine every night
And to the owl-queen pray:
Leave good green cheese by moonlit trees
For her to take away.

And never squeak, my children,
Nor gnaw the smoke-house door:
The owl-queen then will love us
And send her birds no more.

What the Forester Said

The moon is but a candle-glow
That flickers thro’ the gloom:
The starry space, a castle hall:
And Earth, the children’s room,
Where all night long the old trees stand
To watch the streams asleep:
Grandmothers guarding trundle-beds:
Good shepherds guarding sheep.

[Beautiful – Perfectly Beautiful]


4 thoughts on “The Reason That Every Poem Cannot Be of Good Cheer – Vachel Linsay – The Light of the Moon

  1. I am more fascinated by what what you conveyed prior to sharing the poems by Lindsay. You seem to be a very talented writer. Providing an image for each stanza brings more life to the poems. I love images as I believe they push the imagination to a higher level. Well done.


    1. You have said something very nice about my writing. I take blogging by spurts. A couple of years ago, I wrote a long book review. Someone said, “I read the book and didn’t like it, but I loved what you had to say. He actually added that I was a better writer than the author of the book that I was reviewing.” I need to heed golden words, when I hear them.


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