Vachel Lindsay

(November 10, 1879 – December 5, 1931 / Springfield, Illinois)

The City That Will Not Repent


Climbing the heights of Berkeley
Nightly I watch the West.
There lies new San Francisco,
Sea-maid in purple dressed,
Wearing a dancer's girdle
All to inflame desire:
Scorning her days of sackcloth,
Scorning her cleansing fire.

See, like a burning city
Sets now the red sun's dome.
See, mystic firebrands sparkle
There on each store and home.
See how the golden gateway
Burns with the day to be —
Torch-bearing fiends of portent
Loom o'er the earth and sea.

Not by the earthquake daunted
Nor by new fears made tame,
Painting her face and laughing
Plays she a new-found game.
Here on her half-cool cinders
'Frisco abides in mirth,
Planning the wildest splendor
Ever upon the earth.

Here on this crumbling rock-ledge
'Frisco her all will stake,
Blowing her bubble-towers,
Swearing they will not break,
Rearing her Fair transcendent,
Singing with piercing art,
Calling to Ancient Asia,
Wooing young Europe's heart.
Here where her God has scourged her
Wantoning, singing sweet:
Waiting her mad bad lovers
Here by the judgment-seat!

'Frisco, God's doughty foeman,
Scorns and blasphemes him strong.
Tho' he again should smite her
She would not slack her song.
Nay, she would shriek and rally —
'Frisco would ten times rise!
Not till her last tower crumbles,
Not till her last rose dies,
Not till the coast sinks seaward,
Not till the cold tides beat
Over the high white Shasta,
'Frisco will cry defeat.

God loves this rebel city,
Loves foemen brisk and game,
Tho', just to please the angels,
He may send down his flame.
God loves the golden leopard
Tho' he may spoil her lair.
God smites, yet loves the lion.
God makes the panther fair.

Dance then, wild guests of 'Frisco,
Yellow, bronze, white and red!
Dance by the golden gateway —
Dance, tho' he smite you dead!

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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