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Circus Poems

Table of Contents

  1. The Circus by Elizabeth Madox Roberts
  2. The Blind Men and the Elephant by John G. Saxe
  3. When the Circus Comes to Town by E. Richard Shipp
  4. To An Old Circus Poster by John Kearns
  5. A Boy's Song on Circus Day by Sam J. Banks
  6. After the Circus by

  1. The Circus

    by Elizabeth Madox Roberts

    Friday came and the circus was there,
    And Mother said that the twins and I
    And Charles and Clarence and all of us
    Could go out and see the parade go by.

    And there were wagons with pictures on,
    And you never could guess what they had inside,
    Nobody could guess, for the doors were shut,
    And there was a dog that a monkey could ride.

    A man on the top of a sort of cart
    Was clapping his hands and making a talk.
    And the elephant came—he can step pretty far—
    It made us laugh to see him walk.

    Three beautiful ladies came riding by,
    And each one had on a golden dress,
    And each one had a golden whip.
    They were queens of Sheba, I guess.

    A big wild man was in a cage,
    And he had some snakes going over his feet.
    And somebody said "He eats them alive!"
    But I didn't see him eat.

  2. The Blind Men and the Elephant

    John Godfrey Saxe

    It was six men of Indostan,
    To learning much inclined,
    Who went to see the elephant,
    (Though all of them were blind,)
    That each by observation
    Might satisfy his mind.

    The first approached the elephant,
    And, happening to fall
    Against his broad and sturdy side,
    At once began to bawl:
    "God bless me! but the elephant
    Is very like a wall!"

    The second, feeling of the tusk,
    Cried: "Ha! what have we here,
    So very round, and smooth, and sharp?
    To me 't is very clear,
    This wonder of an elephant
    Is very like a spear!"

    The third approached the animal,
    And, happening to take
    The squirming trunk within his hands,
    Thus boldly up he spake:
    "I see," quoth he, "the elephant
    Is very like a snake!"

    The fourth reached out his eager hand,
    And fell about the knee:
    "What most this wondrous beast is like,
    Is very plain," quoth he;
    "'T is clear enough the elephant
    Is very like a tree!"

    The fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
    Said: "E'en the blindest man
    Can tell what this resembles most:
    Deny the fact who can,
    This marvel of an elephant
    Is very like a fan!"

    The sixth no sooner had begun
    About the beast to grope,
    Than, seizing on the swinging tail
    That fell within his scope,
    "I see," quoth he, "the elephant
    Is very like a rope!"

    And so these men of Indostan
    Disputed loud and long,
    Each in his own opinion
    Exceeding stiff and strong,
    Though each was partly in the right,
    And all were in the wrong!

  3. When the Circus Comes to Town

    by E. Richard Shipp

    Prancing horses and blaring bands,
    Lions, tigers and funny clowns;
    All sorts of beasts from foreign lands,
    Girls in tights and fancy gowns,
    Monkey-men climbing up and down,
    And marching along two by two
    The elephant and the kangaroo—
    These things you'll see,
    They'll all be free,
    When the circus comes to town.

    The world's greatest equestrian,
    Camels, zebras, leopards and snakes,
    Bearded lady and tattooed man,
    Circassian girls—they are not fakes—
    A fellow walking upside down,
    Leapers tumblers, contortionists,
    Racers, wrestlers, pugilists—
    These things you'll see,
    They'll all be free,
    When the circus comes to town.

    A thick-skinned, double-homed "Rhino."
    And a South American sloth,
    A wild, wild man from Borneo
    And a blood-sweating Behemoth;
    Bears, white, cinnamon, black and brown;
    Parrots, red, green, yellow and blue
    That quarrel and scold like a shrew—
    These things you'll see,
    They'll all be free,
    When the circus comes to town.

  4. To an Old Circus Poster

    John Kearns

    Slatternly, worn, and faded in part,
    Clown of the whole pictorial art,
    Your Day was when you flashed on the eye
    The folly and farce you glorify.

    As to paper and paste and gaudy paint,
    Extravagance, lack of all restraint,
    Contempt for logic, yet power to thrill—
    What a world there is in a circus-bill!

    A poem writ with a tawdry pen
    To Indulge the wayward whims of men;
    A weather-map with a board survey
    Of childhood's fairest, happiest day.

    How dear to our hearts your cheap romance
    Of color, carnival, jest and dance—
    Performance continued day and night,
    Or as long as your face remained in sight.

    And after all, if we failed to see
    The actual show, your show was free;
    How often we lived it over in brief,
    Or invoked your spell to assuage our grief.

    As age came on, with more command,
    What hopes, what prospects were at hand,
    Replete with wonderment and thrills
    For all the world like circus-bills.

    Till Time's bill-poster, Fortune, hung
    New titles upon the boards, and flung
    The tatters of tedious, gilded fraud
    Upon the earth and the air abroad.

    With a bigger date before our eye,
    We let the precious weeks slip by,
    And only the circus-days loom bright
    To mark Life's passing and Time's mad flight.

    Yet Life is rich for the hours we wait,
    And the things we please to anticipate,
    As love is deeper for some regret,
    And peace for strife it will never forget.

  5. A Boy's Song on Circus Day

    Sam J. Banks

    Hip, hooray, for circus day!
    Am I happy?—I should say!
    Yes, the circus is in town,
    With its elephant and clown;
    With its monkey and its bear;
    With its lion in his lair;
    With its tricky riding mule—
    Not from any riding school—
    Lincoln Brothers circus show
    Plays today—you bet I'll go.

    Break of day, on Walnut Street,
    Saw me up, the show to greet.
    Say, my heart was filled with joy,
    And the heart of ev'ry boy
    Danced around his breast, I think,
    When an el'phant stopped to drink
    From a trough of water, where
    I was standing, in the square,
    With a crowd of boys and men,
    That big el'phant drank, and then,
    When he quit and off did trot
    Down the street and to the lot
    Where the circus show is held
    Up I threw my hat and yelled.

    To the circus grounds I ran,
    And a big, fat circus man,
    Standing there, in dewy grass,
    Told me I could earn a pass
    If I'd help him—Well, you see,
    That was just what suited me.

    So I helped him and his men,
    Toting poles and seats, and then,
    When we got that circus built,
    From his vest this card of gilt
    He pulled forth and gave to me—
    "Pass one boy," it says—just see!
    Gee, but ain't there lots of class
    To this pretty circus pass?

  6. After the Circus

    Raymond Holden

    I can remember how the memory
    Of fat-hipped women and strong chalky horses
    And men in red and gold hung heavily
    From rafters in my eyes, how other forces
    Recruited among peanuts and popped corn
    Marched in my middle. I remember now
    A miserable sense of having worn
    Too small a hat, so that my dizzy brow
    Reeled in the settling dust behind the mare
    As we rolled homeward up the river breeze,
    Pursued by blasts of trumpets and the glare
    Of white lights hanging among high trapeze.
    Yet, for relief, I have still more in mind
    How a great bird I never hoped to see
    With wings like winds of storm that beat me blind
    Flew up and startled both the mare and me.
    So great the power of its sudden flight
    The very day was altered and my brain
    Burst from its bonds and followed the sloped light
    On through the maples to the bird again,
    And then the look of clowns and the blare of brass
    Was gone and something came to the road's edge
    And the breath of it blew petals to the grass
    And it took me in its arms and sang a pledge
    I have not yet forgotten into me.
    So much for circuses or for any event.
    The coming away is the reality.
    The coming to one's self is what is meant.

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