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Listen to the land a profile of a nation in terms of its living language. You're you're you're. We invite you to listen to America to the stories the poems the legends the humor the drama and the thought that characterize our country and give it color and meaning. Listen to the land is produced by a station w h y y Philadelphia under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. By sharing allow the writings of our country past and present we can come to a fuller appreciation of those things which are meaningful to us as Americans and perhaps of the nature of our role in the contemporary world. Now here is your host and the writer Richard S. Burdick for that black box in a wine barrel room Barrel House kings with feet unstable Saigon reeled and pounded on the table piled on the table beaten up the barrel with a handle of a broom hard as they were able boom boom boom.
Those words were written by Rachel Lindsay a man whose name will rank high on anybody's list of distinctive American Poets. The title of Mr. Lindsey's poem is the Congo a throbbing study of the Negro race and the work for which Lindsay is most noted. Rachel Lindsay's use of rhythm and counterpoint his soaring vocabulary in the pulsing jazz like beat that gives them transportation are rhetorical lightning flashes and that's why I've included the Congo in this first program in the listen to the Land series subtitled. Language is a living thing. Sometimes we take language too much for granted like a clock ticking or birds flying or cool water down the throat on a hot day. The miracle of the every day words are with us always. They're all around us within as part of us and yet
they're magical. They excite us Camas transport us inspire us cause us to weep or to laugh or to kill or to love. They even cause us to remain silent and just think or feel. But the words are still there to identify and to translate the thoughts and emotions. And so this is a program about words as they formulate a living language with a special connotation to Americans. And now I'll stop using my words and use VHA Lindsey's. Here's the Congo in its entirety. Rachel Lindsay's study of the Negro race. Five black bucks in a wine barrel room Barrel House kings with feet unstable sagged and reeled and pounded on the table pounded on the table beat an empty bottle with the handle of a broom hard as they were able. Boom boom boom. With a silk umbrella in the handle of a broom woman lay boom boom boom.
Then I had religion. Then I had a vision. I could not turn from the rubble and derision. And I saw the Congo creeping through the black cutting through the forest with a golden track that along the riverbank A follows on Miles tattooed cannibals danced in files then I heard the boom of the blood lust song of my bone beating out tin pan gong and bon scream the whistles on the flanks of the Warriors boards scream the skull faced lean witch doctors where the dead leaves are a they up plans to you know the cattle rattle rattle rattle rattle rattle rattle big boom a lay boom lay boom lay boom. Roaring epic ragtime tune from the mouth of the Congo to the mountains of the moon. Death. There's an elephant torch Oh I don't know Arbel flown fly and done terrible you still are pygmies who knew Kelley Arabs boom kill no white man who.
Goes for the Demons chuckle an ear got hair. And the creepy glow made through the lairs the forest nation past the white islands blown past the marsh where the butterflies pull a big gavel. What do you do. Our God of the Congo and all of the other gods of the Congo. John will you join.
Us. Good old negro in the slums of the town. Preach to Sister upon her velvet gown all lit up brother her as low down a ways as prowling guzzling sneak thief they beat down the Bible to only want out starting the Jubilee revival and some had visions of they stood on the chairs and sighing of Jacob and the golden stairs and they all repent of the poems strong from the stupor and the savagery of the sin the wrong and slammed with a hymn book still a shook the room I go oh oh oh oh oh. And the boom boom boom boom. And I saw the Congo creeping through the black.
Cutting through the jungle with a golden tract in the grey sky opened like a new red veil and showed the Apostles with our coats of mail and bright white steel they were seated around their fire eyes watched while the Congo wound and the twelve apostles from their thrones on the hike through all the forest with a heavenly cry mumbo jumbo well done in the jungle. Never again will you do you ever read your willy. Do you know along that river road follows the miles of vines smile a dream filed on and files pioneer angels cleared the way. Where are Congo. Paradise but babes at play the most sacred capitals but temples clean gone with the skull faced white which meant there were no wild ghost gods and wailed a million boats of the angel salable doors of silver and problems of blue and so
planets but the sun shone through it was a line transfigured it was a new creation or as something wind swept the negro nation and on through the back woods clearing flu my bone. Jumbo is in the jungle. Never again. Never again know where the forests and the beasts and the men not only love but you're dared again by the far Lone Mountain love them to cry in the silence. The Congo too young. Why
be. We turn now to James Weldon Johnson a man who gave life to language James Weldon Johnson wrote with humor that is to say good humor warmth and kindness but with beauty and great dignity. I suggest you look in your library for a book called God's trombones by James Weldon Johnson It's a collection of seven negro sermons in verse that will hold you spellbound. And among them is this one called The Creation as your lesson. I suggest that you test your memory of the first and second chapters of Genesis. And God stepped out on space and they looked
around and said I'm lonely. I'll make me a world. And as far as the eye of God could see darkness covered everything blacker than a hundred midnight stone in a cypress one. And God smiled and the light broke and the darkness rolled up on one side and the light stood shining on the other. And God said that's good. Then God reached out and took the light in his hands and God rolled the light around in his hands until he made the sun and he set that sun in a blazing in the heavens and the like that was left from making the Sun God gathered up in a shining ball and flung against the darkness spangly in the night with the moon and stars and down between the darkness and the light he hurled the world. And God said that's good.
Then God himself stepped down and the sun was on his right hand and the moon was on his left. The stars were clustered about his head and the earth was under his feet. And God was and where he trod his footsteps hollowed the valleys out and Barlows the mountains up and then he stopped and looked and saw that the earth was hot and barren. So God stepped over to the edge of the world and he spat out the seven seas. He batted his eyes and the lightnings flashed. He clapped his hands in the Thunders roll and the waters above the earth came down the cooling waters came down. And the green grass sprouted and the little red flowers blossom and the pine tree pointed his finger to the sky and the oak spread out his arms. The lake scuttled down in the hollows of the ground and the rivers ran down to the sea and God smiled and the rainbow appeared and
curled itself around his shoulder. And God raised his arm and he waved his hand over the sea and over the land and he said bring forth bring forth. And quicker than God could drop his hand fishes and Falzon beasts and birds swam the rivers in the seas roamed the forests in the woods and split the air with their wings. And God said that's good. Then God walked around and God looked around and all that he had made he looked at his son and he looked at his moon and he looked at his little stars. He looked on his world with all its living things. And God said I'm lonely still. And God sat down on the side of a hill very good thing by a deep wide river he sat down and with his head in his hands God thought
and thought till he thought I'll meet me on my hand up from the bed of the River God scooped the clay. And by the bank of the river he kneeled him down and Vera the great God Almighty Who Let The Sun fixed it in the sky who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night. We rounded the earth in the middle of his hand. This great God like a mammy bending over her baby kneeled down in the dust of the earth toiling over a comp of clay until he shaped it in his own image. And then into it he blew the breath of life and man became a living soul. If you like that I suggest that you get James Weldon
Johnson's book God's trombones that contains seven sermons and verse similar to this one. The word onomatopoeia is a $5 word meaning a formation of words an imitation of natural sounds. Buzz. Yes. For example are buying clanger boy. I don't want a PDA o n o m a t o p o e i a. And I'm glad I have it in front of me to spell is responsible for a lot of life in our language. One of the classic examples is a poem called The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe. Perhaps you had to memorize it for school assembly when you were a youngster. Youngsters today are still wrestling with it and I wish they'd stop wrestling and listen listen to the bells a flood of bells bells of every description ringing and repeating until the ears are fairly filled with the sound of the sledge is with the
bells silver bells. What a world of merriment there melody. But tell us how they think of tinkle tinkle in the icy air of night while the stars it over sprinkle all the heavens sing the twinkle with a crystalline delight keeping time tying time in a sort of Runic rhyme to the tempter not the elation that so musically wells in the Bills Bills Bills Bills Bills bells bells bells bells bells from the jingling and tinkling of the bells. You're the loud alarm bells brazen bells What a tale of terror not a turbulence he tells in the startled ear of Mike how they scream out their own fright too much horrified to speak they can only shriek shriek out of tune in the clamorous appealing to the mercy of the flier in a matics postulation of the death and frantic fire leaping higher higher higher with a desperate desire and a resolute Endeavor now now to sit down never by the side of the pale face of moon or the bells Bell bells What a tale their terror tells of despair all by clang and clash and roar what a Harley outpour on the bosom of the palpitating air yet the ear it fully knows by the twining and the clanging. How the danger ebbs and
flows yet the ear distinctly tells in the jangling and the wrangling now the danger sinks and swells by the sinking of the swelling and the younger of the bells of the bells of the bell but old but old Bell Bell veld by old and the climber in the clanger of the bells. Hear the tolling of the bells iron bowels. What a world of solemn thought their Monody compels in the silence of the night. I always shiver with a fright at the melancholy menace of their tone but every sound that floats from the rust within their throat does a groan and the people. The people that dwell up in the steeple all alone. And who told who told in their muffled monotone healer glory and so rolling on the human heart of stone.
Neither on mine no woman neither brute no human guru and their king it is who tolls as a rural rural rural rural pay on from the Bell and his merry bosom swelled with API and of the bells and day dances and the arrows keeping ty ty ty in a sort of Runic rhyme to the bell to the keeping time time time to the throbbing of the bell of the bell to those sobbing of the bell keeping time. As in No.
You know I happy Runic who are I know there are a wing of the bell of the bell to the tolling of the brow of the brow to the moon. In New York City on March 13 1943 a man died who took part of the language with him but he left a part of
himself in the language that cannot die. His name was Steven Vincent Benet and he wrote some very fine things John Brown's Body the Devil and Daniel Webster and lots more. But among the things that Steven Vincent Benet wrote most of them filled with American sounds reflecting his great tonight uncanny love and understanding of his country was a poem in the form of couplets called the Mountain whippoorwill or how Hillbilly Jim won the great fiddlers prize. Now this is a square dance fiddle contest in verse and it's not only very moving and a lot of fun and even dramatic but it's a brilliant example of language that not only lives but invigorates and transports. Here then is Steven Vincent Benet's the mountain with the well the whip well by the way being the name of hillbilly Jim's fiddle or how hillbilly jam won the great fiddlers prize. Up in the mountains it's lonesome all the time.
Soft winds flew into the sweet potato vine up in the mountains it's lonesome for a child with a will as a calling when the sap runs wild up in the mountains mountains in the fog of Robson's a lazy is an old Palm Dog born in the mountains never raised a pet don't want nothin and never got it yet born in the mountains lonesome born raised run ragged to the cockle burs and corn never no more Poppy maybe never should think he was a fiddle made of Mountain Laurel Wood never had a mammy to teach me purty please. And she was a whale skeleton to the tree never had a brother and her old pair of pants. But when I start to fiddle he got a start to listen to me if it didn't come to him come near the frogs a drunken jug a rum jug a rum here that mountain with a will be lonesome in the air and to tell you how it travelled to the Essex County now
Essex County has a mighty pretty fair. All the smarty figures from the South come their elbows flyin as they were rising up the boat for the first prize contest in the Georgia Federer's show. Old Dan wheeling with his whiskers in his ears. Kingpin Federer for nearly 20 years. Big Tom Sargent with his blue walleye and little Jimmy wizard can make a fiddle cry all certain round spit and high and strut and prod and listen little whippoorwill. You've been a bug your eyes tuna tuna Doonan while the judges told the crowd then the got the most just claps and when the best is prime everybody waiting for the first tweet will be when in comes a stumble on hillbilly me wild ride party to the judges and the rest took a silver dollar from the whole inside of a vest pocket on the table and said there is McAllen God Netty want to lecture me.
You've got a fiddle mighty hard or Dan Whelan he was a laugh and fed dollar you little Jimmy Weezer said there is one God don't I. Big Tom Sargent had a yard toothy grin but I tucked my little whip awel spang underneath my chin petted it tuned it. Dylan judges said bigger and also big Tom Sargent was the first in line. He could fit all the bugs up a sweet potato vine. He could fiddle down a possum from a mile high tree. He could fit like a whale from the bottom of the sea. You could hear him spank until they spanked each other raw when he finished variations on Turkey in the straw. Little Jimmy Weezer was the NEXT TO PLAY he could fiddle all night a good fiddle all day. He could fiddle childe he could fiddle Schriever he could make a figure rustle like a rule and lever he could make a fiddle Croom like a loving woman and they clap like thunder when he finished drumming and then came the rock of the
bob tailed fiddlers the LETS GO Easy's the fair to middling years they got their claps and they lost their Becker settled back for some more corn liquor and the crowd was tired of their no account squeal and went out in the center steps and we. He fiddled a high and he fiddled low. This in little ripple when you go to spread your wings he fitted with a Jerry would go all day and Willow's got bee honey in his dreams. He fiddled the wind by the lonesome Mooney fiddle a most almighty tune. He started feeling like a ghost in a Ended fiddling like a host he fiddled nor any fiddle so the fit of the heart right out of your mouth if you don't hear a fiddle there a fiddle salvation everywhere. When he was finished the crowd cut loose who ripple when he's read on your breast and now I sat there wondering what's the use. Whippoorwill fly home
to your new house. But I stood up and I took a bow the fiddle went to much shorter so and there was no crowd to get me fazed but I was alone where I was raised up in the mountains. Still it makes you scared. But God lies asleep in his big white beard and I heard the sound of the squirrel in the pine and I heard the earth abbrev into the long night time. They fiddled the rows and they fiddled a thorn but they haven't fiddled them up in corn. They fiddle simple and fiddled moral but they haven't fitted the brushwood Loral they federal loud my fiddle still but they haven't fiddled the whippoorwill. I started off with a dump to dump. Oh hell broke loose in Georgia skunk cabbage grown by the big arms dump whippoorwill you're a singer now or George Bush is a mighty fine booze the best you
have a point here but it's a sole right off in your shoes and I always broke loose enjoyed you. My mother was a whippoorwill put my father he was lazy but I had broke loose in a new store sure to follow suit. Bringing up but up and down the middle. Now recent do that fit a laptop on a bed not brittle and I had broke loose and I had broke loose fire on them up and sticks in the grass seconds you're a bind and already let him past Go Down Moses set my people free and Pop Goes the Weasel they already see Jonas non-addictive rebound up jumps away and where is your brother. No early but in the pea patch bottom in the pot drying stuff of peat and I'm afraid it was getting hot weather we'll sing in through the mountain hunched whippoorwill shouting from the burning bush who will cry in the stable door was singing tonight like you had never sung before they always broke loose like a stop on Martin Show. Sing to your bus the gold in your throat. Hell broke loose for 40 miles around bound to stop your music if you don't sing it down Singin in the mountains Little sing it to the
valleys and Slaton what to do with your arms. Hires illegals grew out of hell broke loose hell broke lose sales a recruiting job. It was in the sound when I stopped bowling or a little ripple will you can sing normal. But somewhere or other the dawn was growing. Who you mouth and with. And I thought I fiddled all night and lost. You're a good hillbilly but you've been boss. So I went up to congratulate old man Dan.. But but he put his fiddle into my hand and then the noise of the crowd began. Oh I have had it. While I hope now that you agree with the thought advanced in the subtitle of this program
language is a living thing. If you do perhaps you'll join with me in the purpose of keeping it alive each in his own way by way of an alertness to the full meaning of the words we read and hear their magic their poetry their drama and in the instance of such writings as we have featured on this program and will feature in the 25 weeks to come. The character in the flavor of the country in which we live during the past 30 minutes we have been in the company of Asia Lindsay James Weldon Johnson Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen Vincent been a very good company indeed. Next week's program will be all about trains. It's called High iron and every word in it will be about the rails and the cars that high ball on them and the people who write them. It promises to be an enjoyable trip and I hope you'll plan to be on board. Thank you for sitting in on this first session of our new series. Listen to the land. I'll be waiting at the station for you next week same time. Until then this is Dick Burdick saying so long.
Listen to the land featuring Richard as Burdick was produced and recorded at station W.H. y y Philadelphia under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center. And is being distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is James Keeler inviting you to be with us again next week for the program. Hi Ira. You know we're the Richard S. Burdick on the listened to the land. This is the any B Radio Network.
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Listen to the land
The Congo
Producing Organization
WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-t727fq19).
Episode Description
This program focuses on African American literature in America, including Vachel Lindsay's "The Congo."
Series Description
America's literary heritage is explored through readings of short stories, poems, folklore, journalism and legends. The series is narrated by Richard S. Burdick.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Announcer: Keeler, James
Host: Burdick, Richard S.
Producing Organization: WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
Writer: Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849
Writer: Voegeli, Don
Writer: Lindsay, Vachel, 1879-1931
Writer: Bene_t, Stephen Vincent, 1898-1943
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 60-54-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:48
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Listen to the land; The Congo,” 1960-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 9, 2023,
MLA: “Listen to the land; The Congo.” 1960-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 9, 2023. <>.
APA: Listen to the land; The Congo. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from