General William Booth Enters Into Heaven

(1914)

General William Booth was the founder of the Salvation Army. His death in 1912 inspired poet Vachel Lindsay to write a long and colorful depiction of what would happen when the Commander was promoted to Glory. Both Charles Ives and Sidney Homer set Lindsay’s poem, with its constant call “Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”

In his 1914 setting, which followed closely on the heels of Lindsay's publication (there is some evidence that poet and musician may have crossed paths), Ives adheres more closely than Homer to the instrumentation (drums and brass) that Lindsay indicated to accompany the reading of his verse, and his spiky rhythms capture more of the unorthodoxy of the poem. (Ives also made a version for chorus, optional solo voice, chamber orchestra and percussion). Ives set lines 1-23 and 30-37 of the original poem, and paused frequently to repeat particular phrases and lines.


General William Booth Enters Into Heaven
by Vachel Lindsay


Booth led boldly with his big bass drum
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
The Saints smiled gravely and they said, "He's come."
(Washed in the blood of the Lamb, the blood of the Lamb.)


Walking lepers followed rank on rank,
Lurching bravos from the ditches dank
Drabs from the alleyways, drug fiends pale
Minds still passion ridden, soul flowers frail:
Vermin eaten saints with moldy breath,
Unwashed legions with the ways of Death
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)


Ev'ry slum had sent its half a score
The round world over (Booth had groaned for more).
Ev'ry banner that the wide world flies
Bloomed with glory and transcendent dyes,
Big voiced lasses made their banjoes bang,
Tranced, fanatical they shrieked and sang;
"Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?"


Hallelujah, Lord! It was queer to see
Bull necked convicts with that land make free.
Loons with trumpets blown a blare, blare, blare,
On, on, upward thro' the golden air!
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)


Jesus came from out the court house door,
Stretched his hands above the passing poor.
Booth saw not, but led his queer ones
Round and round…
Yet! in an instant all that blear review
Marched on spotless, clad in raiment new.


The lame were straightened, withered limbs uncurled,
And blind eyes opened on a new, sweet world.
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)


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