Blanche Sweet: Moving-Picture Actress

Source: Vachel Lindsay, ‘Blanche Sweet: Moving-Picture Actress (After seeing the reel called “Oil and Water”)’ in The Congo, and other poems (New York: Macmillan, 1918 – orig. pub. 1914), pp. 108-110

Text:
Beauty has a throne-room
In our humorous town,
Spoiling its hob-goblins,
Laughing shadows down.
Rank musicians torture
Ragtime ballads vile,
But we walk serenely
Down the odorous aisle.
We forgive the squalor
And the boom and squeal
For the Great Queen flashes
From the moving reel.

Just a prim blonde stranger
In her early day,
Hiding brilliant weapons,
Too averse to play,
Then she burst upon us
Dancing through the night.
Oh, her maiden radiance,
Veils and roses white.
With new powers, yet cautious,
Not too smart or skilled,
That first flash of dancing
Wrought the thing she willed:-
Mobs of us made noble
By her strong desire,
By her white, uplifting,
Royal romance-fire.

Though the tin piano
Snarls its tango rude,
Though the chairs are shaky
And the dramas crude,
Solemn are her motions,
Stately are her wiles,
Filling oafs with wisdom,
Saving souls with smiles;
‘Mid the restless actors
She is rich and slow.
She will stand like marble,
She will pause and glow,
Though the film is twitching,
Keep a peaceful reign,
Ruler of her passion,
Ruler of our pain!

Comments: Nicholas Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931) was an American poet with a particular interest in the cinema. He wrote several poems on film stars, and a somewhat high-flown work of early film theory, The Art of the Motion Picture (1915). Blanche Sweet was an American film actress, best known for her performances in the films of D.W. Griffith, including Oil and Water (USA 1913).

Links: Copy of The Congo, and other poems at Internet Archive

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