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Lindsay, Vachel. "A Negro Sermon: Simon Legree".


Simon Legree is described as a wealthy man whose domestic animals are well-fed and whose cotton-fields are the best to be seen. The next stanza adds unpleasant details to the preceding pleasant image of wealth. The character of Legree is described: he is vulgar, coarse, and brutal. The speaker is sure that he is a "witchman in disguise", but Legree also resembles the devil. He kicks dogs, beats slaves, and kills one of them. The killed slave, Uncle Tom, prayed for him with his last breath and retired to Eva, probably to the heavenly paradise.

Legree announces that he does not care about his killing a man. He takes a lamp and walks down to the cellar. He goes on and on, still down, as far as to face the Devil. He encounters him on his throne eating a big ham-bone. He observes that he likes the Devil for his own taste for raw meat and for the great physical and character similarity of him and the Devil. The Devil also likes the wicked Legree and invites him to share his throne. Legree does so. The both eat and drink and play poker and take naps, and Legree is fine, "DOWN, DOWN WITH THE DEVIL."



- a poem of social protest

- the rhyme pattern is interrupted by the refrain "WENT DOWN TO THE DEVIL"

- the refrain renders the melodic poem as a chant

- in a folk tone: simple language, direct description, avoids complicated figures of speech


  • Author

    Lindsay, Vachel. (1879 - 1931).
  • Full Title

    "A Negro Sermon: Simon Legree".
  • First Published

    In: Poetry. Chicago: 1916.
  • Form


Works Cited

Lindsay, Vachel. "A Negro Sermon: Simon Legree". (1916). Collected Poems. Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing, 2005.


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