Red Skelton’s The Circus – a poem in honor of Red’s father, by Red Skelton
Red Skelton, one of America’s great clowns, talks about an American tradition – the home of the men of mirth. The Circus is an ode he wrote, and recited on his television show. Actually, the poem, The Circus, is a tribute to Red’s father, a clown, whom Skelton never knew, since his father died two months before Red was born. But the love of clowning, the love of mime and of the Big Top with all its magic for everyone, is an innate thing with Skelton
The circus! The magical city
That appears and disappears with the bat of an eye.
A cathedral for children and adults
Made of canvas and trimmed with red wagons.
A sunburst of wheel, pink lemonade and cotton candy.
A temple housing the unity of man and beast…
All performing for the good of their fellow man
With shouts of glory.
The perfomers only reward is the echo of the applause
And laughter of children.
It cradles them to sleep.
As the red wagons roll from city to city.
The clown hides his sorrows behind a mask —
Sometimes grotesque, sometimes sad,
but always with a whimsy that is an encouragement
That makes any deformity of life seem minute.
A lesson in humanity, where man and beast risk life
and limb for the meager reward of applause.
How sad it would be if my youth would pass away
And not see the beauty of the big red wagons,
And taste the rare vintage of pink lemonade!
Or become so blasé that I couldn’t offer a silent prayer
For the man on the flying trapeze,
Or sigh as I watch him swing to and fro.
I see my own life in motion like the pendulum
On the huge clock that ticks away life.
Oh, keep me young without prejudices.
Without haste, so that I will be young.
So that my heart will be filled with glee
Next year, when the big red wagons roll in again!
To me, a great clown said that — my Dad.