“General William Booth Enters into Heaven” is a short, fifty-six line, rhymed elegy. It is divided into two sections. The first section contains two stanzas, totaling twenty-three lines, and the second section contains five stanzas, totaling thirty-three lines. The title establishes the dramatic setting of the poem—General Booth’s ascension into the glory of heaven. The poem makes heavy use of repetition and onomatopoeia.
The poem is written in third-person, omniscient, simple narration. No attention is drawn to the narrator, as the narration is intended to report, rather than interpret, the events of the poem. In the modern tradition of the elegy, “General Booth Enters into Heaven” is a dignified and climactically glorifying chronicle. This form of simple narration is intended to recite events and is largely chronological, creating a you-are-there presentation.
The poem takes as its subject the ascent into heaven of a well-respected, generous, self-sacrificing historical figure; Booth was the founder of the Salvation Army. The qualities that the general possessed in life not only permit his ascension but also, by extension, elevate the status of the street people that surround him and to whom he dedicated his life to helping. Through his intervention, they accompany him to heaven.
Vachel Lindsay based the poem on the cadences and tune of the Salvation Army hymn “The Blood of the Lamb” and included parenthetical...
(The entire section is 539 words.)