Biography of Vachel Lindsay
Nicholas Vachel Lindsay was born on November 10, 1879 in Springfield, Illinois. The second of six children and the only son of Dr. Vachel Thomas Lindsay and Esther Catharine Frazee Lindsay. Vachel did not attend school until he was eight. He was taught at home by his mother, who had been a teacher and artist before her marriage. Grimm’s Fairy Tales is said to have been his primer. He graduated from Stuart School in 1893, having skipped the seventh grade and winning several prizes for his writing compositions.
During his youth, Vachel was encouraged to follow in his father’s footsteps, therefore as a dutiful son, he enrolled at Hiram College, as a premedical student in 1897. Three years later, he wrote home and asked his parents to allow him to attend art school. In 1901 he was accepted as a student at the Art Institute of Chicago and began his pursuit of a career as an illustrator. He spent time reading the works of English mystic poet William Blake and writing poetry in earnest.
He moved in 1904 to continue his studies at the New York School of Art and, while there, began to combine poetry and art. After hearing Lindsay recite one of his illustrated poems, "The Tree of the Laughing Bells," Robert Henri, a painter and teacher at the New York School, suggested to Lindsay that he devote himself to poetry. It was a turning point in the poet’s life.
The years 1906 through 1912 were Lindsay’s troubadour years as he took his poetry to the people. He ventured out into the world on walking tours of the countryside, taking no money with him, instead trading his poetry for food and shelter. In 1920, Lindsay became the first American poet invited to recite at Oxford University and undertook his first national lecturing tour.
Nicholas Vachel Lindsay died in 1931, his funeral attended by hundreds. Cables expressing Lindsay’s popularity and people’s great sorrow at his death came from all over the nation.
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Vachel Lindsay Poems
The Congo: A Study of the Negro Race
I. THEIR BASIC SAVAGERY Fat black bucks in a wine-barrel room, Barrel-house kings, with feet unstable,
Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight
It is portentous, and a thing of state That here at midnight, in our little town A mourning figure walks, and will not rest, Near the old court-house pacing up and down.
An Indian Summer Day on the Prairie
(IN THE BEGINNING) The sun is a huntress young, The sun is a red, red joy,
A Sense of Humor
No man should stand before the moon To make sweet song thereon, With dandified importance, His sense of humor gone.
The Moon's the North Wind's Cooky
The Moon's the North Wind's cooky. He bites it, day by day, Until there's but a rim of scraps That crumble all away.
Let not young souls be smothered out before They do quaint deeds and fully flaunt their pride. It is the world's one crime its babes grow dull, Its poor are ox-like, limp and leaden-eyed.
The Little Turtle
A Recitation for Martha Wakefield, Three Years Old There was a little turtle.
The Flower-Fed Buffaloes
The flower-fed buffaloes of the spring In the days of long ago, Ranged where the locomotives sing And the prarie flowers lie low:
Darling Daughter of Babylon
Too soon you wearied of our tears. And then you danced with spangled feet, Leading Belshazzar's chattering court A-tinkling through the shadowy street.
This Section is a Christmas Tree
This section is a Christmas tree: Loaded with pretty toys for you. Behold the blocks, the Noah's arks, The popguns painted red and blue.
Beyond the Moon
[Written to the Most Beautiful Woman in the World] M< Sweetheart is the TRUTH BEYOND THE MOON,
A Dirge for a Righteous Kitten
To be intoned, all but the two italicized lines, which are to be spoken in a snappy, matter-of-fact way. Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong.
Would that by Hindu magic we became Dark monks of jeweled India long ago, Sitting at Prince Siddartha's feet to know The foolishness of gold and love and station,
How a Little Girl Danced
DEDICATED TO LUCY BATES (Being a reminiscence of certain private theatricals.)
Aladdin and the Jinn
"Bring me soft song," said Aladdin.
"This tailor-shop sings not at all.
Chant me a word of the twilight,
Of roses that mourn in the fall.
Bring me a song like hashish
That will comfort the stale and the sad,
For I would be mending my spirit,
Forgetting these days that are bad,
Forgetting companions too shallow,