VACHEL LINDSAY1

A GOSPEL OF BEAUTY

(I recited these three poems more than any others in my mendicant preaching tour through the West. Taken as a triad, they hold in solution my theory of American civilization.)


I. THE PROUD FARMER

(In memory of E. S. Frazee, Rush County,
Indiana.)

Into the acres of the newborn state
He poured his strength, and plowed his an-cient name,
And, when the traders followed him, he stood
Towering above their furtive souls and tame.

That brow without a stain, that fearless eye
Oft left the passing stranger wondering
To find such knighthood in the sprawling land,
To see a democrat well-nigh a king.

He lived with liberal hand, with guests from
far,
With talk and joke and fellowship to spare,—
Watching the wide world's life from sun to

sun, 11
Lining his walls with books from everywhere.

He read by night, he built his world by day.
The farm and house of God to him were one.
For forty years he preached and plowed and wrought—
A statesman in the fields, who bent to none.

His plowmen-neighbors were as lords to him.
His was an ironside, democratic pride.
He served a rigid Christ, but served him
well—

And, for a lifetime, saved the countryside. 20

Here lie the dead, who gave the church their best
Under his fiery preaching of the word.

They sleep with him beneath the ragged grass . . .
The village withers, by his voice unstirred.

And tho' his tribe be scattered to the wind
From the Atlantic to the China Sea,
Yet do they think of that bright lamp he burned
Of family worth and proud integrity.

And many a sturdy grandchild hears his name

In reverence spoken, till he feels akin 30
To all the lion-eyed who build the world—
And lion-dreams begin to burn within.


II. THE ILLINOIS VILLAGE

O you who lose the art of hope,
Whose temples seem to shrine a lie,
Whose sidewalks are but stones of fear,
Who weep that Liberty must die,
Turn to the little prairie towns,
Your higher hope shall yet begin.
On every side awaits you there

Some gate where glory enters in. 40
Yet when I see the flocks of girls,
Watching the Sunday train go through
(As though the whole wide world went by)
With eyes that long to travel too,
I sigh, despite my soul made glad
By cloudy dresses and brown hair,
Sigh for the sweet life wrenched and torn
By thundering commerce, fierce and bare.
Nymphs of the wheat these girls should be:
Kings of the grove, their lovers, strong. 50
Wily are they not inspired, aflame?
This beauty calls for valiant song—
For men to carve these fairy-forms
And faces in a fountain-frieze;
Dancers that own immortal hours;
Painters that work upon their knees;
Maids, lovers, friends, so deep in life,

____________________
1
All the selections from Vachel Lindsay, with the exception of "The Voyage", are reprinted from his Collected Poems (revised and illustrated edition, 1925), by permission of The Macmillan Company, publishers. "The Voyage" is reprinted from Every Soul Is a Circus (copyright, 1929), by permission of The Macmillan Company, publishers.

-733-

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