THE American poet, Nicholas Vachel Lindsay, was the nearest approach to the mediaeval minstrel I ever saw. He walked from Florida to New Jersey, and later from Illinois to Arizona, carrying no luggage and no money. All that he carried was a package of his printed poems, called Rhymes to be Traded for Bread. He described his adventures in a charming book, A Handy Guide for Beggars. I regard his poetry, at its best, as original and imperishable. General William Booth Enters into Heaven, The Congo, The Santa Fé Trail, and many other poems, are truly great, both in their soaring imagination and in their felicity of diction. Edgar Lee Masters, who wrote the best biography of Lindsay, has said that if only Lindsay could have had an intimate friend, as Wordsworth had Coleridge, his life would have been happier and even more productive.
In 1916 I got Lindsay to lecture at Yale, the first of three or four of his appearances in New Haven.
On one evening, when he sat unrecognized in the audience, I lectured at the Brooklyn Institute on his poems and read them aloud. We returned together to Manhattan and sat up late talking. He thought I read The Santa Fé Trail better than he had, but I made a bad mess of the poem 1889 and we differed on the proper way to interpret The Congo to an audience.
Vachel Lindsay was a charming, affectionate, noble- minded idealist. He was also a man of genius.