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Vachel Lindsay

His Rhythmical, Romantic Poetry Uses Basic American Themes

Vachel Lindsay was a highly successful poet distinguished for originality. He gained widespread popularity reciting his strongly rhythmical poetry. ■ Poet Edward Lee Masters said of him, "He was not in England as with Tennyson, but in America, an American poet. The life and work of Vachel Lindsay are therefore the precious possessions of America." ■ Novelist Sinclair Lewis said of Lindsay, "He was one of the few great poets, a power and glory in the land." ■ Lindsay was born November 10, 1879 in Springfield, Illinois, the son of a physician. His mother's people were Scottish and English. The Lindsays came to the colonies from Scotland before the American Revolution and pushed westward into Kentucky and Illinois. ■ His grandfather was a minister who studied at Bethany College under Alexander Campbell, founder of the Disciples of Christ. His mother was a college graduate, unusual at the time. Lindsay attended Hiram College in Ohio and studied art in New York. He worked hard at art but decided that poetry was more to his liking. ■ He gained attention for his poem General William Booth Enters Into Heaven. He achieved greater fame with The Congo which he recited to the beat of a tom-tom alternating with ragtime syncopation. He brought originality and style to poetry not heard before. ■ Lindsay's more solid creations are more likely to endure, however. These include Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight and The Santa Fe Trail, both written in 1914 as was The Congo. His collected poems appeared in 1923. ■ Lindsay was moody and mystical and difficult to understand. He died by suicide in his home in Springfield, Illinois December 5, 1931.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546