Monday, September 28, 2009

Vachel Lindsay ...

I imagine that only the English majors reading this have heard of someone named Vachel Lindsay ... but back in the 1910s he was one of America's best-known poets. He was as much a troubadour as anything, really, wandering the country and reading his poems aloud to eager audiences.

In the early 1920s Lindsay and a friend paid a visit to Glacier Park. He fell in love with the place instantly, of course, and the result was a 1923 volume of poetry and art called Going-to-the-Sun. Lindsay decided that he liked this part of the world so much that he moved into the Davenport Hotel in Spokane the next year, and a sequel called Going-to-the-Stars was published in 1926. The books weren't well-received, though ... the American public had apparently decided that Lindsay's style had become passé. He ended it all in 1931 by drinking a bottle of Lysol.

Here's a sample poem from Going-to-the-Sun, titled "The Bird Called Curiosity":
Round the mountain peak called "Going-to-the-Sun,"
In Glacier Park, a steep and soaring one,
Circled a curious bird with pointed nose
Who led us on to every cave, and rose
And swept through every cloud, then brought us berries,
And all the acid gifts the mountain carries,
And let us guess which ones were good to eat.
And even when we slept his sharp wings beat
The weary fire, or shook the tree-top cones,
Or rattled dead twigs like a fairy's bones.
The vulgar bird, "Curiosity"! When we
Were tired, and lean, and shaking at the knee,
We put this bird in harness. He was strong
As any ostrich, pulled our packs along,
Helped us up over the next annoying wall,
And dragged us to the chalet, and the tourists' resting hall.

And when once more we were young, well-fed men,
He'd beat the door to call us forth again.

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