Vachel Lindsay

Updated September 23, 2019 | Infoplease Staff

Lindsay, Vachel



Born in Springfield, Ill., Nov. 10, 1879. Educated at Hiram College, Ohio. His first intention was to enter the field of art and he became a student at the Art Institute of Chicago where he remained from 1900 to 1903, continuing his work at the New York School of Art, 1904-05, under the personal instruction of Wm. Chase and Robert Henri. For a time after his technical study, he lectured upon art in its practical relation to the community, and returning to his home in Springfield, Ill., issued what might be termed his manifesto in the shape of "The Village Magazine", divided about equally between prose articles pertaining to the beautifying of his native city, and poems, illustrated by his own drawings. Both the verse and drawings showed a delightful imagination; the poetry in particular, unlike the more elaborate technique of his later work, had a Blake-like simplicity. Soon after the publication of "The Village Magazine", Mr. Lindsay, taking as scrip for the journey, "Rhymes to be Traded for Bread", made a pilgrimage on foot through several Western States, going as far afield as New Mexico. The story of this journey is given in his volume, "Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty", 1916. Mr. Lindsay had taken an earlier journey on foot, from Jacksonville, Fla., to Springfield, Ill., which he has recorded in "A Handy Guide for Beggars", also 1916. This is much the finer volume of the two and should take its place with the permanent literature of vagabondage. In 1913 Mr. Lindsay came into wide notice by his poem, "General William Booth Enters into Heaven", which became the title poem of his first volume of verse, published in 1913. This was followed by "The Congo", 1914; "The Chinese Nightingale", 1917; and "Golden Whales of California", 1920. He based all his later work upon the idea of poetry as a spoken art and developed it along the line of rhythm. His work is unique, he adhered to no "school", nor has he found imitators. He rendered his own work so as to bring out all of its rhythmic possibilities and became quite as well known for his interpretations of his work as for the work itself. Much of his verse is social in appeal, but he was at his best in poems of more imaginative beauty, such as "The Chinese Nightingale".

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