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Selected Poetry of Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931)


from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Index to poems

So read upon the runic moon
Man's epitaph, deep-writ.
It says the world is one great grave.
For names it cares no whit.
        (What the Sexton Said, 13-16)
  1. Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight
  2. At Mass
  3. The Congo: A Study of the Negro Race
  4. Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  5. General William Booth Enters into Heaven
  6. In Memory of a Child
  7. The Lion
  8. The Little Turtle
  9. The Spider and the Ghost of the Fly
  10. Two Old Crows
  11. What the Sexton Said


Notes on Life and Works

Vachel Lindsay was born in Springfield, Illinois, on November 10, 1879. After graduating from Hiram College, Ohio, in 1900, he began a short-lived career in art and lectured at the Y.M.C.A. in New York. In 1906 he made a walking tour of the south in which he handed out a poem, "The Tree of Laughing Bells," in return for food and a place to sleep -- a venture described later in his A Handy Guide for Beggars (New York: Macmillan, 1916; PS 3523 .I58H3 Robarts Library) -- and he made another partial walking tour in 1912 west as far as New Mexico. Chanting, jazz rhythms, and a preaching style characterized his public poetry readings. His five major volumes of poetry were General William Booth Enters into Heaven and Other Poems (1913), The Congo and Other Poems (1914), The Chinese Nightingale and Other Poems (1917), The Daniel Jazz and Other Poems (1920), and The Golden Whales of California (1920). His popularity peaked early and then waned. He married Elizabeth Conner in 1925, and they had two children. He died by suicide in Springfield on December 5, 1931.

Lindsay's Letters were edited by Marc Chenetier (New York: B. Franklin, 1979; PS 3523 .I58Z48). The latest edition of his verse, The Poetry of Vachel Lindsay, is by Dennis Camp in three volumes (Peoria, Illinois: Spoon River Poetry Press, 1984-86; PS 3523 I58A17). For a biography, see Eleanor Ruggles' The West-going Heart (1959; PS 3523 I58Z76 Scarborough College).

Biographical information

Given name: Vachel
Family name: Lindsay
Birth date: 1879
Death date: 1931