“My Lady Is Compared to a Young Tree” by Vachel Lindsay

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April is National Poetry month. I share a poem written by an American poet, Nicholas Vachel Lindsay

My Lady Is Compared to a Young Tree – by Vachel Lindsay

When I see a young tree
In its white beginning,
With white leaves
And white buds
Barely tipped with green,
In the April weather,
In the weeping sunshine–
Then I see my lady,
My democratic queen,
Standing free and equal
With the youngest woodland sapling
Swaying, singing in the wind,
Delicate and white:
Soul so near to blossom,
Fragile, strong as death;
A kiss from far-off Eden,
A flash of Judgment’s trumpet–
April’s breath.

vach1

Vachel Lindsay was born in Illinois in 1879 and died in 1931.

The second of six children and the only son,  his parents wanted him to become a doctor like his father.

While studying at Hiram College in Ohio he was trained in oratory, a skill for which he would later become known throughout the United States and England.

Lindsay is considered the father of modern singing poetry.

His style of chanting verses helped keep appreciation for poetry as a spoken art alive in the American Midwest.

One of Lindsay’s most famous poems, the title piece in “‘The Congo’ and Other Poems, has a rhythmic structure based on African-American speech rhythms and jazz.

Though Lindsay believed jazz was a decadent art form, he used it in his poems to faithfully relate the regional lore of the South.

He recited the poem in a variety of voices ranging from a loud, deep bass to a whisper.”

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If you’re interested to know more about Vachel Lindsay click here

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About dearrosie

We think we need so much, when all we really need is time to breathe. Come walk with me, put one foot in front of the other, and get to know yourself. Please click the link to my blog - below - and leave me a comment. I love visitors.
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41 Responses to “My Lady Is Compared to a Young Tree” by Vachel Lindsay

  1. What a beautiful poem and tribute to the author, Rosie.
    “Then I see my lady,
    My democratic queen,
    Standing free and equal”
    These are impressive thoughts for that time in history.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Renee
      Last night’s episode of “Mr Selfridge” (on PBS) was all about the suffragette movement so when I read the lines in the poem
      “Then I see my lady,
      My democratic queen,
      Standing free and equal”
      I had to share the poem, and find out more about the author.

  2. aFrankAngle says:

    Nice tribute and the poem has fitting words for the season!

  3. dadirri7 says:

    thank you rosie, someone who is new to me 🙂

  4. shoreacres says:

    I was especially caught by this paragraph in the linked article about Lindsay: In 1906, according to Dennis Camp, writing in the Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography, Lindsay set himself a new task: hiking through the country and “sharing the lives of and bringing hope to the common people in the depths” through his poetry and art. He would support himself by trading poems and pamphlets for food and shelter. It was a pattern he was to follow in other instances, sometimes more successfully – setting off on journeys to share his work.

    It caught my attention because of this morning’s post by Gary Myers. A century may separate Vachel Lindsay and the young pianist, but the impulse is the same – to do what’s necessary to live out a vision.

    I enjoyed the poem, but especially enjoyed the article. With two doses of “get up and get at it!” I ought to have a productive day, don’t you think?

    • dearrosie says:

      Lindsay’s story was so interesting I wanted to quote it all but restrained myself and put in the link in case someone was interested in knowing more about him . And you were. So glad to hear you read up on him. Fascinating that he manged to support his travels by trading poems for food and shelter.

      You may also be interested to know that I managed to find a video of Lindsay reading his famous “Congo” poem and added it to the post.

      Thanks for the link to Gary Myers post. What a fascinating story: 31 days 11 cities and he came home with his $2 bill plus $2200!

      Now the most interesting part of the story is that it all makes a full circle back to me. Last weekend I received a comment – on one of my Camino posts – from 68 year-old-man who is going to be walking along the Camino in June “with no money of food and depending on others to share their food with me.”
      https://rosannefreed.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/walking-in-spain-i-just-had-to-do-it/#comment-7867

  5. Dee Ready says:

    Dear Rosie, in grade, high school, and college I typed many poems that spoke to me and kept them in a binder. Vachel Lindsay was a favorite poet of mine. I especially liked a poem called “General Booth Walks Into Heaven” (or something like that). You could heard the boots, the sounds, the joy, the glory of that entrance! And who wouldn’t respond to the line “slog, slog, slogging over Africa” with Lindsay. That poem about the Congo has just remained rutted in my brain. I’m so glad you honored him with a posting today.

    I’ve been away due to minor illness, but I hope to begin posting on Wednesday and today I’m going to visit a number of blogs–like yours–and get back on track. I hope you are well and that all goes well in your world. Peace.

    • dearrosie says:

      Always a pleasure to welcome you back to my blog Dee. I am very sorry to hear you’ve been ill. All is good with me. Thank you.

      You typed up poems that spoke to you right through your school days? wow Dee you never fail to impress me. So happy to learn that Vachel Lindsay was one of your favorites.

      I managed to find a video of Lindsay reciting his Congo poem and I added it to the post.
      and I also found the words to both the poems you mentioned – they are really long. Here are short excerpts of both of them

      General William Booth Enters into Heaven
      [Bass drum beaten loudly.]

      Booth led boldly with his big bass drum —
      (Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
      The Saints smiled gravely and they said: “He’s come.”
      (Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
      Walking lepers followed, rank on rank,
      Lurching bravoes from the ditches dank,
      Drabs from the alleyways and drug fiends pale —
      Minds still passion-ridden, soul-powers frail: —
      Vermin-eaten saints with mouldy breath,
      Unwashed legions with the ways of Death —
      (Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

      [Banjos.]

      Every slum had sent its half-a-score
      The round world over. (Booth had groaned for more.)
      Every banner that the wide world flies
      Bloomed with glory and transcendent dyes.
      Big-voiced lasses made their banjos bang,
      Tranced, fanatical they shrieked and sang: —
      “Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”
      Hallelujah! It was queer to see
      Bull-necked convicts with that land make free.
      Loons with trumpets blowed a blare, blare, blare
      On, on upward thro’ the golden air!
      (Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

      http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/general-william-booth-enters-into-heaven/

      and The Congo: A Study of the Negro Race

      I. THEIR BASIC SAVAGERY

      FAT black bucks in a wine-barrel room,
      Barrel-house kings, with feet unstable,
      Sagged and reeled and pounded on the table,

      A deep rolling bass.

      Pounded on the table,
      Beat an empty barrel with the handle of a broom, 5
      Hard as they were able,
      Boom, boom, BOOM,
      With a silk umbrella and the handle of a broom,
      Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM.
      THEN I had religion, THEN I had a vision. 10
      I could not turn from their revel in derision.
      THEN I SAW THE CONGO, CREEPING THROUGH THE BLACK,

      More deliberate. Solemnly chanted.

      CUTTING THROUGH THE JUNGLE WITH A GOLDEN TRACK.
      Then along that riverbank
      A thousand miles 15
      Tattooed cannibals danced in files;
      Then I heard the boom of the blood-lust song
      And a thigh-bone beating on a tin-pan gong.

      for the rest of the poem
      http://www.bartleby.com/104/81.html

      • Dee Ready says:

        Dear Rosie, thanks so much for finding and adding here the words to the Booth poem and the audio of Lindsay reading a Congo poem. I’m not sure whether it was the Congo poem that has the line “slog, slog, slogging over Africa.” That’s the line that I’ve used many times when talking to friends. I use it when I’m trying to say that I’m getting nothing done and it’s like I’m sinking into quicksand, or trying to raise my feet out of molasses or “slog, slog, slogging over Africa”!

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Dee,
      I was surprised how easy it was to find the audio of Lindsay reading the Congo poem.

      Isn’t it interesting that you learned one line of poetry as a child and have never forgotten it. That’s the power of poetry.

      When I checked the poem I didn’t see your line
      According to an internet search it comes from the poem Boot by Rudyard Kipling
      which begins:

      We’re foot—slog—slog—slog—sloggin’ over Africa —
      Foot—foot—foot—foot—sloggin’ over Africa —
      (Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again!)
      There’s no discharge in the war!

      http://allpoetry.com/poem/8445289-Boots-by-Rudyard_Kipling

  6. restlessjo says:

    Nice poem, Rosie. I can’t wait for the trees to green. They’re a little slow here. 🙂

  7. Tina Schell says:

    Must admit I’d not heard of him – lovely though. Thanks for sharing

    • dearrosie says:

      I also hadn’t heard of Vachel Lindsay. We live in the United States, I think its very important that we know something about all the early American poets. Thank you for joining the conversation Tina.

  8. He wrote many poems referencing names…Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Shakespeare, Simon Legree, St Francis of Assisi, Mark Twain, Joan of Arc, Lincoln. Perhaps “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight” is timely with the movie Lincoln getting so much attention now. The movie deals with Lincoln’s tireless efforts to ratify the 13th amendment and the poem speaks to working tirelessly: “A mourning figure walks, and will not rest,” and “Yea, when the sick world cries, how can he sleep?”

  9. Well, this is my first experience with vimeo. Thank you for the links. Believe it or not, we studied him in 7-9 grade literature.

  10. frizztext says:

    you’ve written a great tribute to Vachel Lindsay!

  11. Robin says:

    Beautiful post, Rosie. And Lindsay is from my neck of the woods. 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      Pleased you enjoyed reading my post. Did you also study him in Junior High Robin?

      • Robin says:

        I don’t think so, Rosie. Reading about him here was the first I’ve heard of him. I don’t remember much from school so it’s possible I am forgetting if we did study him. A lot of the past is a big blank for some reason.

  12. Each word is like a soothing melody, awakening the heart, opening the soul. Beautiful.

  13. Lovely thoughts on Vachel Lindsay … an inspiring poetry post.

  14. adinparadise says:

    Wow, he certainly had a different way of reading poetry. Very expressive indeed. This wouldn’t help to put The Congo on my bucket list. 😀 Love your beautiful spring photo and poem. 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      I was so surprised to find the recording of Mr LIndsay reading his poem. Although the sound wasn’t too clear you get an idea of what a great performer he was.
      Although the Congo is one of his most famous poems I didn’t use it in my post because it’s so racist.

  15. How amazing to have a recording of the poem! Wow! I think I remember Lindsay’s Congo. I can’t recall where I read it or even why I would have been introduced, but it was memorable. I always look forward to your poetry posts. I don’t often stop to read poetry, and yet when I do, I’m always refreshed. You help bring me to that point! 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      I was thrilled to find the recording of Vachel Lindsay belting out his Congo poem. Even though the sound quality isn’t the best it gives one a good idea of what a great performer he must have been.
      I appreciate your feedback that you enjoy my poetry posts. Too many people dislike “poetry” because of bad memories from school.
      I try to share poems that are written in simple, easy to understand language, and that aren’t long. When we do our poetry readings at the Spoken Word evenings at the museum only a handful of people show up because the word “poetry” is mentioned. Sometimes a non-poetry person comes to the readings to support a friend and they are the people who always stop me afterwards to complement me on my poems and to laugh as they remember something they liked. That to me is powerful.
      One of the security guards – a young Latina woman – told me she’d read one of my poems in the little handbook we publish after each reading, and was so happy to tell me it was the first time she’d read an entire poem and enjoyed it. 😀 That was about 5 years ago and she still laughs when she sees me.

  16. Madhu says:

    A wonderful poem, and a lovely tribute Rosie. New to me too, we are more familiar with English poets.

    • dearrosie says:

      I was blown over that this poem was written about 100 years ago.
      Its a shame that so few of my American blogging buddies knew Lindsay and his poetry. I think its so important to acknowledge and know the poets from our own countries before we look to Blake and Wordsworth.

  17. munchow says:

    I am working my way back here. Thanks for sharing Nicholas Vachel Lindsay, I had never heard about him before this post. And I love the poem by him that you quote. And your picture of the blooming Japanese cherry tree. 🙂

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