Nicholas Vachel Lindsay (November 10, 1879 – December 5, 1931) was an American poet. He is considered a founder of modern singing poetry, as he referred to it, in which verses are meant to be sung or chanted.
- I will not be a slave to my yesterday. I am creator, not a parrot.
- Letter quoted in The West Going Heart (1959) by Eleonor Ruggles
Star Of My Heart (1913)
- Star of my heart, I follow from afar.
Sweet Love on high, lead on where shepherds are,
Where Time is not, and only dreamers are.
Star from of old, the Magi-Kings are dead
And a foolish Saxon seeks the manger-bed.
O lead me to Jehovah's child
Across this dreamland lone and wild,
Then will I speak this prayer unsaid,
And kiss his little haloed head—
"My star and I, we love thee, little child."
- Except the Christ be born again tonight
In dreams of all men, saints and sons of shame,
The world will never see his kingdom bright.
Stars of all hearts, lead onward thro' the night
Past death-black deserts, doubts without a name,
Past hills of pain and mountains of new sin
To that far sky where mystic births begin,
Where dreaming ears the angel-song shall win.
- Our Christmas shall be rare at dawning there,
And each shall find his brother fair,
Like a little child within:
All hearts of the earth shall find new birth
And wake, no more to sin.
What It Means to Be a Poet in America (1926)
- Whenever I begin to write a poem or draw a picture I am, in imagination, if not in reality, back in my room where I began to draw pen-and-ink pictures and write verses in my seventeenth year. Both windows of the room look down on the great Governor’s Yard of Illinois. This yard is a square block, a beautiful park. Our house is on so high a hill I can always look down upon the governor. Among my very earliest memories are those of seeing old Governor Oglesby leaning on his cane, marching about, calling his children about him.
- I am still making my living reciting my verses for crowds who refuse to buy my books. I must do this, as all American rhymers must, however sick I may be of the sound of my own voice.
- I have sung my songs to my own tunes for most of the English departments of the state universities of the forty-eight states of the nation, and the English departments of other universities and colleges; and I have been recalled to many of these seven and eight times, which matters are a source of great pride to me. And I have brought out three books where the songs were based on my own pen-and-ink pictures.
- Most years I owe no money and I have no money. Every university pays my way to the next town. That’s about all. No poet has ever made any money out of having his poetry published, and no poet ever will. If the fee is two hundred dollars, it is one hundred dollars for coming to town and one hundred for leaving inside of twenty-four hours. There has been no poetry in the history of the world that has made money for the poet. The New Poetry Movement began when Abel made a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain; but the sacrifice of Abel was not intended as a money-making idea. On the last great day, when Gabriel blows his trumpet, even if he blows it in sonnets, he will not do it for the money that is in it. If he does do it for the cash he will not be Gabriel and it will not be the last great day. It will be a second-rate Hollywood movie of the last great day, and business will continue as usual.
- The fact that you can write verse is in itself a certificate that you can write prose.
- Most of the good poetry, as I have said, has appeared in pamphlet form before the poet was known to the public. It is utterly impossible to make an income from verse, and one must win his worldly standing, and earn his living some other way. One of the most distinguished of the Middle Western poets supports himself by writing a movie column once a day. I do not know a poet in the Anglo-Saxon world who makes his living by poetry. Every single one of them makes his living in some other way.
- There were three great Virginia poets in the very beginning — George Washington, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson. “What!” you say. “We do not even know the names of their publishers. They were not poets!”
Well, how do you know? Did you ever really read them? What do you know about it? Their very names will breathe poetry forever.
A Poet in America (1935)
- Quotes of Lindsay in A Poet in America (1935) by Edgar Lee Masters
- I think that my first poetic impulse is for music; second a definite conception with the ring of the universe...
- Poetry is for the inner ear
- Vachel Lindsay Association website- biography, essays, works
- Profile of Vachel Lindsay from "I Hear America Singing" (PBS), hosted by Thomas Hampson
- Vachel Lindsay Collection, Amherst College Archives and Special Collections
- Entry on Vachel Lindsay from Anthology of Modern American Poetry
- Works by Vachel Lindsay at Project Gutenberg
- "The Chinese Nightingale"
- "The Congo and Other Poems by Vachel Lindsay"