Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Wedding of the Rose and the Lotus

For nearly a decade, this 8-by-16 foot mural depicting Lindsay's 1913 watercolor painting, "The Wedding of the Rose and the Lotus" has graced the exposed northern side of the two-story building at 107 North Fifth Street in the heart of downtown Springfield. It commands a position of prominence on the southbound one-way street, just off the left-hand turn from Jefferson Street, a block west of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Both the painting and the poem of the same title celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal and the intermingling of the waters of the Pacific and the Atlantic. The Rose signifies the West and the Lotus the East. Lindsay recited the poem to Woodrow Wilson's cabinet in 1915.

Sadly, time is having its way with the vibrant colors of the mural. A proper restoration is being considered, but the building is up for sale and new ownership may mean other uses for the space.


(A poem distributed to both houses of Congress by Secretary Franklin K. Lane on the opening day of the Panama-Pacific Exposition.)

Flags of the Pacific
And the Atlantic Meet,
Captain calls to captain,
Fleet makes cheer with fleet.
Above the drowned ages
A wind of wooing blows:-
The red rose woos the Lotus,
The lotus woos the rose . . .

The lotus conquered Egypt.
The rose was loved in Rome.
Great India crowned the lotus:
(Britain the rose's home).
Old China crowned the lotus,
They crowned it in Japan.
But Christendom adored the rose
Ere Christendom began . . .

The lotus speaks of slumber:
The rose is as a dart.
The lotus is Nirvana:
The rose is Mary's heart.
The rose is deathless, restless,
The splendor of our pain:
The flush and fire of labor
That builds, not all in vain. . . .

The genius of the lotus
Shall heal earth's too-much fret.
The rose, in blinding glory,
Shall waken Asia yet.
Hail to their loves, ye peoples!
Behold, the world-wind blows,
That aids the ivory lotus
To wed the red, red rose!


Marie Carnes said...

This mural never fails to catch my eye. Do you know who the artist is? Even slightly faded, it's one of Springfield's more beautiful outdoor art treasures. I wish there were more like it.

Larry Stevens said...

The artist is Vachel Lindsay, of course. The mural, however, was installed by Ace Sign Company.

I think it would be wonderful to have another Lindsay painting, say the Tree of Laughing Bells, painted on the north side of the YMCA.

Marie said...

I'm confused. That is an original? I don't know why I thought someone else had copied his work. Sorry for that.

I would love to see more of his art on public display.

Larry Stevens said...

The mural is a very accurate reproduction of Lindsay's original watercolor painting.

Don't feel badly, a niece of Lindsay's recently expressed suprise that he had ever painted a watercolor of "The Wedding of the Rose and the Lotus". She was only familiar with his pen-and-ink rendering of the subject.

The Vachel Lindsay Association had posters made of the painting suitable for framing and they sold like hotcakes. We hope to have more printed in the future as they are in high demand.

Marie said...

Thanks for clearing that up. I hope the mural can be restored and it's current location ensured for the future.

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