Monday, March 20, 2006

One hundred years ago today

It was Sunday morning in the middle of March. I was stranded in Jacksonville, Florida. After breakfast I had five cents left. Joyously I purchased a sack of peanuts, then started northwest on the railway ties straight toward that part of Georgia marked "Swamp" on the map.

Sunset found me in a pine forest. I decided to ask for a meal and lodging at the white house looming half a mile ahead just by the track. I prepared a speech to this effect: - "I am the peddler of dreams. I am the sole active member of the ancient brotherhood of the troubadours. It is against the rules of our order to receive money. We have a habit of asking a night's lodging in exchange for repeating verses and fairy tales."

Vachel Lindsay, A Handy Guide for Beggars

Friday, March 03, 2006

One hundred years ago today

On March 3, 1906, Vachel Lindsay left New York City on a boat to Florida. He planned to walk all the way from Jacksonville, Florida to his parent's home in Springfield with nothing more than a letter of recommendation from the YMCA and some printed copies of The Tree of Laughing Bells bound in red covers.

It was the start of his career as a tramp, which fueled his best writing over the years. He would walk across the countryside by day and toward evening would seek the hospitality of strangers, "trading rhymes for bread." To Lindsay, these encounters evoked the spirit of Christ.


My Goddess is the road.
Behold her wings outspread,
Her robe of sunny floss
And the stars about her head.

I am her spider-slave,
Too frail to aid her fame.
I spin an endless thread
In her embroidery frame.

The framework is the Town,
The web, a coil of friends -
Endless it seems, and yet
I know when Winter ends,

The road will be my bride
The road will set me free:
Strangers with magic bread
Will make a man of me.