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.

THE TRAMP'S EXCUSE

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.

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