Friday, October 8, 2010

A Troubadour Tramps Through the Mountains - 4

Stone Mountain, Georgia, ca. 1902

While Vachel Lindsay was walking from Atlanta to the mountains during the last week of April 1906, he was imagining the book that he would write:

It should contain my sermons on the new Christ, and all other things I would wish to say as a priest of art, and cannot say by word of mouth. That is my only chance to evangelize peacefully….

My book should contain the form of my gospel for each type of man I am to meet, a little sermon for each man, scholar, poet, editor, teacher. A Pilgrim’s Message would be a possible title, or I Prophecy the New Earth, or The Songs of a Dreaming Tramp, or The Passer-by, or The Dreams of a Rhyming Tramp, or A Beggar from the Fairyland….

I will do everything for the sake of being my own master….I had better be a beggar than a trader tied to the machinery of his task. In this world he finds no pity. But the beggar’s world is full of brotherly kindness.

Lindsay biographer Edgar Lee Masters called the projected book:

One of the many visions which Lindsay had without materialization….Lindsay was really afflicted with a species of megalomania, as Whitman was for that matter; but where Whitman sought to make a nation of comrades and to spread the dear love of comrades over America, Lindsay was concerned with moralizations of a lower order, so that his descent from an artist to an anti-prohibition lecturer was neither so violent nor so incongruous as one might think at first.

In any event, Vachel had more to think about than the books he would never get around to writing. From A Handy Guide for Beggars:

LET us now recall a certain adventure among the moonshiners. When I walked north from Atlanta Easter morning, on Peachtree road, orchards were flowering everywhere. Resurrection songs flew across the road from humble blunt steeples.

Kennesaw Mountain, GA

Stony Mountain, miles to the east, Kenesaw on the western edge of things, and all the rest of the rolling land made the beginning of a gradual ascent by which I was to climb the Blue Ridge. The road mounted the watershed between the Atlantic and the gulf.

An old man took me into his wagon for a mile. I asked what sort of people I would meet on the Blue Ridge. He answered, "They make blockade whisky up there. But if you don't go around hunting stills by the creeks, or in the woods away from the road, they'll be awful glad to see you. They are all moonshiners, but if they likes a man they loves him, and they're as likely to get to lovin’ you as not.”



Jim Parker said...

True statement about the people of the Blue Ridge. Don't go poking around where you don't belong and you will be fine.

The good people of the hills will give you anything but if you mess with the wrong things you could end up dead.

The problem for outsiders is they often don't understand the difference between curiosity and messing with stuff.

I'm saying this as a native who when I was young found myself in places I probably shouldn't have been but at least I could invoke the family name and get out of the situation. As in I'm Jimmy and Ruth's boy.

GULAHIYI said...

Once upon a time, I unintentionally got on the wrong side of a property boundary and was greeted by a man and his daughter armed with slingshots.

He wasn't happy to see me, so I got out of there pronto. Haven't been back, either!

Bill Meserve said...

I stumbled upon your blog while reading some web pages about photographer Bayard Wootten.

I particularly enjoyed your blog entries about Vachel Lindsay and his walk to/through the mountains. I had never before encountered Vachel.

I too am a photographer and enjoy tramping through the mountains. I believe my recently completed great photographic adventure across the US and back (I live near Morehead City, NC) prompted a special connection to Vachel's adventure. (I drove 12,500 miles, staying mostly in campgrounds sleeping in my minivan, was gone for 3 months and took about 6,000 images.)

It was a pleasure to read your material. Thanks for sharing it.