Lindsay, Vachel (1879-1931)

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Nicholas Vachel Lindsay: American poet; born 10 November 1879; died 5 December 1931. He was considered a founder of modern singing poetry movement in which poetry verses were meant fundamentally as a form of performance art by singing or chanting them.

He was born in Springfield, Illinois, then lived in New York, Chicago and Spokane and finally returned to Illinois. As a Christian he was baptised by immersion into the Disciples of Christ Church as were his parents before him. During his life he became celebrated for his poems and his dramatic oratorical performances of them but his poems were ignored by academics and in time he has become rather obscure.

Vachel Lindsay was a great walker and in the summer of 1912 Lindsay went for a long three month walk on which he traded his rhymes for bread and lodgings. He walked from his home town, Springfield, Illinois, across Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas, up and down Colorado and into New Mexico. He wrote of his walk in the book: Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty. On Sunday 30 June 1912 of this walk Lindsay found himself as a harvest worker boarding in the spare room of a Mennonite farm family in the wheat belt a little west of Newton, Kansas. He stayed with these Mennonites for at least four days and described his experiences on pages 87-117 of the book. He describes in some detail his participation in their worship service, in the labour of the grain harvest, and on Mennonite clothing, Menno Simons. He notes reading Jan Philipsz Schabaelje's book The Wandering Soul. He calls this Mennonite family "dear people" and points to both their positive attributes and some imperfections. In summary of his Mennonite stay he writes: "... my little part in the harvest of a noble and devout household, as well as a hand in the feeding of the wide world."

Lindsay was a careful and compassionate observer. In his book he provides its readers with an interesting outsiders view of Kansas Mennonite church and life and wheat harvesting at a time just before the First World War. A further connection to the Mennonite world was his son, Nicholas Lindsay (1927-2020), who was associated with Goshen College for 30 years including teaching creative writing for a decade and mentoring many emerging Mennonite poets and writers.


Lindsay, Nicholas Vachel. Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty. New York, Mitchell Kennerley Publisher, 1914. 185 pp. (Also republished in 1916, 1921, 1928.) Available in full electonic text at:

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library: Description of Papers, 1918-1932. WorldCat record accession number: 52459524

Author(s) Victor G Wiebe
Date Published December 2020

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Wiebe, Victor G. "Lindsay, Vachel (1879-1931)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2020. Web. 18 Sep 2021.,_Vachel_(1879-1931)&oldid=169497.

APA style

Wiebe, Victor G. (December 2020). Lindsay, Vachel (1879-1931). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 September 2021, from,_Vachel_(1879-1931)&oldid=169497.

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