by Vachel Lindsay


Would I might rouse the Lincoln in you all,

That which is gendered in the wilderness

From lonely prairies and God’s tenderness.

Imperial soul, star of a weedy stream,

Born where the ghosts of buffaloes still dream,

Whose spirit hoof-beats storm above his grave,

Above that breast of earth and prairie-fire—

Fire that freed the slave.

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Vachel Lindsay Biography

During Vachel's high school life, he befriended teacher Susan Wilcox, and soon she became his guiding light for the rest of his life. Vachel was a star on his track team, and even competed in the Illinois State Championship meet for the top track athletes in the state. As he moved into higher education, his parents wanted him to continue the family dynasty by enrolling into the premedical education at Hiram College in Ohio. Vachel went on to fail med school, and soon found a passion for art and literature. He convinced his parents that he would transfer to the New York School of Art, and there is where he found his true passion: poetry. One of Vachel’s professors, Robert Henry, convinced the struggling artist that poetry might be his calling in life. Taking his advice, Vachel Lindsay began his career as a poet. Vachel began traveling the world and giving talks and lectures to people that were interested in him and his poetry. When he was finished with that portion of his life, he returned home to Springfield Illinois. He gave talks at Springfield High to the delight of his former teacher Susan Wilcox. In early 1922, Vachel lost the most important women in his life: his mother. His health, soon after his mother’s death, began to fail. He collapsed numerous times before receiving two sinus surgeries, and eventually took a teaching position at Gulf Park College. Vachel married a 23-year-old student at the university and two weeks later became married. They had two children together. In 1929, Vachel and his family moved back to the Springfield homestead (where he was born) and lived there for the remainder of his life. Sadly, his life ended after two short years in his childhood home. The Lindsay’s ran out of money quickly, so Vachel soon was back on the road to give talks and lectures in England and other countries. His mental and physical health degraded, and he soon became a disheartened man. In December of 1931, Vachel had finally had enough. He drank a bottle of lye and had a horribly slow death in a bathroom just above the room he was born in. Vachel was buried in the same cemetery as his lifetime hero Abraham Lincoln. On his tombstone, it listed his name, and then one single word: poet.

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The resting place of Vachel Lindsay

Interpretation of the Poem

The poem "Lincoln" refers to the great, motivating spirit that was in President Lincoln and how that spirit freed the slaves. In the first line of the poem, Vachel explains how he wants to arouse the Lincoln in all of us. The word gendered, found in the second line, means to be born or conceived, and does not refer to gender or sex. Knowing this, Vachel wants the reader to understand that this spirit didn't just show up, but it was born somewhere. The lines 3-7 all explain where this spirit was born. By reading the middle of the poem, Vachel showed that the spirit was born all over the United States, and even more specifically in the plains of Illinois where Lincoln was born. Line eight, the last line of the poem, explains what that fire did for the United States; freed the slaves.

Theme of the Poem

The theme of this poem is if there is something wrong in society, use the fire or motivation inside to make a change. Lincoln knew that slavery was a huge problem in the United States, and the fire that burned inside of him helped him to make a change in the world. Another theme of this poem is that anybody can make a difference if they find the motivation inside of them. If a person wants something to change, they can make a difference, whether big or small, to help solve the problem.

Abraham Lincoln Quick-Bio Video

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