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VACHEL LINDSAY'S poems (for, generally speaking, they are poems) will make any reviewer search his soul for the private definition of poetry on the basis of which he is supposedly working. They are, contradiction or not, colloquial and affected, at the same time reminiscent of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, and yet this latest volume of his verse shows that he can still hit down at the root of things in the same manner that has made "General William Booth" and "The Congo" such favorites with both perspicuous readers and amateur reciters.
The preface to the book would indicate that it is little more than the circular of some railroad company advertising the glories of Glacier National Park; but, since few people read prefaces, it will not prevent their going farther and seeing that "Old, Old, Old Andrew Jackson" and "A Curse for the Saxaphone" will mysteriously appeal to their aesthetic tastes as well as amuse and stir them. On the surface, there are few signs that there is any aesthetic content there. The best things in this book are as shapeless as the mountains that obsess their author. There is either a tremendous and subtle artistry in this seeming shapelessness or else Mr. Lindsay is gifted with a rare instinct for the proper thing to do, an instinct so profound that he does not comprehend it himself or even realize that it is there.
Some of the characterizations can be described by no other word than "immense" in its slangiest sense. Andrew Jackson, rest his democratic soul, is an "old turkey cock, on a forest rock" and later on "his face was a talon, his hands were talons." You do not need to collect postage stamps to know that Andrew Jackson did look like that. Jezebel puts on her various guards and jewels and "stopped the honest prophets as they marched upon their way
And slaughtered them and hung them in her hearty wholesome way."
Not the strangest feature of the book is Mr. Lindsay's own illustrations, mostly contained in the latter half where he goes maundering off after Egyptian hieroglyphics. They look like nothing or everything, according to the taste and fancy of the speller, my lord.
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