On the Building of Springfield

Vachel Lindsay

  Let not our town be large, remembering
  That little Athens was the Muses' home,
  That Oxford rules the heart of London still,
  That Florence gave the Renaissance to Rome.

  Record it for the grandson of your son--
  A city is not builded in a day:
  Our little town cannot complete her soul
  Till countless generations pass away.

  Now let each child be joined as to a church
  To her perpetual hopes, each man ordained:
  Let every street be made a reverent aisle
  Where Music grows and Beauty is unchained.

  Let Science and Machinery and Trade
  Be slaves of her, and make her all in all,
  Building against our blatant, restless time
  An unseen, skilful, medieval wall.

  Let every citizen be rich toward God.
  Let Christ the beggar, teach divinity.
  Let no man rule who holds his money dear.
  Let this, our city, be our luxury.

  We should build parks that students from afar
  Would choose to starve in, rather than go home,
  Fair little squares, with Phidian ornament,
  Food for the spirit, milk and honeycomb.

  Songs shall be sung by us in that good day,
  Songs we have written, blood within the rhyme
  Beating, as when Old England still was glad,--
  The purple, rich Elizabethan time.

       .    .    .    .    .

  Say, is my prophecy too fair and far?
  I only know, unless her faith be high,
  The soul of this, our Nineveh, is doomed,
  Our little Babylon will surely die.

  Some city on the breast of Illinois
  No wiser and no better at the start
  By faith shall rise redeemed, by faith shall rise
  Bearing the western glory in her heart.

  The genius of the Maple, Elm and Oak,
  The secret hidden in each grain of corn,
  The glory that the prairie angels sing
  At night when sons of Life and Love are born,

  Born but to struggle, squalid and alone,
  Broken and wandering in their early years.
  When will they make our dusty streets their goal,
  Within our attics hide their sacred tears?

  When will they start our vulgar blood athrill
  With living language, words that set us free?
  When will they make a path of beauty clear
  Between our riches and our liberty?

  We must have many Lincoln-hearted men.
  A city is not builded in a day.
  And they must do their work, and come and go
  While countless generations pass away.

Originally settled around 1810 and called Calhoun, Springfield, the State Capital of Illinois, now has around 200,000 inhabitants. That would probably be too many for Vachel Lindsay, who was born in the town.

The town's main attraction is its association with Abraham Lincoln, who lived there in 1831 and 1832.

You get the impression that if Vachel Lindsay had not been born in Springfield, there would not be that many poems about this town...