Saturday 16 December 2017

Sunday poem: Anthony Cronin's personal anthology

Anthony Cronin. Photo by Tony Gavin
Anthony Cronin. Photo by Tony Gavin

Anthony Cronin

In 1896 the Democratic Party, led by William Jennings Bryan, campaigned for the adoption of silver as a backing for paper currency, along with gold.

Aimed at the bankers and plutocrats of the East Coast, their slogan was 'They shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold' . Silver was plentiful in the Western states, notably in Nebraska. The adoption of silver as well as gold would enable much more paper money to be put into circulation so it would be a form of what we call today quantitative easing. As such it proved more popular than anybody had expected.

Vachel Lindsay witnessed the election as a 16-year-old and it made, as elections can at that age, an indelible impression on him, and nearly 40 years later he wrote an extraordinary poem about it which was meant for public recitation.

The equivalent would be if a senior Irish poet of the 1970's had written about De Valera and the election of 1932.

from Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan

I brag and chant of Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan,

Candidate for President who sketched a silver Zion,

The one American Poet who could sing outdoors...

All the funny circus silks

Of politics unfurled,

Bartlett pears of romance that were honey at the cores,

And torchlights down the street, to the end of the world...

And the town was all one spreading wing of bunting, plumes and sunshine,

Every rag and flag and Bryan picture sold,

When the rigs in many a dusty line

Jammed our streets at noon,

And joined the wild parade against the power of gold....

The long parade rolled on. I stood by my best girl.

She was a cool young citizen, with wise and laughing eyes....

Election night at midnight,

Boy Bryan's defeat.

Defeat of western silver,

Defeat of the wheat...

Victory of custodians,

Plymouth Rock,

And all that inbred landlord stock.

Victory of the neat...

Defeat of alfalfa and the Mariposa lily,

Defeat of the Pacific and the long Mississippi.

Defeat of the young by the old and silly.

Defeat of tornadoes by the poison vats supreme.

Defeat of my boyhood, defeat of my dream.

Vachel Lindsay

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