Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter and John G. Neihardt

Spring Beauty at the Family Home
John G. Neihardt, the mystic, sky-searching author, poet, folklorist, and recorder of early 20th century Americana, wrote this poem in 1903. Best known for Black Elk Speaks (1932), the book has been called "a North American bible of all tribes." 

Neihardt arrived in Columbia in 1948 (at age 67, taught an additional 20 years at the University) to teach Epic American English and to serve as the poet-in-residence at the University of Missouri. Though I couldn't find an official reference to it, I've heard that when he walked in the classroom, with his thick white hair standing on end, he would boldly announce each day that today is the best day yet. 

He's right, you know.

Easter, by John G. Neihardt (1903)

ONCE more the northbound Wonder
Brings back the goose and crane,
Prophetic Sons of Thunder,
Apostles of the Rain.

In many a battling river
The broken gorges boom;
Behold, the Mighty Giver
Emerges from the tomb!

Now robins chant the story
Of how the wintry sward
Is litten with the glory
Of the Angel of the Lord.

His countenance is lightning
And still His robe is snow,
As when the dawn was brightening
Two thousand years ago.

O who can be a stranger
To what has come to pass?
The Pity of the Manger
Is mighty in the grass!

Undaunted by Decembers,
The sap is faithful yet.
The giving Earth remembers,
And only men forget.

When trying to find reference to Neihardt in the classroom at University of Missouri, I ran across a quote by veteran political journalist Jack Germond:  "I met a wonderful old man, an epic poet named John G. Neihardt, who taught a course in writing the critical essay and, more to the point, taught all his students what it was for a man to grow old totally comfortable with himself and what he had done with his life."

Here's film footage of John G. Neihardt discussing and then reciting the Easter poem.


  1. Thank you Ann, this just made my morning!

  2. You are a breath of fresh air, Annie. I learn from you constantly. :-)

  3. Thank you, Annie, I loved hearing him read the poem. What a gift.
    Happy holiday weekend. Love, Madeline

  4. We loved him. He was a witness at our wedding in 1966. He used to go to a classroom at the top of Jesse Hall and watch his video class with the students. We often went too and sat with him. Judy & Mark Meadows