Mrs. Bower Aly 2094 Hilyard Eugene, Oregon
Dear Mrs. Aly:

Your letters of October 18th and 19th (mailed on the 21st and 22nd) came together.

That was a happy encounter with the dinner guest who knows all my work and likes it! Also, hurray for the English professor who was agreeable! I suppose there is nobody at the University who remembers that I lectured there 40 years ago. (Wow! What an ancient I am!)

First, I'll answer a few of your lesser questions.

I think there are obvious cultural reasons why Tagore will never be widely read in America again -- certainly not so long as the present-time mood exists. It can hardly be said that he was widely read, even in 1912 with the powerful promotional scheme back of him. A minority truly appreciated him, no doubt, but the rest was fashion. Nevertheless, those who know him will feel as we do about him.

The "Traumerei" is a piece of sculpture Mona made for Hilda. She still has it. It is a sleeping figure of a young woman.

The "Red Cross work" I mentioned in a letter to Sterling during the first World War cannot have been very important. No doubt it was the sort of thing everybody was expected to do and did.

At about that time there was an outburst of popular hysteria in the country around Bancroft. Someday I will tell you of my modest adventures in this connection if you think it of importance.

At about that time, however, Hoover was going to do his famous work with the refugees in Belgium, and I enlisted to go with him. I really wanted to go for the adventure as well as for humanitarian reasons. But I was working on THE SONG OF HUGH GLASS and, as the time came for me to sail, I felt an overwhelming compulsion to resign and continue with HUGH GLASS, for I knew then that it would never be written if I went abroad then. Everything was arranged for my sailing when I resigned. I am glad now that I did just what I did. It was my job in this world and innumerable others were able to do the work in Belgium. Of course, I wish I could have had the adventure and done H UGH GLASS too, but all my life there has been something deep down in me that compelled me to do what I did. As I look back, I can see that I never was free. I do not know that this was mentioned to Sterling.

You note some comment in the Sterling letters on socialism and totalitarianism, and you say, "Your definitions of Socialism and Totalitarianism seem to be the same." The principle involved, as you suggest, is the same. The difference is in control. Both signify a functional society as distinguished from an acquisitive society. You say it thus: "If things are to work, the parts have to mesh and fill their assignment". I am not a doctrinaire and was never a good Marxian. In the old days sympathy for labor was dominant in my thinking. Surely, things have changed! Now, I am not concerned with the rich and the poor, employe and employer as I was in those days. I am concerned with the now quite obvious fact that our economic system is not self-sustaining; that it is kept going by enormous debt (steadily increasing), subsidies, waste. More and more, since I was writing to Sterling we have been compelled to move in the direction of socialization. The movement is world-wide. It is not, I believe, the result of socialistic preachment, but of necessity. Abroad, this trend has taken forms that we abhor , as all great social movements do in the beginning.

Deep down inside of me, I confess there is something that is unhappy about the change, but I know that the process involved is tremendous--beyond the control of leaders. It seems to me more natural like a force than a trend established by the men in it. I know and appreciate what great social gains have been made in my time, but I know that something is lost in the process. Our higher values are aristocratic in the high sense of that term; and surely, we can note a lowering of the cultural level in some important respects. But the new integration, when established, may well produce another phase of the aristocratic temper and maybe some of our lost values will be revived, with a difference in keeping with the time.

The "Three Bears House" was the little building in our back yard. The children named it so. We've moved it up by the barn to be used as a tack room.

Yours of October 27th has just arrived. Yes, "Lillith" was written, and published privately. As you may have noted, I kept after Sterling to write it. "Hodie, hodie, Lillith scribenda est!" Sterling knew Lillith too well, but I feel he did not know Eve at all; and that was his tragedy.

Fine about the letter from Mrs. Ryskind (Mary House). You already know what her father meant to me and still means. I love him, and often, often wish I could see him again--the way his face would glow when we were sharing good poetry or great ideas and when he would be doing something characteristically kind and helpful for me. I visited his lonely grave in the mountains of West Virginia twice. I hope he knew I was there, though I am sure he was not in the grave. As a symbolic act, I rolled two cigarettes, placed one on the grave and smoked the other. I was remembering the many times he came to see me at Bancroft and we sat up to the wee hours discussing many things by way of guessing, as we might, what made the world tick. We always made the room blue with smoke.

Yes, I heard about Dilliard. Ollie and I think the young Pulitzer finds him too liberal and wishes to turn the clock back a bit. (Young Pulitzer married the Baldwin Locomotive Works, you know.) His father fell out with Bovard for the same reason.

The Life of Bovard was written by James W. Markham, but I do not know the publisher. Markham came to me here when he was beginning the work, and I named the people whom he should see at the Post-Dispatch. Ollie of course was one of them. Those who knew Bovard best did not like the book. I have not read it, and I suspect, from what I have heard, that I have not lost too much.

You ask about my talk to the Law Wives. That has not come off as yet, but I have talked to the young people of the Baptist Church and to a similar group at the Episcopal Church. Both talks were successful, I felt, but there was something special at the latter place. I recited lyrics and talked. Sandy Gray came and kept his machine running for a solid hour. I wish you could get in touch with several of the people who were there. These things are evanescent and after a little while are lost. Two remarks made will mean something to you. One of Bassage's assistants came to me and said, "You know, every time I have heard you, I have felt that I have been far away someplace." I replied, "Maybe we were both far away together". When I began talking casually, after reading some of the L lyrics, I told Sandy to switch off the machine, but he switched it on again. So I was talking for the record without knowing it. I remember that my remarks were about essential religion, and there was no sign of dissent in the room. A young lady, the daughter of Congressman Bowling, said to me in a low voice, "Thank you for loving us"; and that was not a bad remark.

With all kind thoughts from Mona and me to the three of you there,

John Neihardt

(1) The record would give what I said, but not the feeling in the room. That is what meant most to me. I hope I didn't just imagine it.

You asked about preparation of speeches. I'm sure that if I were compelled to make a speech of some importance on a theme I had not used before, I'd work it all out (by steps) in my mind. I would not write it out. I'd probably make notes by way of fixing the order of ideas; but then I'd most probably forget I had made notes.

You know I made the speech for the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at the big Victory Dance of the Oglalas during the war. I planned that in my mind during the long train ride along northern Nebraska. Sometimes it seemed to me I was already speaking to the Sioux. But, of course, I knew the material very well. The speech was rather long of necessity, but I had it whipped when I had divided it thus: 1. Your Heroic Past 2. Your Heroic Present. 3. The New Day and the Good Road.

One of the really good talks I've made (and this does stand out) was at the Writers Conference of Northwestern University. It was on Poetry. I shaped it to fit 25 minutes while I was squirming on a hard seat waiting for the bores to quit boring the crowd. (Note what Mrs. Watson said about it. She is still alive. Russell has the address, I'm sure. Her husband Elmo Scott Watson, was head of the School of Journalism at N. W. Univ.

J. N.
John Neihardt Rte 7 Columbia, Mo.


Mrs. Bower-Aly, 2094 Hilyard, Eugene, Oregon