Uncle John Fiddler

by Marion Morse MacKaye

And Uncle John says to him:
“You are a poet-er.”
And he to Uncle John:
“You are a poet-er!”

And we three sat on a log, we three:
And Uncle John spoke of heaven
And heavenly things;
And out of his distorted, bleared old eyes
There looked a grace of spirit—
A direct message from the oversoul of man—
Gotten in long journeys
Up and down the earth,
Discoursing with men and angels,
Savages, nature
And the primeval wilderness.

A marvelously beautiful denizen
Of an ancient world—
Olden, yet forever new,
His spirit symbolizing these wilds—
Vast— I see him
Standing there above the hills,
Fiddle in hand,
The light eternal in his eyes,
Music, love, life-everlasting
Flowing mystically from his gaunt form

With the old neckerchief—
And all his multitudinous wealth
Of pictured speech
Gathering the epic
To its ken!

The mountains, covered with chestnut-blow,
Fade to blue haze;
And now the one lone star
Rises over the wooded hill.

In Botkin, B. A., ed. Folk-Say: A Regional Miscellany. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1930. 251-252.

[I believe this poem refers to either Solomon Shell or Uncle John Shell. Percy and Marion MacKaye visited and spent time with Solomon Shell, an oldtime fiddler in eastern Kentucky who appears to have affected them deeply. More research is needed about their visits and interactions. --SG]