Madison Church

Madison church photoWas this the church about which Cummings wrote the poem he considered his best?

Frank Lyman’s great niece Carol, who returned to Silver Lake to live, adamantly disputes reports that E. E. Cummings’ poem i am a little church was written about a church in France.

“Walter Bailey, pastor of the Madison Church, told the story behind (that poem), one that Cummings regarded as his very best. Marion (Morehouse) told Reverend Bailey that she and Estlin had been out to dinner that August evening in 1945. Coming home, they passed the lighted church. The bell was ringing. People were entering the church to pray. They had just received word that the Second World War was over. Cummings, deeply touched went home and wrote the poem:”

i am a little church(no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying)children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope,and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring,i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly his light and proudly His darkness)

(Complete 749)

-from Nobody-But-Himself by Carol L. Batchelder in Spring The Journal of the E.E. Cummings Society, new series Number 6

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