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Picture of AuthorA. L. Lazarus

Hoosier Connection: In 1962 A. L. Lazarus came to West Lafayette to become a professor of English at Purdue University for 30 years.

Works Discussed: A Suit of Four, The Indiana Experience: An Anthology, “Boneless on the Monon (Winter, 1966 to 1866),” “Aubade for the parishioners of New Paris, Indiana”

John Arnold Leslie (A. L.) Lazarus was born in 1914 in Revere, Massachusetts, to Benjamin, a merchant, and his wife Bessie. After attending the College of William and Mary and the University of Michigan, then holding a teaching position briefly at the University of California, Lazarus took a position as a professor of English at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, in 1962.

He became a distinguished professor and authored more than twenty English textbooks during his time at Purdue. His poetry was published in such periodicals as Saturday Review, New Republic, and Quarterly Review of Literature. In 1970 Lazarus was elected to the Poetry Society of America, and in 1973 his poetry, along with that of three other authors, was published by Purdue University in A Suit of Four.

In 1977 he compiled and edited The Indiana Experience: An Anthology. In it Lazarus collected various works of literature about Indiana, by Hoosier authors, including three of his own poems from A Suit of Four. Two of these poems tell the reader a bit about the state's landscapes and natural features.

The first, “Boneless on the Monon (Winter, 1966 to 1866),” tells of the Monon, a railway that ran from Indianapolis to Chicago and is now being converted to pedestrian trails. The narrator tells of a train ride from Indianapolis to Chicago, metaphorically comparing the journey to a sleigh ride and showing a parallel between 1966 and 1866:

Depend upon this team of diesels
To neigh along the trails
Their tow chains clanking,
Their sledges swaying,

We must hoot at V-8 horses stalled at crossings,
Buried in snow sidings.
Near the Windy City (past sticks and stones?)
If wind whips up harsh names
It cannot harm our bones
By the Monon's horses hypnotized
Equestrians pull boneless
Into Dearborn and Van Buren. (A Suit of Four 17)

The train travels through northwestern Indiana towns—Battle Ground, Chalmers, Rensselaer, and Hammond—during an Indiana winter. The narrator sees "snowy fields glide by" and "breakable glass ponds" (17). Most of all, the narrator personifies winds that dominate December in northwestern Indiana:

If wind whips up harsh names
It cannot harm our bones.... (17)

The Monon Trail

Ultimately, in “Boneless on the Monon,” Lazarus shows the power of nature over the train. Even the train, the powerful symbol of early American industry, cannot forge its way through Indiana's winter weather on such an occasion, any more successfully than a horse-drawn carriage could.

Another poem of relevance to natural Indiana is “Aubade for the Parishioners of New Paris, Indiana.” The beauty of this poem lies in the metaphoric comparison between a Catholic Cardinal in France and the state bird of Indiana, the Northern Cardinal. His comparisons explain how both the Northern Cardinal and the Catholic Cardinal are stately and sanctified:

This Paris too is surely worth a mass.
But from tipsy sovereign's glass
From the top of his tree
(Mais oui! Mais whee!”)
In his land lord call
Our c a r d i n a l
Signs his head up high.
At the drop of a ray
This Gaul greets the day
With a wine-soaked paean:
Such liturgy!
Whatever else he has to mean
Our celebrant sings his red up.
(Indiana Experience, 400)

In making plays on the words "cardinal" and "Paris," Lazarus implies that even a common bird and a small town in Indiana are no less sacred than a Catholic mass in a French cathedral. "Parishioners" who hear the male cardinal's "liturgy" should stop to worship Indiana's natural world with him.

Although The Indiana Experience: An Anthology features the work of others more often than his own, Lazarus consistently demonstrates the value that he places on Indiana 's natural world as a significant part of the state's history and culture.



Lazarus, Arnold Leslie, ed. The Indiana Experience. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1977.

---, ed. A Suit of Four. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue U Studies, 1973.


Lazarus, Arnold Leslie. Some Light. Cleveland: Bellflower Press, 1988.


Monon Rail to Trail Project