Gene Stratton-Porter's poem, “A Limberlost Invitation” was published in George Ade’s book An Invitation to You and Your Folks from Jim and Some More of the Home Folks in 1916, to celebrate Indiana’s 100 year birthday. The “little book” is a tome of calls to ex-Hoosiers to come back to Indiana for the centennial, a project of the Indiana Historical Commission. Included with Stratton-Porter’s poem are letters to actual and anonymous souls who have left the ‘good old days’ behind for lives in other states. Poems by other Hoosiers, including James Whitcomb Riley, are also included.
What makes Stratton-Porter’s poem stand out from the other letters and poems is that hers is a straightforward declaration of the natural beauty of the Limberlost; to this she issues an invitation for anyone to partake. This simple issuance of invitation to share with her the joys of nature may be unique in Ade’s book, but is a prevailing theme in the work of Stratton-Porter.
This lyrical depiction of the Limberlost swamp in this poem is exceptional because of its richness. Much of Stratton-Porter’s work is wrought with sensory information about her experiences with which we are invited to share. “A Limberlost Invitation” follows this pattern, but goes above and beyond in terms of visual, auditory, and olfactory perceptions. It is easy to see, hear, and smell the swamp as described by this poem, line-by-line.
Stratton-Porter’s ability to bring the woods to life in the mind’s eye of her readers is remarkable. I have been working with this poem for a couple years and each time I go back to it, there is something new. Each stanza evokes illustrious visions of the Limberlost, often of multiple occurrences. Reading “A Limberlost Invitation” is like having a three hundred and sixty degree view of the world in which Stratton-Porter wrote the poem, along with sounds and smells.
The illustrations included here were inspired by Stratton-Porter’s poem “A Limberlost Invitation.” This project began with a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission's Arts in the Parks and Historic Sites program.
“A Limberlost Invitation”
Come where the chewink chewunketh,
Come where the wild grapevines swing;
Come where the craw-dads are crawling
Over the bed of our spring.
Come where the sun in red glory
Tops Kestler’s tamaracks gray,
Come where the black bass are leaving
And the redwings are calling all day.
Come where the rattlesnake rattles
While the kingfisher rattles also.
Come where the horned owl is hooting
And it rains at the call of a crow.
Come where the harebell is ringing
While the bluebell its worship call tolls;
Come where the vireo preaches,
And the Hermit his vesper song rolls.
Come where the polecat’s perfuming
Mingles with flower-scented air,
Come to our swamp in its glory,
Its joys we invite you to share.
Rome City, Indiana, 1916