position in the War Between the States.rnOnly Davidson remained unreconstructedrnto the end, an ardent hater of centralizationrnin all its guises in government, inrnthe arts, and in American social life; hernnever trimmed his political sails to meetrnthe winds of fashion, hi many ways, hernwas the Last Agrarian (to crib a chapternamernfrom Winchell’s book). While thernDemocratic Party, once the sacred homernof the white Southerner, veered off intornRooseveltian socialism, Davidson remainedrnJeffersonian to the end, as did hisrngood friend and fellow Bread Loaf retreatrninstructor Robert Frost (a reactionaryrnwho would have embraced the epithetrnwith some pleasure and justification).rnIn matters of art and literature, Ransom,rnTate, and Warren experimentedrnwith modernism and accepted many ofrnits tenets at face value. Davidson, on thernother hand, was a more pragmatic modernist.rnHe could never appreciate Eliot’srnThe Waste Land. “Wliat he found mostrnlacking in Eliot’s verse,” says Winchell,rn”was ‘memorableness’ —that is ‘happinessrnand ultimateness of expression.'” AsrnDavidson observed to Tate,rnNo matter how adequate a form ofrnexpression may seem to you as arnpoet, you must consider that artisticrnexpression in a void is a pretty poorrnproposition; that is where Eliot isrngoing…. He i s . . . in a vacuum, inrn[The] Waste Land, which I havernread three times, with no gleamrnwhatever of comprehension.rnDavidson also loathed the Joycean notionrnof the artist as alienated from his ownrncommunity, defying its conventions andrnshaking off its bonds. Eor him, the artistrnwas a bard of his place, a recorder of itsrndeeds and denizens; the only way a properrnand accurate record could be kept wasrnif the artist were part of the community,rnnot estranged from it. He distrusted literaturernthat could not be shared by a communityrnat large, whether its membersrnwere learned or not. “A poetry that putsrnitself in a position not to be recited,”rnWinchell quotes him saying at the 1956rnreunion of the Fugitives, “not to be sung,rnhardly ever to be read aloud from thernpage where it stands, almost never to bernmemorized, is nearing the danger age ofrnabsurdity.”rnFor the most part, Davidson avoidedrnexperimentation. Only in his first collection.rnAn Outland Piper, did he employrnsuch mythological figures as dryads,rnnymphs, and dragons to differentiate thern”world of mundane experience from thernrealm of imagination.” To many of therncritics who have bothered to read Davidson’srnlater verse, he seems hopelessly antiquated,rnprovincial, and unworthy ofrnfurther critical attention, histead of followingrnin the footsteps of Joyce and Eliot,rnDavidson wrote about the mountain peoplernof Tennessee, the “tall men,” as herndubbed them: men such as Andrew Jacksonrnand his own frontier kinsman, AndrewrnDavidson (the indefatigable hidianrnfighter), and, of course, tall men of evenrnbroader regional significance such asrnRobert E. Lee. While depicting thernsterility of modern life, he contrasts itrnwith his people’s rich past—the history’ ofrnthose men and women who cleared thernwilderness and made a place for civilization.rnWliere there is confusion in his poems,rnit is over an industrialism that hasrnsupplanted the old ways, the old dispensation.rnhi Davidson’s one novel. The Big Balladrnjamboree, published posthumously,rnhe celebrates real country music, the musicrnof these very real people, with its rootsrnburied deep in the folk and bluegrass traditionsrnof the region and bearing no resemblancernto the pop-saturated confectionsrnchurned out by the likes of ShaniarnTwain and Garth Brooks (who claim EltonrnJohn and Billy Joel as their main influences).rnDavidson’s earliest aspirations werernnot literary; like many young boys of hisrnday, he wanted to be a train engineer. Hernshowed no real interest in literature untilrnhis second matriculation at Vanderbiltrnfollowing a stint with the U.S. Army duringrnWorld War I. (In France, he nearlyrnlost his life under enemy fire.) Upon returningrnto Nashville, he fell in with arngroup of young men who gatheredrnaround a rather eccentric Nashvillianrnnamed Sidney Hirsch. Hirsch acted as arnkind of intellectual mentor to Davidsonrnand his young friends, all of whom wouldrngather at Hirsch’s home on 20th Avenuernt:o discuss linguistic and literary mattersrnand to be entertained by Hirsch’s variousrnflights of fancy. Later, when Davidsonrnbrought along his Vanderbilt Shakespearernprofessor, John Crowe Ransom,rnthe group’s discussions focused on poetry.rnRansom also gave the proceedings arnmuch-needed dose of gravity. The firstrnfruit of these informal meetings was thernFugitive magazine, a brilliant literaryrnjournal featuring poetry and essays thatrnwas published from 1922 until 1925. Althoughrneach member of the group madernsome contribution to the Fugitive, thernbulk of the “dirty work”—the editing, thernselling of subscriptions, etc. — fell tornDavidson, who performed the tasks oftenrnwithout recompense or recognition butrnout of sheer love for the thing at hand.rnThe later, and much greater, result of thernFugitive meetings, of course, was FllrnTake My Stand.rnAs a young man, Davidson consideredrnhimself a political moderate, although hernwas careful to delineate his liberalism asrnthe 18th-century Jeffersonian variety, notrnNew Deal liberalism. His early politicalrnviews were probably influenced by Dr.rnEdwin Minis, the president of Vanderbiltrnand author of the Southern Progressivernbible, The Advancing South: Stories ofrnProgress and Reaction. Following Minis’rncue, Davidson assumed a “progressive”rnstance regarding the Scopes trial: He wasrnconcerned that the people of Dayton,rnTennessee, were drawing unnecessar- attentionrnand thus exposing themselvesrnand their state to the rest of the nation asrna mob of ill-informed hicks bent onrnthwarting progress. Still, a case can bernmade that Davidson was never a liberal inrnthe modern sense, because his foremostrnconcerns were always regional and, therefore,rnconservative. He believed that,rnthrough the wisdom earned by its collectivernexperience, Tennessee knew whatrnwas best for Tennessee just as South Carolinarnknows what is best for South Carolina,rnand New England knows what is bestrnfor itself He feared and despised centralizationrnof any kind and thought that thernconcentration in the Northeast of powerrnand prestige in the arts would lead tornmediocrity in culture. Davidson believedrnthat local communities should form theirrnown artistic tiaditions. hi a searing essayrnon contemporary art entifled “New Yorkrnand the Hinterlands,” he excoriated culturalrncentralization:rnTo a people the greater part ofrnwhom were schooled in Protestantrnreligion and morality New Yorkrnpresented, with a knowing leer, underrnthe guise of literary classics, thernworks of voluptuaries and perverts,rnthe teeming pages oi PsychopathiarnSexualis, and all the choicest remainsrnof the literary bordellos ofrnthe ancient and modern world.rnGerman Expressionism, FrenchrnDadaism, the erotic primitivism ofrnD.H. Lawrence, the gigantic fin dern28/CHRONICLESrnrnrn