Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE GUIDE, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE GUIDE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: We rode across the level plain
Last Line: "will I be drunken!' is it so?"
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Leadership; Memory; Native Americans; Nature; Indians Of America; American Indians; Indians Of South America


WE rode across the level plain --
We -- my sagacious guide and
I. --
He knew the earth -- the air -- the sky;
He knew when it would blow or rain,
And when the weather would be dry:
The bended blades of grass spake out
To him when Redskins were about;
The wagon tracks would tell him too,
The very day that they rolled through:
He knew their burden -- whence they came --
If any horse along were lame,
And what its owner ought to do;
He knew when it would snow; he knew,
By some strange intuition, when
The buffalo would overflow
The prairies like a flood, and then
Recede in their stampede again.
He knew all things -- yea, he did know
The brand of liquor in my flask,
And many times did tilt it up,
Nor halt or hesitate one whit,
Nor pause to slip the silver cup
From off its crystal base, nor ask
Why I preferred to drink from it.
And more and more I plied him, and
Did query of him o'er and o'er,
And seek to lure from him the lore
By which the man did understand
These hidden things of sky and land:
And, wrought upon, he sudden drew
His bridle -- wheeled, and caught my
hand --
Pressed it, as one that loved me true,
And bade me listen.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . There be few
Like tales as strange to listen to!
He told me all -- How, when a child,
The Indians stole him -- there he laughed --
"They stole me and I stole their craft!"
Then slowly winked both eyes, and smiled,
And went on ramblingly, -- "And they --
They reared me, and I ran away --
'Twas winter, and the weather wild;
And, caught up in the awful snows
That bury wilderness and plain,
I struggled on until I froze
My feet ere human hands again
Were reached to me in my distress, --
And lo, since then not any rain
May fall upon me anywhere,
Nor any cyclone's cussedness
Slip up behind me unaware, --
Nor any change of cold, or heat,
Or blow, or snow, but I do know
It's coming, days and days before; --
I know it by my frozen feet --
I know it by my itching heels,
And by the agony one feels
Who knows that scratching nevermore
Will bring to him the old and sweet
Relief he knew ere thus endowed
With knowledge that a certain cloud
Will burst with storm on such a day,
And when a snow will fall, and -- nay,
I speak not falsely when I say
That by my tingling heels and toes
I measure time, and can disclose
The date of month -- the week -- and lo,
The very day and minute -- yea --
Look at your watch! -- An hour ago
And twenty minutes I did say
Unto myself with bitter laugh,
'In less than one hour and a half
Will I be drunken!' Is it so?"





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