Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE WEST, by LEVI BISHOP



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THE WEST, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The west! The wild, the distant west!
Last Line: On thee the work must rest!
Subject(s): Future; Poetry & Poets; West (u.s.); Southwest; Pacific States


The West! The wild, the distant West!
Of Earth's domain the richest -- best.
So fame would have us say, at least,
Of this luxuriant -- natural feast;
Where moose, and wolf, and buffalo,
Have held their sway by streams that flow
Eternal to the Gulf; where rocks
And mounts are scarcely seen, but flocks
Abound, and game in plain and brake,
Roam far and wide to Northern Lake.

Of two proud races here we find;
The noblest of the human kind.
The White moves on from East apace,
A ruling and encroaching race.

Before his march the Red Man fast retires,
Like herds before the sweeping prairie fires;
He thus retires, but yet retires in vain,
He stands at bay before Pacific's main.

He struggles there a few short years,
Beside the "Golden Gate,"
And then forever disappears;
Thus speak the words of fate.

History records his gloomy story
Of robbery and wrong:
Poets embalm his name in glory --
In never dying song.

In this fair West, that teems with mind,
And all material things that bind
The race, and link the world in one,
But whose swift course is scarce begun,
Shall there be found whereof to fire
The generous breast, and to inspire
The lofty song? There shall indeed;
Whoever runs may freely read.

The wild flower and the eglantine;
The copper, lead and golden mine
With riches yet untold;
The plain, the mighty lake and river;
The gales that stately forests shiver;
The winter's sweeping cold:
The blade that shoots from every plain,
The waving fields of ripening grain,
The gathered corn in sheaf;
Refreshing showers of summer day,
The sweet perfume of new made hay,
The sear-autumnal leaf:
The smoke that curls from cabin home;
The Red Man, who as yet may roam,
In proud and fearless tread,
With knife at belt, and hunter's bow,
From British line to Mexico,
Among his mighty dead:
His war path, war whoop, mound and tillage,
His wigwam, wardrobe, mat and village,
His listless -- idle life;
His partner drudge, beneath her pack,
Or with the pappoose at her back,
With only name of wife:
The gay cascade, the crystal fountain,
The Alleghany, Rocky Mountain --
Vast battlements on high --
That bound us on the east and west,
With gorge, and peak, and snowy crest,
Bold stretching to the sky:
All these and thousands more. And them,
Behold the crowning subject -- men;
And women, too: The young and old
Of every name, of every mold:
Of every clime and every nation;
Of every rank and every station:
Of every mind and every passion:
Of every freak and every fashion:
With tastes and characters as various,
As best of fortunes are precarious.

And then the future: yes, the future West!
Its growth, its riches, power, who can foresee?
Its grand extent, from mountain crest to crest,
From lake to gulf; what is its destiny?

The central range of one vast continent,
It holds the balance firm of all the rest;
From teeming soil that never can be spent,
We feed the world as if it were a guest.

Here strangers swarm, a happy home to seek,
The waves rush on like ocean's swelling tide;
A few decades, and here shall millions speak
The law that shall a mighty empire guide.

Yes, poetry is all around us,
Enough, in truth, to well confound us.
The very air we breathe inspires our song;
The opening future years the strain prolong.

From wild Niagara's plunging flood,
To Minnehaha's distant wood,
The echoes rise, and swell, and gently fall;
They float upon the zephyr's wings --
As when sweet Philomela sings --
From "Pictured Rocks" to Montezuma's hall.

But who, of all, shall poet be
The Western harp to wake --
To sing in notes as bold, as free
As tempest on the Lake?

The songs that charmed the Grecian isles
Were echoed on Italian page;
Enchantments of Calypso smiles
Find counterpart in Dido's rage.

The Roman sway, unwieldy grown,
Is crushed beneath barbaric power;
Its mighty genius overthrown,
As northern blast will crush the flower.

The Crescent and the Turk assail
Byzantine Cross of Christian world;
Nor Rome's great name can aught avail,
Her Orient rule from place is hurled.

Majestic Muse of Greece and Rome!
From fierce destruction take Thy wing;
In Gaul and Britain find a home,
Again, in Western Europe, sing.

Nor wild Atlantic surges shun,
The gales shall bear Thee safely o'er;
The course of empire -- with the sun,
Invites Thee to our western shore.

Responsive to the British lyre,
Our poets sing in sweetest strain;
But lend the West Thy native fire!
Here let Thine altars blaze again!

Then whose the genius, culture, might,
In all this western land,
To give its harp a worthy flight?
To touch it, whose the hand?

The instrument has strength and scope
For any earthly strain,
But untried hands can never hope
Its highest notes to gain.

"Great Spirit" of this garden World!
O genius of the West!
Let Thy proud banners be unfurled,
On Thee the work must rest!





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