Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE MAN WHO RODE TO CONEMAUGH, by JOHN ELIOT BOWEN



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THE MAN WHO RODE TO CONEMAUGH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Into the town of conemaugh
Last Line: "run for your lives to the mountain side!"
Subject(s): Conemaugh (River), Pennsylvania; Courage; Johnstown Flood (1889); Valor; Bravery


INTO the town of Conemaugh,
Striking the people's souls with awe,
Dashed a rider, aflame and pale,
Never alighting to tell his tale,
Sitting his big bay horse astride.
"Run for your lives to the hills!" he cried;
"Run to the hills!" was what he said,
As he waved his hand and dashed ahead.

"Run for your lives to the hills!" he cried,
Spurring his horse, whose reeking side
Was flecked with foam as red as flame.
Whither he goes and whence he came
Nobody knows. They see his horse
Plunging on in his frantic course,
Veins distended and nostrils wide,
Fired and frenzied at such a ride.
Nobody knows the rider's name --
Dead forever to earthly fame.
"Run to the hills! to the hills!" he cried;
"Run for your lives to the mountain side!"

"Stop him! he's mad! just look at him go!
'Tain't safe," they said, "to let him ride so."
"He thinks he can scare us," said one, with a laugh,
"But Conemaugh folks don't swallow no chaff:
'Tain't nothing, I'll bet, but the same old leak
In the dam above the South Fork Creek."
Blind to their danger, callous of dread,
They laughed as he left them and dashed ahead.
"Run for your lives to the hills!" he cried,
Lashing his horse in his desperate ride.

Down through the valley the rider passed,
Shouting, and spurring his horse on fast;
But not so fast did the rider go
As the raging, roaring, mighty flow
Of the million feet and the millions more
Of water whose fury he fled before.
On he went, and on it came,
The flood itself a very flame
Of surging, swirling, seething tide,
Mountain high and torrents wide.
God alone might measure the force
Of the Conemaugh flood in its V-shaped course.
Behind him were buried under the flood
Conemaugh town and all who stood
Jeering there at the man who cried,
"Run for your lives to the mountain side!"

On he sped in his fierce, wild ride.
"Run to the hills! to the hills!" he cried.
Nearer, nearer raged the roar
Horse and rider fled before.
Dashing along the valley ridge,
They came at last to the railroad bridge.
The big horse stood, the rider cried,
"Run for your lives to the mountain side!"
Then plunged across, but not before
The mighty, merciless mountain roar
Struck the bridge and swept it away
Like a bit of straw or a wisp of hay.
But over and under and through that tide
The voice of the unknown rider cried,
"Run to the hills! to the hills!" it cried, --
"Run for your lives to the mountain side!"





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