Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE RACE OF THE BOOMERS, by RICHARD EUGENE BURTON

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THE RACE OF THE BOOMERS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The bleak o' the dawn, and the plain
Last Line: The indian's heart-wrung wail for his hapless hunting grounds.
Subject(s): Crime & Criminals; Dawn; Death; June; Pain; Soldiers; Sunrise; Dead, The; Suffering; Misery

THE bleak of the dawn, and the plain is asmoke with the breath of the frost,
And the murmur of bearded men is an ominous sound in the ear;
The white tents liken the ground to a flower-meadow embossed
By the bloom of the daisy bright for a sign that the June is here.

They are faring from countless camps, afoot or ahorse, may be,
The blood of many a folk may flow in their bounding veins,
But, stung by the age-old lust for land and for liberty,
They have ridden or run or rolled in the mile-engulfing trains.

More than the love of loot, mightier than women's lure,
The passion that speeds them on, the hope that is in their breast:
They think to possess the soil, to have and to hold it sure,
To make it give forth of fruit in this garden wide of the West.

But see! It is sun-up now, and six hours hence is noon;
The crowd grows thick as the dust that muffles the roads this way:
The black-leg stays from his cards, the song-man ceases his tune,
And the gray-haired parson deems it is idle to preach and pray.

Now thirst is a present pain and hunger a coming dread,
Water is dear as gold, as the heat grows fierce apace:
Theft is a common deed for the price of a bit of bread,
And poison has played its part to sully the morning's face.

And over the mete away the prairie is parched and dry,
A creature of mighty moods, an ocean of moveless waves;
Clean of a single soul, silent beneath the sky,
Waiting its peopled towns, with room for a host of graves.

The hours reel on, and tense as a bow-cord drawn full taut
Is the thought of the Boomers all: a sight that is touched with awe;
A huddle of men and horse to the frenzy pitch upwrought,
A welter of humankind in the viewless grip of the Law.

Lo! women are in the press, by scores they are yonder come
To find a footing in front -- ah, how can they gain a place?
Nay, softly, even here in the rabble are harbored some
Who think of their mothers, wives, who remember a fairer face;

For the black mass yawns to let these weak ones into the line,
While as many men fall back: 'tis knighthood nameless and great,
Since it means good-by to a claim -- yea, the end of a dream divine,
To be lord of the land, and free for to follow a larger fate.

High noon: with a fusillade of guns and a deep, hoarse roar,
With a panting of short, sharp breaths in the mad desire to win,
Over the mystic mark the seething thousands pour,
As the zenith sun glares down on the rush and the demon's din.

God! what a race: all life merged in the arrowy flight;
Trample the brother down, murder, if need be so,
Ride like the wind and reach the Promised Land ere night,
The Strip is open, is ours, to build on, harrow and sow.

There comes a Horror of flame, for look, the grass is afire!
On, or it licks our feet, on, or it chokes our breath!
Swift through the cactus fly, swift, for it kindles higher;
Home and love and life -- or the hell of an awful death.

So, spent and bruised and scorched, down trails thick-strewn with hopes
A-wreck, did the Boomers race to the place they would attain;
Seizing it, scot and lot, ringing it round with ropes,
The homes they had straitly won through fire and blood and pain.

* * * * * * * * *

While ever up from the earth, or fallen far through the air,
Goes a shuddering ethnic moan, the saddest of all sad sounds;
The cry of an outraged race that is driven otherwhere,
The Indian's heart-wrung wail for his hapless Hunting Grounds.

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