Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE INDIAN DEATH WAIL, by WILLIAM STEWARD GORDON



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THE INDIAN DEATH WAIL, by            
First Line: All the village of rikawrus
Last Line: Beats the aching heart of man.
Subject(s): Cheyene Indians - Wars; Native Americans - History; West (u.s.) - Exploration


All the village of Rikawrus
Is a pageant of mirth,
As a band of Cheyenne warriors,
With their painted shield and girth,

Ride and chant a song of triumph,
All in war paints bloody red,
With a crest of eagle feathers
Bristling gayly from each head.

Hear the dance and savage music—
Roman revel gone insane—
Old and young in gaudy trappings—
Painted demons "raising Cain."

Scalps and trophies, shields and banners
Deck the wigwams and the trees—
Shouting heralds spread the tidings
Of the recent victories.

Bonfires glare in garish glee,
Ghoulish shadows farther crawl,
Till a silence suddenly
O'er the feasting seems to fall.

From the bleak and barren mountain,
Looming grim upon the plain,
Comes a wail upon the night wind
Like a desert ghost in pain.

Worse than wail of starving panther,
Dismal as from doomèd souls,
Louder, longer, wilder, weirder,
Wave on wave the anguish rolls.

They are poor, defenseless women—
Women wailing for their dead—
Hungry, cold, and all forsaken—
Winter's blast upon their head.

One by one had they departed,
When a runner first revealed
That a husband, son, or lover
Had been left upon the field.

Lonely Chip-pe-wy-an Mountains
Mock the cadence of their cry—
If the wolf-pack soon assembles
They will neither fight nor fly.

Tell me not, O sordid Saxon,
That an Indian cannot feel—
That the "font of his affections
Has been frozen cold as steel."

True, he has been dwarfed and hardened—
Made to drink life's bitter mead,
Made the target of the tempest,
And the victim of our greed.

But, Shoshone or Cheyenne,
Sioux, Nez Percé, Powhatan—
Still beneath the stoic breast
Beats the aching heart of man.





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