Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FIRST ACROSS THE SANDS, by JOHN RUSSELL MCCARTHY

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

FIRST ACROSS THE SANDS, by                
First Line: Juan bautista de anza
Last Line: And stands in california.
Subject(s): Anza, Juan Bautista De (1736-1788); California; Explorers; Exploring; Discovery; Discoverers

Juan Bautista de Anza,
First across the sands
That guard fair California
From older, sadder lands,
Found a trail to the north and west
That crowned two hundred years of quest
From dreamy, slow
Old Mexico
To bright young California.

Juan Bautista de Anza,
Bearded and bronze and lean,
Hated and feared by Apaches
Where only the sky is clean,
Knew that San Gabriel lay in the West
Beyond what shadows he only guessed—
But he willed to go
Where roses grow,
And rode to California.

The winds of the waste are yellow,
Sabres against the skin;
The desert winds are golden,
Keen as a virgin's sin;
And under the steel blue frying pan
Whose fires were lit when time began
Men sizzle and stew
The glare-time through
On the road to California.

Said the sun, "Turn backward, Anza;
I'll addle your grizzled head!"
"O hey for California!"
Was all that Anza said.

Into the waste rode Anza
North and north and north,
Over the waste rode Anza
To the Rio Gila forth,
And the rivers are swift and red and wide
But the Yumas smile and the Spaniards ride
And turn to the south
To the river's mouth,
Bound for California.

Into the maze rode Anza
Where sandhills rise and walk
And yellow dunes race crazily
With ghost-hills white as chalk,
And no one knew the way they came
To this dreadful land that had no name,
Whence only doubt
Could lead them out
And show them California.

Said the sands, "Turn backward, Anza,
Before my marching dune!"
"O hey for California!"
Was Juan de Anza's tune.

Into the south rode Anza
Around the crawling land,
Beyond the hands of the choking sands
With his fire-throated band;
And west across a plain that lay
Sea-deep in a younger, stranger day,
With feet that burned
De Anza turned—
And rode to California.

"Turn backward, backward, Anza!"
Growled the demon under the hill.
"O hey for California!"
Sang Juan de Anza still.

Into the hills rode Anza
By San Jacinto's head,
Over the speaking hills he rode
That cover the grumbling dead;
Through snow out of sandy hell he came,
From burning flame into freezing flame,
Until he stands
By promised lands—
An eagle's California.

Now sand and peak are at his back,
Before him lies the downward track;
Wind, waste and fear are left behind,
Before him all the land is kind;
Before him, under a friendly sky,
The days like lazy gulls wing by.

Juan Bautista de Anza,
Bearded and bronze and lean,
Hated and feared by Apaches
Where only the sky is clean,
Has found San Gabriel in the West
By hill and sea and flowers blest;
He has traversed first
The sands accursed
And stands in California.

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