Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, JOHN FILSON, by WILLIAM HENRY VENABLE



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JOHN FILSON, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: John filson was a pedagogue - / a pioneer was he
Last Line: Who never had a grave.
Subject(s): Filson, John (1747-1788); Ohio; Pioneers


JOHN FILSON was a pedagogue --
A pioneer was he;
I know not what his nation was,
Nor what his pedigree.

Tradition's scanty records tell
But little of the man,
Save that he to the frontier came
In immigration's van.

Perhaps with phantoms of reform
His busy fancy teemed,
Perhaps of new Utopias
Hesperian he dreamed.

John Filson and companions bold
A frontier village planned,
In forest wild, on sloping hills,
By fair Ohio's strand.

John Filson from three languages
With pedant skill did frame
The novel word Losantiville
To be the new town's name.

Said Filson: "Comrades, hear my words:
Ere threescore years have flown
Our town will be a city vast."
Loud laughed Bob Patterson.

Still John exclaimed, with prophet-tongue,
"A city fair and proud,
The Queen of Cities in the West!"
Mat Denman laughed aloud.

Deep in the wild and solemn woods
Unknown to white man's track,
John Filson went, one autumn day,
But nevermore came back.

He struggled through the solitude
The inland to explore,
And with romantic pleasure traced
Miami's winding shore.

Across his path the startled deer
Bounds to its shelter green;
He enters every lonely vale
And cavernous ravine.

Too soon the murky twilight comes,
The boding night-winds moan;
Bewildered wanders Filson, lost,
Exhausted, and alone.

By lurking foes his steps are dogged,
A yell his ear appalls!
A ghastly corpse, upon the ground,
A murdered man, he falls.

The Indian, with instinctive hate,
In him a herald saw
Of coming hosts of pioneers,
The friends of light and law;

In him beheld the champion
Of industries and arts,
The founder of encroaching roads
And great commercial marts;

The spoiler of the hunting-ground,
The plougher of the sod,
The builder of the Christian school
And of the house of God.

And so the vengeful tomahawk
John Filson's blood did spill, --
The spirit of the pedagogue
No tomahawk could kill.

John Filson had no sepulchre,
Except the wildwood dim;
The mournful voices of the air
Made requiem for him.

The druid trees their waving arms
Uplifted o'er his head;
The moon a pallid veil of light
Upon his visage spread.

The rain and sun of many years
Have worn his bones away,
And what he vaguely prophesied
We realize to-day.

Losantiville, the prophet's word,
The poet's hope fulfils, --
She sits a stately Queen to-day
Amid her royal hills!

Then come, ye pedagogues, and join
To sing a grateful lay
For him, the martyr pioneer,
Who led for you the way.

And may my simple ballad be
A monument to save
His name from blank oblivion,
Who never had a grave.





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