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The Song of Three Friends To Hilda the prize Like the last red apple sweet and high: High as the topmost twigs, Which the apple-pickers missed— O no, not missed But found beyond their finger tips. —Sappho, Love Songs I ashley’s hundred Who now reads clear the roster of that band?1 Alas, Time scribbles with a careless hand And often pinchbeck2 doings from that pen Bite deep, where deeds and dooms of mighty men Are blotted out beneath a sordid3 scrawl!4 One hundred strong they flocked to Ashley’s5 call That spring of eighteen hundred twenty-two; For tales of wealth, out-legending Peru,6 Came wind-blown from Missouri’s distant springs,7 And that old sireny8 of unknown things Bewitched them, and they could not linger more. They heard the song the sea winds sang the shore When earth was flat, and black ships dared the steep9 Where bloomed the purple perils of the deep In dragon-haunted gardens. They were young. Albeit some might feel the winter flung Upon their heads, ’twas less like autumn’s drift Than backward April’s unregarded sift On stout oaks thrilling with the sap again. And some had scare attained the height of men, Their lips unroughed, and gleaming in their eyes The light of immemorial surprise That life still kept the spaciousness of old And, like the hoarded tales10 their grandsires told, Might still run bravely. For a little span Their life-fires flared like torches in the van11 Of westward progress, ere the great wind ’woke To snuff them. Many vanished like a smoke The blue air drinks; and e’en of those who burned Down to the socket, scarce a tithe returned To share at last the ways of quiet men, Or see the hearth-reek drifting once again Across the roofs of old St. Louis town.12 And now no more the mackinaws13 come down, Their gunwales14 low with costly packs and bales, A wind of wonder in their shabby sails, Their homing oars flung rhythmic to the tide; And nevermore the masted keelboats15 ride Missouri’s stubborn waters on the lone Long zigzag journey to the Yellowstone. Their hulks have found the harbor ways that know The ships of all the Sagas,16 long ago— A moony haven where no loud gale stirs. The trappers and the singing voyageurs17 Are comrades now of Jason and his crew,18 Foregathered in that timeless rendezvous Where come at last all seekers of the Fleece. Not now of those who, dying, dropped in peace A brimming cup of years the song shall be: From Mississippi to the Western Sea, From Britain’s country to the Rio Grande Their names are written deep across the land In pass and trail and river, like a rune.19 4 the song of three friends Pore20 long upon that roster by the moon Of things remembered dimly. Tangled, blear The writing runs; yet presently appear Three names of men that, spoken, somehow seem Incantatory21 trumpets of a dream Obscurely blowing from the hinter-gloom.22 Of these and that inexorable23 doom That followed like a hound upon the scent, Here runs the tale. 5 Ashley’s Hundred ...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781496207388
Related ISBN
9781496206374
MARC Record
OCLC
1039702821
Pages
726
Launched on MUSE
2018-06-13
Language
English
Open Access
No
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