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IV “You’re getting sober, Squire,” Black said, and, sighing, stirred the dreamy fire Until the dozing logs awoke in flame; “Or else—which seems to figure out the same— It’s only getting human makes you sad. You wish he’d taken you, and if he had You’d know, with inside knowledge of the thing,1 How buzzards soar, what makes the kiotes sing Such mournful ditties, what the crows regret With all their cawing. Maybe so—and yet, Who ever saw a wolf with bowels of brass Or bird with iron gizzard? Let it pass,— Or, rather, let the jug!” He2 rose and scanned The stars awhile, eyes shaded with a hand Against the groundling dazzle. “Night is new,” He yawned; “and there’s another nip or two Left in the Dipper yonder, tipped to pour Whatever angels drink. There’s even more Left in the jug. So here’s regards to those Bone-scattered where the Colorado flows Among the damned Mojaves, and beside The Umpqua where it bitters with the tide Among the marshes—Jedediah’s men!3 And may they rise and follow him again The other side of Jordan!4 Drink the toast, Bob Evans!” “—Even to the cosmic5 coast,” The other6 said, and drank, “where all stars cease, And seas of silence answer with their peace The petulant7 impertinence8 of life!” “And here’s to when I keep that cow and wife,” The youngest bantered, “—just as like to be!”9 “But when,” said Black, “we started for the sea That summer,10 Bob, not one of seventeen,11 I’ll warrant, cared to know what life might mean. To ask that question is a kind of dying. What matters to a bird a-wing is flying; What matters to a proper thirst is drinking. A tree would wither if it got to thinking Of what the summers and the winters meant! There was a place to go, and we went, High-hearted with a hunger for the new. The fifty mules and horses felt so too For all their heavy packs. The brutes are wise Beyond us, Bob. They can’t philosophize And get the world all tangled in their skulls. At Utah Lake12 the mourning of the gulls Had seemed the last of what was known and dear; And when we struck the bend of the Sevier To follow eastward where it cuts the range,13 The canyon seemed the doorway to a strange New world. The ridden critters and the led, Strung out along the river after Jed, 233 The Song of Jed Smith Pricked ears and listened. Nothing but the whine Of saddle leather down the toiling line, Until some cayuse at the canyon’s mouth Neighed; and the empty valley, rising south, Was full of horses answering the din Of horses where no horse had ever been Forever. And the mules brayed, walking faster. What need of any pasture, greener, vaster, To pay them for the eager joy of striving? If living is a matter of arriving, Why not just start to rotting at the first, And save the trouble?14 Thirty died of thirst And hunger yonder in the desert hells.15 Ask God why, when you see Him. If He tells, You’ll hardly be the wiser. Furthermore, I’ll gamble that He won’t.16 The valley bore Southeastward, and there wasn’t any game. Our packs got lighter fast. So when we came To where a small creek entered from the west, We followed up along it to a crest,17 And saw what fed our hunger for the new But couldn’t satisfy it; for it grew Beyond the feeding. Where a high plateau Stretched southwardly, a million years or so Of rain had hewed a great unearthly town With colored18 walls and towers that looked down On winding streets not meant for men to tread. You half believed an angel race, long dead, Had built with airy, everlasting stuff They quarried from the sunrise in the rough 234 the song of jed smith And spent their lives in fashioning, and died Before the world got old.19 The other side Of ranges west and south, a dim world ran Uphill to where eternity began And time died of monotony at last. And when that rim of nothing had been passed, Why surely ’twould be California then; But would we all be long-gray-whiskered men Before we got there? No one...


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