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II the coming of the word Was it fright, Some prescience1 of the whirlwind of the light About to break, that gripped the white men’s hearts At Pine Ridge? How the foolish dreamer starts And strives to hold his futile world of sleep, When lo, it is the morning, deep on deep, That takes the world! Could agency police Arrest the Word? And would the Wonder cease To be the Wonder even in a jail? Too deep for laughter, humor sped the tale Of four returning seers behind the bars!2 Was not their story written in the stars When first the gleaming bubble of the air Was blown amid the darkness? Silent there The knowers waited, patient as the stone That has the creeping æons for its own And cares not how the little moment drips. The prison key had only locked the lips Against a word already on the wing. Two days endured the white men’s questioning Before those faces that were like the sky When clouds have vanished and the nightwinds die And daybreak is a marvel to the hills. And when that silence conquered jaded wills, The four emerged with nothing less to say. Now Kicking Bear, sojourning on the way To learn among the north Arapahoes What slant of vision might illumine those, Came burning with a story for the Sioux.3 Already was the Wonder coming true Along Wind River where the people trod The dances taught them by the Son of God,4 And there were signs and portents of the end! The eyes that Death had emptied of the friend Were being filled again, but not with tears. The sudden sleep that falls among the spears And arrows, when the dizzy sun goes black And all the hoofs are hushed, was giving back The healed young bodies of the sons and sires. Dead mothers came to mend the family fires Long fed by lonely hands; and young they were, Each fairer for the garment folding her— The richly beaded years! And now there ran Among the Oglalas, man by man, A secret whisper. And it came to pass When early stars had found a looking glass In White Clay Creek,5 and others came to stare, The owls were startled in a valley there, And all the kiotes hushed to hear the rills Of people trickle inward from the hills And merge into a murmur by the stream. Now where the chattering campfire dimmed the gleam Of stars, to build with momentary light 502 the song of the messiah A wall of blindness, inward from the night A shadow moved, took substance from the flare, And half a man and half a ghost stood there Searching the breathing darkness round about. A sudden hush acclaimed him like a shout; For in his flame-lit face, as though they heard, Men saw the singing splendor of the Word, Before he strove to darken into words What only thunderstorms and mating birds Might utter in the heyday of the sap, When Earth with all her children in her lap Has made her story credible again. The hush grew big with miracle; and then Good Thunder spoke. “My relatives,” he said, “Believe and cry no more! The dear, the dead Are coming with a spring forever green! Already they are marching! We have seen; These eyes have seen the Savior! He has come! His feet are on the prairie!” Stricken dumb, With breathless, open mouth and startled eyes, He seemed to hear in lingering surprise The trailing thunder and the meadowlark Of what was uttered. From the outer dark, As though it were the unbelieving world That fretted6 yet awhile, a hoot-owl hurled Its jeering laughter through the knowing hush. The Word came back upon him with the rush Of spring delayed, of rain and river-thaw And universal burgeoning.7 “We saw! 503 The Coming of the Word With little hearts our journey was begun, For maybe we were men who chased the sun To find the land where always there is light; They race with their own weakness, and the night Outcreeps their running. So the way stretched long, But still the right was weaker than the wrong; Earth starved her children still; the same sky stared; The people prayed and suffered; nothing cared That there was woe wherever there were men. And often when the day went out again, Homesick beneath the old familiar star, The same fear mocked...


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MARC Record
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