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IV the soldiers When plums were mellowing with early frost1 And summer was a ghost, with noons that made The ponies droop in any thinning shade; With nights that in a hush of tingling air Still listened for the geese; to Kicking Bear There came an eager word from Sitting Bull Up yonder on the Grand: “The winds are full Of stories. Are they echoes of a lie? If truly, as we hear, your dancers die And visit with the dead and then return Alive and well, my people want to learn. Come up and teach them.”2 Singing of the day That was to be, the prophet3 rode away; But not alone if what some say be true, That when he loomed against the shining blue Upon the final hilltop, strangely large, The sky was filled with horsemen at the charge That whirled about him going. Then the sky And hill were empty. Dreaming days crept by, And nights were glinting bubbles on the strain, Blown vast with silence. Then at last the crane Came crying high; a roaring norther sped The startled geese, and panic voices fled Above the sunless and the starless land. Now came the news of dancing on the Grand With many tales of wonder-working there; And of the ghostly might of Kicking Bear A story lived on every tongue and grew. It told how, riding northward, rumor flew Before him, till the Agent4 heard and feared At Standing Rock. So when the prophet neared The home of Sitting Bull, a jingling band Of Metal Breasts5 made dust across the land And trotted up to seize him. Unafraid He waited. Then it seemed that something made A solid wall about him, thin as light; For suddenly the horses reared in fright And shied away before him, shivering. There came a queerness over everything That made the horses and the riders seem As though they gazed on terror in a dream, And could not stir. “My brothers, foolish ones,” He said, “what have you put into your guns To kill the Spirit? I am Kicking Bear, But I am not alone. Behold! the air Is crowded with my warriors! Look and see!” He raised an eagle feather. Silently A little while he prayed; and as he prayed The horses lifted up their heads and neighed, Beholding; with a catching of the breath, Wide-mouthed upon the Other Side of Death 541 The Soldiers The riders gazed with startled happy eyes, Like sleepers who have wakened in surprise To some great joy. A moment so, and then The horses drooped, the faces of the men Were empty; for the darkness that is birth, The sleep that men call waking on the earth Came back upon them. Hardly could they keep Their saddles for the heaviness like sleep That fell upon them as they rode away. Thus mighty was the living Word, they say; And mightily it flourished on the Grand. Again a waiting stillness seized the land; For now the snowless wind blew out and died. Perhaps the geese had falsely prophesied And men would never see another snow. The listening hills and valleys seemed to know, In that untimely warmth and straining peace, One bird, believing, almost might release Immortal springtime. Whisperless with awe, What vision was it every bare tree saw? What made the humblest weed-stalk seem aware? The stillness of the starlight was a prayer, The dawn a preparation, for the bird. But in that lull of miracle deferred Before the Moon of Falling Leaves6 was dark, Who listened for the deathless meadowlark Heard tidings of the trouble yet to be. The singing people heard on Wounded Knee, And terror silenced them. On Cut Meat Creek7 The dancing Brulés heard, and hearts grew weak, 542 the song of the messiah Lost in the swift return of common day. The vision fled from hundreds on the Clay,8 And eyes of little light went blind again. For everywhere the feet of marching men Were rumored. Yonder from the iron road To south, to west, to northward, load on load, The soldiers and the horses spawned and spread! Where were the whirlwind armies of the Dead? The skies were deaf. Far-journeying, the suns Knew nothing of the Ever-Living Ones, The shining, good, green Country of the Young. Fear called the changing tune of many a tongue Late lyric with the crowd:9 “We told you so! Now let us see you...


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