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V sitting bull Daylong the holy dance Beside the Grand1 had murmured in a trance Of timeless weather. Now, the stars were sharp, And, tense with frost, the night was like a harp For any little sound. The young moon sank. Among the trees along the river bank The tepees gloomed. Across the open flat To northward, where a group of cabins sat Beneath the hills, a window with a lamp Revealed the one place waking in the camp, The home of Sitting Bull. The room was dim With smoke, for there were nine who sat with him And passed the pipe, in silence for the most, As though some felt eleventh were a ghost That moved among them. Tales of long ago Had failed the mark, as from a sodden bow Unfleshed the bravest arrows falter spent; And stories that were made for merriment Had fallen short of laughter. Now at last They only sat and listened to the vast Night silence, heavy with a feel of doom. The old wife, dreaming in the corner gloom, Turned with a moaning like a broken song; And, questioning a universe made wrong, Far off by fits arose a kiote’s cry That left a deepened silence for reply— The all-embracing answer. Catch-the-Bear2 Got up, the startled creaking of his chair, The shuffle of his feet upon the floor Loud in the stillness. Striding to the door, He flung it wide and filled it, listening. The sharp air entered like a preying thing, The living body of the hush that prowled The hollow world. A camp dog woke and howled Misgiving, and the kennelled hills replied. The panic clamor trailed away and died; And there was nothing moving anywhere. He closed the door, returning to his chair, And brooded with a troubled face. “My friend,” He said at length, “I fear how this may end. I am afraid to see the break of day. It might be better to be far away, If they should come. You said that you would go. What keeps you waiting here?” “I do not know,” Said Sitting Bull, and gazed upon the wall With eyes that saw not anything at all But lonely distance that is not of space. Without the wonted shrewdness in his face, 551 Sitting Bull The lurking wit, it seemed a stranger’s stare He turned upon his friend. “I hardly care,” He said; “I may be only getting old; Or maybe what a meadowlark foretold Is near me; yet I do not feel afraid. It happened that my circus horse3 had strayed One day last summer. So I went to see A little valley where he likes to be; But it was empty, even of the crows, Except for something any still place knows But sound can never tell it. That was there. It filled the valley and it filled the air; It crowded all about me, very still. I stood there looking at a little hill That came alive with something that it knew, And looked at me surprised. The stillness grew. Then suddenly there came a human cry From yonder: ‘Sitting Bull, your time is nigh! Your own will kill you!’ It was loud and clear; So loud I wondered that I did not hear An echo. Yet I thought, ‘Perhaps a man Is hiding over there’; and so I ran To see who said it, maybe out of fun, Or maybe spite. There wasn’t anyone. But while I wondered had there been a sound Or had I dreamed, there fluttered from the ground A meadowlark, and with it rose again The same cry uttered with the tongue of men, ‘Your own will kill you!’ Then above my head 552 the song of the messiah Four times it circled rapidly, and fled. How long I stood there thinking on the hill I do not know; but, by and by, a shrill Long neigh aroused me. Looking ’round, I saw My old gray horse come trotting from a draw And down the valley. Then the common day Came back about me.” Gazing far away, He brooded. When he spoke again he seemed As one but half awake. “Last night I dreamed Of mighty waters, flowing swift and deep And dark; and on that river4 of my sleep I floated in a very frail canoe. The more I longed to stop, the greater grew The speed, more terrible for lack of sound. I thought of help, and...

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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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