The Ballad of William Sycamore

Stephen Vincent Benet

  1. When I grew tall as the Indian corn,
    My father had little to lend me,
    But he gave me his great, old powder-horn
    And his woodman's skill to befriend me.

  2. With a leather shirt to cover my back,
    And a redskin nose to unravel
    Each forest sign, I carried my pack
    As far as a scout could travel.

  3. Till I lost my boyhood and found my wife,
    A girl like a Salem clipper!
    A woman straight as a hunting-knife
    With eyes as bright as the Dipper!

  4. We cleared our camp where the buffalo feed,
    Unheard-of streams were our flagons;
    And I sowed my sons like the apple-seed
    on the trail of the Western wagons.

  5. They were right, tight boys, never sulky or slow,
    A fruitful, a goodly muster.
    The eldest died at Alamo.
    The youngest fell with Custer.

  6. The letter that told it burned my hand.
    Yet we smiled and said, "So be it!"
    But I could not live when they fenced the land,
    For it broke my heart to see it.

  7. I saddled a red, unbroken colt
    And rode him into the day there;
    And he threw me down like a thunderbolt
    And rolled on me as I lay there.

  8. The hunter's whistle hummed in my ear
    As the city-men tried to move me,
    And I died in my boots like a pioneer
    With the whole wide sky above me.

  9. Now I lie in the heart of the fat, black soil,
    Like the seed of the prairie-thistle;
    It has washed my bones with honey and oil
    And picked them clean as a whistle.

  10. And my youth returns, like the rains of Spring,
    And my sons, like the wild-geese flying;
    And I lie and hear the meadow-lark sing
    And have much content in my dying.

  11. Go play with the towns you have built of blocks,
    The towns where you would have bound me!
    I sleep in my earth like tired fox,
    And my buffalo have found me.

© Stephen Vincent Benet

Put into WWW by Josella Simone Playton
1997-09-12 22:22:22 MEST .. 1999-07-02 23:44:32 MEST

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