In Winona I have “tried my hand” on a new hexameter verse. With what success, I leave to those who are better able to judge than I. If I have failed, I have but added another failure to the numerous attempts to naturalize hexameter verse in the English language.
It will be observed that I have slightly changed the length and the rhythm of the old hexameter line; but it is still hexameter, and, I think, improved.
I have not written for profit nor published for fame. Fame is a coy goddess that rarely bestows her favors on him who seeks her—a phantom that many pursue and but few overtake.
She delights to hover for a time, like a ghost, over the graves of dead men who know not and care not: to the living she is a veritable Ignis Fatuus. But every man owes something to his fellowmen, and I owe much.
If my friends find half the pleasure in reading these poems that I have found in writing them, I shall have paid my debt and achieved success.
Minneapolis, November 1, 1891.
The numerals refer to Notes in appendix.
Onward rolls the Royal River, proudly sweeping to
Dark and deep and grand, forever wrapt in myth and mystery.
Lo he laughs along the highlands, leaping o’er the granite walls;
Lo he sleeps among the islands, where the loon her lover calls.
Still like some huge monster winding downward through the prairied plains,
Seeking rest but never finding, till the tropic gulf he gains.
In his mighty arms he claspeth now an empire broad and grand;
In his left hand lo he graspeth leagues of fen and forest land;
In his right the mighty mountains, hoary with eternal snow,
Where a thousand foaming fountains singing seek the plains below.
Fields of corn and feet of cities lo the mighty river laves,
Where the Saxon sings his ditties o’er the swarthy warriors’ graves.
Aye, before the birth of Moses—ere the Pyramids were piled— All his banks were red with roses from the sea to nor’lands wild, And from forest, fen and meadows, in the deserts of the north, Elk and bison stalked like shadows, and the tawny tribes came forth; Deeds of death and deeds of daring on his leafy banks were done, Women loved and men went warring, ere the siege of Troy begun. Where his foaming waters thundered, roaring o’er the rocky walls, Dusky hunters sat and wondered, listening to the spirits’ calls. “Ha-ha!" cried the warrior greeting from afar the cataract’s roar; “Ha-ha!” rolled the answer beating down the rock-ribbed leagues of shore. Now, alas, the bow and quiver and the dusky braves have fled, And the sullen, shackled river drives the droning mills instead.