The Mandan Priest

THEY call me now the Indian Priest,
Their fathers' fathers did not so,
The very Mandan name hath ceased
From speech since fifty years ago;
I am so old my fingers fail
My trembling rosary beads to tell,
Yet all my years do not avail
My Mandan memories to quell.

The whole flat world I've seen how changed
Within my lifetime's hundred years;
O'er plains where herding buffalo ranged
Came strange new grass with white men's steers,
The lowing cattle passed as dreams,
Their pastures reared a farmer race,
Now city windows flash their gleams
Nigh our old Monastery's place.

The Prior gives to me no more
Even a task of inward praise,
The Brethren bear me through our door
To bask me here on summer days;
I am so old I cannot kneel,
I cannot hear, I cannot see,
Often I wonder if I feel
The very sunbeams warming me.

Yet do I watch the Mandan dogs
And Mandan ponies slain for meat
That year the squaws chewed snakes and frogs
That babes might tug a living teat,
And Mandan braves, in daylight dance,

Gashed side and arm and painted breast
Praying The Manitou might trance
No more the buffalo from their quest.

A circled plain all horse-high grassed
Our mounting scouts beheld at dawn,
They saw naught else though far they passed
Apart before the sun was gone;
Each night's ride back through starlit lanes
They saw the tepee sparks ascend,
And hoped, and sniffed, and knew their pains
Of famine had not yet an end.

Alone within his magic tent
The new-made Midi wrought the spell
That soothed Life's Master to relent
In years the Old remembered well.
He cried,–'The Mission Priests have wreaked
Some curse that balks the Ancient Art!'
'Thou useless Fool,' the war-chief shrieked,
And sped the knife-thrust to his heart.

With that, 'What comes?' my mother screamed–
How quick the squatted braves arose!
Far in the south the tallest deemed
He saw the flight of up-scared crows;
Above the horse-high grass came slow
A lifted Cross, a tonsured head,–
And what the meaning none could know
Until the black-robed rider said:–

'Mandans, I bear our Mission's word,–
Your children, brought to us, shall eat.'
Scarce had the fierce young War-chief heard
Ere fell the Blackrobe from his seat;
The Chief held high the reeking knife,
He frowned about the Woman's Ring,
And yet my mother's face took life
Anew in pondering the thing.

She stole at night the dead Priest's scrip,
His meagre wallet's hard-baked food,

His crucifix, his waist-rope strip
All blackened with his martyr blood;
Through dark, day-hidden, hand in hand,
We traced his trail for ninety mile,
She starved herself that I might stand,
She spoke me comfort all the while:–

'So shalt thou live, my little son,
The white men's magic shalt thou learn,
And when the hungry moons are run,
Be sure thy mother shall return;
Oh, sweet my joy when, come again,
I find thy Mandan heart untamed,
As fits a warrior of the plain,
That I, thy mother, be not shamed.'

She left me while the black-robed men
Blest and beseeched her sore to stay;
No voice hath told my heart since then
How fared my mother's backward way.
Years, years within the Mission School,
By love, by prayer they gained my heart;
It held me to Our Order's rule,
From all the Mandan life apart.

From tribe to tribe, through sixty years,
The Mandan Priest for Christ he wrought,
And many an Indian heart to tears,
And many a soul to God he brought;
Yet do I hear my mother's voice
Soft lingering round her little son,
And, O dear Lord, dost Thou rejoice
In all my mother's child hath done?

Parliament Of The Ages

OF all who’d thronged the Commons’ galleries
For early April evening’s main debate,
One student visionary sole remained.

Down on the floor the members argued yet,
Though midnight long had passed, and rosy dawn

Came streaming in through eastward glory-panes
To tint the lofty ashlared westward wall
With shining jewel-colored phantasies.

The Dreamer watched the brilliancies of morn
Descending on that opposite westward wall

From panelled ceiling down to pointed arch,
From arch to shadowy alcoves’ ruby panes,
Where luminous beamed the storied English Kings,
The Crown, the ramping Pards, the Unicorn,
With ancient mottoes of the Ancient Realm,

And new-made Arms of modern provinces
Emblazoned on the young Dominion’s shield.

Now in the watcher’s dream the sunrise merged
The Fish, the Maple Leaves, the Buffalo
With Rose and Thistle, Shamrock, Fleur-de-lys,

The Crown, the Kings, the emblem Viking-ships,
With some great banner, glorious, indistinct,
The Flag of mighty, English-speaking kin,
All beaming benison ineffable,
Such promise as no mortal ever saw

On Land or Sea, save o’er the mystic shores
And waters of a halcyon Future dreamed.

The desks, the Speaker’s Chair seemed rapt away,
No stony walls inclosed the Commons’ House,
But in the wonder-light a woodland spread

About one venerable northland Oak
Silent, except for distant-droning bees,
And one tall, blue-eyed, sworded, yellow-haired,
Hard-panting Viking, kirtled gray, who stood
Beneath the trysting-oak, and strove to quell

His gasps, deep-laboring from a lengthy run,
While, listening keen, he heard the bees in drone,
And watched to hail his second to the tryst
Of freemen signalled for a moot of War.

Then, far around, the forest sounded live

With crackling twigs and scores of emulous feet
From every quarter of the glooming shade,
And wonder-shouts, half vexed and half of praise,
Roared at the Champion who to tree of Moot
Had speeded foremost of the valorous band.

Hard-breathing all, they ranged about the Oak
Equal alike, save one they lifted high
On shield, and named him for their Council Earl.
Then there they fell to talk of march and plan,
Of meat and meal and beer and dragon-ships,

And Ways and Means,—contentious, passionate,
Yet one man only speaking up at once,
Heard silently, approved, or laughed to scorn,
Yet hearkened closely, since th’ elected Earl
Full briskly stopt each interrupting voice

By one clear word, quite mystic, quite unknown
Unto the Dreamer in the gallery,
For whom no more the banners of the morn
In wholly visionary colors flared,
Because imperious from the Speaker’s Chair

A voice called “Order” stoutly, in a tone
So like the ancient Viking Earl’s, the two
Seemed blent as one within the Dreamer’s brain.

Scarcely awake, the Student’s roaming thought—
Oblivious to the actual place, the dawn,

The visioned tryst of Father Odin’s men—
Pondered a Deity who shaped His world
In such a wise that they must most prevail
Who choose one Will to rule by Order’s call,
That every Manliness may freely tell

Its thought upon the public thing in hand,
And so the general common sense have sway,
Instead of Policy conceived alone
By any one hereditary Will,
Or, worse, take course tumultuous, scarce resolved

By gabblers chattering unamenable,
In whose Assemblages prehensile tails,
Inscrutable to eyesight, swing the Ape
In futile men through dizzy fooleries.

And still the talkers on the Commons’ floor

Contended voluble; while he who heard
Their drone, forgot once more, and dreamed a scene
More wondrous than the primal Viking moot.

For one came frowning in, with sword in hand
And blazoned armor, and an eye more stern

Than gleamed beneath the brow of England’s king:—
“I call,” he spoke, “The Realms to Parliament!
Present and Past, by mine, the Founder’s right,
Simon de Montfort, I, proclaim the call!”

It clanged as sounding through The Ages’ tombs

So loud that lofty-opening doors of Time
Revealed in earthly garb a Statesman throng
From every Parliament since Montfort breathed,
Majestic, turbulent, guileful, eloquent,
Profound, laborious, witty, whimsical,

Reverend in age, or beardless chinned as boys;
Knight, Admiral, Merchant, Lawyer, Pedagogue,
Yeoman, Adventurer, Soldier, Minister,
Poet, Philosopher, Roundhead, Cavalier,
Mechanic, Theologue, Philanthropist;

Exploring wights whose bones the jackals pawed
On Lybian arid sands, and they whose forms
Lie, white as marble, stiff nigh either Pole;
Spirits whose mortal vestures braved all fates
That daring hearts or martyr hopes conceived.

It seemed not strange to view the Shapes of Eld
In formal-friendly conference of talk
With some who perished as of yesterday,
With some who founded New World congresses,
With some who wielded outland Parliaments

Which strove so English-like for Liberty
That England reeled to win against their few,
With some whose mien and accents now control
The rising younger Nations of The Race;
It seemed not strange, so clear they all alike,

Musing the ordered methods of their rule,
Blessed dear the Mother of all Parliaments,
The Many-mansioned Mother of The Free.

There prudent Cecil leaned to Laurier
While John Macdonald held them both in talk,

His “brother,” Cartier, nodding to the tale;
There Richard Seddon’s burly honest ghost
With Wilberforce and Hampden close conferred;
There Edmund Burke warned Deakin cautiously
Of tempting Innovation’s bright mirage;

There Pitt, the younger, spoke with Cecil Rhodes
And stout Oom Paul, of Empire building themes,
While Grattan unto icy Parnell sighed
Of angry Ireland’s immemorial wrong;
There Chatham, eagle-faced, with Washington

And Franklin nigh, declared,—“I praise again
Your English-minded fight for Liberty—
America’s victory secured it firm
For all the outland broods of England’s swarm.”

There Strafford gloomed to Russell’s lofty gaze,

The Stuart circle round each stately neck;
There honest-meaning, muddle-headed Cade,
Who lingered nigh the portal as of right,
Because he called a shirtless Parliament,
Received a courteous nod of compliment

From mighty Gladstone’s comprehensive love;
There Peel, considerate still, eyed D’Israeli
As if in wonder that the Great Jew’s heart
Should yet be counted one of England’s pride;
There Canning, of the soul-revealing face,

And bull-dog Cobbett, passionately wroth,
And Palmerston and Bright and thousands more
All moved at home within the visioned space
Until, it seemed, a Puritan Statesman stern,
With Puritan Troopers ringed, eyed Harry Vane

With “Take away that bauble.” Then the Mace
Seemed borne afar incredibly, by force,
From that great Chamber of the freeman Race,
Old Englandish, New Englandish, Canadian,
Newfoundlandish, Australian, African,

Who hold, or held, the emblem sacrosanct.

With that great sacrilege the dream dissolved,
And clear again the radiancies high
Shone o’er the Ottawa floor of Parliament,
While, down below, a high-pitched Loyalist

Declared, convinced, with querulous energy,—
“The Empire’s tottering down! It can’t be saved
Unless we get the Preference all around.”

Touched sudden by the Sun’s imperial beams,
A gargoyle grinned upon the western wall

As if it heard the Preferentialist,
While gales of laughter echoed far below.
Whereat the dreamer, wide awake with glee,
Gazed on the golden, crown-surmounted Mace
Pillowed serene before the Speaker’s Chair;

Then marked in high-built panes, the Kings gleam clear
The Lion-shield, the mystic Unicorn,
The scrolls, the mottoes, “For my God and Right,”
And “Evil be to him who evil thinks,”
All seemed the racial Soul transfigured there,

Ages and Ages old, yet scarcely born,
So future-glorious, past all dreaming, looms
The Voluntary Empire of The Blood,
Monarchical, Republican, all’s one,
With Vikings rushing to the beacon’s flare

As long as winds shall blow and waters run.