BISON-HUNTING IN THE FAR WEST
BISON-HUNTING IN THE FAR WEST
FAR, where the glittering snowy thrones
Of the Rocky Mountains uplift their conesó
In the grassy plains and valleys around,
One endless pasture of flowery groundó
The tawny herds of the bison rove,
Or browse in the shade of the oaken grove;
Or pause at the brimming river's brink,
Intent the gelid nectar to drink.
Endless and countlessórank on rank,
With the warrior bulls on either flank,
The browsing herd sweeps o'er the plain
That skirts the granite mountain-chain.
Now idly loitering as they pass,
To crop the tender and dewy grass;
Now clattering swift in mad affright,
As panic-stricken they take their flight,
When the taint of danger infects the gale,
And they snuff the Indian, hot on their trail.
The savage armeth with lance and bowó
The Blackfoot warrioróthe tribe of the Crow.
He vaults to the back of his desert horse,
Away from his camp he takes his course;
With whooping slogan, with rattling rein,
His snorting steed he goads o'er the plain;
With swinging lariat and brandish'd spear,
Rioting in the mad career.
It is a glorious sight to see
The lawless rider, the courser free.
Like yelling fiends the tribes are out,
With flourish'd lances, with frantic shout!
Each plume of feathers, each scalp-lock tress,
Streams in the breeze of the wilderness;
While fast and far, in desperate race,
Speeds on the bison, speeds on the chase.
No gaping ravine may check their way,
No chasm where the grizzly bear may lay;
No boiling torrent, no swampy pool,
No turbulent river, fordless and cool;
But on like an avalanche, on they speedó
The reckless rider, the uncurb'd steedó
O'er leagues of prairie they fleetly sweep,
Down craggy gulches they headlong leap,
Breasting the river's arrowy tide,
The spoil and the spoiler side by side.
When the quarry, bard press'd, doth panting fail,
When the toiling limbs may no more avail,
The painted demons around them wheel,
They draw the bow and they ply the steel;
Through brain and marrow they hurl the lance,
Like bolts of lightning their arrows glance;
And soon the verdurous pasture is spread
With bleeding carcasses of the dead.
Ofttimes these tribes of the desert way
Enfold, in league-wide circles, their prey:
They urge them on, with war-whoop and yell,
To a cliff that beetleth o'er the dell:
And there, o'er the precipice grim and steep,
They force the fugitive herds to leap.
But oft some veteran of the herd
Turns in his track, to fury stirr'd;
He leaves his flying ten thousand mates;
The shock of the headlong hunt he awaits;
He paws the earth with his angry hoof,
He warns the foe that they keep aloof;
He lashes his flanks with his tufted tail,
His brawny haunches glisten like mail.
He shakes his matted front and his mane,
He roars till the desert trembles again;
With sharpen'd horn, and brow like a targe,
He threatens with death whoever may charge;
And, dying, he tramples and gores to dust
His wild assailant and foe accurst.
McLellan, Isaac. Poems of the Rod and Gun. New York: Henry Thorpe, 1886.
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