Tag Archives: narrative poetry

Kit Carson’s Ride by Joaquin Miller

Rookie highway robber turned out to be Joaquin Miller's ...

Kit Carson’s Ride

by Joaquin Miller

Room! room to turn round in, to breathe and be free.
To grow to be giant, to sail as at sea
With the speed of the wind on a steed with his mane
To the wind, without pathway or route or a rein.
Room! room to be free where the white border’d sea
Blows a kiss to a brother as boundless as he;
Where the buffalo come like a cloud on the plain.
Pouring on like the tide of a storm-driven main,
And the lodge of the hunter to friend or to foe
Offers rest; and unquestion’d you come or you go—
My plains of America! Seas of wild lands!
From a land in the seas in a raiment of foam.
That has reached to a stranger the welcome of home,
I turn to you, lean to you, lift you my hands.

Run? Run? See this flank, sir, and I do love him so!
But he’s blind, badger blind. Whoa, Pache, boy, whoa.
No, you wouldn’t believe it to look at his eyes.
But he’s blind, badger blind, and it happen’d this wise:

“We lay in the grass and the sunburnt clover
That spread on the ground like a great brown cover
Northward and southward, and west and away
To the Brazos, where our lodges lay,
One broad and unbroken level of brown.
We were waiting the curtains of night to come down
To cover us trio and conceal our flight
With my brown bride, yon from an Indian town
That lay in the rear the full ride of a night.

“We lounged in the grass—her eyes were in mine,
And her hands on my knee, and her hair was as wine
In its wealth and its flood, pouring on and all over
Her bosom wine red, and press’d never by one.
Her touch was as warm as the tinge of the clover
Burnt brown as it reach’d to the kiss of the sun.
Her words they were low as the lute-throated dove.
And as laden with love as the heart when it beats
In its hot, eager answer to earliest love.
Or the bee hurried home by its burthen of sweets.
“We lay low in the grass on the broad plain levels,
Old Revels and I, and my stolen brown bride;
“Forty full miles if a foot to ride !
Forty full miles if a foot, and the devils
Of red Comanches are hot on the track
When once they strike it. Let the sun go down
Soon, very soon,” muttered bearded old Revels
As he peer’d at the sun, lying low on his back.
Holding fast to his lasso. Then he jerk’d at his steed

And he sprang to his feet, and glanced swiftly around.
And then dropp’d, as if shot, with an ear to the ground;
Then again to his feet, and to me, to my bride.
While his eyes were like flame, his face like a shroud.
His form like a king, and his beard like a cloud,
And his voice loud and shrill, as both trumpet and reed,—
“Pull, pull in your lassoes, and bridle to steed,
And speed you if ever for life you would speed.
Aye, ride for your lives, for your lives you must ride!
For the plain is aflame, the prairie on fire.
And the feet of wild horses hard flying before
I heard like a sea breaking high on the shore,
While the buffalo come like a surge of the sea.
Driven far by the flame, driving fast on us three
As a hurricane comes, crushing palms in his ire.”

“We drew in the lassoes, seized saddle and rein.
Threw them on, cinched them on, cinched them over again.
And again drew the girth; and spring we to horse.
With head to the Brazos, with a sound in the air
Like the surge of a sea, with a flash in the eye,
From that red wall of flame reaching up to the sky;
A red wall of flame and a black rolling sea
Rushing fast upon us, as the wind sweeping free
And afar from the desert blown hollow and hoarse.

“Not a word, not a wail from a lip was left fall.
We broke not a whisper, we breathed not a prayer,
There was work to be done, there was death in the air.
And the chance was as one to a thousand for all.
Twenty miles ! . . . thirty miles ! . . . a dim distant speck . . .
Then a long reaching line, and the Brazos in sight!
And I rose in my seat with a shout of delight.
I stood in my stirrup, and look’d to my right—
But Revels was gone ; I glanced by my shoulder
And saw his horse stagger; I saw his head drooping
Hard down on his breast, and his naked breast stooping
Low down to the mane, as so swifter and bolder
Ran reaching out for us the red-footed fire.

He rode neck to neck with a buffalo bull.
That made the earth shake where he came in his course.
The monarch of millions, with shaggy mane full
Of smoke and of dust, and it shook with desire
Of battle, with rage and with bellowings hoarse.
His keen, crooked horns, through the storm of his mane.
Like black lances lifted and lifted again;
And I looked but this once, for the fire licked through.
And Revels was gone, as we rode two and two.

“I look’d to my left then—and nose, neck, and shoulder
Sank slowly, sank surely, till back to my thighs,
And up through the black blowing veil of her hair
Did beam full in mine her two marvelous eyes,
With a longing and love yet a look of despair
And of pity for me, as she felt the smoke fold her.
And flames leaping far for her glorious hair.
Her sinking horse falter’d, plunged, fell and was gone
As I reach’d through the flame and I bore her still on.
On! into the Brazos, she, Pache and I—
Poor, burnt, blinded Pache. I love him . . .That’s why.

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Jim Bludso of the Prairie Belle by John Hay

Image result for jim bludso of the prairie belle

Jim Bludso of the Prairie Belle

Wall, no! I can’t tell whar he lives,
Becase he don’t live, you see;
Leastways, he’s got out of the habit
Of livin’ like you and me.
Whar have you been for the last three year
That you haven’t heard folks tell
How Jimmy Bludso passed in his checks
The night of the Prairie Belle?

He weren’t no saint, them engineers
Is all pretty much alike,
One wife in Natchez-under-the-Hill
And another one here, in Pike;
A keerless man in his talk was Jim,
And an awkward hand in a row,
But he never flunked, and he never lied,
I reckon he never knowed how.

And this was all the religion he had,
To treat his engine well;
Never be passed on the river;
To mind the pilot’s bell;
And if ever the Prairie Belle took fire,
A thousand times he swore,
He’d hold her nozzle agin the bank
Till the last soul got ashore.

All boats has their day on the Mississip,
And her day come at last,
The Movastar was a better boat,
But the Belle she wouldn’t be passed.
And so she come tearin’ along that night
The oldest craft on the line-
With a nigger squat on her safety-valve,
And her furnace crammed, rosin and pine.

The fire bust out as she clared the bar,
And burnt a hole in the night,
And quick as a flash she turned, and made
For that willer-bank on the right.
There was runnin’ and cursin’, but Jim yelled out,
Over all the infernal roar,
“I’ll hold her nozzle agin the bank
Till the last galoot’s ashore.”

Through the hot, black breath of the burnin’ boat
Jim Bludso’s voice was heard,
And they all had trust in his cussedness,
And knowed he would keep his word.
And, sure’s you’re born, they all got off
Afore the smokestacks fell,-
And Bludso’s ghost went up alone
In the smoke of the Prairie Belle.

He weren’t no saint, but at jedgment
I’d run my chance with Jim,
‘Longside of some pious gentlemen
That would n’t shook hands with him.
He seen his duty, a dead-sure thing,
And went for it thar and then;
And Christ ain’t a-going to be too hard
On a man that died for men.