June 09, 2006

Poetry Friday: Flint & Feather

Prairie Greyhounds
by E. Pauline Johnson

C.P.R. "No. 1," Westbound

I swing to the sunset land --
The world of prairie, the world of plain,
The world of promise and hope and gain,
The world of gold, and the world of grain,
And the world of the willing hand.

I carry the brave and bold--
The one who works for the nation's bread,
The one whose past is a thing that's dead,
The one who battles and beats ahead,
And the one who goes for gold.

I swing to the "Land to Be,"
I am the power that laid its floors,
I am the guide to its western stores,
I am the key to its golden doors,
That open alone to me.

C.P.R. "No. 2," Eastbound

I swing to the land of morn;
The grey old east with its grey old seas,
The land of leisure, the land of ease,
The land of flowers and fruits and trees,
And the place where we were born.

Freighted with wealth I come;
For he who many a moon has spent
Far out west on adventure bent,
With well-worn pick and a folded tent,
Is bringing his bullion home.

I never will be renowned,
As my twin that swings to the western marts,
For I am she of the humbler parts,
But I am joy of the waiting hearts;
For I am the Homeward-bound.

from "Flint and Feather: The Complete Poems of E. Pauline Johnson", first published in 1912.

E. Pauline Johnson, also known as Tekahionwake, was born on the Mohawk Reserve near Brantford, Ontario, in 1861. Her father was George Henry Martin Johnson, also known as Onwanonsyshon, Head Chief of the Six Nations, and her mother was Emily Susanna Howells, an Englishwoman and cousin of the American novelist William Dean Howells (who didn't think much of his relative's writing, it should be noted). In her lifetime, Johnson became quite well known in Canada, the U.S., and Britain for her writing and public recitations.

For more on Johnson's life, find Charlotte Gray's thorough biography, "Flint and Feather: The Life and Times of E. Pauline Johnson Tekahionwake".

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