The Explorer by Rudyard Kipling
"There's no sense in going further - it's the edge of cultivation," So they said, and I believed it - broke my land and sowed my crop- Built my barns and strung my fences in the little border station Tucked away below the foot hills where the trails run out and stop.
Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated -- so: "Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges -- "Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!"
So I went, worn out of patience; never told my nearest neighbours -- Stole away with pack and ponies -- left'em drinking in the town; And the faith that moveth mountains didn't seem to help my labours As I faced the sheer main-ranges, whipping up and leading down.
March by march I puzzled through'em, turning flanks and dodging shoulders, Hurried on in hope of water, headed back for lack of grass; Till I camped above the tree-line -- drifted snow and naked boulders -- Felt free air astir to windward -- knew I'd stumbled on the Pass. 'Thought to name it for the finder: but that night the Norther found me -- Froze and killed the plains-bred ponies; so I called the camp Despair (It's the Railway Camp to-day, though). Then my Whisper waked to hound me: -- "Something lost behind the Ranges. Over yonder! Go you there!"
Then I knew, the while I doubted -- knew His Hand was certain o'er me. Still -- it might be self-delusion -- scores of better men had died -- I could reach the townsip living, but... He knows what terrors tore me. But I didn't... but I didn't. I went down the other side.
Till the snow ran out in flowers, and the flowers turned to aloes, And the aloes sprung to thickets and a brimming stream ran by; But the thickets dwined to thorn-scrub, and the water drained to shallows, And I dropped again on desert -- blasted earth, and blasting sky....
I remember lighting fires; I remember sitting by them; I remember seeing faces, hearing voices through the smoke; I remember they were fancy -- for I threw a stone to try 'em. "Something lost behind the Ranges" was the only word they spoke.
I remember going crazy. I remember that I knew it When I heard myself hallooing to the funny folk I saw. Very full of dreams that desert: but my two legs took me through it... And I used to watch'em moving with the toes all black and raw.
But at last the country altered -- White Man's country past disputing -- Rolling grass and open timber, with a hint of hills behind -- There I found me food and water, and I lay a week recruiting, Got my strength and lost my nightmares. Then I entered on my find.
Thence I ran my first rough survey -- chose my trees and blazed and ringed'em -- Week by week I pried and sampled -- week by week my findings grew. Saul he went to look for donkeys, and by God he found a kingdom! But by God, who sent His Whisper, I had struck the worth of two!
Up along the hostile mountains, where the hair-poised snowslide shivers -- Down and through the big fat marshes that the virgin ore-bed stains, Till I heard the mile-wide mutterings of unimagined rivers, And beyond the nameless timber saw illimitable plains!
Plotted sites of future cities, traced the easy grades between'em; Watched unharnessed rapids wasting fifty thousand head an hour; Counted leagues of water-frontage through the axe-ripe woods that screen 'em -- Saw the plant to feed a people -- up and waiting for the power!
Well I know who'll take the credit - all the clever chaps that followed -- Came, a dozen men together -- never knew my desert fears; Tracked me by the camps I'd quitted, used the water-holes I'd hollowed. They'll go back and do the talking. They'll be called the Pioneers!
They will find my sites of townships -- not the cities that I set there. They will rediscover rivers -- not my rivers heard at night. By my own old marks and bearings they will show me how to get there, By the lonely cairns I builded they will guide my feet aright. Have I named one single river? Have I claimed one single acre? Have I kept one single nugget -- (barring samples)? No, not I! Because my price was paid me ten times over by my Maker. But you wouldn't understand it. You go up and occupy.
Ores you'll find there; wood and cattle; water-transit sure and steady (That should keep the railway rates down), coal and iron at your doors. God took care to hide the country till He judged His people ready, Then He chose me for His Whisper, and I've found it, and it's yours!
Yes, your "Never-never country" -- yes, your edge of cultivation" And "no sense in going further" -- till I crossed the range to see. God forgive me! No, I didn't. It's God's present to our nation. Anybody might have found it but -- His Whisper came to me!
(This page is not for my own poetry or writing, but to share some of my favorites. When fate thrusts something so appropriate in your hands you are a fool not to see it for what it is.)
Champagne, 1914-1915 by Alan Seeger
In the glad revels, in the happy fêtes, When cheeks are flushed, and glasses gilt and pearled With the sweet wine of France that concentrates The sunshine and the beauty of the world,
Drink sometimes, you whose footsteps yet may tread The undisturbed, delightful paths of Earth, To those whose blood, in pious duty shed, Hallows the soil where that same wine had birth.
Here, by devoted comrades laid away, Along our lines they slumber where they fell, Beside the crater at the Ferme d’Alger And up the bloody slopes of La Pompelle,
And round the city whose cathedral towers The enemies of Beauty dared profane, And in the mat of multicolored flowers That clothe the sunny chalk-fields of Champagne.
Under the little crosses where they rise The soldier rests. Now round him undismayed The cannon thunders, and at night he lies At peace beneath the eternal fusillade ...
That other generations might possess— From shame and menace free in years to come— A richer heritage of happiness, He marched to that heroic martyrdom.
Esteeming less the forfeit that he paid Than undishonored that his flag might float Over the towers of liberty, he made His breast the bulwark and his blood the moat.
Obscurely sacrificed, his nameless tomb, Bare of the sculptor’s art, the poet’s lines, Summer shall flush with poppy-fields in bloom, And Autumn yellow with maturing vines.
There the grape-pickers at their harvesting Shall lightly tread and load their wicker trays, Blessing his memory as they toil and sing In the slant sunshine of October days ...
I love to think that if my blood should be So privileged to sink where his has sunk, I shall not pass from Earth entirely, But when the banquet rings, when healths are drunk,
And faces that the joys of living fill Glow radiant with laughter and good cheer, In beaming cups some spark of me shall still Brim toward the lips that once I held so dear.
So shall one coveting no higher plane Than nature clothes in color and flesh and tone, Even from the grave put upward to attain The dreams youth cherished and missed and might have known;
And that strong need that strove unsatisfied Toward earthly beauty in all forms it wore, Not death itself shall utterly divide From the belovèd shapes it thirsted for.
Alas, how many an adept for whose arms Life held delicious offerings perished here, How many in the prime of all that charms, Crowned with all gifts that conquer and endear!
Honor them not so much with tears and flowers, But you with whom the sweet fulfilment lies, Where in the anguish of atrocious hours Turned their last thoughts and closed their dying eyes,
Rather when music on bright gatherings lays Its tender spell, and joy is uppermost, Be mindful of the men they were, and raise Your glasses to them in one silent toast.
Drink to them—amorous of dear Earth as well, They asked no tribute lovelier than this— And in the wine that ripened where they fell, Oh, frame your lips as though it were a kiss.