Feminist Voices & Visions

Poems of Abigail Scott Duniway

* Poem from My Musings, "After Twenty Years"
* "Oregon: Land of Promise"

Poem from My Musings
"After Twenty Years"
Written on the Great Plains Opposite My Mother's Grave, Near Fort Laramie, May 5th, 1872

Adown the dead and distant years
My memory treads the sands of time,
And blighted hope a vision rears
Enriched by solitudes sublime.
And down the mystic, dreamy past
In chastened mood I wander now,
As o'er these prairies old and vast
Move lines of oxen, tired and slow.
Their rough-ribbed sides and hollow eyes
And listless gaze and lazy tread,
As under cloudless, burning skies
Our way o'er trackless wastes they led,
But visions are of long ago.
To-day, an iron horse, "The Storm,"
All panting rushes o'er the plain;
His breath with steam is quick and warm
As on he thunders with our train.
Afar the rocky Mountains rise,
Their rugged steeps adorned with snow,
While o'er the hill the antelope hies
And Indians wander to and fro.
The buffalo gazes from afar,
Where erst in trust secure he fed,
Ere man upon him had made war,
And he was wont at will to tread
Anear our oxen, sure and slow.
Fort Laramie, across away,
Beyond yon hills that intervene,
My memory sees as on that day,
Just twenty years ago, 'twas seen.
There in the echoing hills hard by,
Surnamed "The Black," adorned by woods,
My mother laid her down to die
In those grand awful solitudes.
The wild coyote yet roams at will,
The timid hare and buffalo,
The antelope and serpent still
In freedom range, and come and go,
While Indians gaze in scornful moods.

Gone are the oxen, patient brutes,
And drivers, with the song and jest.
Of ruder days they were the fruits
And touting will, they did their best.

Their day is past, and now at ease,
We glide along at rapid pace,
Gazing abroad, while thoughts of these,
The days of yore, take present place.
And I am self-forgetful, too,
For through the long, eventful past,
Since last I dreamed beneath the blue,
Arched dome above these plains so vast
I find of twenty years no trace.

My mother sleeps, dear God, as slept
Her peaceful form when we that day,
Laid her to rest, marched on and wept,
Too sad to talk, too dumb to pray.

Was it the breath of angel's wing
That fanned, erewhile, my fevered brow?
Did I hear heavenly seraphs sing,
When eyes and ears were closed just now?
O, mother, memory, God and truth,
While I yet tarry here below,
Guide oft they faltering, trembling one.
May I regret not years, nor youth,
Nor that my life, thus far, is done,
As through these wilds once more I go.

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Oregon: Land of Promise
written in 1872 on the journey home
from the east coast

printed 1907

Ho, for the bracing and breezy Pacific,
As, surging and heaving he rolleth for aye!
Ho, for the land where bold rocks bid us welcome!
And grandeur and beauty hold rivaling sway!

Yes, ho, for the West! for the blest land of promise,
Where mountains, all white bathe their brows in the sky,
While down their steep sides the wild torrents come dashing
And eagles scream out from their eyries on high.

I have seen the bright East where the restless Atlantic
Forever and ever breathes out his deep moan,
And I've stood in the shade of the dark Alleghenies,
Or listened, all rapt, to Niagara's groan.

Again, I have sailed through grand scenes on the Hudson,
Steamed down the Fall River, through Long Island Sound.
The Ohio I've viewed, and the swift Susquehanna,
Or skirted the lake shores when west I was bound.

I've sniffed the bland breeze of the broad Mississippi,
And dreamed in the midst of its valley, so great;
Have crossed and recrossed the dark, turbid Missouri,
As it bears to the Gulf-Stream its steam-guided freight.

And I've bathed my hot forehead in soft, limpid moonbeams,
That shimmered me o'er with their glow and their gold,
In the haunts where the loved of my youth gave glad greeting,
And Memory recalled each dear voice, as of old.

But, though scenes such as these oft allured, pleased and charmed me,
Euterpé came not with her harp, or my lyre;
Yet, when I again reached thy prairies, Nebraska,
To sing she began me at once to inspire.

And as Westward we sped o'er the broad rolling pampas,
Or slowly ascended the mountains, all wild,
Or dashed through the gorges under the snow-sheds,
The NINE with crude numbers my sense beguiled.

Colorado's wild steeps, and the rocks of Wyoming,
Their lone, stunted trees, and their steep palisades,
And afar to the West the cold bleak Rocky Mountains,
At whose feet the wild buffaloes feed in the glades,

Have each in their turn burst sublime in my vision,
While deserts all desolate gazed at the sky,
And away to the South rose the snow-crested Wahsatch,
Bold, bleak and majestic, broad, rolling and high.

I have stood where dead cities of sandstone and columnar,
Loom up in their grandeur, all solemn and still,
And mused o'er the elements war of the Ages
That shaped them in symmetry wild at their will.

I have rolled down the boulders and waked the weird echoes,
Where serpents, affrighted, have withered in their rage,
And watched the fleet antelope, bound o'er the desert,
Through beds of green greasewood, bright cactus and sage.

I have sailed on the breast of the Deseret Dead Sea,
And bathed in its waters all tranquil and clear,
Have gazed on the mountains and valleys of Humboldt,
Strange, primitive, awful, sad, silent and sere.

I have climbed and re-climbed the steep, wind-worn Sierras,
Peered in their deep gulches, all dark and obscure,
Dreamed under the shadows of giant sequoias,
Or talked with wild Indians, reserved and demure.

I have trusted my bark to the billows of Ocean,
And watched them roll up and recede from the shore,
And anchored within his fine bay, San Francisco,
Where the great Golden Gate husheth out his deep roar.

But not till I reached thy broad bosom, Columbia,
Where ever, forever, thou roll'st to the sea,
Did I feel that I'd found the full acme of grandeur,
Where song could run riot, or fancy go free.

Then my Pegasus changed his quick pace to a gallop,
Euterpé's wind-harp waked Æolian strains,
And the NINE, in their rapture, sang odes to the mountains
That preside over Oregon's forests and plains.

Hoary Hood called aloud to the Three Virgin Sisters,
Who blushed with the roseate glow of the morn,
Saint Helen & Rainier from over the border
Scowled and clouded their brows in pretension and scorn.

The Dalles of Columbia, set up on their edges,
Swirled through the deep gorges as onward they rolled,
Or over huge boulders of basalt went foaming,
Dispersed into spray ere their story was told.

To the North and the South and the West rose the fir trees,
With proportions colossal and graceful and tall,
Dark green in their hue with a tinge of deep purple,
Casting shadows sometimes o'er the bluffs, like a pall.

Bold headlands keep guard o'er the Oregon river,
Whose dashings are heard far away o'er the main,
As tumbling and roaring and rushing forever,
He struggles with Ocean, some 'vantage to gain.

Fair Portland sits smiling beside the Willamette,
Where, though land-walled, the breeze of the sea she inhales,
While wind-torn Umatilla and gale-Torn Wallula
Keep sentinel watch o'er her broad Eastern vales.

Then, ho, for the bracing and breezy Pacific,
Whose waves lave the Occident, ever and aye!
I care naught for the grandeur of Asia or Europe,
For my far Western home greets me gladly to-day.

Yes, ho, for the West! for the blest land of promise,
Where mountains, all green, bathe their brows in the sky,
While down the great snow peaks the torrents come dashing,
And eagles scream out from their eyries on high.

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