A Tribute to the Future of My Race
Not a song of golden “Greek,”
Wafted from Aegean shores,
Not from an Olympian height
Come my simple syllables:
But from the northern of Wisconsin,
From the land of the Oneidas,
From the chieftain clan Cornelius,
From the friendly Iroquois
Comes the greeting of the wampum
And a tribute, humble, simple,
From the pines’ soft, lingering murmurs,
From the “pleasant water courses,”
From the morn-kissed, mighty highlands,
From the breezes and the flowers
Nodding secrets to each other,
From the din of metropolitans,
From the wisdom of their sages,
I have caught this sage’s epic.
Ye who love the haunts of nature,
Love the sunshine of the meadow,
Love the shadow of the forest,
Love the wind among the branches
And the rushing of great rivers
Thro’ their palisades of pine trees,
Ye whose hearts are kind and simple,
Who have faith in God and nature,
Who believe that in all ages
Every human heart is human,
That in even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings,
For the good they comprehend not.
That the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in that darkness
Touch God’s right hand in that darkness
And are lifted up and strengthened.
Ye, who sometimes in your rambles
Thro’ the green lanes of the country
Pause by some neglected graveyard
For awhile to muse and ponder
On a half-effaced inscription,
Writ with little skill of song-craft,
Homely phrases, yet each letter,
Full of hope, and yet of heart-break,
Full of all the tender pathos
Of the here and the hereafter—
Stay ye, hear this rude-put story
Of the future of a nation.
Many moons have waxed and waned
Since their chieftain clans were numbered,
Since from seas of rising sun
To the far coast of her setting,
From the white bear’s colder regions
To the high-noon of their borders
Roamed an infant, warrior people,
A whole continent their own!
Ah, who were they? All barbarians? Were they men?
Without legend or tradition,
Without heroes, gods, religion,
Without thought of the hereafter?
Did they enter nature’s gardens—
In her temples of the forest
With their warriors’ hearts unmelted?
Did they tread her wreathed pathways
Without learning tenderness?
Did they see the roses’ dew-drop
And not wonder whence it came from?
And traced savage eyes the hemlock
Without learning majesty?
Is it nature’s law to teach not?
Ah, too often do we think not
That the human race for ages
Suffer countless throes, upheavals,
Ere they blossom beauteous.
But to day my epic telleth
Not the lore of idle camp-fire,
Not the past so buried deeply
’Neath the mound of gracious kindness,
But of beauteous enlightenment.
Who has made it? Who will make it?
That the golden sun of freedom
May shine brighter and still further
Till our glorious America
Be the world’s salvation—haven.
Ah, I’ve seen her high-born heroes
Who’ve attained life’s highest summits,
Stretch their hands to weary climbers
Without thought of race or color,
That a man may yet be saved!
And among the foot-sore climbers
I’ve beheld a stoic brother
Climbing silently and slowly,
All unnoticed, all alone?
Till perchance, he puts his step where
In a moment he has lost it.
Then the world’s quick recognition!
“He has fallen! He has fallen!”
Hark! a voice from yonder summit—
He is up, and tries again.
And—I can’t tell how I know it—
But two guardian angels’ trumpets
Blow against the gate of heaven,
And their descending volumes turn
To earth’s bright gladness and her flowers.
Then another rises onward
With chieftain fire in his eyes.
I see him mount unmindful
Of the rocks and sounds of way
Till at length I see him reach it,
And he, too, stand among
The heroes of that band!
So for him who mounts through
All the hardships of the mountainside.
I pray, to him give patience,
For, what the future holds
In the imperial sway of Time
No man can tell. No sentence
Without first indubious conviction
And, ere conviction, just chances, give.
And, oh, ye sons of Tonner hall
And all ye daughters, true,
Ye have it in your power to say
Of what, and when a race shall be;
Ye spring from noble warrior blood,
As brave as Saxon, Roman, Greek,
And the age that waits upon you all
Has begot a race of kingly men.
May your careers be as complete
As the arches of your mater halls,
And when the noon of mankind comes
May it find you all more nearly
With the noblest offspring
Of our dear, great land,
Such as Smiley, Pratt and Garrett,
Such as—oh, a thousand more
Along your young paths daily known!
Ah, they’ve taught us, we’ll remember
Then to each with one accord
We will extend the wampum strand
Made of friendships, purest pearl,
Made of gratitude, deep-rooted,
Made to last eternal summers.
Yea, the hearts’ right hand we give them,
Blue-eyed Royalty American,
Theirs, our native land forever,
Ours their presence and their teachings.
Ours the noblest and the best.
This poem is in the public domain.
Laura Cornelius Kellogg
An orator, organizer, and an activist for Native American rights, Kellogg was also a short story writer, playwright, poet, and political essayist, though most of her books and pamphlets have not survived.
Date Published: 2017-11-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/tribute-future-my-race