The Race For Homes.

A poem by Freeman Edwin Miller

APRIL 22, 1889.


Behold! As from the shades of night,
An army gathers full of might,
And strong with constant courage stands
'Tween civilized and savage lands,
Where, vast in power, the legion waits
The turning of the desert gates,
That men of might may enter in
And progress all her glories win!
Lo, where these thousands make assail,
The barren ages all shall fail,
And swift advancement far be hurled,
O'er sleeping empires and the world!

The morning hours haste hurried by;
Behold! The noon is drawing nigh!
The anxious host with careful eyes
Marks well each rapid hour that flies,
While hope, exulting, wildly rolls
The highest, such as filled the souls
Of Jason and his comrades bold,
Who sought the famous fleece of gold.
Upon the trampled grasses beat
Impatient steeds with restless feet;
The dins of harsh, discordant cries
Above the thrilling thousands rise;
Shrilly the scattered children call,
And soft the words of women fall,
While men with voices hushed and weak
Their low commands expectant speak;
Till suddenly a mighty cry,
A shout of warning, smites the sky:

"Attention! Ho,
Attention here!
Attention! Lo,
The noon is near!"
O'er hill and brake
Resounds the warning cry;
The moment great is nigh;
The hosts awake;
Awake, to strive with mad delight,
Awake to win the friendly fight;
And from the camps anear and far,
Where nervous haste and hurry are,
Vast legions gather on the plain,
While chaos and confusion reign;
The neighing steed with quickened pace
Impatient seeks the vantage place;
The slower ox with lightened load
Stands waiting in the crowded road.
And wagon, buggy, carriage, cart,
Vehicles formed with rudest art,
All forward, forward, forward dart,
Swift-forming on the level ground
Where most advantage may be found.

"Line up! Ho, there,
Line up, line up!"
The hurried order smites the air;
Above the silent prairies fair
Unseen progression holds her cup,
Filled to the brim with magic seeds
That harvests hold for human needs.
Excitement grows on beasts and men;
The saddle girths are tightened o'er,
The stirrups lengthened out once more,
And silence softly falls again;
Each bit and buckle, strap and band,
Is tested o'er with careful hand,
And man and beast in chosen place
Stand ready for the coming race;

The circling sun
His morning race has fully run;
A waving hand
Signals above the brief command
That sight and sense will understand,--
And open swings the desert land!
A shot! A hundred, thousand more
The grassy meadows echo o'er;
A shout! From countless throats a shout,
On rolling wings leaps madly out;
A yell, a raging roar, that flies
On bounding winds o'er hill and glen,
And 'round the land electrifies
A thousand living miles of men!
A mammoth stir,
A sudden dash,
Swift whip and spur
Together clash,
And wheels on wheels that totter crash!
They're off! They're off!
Away, away,
In mad array!
No stop nor stay!
The hurried charge they ride to-day
Would shame and scoff
The Tartar, Turk and Romanoff!
The race is on;
The host is gone;
The thronging legions madly ride
O'er hill and dale,
With hurried pace unsatisfied.
In fierce assail
Where none may fail;
And only phantoms dimly blent
Tell where the mounted armies went,
Like shifting shadows, faint and dim,
Or ghostly spectors, gaunt and grim,
Beyond the far horizon's rim!
Behold! Adown the valleys bright,
The last, lone straggler fades from sight,
And only hasty hoof-beats say
What thousands rode the race to-day;
What hosts, with hearts that build and bless,
Found homes amid the wilderness!

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