Speaking of Frontiers and Poems . . .

Since I’m in an odd mood today, here’s a poem I first encountered as the title of a fun history/fiction/who knows book. “The Coming American.”

Bring me men to match my mountains;
Bring me men to match my plains, —
Men with empires in their purpose,
And new eras in their brains.
Bring me men to match my praries,
Men to match my inland seas,
Men whose thought shall pave a highway
Up to ampler destinies;
Pioneers to clear Thought’s marshlands,
And to cleanse old Error’s fen;
Bring me men to match my mountains —
Bring me men!

Bring me men to match my forests,
Strong to fight the storm and blast,
Branching toward the skyey future,
Rooted in the fertile past.
Bring me men to match my valleys,
Tolerant of sun and snow,
Men within whose fruitful purpose
Time’s consummate blooms shall grow.
Men to tame the tigerish instincts
Of the lair and cave and den,
Cleans the dragon slime of Nature —
Bring me men!

Bring me men to match my rivers,
Continent cleavers, flowing free,
Drawn by the eternal madness
To be mingled with the sea;
Men of oceanic impulse,
Men whose moral currents sweep
Toward the wide-enfolding ocean
Of an undiscovered deep;
Men who feel the strong pulsation
Of the Central Sea, and then
Time their currents to its earth throb —
Bring me men!

Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911) is another Victorian poet, popular in his time and now pretty much forgotten. Some of his pieces sound a bit like Robert Service, others like early Robert Frost, James Whitcomb Riley, and similar poets. The book (by Irving Stone) that took its title from the above poem is about the opening up of Nevada and the Sierras, about scandal and triumph, engineering, and Populism, and all sorts of Wild West stuff. The book caused a flurry of unhappiness among people who didn’t care to recall that their ancestors had not been as pure as the driven snow. Today, history buffs of the American West take that for granted, but in 1956? Oh, the pearl clutching. The book ranks up there with De Voto’s Across the Wide Missouri and Stanley Vestal’s books, in my opinion, as far as “should be required reading for US West 101.”)


4 thoughts on “Speaking of Frontiers and Poems . . .

  1. Start west of US 101 (extreme coastal CA), and look for the kaboom from millions of brains popping.

  2. Random observation: Years back, there was a train named the James Whitcomb Riley that went from Cincinnati to Chicago via Indianapolis.

Comments are closed.