Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Cowboy Poem

Janice has reminded us that this is Cowboy Poetry Week. I thought it would be fun to locate an old cowboy poem to post. The following poem was the most genealogically-related poem that I could find in the cowboy poetry volume I perused. It comes from Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp compiled by John A. Lomax ( New York: Macmillian, 1919; pp. 152-153).

The Bandit's Grave
by Charles Pitt

'Mid lava rock and glaring sand,
'Neath the desert's brassy skies,
Bound in the silent chains of death
A border bandit lies.
The poppy waves her golden glow
Above the lowly mound;
The cactus stands with lances drawn,--
A martial guard around.

His dreams are free from guile or greed,
Or foray's wild alarms.
No fears creep in to break his rest
In the desert's scorching arms.
He sleeps in peace beside the trail,
Where the twilight shadows play,
Though they watch each night for his return
A thousand miles away.

From the mesquite groves a night bird calls
When the western skies grow red;
The sand storm sings his deadly song
Above the sleeper's head.
His steed has wondered to the hills
And helpless are his hands,
Yet peons curse his memory
Across the shifting sands.

The desert cricket tunes his pipes
When the half-grown moon shines dim;
The sage thrush trills her evening song --
But what are they to him?
A rude-built cross beside the trail
That follows to the west
Casts its long-drawn, ghastly shadow
Across the sleeper's breast.

A lone coyote comes by night
And sits beside his bed,
Sobbing the midnight hours away
With gaunt, up-lifted head.
The lizard trails his aimless way
Across the lonely mound,
When the star-guards of the desert
Their pickets post around.

The winter snows will heap their drifts
Among the leafless sage;
The pallid hosts of the blizzard
Will lift their voice in rage;
The gentle rains of early spring
Will woo the flowers to bloom.
And scatter their fleeting incense
O'er the border bandit's tomb.

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