December 19, 2011

A dirge for the brave old pioneer!

When frontiersman Daniel Boone died in 1820, he was buried in Missouri. Later, his remains were moved to Kentucky but several decades went by before a monument was placed over his new grave. Regardless of the controversy over Boone's burial and re-burial, a Kentucky writer named Theodore O'Hara thought the lack of a marker was inappropriate. So, he wrote "The Old Pioneer"; it was published on December 19, 1850:

A dirge for the brave old pioneer!
Knight-errant of the wood!
Calmly beneath the green sod here
He rests from field and flood;
The war-whoop and the panther's screams
No more his soul shall rouse,
For well the aged hunter dreams
Beside his good old spouse.

A dirge for the brave old pioneer!
Hushed now his rifle's peal;
The dews of many a vanish'd year
Are on his rusted steel;
His horn and pouch lie mouldering
Upon the cabin-door;
The elk rests by the salted spring,
Nor flees the fierce wild boar.

A dirge for the brave old pioneer!
Old Druid of the West!
His offering was the fleet wild deer,
His shrine the mountain's crest.
Within his wildwood temple's space
An empire's towers nod,
Where erst, alone of all his race
He knelt to Nature's God.

A dirge for the brave old pioneer!
Columbus of the land!
Who guided freedom's proud career
Beyond the conquer'd strand;
And gave her pilgrim sons a home
No monarch's step profanes,
Free as the chainless winds that roam
Upon its boundless plains.

A dirge for the brave old pioneer!
The muffled drum resound!
A warrior is slumb'ring here
Beneath his battle-ground.
For not alone with beast of prey
The bloody strife he waged,
Foremost where'er the deadly fray
Of savage combat raged.

A dirge for the brave old pioneer!
A dirge for his old spouse!
For her who blest his forest cheer,
And kept his birchen house.
Now soundly by her chieftain may
The brave old dame sleep on,
The red man's step is far away,
The wolf's dread howl is gone.

A dirge for the brave old pioneer!
His pilgrimage is done;
He hunts no more the grizzly bear
About the setting sun.
Weary at last of chase and life,
He laid him here to rest,
Nor recks he now what sport or strife
Would tempt him further west.

A dirge for the brave old pioneer!
The patriarch of his tribe!
He sleeps—no pompous pile marks where,
No lines his deeds describe.
They raised no stone above him here,
Nor carved his deathless name—
An empire is his sepulchre,
His epitaph is Fame.

Incidentally, Boone's new grave is in Frankfort Cemetery, where O'Hara also is interred today after initial burial in the state of Georgia.

1 comment:

  1. I like his various names for Boone that give different aspects of his character and accomplishments--knight errant, old Druid, Columbus of the land, patriarch, chieftain.