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April 03, 1940 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1940-04-03

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C'ase Six


by Charles Miller

Some men have known star-speckled space, have felt
The eye faint back on earth and weakly settle
Upon their task; they know man's works can melt
In space, a snowflake in a boiling kettle.
Oh rock and soil, oh cringing continents,
Consider oceans there, four times more great!
And man, how little-even earth relents
To you: the frigid poles, the desert hate,
The mountain pride dispute your crafty hand.
But there have been those men whose eagerness
Went forth to pioneer the un-mapped land
And build a stockade in the wilderness
Of space and time, to colonize and plan
Equivocal earth that it might shelter man.
LOSE to the ragged feet of a pine-pocked Horn
A thousand acre mesa forms his ranch.
The clover, barley, wheat and fodder corn
On that grey soil has only half a chance.
Night after night he curses wind from the south,
Pleading for clouds to hit the dust bowl's brim,
Damned to-eternity of heedless drouth,
Praying for a harvest that is not for him.
Once after winterkilled his cattle stock
He climbed the Horn to get away and think.
He judged his kingdom throned upon a rodek
And talked to spirits perched on the world's brant.
se saw huge mountains loom on valley land
And found his ranch no larger than his hand.
THE white men brought, besides an urgent God,
Gunpowder, alcohol, and complex ways,
A lust for land that raped the virgin sod.
They let their twenty million cattle graze
Around the bones of buffalo and bison
With leather lips that took the prairie grass
Down to the roots. They herded with the vision
Their stolen treasure land would always last.
They took earth's labor, gave her back no pay;
They left the starving body of bare land;
It was cremated by sun and blown away
Beyond potential touch of human hand,
This gift to their sons the ardent farmers gave.
And now a dust bowl digs for them a grave.
W IHEN deer and buffalo were free to roam
Their plain, and men in moccasin their forest,
The natural cover of tall grass on loam
Took rainfall and gaunt winter took the harvest.
But bold and Wrrogant armies chopped their way
Through trees and Indians. Farmers turned the turf,
Put crops upon its face and moved away
When it would smile no more nor give in birth.
The flood of tears now found no grassy cheek
To weep upon; and earth's aroused emotion
Began to drown both men and towns, to sweep
Their fields off with the gesture of erosion.
And so the sterile ground-gave birth-to the fleod.
And so man pays an earthly debt-with his blood!
H sits upon the "sill of spring and dreams
1 1 Of sunlight sifting down upon new-petals,
Of rain that bathesthe landscape with-wet-Ieass
And bird song tinkling like thin silver metals.
Next morninghe will wake amid the cries
Of neighbors loading up their household goods
To find that trucks and moving vanscomprise
Authority; the town takes to the woods.
He goes -topile sand bags upon the bank,
Mean food for stich a landscape-hungry flood;
He works, forgetting stronger cities sank
Even ashis will slide away in mud.
And running upland from the townless beach
He finds farms washed from his rapacious reach.
P IS canyon rumbled with the violent vow
Of liquid force; but that innate destruction
Returning to its mother ocean now
is mastered by an obelisk obstruction.
Andthere a captive hundred mile lake,

Obedient to the slender intake tower;
Will speed the turbine with its pressure-weight,
Transforming natural rage to light and power.
What floods may mobilize and quickly roar,
Acquire swift anger charging on their way,
These boulders will observe them stopped before
A wiser pyrmid of a wiser day.
This canyon will record how brain and hand
Contrived to healvithered leper land.
W HEN steam first moved the wheel along the rail,
They felt the dream entreating hands and mind:
The continent, still clad with venture's veil,
They -were to capture and to loosely bind.
Their will immune to gibes of fellowmen
And greater than the treason of their hope,
(Crude valves and exploding boilers mocking them).
Their dream more constant than their frequent rape,
Year after year the cross-tie- went on west.
Their strength-more shrewd than mountain bulk, they set..
The iron answer of their earthy quest:
Trans-nation span, first rope of the future net!
Armed with their own intuitive insistence,
On burby spacethey brought defeat of distance.
T HE-sweating bodywaethe motor then
Andcradled scythes were combines, foodwasfuel;
On thick-sown fields of wheat the bearded men
Fought barvest, found her-crude and kind and cruel.
Bending, they tied the bundle, hour on hour,
Hauled it and stacked it, beat it with the flal,
From April hand-flung seed they took the flour,
If muscle and if nature did not fail.
Contrived from this, the reaper rumbled forth
On growing fields, invoking greater visions:
The tractor, gangplow, combine came to birth;
An infant nation grew from rural reasons:
Prophetic plains, fields, gardens, ocean-grain
To link farm, city, dish in one food chain.
BEYOND; below the wing tips watch, observe
The plotted landscape's taciturnity,
Accepting first the world's relentless curve
And then the masters of modernity.
Here is no rough, exotic bastard beauty
Emerging from the loins of wilful nature,
But ordered evidence of man's self-duty
To lay foundations for impending future:
An irrigated desert growing grain,
A city fringed with factories and parks,
The manacle of roads on restless mountains,
The harbors, farms-Oh see the cunning marks
Man left with his constructive-yearning hand,
Giving destructive nature a reasonable reprimand.
HESE men resolve no new romantic myth;
T They are but hunters of the hidden fact.
Often not nobly, but from chance therewith,
They are the doers of the dazzling act.
Exploreain the frigid etratasphere
Of science, they pursue their chosen ways.
Their total deeds concern-the earth's welfare;
Need we deny them their coiletive praise?
O they have known the-earth's impartial passion
Adlearned that space cae.drown us wiherrai,
But diving from the-final flood they vision
Thew-race-of man enseonced within time's train;
And they accelerate modernity
That we may travel for -eternity.
T O THE cause of man on earth these gave their strength
SWho did not let the-dream die with themselves
But went to flinga woven metal length
Of bridge across the bay, to set tight shelves
Of highways on. the leaning mountain wall,
To eave and. shingl up the watershed,
Dam u the river, make a turmel erawl
Beneath it, fil the dust bowl full of bread
Tcy d''w not learn to make a lethal-kill
Or spr4tkle datbigpen a-sleeping city,
But' using earth, as men use thought at will,
They would endow man with instinchve duty;
And later heirs that come to richer, birth
Will thank these just executors of earth.

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