by Walt Whitman
From far Montana’s cañons,
Lands of the wild ravine, the dusky Sioux, the lone-
some stretch, the silence,
Haply, to-day, a mournful wail—haply, a trumpet
note for heroes.
The Indian ambuscade—the slaughter and environ-
The cavalry companies fighting to the last—in stern-
est, coolest, heroism.
The fall of Custer, and all his officers and men.
Continues yet the old, old legend of our race!
The loftiest of life upheld by death!
The ancient banner perfectly maintained!
(O lesson opportune—O how I welcome thee!)
As, sitting in dark days,
Lone, sulky, through the time’s thick murk looking
in vain for light, for hope,
From unsuspected parts, a fierce and momentary
(The sun there at the center, though concealed,
Electric life forever at the center,)
Breaks forth, a lightning flash.
Thou of sunny, flowing hair, in battle,
I erewhile saw, with erect head, pressing ever in
front, bearing a bright sword in thy hand,
Now ending well the splendid fever of thy deeds,
(I bring no dirge for it or thee—I bring a glad, tri-
There in the far northwest, in struggle, charge, and
Desperate and glorious—aye, in defeat most desper-
ate, most glorious,
After thy many battles, in which, never yielding up
a gun or a color,
Leaving behind thee a memory sweet to soldiers,
Thou yieldest up thyself.
PS: Richard Slotkin, von dem in der Besprechung von James Carlos Blakes „Das Böse im Blut“ ausführlicher die Rede ist , koppelt Whitmans Sonett, das ihm den Titel gab für sein Grundlagenwerk „The Fatal Environment. The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800–1890“ mit einer Stelle aus Ernest Hemingways „Across the River and Into the Trees“:
„General George Armstrong Custer. That beautiful horse cavalryman … But it must have seemed like the wrong career to him when they finished up on that flat hill near the Little Big Horn, with the ponies making a circle around them in all the dust, and the sagebrush crushed by the hooves of the horses of the other people, and nothing left for him for the rest of his life but that lovely old black powder smell and his own people shooting each other, and themselves, for fear of what the squaws would do to them. And on that hill, to know you’d made one real mistake, finally, and for good, complete with the true handles. Poor horse cavalryman, the end of all his dreams.“
Foto: Walt Whitman 1887. Public Domain, Quelle.