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Ina Donna Coolbrith (Ина Донна Кулбрит)

The Captive of the White City

FLOWER of the foam of the waves
Of the beautiful inland sea, —
White as the foam that laves
The ships of the Sea-Kings past, —
Marvel of human hands,
Wonderful, mystical, vast,
The great White City stands;
And the banners of all the lands
Are free on the western breeze,
Free as the West is free.
And the throngs go up and down
In the streets of the wonderful town
In brotherly love and grace, —
Children of every zone
The light of the sun has known:
And there in the Midway Place,
In the House of the Unhewn Trees,
There in the surging crowd,
Silent, and stern, and proud,
Sits Rain-in-the-Face!

Why is the captive here?
Is the hour of the Lord so near
When slayer and slain shall meet
In the place of the Judgment seat
For the word of the last decree?
Ah, what is that word to be?
For the beautiful City stands
On the Red Man's wrested lands,
The home of a fated race;
And a ghostly shadow falls
Over the trophied  walls
Of the House of the Unhewn Tree,
In the pleasant Midway Place.
There is blood on the broken door,
There is blood on the broken floor,
Blood on your bronzëd hands,
O Rain-in-the-Face!

Shut from the sunlit air,
Like a sun-god overthrown,
The soldier, Custer, lies.
Dust is the sun-kissed hair,
Dust are the dauntless eyes,
Dust and a name alone ; —
While the wife holds watch with grief
For the never-returning chief.
What if she walked to-day
In the City's pleasant way,
The beautiful Midway Place,
And there to her sudden gaze,
Dimmed with her widow's tears,
After the terrible years,
Stood Rain-in-the-Face!

Quench with a drop of dew
From the morning's cloudless blue
The prairies' burning plains —
The seas of seething flame;
Turn from its awful path
The tempest, in its wrath;
Lure from his jungle-lair
The tiger, crouching there
For the leap on his sighted prey:
Then seek as well to tame
The hate in the Red Man's veins,
His tiger-thirst to cool,
In the hour of the evil day
When his foe before him stands!
From the wrongs of the White Man's rule
Blood only may wash the trace.
Alas, for the death-heaped plain!
Alas, for slayer and slain!
Alas for your blood-stained hands,
O Rain-in-the-Face!

And the throngs go up, go down,
In the streets of the wonderful town;
And jests of the merry tongue,
And the dance, and the glad songs sung,
Ring through the sunlit space.
And there, in the wild, free breeze,
In the House of the Unhewn Trees,
In the beautiful Midway Place,
The captive sits apart,
Silent, and makes no sign.
But what is the word in your heart,
O man of a dying race?
What tale on your lips for mine,
O Rain-in-the-Face?

Ina Donna Coolbrith's other poems:
  1. Meadowlarks
  2. Bret Harte (A stir of pines in the forest)
  3. Siesta
  4. Two
  5. At the Close

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