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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Richard Burton (1861–1940)

The Race of the “Boomers”

THE BLEAK o’ the dawn, and the plain is asmoke with the breath of the frost,

And the murmur of bearded men is an ominous sound in the ear;

The white tents liken the ground to a flower-meadow embossed

By the bloom of the daisy sweet, for a sign that the June is here.

They are faring from countless camps, afoot or ahorse may be;

The blood of many a folk may flow in their bounding veins,

But, stung by the age-old lust for land and for liberty,

They have ridden or run or rolled in the mile-engulfing trains.

More than the love of loot, mightier than woman’s lure,

The passion that speeds them on, the hope that is in their breast:

They think to possess the soil, to have and to hold it sure,

To make it give forth of fruit in this garden wide of the West.

But see! It is sun-up now, and six hours hence is noon;

The crowd grows thick as the dust that muffles the roads this way;

The blackleg stays from his cards, the song-man ceases his tune,

And the gray-haired parson deems it is idle to preach and pray.


And over the mete away the prairie is parched and dry,

A creature of mighty moods, an ocean of moveless waves;

Clean of a single soul, silent beneath the sky,

Waiting its peopled towns, with room for a host of graves.

The hours reel on, and tense as a bow-cord drawn full taut

Is the thought of the Boomers all: a sight that is touched with awe;

A huddle of men and horse to the frenzy pitch upwrought,

A welter of human-kind in the viewless grip of Law.


High noon: with a fusillade of guns and a deep, hoarse roar,

With a panting of short, sharp breaths in the mad desire to win,

Over the mystic mark the seething thousands pour,

As the zenith sun glares down on the rush and the demon’s din.

God! what a race,—all life merged in the arrowy flight:

Trample the brother down, murder if need be so,

Ride like the wind and reach the Promised Land ere night,—

The Strip is open, is ours, to build on, to harrow and sow.


So, spent and bruised and scorched, down trails thick-strewn with hopes

A-wreck did the Boomers race to the place they would attain;

Seizing it, scot and lot, ringing it round with ropes,

The homes they had straitly won through fire and blood and pain.


While ever up from the earth, or fallen far through the air,

Goes a shuddering ethnic moan, the saddest of all sad sounds;

The cry of an outraged race that is driven otherwhere,

The Indian’s heart-wrung wail for his hapless Hunting Grounds.