A hundred years ago a rude sail tent was set
By the Missouri’s flood—far frontier, wild
Beneath its shade the white and red man met.
Struck hands, smoked pipe—and named it Council Bluff.
The curious catbird’s querulous question note
Challenged the invaders of his solitude;
The warning from the wildwood warbler’s throat
Hushed the harsh clamor of her startled brood.
Beneath the bluff the river beat its breast,
Mad that its mystery should so soon be told;
Beyond—the boundless prairie stretching west
Mimicked the August sun with disks of gold.
And over all—the earth, the sky, the stream—
Bloomed the first blush—the new-born infant
Fond nature, waking from some tender dream,
To meet her coming master wore the while.
Those distant decades—like a vesper bell
Their sweet, far echoes haunt the place and hour;
The boatman with his torrent-tossed cordelle—
The red man with the prairie for his dower.
Still other echoes answer thro’ the years—
The song of bugles morning, night and noon—
And in the closer twilight shade appears
Fort Atkinson and later Fort Calhoun.
The march of hungry millions farther west—
The wagon train—the locomotive shriek—
The citys surging with its strange unrest—
The triumph of the strong above the weak.
One question in it all—in calumet smoke,
In bird and bugle note—in prairie sod;
In city’s tumult; in the piston stroke;
The question of man’s destiny and God.
And, met today upon historic ground,
To mark the memory of this hallowed spot—
Shall we find in each other’s eyes around
The answer,—for a hundred years forgot?
August 3, 1904.