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(pioneer icon)1924

The Ships of Astor

by Elizabeth Richmond
from Poems of the Western Land   1878

Landing at the old fort, Green Bay, Wis.

Shivered and torn came the ships of the sailor,
   Down from the rent, jagged peaks of the north;
Flags rudely tattered by wind or by hail, or
   Shivered by hurricanes marshalling forth.

Up in the taffrail, with grey locks a-bleaching,
   Stood the old trader in his wolf-skin bedight;
Shrill from the westland the wild winds came screeching,
   Rattling the rigging in angry despite.

"Heave to, my men," said the stalwart commander,
   "Let go the anchor, there! reef in the sail!"
Thankful ye ride not the rough sea to-morrow,
   Out in the teeth of this threatening gale.

So by the old fort, down there on the bay-shore,
   Floated the rent flags, all tattered and seamed,
While from their nests flew the tall crane and curlew,
   Up from the crags where the red lightning gleamed.

Filled was the old hulk with skins and with peltries,
   Robbed from the crag-tops the great lakes beyond;
From the tenantless forests, the lone pathless mountains,
   And the ice-bergs that slept in the silence profound.

Down through the hatchways and up in the rigging,
   Clambered the red-painted Sachems and chiefs;
On their brown shoulders the panther skins bringing,
   Borne down the streams in their lithe birchwood skiffs.

Tawny-cheeked princesses cautiously wander,
   Wonderingly, over the storm-weathered craft;
Brilliant in necklace of carmine and amber,
   Peering like sylphs from the awnings abaft.

And the old log-hewn fort, from its loop-holes and bastions,
   Down there on the outermost shore of the bay,
Looks down in its state like some palace barbaric,
   Which holds at its portals a weird holiday.

Richmond, Elizabeth Yates. Poems of the Western Land. Milwaukee, 1878.
From a copy in the GLS Dept. of Special Collections (in Memorial Library): Cairns PS 2699 R46 P6 1878