Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
730. From “The Song of the Ancient People”
By Edna Dean Proctor
WE are the Ancient People;
  Our father is the Sun;
Our mother, the Earth, where the mountains tower
  And the rivers seaward run;
The stars are the children of the sky,        5
  The red men of the plain;
And ages over us both had rolled
  Before you crossed the main;—
For we are the Ancient People,
  Born with the wind and rain.        10
And ours is the ancient wisdom,
  The lore of Earth and cloud:—
We know what the awful lightnings mean,
Wí-lo-lo-a-ne with arrows keen,
  And the thunder crashing loud;        15
And why with his glorious, burning shield
  His face the Sun-God hides,
As, glad from the east, while night recedes,
Over the Path of Day he speeds
  To his home in the ocean tides;        20
For the Deathless One at eve must die,
To flame anew in the nether sky,—
Must die, to mount when the Morning Star,
First of his warrior-host afar,
  Bold at the dawning rides!        25
And we carry our new-born children forth
  His earliest beams to face,
And pray he will make them strong and brave
As he looks from his shining place,
Wise in council and firm in war,        30
And fleet as the wind in the chase;
And why the Moon, the Mother of Souls,
  On summer nights serene,
Fair from the azure vault of heaven
  To Earth will fondly lean,        35
While her sister laughs from the tranquil lake,
  Soft-robed in rippling sheen;
For the Moon is the bride of the glowing Sun,
  But the Goddess of Love is she
Who beckons and smiles from the placid depths        40
  Of the lake and the shell-strown sea.
We know why the down of the Northland drifts
  O’er wood and waste and hill;
And how the light-winged butterflies
  To the brown fields summer bear,        45
And the balmy breath of the Corn-maids floats
  In June’s enchanted air;
And when to pluck the Medicine flowers
  On the brow of the mountain peak,
The lilies of Té-na-tsa-li,        50
  That brighten the faded cheek,
And heal the wounds of the warrior
  And the hunter worn and weak;
And where in the hills the crystal stones
  And the turquoise blue to seek;        55
And how to plant the earliest maize,
  Sprinkling the sacred meal,
And setting our prayer-plumes in the midst
  As full to the east we kneel,—
The plumes whose life shall waft our wish        60
  To the heights the skies conceal;
Nay, when the stalks are parched on the plain
  And the deepest springs are dry,
And the Water-God, the jewelled toad,
  Is lost to every eye,        65
With song and dance and voice of flutes
  That soothe the Regions Seven,
We can call the blessed summer showers
  Down from the listening heaven!
For ours is the lore of a dateless past,        70
  And we have power thereby,—
Power which our vanished fathers sought
  Through toil and watch and pain,
Till the spirits of wood and wave and air
  To grant us help were fain;        75
For we are the Ancient People,
  Born with the wind and rain.


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