Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Poems about the Cane Creek Massacre

I noticed a strong uptick in the number of people finding my site by searching for information on the Cane Creek Massacre. So much so that I began to suspect that something may have prompted them to look it up. Something in the news maybe. So I began to look to see what it could be.

I didn't find anything. But I did see something I had missed. In 1958 Olive Woolley Burt published a book of Murder ballads of the American West. One of her ballads was a poem written about the Cane Creek Massacre. Olive indicated thet the first part of the poem was missing. It was taken from a newspaper clipping in her "mother's scrapbook". Although Olive admits the clipping contains 18 stanzas, she only reproduced 6 of them.

The Cane Creek Massacre

The boys had lived in peace upon the farm,
A mother's care had shielded them from harm;
They had but recently obeyed the truth,
But loved it with the ardent love of youth.

They saw the brave and much loved elders fall,
Nor feared the mobbers nor the rifle ball;
The conflict was unequal, but they stood,
Unterrified among the scenes of blood.

So was their mother shot by coward hand,
And law dishonored in the cursed band.
And in defense of those so basely killed,
Their youthful blood was on the hearthstone spilled.

No small responsibility will rest
On so-called Christians, who have madly pressed
Their wicked schemes of special legislation
Alike disgraceful to the age and nation.

"Heroic measures" from their Upas tree,
Have thus with blood matured in Tennessee;
Whose martyrs rank with prophets, priests and sages,
Who died for God and Truth in former ages.

Then let us buckle on our armor bright,
Nor fear the enemy, but bravely fight
For human rights, 'til every soul shall be
Protected from the curse of Tennessee.

Regrettably, Olive says the newspaper in unidentifiable.

This was not the first poem about the Massacre I had run across. In the Millennial Star of September 22 1884, I find the following poem. Quoted from the Territorial Enquirer, it is titled:

Lines Inscribed to the Tennessee Martyrs

News flashed over the wires
Of Israels heroes slain!

And many a heart leaped quick with dread,
And ached with a dead dull pain
And Zion bowed her head and wept!
Oh father can it be
That the curse which rests on Illinois
Now darkens Tennessee

Could we but comfort the widow whose heart
Is crushed with its weight of woe;--
And the orphaned ones who never more
A fathers care will know.
And aged parents with whitened hair
Who long for the firm quick tread,
And strong brave arm of their noble boy
Now numbered with the dead

Columbia! Oh my country
Your brow is crowned with fame;
Your arm is strong and mighty,
But your head is bowed with shame:
Shame! for thy sons whose evil brows

Are stamped with the curse of Cain, --
God they defy, -- but their hollow laugh
Is worse than a shriek of pain!

Father of mercy, give us light,
More clearly Thy ways to see.

Let a ray sunshine break through the clouds
Of cruel destiny,
That the shadows of sorrow may brighten
The hope of eternity
Bringing peace to the stricken ones
Which alone can come from Thee

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