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Poems About South Dakota

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  1. The Bad Lands by Charles Badger Clark
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  1. The Bad Lands

    by Charles Badger Clark

    No fresh green things in the Bad Lands bide;
    It is all stark red and gray,
    And strewn with bones that had lived and died
    Ere the first man saw the day.
    When the sharp crests dream in the sunset gleam
    And the bat through the canyon veers,
    You will sometimes catch, if you listen long,
    The tones of the Bad Lands' mystic song,
    A song of a million years.

    The place is as dry as a crater cup,
    Yet you hear, as the stars shine free,
    From the barren gulches sounding up,
    The lap of a spawning sea,
    A breeze that cries where the great ferns rise
    From the pools on a new-made shore,
    With the whip and whir of batlike wings
    And the snarl of slimy, fighting things
    And the tread of the dinosaur.

    Then the sea voice ebbs through untold morns,
    And the jungle voices reign—
    The hunting howl and the clash of horns
    And the screech of rage and pain.
    Harsh and grim is the old earth hymn
    In that far brute paradise,
    And as ages drift the rough strains fall
    To a single note more grim than all,
    The crack of the glacial ice.

    So the song runs on, with shift and change,
    Through the years that have no name,
    And the late notes soar to a higher range,
    But the theme is still the same.
    Man's battle-cry and the guns' reply
    Blend in with the old, old rhyme
    That was traced in the score of the strata marks
    While millenniums winked like campfire sparks
    Down the winds of unguessed time.

    There's a finer fight than of tooth and claw,
    More clean than of blade and gun,
    But, fair or foul, by the Great Bard's law
    'Twill be fight till the song is done.
    Not mine to sigh for the song's deep "why,"
    Which only the Great Bard hears.
    My soul steps out to the martial swing
    Of the brave old song that the Bad Lands sing,
    The song of a million years.

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