About 200 years ago, Sir Walter Scott wrote ”The Lay of the
Last Minstrel” a poem that still stirs my heart and soul today. I shall copy
the first verse, because I could not say it better, but the last verse refers
to places Sir Walter knew in Scotland, so I have tailored it to fit my own
native land, the Missouri Ozarks. I think I can be forgiven this borrowing of and
adding to his words, at least in part because some of my ancestors were Scotts.
Breathing the Air of Home
Breathes there the man, with
soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d,
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d,
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.
Ozark Hills, so rough and wild,
Fine grounding for a poetic child!
Tree-covered land of rock and mud,
Land of hillside, drought, and flood,
Land of my younger days! No tyrant hand
Can e’er untie my link to this rugged land!
Still as I view each well-known scene,
Think what is now, and what has been,
It seems to me I am of all things past bereft,
Sole friends thy woods and streams are left;
And thus I love them better still,
In health, or even if extremity ill,
By Pond Springs branch then let me stray,
Though none need guide my feeble way;
To see the crystal waters flow,
the rocks into Big Creek,
To think of friends of long ago,
tears running down my cheek,
I will lay my head on sand and stone,
Where quite forgotten and all alone,
When it comes my time to deal with death,
better place can I find, to draw my final breath?