he subject of this sketch is brother of the late E. C. Boudinot, a well-known man, not only in the Indian Territory, but throughout the United States, and whose sketch is elsewhere given in this volume. W. P. is four years the senior, being now sixty-one years of age. The lives of both ran very much in the same groove until their return to the nation upon coming of age. W. P.’s Eastern education qualified him to fill various subordinate positions in the Cherokee Government, beginning with the clerk of the Senate, or “National Committee,” as it was then called in 1851-52, and ending with delegate to Washington City in 1887. At times during the interim he edited the national journal, the Cherokee Advocate, assisted to compile and revise the laws of the nation several times, supervised the public schools, and served as one of the secretaries of the executive department. While not engaged in official work he practiced law in the local courts. W. P. Boudinot, like his deceased brother, is a man of ability and talent. He is a natural musician and a forcible writer, and while he does not claim to be a poet he has written verses of undoubted merit. Being as he is a native Cherokee Indian, some readers may be curious to know how one of the race has succeeded in a field of literature where so many have failed, therefore we have obtained his permission to publish the following poem, which we have especially chosen for its picturesque weirdness, a quality characteristic of most of the poetry and music of the Indians. It was only after great persuasion that we prevailed upon the writer to favor us, as Mr. Boudinot is the most modest and unpretentious of men. The verses, we are told, were written when he was a mere boy. The idea in his mind seems to have been that human beings are all followed from cradle to the grave by a relentless and ever-present doom.
The Spectre by W. P. Boudinot
There is a spectre ever haunting All the living ones on earth;
Like a shadow it attendeth Every mortal from his birth, And its likeness is a demon’s, Horrible with mocking mirth.
And it never sleeps an instant, Never turns away its eye, Which is always fixed and greedy Gazing on us ardently; When at night we sleep it watcheth, At our bedside standing by.
Low it crouches by the cradle Where the new born infant sleeps,
Watching with the watchful mother When it smiles and when it weeps,
Unseen, silent, absent never, Round the dreaming babe it creeps.
Thus from life’s fist faint beginning, Till the dreaded close appears, Does this still, unknown companion Dog us through our flying years; And it mocks our silly pleasures As it mocks our useless tears.
[Thus attended the unconscious mortal grows up and enjoys life,
until he begins to notice the passage of time, and the coming sunset. Then he perceives that something is half following, half urging him along.]
And we feel its icy fingers Tracing wrinkles on the brow,
While its breath, so cold and deadly, Turns the raven hair to snow,
As we hobble on our journey With a stumbling step and slow.
[The mortal, now an old man, is anxious at last to know where he is being led or driven to.]
Whither, pleads the weary traveler, Whither, whither do we fly?
But the darkness now descending Shuts the scene from human eye;
Still is heard the faint voice pleading Never cometh a reply.
[Save that which the poet himself gives us.]
On the footsteps of each mortal From his first to latest date, When he joys, or loves, or sorrows, Wretched, happy, humble, great, Mocking glides the silent phantom Child of clay it is thy fate.
That a boy of fourteen or fifteen years of age, and an Indian boy at that, should have written such verses as the above, is an interesting fact, and indicates the possession of a vivid poetic imagination. It will be observed that but few words of more than two syllables are brought into use, and if poverty of expression be urged by the critic, the young writer’s surroundings and opportunities should be considered, as well as his tender years. We should like to here produce one of Mr. Boudinot’s later and consequently more mature poems, but being circumscribed, are therefore obliged to refrain from that pleasure. It is to be hoped that before very long he will collect together the fugitive children of his brain and give them to the world in book form.