The Builder of Corrals
The old leader was nervous: messengers came
To the camp from the Métis people calling for war –
For the threat has risen in the distance, once again
The whites have waited, primed for the sprin,g
To send scourges to Saskatchewan,
To avenge freedom in “the legal way";
And under his banners Riel called to every dwelling,
To stamp his will upon the oncoming struggle.
But the Cree of the Plains fled the war,
From the South to the North, thirsting tranquillity:
Attracted to the hunt and the earth which, bringing harvest,
Gave shelter to all, protecting every newborn child,
Being fertilized with blood that no one wanted –
Except those whose souls drew nourishment from war;
The old chief, having lived an age, knew this better than anyone,
And long ago would have refused the Métis entering…
Half-breeds—Family! What should we do…? It is so:
Nature ploughs furrows through the human flesh;
They were aliens of all frontiers, but now their flag
Was waving freely over their new country—
Manitoba, which they called "Home,"
For the rogues united the North and the South.
Their dreams were so fragile—they counted the days,
Knowing what it takes to take what they want ...
But the old chief said: "All my life I roamed,
Hunted buffalos upon the prairie
Captured in the practical magic of corrals,
And came to learn sometimes survival is not a sin.
"We have come to this land, which ‘The Hudson Bay’
Beneficently described before us:
White Power—the Law, whose voice can be beautiful,
And whose cruelty is stronger than steel and gunpowder.
"So who built the ‘Great Corral, and for whom was it built’?
You for the Ottawa, or the Ottawa for you?
And who will be herded inside? Protect yourself!
Your numbers are nothing against the might of the Whites...
I will not give you anyone... May our weary people
Not be driven from the path!” And the Métis left.
But then came the Youth." We are tired of doing nothing
And having no glory; it is painful for the Warrior
To gaze on his knife rusting with disuse… With empty eyes!
Aimless is your peace: it is the heritage of Elders—
We crave war!L ong have you buried strength in your weakness,
Disguising it with your grey hairs, like dust on feathers!
"But we will rediscover our courage with the half-breeds
And the blood we will let from our White foes in battle.
You, obsolete old man, do not rebuke us—
We, who are blossoming, can stand anywhere on our own!"
And the old Chief, now seeing he was among his enemies,
Departed from his camp and visited the Whites
Declaring to them that his tribe would bow down
To their power, and pledge support to their Laws.
And together they inscribed a new law—a vast contract,
Signed jointly by the Chief and an elderly General;
"I built a Corral that precluded all Discord,"
Whispered a wise old man, before riding away...
Then a campaign of indiscriminate raids
Spread all about, and all those suspected of guilt
Were dragged before the Court; and the Métis meekly surrendered
Their territory and property –and though still protecting
The Country with small attacks and skirmishes, the frontier
Was now a haven harvested by bandits and partisans.
And the Great Hunt was conducted where the "Great Corral"
Opened to anyone who smelled the danger of pursuit.
And suddenly came the patrols over the Cree
To the young that had left for "glory" and "blood."
Their massacre was long and drawn out—their fight
For “meaning” felling them unto the Earth until dawn.
The General was surprised when he saw the outfits—
The Agreement with the Chief had already been concluded.
But suddenly again he stood, greyer than before,
Suddenly unable to disguise his grief:
"I came down the path that is not overgrown:
Because if you do not use it, it disappears.”
His words started out from a distance, and he touched his forehead,
Then continued: "My fatigued people mourn,"
"Being unable to cope with the tiredness of the adolescent,
And unable to relieve what is given only to pacify:
So let me take them with me—
And by myself redeem the mistakes of others!"
And he was allowed to take away
The bodies by the path that he’d bequeathed to them to guard,
And did not touch the tribe, which began to grow
In newly recognised lands inhabited again.
"'- Guard Corral" – he used to say since then. –
"Resist not what is destined to be:
The Hunter is the one who is quiet, careful and fast,
The Victims are those whose doom wears no disguise, "
"Valour is where it is given to avoid the Loss;
Fame is where it is given to overcome the Loss:
We live together with those who will decide –
For small will be more to go! .. "
Since that declaration, he left the Camp and his power,
To live out his days alone, saying “ Bison must fall
In the Race" – and hunted to maintain his Spirit.
One day he fell down and, closing his eyes, said:
"At last, the Corral is destroyed! .." – A tear rolled down,
And his face froze in a smile. But soon, up rose his Spirit,
Borne on powerful shoulders tapering to dainty hooves –
His soul, a mighty Bison, but not cumbersome for O
Such speed and impossible purpose…
Vladislav Martynovitch © 2015