Every now and then, we come across a poem that isn’t that famous and seems to be forgotten. At The Ministry of Poetic Affairs, we do our best to share as much poetry as we can. Even the poems that are simply too beautiful to be forgotten. Therefore, this is the poem “Ode to Sequoyah” written by Alexander Posey.
About the poet
Read more about the life of Alexander Posey in this article.
About the poem
This poem is his way of stressing out the importance of the Sequoyah Constitutional Convention. This attempt was made in the early years of the twentieth century to secure the statehood for the Indian Territory. This would have to lead to the separation of the Oklahoma Territory and give rights to the Native Americans. The Convention wasn’t successful but lead to the founding of the American state of Oklahoma.
Posey worked as a secretary for this organization and was also the publisher of a Native American newspaper (the Eufaula Indian Journal, 1901). He wrote about the way Native Americans were treated in the Fus Fixico Letters.
The Sequoyah, who Posey paid tribute to, was a Cherokee silversmith. He was responsible for the invention of the Cherokee writing system.
The poem was written in 1899. In the versions that were later published, the last stanza was left out. This poem is not only about Sequoyah, but the Cherokee dream. A dream shattered by the colonization of America.
Below is the full version of the poem Ode to Sequoyah, as it was first written by Posey.
Ode to Sequoyah
The names of Waitie and Boudinot—
The valiant warrior and gifted sage—
And other Cherokees, may be forgot,
But thy name shall descend to every age;
The mysteries enshrouding Cadmus’ name
Cannot obscure thy claim to fame.
The people’s language cannot perish—nay,
When from the face of this great continent
Inevitable doom hath swept away
The last memorial—the last fragment
Of tribes,—some scholar learned shall pore
Upon thy letters, seeking ancient lore.
Some bard shall lift a voice in praise of thee,
In moving numbers tell the world how men
Scoffed thee, hissed thee, charged with lunacy!
And who could not give ’nough honor when
At length, in spite of jeers, of want and need,
Thy genius shaped a dream into a deed.
By cloud-capped summits in the boundless west,
Or mighty river rolling to the sea,
Where’er thy footsteps led thee on that quest,
Unknown, rest thee, illustrious Cherokee!
— Alexander Posey