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Donald Davidson: Sanctuary

This newsletter is written by conservatives for conservatives. Thus, we assume that we have at least a few preppers among our readership. This poem by Donald Davison is for them.


You must remember this when I am gone, And tell your sons - for you will have tall sons, And times will come when answers will not wait. Remember this: if ever defeat is black Upon your eyelids, go to the wilderness In the dread last of trouble, for your foe Tangles there, more than you, and paths are strange To him, that are your paths, in the wilderness, And were your fathers' paths, and once were mine.

You must remember this, and mark it well As I have told it - what my eyes have seen And where my feet have walked beyond forgetting. But tell it not often, tell it only at last When your sons know what blood runs in their veins. And when the danger comes, as come it will, Go as your fathers went with woodsman's eyes Uncursed, unflinching, studying only the path. First, what you cannot carry, burn or hide. Leave nothing here: for him to take or eat. Bury, perhaps, what you can surely find If good chance ever bring you back again. Level the crops. Take only what you need: A little corn for an ash-cake, a little Side-meat for your three days' wilderness ride. Horses for your women and your children, And one to lead, if you should have that many. Then go. At once. Do not wait until You see his great dust rising in the valley. Then it will be too late. Go when you hear that he has crossed Will's Ford. Others will know and pass the word to you A tap on the blinds, a hoot-owl's cry at dusk.

Do not look back. You can see your roof afire When you reach high ground. Yet do not look. Do not turn. Do not look back. Go further on. Go high. Go deep.

The line of this rail-fence east across the old-fields Leads to the cane-bottoms. Back of that, A white-oak tree beside a spring, the one Chopped with three blazes on the hillward side. There pick up the trail. I think it was A buffalo path once or an Indian road. You follow it three days along the ridge Until you reach the spruce woods. Then a cliff Breaks, where the trees are thickest, and you look Into a cove, and right across, Chilhowee Is suddenly there, and you are home at last. Sweet springs of mountain water in that cove Run always. Deer and wild turkey range. Your kin, knowing the way, long there before you Will have good fires and kettles on to boil, Bough-shelters reared and thick beds of balsam. There in tall timber you will be as free As were your fathers once when Tryon raged In Carolina hunting Regulators, Or Tarleton rode to hang the old-time Whigs. Some tell how in that valley young Sam Houston Lived long ago with his brother, Oo-loo-te-ka, Reading Homer among the Cherokee; And others say a Spaniard may have found it Far from De Soto's wandering turned aside, And left his legend on a boulder there. And some that this was a sacred place to all Old Indian tribes before the Cherokee Came to our eastern mountains. Men have found Images carved in bird-shapes there and faces Moulded, into the great kind look of gods. These old tales are like prayers. I only know This is the secret refuge of our race Told only from a father to his son, A trust laid on your lips, as though a vow To generations past and yet to come. There, from the bluffs above, you may at last Look back to all you left, and trace His dust and flame, and plan your harrying If you would gnaw his ravaging flank, or smite Him in his glut among the smouldering ricks. Or else, forgetting ruin, you may lie On sweet grass by a mountain stream, to watch The last wild eagle soar or the last raven Cherish his brood within their rocky nest, Or see, when mountain shadows first grow long, The last enchanted white deer come to drink.

Donald Davidson, 1938.

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