Tuesday, 7 August 2007

'The Westerner,' by Badger Clark, 1947

My fathers sleep on the sunrise plains,
And each one sleeps alone.
Their trails may dim to the grass and rains,
For I choose to make my own.
I lay proud claim to their blood and name,
But I lean on no dead kin;
My name is mine for the praise or scorn,
And the world began when I was born
And the world is mine to win.

They built high towns on their old log sills,
Where the great, slow rivers gleamed,
But with new, live rock from the savage hills
I’ll build as they only dreamed.
The smoke scarce dies where the trail camp lies,
Till rails glint down the pass;
The desert springs into fruit and wheat
And I lay the stones of a solid street
Over yesterday’s untrod grass.

I waste no thought on my neighbor’s birth
Or the way he makes his prayer.
I grant him a white man’s room on earth
If his game is only square.
While he plays it straight I’ll call him mate;
If he cheats I drop him flat.
Old class and rank are a worn-out lie,
For all clean men are as good as I,
And a king is only that.

I dream no dreams of a nursemaid State
That will spoon me out my food.
A stout heart sings in the fray with fate
And the shock and sweat are good.
From noon to noon all the earthly boon
That I ask my God to spare
Is a little daily bread in store,
With the room to fight the strong for more,
And the weak shall get their share.

The sunrise plains are a tender haze
And the sunset seas are gray,
But I stand here, where the bright skies blaze
Over me and the big today.
What good to me is a vague “maybe”
Or a mournful “might have been,”
For the sun wheels swift from morn to morn
And the world began when I was born
And the world is mine to win.


  1. That was awesome, PC. Thanks.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. William Sommerwerck10 May 2014, 02:20:00

    As a student of Badger Clark's life and works, I sometimes have trouble understanding what he was getting at. This poem is a good example. His disdain for government doing for people what they should be doing for themselves is obvious. So is the belief that the challenges of life are what makes life worth living. Beyond that...

    Clark's writings strike me as largely anti-materialistic. Wealth and power are of little interest. To interpret "the world began when I was born, * and the world is mine to win" as praise for unfettered greed is, I think, to badly misread Clark. As he was no socialist, he was no capitalist.

    His dismissal of class and rank seem to be a rejection of the things most people think important. And when he talks about fighting the strong for a larger share, I believe he is criticizing the way things are, not accepting (let alone praising) them.

    One poem, essay, or short story does not define a writer. Anyone interested in Badger Clark should read as much of his writing as possible. All of it is worth reading. I particularly like "The Campfire's Song" (I think that's the title), which is an attack on western values.

    * Clark did not originate this. In the "Gunsmoke" episode "A Hat", it is attributed to the Blackfoot.

    William Sommerwerck grizzledgeezer@comcast.net

    1. the * comment was also paraphrased by objective philosopher Ayn Rand and echoes the work and words of Greek philosopher Epicurus

    2. Epicurus suffered all his life from ill health. This resulted in his belief that "good" and "bad" were to be judged by pleasure. He determined that a simple life afforded the greatest and most-meaningful pleasure. Whether this influenced Badger Clark, I don't know. Regardless, I don't see what the connection with Badger Clark's use of this expression is. Here are Ms Rand's thoughts.


      A Google search shows no one but Badger Clark as the source of this observation, but I doubt it was original with him. When I have more time, I might search further.

      If you read through Badger Clark (who lived a simple and unadorned life), you'll see that he had zero interest in wealth ("The Yellow Stuff"). There's at least one poem or short story (I forget which one) suggesting he approved of government "interference" in protecting wilderness from the depredations of developers and other capitalists. Do you honestly believe he didn't approve of what Teddy Roosevelt did?

      Any sensible person reading Badger Clark -- including liberals, such as myself -- will have no trouble agreeing with his values -- all of them -- which made sense for a society not infected by industrialization and the grotesque concentration of wealth. To put him among people who defend capitalism -- such as modern "conservatives" who want to see American public lands raped for private profit -- is a gross insult.

      There's a YouTube video celebrating Badger Clark. One of the singers deliberately alters Clark's lyrics to put an across-the-board anti-government slant on Clark's thoughts. A comprehensive reading of Clark shows that he viewed government as a force that could prevent environmental destruction.

      Read and think before you try to force your viewpoint on someone who, most assuredly, would never agree with you.

  4. You don't need to publish this.

    I appreciate your publishing contrary views from a liberal. I'm no hypocrite. Liberals are almost as bad as conservatives in projecting their points of view on subjects they don't understand. I honestly believe that truth is more important to me than anyone's opinion -- my own included.

    You might want to mull over this quote from Simone de Beauvoir: "I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth -- and truth rewarded me."

    Thank you.

  5. I'll look forward to reading more of

    1. My research for a book I am writing attributes the idiom, "The World Began the Day I Was Born" to the Crow Nations, and it originates from the nineteenth century or possible earlier.


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