Preface: Kelvin at d’Verse Poets, asked us to write a poetic anecdote. This poem is based on an 1850 anecdote by Rufus Merrill called “The Humane Indian” (read it here). The last sentence in Merrill’s anecdote states: ““It is easy to decide which had the best title to the name Christian.”
An Indian Anecdote
‘Twas 1845 when “Manifest Destiny” hit the streets,
and though William Johns gave it no heed,
he took a Christian name to survive among the Whites
as they pilfered his Monacan land.
As a young boy, hungry after a failed two-day hunt,
this Indian happened upon a plantation owner
and requested if he could share a bit of his bread.
“Be gone, you Indian dog!”
came the words of that Virginian Christian,
Months later, while hunting fox
the same planter fell from his horse
and wandered the cold woods in the setting sun.
The smoke of a humble wigwam offered hope.
An Injun inside gave him meal, drink and rest.
In the morning light, William’s face, now clear
caused the fox hunter to eat shame with his porridge.
You see, young children, Jesus wasn’t White,
and like the young Monacan, Jesus understood:
“that when asked for your shirt
best you also gift your coat
than lose your precious soul.”
And if “Christian” is a label you need,
use it only for those who do good deeds.
by Sabio Lantz
- “Manifest Destiny“: Coined first in 1845 by O’Sullivan – but as idea, it existed for a century. It was first the notion that American settlers were on a divine mission to spread across the continent. Later it became the notion that it was America’s divine mission to promote and defend democracy throughout the world.
- Native American Tribes in Virginia (wiki): Merrill’s poem talks of a Virginia plantation so I looked for some Virginia tribe for my poem.
- The Monacan people (wiki): A Virginia tribe whose leader, John William, helped them survive for some time. I fictionalized this anecdote around John Williams.
- “gift your coat”: See Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5