An Opportunity to be Better - Chapter 5 Page 2

Some of the younger "Message to Fèves" actors on the bleachers north of the Stadium waiting for their time to perform. The building behind can be seen in the photo on the top of Chapter 4 page 5.

On the left below are the words of Carson's script. The comments on the right are intended to clarify or amplify her words.


Hush: The summer dark has fallen
On the fertile Kansas plains;
On the people and the locusts
Whispering their little stories.
As the rabbits in their burrows,
And the coyotes in their dens,
And the prairie dogs and badgers
And the raccoons and the quail,
Tell their young of those who vanished;
Tell their young of prairie chickens
Buffalo and antelope
And the soaring great wild turkeys
That once lived here blest in hope.
Coyotes coax their young to caution -
To pour swiftly through the grass.
Lest they too must flee or perish
Like the buffalo and deer,
Like the prairie hens and turkeys,
Like the Indians themselves.

So the people tell their children
In the peaceful dusk of Kansas
As the winds grow soft and cooling,
Of the people come before us,
Of the people free as deer,
Of the ones before this evening,
Of the brave ones who came here
When the street out there was prairie
And the stores were gopher mounds.

People tell their young of hardship,
Of their legacies in courage, and of vision
And of faith and of honor and of kindness;
Of our heritage from Europe
And the cultural gifts of Asia,
Like the comfort of hot tea,
Like the jungle's gift of coffee,
Like the comfort of kimonos,
Of chrysanthemums and fans.

People tell their children - Careful!
Move with grace. The prairie bluestem
Is cut down. It cannot hide you,
Hide you in a circling world.
People know the world is watching,
People tell the children - Stop!
Take no more of food than feeds you;
Seek the wounded ones who need you;
Love the ones you need to love you;
Tend your fields with eyes above you,
Lest we die before the hunters,
Lest the buffalo and deer
Find us fellows in oblivion.

People tell their young be wiser,
Be more cautious than the Indians,
People tell their young be worthy
Of our heritage and blessings,
So we think about our blessings,
Tell them like a rosary.
Say "Excuse me," to the Indians;
Pay our penance to the vanquished;
Pay our penance to the living;
Pay our penance to the starving;
Pay our homage to all beauty
Gathered from the world beyond.

And regard their gifts as precious:
Music, pictures, dances, prayers,
Recipes and songs and dresses.
All the world has loved Hans Brinker
And his shining silver skates.
Joan D'Arc and Lafayette
We have thought of as our own.
Let us mention them with homage.
We are glad for La Paloma
As the stars have watched the river -
The Republican's meanderings
In this valley in the high-plains,
We will move in fact and fiction
Over fields and hidden places
Telling now our little stories.

Thinking of our German cousins -
Hungry too. A town in France
Needing milk for thin, pale children.
We may laugh and try to dance -
It's a gay world and a good one,
Life is light as well as sad.
Like the rabbit hiding from us,
We will eat the sweet raw carrot,
We will live as best we can
And repeat the old traditions
And the legends and the tales.
Take the good and fashion new ones,
Take the best for modern new ones,
Build a new and brave tradition
As we take from Hiawatha,
We once knew in childhood schoolbooks,
Words and meter for our story -

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a popular American poet who published "The Song of Hiawatha" in 1855. It was an instant success and for many years, the book was read in almost all public schools. Most of the adults present that warm summer’s evening in Morganville would have been familiar with both the words and the rhythm of the verse. The story centers on Hiawatha, a Native American who becomes a leader of his people.

Carson's adoption of a familiar and respected work as a pattern for the play's verse would have helped connect those present with her message. She quotes directly from part of the poem that suggests that all men are, at the core, the same, and are creatures of God.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple,
Who have faith in God and Nature,
Who believe that in all ages
Every human heart is human,
That in even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings
For the good they comprehend not,
That the feeble hands and helpless
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God's right hand in that darkness
And are lifted up and strengthened.

Listen to this simple story,
To a cycle of our village,
To our coming to snug haven,
To our little town's outgoing,
To our greeting to our neighbor -
To a Song of Morganville.

This paragraph is a direct quote from "The Song of Hiawatha."

Carson manages in a few short lines to hint at the town's sea-going namesake Captain Morgan finding his "snug haven" (harbor) and the village's current "outgoing" into the greater world.