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The Bad Lands
by Badger Clark


No fresh green things in the Bad Lands bide;
It is all stark red and gray,
And strewn with bones that had lived and died
Ere the first man saw the day.
When the sharp crests dream in the sunset gleam
And the bat through the canyon veers,
You will sometimes catch, if you listen long,
The tones of the Bad Lands' mystic song,
A song of a million years.

The place is as dry as a crater up,
Yet you hear, as the stars shine free,
From the barren gulches sounding up,
The lap of a spawning sea,
A breeze that cries where the great ferns rise
From the pools on a new-made shore,
With the whip and whir of batlike wings
And the snarl of slimy, fighting things
And the tread of the dinosaur.

Then the sea voice ebbs through untold morns,
And the jungle voices reign--
The hunting howl and the clash of horns
And the screech of rage and pain.
Harsh and grim is the old earth hymn
In that far brute paradise,
And as ages drift the rough strains fall
To a single note more grim than all,
The crack of the glacial ice.

So the song runs on, with shift and change,
Through the years that have no name,
And the late notes soar to a higher range,
But the theme is still the same.
Man's battle-cry and the guns' reply
Blend in with the old, old rhyme
That was traced in the score of the strata marks
While millenniums winked like campfire sparks
Down the winds of unguessed time.

There's a finer fight than of tooth and claw,
More clean than of blade and gun,
But, fair or foul, by the Great Bard's law
'Twill be fight till the song is done.
Not mine to sigh for the song's deep "why,"
Which only the Great Bard hears.
My soul steps out to the martial swing
Of the brave old song that the Bad Lands sing,
The song of a million years.