In Praise of Alexander Posey

Alexander Posey, the Creek poet, was a student and librarian at Indian University, now Bacone College, in the 1890s. During his brief life (1873-1908), Posey published essays, satire, stories, and wonderful poems about nature, life, and death. He wrote whimsically about life on the Indian University campus under the presidency of Almon Bacone.

For example, in the B[acone] I[ndian] U[niversity] Instructor, a periodical published by Indian University in the 1890s, he wrote of a student-faculty picnic along the banks of the Arkansas River:

The “picnic was enjoyed in a beautiful grove of walnut trees on the Arkansaw river.” Everyone listened to the wonderful cry of the birds, which (quoting James Whitcomb Riley), “had something new in cadence for the hearing.” Students walked or rode in wagons a mile north of the Indian University campus “to the nymph and faun-hanted woods.” They ate and played games, such as croquet and baseball, and took boat rides on the river and walked along the shore. “The picnic grounds afforded a picturesque view of the confluence of Grand River with the Arkansaw, and the distant outlines of the historic and now deserted, Fort Gibson. Thus a day was spent with Nature in one of the loveliest spots of which the Hesperian lands can boast.”

At about the same time Posey wrote that “quotations from the poets on that delightful season” of spring “are beginning to appear on our black board. Even the professors, one or two at least, have betrayed inclinations to write delicious rhymes in praise of her for the coming violets and redolent breath already. Do not be surprised if you should see a book issued by the B[acone] I[ndian] U[niversity] press ere long, entitled, ‘Spring and Other Poems’.”

In his poem, Twilight, published in the Bacone Indian University Instructor in 1893, he imagined the setting sun on the seashore:

Beyond the far-off waves, the seagulls cry,

As twilight shades

The emerald glades

And zephyrs waft the strains of nightbirds nigh,

Now sinks the sun–

Its course is run–

The day is done–

It fades in the gold of the western sky.

Alexander Posey was the kind of person that Almon Bacone often talked about: an indigenous American, thoughtful and talented, given the chance to grow and bloom in a college in the midst of Indian Territory. When Bacone said, “A Christian school planted in the midst of a people becomes one of the most powerful agencies in the work of civilization,” he was thinking of the likes of Alexander Posey.

About theamericanplutarch

Writer, thinker, historian.
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