This is Still the Place: Utah's 1897 Pioneer Jubilee

The commission offered a prize of one hundred dollars for the best poem presented, the topic being "The Pioneers." The award was made by the committee appointed, consisting of C.C. Goodwin, Alfales Young, and J.B. Toronto.

The successful poem is here introduced:

The Pioneers of Utah

Men built a city; flanked by fields of grain,

Gardens and vineyards nursed with tender care,

Near where a river cleft the billowy plain

Aye seaward sweeping; it was very fair;

Their watchful neighbors saw a temple reared

Wherein strange creed and mystic rite were taught,

And with fierce impulse rose; perchance they feared

Those who the seeming miracle had wrought,

Changing to Eden's bloom the stubborn sod;

Whatever adverse causes rancor lent,

The knowing all are children of one God

To love enjoined, decreed their banishment.

When Israel by Jehovah's prophet led,

Casting the heavy yoke and bitter toil

Of slavery, from cruel Egypt fled,

Nought they could claim remained the oppressor's spoil.

These men who built the city, tilled the lands,

Reared homes of plenty with a freeman's right;

Saw their possessions pass to covetous hands

Of their imbittered foemen ere their flight.

No faith, no courage of the ancient day

Exceeded theirs who thus their march begun;

Despite the hosts against them armed for fray,

These exiled Saints a glorious victory won.

Unshielded by the law, nay buffeted

And persecuted, they midst wintry blast

Went forth with boyant step and spirits, led

By no more weak and wild enthusiastic;

A leader born came forth! Who knew not fear,

As obstacles opposed, his strength increased,

Was one faint hearted he was nigh to cheer,

Counselling, guiding, Brother, Prophet, Priest;

Astute, inscrutable; in him were blent

Candor and subtlety; with wise command,

Through reckless wilds  €“ o'er half a Continent!

He brought them scathless to the promised land.

A waste of barren steeps  €“ and inter-vales  €“

And wells of Marah; they must push there,

Lost on the lava beds and desert trails,

Trod only by the nomad and the bear;

No land of milk and honey had they gained  €“

To capture, aye! To devastate, and spoil;

Nor blood of innocence their  €˜scutcheons stained,

They brake the bread of peace and honest toil.

Be just! O grave Historian! Just! O Bard!

The Saints  €“ who angel-led, or fury-driven,

Sought Utah's valleys  €“ torn and tempest scarred,

Breathed prayers that rose an incense unto Heaven.

We land the Norman who €”the sword unsheathed  €“

Usurping Harold's Kingdom, with intent

To found a dynasty; no word he breathed  €“

Nor thought disclosed save self aggrandizement.

Barons were made, adventurers gently born

With honors laden, and sequestered lands;

But pawn and peasant-meted alms and scorn,

And bid to venture not where nobles stand.

Wiser than Baron or Plantagenet

Who staked their lives for gain, the Pioneer

Transformed the desert wastes to Deseret,

And hailed each man a brother, and a peer.

What was, O Churchman! His belief, his creed?

We ask not, care not; might men of old

Bore imperfections; by their faith and deed

We weight them, as we separate the gold

From recrement; judge him by crucial test;

He sees these vales with desolation sown.

Said one €”"that benefactor is the best

Who grows two blades of grass where one had grown."

O! faith reward! Now and idle dream,

The long sought Canaan before him lies;

He floods the desert with the mountain stream.

And lo! It leaps transformed to Paradise.

Nor fared he forth alone in manhood's pride,

For woman  €“ reared in affluence  €“ her fears

Allayed by lofty faith  €“ walked by his side  €“

Their home to hallow with her prayers and tears;

Graybeard and stripling, and the prattling child;

What lured them, think ye, casuist astute;

An ignis fatuus, or ravings wild

Of priest or necromancer? Be ye mute,

O narrow bigot!  €˜tis not yours to know

What visions beckoned; some chronicler, with rage

And venom spent, fired with celestial glow,

Shall sketch the story of their pilgrimage.

O white haired sires, passed from the ways of men,

Are those who trod with you yon wild ravine,

Gazing with eager eyes on vale and glen

Your home thenceforth; recall once more that scene,

Then turn to this; from Wasatchs' frowning spires

To yon blue misty ranges of the west

Lie peaceful homes; beside their altar fires

As evening shadows fall your names are blest €”

And ages hence, when prejudice of creed

Has spent its force, shall men the story hear,

And kindle at the zeal, courageous deed,

And glorious faith of Utah's Pioneer.

----Com. Petitor

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