Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce - Robert Penn Warren
Robert Penn Warren prefers a rather anglo-saxon mode of poetry, rich in alliteration and epithet-nouns, with loosely structured sentences and gnarly, vigorous rhythms. It works well for this long narrative work, which resembles an epic in that it has battles and a long journey in it, but an unconventional epic, centered on a war-hero who all his life kept trying to live in peace. Then too, Warren's modernism shows in the device he uses of constantly inserting historical quotes. I haven't read much of the words that remain from Chief Joseph, and don't have a good idea how true-to-life the characterization is in the long parts of the poem that Warren has Joseph narrate, but I will say that poem-Joseph is an amazing character that I'm glad to have "met". That's compensation for the necessarily depressing nature of this story, which Warren tells with due outrage, from the days before Lewis and Clark first met the Nez Perce, up to the present. But besides the theme of the struggle for the land, Warren keeps returning to the question of "manhood" (it's a very male narrative, with women only being mentioned in two brief passages, neither woman named) -- perhaps too typical of American men in the context of Indian wars.