At age 12, when I still thought I was or would be or could be a poet, John G. Neihardt figured large in my imagination. For 50-plus years he was Nebraska’s poet laureate. He began his editing and writing career in a cottage—really a shack—at the edge of the Omaha Indian reservation, 12 miles from where I grew up. Later he became known for the classic Black Elk Speaks, but early on he published lyric poetry such as that in A Bundle of Myrrh, which inspired me then though its romanticism embarrasses me today. Among some memorized lines that have stayed with me:
And grant me, when I face the grisly Thing, One haughty cry to pierce the gray Perhaps! O let me be a tune-swept fiddlestring That feels the Master Melody—and snaps!
He was right, as was the apostle Paul: there remains the “grisly Thing.” However, those in the Pauline tradition replace “pagan” Neihardt’s “Perhaps” with a “Yes” (2 Cor. 1:19-20).