Monday, April 21, 2008

Big square Wyoming sends election greetings to small-town Wyoming, Pa.

They will be voting in the primary tomorrow in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania. The State of Wyoming allegedly got its name from this coal-mining region of the northeastern part of the state. I was thinking of this place (where I’ve never been) as I was making calls to Pennsylvania this weekend in behalf of Barack Obama. When I told people I was calling from Wyoming, I expected them to ask: "The big square state or the small Pa. town and/or county?" But nobody did. Maybe they were tired of the calls. One man said he was sick and couldn’t talk. An elderly woman was on her way out, possibly for Passover but I didn’t ask. I was calling numbers in Philadelphia, so maybe these city dwellers hadn't heard of this valley made famous by the 1809 poem, "Gertrude of Wyoming," by Scottish poet Thomas Campbell.

This poem is really long and flowery, as befitting its time. Campbell was a contemporary of Wordsworth and Coleridge but not nearly as well known. For good reason, as it turns out. From "Gertrude of Wyoming:"

Delightful Wyoming! beneath thy skies,
The happy shepherd swains had nought to do
But feed their flocks on green declivities,
Or skim perchance thy lake with light canoe,
From morn till evening's sweeter pastimes grew,
With timbrel, when beneath the forests brown,
Thy lovely maidens would the dance renew;
And aye those sunny mountains half-way down
Would echo flageolet from some romantic town.

Then, where of Indian hills the daylight takes
His leave, how might you the flamingo see
Disporting like a meteor on the lakes--
And playful squirrel on his nut-grown tree:
And every sound of life was full of glee,
From merry mock-bird's song, or hum of men;
While hearkening, fearing naught their revelry,
The wild deer arch'd his neck from glades, and then,
Unhunted, sought his woods and wilderness again.

And scarce had Wyoming of war or crime
Heard, but in transatlantic story rung,
For here the exile met from every clime,
And spoke in friendship every distant tongue:
Men from the blood of warring Europe sprung
Were but divided by the running brook;
And happy where no Rhenish trumpet sung,
On plains no sieging mine's volcano shook,
The blue-eyed German changed his sword to pruning-hook.

The poem goes on like this for another hundred stanzas or so. How’d you like to memorize that? Because of the rhyme, it would be easier to commit to memory than "Howl." But not nearly as interesting. I’m not sure if Campbell had ever stepped foot in Pennsylvania. Perhaps he’d hooked up with Coleridge and they huffed on the hookah together. Flamingoes in western Pa.? Shepherd swains tending their flocks while lovely maidens dance? And scarce had Wyoming of war or crime? Killing Indians doesn’t count, I guess. I would venture that in the late 18th century, just surviving from day to day would have been a challenge. Shepherds would be fighting off wolves and the maidens would be fighting off the shepherds. You’d be lucky just to survive childhood and the regular plagues of cholera and smallpox. If you were in the valley on July 3, 1778, Loyalist forces and their Iroquois allies driven from New York after the surrender of Saratoga killed more than 300 "Rebels" at the Battle of Wyoming. The Iroquois then hunted down the survivors. They tortured some 30-40 prisoners to death, according to the wikipedia entry on the subject.

Settlers in this part of fledgling America were probably too busy to be flamingo-watching.

Author and critic William Hazlitt wrote at the time that "Mr. Campbell excels chiefly in sentiment and imagery. The story moves slow, and is mechanically conducted, and rather resembles a Scotch canal carried over lengthened aqueducts and with a number of locks in it, than one of those rivers that sweep in their majestic course, broad and full, over Transatlantic plains, and lose themselves in rolling gulfs, or thunder down lofty precipices."

All that aside, how will the residents of Wyoming, Pa., vote on Tuesday? Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were in the neighborhood recently. Sen. Obama spoke today in Scranton, best known as the home of the Dunder-Mifflin crew on "The Office." Hillary was spotted nearby.

A new poll by Quinnipiac University showed Mrs. Clinton leading Mr. Obama by 51 percent to 44 percent, with a margin of error of 3 percentage points. A seven-point spread will not make much difference in delegate count. Sen. Obama will be the nominee because Mrs. Clinton cannot win enough delegates at this point. We in WYOMING USA are sure of this.

1 comment:

mpage225 said...

"A seven-point spread will not make much difference in delegate count. Sen. Obama will be the nominee because Mrs. Clinton cannot win enough delegates at this point. We in WYOMING USA are sure of this."

As are we in Independence, MO.