The Empire Sofa

They could grow used to seeing bones
Of buffalo and sometimes men,
They could grow strong on cracking dreams
Of gold to give them rest again,
They could pit happy years to come
Against the prairie’s timeless length,
They had illusions that could calm
The frantic restlessness of strength.

But things like this they had to pass,
Sunk in the sand on the Arkansas,
This rosewood sofa that clutched the sun
With every foot a gryphon’s claw;
They saw it shining far ahead,
They turned to see it far behind,
And dreamed of men who dared not lose
The things they dared not hope to find.

One wagon whistled Money Musk,
Another chattered into laughter,
But no one spoke to anyone
About what they were going after;
An hour creaked by and dreams came back,
The wagons talked with even breath
And grew secure the more they passed
The more familiar forms of death.

 [Thomas Hornsby Ferril, “The Empire Sofa,” in High Passage (1926)]

Also, this from Parkman’s Oregon Trail:

It is worth noticing, that on the Platte one may sometimes see the shattered wrecks of ancient claw-footed tables, well waxed and rubbed, or massive bureaus of carved oak. These, many of them no doubt the relics of ancestral prosperity in the colonial time, must have encountered strange vicissitudes. Imported, perhaps, originally from England; then, with the declining fortunes of their owners, borne across the Alleghanies to the remote wilderness of Ohio or Kentucky; then to Illinois or Missouri; and now at last fondly stowed away in the family wagon for the interminable journey to Oregon. But the stern privations of the way are little anticipated. The cherished relic is soon flung out to scorch and crack upon the hot prairie.

The Empire Sofa

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