The Alamo: An Epic

Overview

The Alamo is an American epic about one of the great mythic moments in U.S. history. The subject is the Texas Revolution, the critical event in the complex and gradual takeover of Northern Mexico by Anglo-Americans, which culminated in the Mexican War and fixed the territories of the two major nation-states of North America. Part Odyssey, part Iliad, part American western, The Alamo follows the linked but episodic adventures of its hero, William Barret Travis, and the legendary figures Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie...
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Overview

The Alamo is an American epic about one of the great mythic moments in U.S. history. The subject is the Texas Revolution, the critical event in the complex and gradual takeover of Northern Mexico by Anglo-Americans, which culminated in the Mexican War and fixed the territories of the two major nation-states of North America. Part Odyssey, part Iliad, part American western, The Alamo follows the linked but episodic adventures of its hero, William Barret Travis, and the legendary figures Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie through the siege and battle of the Alamo, as they lead a vastly outmanned Texas army of independence against the charismatic and ruthless Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Like the major epics of the past, The Alamo is the product of an act of synthesis, in which elements from classical and Renaissance epic are blended with the realism of the historical novel, the pace of cinema, and the vividness of imagery characteristic of the best Romantic and Modernist lyric poetry. Into the familiar story of the Battle of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution, Michael Lind has introduced an unprecedented degree of historical accuracy, psychological realism, and social observation. Dozens of characters - ranging from the famous and great like Santa Anna and Sam Houston to the unfamiliar, like the wives and mothers of the small town of Gonzales, Texas, and the forgotten soldiers of the Mexican army - come to life in this epic retelling of an American legend.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Versatile, prolific and ambitious, Lind is a staff writer at the New Yorker, author of heavyweight works of political journalism (Up from Conservatism; The Next American Nation) and a novelist (Powertown). Before any of that, however, back in 1984, he began a poem about the Alamo. Twelve years later, Lind presents this masterly 6000-line narrative epic. It takes the form of 12 "books," each of which is composed of roughly 70 metered and rhymed seven-line stanzas and introduced by a one-page argument presented in rhymed couplets. Lind is remarkably faithful to the form he has set for himself, but that rigor, which can become tedious, is tempered by welcome gusts of vernacular language. To the Homeric battlefield Lind sometimes brings a visual sense that makes a reader think of Sam Peckinpah: "The fog unravels. But this is no fog,/ this blear amalgam of a scumbled dust/ and stinging fumes. An isolated leg,/ wrapped like a maize ear in a tattered husk/ of trouser cotton, glows in noonday dusk./ A headless soldier bows; the freckling paint/ has made his gulping pal a stigmaed saint." The narrative begins, classically, in medias res, and proceeds via flashbacks and forward leaps to tell the story of the Alamo and to paint the world in which the battle occurred. There are allusions to history and the stars; by names ("the Tennessean," "white-skinned Cherokee"), natural history (the origin of mustangs, "dogged spirits of the plains") and lengthy orations. Davey Crockett, Jim Bowie, Sam Houston, General Santa Anna and William Travis, the hero, appear in heroic postures but also in their human frailty, as do dozens of lesser players, both Mexican and Texan. Two appendixes, an essay on epic and one on heroic verse, offer Lind's apologia. They're interesting but unnecessary. The work speaks for itself. As a poem, as a narrative and as an effort at adapting a classical art form to the task of illuminating history, The Alamo is unforgettable. (Mar.) RISBN 0819522430 >This energetic collection is very different from Hillman's recent collections, Death Tractates (1992) and its companion volume Bright Existence. That pair took a somber, reflective tone in dealing with a close friend's death and Hillman's attempts to come to terms with mortality. This volume is as loose as the sequence of 12 poems from which comes the book's title-a wild ride that includes quotes, parenthetical fragments, monetary charts and wonderful poetic snapshots of Hillman's native Brazil (where her father worked in the sugar industry) as well as descriptions of her current life ("sometimes the outline of my husband's ear in the half dark/ looks like Brazil"). The poems are concerned with the connection between immediacy and history, body and soul, thought and feeling. But sustained poetic argument is not Hillman's focus here. Conceit and idea fade before sensuous descriptions of men and women whose "hands were sleek/ with asking sleek with asking," of schoolboys with "those long intramural after/ the library type fingers/ they would later put in you," and of girls standing "in long paisley dresses, coyote cries/ coming through them, something frightened and/ being canceled." In many ways, the collection lives up to its title: its attention is scattered, and so are its many pleasures.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Versatile, prolific and ambitious, Lind is a staff writer at the New Yorker, author of heavyweight works of political journalism (Up from Conservatism; The Next American Nation) and a novelist (Powertown). Before any of that, however, back in 1984, he began a poem about the Alamo. Twelve years later, Lind presents this masterly 6000-line narrative epic. It takes the form of 12 "books," each of which is composed of roughly 70 metered and rhymed seven-line stanzas and introduced by a one-page argument presented in rhymed couplets. Lind is remarkably faithful to the form he has set for himself, but that rigor, which can become tedious, is tempered by welcome gusts of vernacular language. To the Homeric battlefield Lind sometimes brings a visual sense that makes a reader think of Sam Peckinpah: "The fog unravels. But this is no fog,/ this blear amalgam of a scumbled dust/ and stinging fumes. An isolated leg,/ wrapped like a maize ear in a tattered husk/ of trouser cotton, glows in noonday dusk./ A headless soldier bows; the freckling paint/ has made his gulping pal a stigmaed saint." The narrative begins, classically, in medias res, and proceeds via flashbacks and forward leaps to tell the story of the Alamo and to paint the world in which the battle occurred. There are allusions to history and the stars; by names ("the Tennessean," "white-skinned Cherokee"), natural history (the origin of mustangs, "dogged spirits of the plains") and lengthy orations. Davey Crockett, Jim Bowie, Sam Houston, General Santa Anna and William Travis, the hero, appear in heroic postures but also in their human frailty, as do dozens of lesser players, both Mexican and Texan. Two appendixes, an essay on epic and one on heroic verse, offer Lind's apologia. They're interesting but unnecessary. The work speaks for itself. As a poem, as a narrative and as an effort at adapting a classical art form to the task of illuminating history, The Alamo is unforgettable. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Who wouldn't admire, in principle at least, a 281-page narrative poem that rhymesnot in mere quatrains but in the rhyme royale championed by Chaucer and Shakespeare? This first and amazingly ambitious book of poetry by neo-liberal neo-conservative Lind was written, according to the author, over a period of 12 years. It details the events of the Texas Revolution, ending in the bloody defeat of the Alamo in 1836. The poet makes liberal use of the Homeric simile: "The presidarios has disappeared/ into the motte's dim maze, the way a corps/ of snuffling javelinas blend with weird/ penumbras in the forest near the shore." Unfortunately, the effect can be more Disneyesque than classical, with embellished detail standing in for affect: "her baby palisaded against harms/ and horror by a pair of freckled arms." Lind's iambic pentameter gets bogged down by syllable-spacing adjectives, and the rhymevirtuously perfect, rather than slant or offhas a plotted feel to it. But as the action picks up in Book 5, so does the writing. An essay on the epic form follows a glossary and historical timetable. For larger collections.Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York
School Library Journal
YA--The story of the siege of the Alamo, written as an epic poem. The battle is covered from the opening shots to the last-ditch stand of the defenders. Lind brings to life not only the major historical figures such as Davy Crockett, William Travis, and General Santa Ana, but also minor characters ranging from a Mexican infantryman to Susannah Dickinson, wife of one of the American officers, as well as the numerous defenders whose names have been lost. The author closes with a lengthy essay on the history of epic poetry and a glossary that reads as a who's who of the characters mentioned in the poem. Although fictionalized, the poem is meticulously researched and filled with so much detail that it could easily be mistaken for a history book.--Robert Burnham, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395827581
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 3/6/1997
  • Pages: 351
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 8.24 (h) x 1.19 (d)

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One


BOOK ONE


Confusion. All around is churning smoke,
    a supernova's planet-flensing shroud,
an embryonic solar system's yolk.
    No shapes, but for the shadows in the cloud
    that swell and sway and pulsate to the loud
oceanic throb, a thunder to convulse
a cosmos, the percussion of a pulse.
The fog unravels. But this is no fog,
    this blear amalgam of a stumbled dust
and stinging fumes. An isolated leg,
    wrapped like a maize ear in a tattered husk
    of trouser cotton, glows in noonday dusk.
A headless soldier bows; the freckling paint
has made his gulping pal a stigmaed saint.
Across the fuming field, the dying stir
    among the dead. Their moaning and their throes
alert the splendid cavalry, who spur
    their horses and parade amid their foes.
    Wielding their spears as bargemen would use
their staffs to lever flatboats, lancers pole
from man to man and spare no pleading soul.
Beyond, more butchery. The rebel town
    is bleeding streams of black into the skies,
the way a seal, when sharks have dragged it down,
    will stain aturquoise current as it dies.
    Across the splintered barricades with cries
of "Death to traitors!" grimy conscripts vault.
The breastworks tumble under their assault.
With bayonets, daggers, and naked hands,
    the stormers hack and chop and stab and slash.
The slow notes of Deguello from the band's
    emplacement drone through cannon croak and crash;
    the melody that Spain learned in its clash
with Muslim arms, "No Quarter," starts to swell
as Zacatecas is annexed by hell.
These scenes a spyglass frames within its lens;
    lowering the lorgnette, the architect
who drafted this methodic violence
    gives rage a voice: "Serrano's almost wrecked
    my strategy! I told him to connect
with Rivas at the square... They've let some go!
Where are the lancers? Why are they so slow?"
He gnaws plug-opium, although in truth
    he's grown already giddy with the aid
of hot twelve-pounders. Still a handsome youth
    in aspect, this commander, in his braid
    and bicorne, might be marshal of a parade;
the frills may be a fop's, the soul within
belongs to a practiced puppeteer of men.
Santa Anna scowls, barks, paces like a coach
    upon the sidelines in a frantic game,
only to fill silent, as horsemen approach,
    shepherding gentry diminished by shame.
    A captain gives one prisoner a name:
"This one is the alcalde..." "Excellency,"
the mayor begins, "for all of us I plea—"
"Where is Zavala?" Santa Anna snarls.
    "Where is he? Where's the traitor? Has he flown?"
The alcalde murmurs something, then he curls
    in pain around a stock, emits a groan
    as soldiers warp his arm. "Zavala's gone
to Texas—" "When?" The President wants to know.
"He left a day...perhaps two days ago..."
"Gone to Texas." The young caudillo swears.
    "The man is now a traitor to his race,
and not just to his country. Damn it, where's
    Almonte?" The adjutant assumes his place
    beside the general, trying to keep pace
with Santa Anna's stride (his master, bred
of Creoles, tops Almonte by a head).
"Almonte—a dispatch to General Cos
    up in Coahuila. Tell him to prepare
to reinforce all the presidios
    along the Texas coast—and the one at Bexar—
    what is it? Alamo. I once fought there,
with Arredondo. Fifteen years ago
we crushed seditious San Antonio."
"That was a day like this—" A cannon thud,
    succeeded by a whistle, punctuates
Santa Anna's reminiscence. "So much blood,
    such slaughter! Every old Tejano hates
    the name of Arredondo. Still, the gates
have been secure a while on that frontier,
thanks not to loyalty, but thanks to fear."
"What that old butcher taught me, I'll remind
    the yanquis up in Texas, if they dare
to join the rebels here. They have designed
    for years to sever Texas; if they tear
    that province off, then powers everywhere
will join them in their plundering—Britain, France,
and Spain, they'll rush to amputate our lands."
The autocrat watches his conscripts prod
    the men of Zacatecas into groups,
forcing them to strip and kneel, to be shot
    or bayoneted. Nearby, inside loops
    of hooting, waiting comrades, other troops
rock atop stunned women. "See the fate
seditious towns in Texas can await."
The rebel leader and the forlorn hope
    who won the war for Texas in defeat
I aim to recollect. The lonely troop
    who spurned alike surrender and retreat
    to stand with stubborn Travis will repeat
their vigil on the consecrated wall
of Alamo and with it once more fall.
That legion yet stands watch on the frontier
    between imagination and the tract
of memory, where echoed speech rings clear
    as poetry, the truth's own dialect.
    The dame of that domain, if lore be fact,
embodied in blue light will sometimes prowl
a hollow lane or glide through a corral;
more often, she's a woman in a cloak
    on horseback, face occulted by a hood,
no sooner glimpsed than blent with wind and smoke—
    the Weeper, whose half-lost, half-understood
    lament will swell through cactus clump and wood
as she hunts for new children who, when found,
can take the place of those whom she has drowned.
Our Lady of the dolorous frontier,
    search for your brood no more. Tomorrow we
as well must follow you through bend and tier
    to melt in eddies of infinity.
    Those who precede us, Lady let us see;
restore what the assimilating flow
absorbed, two armies at the Alamo.
From Zacatecas orders galloped forth.
    Before the month had ended (it was June
of Eighteen Thirty-Five) a pair rode north
    from occupied Coahuila through the moonlike
    craters of the Texas road. By noon
the second day, the couriers vaguely knew
their shrinking shadows had grown shadows too.
Swerving as one, the soldiers left the trail,
    spurs pumping the felt bellows of each beast.
They did not slow in answer to the hail
    of masked pursuers—three of them, at least.
    Just when the riders thought the chase had ceased,
they saw the fourth one waiting. Summer sun
flexed like quicksilver on his leveled gun.
Morosely the two messengers looked on
    as captors skinned the bags. Though kerchiefs masked
their features, their accented tones belonged
    to North Americans. Their leader tasked
    his men to hurry, though not one had basked.
Above his silk bandanna, turquoise eyes,
scanning a dispatch, widened in surprise.
That night, in the informal capital
    of Texas, the crude cabin colony
of San Felipe de Austin, in the full
    town-council chamber, settlers mobbed to see
    the civil war's most famous refugee,
lately ambassador of Mexico
in Paris, now his former master's foe.
"This tyrant never tires," Zavala told
    the Texans jostling in the lamplit room.
"The blood of Zacatecas makes him bold,
    that vampire bat. Now equal horrors loom
    for sad Coahuila, sentenced to its doom;
its Governor, Viesca, has been seized
by General Cos. No doubt Santa Anna's pleased."
"Before the Governor was overthrown,
    he moved the seat of government to Bexar;
the net Santa Anna's weaving will be sewn
    completely, if he plants an army there.
    I dread to think how Texas then will fare."
The dapper rebel daubed a somber face
belonging to his nation's ruling race.
"The choice is yours, my countrymen, my friends.
    Let Texas thunder `No!' to tyranny,
and here this Caesar's dream of empire ends.
    If San Antonio is not to be
    our Philippi, we must prove liberty
is not the creed of cowards. `Cicero!'
must be our cry. Let Roman daggers glow!"
Zavala's answer came from J. B. Miller,
    the town's boss: "Don Lorenzo, shouldn't we
be fretting more about this Meskin feller
    than all them Romans?" The raucous glee
    had to be gaveled down insistently.
"Now, folks, I have a letter, signed by Cos,
addressed to `countrymen'—that's us, I suppose."
"Now General Cos, he tells us he's restored
    lost `order' to Coahuila—that's his phrase,
in Spanish. He goes on to give his word
    that from now on our customary ways
    will be respected. Oh—in a few days,
as part of Santa Anna's amnesty,
our good friend Stephen Austin will be free."
His later words were lost beneath a cheer
    no gavel could restrain. There was no man
respected more in Texas than the austere
    successor to the Moses of this land.
    His skill in parley with those in command
had won Stephen Austin fame—till his arrest
in Mexico, as warning to the rest.
If even Austin, peacefulest of all
    the Texan leaders, could be seized and penned
without a hearing, what fate might befall
    those fellow Texans aching to defend
    their chartered rights with more than ink and wind?
The news of the impresario's release,
to this, added an argument for peace:
"We have to wait, till Austin has returned
    unharmed." The voice was that of Lemuel Wright,
a farmer, but the thought, it would be learned,
    was common property. "This ain't our fight.
    Forgive me, Don Lorenzo, but we might
just have to dicker with this latest corps
of Generals, as we did with them before."
To shouts of "Yellow-belly!" Wright replied,
     "You call me what you want, but I have seen
these revolutions come in like the tide
    and go out the next day. What do they mean
    for us up here in Texas? We'll just lean
toward Santa Anna as we did before
toward Bustamante; our peace, and their war."
"You do not understand!" Zavala cried.
    "I know Santa Anna well. This amnesty
for Austin, it's a ploy meant to divide..."
    The voices medleyed, their cacophony
    too fit a symbol of their polity.
Like ants within a hall a twig has wrecked,
the settlers were convulsed to no effect.
Debate declined when, through the crowd, with slow,
    majestic strides, a graying giant lumbered
whom none in hall or country did not know.
    This white-skinned Cherokee had often slumbered
    upon the robe in which he was encumbered;
his hat was Mexican; like souvenirs,
accoutrements evoked the man's careers.
Before the grave Sam Houston could begin,
    Lem Wright assailed him. "Houston, you and all
your War Dog friends want to stampede us in
    a war with Mexico. That's been your goal
    since you arrived. And as for us—to hell
with us old settlers, who came here in peace!"
Sam Houston faced the crowd, and spoke with ease:
"You've heard me called a `War Dog' here tonight;
    a `War Dog'! That's not rhetoric, it's rant.
A warrior, I'll own to; if a fight
    is justified, I'll add my strength, I grant.
    To hint, though, that we blooded soldiers pant
for slaughter, just because we plan and spar,
proves ignorance of warriors and war.
"Each morning I am wakened by the wound
    I've worn since, with my brother Cherokee,
I rushed the barricade at Horseshoe Bend
    for General Jackson. No one need tell me
    about the costs of war's ferocity;
the orphaned child, the bride both newly wed
and widowed I have seen; and I have bled.
"There's nothing in the world that's worse than war,
    with one exception, and that is defeat.
To win a clash, and at the same time spare
    the ready warrior, that is a feat
    to match a sack or siege. Those who can treat
successfully need never peel the steel;
a diplomatic triumph's triumph still."
His face conveyed no secrets with its flex,
    no more than does the mask upon the snapper
that broods beneath the Mississippi's dregs,
    invisible but for the fleshy clapper
    inside the beak's dark bell. The patient trapper
bemuses prey with its tongue's wagging pink,
then gulps down the hovering fish in a wink.
"We've learned tonight that General Cos has vowed
    to treat our chartered freedoms with respect,
and I believe a man should be allowed
    to prove he's honest. Some folks might suspect
    an oath made by the officer who sacked
Coahuila's legislature—but we've heard
that General Cos has given us his word.
"Now General Cos is brother, through his wife,
    to General Santa Anna. Some might doubt
a man so placed would risk his rank or life
    rather than lie in a decree sent out
    to foreign settlers. Still, only a lout
would hide the policy that he preferred;
and General Cos has given us his word."
As Houston paused, the murmur in the place
    grew deeper. Through the doorway in the back
a figure eased. The tall latecomer's face
    was hidden by a brim and silk cravat.
    As if by accident, he touched his hat,
and Houston just as casually replied
by nodding, negligently, and unspied.
"The question, then," the Tennessean resolved,
    "is whether we are willing to believe
the claims of a commander who dissolved
    a Congress before turning to relieve
    a Governor of freedom. Our reprieve
is more than such a tyranny deferred—
for that, we have—what else? the General's word."
"The General is a liar—here's the proof!"
    The voice, cornet-crisp, came from the man
beneath the broad-brimmed hat. No more aloof,
    he sauntered forward, waving in his hand
    a lettered page. "I hold here a command
from Cos to Anahuac's presidio,
intercepted only hours ago."
The room convulsed, despite the gavel's clang
    and Miller's: "Mister Travis, you can wait
your turn to speak!" Sam Houston's thunder rang:
    "The floor is his. We need to hear this late
    intelligence, before there's more debate."
The hubbub ebbed, as Travis doffed his hat
and paused to place his bangs, just like a cat.
Four summers less than thirty he had seen,
    but Travis was far more than the absurd
young dandy neighbors knew. A mind too keen
    for one of his thin years could be inferred
    from nervous eyes the color of the bird
that haunts the jungles by the Mayan sea
and dies if forced into captivity.
"Your Honor, would you kindly verify
    the authenticity of this dispatch?"
When Miller gave both sheets a careful eye,
    he nodded. "Yes, the signatures do match."
    Zavala next translated, patch by patch,
the orders Cos had meant to keep covert
from all but those he wanted to alert.
"`Some veterans from the recent campaign
    will be arriving,'" Don Lorenzo read
to his hushed listeners. "He can only mean
    the siege that left half Zacatecas dead.
    There's more, and worse," the learned exile said.
"`With these new troops, the Texas situation
must be resolved in favor of our nation.'"
The voice of Travis carried through the cries
    that these last words educed. "Thus General Cos,
the friend of Texas, ventures to apprise
    his underlings of what he plans for those
    he's marked for carving—here, a fine fat roast,
and there, a steak—the feast to be delayed
till he equips the butcher with a blade."
Once more the town was tangled in debate:
    "We'll stop `em in the west!" "No, seal the coast!"
"We ought to free Viesca!" "He's just bait!"
    The cautious Miller, who had been opposed
    to any provocation, saw that most
of his constituents were now agreed
upon a course too dangerous to lead;
he nominated Houston to enlist
    militiamen from Austin's colony.
From Houston, a recusal: "I insist
    that Travis take command. He knows the sea
    approaches to Fort Anahuac, which we
must make our own." He added, "I hear tell
that Mister Travis knows that fortress well."
Like honking geese that cease their aimless eddy
    and fall in, one by one, behind a bird
that rakes a wake with strokes both sure and steady,
    frontiersmen followed Travis, undeterred
    by neighbors who insisted they had erred.
The doubters shared misgivings with Lem Wright:
"Because of that young fool, we'll rue this night."
Beneath a canvas curve, the schooner named
    Ohio hurdled swells the next afternoon.
A small six-pounder on a truck was aimed
    at mocking gulls; it favored a spittoon.
    The soldier-citizens brayed out of tune
and passed a flask and wagered on the pack
of dolphins racing them to Anahuac.
In sight of palisades that sentried sand,
    the schooner anchored. Soon her cannon throbbed,
and water poled where foam besieged the land.
    Then, following the missile they had lobbed,
    a dozen raiders, in a bark that bobbed
and bellied up, rose dripping from the suds,
like foot-washing Baptists, dunked in their duds.
To half a dozen farmers and their wives,
    young Captain Travis (so he had been styled
that morning by the crew) announced, "Your lives
    and property will never be defiled
    again by tyranny!" A staring child
advanced and, in a flute's high piping note,
quizzed Travis, "Hey, mister, is that your boat?"
"When they seen you boys coming, they cleared out,"
    explained a sideburned settler, at whose side,
atop a gig, his bride, lipless and stout,
    was staring solemnly. When Travis tried
    to supplement his muster, none replied
with baying to the trumpet of the hunt;
they'd come to see, not be, the elephant.
An ancient story held that while Rome slumbered
    one midnight, it was menaced by the Gaul,
unheard, unseen, unconquered, till the unnumbered
    geese who dwelt there awoke the Capitol.
    A Latin goose on duty—that was all
that still remained in Mexico's stockade,
with picket pigs, and pullet enfilade.
The presidarios had disappeared
    into the motte's dim maze, the way a corps
of snuffling javelinas blend with weird
       when Travis, tracked by marksmen he had picked,
traversed a moonlit trail into the dark.
    "Tenorio! Tomorrow we expect
    our force to be increased. You can select
a peaceful exit, or prefer a fight ...
I won't wait for an answer here all night."
A shadow that had seemed to be a tree
    abruptly moved. Startled, the rebel heard
a Latin voice: "What is the guarantee
    that we shall not be harmed?" "You have the word
    of William Barret Travis that no hurt
and no disgrace will be inflicted on
your troops, if they come out unarmed at dawn."
The Mexican commander, in a moment,
    responded, "Travis ... Colonel Bradburn shared
some anecdotes of your campaign to foment
    revolt a few years back. Twice you have flared
    the tinder here. Senor, you should beware,
lest General Santa Anna and his men
ensure you never take a fort again."
At Harrisburg, a town a little way
    upriver, settlers watched the schooner dock
and then divulge the filibuster's prey.
    The commandant, in braid, stirred fervent talk
    beneath the bonnets that turned with his walk.
The Mayor of Harrisburg stepped forth to greet
the officer, repealing his defeat.
Infuriated, Travis told the Mayor,
    "Tenorio's a prisoner of war!"
The answer made the rebel clench and glare:
    "No, sir, he's not a captive anymore.
    It's you they'll fit for feathers and for tar;
the settlements are voting to condemn
your raid as one young vengeful hothead's whim."
"What's happened, Travis?" his companions pestered
    their bitter Captain, as he climbed the boat.
He spat out: "They've surrendered to the bastard."
    On shore, a band struck up a jaunty note
    as notables admired the fancy coat
and saber of their unexpected guest.
Men's hands he shook, and ladies' hands he kissed.
Now rumor gusted inland. Hurricanes,
    in carouseling, send the selfsame shock
through blinded lakes and tawny, hackling plains;
    on hearing thunder nearing, horses pock
    their pens with nervous runes, the roosters squawk,
and cattle boom in answer; so the towns
were stirred by murmur. Travis was denounced.
"They're saying Cos is heading toward us now!"
    a rider shouted to the startled settlers
in San Felipe's tavern. "This is how
    I told you it would be, if we let meddlers
    like Travis have their way!" A hiss like a rattler's
assented to Lem Wright's vindictive croon.
The mob dived into dusk from the saloon.
Like hounds whose prints erase the puma's paw
    they follow, as they drag ranchers despoiled
of goats or beeves, contemptuous of law
    and warden alike, the colonists roiled
    around the shack where Travis slept and toiled
beneath a lawyer's shingle. When they wrenched
his door, they learned their prey would not be lynched.
A few miles north, the prairie was at peace.
    The cattle lowed in shadow. In corrals
the horses stood like trees. The dogs had ceased
    their clamoring. The fluting of the owls
    emerged from thickets, and the bobcat's growls.
The way was lit for possum and raccoon
by a belligerent Comanche moon.
Two tiny riders, in that silver noon
    at midnight, made their slow uncertain way
across the chaparral. A satrap moon
    spied from the river where they chose to stay.
    Their camp was spare, in case there was a fray;
fearing a campfire's flicker would reveal
their bivouac, they gnawed a dry, cold meal.
"Remember, Joe, the night we waded through
    the border?" The slave shifted on the ground
beside his master. "Sure enough. Wind blew
    the fire plumb out." The pensive Travis frowned.
    "You fussed, I cussed, we nearly turned around.
Joe, tell me if I'm wrong; the old Sabine,
her eyes, they didn't glitter half as mean."
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Table of Contents

Part One
Book One SHIPWRECK 3
Book Two THE FIRST REVOLT 27
Book Three IDYLLS 49
Book Four HORSE SOLDIER 71
Part Two
Book Five THE BATTLE FOR COMMAND 97
Book Six THE NEARING STORM 119
Book Seven BESIEGED 143
Book Eight COUNCILS OF WAR 165
Part Three
Book Nine DEATH AT DAWN 191
Book Ten WAR IN THE WALLS 211
Book Eleven HAND TO HAND 235
Book Twelve EMBASSIES 259
Appendix: On Epic 285
Glossary 319
Chronology 347
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