poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

John Rollin Ridge was born on March 19, 1827, in the Cherokee Nation in Georgia. When Ridge was a child, his father and grandfather, both influential figures in the Cherokee Nation, decided to give up Cherokee lands and go west. Responding to federal pressure over the land, the Ridges and some other prominent Cherokees signed the 1835 Treaty of New Echota and thus became part of what was called the “Treaty Party,” which caused tension with Cherokee leader John Ross and a large portion of the Cherokee tribe. Ross and his faction opposed giving up Cherokee lands and viewed the Treaty Party as traitors for doing so.

From 1836 to 1837 the Ridges, having sold their Georgia holdings, traveled west, ahead of the forced removal of the rest of the Cherokee people that would lead to the Trail of Tears. In 1839, the conflict between the two Cherokee factions rose to a climax when a group from the antitreaty faction murdered Ridge’s father at their own home. That same night the faction also murdered Ridge’s grandfather and cousin, and the rest of the family fled to Arkansas.

From 1843 to 1845, Ridge studied at Great Barrington Academy in Massachusetts, where he studied Latin, Greek, and classical literature. Ridge went on to study law, but after killing a member of the rival Cherokee party in 1849, he fled to Missouri but left again the following year for a life in California, where he joined the gold rush but ultimately began his career as a noted newspaper editor and journalist.

In 1854, Ridge, who published under the name Yellow Bird (the English translation of his Cherokee name Chees-quat-a-law-ny), published The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit (W. B. Cooke and Co.), which became the first English novel written by a Native American writer.

After the Civil War, in the late 1860s, Ridge joined the Southern Cherokee party in Washington, D.C., to renegotiate with the federal government regarding the return of Cherokee lands.

Ridge spent the rest of his life in California, where he worked as editor of The Daily National until his death. Ridge died on October 5, 1867. In 1869, his wife posthumously published his Poems (Henry Payot & Company, 1868). 


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Poems (Henry Payot & Company, 1868)

The Still Small Voice

There is a voice more dear to me
Than man or woman’s e’er could be—
A “still small voice” that cheers
The woes of these my darker years.

I hear it in the busy crowd,
Distinct, amid confusion loud;
And in the solemn midnight still,
When mem’ries sad my bosom fill.

I hear it midst the social glee,
A voice unheard by all but me;
And when my sudden trance is seen,
They wondering ask, what can it mean?

The tones of woman once could cheer,
While woman yet to me was dear,
And sweet were all the dreams of youth,
As aught can be that wanteth truth!

How loved in early manhood’s prime,
Ambition’s clarion notes sublime!
How musical the tempest’s roar,
“That lured to dash me on the shore!”

These tones, and more all beautiful,
That did my youthful spirit lull,
Or made my bosom Rapture’s throne,
Have passed away, and left me lone.

And now that I can weep no more
The tears that gave relief of yore,
And now, that from my ruined heart
The forms that make me shudder, start;

I gaze above the world around,
And from the deeps of Heaven’s profound,
A “still small voice” descends to me—
“Thou’rt sad, but I’ll remember thee!”

As burns the life-light in me low,
And throws its ashes o’er my brow,
When all else flies, it speaks to me—
“Thou’t doomed, but I’ll remember thee!”

Then let my brow grow sadder yet,
And mountain-high still rise regret;
Enough for me the voice that cheers
The woes of these my darker years.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

John Rollin Ridge

John Rollin Ridge was the author of The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit (W. B. Cooke and Co., 1854), which became the first English novel written by a Native American writer, and Poems (Henry Payot & Company, 1868).

by this poet

poem

I look upon the purple hills
     That rise in steps to yonder peaks,
And all my soul their silence thrills
     And to my heart their beauty speaks.

What now to me the jars of life,
     Its petty cares, its harder throes?
The hills are free from toil and strife,
     And

poem

Let Earth be glad! for that great work is done,
Which makes, at last, the Old and New World one!
Let all mankind rejoice! for time nor space
Shall check the progress of the human race!
Though Nature heaved the Continents apart,
She cast in one great mould the human heart;
She framed on

poem

I cast a backward look—how changed
       The scenes of other days!
I walk, a wearied man, estranged
       From youth’s delightful ways.
There in the distance rolleth yet
       That stream whose waves my
Boyish bosom oft has met,
       When pleasure lit mine eye.
It