Jon C., Emily Downs

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Group Annotation

John, Emily, Jennifer, Anthony

literary styles

The Trail of Tears
By Brian Childers ©1998

Map of the trail of tears
Painting of the trail of tears

This entire poem is particulary powerful to me, because it is one man looking back on atrocities that have happened to his people in the past.

I (narrator) look to the long road behind
My heart is heavy with my people’s sorrow
Tears of grief I weep - for all that we have lost
As we march ever farther from the land of our birth - We've been talking quite a bit in World Religions about how much the Native American's valued ancestry, you can really see it here
On the Trail of Tears (repetition)
Trail of Tears, information
(And a great timeline, here)

Mile after mile and day after day - This line flows really well, the small repition makes it feel very smooth
Our people are fewer with each rising sun
Disease and starvation they take their terrible toll (alliteration) - These lines have really great imagery, contrasting the "rising sun" with the disease and starvation
And though we suffer still we march on… This is a great line that really showcases the strength of the Native American people, although many died, they still kept going - this picture is a great depictment of that
On the Trail of Tears

I watch my beloved weaken and fall
Upon the road like so many before…
With tears in my eyes I hold my wife to my breast
And in my arms she breathes her last…
On the Trail of Tears - This stanza is definitely the turning point of the poem, at first he is strong, talking about marching, but as his wife dies, we can see he's losing hope

Mile after mile and day after day - Again, great repetition, but this time, he is not as strong as he first was
We march to a land promised us for all time
But I know that I can no longer go on
I know that is a land that I shall never see… This almost sounds a little sad, that he won't ever see the place he was forced to go to, and worked so hard to get to.
On the Trail of Tears

As my body - it falls to embrace the earth - I really love the idea of "embracing the earth," it seems very organic and natural to me, even though he's dying, he uses the word embrace, so it feels like a good thing
My spirit - it soars to greet the sky (personification)
With my dying breath am I finally set free (denoument)
To begin the very long journey towards home - Even though the narrator is dying, Childers really makes him happy. It's less about death and more about freedom and going home. It's just so sad that this is the happiest stanza and it's about his death.
On the Trail of Tears (repetition)

I would also consider this entire poem a lament, or possibly even an elegy.

Here's a really lovely short film made about the Trail of Tears.