[Editor’s note: This week’s entry comes from Johhny Cash. That’s right, the Man in Black. The song itself is, of course, an old traditional whose author has been lost to us. The poetry in this piece comes in the prayer of Johnny’s spoken-word introduction. I don’t know if these are his own words, or those of the anonymous cowboy. But they send shivers down my spine every time I hear them. They are written in the plain Christian idiom of his tradition, but they also speak more broadly to the spirit of natural patriotism. Sixth in a series.]
Oh, bury me not on the lone prairie
Traditional, interpreted by Johhny Cash
Lord, I’ve never lived where churches grow.
I loved creation better as it stood
that day you finished it so long ago
and looked upon your work and called it good.
I know that others find you in the light
that sifted down through tinted window panes.
And yet I seem to feel you near tonight
in this dim, quiet starlight on the plains.
I thank you, Lord, that I’m placed so well
that you’ve made my freedom so complete
that I’m no slave to whistle, clock or bell,
nor weak-eyed prisoner of Wall or Street.
Just let me live my life as I’ve begun
and give me work that’s open to the sky.
Make me a partner of the wind and sun
and I won’t ask a life that’s soft or high.
Let me be easy on the man that’s down.
Let me be square and generous with all.
I’m careless sometimes, Lord, when I’m in town
but never let them say I’m mean or small.
Make me as big and open as the plains
and honest as the horse between my knees,
clean as a wind that blows behind the rains,
free as the hawk that circles down the breeze.
Forgive me, Lord, if sometimes I forget —
You know about the reasons that are hid.
You understand the things that gall or fret.
Well, you knew me better than my mother did.
Just keep an eye on all that’s done or said
and right me sometimes when I turn aside.
And guide me on that long, dim trail ahead
that stretches upward toward the great divide.