Alexander Posey, a poet, journalist, and politician, likely wrote this poem about a river near his home in the Muscogee Creek Nation.
The image of trees, stretching out their arms over the water to save the drowning, is a vivid, hopeful one. A notoriously hopeful person, Posey founded the first Native American newspaper in 1901, and wrote humor and political articles as well as poetry.He also wrote most of the constitution for a proposed Indigenous state, as Creek and other Native Peoples sought to have the nation recognize their territory as a state. Congress rejected the idea.
Posey studied writing at Bacone College, and worked at the Indian Journal, where he began publishing poems. “My Fancy” was part of his collected works, which came out after his death.
Posey died at age 34, drowning in the flooding North Canadian River in Oklahoma.
Ellicott City carries a heavy burden of drownings. Over the centuries, deaths by drowning have included swimmers at Union and Bloede dams and people swept away by floods on Main Street, including an Air Force veteran in 2018 who was trying to save people stuck in the waters.
With three branches of the Patapsco River–Tiber, Hudson, and New Cut–funneled through the granite valley, the town’s topography is prone to flooding. And it hasn’t just been the recent deadly washouts. Four years before its founding in 1772, the area known as the Hollow flooded. In the Revolutionary War, nine Continental soldiers died when they tried to cross the rushing Patapsco. The town has flooded more than thirty times, with deadly consequences.
A plan to demolish buildings, build a mile of underground tunnels, and create dry ponds to hold millions of gallons of water is in the works. Construction began on the more than $100 million project in 2020.
Perhaps this project, if not the trees stretching over the river, might save people from what Posey called “the cold, remorseless wave.”
My Fancy by Alexander Posey Why do trees along the river Lean so far out o’er the tide? Very wise men tell me why, but I am never satisfied; And so I keep my fancy still, That trees lean out to save The drowning from the clutches of The cold, remorseless wave. “My Fancy” was published in The Poems of Alexander Lawrence Posey in 1910. This poem is in the public domain.