Eugene Fitch Ware and Science Fiction Poetry of the 1880’s
By Dr. Jeffrey A. Robinson
feature article in the e-zine,, Oct-Dec 2000

Eugene F. Ware was a pioneer, a soldier, lawyer and Poet. He was a captain of Iowa troops in the Civil War. He settled in Kansas in 1866, homesteading a farm which his children still own. He lived long at Fort Scott. He was an eminent lawyer and a fine businessman.

Mr. Ware filled many public places in both state and nation, the last being Commissioner of Pensions under President Roosevelt. He is considered to be the greatest poet of Kansas. The growth of Kansas has been put into immortal verse by him. Mr. Ware died in 1912 and is buried in the National Cemetery at Fort Scott

He wrote several very valuable historical works about the Civil War. Yet it is his poetry that stands out as unique for his era. His book Rhymes of Ironquill contains not only inspirational poetry about war and Kansas, but also some of the most beautiful “science fiction poetry” ever written.

The following are examples of two of the more memorable poems from that text. They were easily a century ahead of their time. Despite the fact that they were barely written after the Civil War, they are comparable to the best SF poetry of our era.

The Violet Star

"I have always lived and I always must,"
The sergeant said when the fever came;
From is burning brow we washed the dust,
And we held his hand and we spoke his name.

"Millions of ages have come and gone,"
The sergeant said as we held his hand-
"They have passed like the mist of the early dawn
Since I left my home in that far-off land."

We bade him hush but he gave no heed-
"Millions of orbits I cross from far,
Drifted as drifts the cottonwood seed;
I came, said he, "from the Violet Star.

"Drifting in cycles from place to place-
I'm tired, said he, "and I'm going home
To the Violet Star, in the realms of space
Where I loved to live, and I will not roam.

"For I've always lived, and I always must,
And the soul in roaming may roam too far;
I have reached the verge that I dare not trust,
And I'm going back to the Violet Star."

The sergeant was still, and we fanned his cheek;
There came no word from that soul so tired;
And the bugle rang from a distant peak,
As the morning dawned and the pickets fired.

The sergeant was buried as soldiers are;
And we thought all day, as we marched through the dust;
"His spirit has gone to the Violet Star-
He always lived, and he always must."

El Moran

Crossing the orbit of Alberbaran
And sixteen orbits to Taurus Rho,
As dashes a boat through a chain of whirlpools
Into a slumbering lake below;

Thence, through a chaos of constellations
I came at last to an open place,
And saw in the distance the waves of ether
Breaking in foam on the cliffs of space.

Vacantly gazing, I felt a presence -
A viewless presence without a word.
A soul was beside me; I felt a question;
Nevertheless not a sound I heard.

"Whence are you coming, and whither going,
And who," I thought, "can you really be?"
An interval passed, as of hesitation;
This was the answer it thought at me;

"Losing my life in a mine explosion
A week ago, in the planet Mars,
I thought I would look up a new location;
Are you acquainted among the stars?"

"No," I replied; "I was killed by lightning
On yester morn , in Hindustan;
I visit our old and ancestral homestead,
Back in the nebula El Moran."

Both of us talked of the past and present;
We watched the asteroids weaving lace,
And beryline billows of surging ether
Pounding the limitless cliffs of space.