“Walk Quietly the Beautiful Trail” Review

3-star rating

It’s important to keep in mind what this little book (barely 60 pages long) is, and what it is not.

Walk Quietly the Beautiful Trail book cover

What it is: a Hallmark gift book with a 1973 copyright date; a slim collection of Native American song lyrics, poetry, legends, and reproductions of paintings. The translations date as far back as 1923.

What it is not: an in-depth or representative study of Native American culture, art, or literature.

What this book reveals should not be a surprise: that Native Americans experience the same feelings of love and desire for, and devotion to others; that they use song to prepare themselves for battle; and that their songs reflect the important times, activities, and events in their lives. The editor’s very limited commentary also reflects some of the attitudes of white Americans about the “Indians” that held at that time.

C. Merton Babcock edited a wide variety of books, including collections of Shakespeare, Melville, Thoreau, Whitman, Poe, Longfellow, and Hurston, and other books on topics ranging from the Koran to communication theory. It’s easy to wonder how Hallmark was able to enlist such a scholar to do a book like this, and why he agree to.

Do not over-analyze this little book. It represents just the merest sip from the vast lake of the artistic, literary, and cultural works of the first peoples of the Americas. If that sip whets the reader’s curiosity and encourages him or her to learn more, it has done something good.

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