"The Poetic License of Wyoming"
The first Wyoming
was not a state but
instead a valley along
the Susquehanna River.
Originally belonging to
the Six Nations, it became
home to the Delaware people,
then passed to Connecticut, and
ultimately into Pennsylvania.
The word wyoming can mean
"at the big river flat" in Munsee, or
"a large prairie place" in Algonquin, and
in Delaware it's either "large plains" or
"mountains and valleys alternating."
It appears in the famous poem
"Gertrude of Wyoming," about
the sad history of the valley and
the natural beauty of the place.
The name moved west when
U.S. Representative James M. Ashley
of Ohio -- having been born in Pennsylvania
and familiar with the valley -- proposed in 1865
that the new territory should be called Wyoming.
When he actually saw the lay of the land,
he had second thoughts, observing that
"there was not enough fertility in the soil
to subsist a population sufficient for
a single congressional district."
Yet Wyoming has its own wonders,
its wide prairie and its high mountains
feeding into river valleys as suitable
for canoeing as the Susquehanna
was before them, and the wind,
like an echoing flageolet,
flutes over the field.
Expect to see the past,
and you will miss the present,
and overlook what the future
of Wyoming has yet to bring.
If you know where to look, it is indeed
"mountains and valleys alternating,"
even if the location and the mood
use a little poetic license.
* * *
The state of Wyoming was named for the poem "Gertrude of Wyoming" by Thomas Campbell.
Wyoming plains include a combination of shortgrass prairie and mixed-grass prairie.
Wyoming also has multiple mountain ranges.
The waterways of this state include many rivers, some of them especially picturesque.
The flageolet is a woodwind instrument belonging to the family of fipple flutes, referenced in "Gertrude of Wyoming." It comes in French (with four finger holes on the front and two thumb holes on the back) and English (with six finger holes on the front and sometimes a single thumb hole on the back) versions; as Thomas Campbell was British, we may surmise that he meant the English type.