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El Dorado

John Wayne and James Caan in Howard Hawks’s El Dorado

Today’s poem was actually a part of one of my favorite Westerns: Howard Hawks’s El Dorado (1966), which is a remake of the same director’s Rio Bravo (1959) starring the same actor, John Wayne. The lines are spoken by James Caan, in his first major role. Edgar Allan Poe, who wrote it, spelled it as one word: Eldorado—and that’s the name he gave to the poem.

Unlike Poe’s knight, I have found El Dorado to be in many places: Iceland, Scotland, Mexico, the Andes in South America, and even—appropriately—parts of the American Southwest.

Eldorado

Gaily bedight, 
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long, 
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado. 

But he grew old – 
This knight so bold – 
And o’er his heart a shadow 
Fell, as he found 
No spot of ground 
That looked like Eldorado. 

And, as his strength 
Failed him at length, 
He met a pilgrim shadow – 
‘Shadow,’ said he, 
‘Where can it be – 
This land of Eldorado?‘

‘Over the Mountains 
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow, 
Ride, boldly ride,‘
The shade replied, 
‘If you seek for Eldorado!’

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