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UNIVERSITY OP 
CALIFORNIA 
SAN DIEGO 



PRAIRIE SONGS 



BEING CHANTS RHYMED AND 
UNRHYMED OF THE LEVEL 
LANDS OF THE GREAT WEST 
BY HAMLIN GARLAND WITH 
DRAWINGS BY H. T. CARPENTER 




CAMBRIDGE AND CHICAGO 

PUBLISHED BY STONE AND 

KIMBALL IN THE YEAR 

MDCCCXCIII 



COPYRIGHTED 1893 BY HAMLIN GARLAND 
THIS IS OF THE FIRST EDITION 



TO MY BROTHER FRANKLIN 
IN MEMORY OF THE PRAIRIES 
OVER WHICH WE RODE TOGETHER 




OST modern men, I fancy, find 
it rather difficult to take verse 
(not poetry) seriously. It is so restrictive and so 
monotonous in comparison with the flexibility of 
prose, that it forever hampers and binds in the 
man's larger feeling Prose seems to be drawing off 
all that is most modern and freest and most char- 
acteristic of our American civilization. I do not 
expect, therefore, to have these verses taken to 
represent my larger work. 

A quarter of a century ago the prairies of North- 
ern Iowa were only just won from the elk and 
buffalo, whose bones and antlers lay in thousands 
beside every trail and watering place. These rich 
and splendid meadows had swarmed with herbivora 
for ages of undisturbed possession, and every 
crumbling crib of bones or bleaching antler was a 
powerful incentive to a boy's imagination. From 
them my mind was able to construct some idea of 
the grandeur of the flocks which once peopled these 



green vistas. Even then I felt the beauty of the 
wilderness, which is coming to have deeper charm 
as it passes irrecoverably from sight. 

The prairies are not the plains. The plains do 
not begin until you reach the Missouri river and be- 
gin to climb toward the Rocky Mountains. These 
verses have to do with both plains and prairies, 
though the wild prairies are nearly gone. The vege- 
tation differs wildly, as will be evident from allu- 
sions throughout this volume. The plains are 
mainly clothed in a short hair-like grass which 
cures early in the stock and is russet in color dur- 
ing most of the year. 

The prairies were rich in grasses. Blue-joint, 
crows-foot and wild oats. Sunflowers and innum- 
erable and brilliant flowers grew in the beautiful 
meadows, out of which groves of popple and hazel 
bushes rose like islands out of shallow seas. 

These prairies were intersected by beautiful 
streams, belted in splendid groves of oaks and 
maples and basswood trees. The prairies were gen- 
erally level, with long swells like a quiet sea, but in 
the neighborhood of streams they grew more 
varied and wooded. 

Over such prairie grasses, around such tow-heads 
of popple trees, my brother and I rode, racing with 
half -wild horses, chasing the wild fox and the prairie 
wolf, spying out the Massasauga in the grass, and 
munching hazel nuts in lee of hazel thickets on cold 
November days. Those were glorious days ! 

I have lived many phases of life, but those few 



years among the colts and cattle of the prairies, be- 
fore settlement closed the cows' wild pasture and 
stabled the horses, are among my happiest recollec- 
tions. 

The prairies are gone. I held one of the ripping, 
snarling, breaking plows that rolled the hazel bushes 
and the wild sunflowers under. I saw the wild 
steers come into pasture and the wild colts come 
under harness. I saw the wild fowl scatter and turn 
aside; I saw the black sod burst into gold and 
lavender harvests of wheat and corn and so there 
comes into my reminiscences an unmistakable note 
of sadness. I do not excuse it or conceal it. I set 
it down as it comes to me. I have designedly ex- 
cluded all things alien to the book and its title. I 
make no further claim than this; it is composed of 
prairie songs. HAMLIN GARLAND. 



A TABLE OF THE CONTENTS OF THIS 
BOOK. 

FOREWORD 

PRAIRIE MEMORIES 17 

THE WEST WIND 19 

COMING RAIN ON THE PRAIRIE 21 

MASSASAUGA THE MEADOW RATTLESNAKE 22 

SPRING ON THE PRAIRIE 23 

A SONG OF WINDS 24 

INDIAN SUMMER 25 

COLOR IN THE WHEAT 26 

THE MEADOW LARK 27 

THE HUSH OF THE PLAINS 28 

PIONEERS 29 

SETTLERS PORTRAIT 30 

LINES 31 
PRAIRIE FIRES 32 
DROUGHT 33 
AT DUSK 35 
A WINTER BROOK 36 
THE VOICE OF THE PINES 37 
CORN SHADOWS 39 
THE HERALD CRANE 41 
SUNDOWN 43 
IN THE AUTUMN GRASS 44 



DREAMS OF THE GRASS 45 

MEADOW MEMORIES 46 

THE WHIP-POOR-WILL'S HOUR 47 

A SUMMER MOOD 48 

ATAVISM 49 

IN A LULL IN THE SPLENDORS OF BRAHMS 5l 

THE PASSING OF THE BUFFALO 53 

AN APOLOGY 57 

ILLUSTRATION 58 
HOME FROM THE CITY 59 
APRIL DAYS 60 
BY THE RIVER 6l 

ILLUSTRATION 62 
A MOUNTAIN-SIDE 64 
IN AUGUST 65 
THE BLUE JAY 66 
THE MOUNTAINS 67 
MY CABIN 70 
BENEATH THE PINES 71 
THE STRIPED GOPHER 73 
THE PRAIRIE TO THE CITY 74 
A HUMAN HABITATION 75 
A RIVER GORGE 77 
ALTRUISM 78 
RETURN OF THE GULLS 79 
EARLY MAY 81 



THE WIND'S VOICE 82 
ON THE MISSISSIPPI 83 
A BROTHER'S DEATH SEARCH 84 
SPRING RAINS 86 
A DAKOTA HARVEST FIELD 87 
THE NOONDAY PLAIN 89 
MIDNIGHT SNOWS 91 
IN STACKING-TIME 93 
PRAIRIE CHICKENS 95 
A TOWN OF THE PLAIN 97 
IN THE GOLD COUNTRY 98 
HOME FROM WILD MEADOWS 99 
FIGHTING FIRE 101 
BOYISH SLEEP 102 
THE HERDSMAN 103 
RUSHING EAGLE 105 
SEPTEMBER 107 
THE STAMPEDE 109 
SPORT 110 

THE COOL GRAY JUG 111 
THE GRAY WOLF 113 
PLOWING US 
A TRIBUTE OF GRASSES 116 
MOODS OF THE PLAIN 117 
LOST IN A NORTHER 119 
ILLUSTRATION 124 



LADRONE 125 

ILLUSTRATION 130 
ACROSS THE PICKET LINE 131 
THEN IT'S SPRING 133 
LOGAN AT PEACH TREE CREEK 134 
PAID HIS WAY 136 
HORSES CHAWIN' HAY 139 
GROWING OLD 142 
A FARMER'S WIFE 145 
POM, POM, PULL-AWAY 147 
COIN' BACK T'MORRER 149 
ON WING OF STEAM 153 
MY PRAIRIES 155 
MIDWAY ON THE TRAIL 157 




I WIDE cloud-peopled summer-sky; 
Sea-drifting grasses, rustling reeds, 
Where young grouse to their mothers 

cry, 

And locusts pipe from whistling weeds; 
Broad meadows lying like lagoons 
Of sunniest waters, on whose swells 
Float nodding blooms to tinkling bells 
Of bob-o'-linkum's wildest tunes; 

Far west-winds bringing odors, fresh 
From mountains clothed as monarchs are 
In royal robes of ice and snow, 
Where storms are bred in thunder-jar; 
Land of corn, and wheat, and kine, 
Where plenty fills the hand of him 
Who tills the soil or prunes the vine 
Or digs in thy far canons dim 

My Western land, 1 love thee yet! 
In dreams I ride my horse again 
And breast the breezes blowing fleet 
From out the meadows cool and wet. 



18 PRAIRIE SONGS 

From fields of flowers blowing sweet, 
And flinging perfume to the breeze. 
The wild oats swirl along the plain; 
I feel their dash against my knees, 
Like rapid plash of running seas. 

I pass by islands, dark and tall, 

Of slender poplars thick with leaves; 

The grass in rustling ripple, cleaves 

To left and right in emerald flow; 

And as I listen, riding slow, 

Out breaks the wild bird's jocund call. 

Oh, shining suns of boyhood's time ! 

Oh, winds that from the mythic west 

Sang calls to Eldorado's quest ! 

Oh, swaying wild bird's thrilling chime ! 

When the loud city's clanging roar 

Wraps in my soul as if in shrouds 

I hear those sounds and songs once more, 

And dream of boyhood's wind-swept clouds 



PRAIRIE SONGS 19 

THE WEST WIND. 

Ohl the wind is abroad in the hollows 
And a-sweep on the swells of the plain, 
Where the dun grass tosses and wallows, 
And the hazel bush shakes as in pain 

With a petulant air and a shiver 

Of fright and of pain 
While the broad breeze streams like a river 
And roars like a far-off main. 

The wide waves, restless, but weary, 
Roll on to the half-hid sun. 
Hear the rush! 
Hear the roar! 

Hear the murmurl 
See the swift waves serially run, 
Like fowls from the eagle's swift wings! 
To the bowed ear's hearing, there comes 
The sound of far harping of harp strings, 
The noise of dim pipings and drums. 

Oh! magic west wind of the prairiel 

How he leaps in his might! 
No boundaries knows he or cares he, 

No day and no night. 
His footsteps grow weary never, 

He is here! 

He is there! 

Now he harries the clouds in the air, 
Now he tramples the grass in his flight. 



20 PRAIRIE SONGS 

But whether in spring or in summer, 
Or in autumn's gray shadow or shine, 
Chainless and care-free is he 
As a faun in a riot of wine. 
He is lord of the whole sky's hollow; 
He possesses the whole vast plain; 
He leads and the wild clouds follow 
He frowns and they vanish in rain! 



f-K 





COMING RAIN 

" ONTHE PRAIRIE 



SOUNDING southern breeze 
The spire-like poplar trees 

Stream like vast plumes 
Against a seamless cloud a high 
Dark mass, a dusty dome that looms 
A rushing shadow on the western sky. 

The lightning falls in streams, 
Sprangling in fiery seams, 

Through which the bursting rain 
Falls in trailing clouds of gray; 
The cattle draw together on the plain, 
And drift like anchored boats upon a wind-swept 
bay. 



21 



22 PRAIRIE SONGS 

MASSASAUGA THE MEADOW RATTLESNAKE. 

A cold coiled line of mottled lead, 
He lies where grazing cattle tread 
And lifts a fanged and spiteful head. 

His touch is deadly, and his eyes 
Are hot with hatred and surprise 
Death waits and watches where he lies! 

His hate is turned toward everything! 

He is the undisputed king 

Of every path and woodland spring. 

His naked fang is raised to smite 
All passing things; light 
Is not swifter than his bite. 

His touch is deadly, and his eyes 
Are hot with hatred and surprise 
Death waits and watches where he lies! 




SftOKG 



ND the fields grew green 

With the mighty mystery 
Of springing grain; 

The poplar trees burst into yellow leaf, 
The oak leaves pricked like a squirrel's ear, 
And in the mellow grounds the planter strode; 
The birds paired off and nested, 
The horses fed on the sunny slopes 
Where the crocus bloomed and the early grasses 
Yielded their sweets to the cattle's lips; 
And like some peerless overture, the vast 
Sweet symphony the wild chickens sang at dawn 
Died away to a single note, 
And genial spring was merged in sultry summer. 



23 



24 PRAIRIE SONGS 

A SONG OF WINDS. 

Winds from the prairies where wild weeds shiver; 
Winds from the popple trees' quick leaves' quiver, 
Where the blithe chickens boom and shrill frogs 
chime 

winds from my boyhood's far-away time, 

1 wait for you, long for you, here in the town! 

Filled with the memory of grasses and trees, 
I long for my prairies as a sailor loves seas; 
I hear in red mornings the wild chickens calling, 
I hear at still nooning the bugle note falling 
From crane sweeping by in the fathomless sky. 

I long, oh! I long to lie in the stubble, 
Close by the creek, where the cool waters bubble; 
Longing to lose in a dream all my care, 
Feeling the summer winds kissing my hair, 
Hearing the willows shake over my head! 




SUMMER 



IT LAST there came 

The sudden fall of frost, 

when Time 
Dreaming through russet September days 
Suddenly awoke, and lifting his head, strode 
Swiftly forward made one vast desolating sweep 
Of his scythe, then, rapt with the glory 
That burned under his feet, fell dreaming again. 
And the clouds soared and the crickets sang 
In the brief heat of noon; the corn, 
So green, grew sere and dry 
And in the mist the ploughman's team 
Moved silently, as if in dream 
And it was Indian summer on the plain. 



26 PRAIRIE SONGS 

COLOR IN THE WHEAT. 

Like liquid gold the wheat field lies, 

A marvel of yellow and green, 

That ripples and runs, that floats and flies, 

With the subtle shadows, the change the sheen 

That plays in the golden hair of a girl. 
A cloud flies there 
A ripple of amber a flare 
Of light follows after. A swirl 

In the hollows like the twinkling feet 

Of a fairy waltzer, the colors run 
To the western sun, 

Through the deeps of the ripening wheat. 

I hear the reapers' far-off hum, 

So faint and far, it seems the drone 

Of bee or beetle ; seems to come 

From far-off, fragrant, fruity zone, 
A land of plenty, where, 
Toward the sun, as hasting there, 
The colors run before the wind's feet 
In the wheat. 

The wild hawk swoops 
To his prey in the deeps; 
The sun-flower droops 
To the lazy wave; the wind sleeps 

Then running in dazzling links and loops 
A marvel of shadow and shine, 

A glory of olive and amber and wine 
Runs the color in the wheat. 




THE 
NEADOV LARK 



BRAVE little bird that fears 

not God, 
A voice that breaks from the 

snow-wet clod 
With prophecy of sunny sod, 
Set thick with wind-waved golden-rod. 

From the first bare clod in the raw cold spring, 
From the last bare clod, when fall winds sting, 
The farm-boy hears his brave song ring, 
And work for the time is a pleasant thing. 



28 PRAIRIE SONGS 

THE HUSH OF THE PLAINS JULY. 

As some vast orchestra, listening, waits 

Full-breathed and tense in a sudden lull, 

With only the string-bass throbbing on, 

Ready at fall of the leader's wand 

To break into soft, slow swell, 

So the plain lies, hushed and dumb as death, 

Songless and soundless. 

No crickets fill the pause with whirr, 

No bird wakes a note or stirs a wing. 

Only the flute-like note of the lark sounds, 

Only the flashing, inaudible wing of the gull moves, 

All else waits, listens. 

Only the wide wind droning on, 

Wide as the plain, vaguely vast, 

The string-bass throbbing dimly on. 





PIONEERS 



HEY rise to mastery of 

wind and snow; 
They go like soldiers grimly 

into strife 

To colonize the plain. They plow and sow, 
And fertilize the sod with their own life, 
As did the Indian and the buffalo. 



PRAIRIE SONGS 31 

SETTLERS. 

Above them soars a dazzling sky, 

In winter blue and clear as steel, 
In summer like an arctic sea, 

Wherein great icebergs drift and reel 
And melt like sudden sorcery; 

Beneath them plains stretch far and fair, 
Rich with sunlight and with rain; 

Vast harvests ripen with their care 
And fill with overplus of grain 
Their square great bins; 

Yet still they strive ! I see them rise 
At dawn-light going forth to toil; 

The same salt sweat has filled my eyes; 

My feet have trod the self-same soil 

Behind the snarling share. 




PRAIRIE FIRES. 

A curving, leaping line of light, 

A crackling roar from lurid lungs, 

A wild flush on the skies of night 

A force that gnaws with hot red tongues, 

That leaves a blackened smoking sod 

A fiery furnace where the cattle trod. 




WIDE dun land, where the fierce 

suns smite, 
And the wind is a furnace 

breath, 

Where the beautiful sky has a sinister light, 
And the earth lies dread and dry as death; 
Where the sod lies scorching and wan grass sighs, 
And the hot red morning has no birds 
O songless sunset land! I close mine eyes 
In sheer despair of thy dim reach 
O level waste! so lone thou art, no words 
Can tell, no pictures teach. 

A presence like a curse! no insects hum 

No chirping crickets' cheery ring 

A white mist-wall of bounding space 

Flecked with the swift gull's fluttering, 

Alone confronts the asking face! 

No tree stands green against the sky 

The hawk swims in the blazing air, 

He scarce can find (though keen his eye) 

A human heart beat anywhere. 

33 



34 PRAIRIE SONGS 

So hot and lone the plain God! 
The very breezes faint and die 
Along the burning hopeless sod 
Where sere grass rustles sullenly. 
All creatures turn an asking eye 
To where the radiant heavens soar 
In cloudless splendor a cry 
Bursts from the bitten lip deathwise 
The desperate husbandmen, with hands 
Outspread, clutch at the dust. 
Their harvest withers where it stands 
And burns to ashes while they trust! 




hT DUSK 



NDOLENT I lie 

Beneath the sky 
Thick-sown with clouds that soar and float 

Like stately swans upon the air, 
And in the hush of dusk I hear 
The ring-dove's plaintive liquid note 
Sound faintly as a prayer. 

Against the yellow sky 
The grazing kine stalk slowly by; 
Like wings that spread and float and flee 
The clouds are drifting over me. 

The couching cattle sigh, 
And from the meadow damp and dark 
I hear the piping of the lark; 
While falling night-hawks scream and boom, 
Like rockets, through the rising gloom, 
And katydids with pauseless chime 
Bear on the far frogs' ringing rhyme. 



36 PRAIRIE SONGS 

A WINTER BROOK. 

How sweetly you sang as you circled 

The elm's rugged knees in the sod, 
I know! for deep in the shade of your willows, 

A barefooted boy with a rod, 
1 Jay in the drowsy June weather, 

And sleepily whistled in tune 
To the laughter 1 heard in your shallows, 

Involved with the music of June ! 



PRAIRIE SONGS 37 

THE VOICE OF THE PINES. 

Wailing, wailing, 
O ceaseless wail of the pines. 

Sighing, sighing, 
An incommunicable grief! 

No matter how bright the summer sky, 
No matter how the dandelions star the sod, 
Nor how the bees buzz in the cherry blooms, 
Nor how the rich green grass is thick with daisies, 
While the sun moves through the dazzling sky, 
And the up-rolled clouds sail slowly on, 
The nun-voiced pines, sombre and strong, 
Breathe on their endless moaning song. 

The birds do not dwell there or sing there ! 
They fly to trees with fruit and shining leaves, 
Where twigs swing gayly and boughs are in bloom 
Among these glooms they would surely die, 
And their young forget to swing and sway. 
The wild hawk may sit here and scream; 
The gray-coated owl utter his hoarse note; 
And the dark ravens perch and peer, 
But the robins, the orioles, the bright singers 
Flee these sighing pines. 

Sighing, sighing! 
vast illimitable voice ! 

Like the moan of multitudes, the chant of nuns, 
Thy ceaseless wail and cry comes on me. 



38 PRAIRIE SONGS 

And when the autumn sky is dull and wild, 
When jagged clouds stream swiftly by, 
When the sleet falls in slant torrents, 
When thy dripping arms, outspread, are drear 
And harsh with cold and rain, 
Then thy voice, O pines, is stern and wild; 
Thy sigh becomes a vengeful moan and snarl 
A voice of stormy, inexpressible anguish 
Timed to the sweep of thy tossing boughs, 
Keyed to the desolate gray of the ragged sky. 

Wailing, wailing ! 

O vast illimitable wail of the pines ! 
The chill wash of swift dark streams, 
The joyless days, the lonely nights, 
Hungry noons, funeral trains, with trappings of 

sable, 

The burial chants with clods falling in the grave 
All the measureless and eternal inheritance of grief 
All the ineffable woe which has oppressed my race 
All the tragedy I have felt 
With all that my ancestors have felt, 
Comes back to me here, 
Borne on the wings of thine eternal wail, 
Blent in the flow 
Of thine incommunicable sorrow. 




DRN SHADOWS 



\ 

ITH heart grown weary of 

the heat, 

And hungry for the breath 
Of field and farm, with 

eager feet 

I trod the pavement, dry as death, 
Through city streets where vice is born 
And sudden, lo! a ridge of corn! 

Above the dingy roofs it stood, 
A dome of tossing tangled spears, 
Dark, cool, and sweet as any wood 
Its silken green and plumed ears 
Laughed on me through the haze of morn 
The tranquil presence of the corn. 

Upon the salt wind from the sea 
Borne westward swift as dreams 
Of boyhood are, I seemed to be 
Once more a part of sounds and gleams 
Thrown on me by the winds of morn 
Amid the rustling rows of corn. 

39 



40 PRAIRIE SONGS 

I bared my head, and on me fell 

The old wild wizardry again 

Of leaf and sky, the moving spell 

Of boyhood's easy joy or pain, 

When pumpkin trump was Siegfried's horn 

Echoing down the walls of corn. 

I saw the field (as trackless then 

As wood to Daniel Boone) 

Wherein we hunted wolves and men 

And ranged and twanged the green bassoon- 

(Not blither Robin Hood's merry horn 

Than pumpkin vine amid the corn!) 

In central deeps the melons lay 
Slow swelling in the August sun. 
I traced again the narrow way 
And joined again the stealthy run 
The jack-o'-lantern wraith was born 
Within the shadows of the corn. 

O wide, west wilderness of leaves! 
O playmates, far awayi over thee 
The slow wind like a mourner grieves 
And stirs the plumed ears like a sea. 
Would we could sound again the horn 
In vast sweet presence of the corn! 




THE HERALD 



GRANE 



H ! say, you so, bold sailor 

In the sun-lit deeps of sky! 
Dost thou so soon the seed-time tell 

In thy imperial cry, 
As circling in yon shoreless sea 
Thine unseen form goes drifting by ? 

I can not trace in the noon-day glare 

Thy regal flight, O crane! 
From the leaping might of the fiery light 

Mine eyes recoil in pain, 
But on mine ear, thine echoing cry 

Falls like a bugle strain. 

The mellow soil glows beneath my feet, 

Where lies the buried grain; 
The warm light floods the length and breadth 

Of the vast, dim, shimmering plain, 
Throbbing with heat and the nameless thrill 

Of the birth-time's restless pain. 



42 PRAIRIE SONGS 

On weary wing, plebeian geese 

Push on their arrowy line 
Straight into the north, or snowy brant 

In dazzling sunshine, gloom and shine; 
But thou, O crane, save for thy sovereign cry, 

At thy majestic height 
On proud, extended wings sweep'st on 

In lonely, easeful flight. 

Then cry, thou martial-throated herald ! 

Cry to the sun, and sweep 
And swing along thy mateless, tireless course 

Above the clouds that sleep 
Afloat on lazy air cry on ! Send down 

Thy trumpet note it seems 
The voice of hope and dauntless will, 

And breaks the spell of dreams. 




SUNDOWN 



T WAS sundown, and the 

royal river 
Dropping southward to the 

sea, 

With rippling rush and serial shiver 
Of small waves in the reedy sedges, 
Swept round its yellow limestone ledges; 
And the far-off pulsing came to me 
Of a negro boatman's melody. 

Like a silvery wind-blown vail 
The shimmering mist lay on the heights, 
Struck through and through by the level shafts 
Of the rising, spotless orange moon. 
The bittern boomed from the shadowy marsh, 
The curlew piped in lonesome cry, 
And the frogs from the river made reply. 

The mass and depth and mystery 
Of the river deepened, till its flood 
Seemed magical. Its weight of dark 
Unresting waters was so swift, so broad, 
It seemed as if some prisoned sea 
Were slipping by me hurriedly. 

43 



44 PRAIRIE SONGS 

IN THE AUTUMN GRASS. 

Did you ever lie low 
In the depth of the plain, 
In the lee of a swell that lifts 
Like a low-lying island out of the sea, 
When the blue joint shakes 

As an army of spears; 
When each flashing wave breaks 
In turn overhead 
And wails in the door of your ears ? 

If you have, you have heard 

In the midst of the roar, 
The note of a lone gray bird, 
Blown slantwise by overhead 
As he swiftly sped 

To his south-land haven once more ! 

the music abroad in the air, 
With the autumn wind sweeping 
His hand on the grass, where 
The tiniest blade is astir, keeping 
Voice in the dim, wide choir, 
Of the infinite song, the refrain, 
The wild, sad wail of the plain I 



PRAIRIE SONGS 45 
DREAMS OF THE GRASS. 

I to lie in long grasses ! 

! to dream on the plain ! 
Where the west wind sings as it passes, 

A weird and unceasing refrain ! 
Where the rank grass tosses and wallows, 

And the plain's rim dazzles the eye 
Where hardly a silver cloud bosses 

The flashing steel shield of the sky ! 

To watch the gay gulls as they glitter 
Like snowflakes, and fall from on high 

To dip in the deeps of the prairie; 

Where the crows foot tosses awry, 
Like the swirl o' swift waltzers in glee, 

To the harsh, shrill creak of the cricket 
And the song of the lark and the bee! 



46 PRAIRIE SONGS 

MEADOW MEMORIES. 

Memory, what conjury is thine! 

Once more the sun shines on the wneat 
Once more 1 drink the wind like wine 
When bursts the lark's song wildly-sweet 
From out the rain- wet, new-mown grass; 

1 hear the sickle's clattering sweep, 
And peals of laughter swell and pass 
From lip to lip; again 1 heap 

The odorous wind-rows, rank by rank. 
Silent the rancuous tumult of the street 
From iron pavements ceaseless clank, 
From grinding hooves and jar of car 
I flee, and lave my boyish feet 
Where bee-lodged clover blossoms arel 




THE WHIP-POOR-WILL'S HOUR. 

The cool sweet air, 

The dark fern-scented woods, 

The breath of oak and pine, 

The fire-flies in the grass, 

The chirp of sleepy crickets, 

The song of the thrush, 

A lullaby of streams, 

The unutterable coolness and sweetness 

The odor of apple blooms and grass 

Then from the fragrant dusk of pines 

The whip-poor-will puts forth his slender cry. 

47 



48 PRAIRIE SONGS 

A SUMMER MOOD. 

O, to be lost in the wind and the sun, 

To be one with the wind and the stream! 
With never a care while the waters run 

With never a thought in my dream. 
To be part of the robin's lilting call 

And part of the bobolink's rhyme. 
Lying close to the shy thrush singing alone, 

And lapped in the cricket's chime. 

O, to live with these beautiful ones ! 

With the lust and the glory of man 
Lost in the circuit of spring-time suns 

Submissive as earth and part of her plan 
To lie as the snake lies, content in the grass ! 

To drift as the clouds drift, effortless, free, 
Glad of the power that drives them on 

With never a question of wind or sea. 





ATAVISM 



OMETIMES, ranging the 

upland sod, 
A lean, lone steer comes 

suddenly upon 
A trace of blood. Like a hound he stops 
And wheels, snuffling the earth. 
His eyes roll savagely, his nostrils expand 
And his wrinkled neck stiffens. He paws 
The ground with horny hoofs. He lifts 
His voice in a wild roar that ends 
In a harsh scream. 

The herd listens, still as statues 
Every horn lifted, every nostril spread! 
Again it comes, that screaming roar, 
Wild as the tiger's food-sick cry! 
A score of voices echo it, and then 
The whole herd wakes to action. 
The plain swarms with flying forms 
Centering with savage, menacing run 
Towards the bawling sentinel. 



50 PRAIRIE SONGS 

The noise becomes frightful 
Every curling tongue joins the sudden tumult 
Lions are not more terrible of voice. 
The domestic is lost in savagery. 
The snorting, bawling roar of heavy-uddered cows, 
Proclaims the power of memory. 
All frantic with roused memory of war 
And fear and hate of man and wolf, 
They rush in ranks like warriors. 
Their tails wave like pennon lances. 

The herdsman dreaming beneath the shine 
Of poplar trees, springs to his saddle 
And sits wondering, while his horse 
With nostrils blown like trumpets, 
Fronts the scene, his eyes 
Reflecting the storm-like rush 

Of the trampling herd. 

The bulls paw the earth; 
Their eyes roll and flame from the dust 
Their hollow hoofs have raised 
The herd surges to and fro in mass, 
Blind and savage, seeking an unseen cause 
Of some ancestral danger. 



PRAIRIE SONGS Si 

IN A LULL IN THE SPLENDORS OF BRAHMS. 

In a lull in the splendors of Brahms, 

When the passionate wail of the flute, 

Struck dumb by the stroke of the drums, 

Like the voice of a child sank mute: 

In tbe second 'twixt thunder and thunder, 

In the hush ere the wild music came 

My soul flew far to the plain 

Where the blue sky arched, and wide land under 

Rolled a sea of grasses and growing grain. 



II. 



I lay in the reeds of the prairie, 
In the hush of the night, and I heard 
The wandering wind, swift and wary, 
Slipping by in the grass like a snake. 
Faint clouds floated high in the air 
A lone wolf howled on a swell 
A bird in the grass seemed to tremble and wake, 
And sent on the chime of the crickets afloat, 
A clear and most marvelous note 
That lay in the ear like a prayer. 



52 PRAIRIE SONGS 

III. 

The dim moon set! 

The wolf ceased his cry. 
Overhead the far meteors streamed redly, 
And dropped down the dark 
Southern dome of the sky 
The chime of the hid cricket stopped 
As if awed by strange sounds in the air 
And then, as 1 waited in trance of desire, 
With throbbing shut eyes, 

The ear was aware 

Of stir in the wide waste of grasses; a glare 
Overshot the gray East with red fire 
With swelling vague clamor, 

Swift beat and shrill blare 
Back to the hearing the deep music came, 
As out of the darkness a vast army comes, 

Roaring like wind and wild flame 

To burst in the thunder of drums! 




PASSING 
BUFFALO 



JOING the wild things of our 
- - land, 
Passing the antelope and buffalo. 
They have gone with the sunny sweep 

Of the untracked plain! 
They have passed away with the untrammeled 
current of our streamsl 

With the falling trees they fell, 
With the autumn grass they rotted, 
And their bones 

Lie white on the flame-charred sod, 
Mixed with antlers of the elk. 

For centuries they lay down and rose 

in peace and calm content. 
They were fed by the rich grass 
And watered by sunny streams. 
The plover called to them 

Out of the shimmering air, 

53 



54 PRAIRIE SONGS 

The hawk swooped above them, 
The blackbird sat on their backs 

In the still afternoons, 
In the cool mud they wallowed, 

Rolling in noisy sport. 

They lived through centuries of struggle 
In swarming millions till the white man came. 
The snows of winter were terrible! 
The dry wind was hard to bear, 
But the breath of man, the smoke 
Of his gun was more fatal. 

They fell by thousands. 
They melted away like smoke! 
Mile by mile they retreated westward; 
Year by year they moved north and south 

In dust-brown clouds; 
Each year they descended upon the plains 

In endless floods; 
Each winter they retreated to the hills 

Of the south. 

Their going was like the ocean current, 
But each spring they stopped a little short 
They were like an ebbing tide! 
They came at last to meager little bands 

That never left the hills- 
Crawling in sombre files from canon to canon 

Now, they are gone! 



PRAIRIE SONGS 55 

O the unfenced vistas of sod 

They fed upon! 

O the sweet strange memories they evoke! 
The sun-lit prairie with groves and streams, 
The rich grasses, the undisturbed primeval wild 

All gone, all gonel 
Swallowed up, lost irretrievably. 

My heart aches with longing for it. 

Gone the wild turkeyl 
Gone the deer and antelopel 
Passing the crane and the prairie chicken! 

Passing the wild free spaces 
That swarmed with feet and echoed with bawl 
Of bulls and savage snarl of wolves 

Ended the infinite drama of savage life. 

Passing the seas of hazel-brush; 
Passing the prairie sod 
And all its wealth of grass and flowers, 
The swirling crow's foot. 

The tossing plumes of snake weed, 

The golden groves of sunflowers, 

Passing, never to return. 

O the regret of it. 

the mystery and power 

Of the untracked land, 
The lure of winds from unknown spaces, 
The wonder and power of swift rivers, 
Where only the shy beaver builds a dam 
wild woods and rivers and untrod sweep of sodl 



56 PRAIRIE SONGS 

I exult that I have known you! 

I have felt you and worshiped you I 
I cannot be robbed of the memory 

Of horse and plain 

And bird and flower, 
Nor the song of the illimitable west wind. 

They are all part of my life, 

And while 1 live they will endure. 
When I am old my heart will thrill, 
And I will say, I saw the wild sod burst 
To blossom, before the city's trample 

Drowned the winds' sweet song! 



PRAIRIE SONGS 57 

AN APOLOGY. 

The ancient minstrel when times befit, 
And his song outran his laggard pen, 
Went forth in the world and chanted it 
In the market place, to the busy men; 
Who found full leisure to listen and long 
For the far-off land of the minstrel's song. 

Let me play minstrel and sing the lines 
Which rise in my heart in praise of the plain! 
I'll lead you where the wild oat shines, 
And swift clouds dapple the wheat with rain. 
If you'll listen, you'll hear the songs of birds 
And the shuddering roar of trampling herds. 

The brave brown lark from the russet sod 
Will pipe as clear as a cunning flute, 
Though sky and sod are stern as God, 
And the wind and plain lie hot and mute 
Though the gulls complain of the blazing air 
And the grass lies brown and crisp as hair. 




58 



PRAIRIE SONGS 59 
HOME FROM THE CITY. 

Out of the city, out of the street I 

Out in the wind and the grasses, 

Where the bird and the daisy wooing meet, 

And the cloud like an eagle passes, 

Far from the roaring street. 

Out of the hurry, away from the heat 
And clamor of iron wheels and hooves, 
Out of the stench and scorching heat 
We come as a dove to its native roofs, 
Far from the thunderous street. 

Into the silence of cool-breathed leaves, 

Where the wind like a lover 

Murmurs, and waits to listen, and weaves 

His arms in the leafy cover 

Back to a world of stubble and sheaves 

We flee from the murderous street! 



60 PRAIRIE SONGS 

APRIL DAYS. 

Days of witchery subtly sweet, 
When every hill and tree finds heart; 

When winter and spring like lovers meet 
In the mist of noon and part 
In the April days. 

Nights when the wood-frogs faintly peep 

One, two, and then are still, 
And the woodpeckers' martial voices sweep 

Like bugle blasts from hill to hill 
Through the breathless morn. 

Days when the soil is warm with rain, 
And through the wood the shy wind steals, 

Rich with the pine and the poplar smell, 
And the joyous brain like a dancer reels 
Through April days. 



PRAIRIE SONGS 61 
BY THE RIVER. 

A sun-lit stream 

Flows athwart my dream, 
With a gurgle of laughter in sunny shallows, 

Where rounded boulders, white and red, 

On a pebbly bed 

Lie wide bespread, 
With shoulders and hollows, 
Smoothed down and scooped out 
By the swift water's rout. 

It comes from the meadow, 

Where cool and deep 
In the elm's dark shadow, 

In murmur of dream and of sleep 
It drowsily eddied and swirled, 
And softly crept and curled 
Round the out-thrust knees 
Of the white-wood trees, 
And lifted the rustling dripping sedge 
In rhythmic sweep at the outer edge. 

There the graceful water-snake rippled across 
Through the shimmering dapple the leaves cast 

down, 

While tFle swamp-bird, perched on the spongy moss 
At the darker side, looked gravely on. 
It was there the kingfisher swiftly flew 
In the cool sweet silence from tree to tree 




62 



PRAIRIE SONGS 63 



All silent, save when the vagabond jay 
Flashed swiftly by with wild tehee! 
Swaggering by in his elfish way. 

The hot dust drifts along the street 
And fills the air with a furnace heat, 

Stifling the crowds of hurrying men, 
But in my dreaming and rippling rhyme 
It is noon in the sultriest summer time, 

And I, a bare-legged boy again, 
Can hear the low sweet laugh of the river, 
See on the water the dapples a-quiver, 

Feel on my knees the lipping-lap 
Of the sunny ripples, see the snake 
Slip silently into the sedgy brake, 

And hear the rising pickerel slap 
With a rushing leap 
Where the lilies sleep! 



64 PRAIRIE SONGS 

A MOUNTAIN-SIDE. 

A height that curved like a woman's breast, 
A stream that plunged in mad unrest 
Through sullen snow and gray-green grass, 
And fell a thousand feet 

Below the mountain pass. 

Its wild roar mingled with the moan 

Of snarling pines, rooted on mottled stone; 

The gray clouds blurred the saffron peaks with 

snow 
Ten thousand feet above the vale below. 




ROM the great trees the locusts 

cry 
In quavering ecstatic duo a 

boy 

Shouts a wild call a mourning dove 
In the blue distance sobs the wind 
Wanders by, heavy with odors 
Of corn and wheat and melon vines; 
The trees tremble with delirious joy as the 

breeze 

Greets them, one by one now the oak, 
Now the great sycamore, now the elm. 

And the locusts in brazen chorus, cry 

Like stricken things, and the ring-dove's note 

Sobs on in the dim distance. 



65 



66 PRAIRIE SONGS 

THE BLUE JAY. 

His eye is bright as burnished steel, 

His note a quick defiant cry; 
Harsh as a hinge his grating squeal 

Sounds from the keen wind sweeping by. 

Rains never dim his smooth blue coat, 

The winter never troubles him. 
No fog puts hoarseness in his throat 

Or makes his merry eyes grow dim. 
His cry at morning is a shout. 

His wing is subject to his heart. 
Of fear he knows not doubt 

Did not draw his sailing-chart. 

He is an universal emigre; 

His foot is set in every land. 
He greets me by gray Casco bay, 

And laughs across the Texas sand. 
In heat or cold, in storm or sun 

He lives unfearingly, and when he dies 
He folds his feet up one by one 

And turns a last look at the skies. 

He is the true American! He fears 
No journey and no wood or wall, 

And in the desert, toiling voyagers 
Take heart of courage from his call. 




THE MOUNKNS 



IVER the mountains face the plain, 
Ever the plainsman's longing 

eyes 
Turn to the distant peaks. 

In the warm mornings, when the lark 

Whistles from cool, sage-green, 'close-curling grass, 

When not a cloud stains the sky 

Then the mountains stand forth 

Warm, sharply outlined, 
Wearing a time-worn cloak of purple rock 

And dark green pines. 

They draw near the plain, 
They seem close, intimate, prosaic. 
Every hollow and wrinkle is displayed, 
Every rasp and ravage of wind and frost 
Is seen, every canon seems emptied 

Of its mystery and color. 



68 PRAIRIE SONGS 

But as the sun swings west, 
A splendid robe of royal blue 

Drops over the distant peaks : 
And lowers and deepens 

And grows richer and richer 
Till the whole mighty group is arrayed 
In purple splendid distance. 

They withdraw into color and depth 

Like demigods ; 
They lift their heads like those 

Who wear crowns ; 
They begin at the plainsman's feet, 

They end in space where dreams are, 
Where scars become heroic history, 
Where silence reigns in majesty like death 
As the sun sinks, 
The canons deepen in color, 
Adding mystery to silence. They become awful 

deeps 
Where stupendous cats and great birds 

Move about the strange walls 
Carved and hollowed by water. 
Caves yawn wider as night thickens. 

The lone traveler, lying beneath 
The silent pines on some high range, 
Watches and listens in ecstacy of fear 
And exalted admiration. 



PRAIRIE SONGS 69 

The prosaic is gone, 

The present is gone, 

The eastern plain becomes an obscure sea, 
Its life absorbed by distance 
He is alone with the stupendous, the inexorable, 

The past! 

In the roar of the far stream 

Is the reminiscent dream 

Of colossal cataracts; 
In the cry of the cliff-bird, he hears 

The scream of the eagle 

Or the yawl of the mountain lion; 
In the fall of a loose rock 

He fancies he hears the stealthy tread of the grizzly; 
In the black night of the lower canon, 
He thinks he sees once more 
Prodigious lines of buffaloes, 
Or files of Indian armies 
Winding downward to the distant valley 

Where camp-fires shine like stars 

And the dreamer shudders 
With a strange longing thrill, 
A regret for the vanished past. 
He trembles but to tremble here 
Is not fear it is comprehension I 



70 PRAIRIE SONGS 

MY CABIN. 

My cabin cowers in the onward sweep 

Of the terrible northern blast; 
Above its roof the wild clouds leap, 

And shriek as they hurry past. 
The snow-waves hiss along the plain, 
Like hungry wolves they stretch and strain. 
They race and romp with rushing beat; 
Like stealthy tread of myriad feet 
They pass the door. Upon the roof 

The icy showers swirl and rattle. 
At times the moon, though far aloof, 

Through winds and snow in furious battle, 
Shines white and wan within the room 

Then swift clouds dart across the light, 

And all the plain is lost to sight; 

The cabin rocks, and on my palm 

The sifted snow falls, cold and calm. 

God! what a power is in the wind! 

I lay my ear to the cabin-side 
To feel the weight of those giant hands ; 

A speck, a fly in the blasting tide 
Of streaming, pitiless, icy sands; 

A single heart with its feeble beat 
A mouse in the lion's throat 
A swimmer at sea a sunbeam's mote 

In the strength of a tempest of hail and sleet! 




BENEATH THE PINES 



SUNLESS deeps of northern 

pines ! 
O broad, snow-laden arms 

of fir! 



Dim aisles where wolves slip to and fro, 
And noiseless wild deer swiftly skirr! 

O home of wind-songs wild and grand, 
As suits thy mighty strains, O harp 

On which the North Wind lays his hand! 
I walk thy pungent glooms once more 

And shout amid thy stormful roar. 

As in wild seas a deep is found, 

No wintry tempest stirs, though high 
As hills the marching waves upbound 

And break in hissing foam, so I 
Walk here secure; though, far above, 

The Storm-king with his train of snows 
Sweeps downward from the bitter north, 

And shouts hoarse fury as he goes. 



72 PRAIRIE SONGS 

I laugh in tones of ribald glee, 

To see the shaking of his hair, 
And hear from out his cloud of beard 

His furious threatenings sweep the air. 
The dark pines lower their lofty crests 

As warriors bow, when chieftain grim 
Rides by and shouts his stern behests 

And with swift answers echo him. 




TRIPED 
GOPHER 



E IS a roguish little wag! 
He sits like priest, with 

folded hands. 

The farm-boy stops behind his drag 
And mocks his whistle where he stands. 

The crane in deeps of sunlit sky 
Proclaims the Spring with bugle throat, 

Not less the prophecies which lie 
Within the gopher's cheery note. 

From radiant slopes of pink and green, 
From warm brown fields his greetings fret. 

The eye of hawk is not more keen 
Than his, when danger seems to threat. 

He is a cunning little wag! 

He sits and jeers with folded hands. 
The farm-boy stoops behind his drag 

And flings a missile where he stands. 



74 PRAIRIE SONGS 

THE PRAIRIE TO THE CITY. 

O wind of the West, go greet for me 

Those toilers in the city deeps! 
Go teach them to be wild and free 

And chainless as the eagle keeps. 
Go fill their hearts with hot desire 

To rise above their sooty task, 
Go teach them to be wild as fire 

To ask, and compass that they ask! 




A HUMAN HABITATION. 

The sky was like a low-hung purple disk, 
The plain its counterpart. Eastward, between 
These infinite disks of variant purple, the train 
Rushed steadily, entering a belt of orange-colored 

sky, 
Wherein the spring-time sunlight grew in power. 

Against the glowing band, 
A tooth of purple plain upreared, to notch 
The otherwise unbroken, splendid sweep 
Of intersecting sky and plain. From it 
A thin blue smoke arose. 

It was a human habitation. 
It was not a prison. A prison , 

Resounds with songs, yells, the crash of gates, 
The click of locks and grind of chains. 
Voice shouts to voice. Bars do not exclude 
The interchange of words. 

This was solitary confinement. 

75 



76 PRAIRIE SONGS 

The sun up-sprang, 
Its light swept the plain like a sea 
Of golden water, and the blue-gray dome 
That soared above the settler's shack, 
Was lighted into magical splendor. 

To some worn woman 

Another monotonous day was born. 



PRAIRIE SONGS 77 

A RIVER GORGE. 

A savage, ragged throat of red 

And splintered rocks, through which a dim stream 

flows, 

So far beneath, its foam becomes a thread 
Of melted silver, poured amid the rose 
And orange-tinted lichen-spotted walls. 

Across this awful chasm, a jay 

Flies dauntlessly, with a ringing cry. 

The shuddering soul goes with him on his way, 

Made sick with horror, while the high 

Cliffs echo with his fearless calls. 



78 PRAIRIE SONGS 

ALTRUISM. 

A tale of toil that's never done, I tell; 

Of life where love's a fleeting wing 
Across the toiler's murky hell 

Of endless, cheerless journeying. 
1 draw to thee the far-off poor 

And lay their sorrows at thy door. 

Thou shalt not rest while these my kind 

Toil hopelessly in solitude ; 
Thou shalt not leave them out of mind 

They must be reckoned with. The food 

You eat shall bitter be, 
While law robs them and feedeth thee. 




RETURN Or THE GULLS 



AR out upon the treeless sweep 
Of sun-smit plain, there come 
And go great flights of gulls. 
In hot still noon, in roar of wind, 
In mist of evening or ,in cold clear dawn 
They flit in easeful flight above the swash 
Of uncut wheat, glittering like flakes 
Of snow in flaming sunlight. 

They are far from the sea 

How came they here, these children 

Of the raw, salt winds of ocean? 

All day they wheel and dip 
And rise again complaining, calling 
In querulous voices, calling, asking 
For something lost. 

In keen October dawns 
They move in myriads, with the rolling sweep 
Of foam-lined waves of water, 
Close to the sod in search of food. 



80 PRAIRIE SONGS 

At night they settle upon the breast 
Of little alkaline lakes and sit and swing 
In the soft wash of the water, 
And talk of things far off. 
In the winter they hasten south. 

For ages they have journeyed thus, 
Century by century, while the low land rose 
And the water wasted aeons, and still 
They came and went. Generations died, 
But the young preserved the custom. 
And now, though the land is hot 
And the sea is sunk to an alkaline pool, 
They come and come, because they bear 
Within their faithful brains, the habits 
Of a thousand thousand years. 




ROAD fields of newly-risen wheat 
Whereon lie curving, burnished 

pools 

Of smooth rose-golden water. 
Across each pond the hylas peep; 
A warm soil-scented wind 
Moves from the wide, unending spaces 

Of the roseate West, where clouds hang 
Like weary birds on wing. 

The click of planter, and the shout 

Of driver ringing through the air 

Adds human presence; while through the rays 

Of wide, red-setting sun a slow team moves 

A purple shadow on a golden ground. 



Bi 



82 PRAIRIE SONGS 

THE WIND'S VOICE. 

I woke far out upon the Kansas sod, 

And in the car-eaves overheard, 
Close to my ear, as if it called to me, 

I heard the sad wind of the plain. 
A pushing whisper, the voice 

Of a spent runner hoarse with haste, 
Burdened with news of the vast 

Untrodden west. 




^"^ 
as&s 

iHrMississim 



!HROUGH wild and tangled 

forests 

The broad, unhasting river flows 
Spotted with rain-drops, gray with night; 

Upon its curving breast there goes 
A lonely steamboat's larboard light, 

A blood-red star against the shadowy oaks; 
Noiseless as a ghost, through greenish gleam 
Of fire-flies, before the boat's wild scream 
A heron flaps away 
Like silence taking flight. 



84 PRAIRIE SONGS 

A BROTHER'S DEATH-SEARCH. 

A sadder search you'd hardly plan 
Than a brother seeking a brother's bones, 

Seeking the grave of a murdered man, 
On the plain where the wind like a mourner 
moans; 

Seeking a skull that the wolves have gnawed, 

Bones that the keen-eyed fox has pawed! 

Alone on the prairie day by day, 
With keen eyes sweeping the sunny grass 
Where the bleaching buffalo skeletons lay 

Seeing the hawk's swift shadow pass 
Searching the gullies, amid the stones 
For a murdered brother's scattered bones. 

Alone on the prairie, night by night; 

In camp where the wild wind, spent and weak, 
Comes like a runner hoarse with fright, 

Whispering a tale he dares not speak 
While the roan at his picket uneasily stirring, 
Hears over his head a swift bird whirring. 

Alone on the prairie by night, he dreamed, 
Alone on the prairie by day, he spied 

The dead man's bones (or so it seemed) 
A thousand times in his silent ride. 

But only the skeleton buffaloes lay 

In countless myriads along his way. 



PRAIRIE SONGS 85 

Whenever the vulture heavily rose 
From a shallow swale with sudden start, 

The rider stopped God! Who knows, 
But the bird is fat with a dead man's heart? 

But only a crib of wild elks' bones 

Lay broken and sunken amid the stones. 

A sadder search you'd hardly plan 
Than a herder seeking a brother's bones, 

Seeking a murdered skeleton man 
On the plain where the sad wind ever moans 

Seeking the limbs that the wolves have gnawed 

And skull that the keen-eyed fox has pawed. 

O, the swift white clouds tell never a tale, 

And the wind speaks never a word! 
Though it comes in the night with a sobbing wail, 
A cry of pain like a wounded bird: 

Though wind and cloud may daily pass 
Over a skeleton hid in the grass. 



86 PRAIRIE SONGS 

SPRING RAINS. 

When the snow is sunk 

And the fields are bare, 

And the rising sun has a golden glare 

Through the window pane; 

And the crow flies over 

The smooth low hills, 

And all the air with his calling thrills 

All hearts leap up in song again 

To welcome spring and the spring-time rain. 




|N every side 

The golden stubble stretches, 
Looped and laced with silvery spiders' webs. 
From stalk to stalk the snapping insects leaping 
Add sparks of glittering fire to gold and silver haze. 

Their clicking flight the only sounds of living 
In all the deepening solemn hush 
Of flooding failing light through drooping dreamy 
grain. 

The sweet warm light grows every moment richer 
Ever more sonorous the damp and hollow air. 
And now there comes the clatter of the reaper 
And loud and cheery urging of the tired teams. 

Around, unseen, the choir of evening crickets 
Deepens and widens with the fading dusk, 
And distant calls to supper reach across the tangled 
grain. 

The over-arching majesty of purple clouds grows 

brighter 

Soaring above in seas of green and blue. 
87 



88 PRAIRIE SONGS 

A tumbled mountain land of cloud-crags, fired and 

lighted 

To glowing bronze, and red and yellow gold. 
And through the grain the reaper still goes forward 
And still the crickets chirp and insects leap. 
And overhead the glory of the sunlight turns to 

gray. 







PRAIRIE SONGS 89 
THE NOONDAY PLAIN. 

The plain lay under the cloudless sky 
In utter and terrible silence. 
Not a sound, not a living soul, not a voice 
Broke from the russet reach of sod 
Save a cricket that cried from the deep 
Of his loneliness, like a lost soul. 

The grass under foot 
Was brittle as glass and dry as dust, 
It crumbled to powder under the heel. 
A lark's brave voice sounded near, once, 

And was silent with heat. 

The light was enormous, 
Incredible, world-flooding, insatiable as death! 
It was so fierce, the world of sod 
Grew dim with over-plus of light 

It silenced and withered. 

The wind came out of the West, 
Softly, silently, as if on tiptoe, 
And whispered in passing, as though 

It laid a finger on the lip. 

The dust of roads arose 
Like smoke from crevices of hidden fires, 
And sailed across the land 
Like banners. Teams crept beneath 
Like weary wingless beetles 

Crawling from cabin to cabin. 



90 PRAIRIE SONGS 

Awe and terror rose within 
The waiting, watching soul, a horror 
Strange and wordless made the heart ache 
With wish to fly. The silence appalled 

And the light dazzled. 




MIDNIGHT SNOWS 



WITCHERY of the winter 

night, 
With broad moon shouldering 

to the West. 



Sometimes in city streets, at night 

I walk alone beneath the trees ; 

Before my feet in rustling flight 

The west wind sweeps 

The midnight snows in untracked heaps, 

Familiar, desolate and white. 

Hearing the wind's wild rune, 
I stand and wait with upturned eyes, 
Awed by the splendor of the skies 
And star-trained progress of the moon. 

The city vanishes like smoke 
1 see the snow-clad prairie gleam 
Beneath the magic of the moon, 
And age falls from me like a cloak: 
91 



92 PRAIRIE SONGS 

1 hear the sound of sleigh-bells and the croon 
Of loving voices. Through misty night 
I hear glad girlish laughter ring, 
Clear as some softly stricken string. 
The moon is setting toward tie West. 
The sleigh-bells clash in homeward flight, 
With frost each horse's breast is white, 
And tbe big moon sinking at the West ! 

The watch-dogs bark like sentinels 
To hear the passing of the bells. 
" O moon, you set to soon, too soon!" 
Go sailing on, go sailing slow, 
O moon, fast sinking at the West! 
The lovers fain would follow thee 
Beyond the farthest Western sea. 
Too fast the years of girlhood go, 
Too soon come toil and all unrest 
Across the diamond-dusted snow 
We'd ride forever in your light, 
O sovereign of the court of night! 
***** 

"Good-night, Lucy!" 

" Good-night, Ben! " 
Tbe moon is setting at tbe West ! 
" Good-night, my sweetheart! " once again 
The parting kiss, while comrades wait 
Impatient at the roadside gate, 
And tbe red moon sets beyond tbe West. 




STAGKINGTIME 



4f, 

"ITHIN the shelter of the towering 

stack 

I lie in shadow, blinking at the light; 
The sun-light floods the snow-rimmed purple 

clouds. 

I hear the glorious southern wind 
Sweep the sere stubble like a scythe, 
While dropping crickets patter 'round me, shaken 

down 
In flying showers from wind-tossed yellow grain. 

first ripe day of autumn! 
O memory half of pain and half of joy! 
As if the fate of some dead girl 
Haunted my heart, I dream and dream 
With aching throat, of dim but unforgotten days. 

O wind and light and cool high cloud! 

O smell of corn-leaves ripening! It is so sweet 



94 PRAIRIE SONGS 

To lie here, taskless, dumb and rapt 

With wordless weight of reminiscent scenes and 

sounds, 

Weight of unremembered millions of autumns 
Filled with the wonder of a myriad varied years, 
Wonder of winds and woods and rivers, and the 

smell 

Of ripened yellow grain and nuts, and the joy 
Of sunset rest from toil in dim small fields 
In Anglo-Saxon days. 

And the shadows wheel and lengthen 
Across the level stubble-land, which glows 
A mat of gold inlaid with green 

The sun is sunk; sighing I rise to go, and the jocund 
call 

Of near-by street-boy breaks the spell 

Of cloud and sun and rustling sheaves 

And the sweep of the unresting mystical wind 

And overhead I hear the jar and throb 

Of giant presses, and the grinding roar 

Of ceaseless tumult in the street below 

Comes back and welters me again. 




ROM brown plowed hillocks 

In early red morning, 
They woke the tardy sower with their cheerful cry. 
A mellow boom and whoop 
That held a warning, 
A song that brought the seed-time very nigh. 

The circling, splendid anthem of their greeting, 
Ran like the morning beating 
Of a hundred mellow drums 

Boom, boom, boom! 
Each hillock's top repeating 
Like cannon answering cannon 

When the golden sunset comes. 

They drum no more! 

Those splendid spring-time pickets, 

The sweep of share and sickle 

Has thrust them from the hills; 
They have vanished from the prairie 
Like the partridge from the thickets, 
They have perished from the sportsman, 
Who kills, and kills, and kills! 

95 



96 PRAIRIE SONGS 

Often now, 

When seated at my writing, 
1 lay my pencil down 

And fall to dreaming, still, 
Of the stern, hard days 
Of the old-time Iowa seeding, 
When the prairie chickens woke me 

With their chorus on the hill. 




A TOWN orttr PLAIN 



SHADELESS clump of yellow 

blocks, 

It stands upon the sod, ringed 
With level lands and draped in mist, 
Wavering in air so dry, it seems 
The very clouds might burn. 

A mighty wind roars from the south, 
Silencing all other tumult. Its wings 
Horizon-wide, welters the grass 
And tears the dust and stubble; 
And yet the mist remains. Beneath 
The wind, flat to earth, teams crawl 
Like beetles seeking shelter. 

In the glimmering offing 
Ricks of grain stand like walls 
Of scattered Spanish huts, and like 
The easy magic of dreams 
Lakes of gray-blue water, bloom 
On the hot palpitant plain, 
So sweet and fair, the heart 
Aches with longing deep as grief. 

They mock the eyes a moment 
And are gone and under the wind 
The teams crawl on blind with dust, 
And faint with thirst. 07 



98 PRAIRIE SONGS 

IN THE GOLD COUNTRY 

A gray-blue stream that curves 

And strikes a high red cliff, lined 

With bronze-green pines on the farther side; 

Near by a cloud of gray, cold, naked asps 

And far beyond, green-spotted cliffs 

Of orange soil, with glittering mountains 

Filling the far vista. 




FROM WILD 
MEADOWS 



HROUGH cool dry dust the 

wagons rattle, 
Their talk subdued and grave 

and low. 

The horses walk with heads low hanging, 
Their footfalls muffled, rhythmical and slow. 

Upon the weedy load of rank fall grasses, 
I lie and watch the daylight wane, 
Hearing the distant thresher's howl and clatter 
And cow-bells moving down the dusty lane. 

The darkness deepens and the stars appearing 
Line out the march of coming night. 
And now I catch the sound of farm-yard's bustle 
And cross the kitchen's band of friendly, fragrant 
light. 

Familiar voices call, the falling neck-yokes rattle, 
The pump gives out its welcome squeal. 
The barn's gloom swallows team and drivers, 
And mother's call to supper rings a hearty peal. 

99 



100 PRAIRIE SONGS 

O fragrant waste of autumn grasses! 

prairie by the plowshare torn and rent! 

1 think of you in days of heat and hurry, 
Like traveler in deserts lost and spent. 

I wonder if some future world or cycle 
Will bring again those radiant seas of bloom, 
Wherein all life seemed fair and peaceful, 
And bird and beast found generous room. 

I'll meet them ! They are not gone forever! 
They lie somewhere, those sun-lit prairie lands, 
Unstained of blood, possessed of peace and plenty 
Untouched by greed's all desolating hands. 




FIRE 



CREEPING serrate line of dusty 
red, 

That gnaws its way across a 

smooth low hill 
Toward long ricks of grain. 
Silhouetted against the murky light four men, 
With spades at back, stride singly 
With unhasting resolute action along the hill 
From left to right. Against the wall 
Of red and purple smoke 
Each form leans in sharp outline; 
The smell of burning hay fills the train; 
Then loosely, amply, as a curtain falls 
Swinging in the wind, the smoke shuts down 
And all is lost to sight. 



102 PRAIRIE SONGS 

BOYISH SLEEP. 

And all night long we lie in sleep, 

Too sweet to sigh in, or to dream, 
Unnoting how the wild winds sweep, 

Or snow clouds through the darkness stream 
Above the trees that moan and sigh 

And clutch with naked hands the sky. 
Beneath the checkered counterpane 

We rest the soundlier for the storm; 
Its wrath is only lullaby, 

A far off, vast and dim refrain. 



PRAIRIE SONGS 103 
THE HERDSMAN. 

A waste of grasses dry as hair; 
Stillness ; insects' buff, and glare 
Of white-hot sunshine everywhere! 

The herdsman like a statue sits 
Upon his panting horse. While far below 
The herd moves soundlessly as a shadow flits, 
The weak wind mumbles some mysterious word. 

The word grows louder, and a thrill 

Of action runs along the hot twin bands 

Of steel. A low roar quivers in the ear, and still 

No motion else in all the spotted sands. 

The roar grows brazen, and a yell 

Bursts from an unseen iron throat; 

The herdsman's eyes rest on a distant swell, 

Whence seems to come the savage welcome note. 

Sudden it comes! A crawling, thunderous thing, 
A monstrous serpent hot with haste, 
The cannon-ball express with rushing swing 
Circles the butte and roars across the waste. 

The embodied might of these our iron days, 
The glittering moving city rushes toward the east, 
Bringing for a single instant face to face 
Barbaric loneliness and a flying feast. 



104 PRAIRIE SONGS 

A roguish maiden from an open window throws 
(Or drops) her handkerchief among the cacti spears, 
The herdsman plucks and wears it like a rose 
Upon his breast, and laughs to hide his grateful 
tears. 

Again the waste of grasses crisp as hair; 
Stillness; crickets chirp, and glare 
Of boundless sunshine everywhere ! 




RUSHING EAGLE 



WITH look so like a lion's 

frown, 

Savage but sovereign; sombre as Hamlet, 
Rebellious as Brutus, desperate as Leonidas, 
He fronts the world the chieftain of a race 
Condemned to die. 

What tragedy compares with this 
A racial death! Here and there 
A chieftain understands. Guiltless as the panther, 
Wild as the soul of every wronged 
And cheated man, he leaps upon 
The wall of circling flame, and falls and dies 
Like a trapped wolf. 

Here and there a leader goes among 
His enemies, and comprehends at last 
The height and breadth and pitilessness 
Of the flood that sweeps him away. 
Then his face settles in lines like those 
Of Lear, and his heart swells and breaks, 
105 



106 PRAIRIE SONGS 

And in the dim shelter of his tent 
He draws his rags about him 
And dies defiantly. 

Blessed be his faith in happy hunting-grounds. 
For nothing here is left but beggary 
And melancholy change. 





OOLNESS, ripeness and repose; 
The smell of gathered grains 

and fruits, 

The musky odor of melons everywhere. 
The very dust is fruity, and the click 
Of locusts' wings is like the close 
Of gates upon great stores of wheat. 
The gathered grain bleaches in shock, 
The corn breathes on me from the west, 
And the sky-line widens on and on, 
Until I see the waves of yellow-green 
Break on the hills that face the snow and lilac 
Peaks of Colorado mountains. 

The sun, half-sunk, 
Burns through the dusty crimson sky. 
Streamers of gold and green soar 
In radiating bands, like spokes 
Of God's immeasurable chariot wheels, , 
Half-sunk and falling. 107 



108 PRAIRIE SONGS 

The cattle feed about me, here, 
Sociably, gnawing the scant dry grass. 
I hear their quick short sighs 
As one by one they settle for the night. 
All is peaceful save the dull report 
Of murderous, quick-repeating gun 
Of some insatiate sportsman. 

Through the hot haze 
The rapid rattle of a hay-rack goes, 
And as it passes leaves a trail 
Of boyish memories, fading, falling 
Like the yellow dust that drifts 
Behind the hay-rack's wheels. 




PRAIRIE SONGS 109 

THE STAMPEDE. 

There's a roar in the depth of the darkness, 
There's the thunder of fast-flying feet, 
For the herd is awake and blind-rushing, 
Made mad with the wind and the sleet. 

They stream through the swale like a river, 
A flood of black mud on the white 
Of the snow-covered ground and their going 
Is wild as an army in flight. 

Above the mixed tumult and trample, 
Over clashing of horns in the dark 
Over bellowing of bulls, the herder 
Lifts voice like the song of the lark. 

Round, round in a circle he crowds them, 
Singing on, growing hoarse in his song; 
Still riding and singing till morning, 
Though it's cold and the night-time is long. 

He has saved the herd for another, 
And what is his hope, his reward? 
A dollar a day and a tent cloth 
To cover his sleep on the sward. 

His owner knows nothing and cares not 
That night he sat at the play 
And tossed a bouquet to the danseuse, 
Worth twice the brave herder's poor pay. 



110 PRAIRIE SONGS 

SPORT. 

Somewhere, in deeps 
Of tangled ripening wheat, 
A little prairie-chicken cries 
Lost from its fellows, it pleads and weeps. 
Meanwhile, stained and mangled, 

With dust-filled eyes, 
The unreplying mother lies 
Limp and bloody at the sportman's feet. 




cool gray jug that touched the lips 
In kiss that softly closed and clung! 

No Spanish wine the tippler sips, 

Or Port the poet's praise has sung, 
Such pure, untainted sweetness yields 
As cool gray jug in harvest fields. 

1 see it now! A clover leaf 

Outspread upon its sweating side 
As from the standing sheaf 

1 pluck and swing it high, the wide 
Field glows with noon-day heat 
The winds are tangled in the wheat. 



112 PRAIRIE SONGS 

The myriad crickets blithely cheep; 

Across the swash of ripened grain 
1 see the burnished reaper creep 

The lunch-boy comes, and once again 
The jug its crystal coolness yields 
O cool gray jug in harvest fields! 




THE'GRAY-WQLF 



SHADOWY beast is the 

gaunt gray wolf, 
And his foot falls soft on 

a carpet of spines, 
Where the night shuts quick over coverts of firs; 
He haunts the deeps of the northern pines. 

His eyes are eager, his teeth are keen, 
As he slips at night through the brush like a 
snake, 

Crouching and cringing straight into the wind, 
To leap with a laugh on the fawn in the brake. 

He falls like a flash on the partridge hen 
Brooding her young in the wind-bent weeds, 

Or listens to hear, with a start of greed, 
The bittern booming from river reeds. 

When the chill, snow-laden roaring blast 
Swirls round the woodmen's camp at night, 

And beats like a spectral bird at the pane, 
The men sit circling the broad red light. 



114 PRAIRIE SONGS 

Then the story is told by some, of a mate 
Or friend, long lost in the dark and snows, 

Who never came back, whose awful fate 
And scattered bones' sepulchre the wolf only 
knows. 

And the voices sink to a lower tone, 
As far in the deeps of the sighing pines 

A lone wolf's howl, blends with the moan 
Of the wind in the eaves as it sobs and whines. 

When the lights are out and the men asleep, 
The wolves, grown bolder, sniff and peer 

From the fartherest shades and vainly leap 
Round the tree in the clearing where hang the 
deer; 

Till afar in the darkness, signal yells 
And a scurrying chorus of yelps and cries, 

To the baffled watch on the clearing tells 
That a frantic deer through the tempest flies. 

Oh! a shadowy beast is the gray, grizzled wolf, 
Where his feet fall soft on a carpet of spines; 

When the night is dark and the storm sings high 
His voice is abroad in the tossing pines. 

He's the symbol of hunger the whole earth through, 

His specter sits at the door of care, 
And the homeless hear with a thrill of fear 

The sound of his wind-swept voice on the air. 




~'~^ LONELY task it is to plow! 

All day the black and shining 

soil 

Rolls like a ribbon from the mold-board's 
Glistening curve. All day the horses toil 
And battle with the flies, and strain 
Their creaking harnesses. All day 
The crickets jeer from wind-blown shocks of grain. 

October brings the frosty dawn, 

The still warm noon and cold, clear night, 

When stiffened crickets make no sound 

And wild ducks in their southward flight 

Go by in haste and still the boy 

And toiling team gnaw round by round, 

On weather-beaten stubble band by band, 

Until at last, to his great joy, 

The winter's frost seals up the unplowed land. 



116 PRAIRIE SONGS 

A TRIBUTE OF GRASSES. 

TO W. W. 

Serene, vast head, with silver cloud of hair 

Lined on the purple dusk of death, 

A stern medallion, velvet set 

Old Norseman, throned, not chained upon thy chair, 

Thy grasp of hand, thy hearty breath 

Of welcome thrills me yet 

As when 1 faced thee there! 

Loving my plain as thou thy sea, 
Facing the East as thou the West, 
I bring a handful of grass to thee 
The prairie grasses 1 know the best; 
Type of the wealth and width of the plain, 
Strong of the strength of the wind and sleet, 
Fragrant with sunlight and cool with rain, 
I bring it and lay it low at thy feet, 
Here by the eastern sea. 



PRAIRIE SONGS 117 
MOODS OF THE PLAIN. 

The plain has moods like the sea: 
It is filled with voices and stir 
Of wings, when the dust-clouds flee 
On the burning wind, and the whirr 
Of the crickets is lost in the roar 
And the ramp of the southern gale; 
When the swash of the wheat runs high, 
And the querulous gulls are a-sail 
In the pitiless August sky. 

* * * 

And the next day rises fair 

With a threat of cloud in the West; 

And gentle and sweet through the air 

Steals the rustle of grain the winds rest. 

But far in the West, the loom 

Of cloud is half-concealed 

By sheen of sunlight till the boom 

Of thunder like a signal gun 

Shatters the veil and so revealed, 

The gathered tempest reels across the sun. 

The plain grows dark; like the sea 
It holds no shelter. Dwarfed to grains 
Of sand, the settlers' cabins cower 
Before the tempest, lost in the rain's 
Gray wall of dust and spray. The lower 
Of clouds makes mid-day night. The crash 



118 PRAIRIE SONGS 

Of siege guns would be lost within 
The pulsing roar, the illimitable din 
Of sprangling lightning, flash on flash. 



The roar recedes. The eager eye 

Sees the darkness lighten. Each glare grows 

Each moment dimmer. A rift 

Of western sky a golden crescent shows. 

The wind lulls and dripping flowers lift 

And watch the daylight come again. 

The plain smells sweet, as the skies 

Broaden and lighten, and from the trampled grain 

The lark's exultant flutings rise. 





NORTHER 



HERE are voices of pain 
In the autumn rain, 
There are pipings drear in the grassy 

waste; 

There are lifting swells whose crests arise 
Till they touch and blend with the leaden skies 
IVhere massed clouds wildly haste. 

I sit on my horse in boot and spur 

As the night falls drear 

On the lonely plain. Afar I hear 
The cry of goose, and swift wings whirr 
Through the graying deeps of the upper air 

Like weary great birds the clouds sail low: 

The wind now wails like a woman in woe, 
Now mutters and growls like a lion in lair. 

Lost on the prairie ! 

All day alone 

With my boyish pride, my swift Ladrone 
And the shapes on the shadow my startled 



brain cast. 



119 



120 PRAIRIE SONGS 

Which way is north? Which way is west? 

I ask Ladrone, for he knows best, 

And he turns his head to the blast. 

He whinnies and turns at my voice's sound, 

And then impatiently paws the ground. 

The night's gray turns to a starless black, 

And the drifting mizzle and scurrying rack 

Have melted afar into rayless night. 

The wind, like an actor childish with age, 

Plays favorite characters, now sobs with rage, 

Now flees like a child in fright. 

I turn from the wind (a treacherous guide) 

And touch my knee to the glossy side 

Of my steaming horse, and the prairie wide 

Slips by like the sea under bounding keel; 

As I pat his neck and feel the reel 

Of his mighty chest and swift limbs' play, 

The sorrowful wind voice dies away. 

The coyote starts from a shivering sleep 

On the grassy edge of a gully deep 

And silently slips through the wind-bent weeds; 

The prairie hen from beneath our feet 

Springs up in haste, with swift wing's beat, 

And into the dark like a bullet speeds. 

Which way is east? Which way is south? 

Is not to be answered, when dark as the mouth 

Of a red-lipped wolf the night shuts down 



PRAIRIE SONGS 121 

I look in vain for a star or light 
Ladrone speeds on with dull thud flight, 
His ears laid back in an anxious frown. 

The long grass breaks on my horse's breast 
As foam is dashed from the billow's crest 

By a keen-prowed ship; 
I see it not, but I hear the whip 
On my stirrup shield, and feel the rush 
And spiteful lash of the hazel brush. 

The night grows colder, the wind again 
Ab what's that! I pull at the rein 
And turn my face to the blast 
It was snow on my cbeek! Ay, thick and fast 
The startled snows through the darkness leapt, 
As massed on the mighty north wind's wing 
Like an air-borne army's rushing swing 
The awful shadow upon me swept. 

I bowed my bead till tbe floating mane 
Of my panting borse warmed cheek again, 
And plunged straight into tbe nigbt amain. 



Day came and found me slowly riding on 
With senses bound as in a chain. 
Through drifting deeps of snow, Ladrone, 
Dumbly faithful, plodded on, the rein 
Flung low upon his weary neck. 



122 PRAIRIE SONGS 

I long had ceased to fear or reck 
Or death by cold or wolf or snow, 
Bent grimly on my saddle bow. 

My limbs were numb, I seemed to ride 
Upon some viewless rushing tide 
My hands hung helpless at my side. 
The multitudinous trampling snows 
With solemn, ceaseless myriad din 
Swept round and over me; far and wide, 
A roaring silence shut the senses in! 
Above me through the hurtling shrouds 
The far sky, red with morning, glows, 
Looked down at times 

And then was lost in clouds. 

But were my tongue with poet's spell 
Aflame and free, I could not tell 
The tale of biting hunger, cold, the hell 
Of frenzied thoughts that age-long night! 
How life seemed only in my brain; the wind 
The foam-white breeze of wintry seas 
That roared in wrath from left to right, 
Striking me helpless, deaf and blind. 
* # * 

The third morn broke upon my sight, 
Streamed through the window of the room 
In which I woke, I knew not how. 
Broke radiant in a golden bloom, 
As though God smiled away the night! 



PRAIRIE SONGS 123 

Like an eternal changeless sea 
Of burnished marble lay the plain, 
In dazzling, moveless, soundless waste 
Horizon-girt, without a stain. 

The air was still. No breath of sound 
Came from the white expanse 
The whole earth seemed to wait in trance, 
In hushed expectant silence bound. 
And, O the beauty of the eastern sky, 
Where glowed the herald banners of the king! 
And as I looked with famished eye 
Lo! day came on me with a spring. 

Along the iridescent billows of the snow 
The sun shot slender, glancing beams 
Like flaming arrows from the bow 
They broke on every crest, and gleams 

Of radiant fire 

Alit on every spire 
Along the great king's pathway as he came. 

And cloudless, soft, serene as May, 

Opened the jocund day! 




LRDRONE 



ND what of Ladrone, do 

you ask? 
Ah, friend, I am sad at the 

name! 

My splendid fleet roan! the task 
You require is a hard one at best. 
Swift as the spectral coyote, as tame 
Tc my voice as a sweetheart an eye 
Like a pool in the woodland asleep, 
Brown, clear and calm, with color down deep 
Where his brave, proud soul seemed to lie. 

Ladrone! There's a spell in the name, 
The dank walls fade on my eye the roar 
Of the city grows dim, as a dream; 
My spirit leaps up as to soar; 
Once more I'm asweep on the plain, 
The summer wind sings in my hair; 
Once again I hear the wild crane 
Crying deep in the shimmering air; 
White clouds are adrift on the breeze, 
The flowers nod under our feet, 



126 PRAIRIE SONGS 

And under my thighs 'twixt my knees, 
Again, as of old, I can feel 
The roll of Ladrone's vast muscles, the reel 
Of his chest see the thrust of fore-limb 
And hear the dull trample of heel ! 

We thunder behind the wild herd, 
My singing whip swirls like a snake; 
Hurrah! we swoop on like a bird, 
With Ladrone's proud record at stake 
For the shaggy, swift leader has stride 
Like the last of a long kingly line. 
Her eyes flash fire through her hair, 
She tosses her head in disdain, 
Her mane streams abroad in the air 
She leads the mad herd of the plain 
As a wolf leader leads his gaunt pack 
On the slot of the desperate deer 
Their exultant eyes savagely shine! 

But down on the leader's broad back 
Stings my lash like a rill of red flame 
Huzza, my wild beauty, your best! 
Will you teach my Ladrone a new pace ? 
Will you break his proud heart with a shame 
By spurning the dust in his face ? 

The herd falls behind and is lost 

As we race neck and neck, stride and stride 

Again the long whip hisses hot 

Along the gray mare's glossy side 



PRAIRIE SONGS 127 

Aha, she is lost! She does not respond 
The storm of her speed's at its best 
Now I lean to the ear of my roan 
And shout, letting fall the tight rein: 
Like a hound from the leash my Ladrone 
Swoops ahead 

We're alone on the plain! 



Yes, alone on the wide, solemn prairie 
I ride with my rifle in hand, 
My eyes on the watch for the wary 
And beautiful antelope band; 

Or, sleeping at night in the grasses, I hear 

Ladrone grazing near in the gloom. 

His listening head on the sky 

Comes back, etched complete to the ear. 

From the river below comes the boom 

Of the bittern, the trill and the cry 

Of frogs in the pool, and shrill crickets' chime, 

Making ceaseless and marvelous rhyme. 

'But what of his fate ? Did be die 
When that terrible tempest was done ? 
When he staggered with you to the light, 
And the fight with the Norther was won ? 
Did he live like a guest at your door ? 

No, friend, not so, I sold him outright. 



128 PRAIRIE SONGS 

What, sold your preserver ? He who 
Through wind and -wild snow and detp night 
Brought you safe to a shelter at last ! 
Did you, when the danger had ended, 
Forget your dumb hero, your friend ? 

Forget? No, nor shall I why, man! 

It's little you know of such love 

As I felt for him you think that you feel 

The same deep regard for your span, 

Blanketed, shining, and clipped to the heel. 

But my horse was companion and friend, 

My playmate, my ship on the sea 

Of dun grasses; in all kinds of weather, 

Unhoused and hungry sometimes, he 

Served me for love, he needed no tether! 

No, I cannot forget; but who 

Is the master of fortune or fate? 

Who does as he wishes and not as he must? 

When I sold my preserver, my mate, 

My faithf ulest friend, man, I wept 

Yes, I own it! His beautiful eyes 

Seemed to ask what it meant, and he kept 

Them fixed on me in startled surprise, 

As another hand led him away, 

And the last that I heard of my roan 

Was the sound of his shrill, pleading neigh. 



PRAIRIE SONGS 129 

O magic west wind of the mountain ! 

steed with the stinging mane! 

In sleep I draw rein at the fountain, 

But wake with a shiver of pain; 

For the heart and the heat of the city 

Are walls and prison and chain. 

Lost my Ladrone, gone the wild living 

1 dream, but my dreaming is vain. 





I 3 



PRAIRIE SONGS 131 
ACROSS THE PICKET LINE. 

After we 'd been a-chasiir old Hood 

And penned him into Atlanty, 
Uncle Billy, doggone him ! stood 

Around behind us t' make us anty 
A-diggin' dirt and a-cuttin' ditches, 

F'r days and days ! an' top o' that, 
We slep', side-arms in our britches 

Ready t' fight at the drop o' the hat. 

Wai ! The rebel pickets got closer 'n' closer 

Till blame near we could almost see 
The kind o' fellers the Johnnies was, 

An' talk as easy as you an' me 
Out in the field here plowin' corn 

An'gassin' across the dividin' line. 
Yessir ! An' there we 'd set an' trade off lies 

About the war, and provisions, tell 
Some feller 'd sing out "Hunt y'r holes ! 

Give the last man sinjen' hell ! " 

Wai ! Every night we c'd hear 'em sing 

" Old Hundred," or " Salvation's Free," 
An' we 'd join in and make things ring 

An' so we got t' know, y' see, 
Jest when the Johnnies meant t' shell 

'R charge next day, 'r spring a mine 
For when they 'd plan 'd t' give us hell 

They 'd sing of heaven all 'long the line. 



132 PRAIRIE SONGS 

Fact ! Yesslr, sure's y'r born, 

1 never see the singin' fail, 
Always brought a storm next day 

With bullets flyin' thick as hail, 
An' them there Rebs a-scramblin' right 

Straight up to our blessed eyes 
Teeth gritted, faces white 

An' yellin' fit to raise the skies. 

'Fraid ? Not by a darn sight 1 They 

Didn't know what the word meant. 
No sir they 'd jest nacherly pray 

An' wherever a man 'ud go, they went; 
They wa'n't no discount on their grit, 

And I don't bear 'em any spite. 
We met like men, an' settled it, 

And I guess they think it's settled right. 





EN IfS SPRING 




HEN the hens begin 

a-squawkin' 

An' a-rollin' in the dust; 
When the rooster takes 

to talkin', 

An' a-crowin' fit to bust; 
When the crows are cawin', flockin' 
An' the chickuns boom and sing, 
Then it's spring! 

When the roads are jest one mud-hole 
And the worter tricklin' round, 

Makes the barn-yard like puddle, 
An' softens up the ground 

Till y'r ankle-deep in worter, 

Sayin' words y'r hadn't orter 
When the jay-birds swear an' sing, 
Then it's spring! 



133 



134 PRAIRIE SONGS 

LOGAN AT PEACH TREE CREEK. 

A VETERAN'S STORY. 

You know that day at Peach Tree Creek, 
When the Rebs with their circling, scorching wall 
Of smoke-hid cannon and sweep of flame 
Drove in our flanks, back! back! and all 
Our toil seemed lost in the storm of shell 
That desperate day McPherson fell! 

Our regiment stood in a little glade 
Set round with half-grown red oak trees 
An awful place to stand, in full fair sight, 
While the minie bullets hummed like bees, 
And comrades dropped on either side 
That fearful day McPherson died! 

The roar of the battle, steady, stern, 

Rung in our ears. Upon our eyes 

The belching cannon smoke, the half-hid swing 

Of deploying troops, the groans, the cries, 

The hoarse commands, the sickening smell 

That blood-red day McPherson fell! 

But we stood there! when out from the trees, 
Out of the smoke and dismay to the right 
Burst a rider His head was bare, his eye 
Had a blaze like a lion fain for fight; 
His long hair, black as the deepest night, 
Streamed out on the wind. And the might 
Of his plunging horse was a tale to tell, 



PRAIRIE SONGS 135 

And his voice rang high like a bugle's swell; 
" Men, the enemy hem us on every side; 
We'll whip 'em yet! Close up that breach 
Remember your flag don't give an inch! 
The right flank's gaining and soon will reach- 
Forward, boys, and give 'em hell!" 
Said Logan, after McPherson fell. 
We laughed and cheered and the red ground shook, 
As the general plunged along the line 
Through the deadliest rain of screaming shells; 
For the sound of his voice refreshed us all, 
And we filled the gap like a roaring tide, 
And saved the day McPherson died! 

But that was twenty years ago, 

And part of a horrible dream now past. 

For Logan, the lion, the drums throb low 

And the flag swings low on the mast; 

He has followed his mighty chieftain through 

The mist-hung stream, where gray and blue 

One color stand, 

And North to South extends the hand. 

It's right that deeds of war and blood 
Should be forgot, but, spite of all, 
I think of Logan, now, as he rode 
That day across the field; I hear the call 
Of his trumpet voice see the battle shine 
In his stern, black eyes, aud down the line 
Of cheering men I see him ride, 
As on the day McPherson died. 



136 PRAIRIE SONGS 

PAID HIS WAY. 

No, Steve, I aint complainin' any, 

I '11 go if y' think it 's right; 

I don't ask a single bite n'r a penny 

More n'r less 'n jest what 's white 

But son, bime by, when the old man 's done for, 

Jest remember my words to-day. 

Y' don't like to have me round h'yere, 

But I reckon I 've paid m' way! 

I was eighty-one last January 

Born in the Buckeye State, 

I 've opened two farms on the prairie, 

An' worked on 'em early and late. 

Come rain or come shine, a scrapin' t' earn 

Every mouthful we eat, an' want 'o say, 

That I never rode in no free concern 

That I did n't pay my way. 

Y'r mother and me worked mighty hard, 

How hard you '11 never know, 

In cold and heat a-standin' guard 

To keep off the rain and snow. 

The mortgige kep' eatin' in nearer to bone, 

And the war it come along too, 

But I went left mother alone 

With Sis in the cradle and you. 

Served my time; an' commenced agin 
On an loway prairie quarter, 



PRAIRIE SONGS 137 

An' there I plowed an' sowed an' fenced, 

And nigged as no human orter, 

To raise you young ones and feed m' wife 

Y'r mothei scrimped and scrubbed till her hair 

was gray, 
And 1 reckon we paid our way. 

No! y'r high-toned tavern aint good enough 

F'r a man like me to die in, 

The work that 's made me crooked and rough 

Should 'a'earned me a bed to lie in 

Under the roof of my only son 

If his wife is proud 'an gay; 

For I boosted y' into the place y've won 

O I reckon I 've paid my way! 

Y'r wife I know is turrible set- 
She 's mighty hansom to see 
I'll admit, but it's a turrible fret 
This havin' to eat with me. 
She never speaks, and she never seems 
To be listnin' to what I say 
But the childern do! they don't know yet, 
Their grandad 's in the way. 

I'd know 's you 're very much to blame 

For wantin' to have me go, 

But, Steve, I'm glad y'r mother's dead 

'Twould break her heart to know. 

She'd say I orter live here, 

What time I've got to stay, 



138 PRAIRIE SONGS 

For, Stephen, I 've travelled for fifty years 
An' I've always paid my way. 

I ain't a-goin' to bother y' long, 

I'll be a pioneerin' further West 

Where mother is, and God '11 say 

Take it easy, Amos, y 've earned a rest 

So, Stevie, I want to stay with you 

I want 'o -work while I stay, 

Jes' give me a little sumpin' to do, 

I reckon I '11 pay my way. 




HORSES CHAVIN HAY 



TELL yeh whut! The 

chankin' 

Which the tired horses 
makes 
When you've slipped the harness off'm 

An' shoved the hay in flakes 
From the hay-mow overhead, 

Is jest about the equal of any pi-any; 
They's nothin" soun's s' cumftabul 
As horses chawin' hay. 

I love t' hear 'em chankin', 

Jest a-grindin' slow and low, 
With their snoots a-rootin' clover 

Deep as their ol' heads '11 go. 
It's kind o' sort o' restin' 

To a feller's bones, I say. 
It soun's s' mighty cumftabul 

The horsus chawin' hay. 
139 



140 PRAIRIE SONGS 

Gra-onk, gra-onk, gra-onk! 

In a stiddy kind o' tone, 
Not a tail a-waggin' to 'urn, 

N'r another sound 'r groan 
Per the flies is gone a-snoozin'. 
Then I loaf around an' watch 'em 

In a sleepy kind o' way, 
F'r they soun' so mighty cumftabul 

As they rewt and chaw their hay. 

An' it sets me thinkin' sober 

Of the days of '53, 
When we pioneered the prairies 

M' wife an' dad an' me, 
In a dummed ol' prairie schooner, 

In a rough-an'-tumble way, 
Sleepin' out at nights, to music 

Of the horsus chawin' hay. 

Or I'm thinkin' of my comrades 
In the fall of '63, 

When I rode with ol' Kilpatrick 
Through on' through ol' Tennessee. 

I'm a-layin' in m' blanket 
With my head agin a stone, 

Gazin' upwards towards the North Star- 
Billy Sykes and Davy Sloan 
A-snorin' in a buck-saw kind o' way, 

An' me a-layin', listenin' 
To the horsus chawin' hay. 



PRAIRIE SONGS 141 



It strikes me turrible cur'ous 

That a little noise like that, 
Can float a feller backwards 

Like the droppin' of a hat; 
An' start his throat a-achin', 

Make his eyes wink that a-way 
They ain't no sound that gits me 

Like horsus chawin' hay! 




142 PRAIRIE SONGS 

GROWING OLD. 

Fr forty years next Easter day, 
Him and me in wind and weather 

Have been a-gittin' bent 'n' gray 
Moggin' along together. 

We're not so very old, of course! 

But still, we ain't so awful spry 
As when we went to singin'-school 

Afoot and 'cross lots, him and 1 
And walked back home the longest way 

An' the moon a-shinin' on the snow, 
Makin' the road as bright as day 

An' his voice talkin' low. 

Land sakes! Jest hear me talk 

F'r all the world, jest like a girl, 
Me nearly sixty! Well-a-well! 

I was so tall and strong, the curl 
In my hair, Sim said, was like 

The crinkles in a medder brook, 
So brown and bright! but there! 

I guess he got it from a book. 

His talk in them there days was full 
Of jest sech nonsense Don't you think 

I didn't like it, for I did! 
I walked along there, glad to drink 

His words in like the breath o' life 
Heavens and earth, what fools we women be! 



PRAIRIE SONGS 143 

And when he asked me for his wife, 
I answered ' Yes ', of course, y' see. 

An' then come work, and trouble bit 
Not much time for love talk then! 

We bought a farm and mortgaged it, 
And worked and slaved like all possessed 
To lift that turrible grindin' weight. 

I washed and churned and sewed 
An' childurn come, till we had eight 

As han'some babes as ever growed 
To walk beside a mother's knee. 
They helped me bear it all, y' see. 

It ain't been nothin' else but scrub 

An' rub and bake and stew 
The hull, hull time, over stove or tub 

No time to rest as men folks do. 
I tell yeh, sometimes I sit and think 

How nice the grave 'II be, jest 

One nice, sweet, everlastin' rest ! 

O don't look scart! I mean 

Jest what 1 say. Ain't crazy yet, 
But it's enough to make me so 

Of course it ain't no use to fret 
Who said it was ? It's nacherl, though, 

But O, if I was only there 
In the past, and young once more 

An' had the crinkles in my hair 



144 PRAIRIE SONGS 

An' arms as round and strong, and side 
As it was then! I'd I'd 

I'd do it all over again, like a fool, 
I s'pose! I'd take the pain 
An' work an' worry, babes and all. 

I s'pose things go by some big rule 
Of God's own book, but my ol' brain 
Can't fix 'urn up, so I'll just wait 

An' do my duty when it's clear, 
An' trust to Him to make it straight. 

Goodness ! noon is almost here, 

And there the men come through the gate! 



PRAIRIE SONGS 145 
A FARMER'S WIFE. 

"Born an' scrubbed, suffered and died." 
That's all you need to say, elder. 

Never mind sayin' " made a bride," 
Nor when her hair got gray. 

Jes' say, born 'n worked t' death; 

That fits it save y'r breath. 

I knew M'tildy when a girl, 
'N a darn purty girl she was ! 

Her hair was shiny 'n full o' curl, 
An' her eyes a kind o' spring-day blue. 

0, 1 know ! Courted her once m'self, 

Till Brown he laid me on the shelf. 

I 've seen that woman once a week 
Ever since that very day in church, 

When Ben turned round 'n kissed her cheek 
And the preacher knelt to pray. 

I 've watched her growing old so fast 

Her breath just flickered toward the last. 

Made me think of a clock run down, 
Sure 's y'r born, that woman did; 

A workin' away for old Ben Brown 
Patient as Job an' meek as a kid, 

Till she sort o' stopped one day 

Heart quit tickin' a feller 'd say. 



146 PRAIRIE SONGS 

Wasn't old, nuther, forty-six No, 
Jest got humpt, an' thin an' gray, 

Washin' an' churnin' an' sweepin', by Joe, 
F'r fourteen hours or more a day. 

Brats o' sickly children every year 

To drag the life plum out o' her. 

Worked to death. Starved to death. 
Died f'r lack of air an' sun 

Dyin' f'r rest, and f'r jest a breath 
O' simple praise fer what she'd done. 

An' many 's the woman this very day 

Elder, dyin' slow in that same way. 




UT on the snow the boys 

are springing, 
Shouting blithely at their play, 
Through the night their voices ringing 

Sound the cry, Pom, pull away! 
Up the sky the round moon stealing, 
Trails a robe of shimmering white; 
Overhead the Great Bear wheeling 
Round the pale stars' steady light. 

The air with frost is keen and stinging 

" Pom, pom, pull-away!" 
Big boys whistle, girls are singing: 

" Come away 'r I'll fetch ye 'way." 
Ah! the phrase has magic in it, 

Piercing frosty moon-lit air, 
And in about a half-a-minute 

I am part and parcel there. 



148 PRAIRIE SONGS 

Across the road 1 once more scurry, 

Through the thickest of the fray, 
Sleeve ripped off by Andy Murray 

" Let 'er rip Pom, pull-away! " 
Mother'll mend it in the morning, 

(Dear old patient, smiling face!) 
One more patch my sleeve adorning 

" Wboop 'er up!" is no disgrace. 

Moonbeams on the snow-crust splinter, 

Air that stirs the blood like wine; 
What cared we for cold of winter 

Or for maiden's soft eyes' shine ? 
Give us but a score of skaters 

And the game Pom, pull-away, 
We were always girl-beraters, 

Forgot them wholly, truth to say. 

O voices through the night air ringing! 
O thoughtless happy boys at play! 

silver clouds the keen wind winging 
At the cry, Pom, pull away! 

1 sit and dream with keenest longing 

For that star-lit magic night 
For my noisy playmates thronging 
And the slow moon's trailing light. 



PRAIRIE SONGS 149 

COIN' BACK T'MORRER. 
(IN THE CITY.) 

I tell ye, Sue, it ain't no use ! 

I can't stay, and I won't 
W'y ! a feller 'd need the widder's cruse 

T" live back here an' stan' the brunt 
Of all expenses, thick and thin 

Too many men ain't land enough 
T' swing a feller's elbows in 

I 'spose you '11 take it kind a rough 
But I 'm goin' back t' morrer! 

It ain't no use t' talk t' me 

Of whut some other feller owns, 
I ain't got no grip at all, 

His fire don't warm my achin' bones, 
An' then I 'm ust t' walkin' where 

There ain't no p'lice 'r pavin' stones 
Of course you '11 think I 'm mighty sick 

But 1 'm goin' back t' morrer! 

Fact is, folks, I love the West ! 

They ain't no other place like home 
They ain't no other place t' rest, 

F'r mother 'n me but jest ol' Rome, 
Cedar County, up Basswood Run 

Lived there goin' on thirty years 
Come there spring o' sixty-one 

An' I 'm goin' back t' morrer ! 



ISO PRAIRIE SONGS 

I tell ye, things looked purty wild 

On that there prairie then ! 
We hadn't nary chick n'r child, 

An' we buckled down to work like men- 
Handsome land them two claims was 

As ever lay out doors ! Rich an' clean 
Of brush an' sloos. Y'r Uncle Daws 

He used t' say God done his best 
On that there land His level best. 

No, I jest can't stand it here, 

Nohow ain't room to swing my cap. 
Ye're all cooped up in this ere flat 

Jest like chickens in a trap 
I 'm mighty sorry, Sue, but I 

Can't stand it, an' mother can't 
If she was willin' wy I 'd try 

But 1 guess we '11 go t' morrer. 

'N' when we jest get home agin, 

Back t' Cedar County, back t' Rome, 
Back t' Basswood Run an' home, 

Won't the neighbors jest drop in 
When we git settled down an' grin 

An' all shake han's an' Deacon White 
Drive up t' laff that laff o' hisn 

Mother, let's start back t'night ! 



PRAIRIE SONGS 151 



The corn is jest a-rampin' now 

I c'n hear the leaves a-russlin' 
As they twist an' swing an' bow 

I c'n see the boys a-husslin' 
In the medder by the crick 

Forkin' hay f r all in sight 
An' the birds an' bees s' thick ! 

O we must start back t' night ! 



PRAIRIE SONGS 153 

ON WING OF STEAM. 

Into the West 

Rain-brightened and fresh as if new 
From the Kingdom of God. 
Through the wide meadows, dressed 
In the glory of sun-lighted sod, 
Bright with the green of the grasses, 
As the heavens are bright with their blue. 

Into the WestI 
I laugh as we cling 
On the green ridges' crest, 
1 exult and am glad; 
1 swoop and I swing 
Like an eagle on wing 
Of the wind I shout and am mad 
With a wild sweet pain 
To meet the plain. 

Into the West! 
Beneath me the swells 
Slip by and are lost, 
As the foam-whitened wave 
Under keel of a ship, wells 
Like a fountain one instant, and tossed, 
As with plow, hisses white into spray, 
While the boat sweeps away. 



154 PRAIRIE SONGS 

Into the West: 
The miles fall behind us; 
I am filled with wild joy 
That earth can not bind us. 
A league but a toy 
To be played with and tossed 
To the winds. I am part of the pride 
And the glory of man, 
As onward we sweep 
On the cloud-dappled deep 
Of the mighty green sea, 
In a swift and most marvelous ride 
Into the West. 




PRAIRIES 



LOVE my prairies, they are 
mine 

From zenith to horizon line 
Clipping a world of sky and sod 
Like the bended arm and wrist of God. 

I love their grasses. The skies 
Are larger, and my restless eyes 
Fasten on more of earth and air 
Than sea-shores furnish anywhere. 

I love the hazel thickets and the breeze, 
The never-resting prairie winds; the trees 
That stand like spear-points high 
Against the dark blue sky, 
Are wonderful to me. I love the gold 
Of newly shaven stubble, rolled 
A royal carpet, toward the sun, fit to be 
The pathway of a deity. 
155 



156 PRAIRIE SONGS 

I love the life of pasture lands, the songs of 

birds 

Are not more thrilling to me, than the herd's 
Mad bellowing or the shadow stride 
Of mounted herdsmen at my side. 

I love my prairies, they are mine, 
From high sun to horizon line. 
The mountains and the cold gray sea 
Are not for me, are naught to me. 



PRAIRIE SONGS 157 
MIDWAY ON THE TRAIL. 

Fifty thousand miles in America! 
Fifty thousand miles of Mil and plain, 
Of levels by the sea, of wooded land, 
Circling loopings of a restless life. 

Midway on the trail! 
Here at the end of my book, I rest, 
And memories throng upon me 
Memories wide as seas, cool as streams, 
And lofty as the serrate rim 
Of mountain chains. Memories of fields 
And pleasant groves, rushing winds, and nights 
Of moon-lit splendid September. 
Imperishable memories of mighty days, 

Circling before me. 

O those days! They come and come 
Like thronging songs both sweet and sad. 
Days on the Dakota plain, in spring 
When the sod is green and velvet-smooth, 
Days on the mountains a!one with the eagles. 
Days on the Mississippi, feeling the jar and throb 
Of the engine's splendid beam, 
Days by the shining Western sea 
O splendor and power of days. 

All America is there! 

Memories of the Eastern sea, hearing the clang 
Of the lonely, dolorous bell-buoy's tongue, 



158 PRAIRIE SONGS 

Memories of New England meadow lands, 
Memories of vineyards in Ohio, close beside 
I recall orchards in Delaware and the pink 
Of peach-trees on the slopes of Lookout Moun- 
tain. 

Memories of sinuous trails that braid 
The breasts of mountains. I feel again 
The shivering awe with which 1 faced 
The Spanish Peaks across the level land. 
Memories of orange orchards follow 
And the sunless deeps of Alabamian swamps, 
And the gleam of fire-flies in the hot still night. 
Thronging thick and orderless as dreams, 
Pictures come, looped on the thread 
Of shining, winding trails. 

I see once more 

King Shasta's violet-and-silver crown 
Set high against the winter stars, 
Illimitable as pride and cold as death. 
St. Helen's rises, a glorious moon 
Above deep-purple seas of trackless woods, 
A soaring semi-circular dome of rose-and-silve. 
Lit by the flaming sunset light, 

Marvellously beautiful. 

1 descend again the mountain trail 
Toward a moon-lit mystery of land and sea 
Outspread below the canon water calls 
I smell the lemon-blooms, and oranges 



PRAIRIE SONGS 159 

Spilled everywhere beneath the trees. 

Wild voices echo leaping from cliff to cliff. 

The purple landscape darkens swiftly, and lights 

below 
Glitter to stars above. 

O God! How beautiful! 

Memories of skies, 
Cloudless cobalt skies of level lands, 
Where only sun and sand are seen 
Radiant skies of Arizonian deserts. 
Californian skies of winter 
Gray skies where the eucalyptus trees 
Toss in warm unending rain. 
Memories of skies as blue as wrinkled seas 
At mid-day, when the winds blow. 

Sunny skies, 

Arching some silent Mexican town, 
Where dark-skinned children play 
Untroubled games before the walls 

Of crumbling Spanish missions. 

I drift on Columbia's cold gray water; 
1 see the fir-clothed rimy peaks burst 
From the clouds, three thousand feet 
Above the narrows, where the river 
Churns itself to foam upon the lichen-spotted 

rocks. 

1 ride through terrible forests, in gray 
Thick-falling rain, ride and ride, 



160 PRAIRIE SONGS 

Shadowed by clinging gray-green moss; 
Feeling the drip of wet, wind-shaken firs, 
Lost in wastes of giant ferns, 
Where the wild deer feeds. 

The sunrise blooms again 
On the glorious Dakota sod. 
1 plant my stake on untracked land, 
Thrilled with the wonder and marvel of it. 
I hear the gabble of weary geese at sunset, 
As they pass close to earth, hungry, and timid. 
I hear once more the jovial shout 
Of jubilant landseeker, and see 
The cranes dancing in shadowy row 
Beside the shallow pool. 
Over me the stars bloom out, 
And on my blanket falls the frost 
Of the clear midnight. 

O the irrevocable past! 

Other scenes come back. 
I walk behind the seeder on the mellow sod 
Of lowan prairies, warm with sun. 
Around and over me goes the northward flight 
Of millions of water-fowl; gophers whistle; 
I trace the awful circle of the calling crane 
Circling the sun in his flight. I hear 
The chorus of the prairie chicken. 
I toil on in the red sunset. 



PRAIRIE SONGS 161 

Harvest days follow. 
The flaming sun rides high 
Above the gently moving fields of wheat 
Stretching to the sky's dim circling rim. 
I hear the purring reaper's far-off threat. 
The sheaf crackles again under my knee, 
My aching muscles roll and swell and strain; 
The joy of physical strength fades away. 
The sun declines, the dew falls, 
The level rays of light stream 
In unspeakable glory over the wheat; 
The crickets call in rapid repartee, 
The darkness sweeps swiftly from the east 
I stumble homeward, while the horses pass 
With heads wearily down-hanging 
The sun sets on harvest daysl 

September comes, 

And with it a roaring wind, hot and dry. 
A magnetic, splendid southern wind. 
Stacks of grain arise like plants of sudden growth 
The corn grows sere and dry, the air 
Is full of smell of ripening grain, the moon 
Is like a silver boat in sapphire seas. 
I walk behind the plow on still 
October days when the frost melts slowly 
From the shadowed leaves. 
The skies grow gray with snow 

And winter comes! 



162 PRAIRIE SONGS 

Wild winter days rush over me. 
I see the woods teams slowly pass, 
I hear the low sweet jingle of the bells, 
The water drops from southern roofs, 
The mid-day sun, dazzlingly beautiful, 
Spills blue shadows on the unstained snow 
I hear the shouts of skaters in the swales, 
I hear the shouts of axemen in the pines, 
The wolf slips by 
Swift as winter days, 

In deep Wisconsin woods. 

I am on the prairies again; 
Seamless domes of cloud 
Rise in the West, heavy with wind and snow. 
Once again the swift snow, slides 
Fitfully, menacingly, and the Norther comes, 
Bringing sun-set at mid-day; and the weight 
Of all winter is on the pitiless blast. 
Blind and desperate 1 ride and ride! 
I lie beneath a shanty roof and hear 
The high-keyed, frenzied, piping, persistent howl 
Of the midnight wind, and the rushing roar 
Of the streaming, lashing snows. 
There is no earth, no sky, 
Nothing but snow. 

Snow! 

1 saw it rest on sheltering arms of fir, 
I saw it lay old and sullen, in mountain pass 



PRAIRIE SONGS 163 

Ten thousand feet above the sea. I saw 
It saffron with the wind-blown sands 
On old Mount Ouray, where the wind 
Had died at last of cold and weariness. 
Across a waste of lesser hills 
The College Group soars, a wall 
Of silver based in purple. 

Snow! 

I ride behind a swift young horse 
Beneath broad lowan oaks; the bells 
Make the clear night musical, the sky, 
Low-hung, splendid, is frosty with stars, 
And the moon sails on in silence; 
Her wake of light lies on the crusted snows, 
But she sails on and on beyond the skies, 
Beyond the land of youth and love, 
:nto the land of mystery 
Beyond the fartherest West. 

O glorious days! 
I cannot lose you. 1 will not. 
Here in the current of my song, 
Here I sweep you all together, 
The harvest of a continent, the fruit 
Of a thousand days of travel. 
Here where neither time nor change 
Can rob me of you. So 
When I am old, like a chained eagle 
I can sit and dream and dream 



164 PRAIRIE SONGS 

Of splendid spaces and the gleam 
Of rivers, and the smell 
Of prairie flowers. 

So I can live again 
Above the clouds, and on 
The reeling horse, hear the wind 
Roaring from dark and wooded canons. 
So, when I have quite forgot 
The heritage of books 
I still shall know 
The splendor and majesty 

Of my native land. 



HERE ENDETH THE BOOK NAMED PRAIRIE SONGS 
. ' . PRINTED BY JOHN WILSON & SON . . AT THE 
UNIVERSITY PRESS .'.IN CAMBRIDGE .'. FOR 
STONE & KIMBALL .'. THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 
MDCCCXCm 



Wind on the Wheat 

You ask me for the sweetest sound 

mine ears have ever heard? 
sweeter than the ripples' plash, or 

trilling of a bird, 
Than tapping of the rain-drops upon 

the roof at night, 
Than the sighing of the pine-trees on 

yonder mountain height/ 
And I tell you, these are tender, ye 

never quite so sweet 
As the murmur and the cadence o 

the wind across the wheat. 

MARGARET E. SANGSTER, in "On th 
Road -Homev" 



(THE BURROWS BROTHERS 

COMPANY, 
CLEVELAND, OHIO. 



UC SOUTHERN REGIONAL LIBRARY FACILITY 



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