AT a large popular meeting at Topekathe Kansas State Silver Wedding, fifteen or twenty thousand peopleI had been erroneously billd to deliver a poem. As I seemd to be made much of, and wanted to be good-natured, I hastily pencilld out the following little speech. Unfortunately, (or fortunately,) I had such a good time and rest, and talk and dinner, with the U. boys, that I let the hours slip away and didnt drive over to the meeting and speak my piece. But here it is just the same:
My friends, your bills announce me as giving a poem; but I have no poemhave composed none for this occasion. And I can honestly say I am now glad of it. Under these skies resplendent in September beautyamid the peculiar landscape you are used to, but which is new to methese interminable and stately prairiesin the freedom and vigor and sane enthusiasm of this perfect western air and autumn sunshineit seems to me a poem would be almost an impertinence. But if you care to have a word from me, I should speak it about these very prairies; they impress me most, of all the objective shows I see or have seen on this, my first real visit to the West. As I have rolld rapidly hither for more than a thousand miles, through fair Ohio, through bread-raising Indiana and Illinoisthrough ample Missouri, that contains and raises everything; as I have partially explord your charming city during the last two days, and, standing on Oread hill, by the university, have launchd my view across broad expanses of living green, in every directionI have again been most impressd, I say, and shall remain for the rest of my life most impressd, with that feature of the topography of your western central worldthat vast Something, stretching out on its own unbounded scale, unconfined, which there is in these prairies, combining the real and ideal, and beautiful as dreams.
I wonder indeed if the people of this continental inland West know how much of first-class art they have in these prairieshow original and all your ownhow much of the influences of a character for your future humanity, broad, patriotic, heroic and new? how entirely they tally on land the grandeur and superb monotony of the skies of heaven, and the ocean with its waters? how freeing, soothing, nourishing they are to the soul?
Then is it not subtly they who have given us our leading modern Americans, Lincoln and Grant?vast-spread, average mentheir foregrounds of character altogether practical and real, yet (to those who have eyes to see) with finest backgrounds of the ideal, towering high as any. And do we not see, in them, foreshadowings of the future races that shall fill these prairies?
Not but what the Yankee and Atlantic States, and every other partTexas, and the States flanking the south-east and the Gulf of Mexicothe Pacific shore empirethe Territories and Lakes, and the Canada line (the day is not yet, but it will come, including Canada entire)are equally and integrally and indissolubly this Nation, the sine qua non of the human, political and commercial New World. But this favord central area of (in round numbers) two thousand miles square seems fated to be the home both of what I would call Americas distinctive ideas and distinctive realities.