Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > America
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX.  1876–79.
 
Western States: Prairies, The
A Prairie Nest
Lucy Larcom (1826–1893)
 
WHEN youth was in its May-day prime,
Life’s blossoming and singing time,
While heart and hope made cheerful chime,
We dropped into our cottage-nest
Upon a prairie’s mighty breast,        5
Soft billowing towards the unknown West.
 
Green earth beneath, blue sky above!
Through verdure vast the hidden dove
Sent plaintively her moan of love.
South wind and sunshine filled the air;        10
Thought flew in widening curves, to share
The large, sweet calmness everywhere.
 
In space two confluent rivers made,—
Kaskaskia, that far southward strayed,
And Mississippi, sunk in shade        15
Of level twilights,—nestled we,
As in the cleft branch of a tree;
Green grass, blue sky, all we could see.
 
Torch-like, our garden-plot illumed
The sea-like waste, when sunset gloomed;        20
Its homely scents the night perfumed;
And through the long bright noontide hours
Its tints outblazed the prairie-flowers:
Gay, gay and glad, that nest of ours!
 
Our marigolds, our poppies red,        25
Straggling away from their trim bed,
With phlox and larkspur rioted;
And we, fresh-hearted, every day
Found fantasies wherewith to play,
As daring and as free as they.        30
 
The drumming grouse; the whistling quail;
Wild horses prancing down the gale;
A lonely tree that seemed a sail
Far out at sea; a cabin-spark
Winking at us across the dark:        35
The wolf’s cry, like a watch-dog’s bark;
 
And sometimes sudden jet and spire
Belting the horizon in with fire,
That writhed and died in serpent-gyre,—
Without a care we saw, we heard:        40
To dread or pleasure lightly stirred
As, in mid-flight, the homeward bird.
 
The stars hung low above our roof;
Rainbow and cloud-film wrought a woof
Of glory round us, danger-proof;        45
It sometimes seemed as if our cot
Were the one safe, selected spot
Whereon Heaven centred steadiest thought.
 
Man was afar, but God close by;
And we might fold our wings, or fly,        50
Beneath the sun, His open eye:
With bird and breeze in brotherhood,
We simply felt and understood
That earth was fair, that He was good.
 
Nature, so full of secrets coy,        55
Wrote out the mystery of her joy
On those broad swells of Illinois;
Her virgin heart to Heaven was true.
We trusted Heaven and her, and knew
The grass was green, the skies were blue,        60
 
And life was sweet! What find we more
In wearying quest from shore to shore?
Ah, gracious memory! to restore
Our golden West, its sun, its showers,
And that gay little nest of ours        65
Dropped down among the prairie-flowers!
 
 
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