Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. V. Nature
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume V. Nature.  1904.
 
V. Trees: Flowers: Plants
The Maize
William Whiteman Fosdick (1825–1862)
 
 “That precious seed into the furrow cast
Earliest in spring-time crowns the harvest last.”
—PHŒBE CARY.    

A SONG for the plant of my own native West,
  Where nature and freedom reside,
By plenty still crowned, and by peace ever blest,
  To the corn! the green corn of her pride!
In climes of the East has the olive been sung,        5
  And the grape been the theme of their lays;
But for thee shall a harp of the backwoods be strung,
  Thou bright, ever beautiful maize!
 
Afar in the forest the rude cabins rise,
  And send up their pillars of smoke,        10
And the tops of their columns are lost in the skies,
  O’er the heads of the cloud-kissing oak;
Near the skirt of the grove, where the sturdy arm swings
  The axe till the old giant sways,
And echo repeats every blow as it rings,        15
  Shoots the green and the glorious maize!
 
There buds of the buckeye in spring are the first,
  And the willow’s gold hair then appears,
And snowy the cups of the dogwood that burst
  By the red bud, with pink-tinted tears.        20
And stripèd the bolls which the poppy holds up
  For the dew, and the sun’s yellow rays,
And brown is the pawpaw’s shade-blossoming cup,
  In the wood, near the sun-loving maize!
 
When through the dark soil the bright steel of the plough        25
  Turns the mould from its unbroken bed
The ploughman is cheered by the finch on the bough,
  And the blackbird doth follow his tread.
And idle, afar on the landscape descried,
  The deep-lowing kine slowly graze,        30
And nibbling the grass on the sunny hillside
  Are the sheep, hedged away from the maize.
 
With spring-time and culture, in martial array
  It waves its green broadswords on high,
And fights with the gale, in a fluttering fray,        35
  And the sunbeams, which fall from the sky;
It strikes its green blades at the zephyrs at noon,
  And at night at the swift-flying fays,
Who ride through the darkness the beams of the moon,
  Through the spears and the flags of the maize!        40
 
When the summer is fierce still its banners are green,
  Each warrior’s long beard groweth red,
His emerald-bright sword is sharp-pointed and keen,
  And golden his tassel-plumed head.
As a host of armed knights set a monarch at naught,        45
  That defy the day-god to his gaze,
And, revived every morn from the battle that ’s fought,
  Fresh stand the green ranks of the maize!
 
But brown comes the autumn, and sear grows the corn,
  And the woods like a rainbow are dressed,        50
And but for the cock and the noontide horn
  Old Time would be tempted to rest.
The humming bee fans off a shower of gold
  From the mullein’s long rod as it sways,
And dry grow the leaves which protecting infold        55
  The ears of the well-ripened maize!
 
At length Indian Summer, the lovely, doth come,
  With its blue frosty nights, and days still,
When distantly clear sounds the waterfall’s hum,
  And the sun smokes ablaze on the hill!        60
A dim veil hangs over the landscape and flood,
  And the hills are all mellowed in haze,
While Fall, creeping on like a monk ’neath his hood,
  Plucks the thick-rustling wealth of the maize.
 
And the heavy wains creak to the barns large and gray,        65
  Where the treasure securely we hold,
Housed safe from the tempest, dry-sheltered away,
  Our blessing more precious than gold!
And long for this manna that springs from the sod
  Shall we gratefully give him the praise,        70
The source of all bounty, our Father and God,
  Who sent us from heaven the maize!
 
 
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