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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Of Thine Own Country Sing

By William Ross Wallace (1819–1881)

[Born in Lexington, Ky., 1819. Died in New York, N. Y., 1881. Meditations in America, and Other Poems. 1851.]

I MET the wild-eyed Genius of our land

In Huron’s forest vast and dim;

I saw her sweep a harp with stately hand;

I heard her solemn hymn.

She sang of nations that had passed away

From her own broad imperial clime;

Of nations new to whom she gave the sway:

She sang of God and Time.

I saw the Past with all its rhythmic lore;

I saw the Present clearly glow;

Shapes with veiled faces paced a far dim shore

And whispered “Joy” and “Woe!”

Her large verse pictured mountain, vale, and bay;

Our wide, calm rivers rolled along,

And many a mighty lake and prairie lay

In the shadow of her song.

As in Missouri’s mountain-range, the vast

Wild wind majestically flies

From crag to crag till on the top at last

The wild wind proudly dies,

So died the hymn.—“O Genius! how can I

Crown me with song as thou art crowned?”

She, smiling, pointed to the spotless sky

And the forest-tops around,—

Then sang—“Not to the far-off lands of Eld

Must thou for inspiration go:

There Milton’s large imperial organ swelled,

There Avon’s waters flow.

“No alien-bard, where Tasso’s troubled lyre

Made sorrow fair, unchallenged dwells—

Where deep-eyed Dante with the wreath of fire

Came chanting from his hells.

“Yet sometimes sing the old majestic themes

Of Europe in her song enshrined:

These, going wind-like o’er thy Sea of Dreams,

May liberalize the mind.

“Or learn from mournful Asia, as she lies

Musing at noon beneath her stately palms,

Her angel-lore, her wide-browed prophecies,

Her solemn-sounding psalms:

“Or sit with Afric when her eyes of flame

Smoulder in dreams, beneath their swarthy lids,

Of youthful Sphinx, and kings at loud acclaim

On new-built Pyramids,

“But know thy Highest dwells at Home: there art

And choral inspiration spring;

If thou wouldst touch the universal heart,