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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

Prairie Summer

By Amanda Theodocia Jones (1835–1914)

[Born in Bloomfield, Ontario Co., N. Y., 1835. Died in New York, N. Y., 1914. From “A Prairie Idyl, and Other Poems.” 1882.]

BEGAN a crazy wind to blow;

Loomed up a black and massy cloud;

Fell down the volumed floods that flow

With volleying thunders near and loud,

With lightnings broad and blinding.

A week of flying lights and darks,

Then all was clear; from copse and corn

Flew grosbeaks, red-birds, whistling larks,

And thrushes voiced like peris lorn,

Themselves of Heaven reminding.

Deep trails my hasty hands had torn,

Where, under fairy-tasselled rues,

Low vines their scarlet fruits had borne,

That neither men nor gods refuse,—

Delicious, spicy, sating.

As there through meadow red-tops sere

I toiled, my fragile friends to greet,

Out sang the birds: “Good cheer! good cheer!”—

“This way!”—“Pure purity!”—“So sweet!”—

“See! see! a-waiting—waiting!”

I saw: Each way the rolling wheat,

The wild-flower wilderness between,

Therein the sun-emblazoning sheet,

Four ways the thickets darkly green,

The vaporous drifts and dazzles;

Swift lace-wings flittering high and low,

Sheen, gauzy scarves a-sag with dew,

Blown phloxes flaked like falling snow,

Wide spiderworts in umbels blue,

Wild bergamots and basils;

And oh, the lilies! melted through

With ocherous pigments of the sun!

Translucent flowers of marvellous hue,

Red, amber, orange, all in one,—

Their brown-black anthers bursting

To scatter out their powdered gold:

One half with upward looks attent,

As holy secrets might be told,

One half with turbans earthward bent,

For Eden’s rivers thirsting.

And now the winds a-tiptoe went,

As loath to trouble Summer calms;

The air was dense with sifted scent,

Dispersed from fervid mints and balms

Whose pungent fumes betrayed them.

The brooks, on yielding sedges flung,

Half-slept—babe-soft their pulses beat;

Wee humming-birds, green-burnished, swung

Now here, now there, to find the sweet,

As if a billow swayed them.

Loud-whirring hawk-moths, large and fleet,

Went honey-mad; the dipters small

Caught wings, they bathed in airy heat;

I saw the mottled minnows all,—

So had the pool diminished.

No Sybarite ever banqueted

As those bird-rioters young and old:

The red-wing’s story, while he fed,

A thousand times he partly told,

But never fairly finished.

Some catch the reeling oriole trolled,

Broke off his black and gold to trim;

Quarrelled the blue-jay fiery-bold,—

Or feast or fight all one to him,

True knight at drink or duel;

New wine of berries black and red

The noisy cat-bird sipped and sipped;

The king-bird bragged of battles dread,

How he the stealthy hawk had whipped—

That armed marauder cruel.

While so they sallied, darted, dipped,

Slow feathered seeds began to sail;

Gray milk-weed pods their flosses slipped,—

More blithely blew the buoying gale,

And sent them whitely flying.

Rose up new creatures every hour

From brittle-walled chrysalides;

The yellow wings on every flower

With ringèd wasps and bumble-bees

Shone, Danae’s gold outvying.