Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Introductory to Western States


By Joaquin Miller (1837–1913)

The Plains of Arizona
(From The Ship in the Desert)

THOU white and dried-up sea! so old!

So strewn with wealth, so sown with gold!

Yes, thou art old and hoary white

With time, and ruin of all things;

And on thy lonesome borders night

Sits brooding o’er with drooping wings.

The wind that tossed thy waves and blew

Across thy breast the flowing sail,

And cheered the hearts of cheering crew

From further seas, no more prevail.

Thy white-walled cities all lie prone,

With but a pyramid, a stone,

Set head and foot in sands to tell

The tired stranger where they fell.

The patient ox that bended low

His neck, and drew slow up and down

Thy thousand freights through rock-built town,

Is now the free-born buffalo.

No longer of the timid fold,

The mountain sheep leaps free and bold

His high-built summit, and looks down

From battlements of buried town.

Thine ancient steeds know not the rein,

They lord the land, they come, they go

At will; they laugh at man, they blow

A cloud of black steeds on the plain.

Thy monuments lie buried now,

The ashes whiten on thy brow,

The winds, the waves have drawn away,

The very wild man dreads to stay.

Oh! thou art very old. I lay,

Made dumb with awe and wonderment,

Beneath a palm within my tent,

With idle and discouraged hands,

Not many days agone, on sands

Of awful, silent Africa.

Long gazing on her mighty shades,

I did recall a semblance there

Of thee. I mused where story fades

From her dark brow and found her fair.

And yet my dried-up desert sea

Was populous with blowing sail.

And set with city, white-walled town,

All manned with armies bright with mail,

Ere yet that awful Sphinx sat down

To gaze into eternity,

Or Egypt knew her natal hour,

Or Africa had name or power.