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

Western States: Chicago, Ill.


By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)

MEN said at vespers: “All is well!”

In one wild night the city fell;

Fell shrines of prayer and marts of gain

Before the fiery hurricane.

On threescore spires had sunset shone,

Where ghastly sunrise looked on none.

Men clasped each other’s hands, and said:

“The City of the West is dead!”

Brave hearts who fought, in slow retreat,

The fiends of fire from street to street,

Turned, powerless, to the blinding glare,

The dumb defiance of despair.

A sudden impulse thrilled each wire

That signalled round that sea of fire;

Swift words of cheer, warm heart-throbs came;

In tears of pity died the flame!

From East, from West, from South and North,

The messages of hope shot forth,

And, underneath the severing wave,

The world, full-handed, reached to save.

Fair seemed the old; but fairer still

The new, the dreary void shall fill

With dearer homes than those o’erthrown,

For love shall lay each corner-stone.

Rise, stricken city!—from thee throw

The ashen sackcloth of thy woe;

And build, as to Amphion’s strain,

To songs of cheer thy walls again!

How shrivelled in thy hot distress

The primal sin of selfishness!

How instant rose, to take thy part,

The angel in the human heart!

Ah! not in vain the flames that tossed

Above thy dreadful holocaust;

The Christ again has preached through thee

The Gospel of Humanity!

Then lift once more thy towers on high,

And fret with spires the western sky,

To tell that God is yet with us,

And love is still miraculous!