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

Western States: Chicago, Ill.


By John Boyle O’Reilly (1884–1890)

Chicago, October 9, 1871

GAUNT in the midst of the prairie,

She who was once so fair;

Charred and rent are her garments,

Heavy and dark like cerements;

Silent, but round her the air

Plaintively wails, “Miserere!”

Proud like a beautiful maiden,

Art-like from forehead to feet,

Was she till pressed like a leman

Close to the breast of the demon,

Lusting for one so sweet,

So were her shoulders laden.

Friends she had, rich in her treasures:

Shall the old taunt be true,—

Fallen, they turn their cold faces,

Seeking new wealth-gilded places,

Saying we never knew

Aught of her smiles or her pleasures?

Silent she stands on the prairie,

Wrapped in her fire-scathed sheet:

Around her, thank God! is the Nation,

Weeping for her desolation,

Pouring its gold at her feet,

Answering her “Miserere!”