Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Le Marais du Cygne

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

Western States: Marais du Cygne, Kansas

Le Marais du Cygne

By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)

  • The massacre of unarmed and unoffending men in Southern Kansas took place near the Marais du Cygne of the French voyageurs.

  • A BLUSH as of roses

    Where rose never grew!

    Great drops on the bunch-grass,

    But not of the dew!

    A taint in the sweet air

    For wild bees to shun!

    A stain that shall never

    Bleach out in the sun!

    Back, steed of the prairies!

    Sweet song-bird, fly back!

    Wheel hither, bald vulture!

    Gray wolf, call thy pack!

    The foul human vultures

    Have feasted and fled;

    The wolves of the Border

    Have crept from the dead.

    From the hearths of their cabins,

    The fields of their corn,

    Unwarned and unweaponed,

    The victims were torn,—

    By the whirlwind of murder

    Swooped up and swept on

    To the low reedy fen-lands,

    The Marsh of the Swan.

    With a vain plea for mercy

    No stout knee was crooked;

    In the mouths of the rifles

    Right manly they looked.

    How paled the May sunshine,

    O Marais du Cygne!

    On death for the strong life,

    On red grass for green!

    In the homes of their rearing,

    Yet warm with their lives,

    Ye wait the dead only,

    Poor children and wives!

    Put out the red forge-fire,

    The smith shall not come;

    Unyoke the brown oxen,

    The ploughman lies dumb.

    Wind slow from the Swan’s Marsh,

    O dreary death-train,

    With pressed lips as bloodless

    As lips of the slain!

    Kiss down the young eyelids,

    Smooth down the gray hairs;

    Let tears quench the curses

    That burn through your prayers.

    Strong man of the prairies,

    Mourn bitter and wild!

    Wail, desolate woman!

    Weep, fatherless child!

    But the grain of God springs up

    From ashes beneath,

    And the crown of his harvest

    Is life out of death.

    Not in vain on the dial

    The shade moves along,

    To point the great contrasts

    Of right and of wrong:

    Free homes and free altars,

    Free prairie and flood,—

    The reeds of the Swan’s Marsh,

    Whose bloom is of blood!

    On the lintels of Kansas

    That blood shall not dry;

    Henceforth the Bad Angel

    Shall harmless go by;

    Henceforth to the sunset,

    Unchecked on her way,

    Shall Liberty follow

    The march of the day.