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

Introductory to Western States

The Far West

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

(From Evangeline)

FAR in the West there lies a desert land, where the mountains

Lift, through perpetual snows, their lofty and luminous summits.

Down from their jagged, deep ravines, where the gorge, like a gateway,

Opens a passage rude to the wheels of the emigrant’s wagon,

Westward the Oregon flows and the Walleway and Owyhee.

Eastward, with devious course, among the Wind-river Mountains,

Through the Sweet-water Valley precipitate leaps the Nebraska;

And to the south, from Fontaine-qui-bout and the Spanish sierras,

Fretted with sands and rocks, and swept by the wind of the desert,

Numberless torrents, with ceaseless sound, descend to the ocean,

Like the great chords of a harp, in loud and solemn vibrations.

Spreading between these streams are the wondrous, beautiful prairies,

Billowy bays of grass ever rolling in shadow and sunshine,

Bright with luxuriant clusters of roses and purple amorphas.

Over them wander the buffalo herds, and the elk and the roebuck;

Over them wander the wolves, and herds of riderless horses;

Fires that blast and blight, and winds that are weary with travel;

Over them wander the scattered tribes of Ishmael’s children,

Staining the desert with blood; and above their terrible war-trails

Circles and sails aloft, on pinions majestic, the vulture,

Like the implacable soul of a chieftain slaughtered in battle,

By invisible stairs ascending and scaling the heavens.

Here and there rise smokes from the camps of these savage marauders;

Here and there rise groves from the margins of swift-running rivers;

And the grim, taciturn bear, the anchorite monk of the desert,

Climbs down their dark ravines to dig for roots by the brook-side,

While over all is the sky, the clear and crystalline heaven,

Like the protecting hand of God inverted above them.