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

Western States: Sangamon, the River, Ill.

The Painted Cup

By William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)

THE FRESH savannas of the Sangamon

Here rise in gentle swells, and the long grass

Is mixed with rustling hazels. Scarlet tufts

Are glowing in the green, like flakes of fire;

The wanderers of the prairie know them well,

And call that brilliant flower the painted cup.

Now, if thou art a poet, tell me not

That these bright chalices were tinted thus

To hold the dew for fairies, when they meet

On moonlight evenings in the hazel bowers,

And dance till they are thirsty. Call not up,

Amid this fresh and virgin solitude,

The faded fancies of an elder world;

But leave these scarlet cups to spotted moths

Of June, and glistening flies, and humming-birds

To drink from, when on all these boundless lawns

The morning sun looks hot. Or let the wind

O’erturn in sport their ruddy brims, and pour

A sudden shower upon the strawberry plant,

To swell the reddening fruit that even now

Breathes a slight fragrance from the sunny slope.

But thou art of a gayer fancy. Well,—

Let then the gentle Manitou of flowers,

Lingering amid the bloomy waste he loves,

Though all his swarthy worshippers are gone,

Slender and small, his rounded cheek all brown

And ruddy with the sunshine,—let him come

On summer mornings, when the blossoms wake,

And part with little hands the spiky grass;

And touching, with his cherry lips, the edge

Of these bright beakers, drain the gathered dew.