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

Western States: Prairies, The

The Prairie

By John Hay (1838–1905)

THE SKIES are blue above my head,

The prairie green below,

And flickering o’er the tufted grass

The shifting shadows go,

Vague-sailing, where the feathery clouds

Fleck white the tranquil skies,

Black javelins darting where aloft

The whirring pheasant flies.

A glimmering plain in drowsy trance

The dim horizon bounds,

Where all the air is resonant

With sleepy summer sounds,—

The life that sings among the flowers,

The lisping of the breeze,

The hot cicala’s sultry cry,

The murmurous dream of bees.

The butterfly—a flying flower—

Wheels swift in flashing rings,

And flutters round his quiet kin,

With brave flame-mottled wings.

The wild pinks burst in crimson fire,

The phlox’ bright clusters shine,

And prairie-cups are swinging free

To spill their airy wine.

And lavishly beneath the sun,

In liberal splendor rolled,

The fennel fills the dipping plain

With floods of flowery gold;

And widely weaves the iron-weed

A woof of purple dyes

Where Autumn’s royal feet may tread

When bankrupt Summer flies.

In verdurous tumult far away

The prairie-billows gleam,

Upon their crests in blessing rests

The noontide’s gracious beam.

Low quivering vapors steaming dim

The level splendors break

Where languid lilies deck the rim

Of some land-circled lake.

Far in the east like low-hung clouds

The waving woodlands lie;

Far in the west the glowing plain

Melts warmly in the sky.

No accent wounds the reverent air,

No footprint dints the sod,—

Lone in the light the prairie lies,

Wrapt in a dream of God.