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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Americas: Vol. XXX. 1876–79.

South America: Pampas, The

The Sovereign of the Pampas

By Sallie Bridges


MORNING upon the lone and silent Pampas,

Those dewless plains of long and stirless grass

O’erarched by skies unshadowed by a cloud,

And all unbroken in their sea-like calm,

Except where, here and there, a parching palm

Uprears its barren stem, and marks to sight

Some space between the mingling earth and heaven,

Or musky odors of the arid ground

Thicken the air, amid whose torrid heat

Rise vapory columns like the smoke of fires!

Solemn and still those vast savannas reach

Through level solitudes of countless miles,

Unsought by man, and whose untrodden depths

No taint, perchance, have borne of human death!

And thus they seemed upon this fervid morn,

When the hot sun, like a great flaming eye,

Saw motion mid those withering waves of green,

That onward swelled from the horizon’s verge,

And stirred to life a myriad hidden things,

That fluttering swarmed from midst the sheltering blades

Before the advancing dust that broke their rest,

As, panting, snorting in their thirsty haste,

A troop of desert horses rushed along,

Trampling the crackling verdure in their race,

Startling the brooding silence of the waste

With insect voices and their own wild tones.

On, on they dash, creating with their speed

And noisy breaths the movement of a wind,

And raining foam on long unwatered soil.

They pause; they wheel; they circle in a group,—

Impatient paw the ground,—take counsel short,—

Break,—toss their flowing manes,—and start again,

In compact throng, towards their unreachèd goal,

Still straining bloodshot eyes in search of streams,

And following one that ever leads the way,

Chief of the horde in speed, in grace, in choice,—

A chestnut mare, with stately, curving neck,

And small, proud head, that on the forehead bore

A snowy star, as though to mark command,

Whose tapering limbs had borne her in the van,

With silky hair and shining coat unflecked.