close close2 chevron-circle-left chevron-circle-right twitter bookmark4 facebook3 twitter3 pinterest3 feed4 envelope star quill

Poems About the West

Table of Contents

  1. Night in the West by Grace C. Howes
  2. Prairie Poems

  3. A Prairie Song by Anonymous
  4. On the Prairie by Herbert Bates
  5. My Prairies by Hamlin Garland
  6. Our Prairie Homes by Charles J. Barber
  7. The Tumbleweed by Hannah Rea Woodman
  8. On the Prairie by Ellen P. Allerton
  9. Wild Horse of the Prairies by Isaac McLellan
  10. Pioneer Poems

  11. Sa-cá-ga-we-a by Edna Dean Proctor
  12. Maid of the West-Land by J. C. Stead
  13. Pioneers! O Pioneers! by Walt Whitman
  14. The Pioneers by Hannah Flagg Gould
  15. Westward Ho! by Joaquin Miller
  16. The Westerner by Charles Badger Clark
  17. The Song of the Kansas Emigrant by John Greenleaf Whittier
  18. The Prairie Schooner by Charles Moreau Harger
  19. The "Prairie Schooner" by Evander A. Crewson
  20. The Pioneers by Herbert Bates
  21. Crossing the Plains by Joaquin Miller
  22. The Trail of '49 by Ellen P. Allerton
  23. The Santa Fe Trail by Ed Blair
  24. The Pioneer Store by Ed Blair
  25. The Old Country Store by Ed Blair
  26. A Home out West by Ellen P. Allerton
  27. The Sod House on the Claim by Susannah Williams
  28. The Sod House on the Prairie by Ellen P. Allerton
  29. My Old Prairie Home by Ed Blair
  30. The Old Windmill by Clarence Albert Murch
  31. The Wolves by Elizabeth Madox Roberts
  32. Lincoln by Annette Wynne
  33. The Planting of the Cottonwood Tree by Ed Blair
  34. The Song of the Pioneer by William Steward Gordon
  35. The Early Days by Robert J. C. Stead
  36. The Pioneers' Anniversary by Ed Blair
  37. The Deserted Cabin by Ruby Archer

  1. Night in the West

    by Grace C. Howes

    There is something uplifting, inspiring,
    In the plains of the beautiful West,
    When calmly the day is expiring
    And all Nature is going to rest.

    The sun sets in glorious splendor,
    Then a hush settles over the world,
    The voices of Day sink to silence
    As the mantle of Night is unfurled.

    Gently the shadows grow darker.
    The light slowly fades from the West.
    The countryfolk cease all their labors
    And partake of the sleep of the blest.

    The moon, in her majesty, rises,
    The delicate queen of the night,
    And as she mounts higher and higher
    She floods all the world with her light.

    From afar, through the silence, there comes
    The wild coyote's quavering howl,
    Then, as mystery and silence resume
    I hear the sad hoot of the owl.

    Each creature of Nature rejoices
    In the wonderful night, Heaven-born,
    Sweetly they sleep through the silence
    To wake at the coming of morn.

    Then give me the beautiful prairie,
    With its miles of undented sod,
    It breathes of the peace of the angels,
    And the goodness and mercy of God.

  2. Prairie Poems

  3. A Prairie Song

    by Anonymous

    Oh, music springs under the galloping hoofs,
    Out on the plains;
    Where mile after mile drops behind with a smile,
    And to-morrow seems always to tempt and beguile,—
    Out on the plains.

    Oh, where are the traces of yesterday's ride?
    There to the north;
    Where alfalfa and sage sigh themselves into sleep,
    Where the buttes loom up suddenly, startling and steep,—
    There to the north.

    Oh, rest not my pony, there's youth in my heart,
    Out on the plains;
    And the wind sings a wild song to rob me of care,
    And there's room here to live and to love and to dare,—
    Out on the plains.

  4. On the Prairie

    by Herbert Bates

    Bare, low, tawny hills
    With bluer heights beyond,
    And the air is sweet with spring,
    But when will the earth respond?

    Prairie that Tolls for leagues,
    Dusky and golden-pale,
    Like a stirless sea of waves,
    Unbroken by ship or sail.

    The hollows are dark with brush,
    And black with the wash of showers,
    And ragged with bleaching wreck
    Of the ranks of the tall sunflowers.

    No cloud in the blue, no stir
    Save the shrill of the wind in the grass,
    And the meadow-lark's note, and the call
    Of the wind-borne crows that pass.

    Bare, low, tawny hills,
    With bluer heights beyond,
    And the air is sweet with spring,
    But when will the earth respond?

  5. My Prairies

    by Hamlin Garland

    I love my prairies, they are mine
    From zenith to horizon line,
    Clipping a world of sky and sod
    Like the bended arm and wrist of God.

    I love their grasses. The skies
    Are larger, and my restless eyes
    Fasten on more of earth and air
    Than seashore furnishes anywhere.

    I love the hazel thickets; and the breeze,
    The never resting prairie winds. The trees
    That stand like spear points high
    Against the dark blue sky

    Are wonderful to me. I love the gold
    Of newly shaven stubble, rolled
    A royal carpet toward the sun, fit to be
    The pathway of a deity.

    I love the life of pasture lands; the songs of birds
    Are not more thrilling to me than the herd's
    Mad bellowing or the shadow stride
    Of mounted herdsmen at my side.

    I love my prairies, they are mine
    From high sun to horizon line.
    The mountains and the cold gray sea
    Are not for me, are not for me.

  6. Our Prairie Homes

    by Charles J. Barber

    How happy they who do reside
    Along Missouri’s flowing tide;
    Or on the gently rolling plains,
    By winding streams and shady lanes;
    Who westwnrd came from childhood homes—
    From old familiar spires and domes,
    From hill and dale and greenwood wild,
    Where oft they sported when a child;
    From every tie that’s to them dear—
    From every state both far and near—
    From every nation on the earth
    Where has been told Nebraska’s worth,
    They came and left their native land
    And gave to friends the parting hand;
    With white sails bending to the breeze
    They bravely crossed the stormy seas,
    And quickly o’er the iron rail,
    And farther still by Indian trail,
    Until they gained this fertile shore
    And viewed its rolling prairies o’er,
    And by its rivers, lakes and streams
    Have realized their early dreams;
    And now have happy homes and friends
    In towns and cities, dales and glens;
    And round the fireside’s cheerful blaze
    Their children frolic in their plays.

  7. The Tumbleweed

    by Hannah Rea Woodman

    Where do they come from,
    The Tumbleweed?
    Where do they go to,
    The Tumbleweed?
    Who knows whence is their life so free,
    Born on the prairies' shadowless sea?
    Who knows of the parents they boast,
    This tossing, fringed, homeless host?
    Who knows where they bury their dead
    When the winds', high requiem is said?—
    Vagrants alway,
    The Tumbleweed!

    Where do they come from,
    The Tumbleweed?
    Where do they go to,
    The Tumbleweed?
    Ask of the breezes that sigh and fall;
    Ask of the winds that shriek and call;
    Ask of the changing lights that pass
    Over the wheat, the corn, the grass;
    Ask of the rose-gray mists that creep
    Like mother-watch o'er the prairies' sleep,—
    Vagrants alway,
    The Tumbleweed!

    Where do they come from,
    The Tumbleweed?
    Where do they go to,
    The Tumbleweed?
    Suddenly at your feet they lie,
    Laughing, tumbling, go rolling by;
    Over the blue-bound prairies leap,
    No faith, no love, no tryst they keep;
    Free and wild is the will they boast,
    This tossing, fringed, homeless host,—
    Vagrants alway,
    The Tumbleweed!

  8. On the Prairie

    by Ellen P. Allerton

    Out on the prairie—a shrieking storm!
    How the pitiless cold, driven from homes and firesides warm,
    In its terrible hold,
    Here grapples and grips with strength untold!

    Miles and miles, and nothing in sight,
    Only sweeps of snow—
    That under the dust of the gathering night,
    Now dimmer grow—breasting the winds that fiercely blow.

    Not a friendly light, not a sheltering tree,
    On the prairie's breast.
    And my failing feet shrink under me!
    I am heavy—oppressed
    With a drowsy weight; I must stop and rest.

    No, I can not go on! Here I lay me down,
    While the storm sweeps by;
    Press on, if you can, to the sheltering town;
    In peace let me lie.
    I am not cold . . . only sleepy . . . good-by.

  9. Wild Horse of the Prairies

    by Isaac McLellan

    For other scenes their lights expand,
    Out in the savage western land,
    Where wildernesses lone and grand,
    Their awful glooms extend;
    Far where the Rocky Mounts upthrow
    Their pinnacles of rock and snow,
    White cones, whereon the sunset's glow,
    Its roseate hues doth blend.

    Around them, woods primeval press,
    Around them, pastures measureless,
    Waved by the idle wind's caress,
    Reach th' horizon's edge.
    In dark ravine and gulch the bear
    And tiger-cat have made their lair,
    The bison range the meadows there,
    To browse the bending sedge.
    O'er open plain, in leafy dell,
    In hollow vale, on upland swell,
    The wild steeds of the prairies dwell,
    Free as the mountain wind;
    No iron bit or curb have they,
    No galling spur, no trappings gay,
    No rider to control their way,
    Their untam'd limbs to bind.
    Free as the eagle cleaves through space,
    They curvet or they join in race,
    Fleeter than wild beasts of the chase,
    A vast unnumbered throng;
    They crop the dewy grass at will,
    In ice cold waters drink their fill,
    Scour the wild plain or sweep the hill,
    Unscarr'd by whip or thong.
    Yet comes at times a yelling crew,
    The savage with his wild halloo,
    The painted Blackfoot or Sioux,
    All greedy for the spoil;
    It were a thrilling sight to see
    Those lawless riders fierce and free,
    Each swinging with a madden'd glee,
    The lariat's twisting coil.
    On, on the frantic horsemen sweep,
    On, on the snorting wild steeds leap,
    Down flowery slope, o'er wooded steep,
    Pursuers and pursued;
    Then far th' unerring noose is thrown,
    The stately bay or lusty roan
    Fall captive, panting, with a groan,
    All vanquish'd and subdued.

  10. Pioneer Poems

    Poems on the settling of the American West.

    Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.

    – Horace Greeley
  11. Sa-cá-ga-we-a

    Song of the Eagle that Mates with the Storm!
    Song of the Eagle that Mates with the Storm!
    by N. C. Wyeth
    by Edna Dean Proctor

    Sho-shó-ne Sa-cá-ga-we-a—captive and wife was she
    On the grassy plains of Dakota in the land of the Minnetaree;
    But she heard the west wind calling, and longed to follow the sun
    Back to the shining mountains and the glens where her life begun.

    So, when the valiant Captains, fain for the Asian sea,
    Stayed their marvellous journey in the land of the Minnetaree
    (The Red Men wondering, wary—Omaha, Mandan, Sioux—
    Friendly now, now hostile, as they toiled the wilderness through),
    Glad she turned from the grassy plains and led their way to the West,
    Her course as true as the swan's that flew north to its reedy nest;
    Her eye as keen as the eagle's when the young lambs feed below;
    Her ear alert as the stag's at morn guarding the fawn and doe.
    Straight was she as a hillside fir, lithe as the willow-tree,
    And her foot as fleet as the antelope's when the hunter rides the lea;
    In broidered tunic and moccasins, with braided raven hair,
    And closely belted buffalo robe with her baby nestling there—
    Girl of but sixteen summers, the homing bird of the quest,
    Free of the tongues of the mountains, deep on her heart imprest,—
    Sho-shó-ne Sa-ca-ga-we-a led the way to the West!—
    To Missouri's broad savannas dark with bison and deer,
    While the grizzly roamed the savage shore and cougar and wolf prowled near;
    To the cataract's leap, and the meadows with lily and rose abloom;
    The sunless trails of the forest, and the can yon's hush and gloom;
    By the veins of gold and silver, and the mountains vast and grim—
    Their snowy summits lost in clouds on the wide horizon's brim;
    Through sombre pass, by soaring peak, till the Asian wind blew free,
    And lo! the roar of the Oregon and the splendor of the Sea!

    Some day, in the lordly upland where the snow-fed streams divide—
    Afoam for the far Atlantic, afoam for Pacific's tide—
    There, by the valiant Captains whose glory will never dim
    While the sun goes down to the Asian sea and the stars in ether swim,
    She will stand in bronze as richly brown as the hue of her girlish cheek,
    With broidered robe and braided hair and lips just curved to speak;
    And the mountain winds will murmur as they linger along the crest,
    "Sho-shó-ne Sa-cá-ga-we-a, who led the way to the West!"

  12. Maid of the West-Land

    by Robert J. C. Stead

    Heart that is free as the open air,
    Eyes like the beams of the morn that rise
    Over our prairies, bright and fair,
    Brow like the silver of sunset skies,
    Cheeks with a beauty that glorifies,
    Tresses of sunlight, through and through,
    Figure and form that we idolize,
    Maid of the West-land, here's to you!

    Hope that is broad as your face is rare,
    Yearning that unto the uttermost cries,
    Soul that itself is a breath of prayer,
    Heaven-sent spirit in womanly guise;
    Tender caresses that minimize
    The labors of life with their pain and rue,
    Loving affection that never dies—
    Maid of the West-land, here's to you!

    Courage that rises to do and dare,
    Spell that entangles the sage and wise
    From venturesome toe to your crown of hair
    Ravishing beauties that hypnotize;
    Many the man for your favor vies,
    Well may he plead for the favor, too;
    Twentieth Century's greatest prize—
    Maid of the West-land, here's to you!

    ENVOI.
    Maid of the West, in your wistful eyes,
    Tenderly deep as the western blue,
    The glorious hope of our future lies—
    Maid of the West-land, here's to you!

  13. Pioneers! O Pioneers!

    by Walt Whitman

    Come, my tan-faced children,
    Follow well in order, get your weapons ready;
    Have you your pistols? have you your sharp edged axes?
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    For we cannot tarry here,
    We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
    We, the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    O you youths, western youths,
    So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship,
    Plain I see you, western youths, see you tramping with the foremost,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    Have the elder races halted?
    Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied, over there beyond the seas?
    We take up the task eternal, and the burden, and the lesson,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    All the past we leave behind;
    We debouch upon a newer, mightier world, varied world,
    Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    We detachments steady throwing,
    Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep,
    Conquering, holding, daring, venturing, as we go, the unknown ways,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    We primeval forests felling,
    We the rivers stemming, vexing we, and piercing deep the mines within;
    We the surface broad surveying, we the virgin soil upheaving,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    Colorado men are we,
    From the peaks gigantic, from the great sierras and the high plateaus,
    From the mine and from the gully, from the hunting trail we come,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    From Nebraska, from Arkansas,
    Central inland race are we, from Missouri, with the continental blood intervein’d;
    All the hands of comrades clasping, all the Southern, all the Northern,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    O resistless, restless race!
    O beloved race in all! O my breast aches with tender love for all!
    O I mourn and yet exult—I am rapt with love for all,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    Raise the mighty mother mistress,
    Waving high the delicate mistress, over all the starry mistress, (bend your heads all,)
    Raise the fang’d and warlike mistress, stern, impassive, weapon’d mistress,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    See, my children, resolute children,
    By those swarms upon our rear, we must never yield or falter,
    Ages back in ghostly millions, frowning there behind us urging,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    On and on, the compact ranks,
    With accessions ever waiting, with the places of the dead quickly fill’d,
    Through the battle, through defeat, moving yet and never stopping,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    O to die advancing on!
    Are there some of us to droop and die? has the hour come?
    Then upon the march we fittest die, soon and sure the gap is fill’d,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    All the pulses of the world,
    Falling in, they beat for us, with the western movement beat;
    Holding single or together, steady moving, to the front, all for us,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    Life’s involv’d and varied pageants,
    All the forms and shows, all the workmen at their work,
    All the seamen and the landsmen, all the masters with their slaves,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    All the hapless silent lovers,
    All the prisoners in the prisons, all the righteous and the wicked,
    All the joyous, all the sorrowing, all the living, all the dying,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    I too with my soul and body,
    We, a curious trio, picking, wandering on our way,
    Through these shores, amid the shadows, with the apparitions pressing,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    Lo! the darting bowling orb!
    Lo! the brother orbs around! all the clustering suns and planets,
    All the dazzling days, all the mystic nights with dreams,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    These are of us, they are with us,
    All for primal needed work, while the followers there in embryo wait behind,
    We to-day’s procession heading, we the route for travel clearing,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    O you daughters of the west!
    O you young and elder daughters! O you mothers and you wives!
    Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    Minstrels latent on the prairies!
    (Shrouded bards of other lands! you may sleep—you have done your work;)
    Soon I hear you coming warbling, soon you rise and tramp amid us,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    Not for delectations sweet;
    Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious;
    Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame enjoyment,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    Do the feasters gluttonous feast?
    Do the corpulent sleepers sleep? have they lock’d and bolted doors?
    Still be ours the diet hard, and the blanket on the ground,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    Has the night descended?
    Was the road of late so toilsome? did we stop discouraged, nodding on our way?
    Yet a passing hour I yield you, in your tracks to pause oblivious,
    Pioneers! O pioneers!

    Till with sound of trumpet,
    Far, far off the day-break call—hark! how loud and clear I hear it wind;
    Swift! to the head of the army!—swift! spring to your places,
    Pioneers! O pioneers.

  14. The Pioneers

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    Thy waves, proud OHIO, in majesty roll
    Through banks with rich verdure and flowers filly dressed,
    Like the strong tide of mind—like the bright flow of soul,
    That heaves nobly on to the fair, blooming WEST.

    Thy music is set to the motion of years,
    Like thee, bearing down to a fathomless flood;
    But ours, to the march of the bold PIONEERS,
    Who purchased thy borders with peril and blood.

    They fearless went forth where the red heathen foe
    With tomahawk raised, as in ambush he lay,
    And poison-tipped arrows to speed from his bow,
    Concealed like a serpent, infested the way.

    They saw the tall flame, when the council-fire glared
    Along the deep gloom through the wilderness spread.
    They heard the loud whoop, when the knife was prepared
    Its trophy to cleave from the white victim's head!

    The apple tree then, 'mid the trees of the wood,
    They reared among savages human and brute,
    And felled the dark forest around it that stood,
    To let in the sun-beams, and ripen the fruit.

    Their footsteps are traced by the lily and vine;
    Where they lopped the boughs, stands the full-headed sheaf,
    And here, from the pillow, the oil and the wine,
    The weary find rest, and the wounded, relief.

    Where all was in nature's first wildness and night,
    Till they ventured forth, an invincible band,
    The SUN of eternity pours down his light—
    The beauty of holiness spreads o'er the land!

    Roll on, proud OHIO! and long as the voice,
    That sounds from thy waters posterity hears,
    'T will come in bold numbers to hearts that rejoice,
    In chorus responding, 'The brave PIONEERS!'

  15. Westward Ho!

    by Joaquin Miller

    What strength! what strife! what rude unrest!
    What shocks! what half-shaped armies met! A mighty nation moving west, With all its steely sinews set Against the living forests. Hear The shouts, the shots of pioneer, The rended forests, rolling wheels, As if some half-check'd army reels, Recoils, redoubles, comes again, Loud sounding like a hurricane.

    O bearded, stalwart, westmost men,
    So tower-like, so Gothic built!
    A kingdom won without the guilt
    Of studied battle, that hath been
    Your blood's inheritance....Your heirs
    Know not your tombs: The great plowshares
    Cleave softly through the mellow loam
    Where you have made eternal home,
    And set no sign. Your epitaphs
    Are writ in furrows. Beauty laughs
    While through the green ways wandering
    Beside her love, slow gathering
    White starry-hearted May-time blooms
    Above your lowly level'd tombs;
    And then below the spotted sky
    She stops, she leans, she wonders why
    The ground is heaved and broken so,
    And why the grasses darker grow
    And droop and trail like wounded wing.

    Yea, Time, the grand old harvester,
    Has gather'd you from wood and plain.
    We call to you again, again;
    The rush and rumble of the car
    Comes back in answer. Deep and wide
    The wheels of progress have passed on;
    The silent pioneer is gone.
    His ghost is moving down the trees,
    And now we push the memories
    Of bluff, bold men who dared and died
    In foremost battle, quite aside.

  16. The Song of the Kansas Emigrant

    by John Greenleaf Whittier

    We cross the prairies as of old
    The Pilgrims crossed the sea,
    To make the West, as they the East,
    The homestead of the free.

    CHORUS
    The homestead of the free, my boys,
    The homestead of the free,
    To make the West, as they the East,
    The homestead of the free.

    We go to rear a wall of men
    On Freedom's Southern line,
    And plant beside the cotton-tree
    The rugged Northern pine.

    We're flowing from our native hills,
    As our free rivers flow;
    The blessings of our mother-land
    Is on us as we go.

    We go to plant her common schools
    On distant prairie swells,
    And give the Sabbaths of the wild
    The music of her bells.

    Upbearing, like the ark of old,
    The Bible in her van,
    We go to test the truth of God
    Against the fraud of man.

    No pause, nor rest, save where the streams
    That feed the Kansas run,
    Save where our pilgrim gonfalon
    Shall flout the setting sun.

    We'll tread the prairies as of old
    Our fathers sailed the sea;
    And make the West, as they the East,
    The homestead of the free.

  17. The Westerner

    by Charles Badger Clark

    My fathers sleep on the sunrise plains,
    And each one sleeps alone.
    Their trails may dim to the grass and rains,
    For I choose to make my own.
    I lay proud claim to their blood and name,
    But I lean on no dead kin;
    My name is mine, for the praise or scorn,
    And the world began when I was born
    And the world is mine to win.

    They built high towns on their old log sills,
    Where the great, slow rivers gleamed,
    But with new, live rock from the savage hills
    I'll build as they only dreamed.
    The smoke scarce dies where the trail camp lies,
    Till the rails glint down the pass;
    The desert springs into fruit and wheat
    And I lay the stones of a solid street
    Over yesterday's untrod grass.

    I waste no thought on my neighbor's birth
    Or the way he makes his prayer.
    I grant him a white man's room on earth
    If his game is only square.
    While he plays it straight I'll call him mate;
    If he cheats I drop him flat.
    Old class and rank are a wornout lie,
    For all clean men are as good as I,
    And a king is only that.

    I dream no dreams of a nurse-maid state
    That will spoon me out my food.
    A stout heart sings in the fray with fate
    And the shock and sweat are good.
    From noon to noon all the earthly boon
    That I ask my God to spare
    Is a little daily bread in store,
    With the room to fight the strong for more,
    And the weak shall get their share.

    The sunrise plains are a tender haze
    And the sunset seas are gray,
    But I stand here, where the bright skies blaze
    Over me and the big today.
    What good to me is a vague "may be"
    Or a mournful "might have been,"
    For the sun wheels swift from morn to morn
    And the world began when I was born
    And the world is mine to win.

  18. The Prairie Schooner

    by Charles Moreau Harger

    Slow was the weary, toilsome way
    Where creaked the heavy wain,—
    Quaint follower of the speeding day
    Across the plain.

    White canvas covers, bulging, fair,
    Enclosed fond hearts athrob with joy;
    The builders of an empire there
    Found safe convoy.

    Along its course child-voices sweet
    Marked all the strangeness of each scene;
    While parents sought new homes to greet
    With vision keen.

    No luxury or ease was there
    To lap the traveler into rest,
    But staunch it bore the pioneer
    On toward the West.

    Deserted now, its ragged sails
    Are furled—the port has long been won.
    Sport of the boisterous, hurrying gales,
    Through cloud and sun.

    Unused, forlorn, and gray, it stands,
    A faded wreck cast far ashore,
    The Mayflower of the prairie lands,
    Its journey o'er.

  19. The "Prairie Schooner"

    by Evander A. Crewson

    Through our town one April afternoon,
    A "prairie schooner" wound its western way;
    The driver humming to himself a tune,
    The children playing on a pile of hay.

    The mother, "chillin'," in a blanket wrapped,
    Slowly fed as fuel, insidious disease;
    While the curtains cracked and napped
    In the cool south-western breeze.

    Behind, two yellow dogs, lank and lean,
    Dodged the urchins' sticks and stones;
    Or along some alley might be seen
    Hunting for stray crumbs and bones.

    The horses' looks, in silence plead for corn,
    But weary plod along with fading hope;
    Behind, a brindle cow with broken horn
    Slowly followed up a piece of rope.

    I watched them slowly wind the hill,
    And away as far as I could see;
    With no ambition, and scarce no will,
    I wondered what the end would be.

    That scene in my memory seemed to freeze.
    Though years have rolled by one by one,
    I see those curtains flapping in the breeze,
    Slowly wending towards the setting sun.

  20. The Pioneers

    by Herbert Bates

    Pale in the east a filmy moon
    Creeps up the empty sky,
    And the pallid prairie rounds bleak below,
    And we wonder that we are here; and the thin winds sigh
    Through the broken stalks of the sunflowers that wait to die,
    And the sun is gone, and the darkness begins to grow,
    And out on the shadowy plains we hear the coyote's cry.

    Out of the dark of the prairie plains—
    What lurks in the darkened plains?
    It is there that the coyote howls,
    It is there that the Indian prowls,
    Sinewy-footed, alert,
    Watching to do us hurt;
    And the sombre buffalo
    Pace, ominous and slow,
    With their black beards trailing low
    Over the sifting snow.
    And we, we cower and shake,
    Lying all night awake,—
    We in our little sod-built hut in the heart of the plain.

    God guard us, and make vain
    The wiles of the Indian foe;
    God show us how to go,
    And lead us in again
    Out of the dread of the plain,
    Home to the mountains and hills that our childhood knew,
    Where over the sombre pine trees the sea shines blue.

  21. Crossing the Plains

    by Joaquin Miller

    What great yoked brutes with briskets low,
    With wrinkled necks like buffalo,
    With round, brown, liquid, pleading eyes,
    That turn'd so slow and sad to you,
    That shone like love's eyes soft with tears,
    That seem'd to plead, and make replies,
    The while they bow'd their necks and drew
    The creaking load; and look'd at you.
    Their sable briskets swept the ground,
    Their cloven feet kept solemn sound.

    Two sullen bullocks led the line,
    Their great eyes shining bright like wine;
    Two sullen captive kings were they,
    That had in time held herds at bay,
    And even now they crush'd the sod
    With stolid sense of majesty,
    And stately stepp'd and stately trod,
    As if 'twere something still to be
    Kings even in captivity.

  22. The Trail of '49

    by Ellen P. Allerton

    Across the prairie where I dwell,
    Stretches away, from swell to swell,
    A road that might a story tell.

    The track is wide and deeply cut
    By wheels of heavy wagons, but
    The rank grass grows in seam and rut.

    'Tis the old trail of "Forty-Nine;"—
    Thus history, in graven line,
    Has stamped this prairie home of mine.

    The years have passed with snow and rain,
    And mighty frosts upheaved—in vain—
    For still this track shows clear and plain.

    Tracing it where it winds away,
    There comes to me at twilight gray,
    A vision of another day.

    I see the covered wagons go,
    Across the prairie toiling slow,
    Through the dreary storm, through summer glow.

    I see them with their human freight—
    Hearts throbbing high with hope elate—
    Pass onward to a doubtful fate.

    Months pass: a weary, jaded train,
    Worn with fatigue, disease and pain,
    Creeps slowly o'er a desert plain.

    Above, a cloudless, burning sky;
    Below, naught greets the weary eye,
    Save wastes of sand and alkali.

    No rain descends, no water flows;
    No cool trees bsnd, no green thing grows;
    Yet still that sad train onward goes.

    Fatigue and thirst! No tongue can tell
    The victim's anguish, fierce and fell—
    His fondest dream a bubbling well.

    And some go mad and wildly rave;
    Some find what, at the last, they crave,
    The silence of a desert grave.

    The living speak in husky tones;
    The poor brutes drop with piteous moans;
    The track is paved with bleaching bones.

    Still onward—slower and more slow—
    Dogged nightly by a stealthy foe,
    Toward mountain passes chocked with snow.

    One sleeps, to dream of home and wife;
    He wakes, at call to midnight strife
    With tomahawk and scalping knife.

    ********

    Past perils, miseries untold,
    Past desert heat, past mountains cold,
    What waits them in the land of gold?

    Go, search a checkered history
    Of soon-got hoards, as soon to flee,
    Of princely wealth and poverty.

    Dark tales of crime, of murders fell,
    Of drunken brawl, of gambling hell—
    Good chroniclers have told them well.

    Go, search them all, through every line—
    Yet deign to read this tale of mine,
    Of the old trail of "Fortv-Nine."

  23. The Santa Fe Trail

    by Ed Blair. Written on the dedication of the marker on the Santa Fe Trail at Lone Elm, Johnson County, Kansas.

    Fifty years—'Twas a prairie then
    And the deer roamed wild and free;
    Fifty years—I see it again
    As it appeared to me.
    The old trail ran where the barn stands now,
    The trail was here long before the plow,
    And we drove ox teams with sometimes a cow,
    In the days that use to be.

    Fifty years—Yes I lived here then
    And a lively place 'twas too.
    Wagons for miles with their fearless men
    Coming and passing from view.
    On the wagon covers "Pike's Peak or bust!"
    Yes, the fever was high for the yellow dust
    Just a lot of grit and then their luck to trust,
    For those that won were few.

    Fifty years—'Twas a camping ground
    Where the trees now cast their shade,
    And the faithful oxen rambled around
    And rarely if ever strayed,
    And the camp fires burned each night of the year
    In the pastures there and the cornfields here,
    Yet I slept each night with never a fear,
    And many the friends I made.

    Yes, fifty years—What a striking change
    From the way we do things now,
    No less these farms from the boundless ran
    Or the way we sow and plow
    The sickle is gone and the binder's here,
    But the sickle still to my heart is dear,
    But I look in vain for the roving deer
    And the prairie chicken now.

    Fifty years—Ah, I love to know
    That the old trail shall remain,
    That the markers tell in the years to go
    Where the ox teams crossed the plain
    Of the men who travelled the toilsome way
    But few are left to tell it today,
    But their march was Progress on its way,
    And its glory ne'er shall wane.

  24. The Pioneer Store

    by Ed Blair

    The counters were not polished (only where the loafers sat),
    But little light shone through the window small,
    A sack of Rio coffee made a snug bed for the cat,
    The shelves extended haft way up the wall.
    'Twas just a "general" country store, at least they called it so,
    Perhaps because they generally were out
    Of what the people wanted, and the customer must go
    With things with which they often were in doubt.

    But stores are only ventures and the first must feel its way
    And this was like all others of its kind;
    Some groceries and hardware, just enough to load a dray,
    Was largely then with what the shelves were lined.
    But there was more than merchandise dispensed there ev'ry day,
    When settlers from the Wea and Ten Mile,
    And roaring, raging Bull Creek, and the Blue, ten miles away,
    Spat on the stove and visited awhile.

  25. A Home out West

    by Ellen P. Allerton

    I
    A "Prairie schooner," creeping slow,
    Away-worn, jaded household band,
    In eager voices speaking low—
    Thus enter we the "Promised land."
    Behind us now the river's tide,
    Rolls dark and murk, deep and wide.

    *****

    II
    A warm May day; a sweet soft rain
    On a green prairie falling fast;
    A stopping of the creeping wane,
    And the glad cry, "we are home at last."
    After long weeks of travel sore,
    The goal is won; we ask no more.

    Home! With our roof the dripping sky,
    Our floor the rainsoaked prairie's breast!
    Through all the wastes that round us lie,
    In wild, luxuriant verdure dressed,
    No tree extends its friendly bough,
    We seek no track of spade or plow.

    *****

    III
    A year has fled. What wondrous change
    Has passed this way? What sorcery,
    What silent magic, swift and strange,
    Has wrought such wonders? Come and see!
    Where are the green wastes, soaked with rain?
    You seek thera? You shall seek in vain.

    Spring smiles again; the sunbeams play
    On gabled roof and crystal pane.
    Spring smiles again; and skies of May
    Bend o'er broad fields of waving grain.
    Here are young orchards; and the breeze
    Bends the lithe limbs of forest trees.

    The spring rains beat on snowy walls,
    Comely, though plain, snug built and strong;
    Through vine wreathed windows sunshine falls,
    With cheerful smile, the whole day long;
    And happy faces, fresh and bright,
    Are gathered around the lamps at night.

    Our prairie home is sweet and dear;
    The deep rich soil holds honest wealth,
    The airs we breathe are pure and clear;
    The free, strong winds waft life and health.
    Here dwells content from day to day;
    So—let the great world go its way

  26. The Sod House on the Claim

    by Susannah Williams

    Now come dear children and I'll tell
    About the mansion where we dwell;
    It is a sod house on the flat,
    And we are staying now in that.

    Now I will tell you how 'tis made,
    The sod is cut with plow and spade,
    Some two feet long and one foot wide.
    and then are laid down side by side.

    The next round now as up we go
    Is laid on crosswise in a row;
    (They lay the sod across that way
    So that it will be sure to stay.)

    When high enough the walls are done
    And they then roll a huge log on.
    The gable-ends they then fill out,
    And trim the structure round about.

    Our ridge-pole is a cottonwood log
    Some sixteen inches through,
    And on this pole the rafters lay
    With small brush next in view.

    Now on this brush they lay more sod
    To make it snug and firm.
    And then on that they throw more dirt
    To keep it dry and warm.

    It now appears so very nice,
    It keeps us snug and warm.
    It shelters us from wintry blasts
    And from the frozen storm.

    Now then inside they go to work.
    They cut and trim the wall.
    Then over that spread lime and sand
    So that the dirt won't fall.

    There's one thing more for you to know
    That I will try to tell.
    The windows are so very nice
    In this place where we dwell.

    Up from the floor they're three feet high
    (That is up to the sill)
    And then the wall is cut around
    The space the windows fill.

    Now then these windows are so nice
    (They look that way to me).
    And they afford abundant light
    For all within to see.

    Our floor it was but common earth,
    'Twas here before we came
    And on it then the grass did grow
    For us to walk upon.

    But we have got a pine floor now
    and doing very well.
    But how much longer we will stay
    I really cannot tell.

    There's one thing more I have to fear
    Snakes and lizards both are here.
    With other reptiles not a few
    That frequently appear in view.

    I've penned these verses now for you.
    Well knowing they are strictly true.
    And after you have read them through
    I hope you'll think that they will do.

  27. The Sod House on the Prairie

    The Homestead and Building of the Barbed Wire Fence
    The Homestead and Building of the Barbed Wire Fence
    by John Steuart Curry
    by Ellen P. Allerton

    A low sod house, a broad green prairie,
    And stately ranks of bannered corn;—
    'Twas there I took my dark-eyed Mary,
    And there our darling boy was born.

    The walls were low, the place was homely,
    But Mary sang from morn till night.
    The place beneath her touch grew comely;
    Her cheerful presence made it bright.

    Oh, life was sweet beyond all measure!
    No hour was dull, no day was long;
    Each task was easy, toil was pleasure,
    For love and hope were fresh and strong.

    How oft we sat at eve, foretelling
    The glories of that wide, new land!
    And gayly planned our future dwelling—
    For low sod house, a mansion grand.

    Alas! we little know how fleeting
    The joy that falls to human lot.
    While unseen hands were dirges beating,
    We smiled secure and heard them not.

    One day Death came and took my Mary;
    Another, and the baby died.
    And near the sod house on the prairie
    I laid my darlings, side by side.

    I could not stay. My heart was weary,
    And life a load too hard to bear.
    That low sod house was dreary, dreary,
    For love and hope lay buried there.

  28. My Old Prairie Home

    by Ed Blair

    Dear old home of my youth in the long, long ago,
    Where the sunshine each morn filled the air,
    Where the meadow lark rose from the tall prairie grass
    As it warbled its sweet carols there.
    Oh I think of that home dear old home far away
    That was then on the wild prairie wide,
    Where each night I was tucked in the old trundle bed
    On the floor by the old fireside.

    In my fancy I see once again the old home,
    Dear log house father built long ago,
    Its steep roof made of slabs and its chimney of stone,
    With my name roughly carved below.
    There it stood many years ere another was built
    On the prairie around anywhere,
    And its light was a guide to the traveler lone,
    And its doors ever welcomed him there.

    There at night music sweet from the old violin
    Floated out on the sweet, balmy air,
    While I drifted to sleep in the old trundle bed—
    Peaceful sleep without ever a care.
    Oh bring back again the old home of my youth
    Where the grass rolled like waves of the sea,
    Where the dear wild flowers bloomed, where the lark sang so sweet,
    Oh my old prairie home let me see!

    There the low muffled tone of the prairie hen's mate
    Floated in from the prairie around,
    And away in the distance the wild deer roamed free,
    Then unknown the fierce bay of the hound,
    And at noon dear Bob White from the hedge piped his strain,
    Coming night brought the dove's mournful lay,
    And the song of the cricket and Katy-did rang
    From the grass till the breaking of day.

  29. The Old Windmill

    by Clarence Albert Murch

    Battered windmill, old and gray,
    Swinging there athwart the sky,
    Sport of every idle breeze
    That may chance to wander by.
    Blow they fair or blow they foul,
    Still you wag your dingy cowl
    Through the livelong night and day,
    Weather-beaten, old and gray.

    Is that endless monotone—
    Half a shriek and half a groan—
    That in dreary cadence drones
    From your old rheumatic bones,
    Echo of some sylvan tune,
    Or forgotten forest rune
    From the aisles of long ago,
    Calling, calling, soft and low
    Through the banished years that creep
    Back to some old forest dim,
    Where the woodland zephyrs sweep
    Dancing leaf and swaying limb?

    As the lazy breezes blow
    All your gaunt arms to and fro,
    Swinging ever round and round,
    To that weird, unearthly sound,
    Do you ever wish that some
    Wandering Don Quixote of wind
    With its stormy lance might come—
    End that weary, ceaseless grind?

    Life is like a windmill gray,
    Swinging ’twixt the earth and sky;
    Sport of every passing breeze
    That may chance to wander by.
    Still we grind with smile or scowl,
    Blow they fair or blow they foul;
    Sure that we shall be some day,
    Weather-beaten, old and gray.

  30. The Wolves

    by Elizabeth Madox Roberts

    When Grandmother Polly had married and gone,
    But before her father had given her Clem,
    Or Joe, or Sandy, or Evaline-
    Before he had given her any of them,

    She used to live in a far-away place,
    In a little cabin that was her home,
    And all around were bushes and trees,
    And the wolves could come.

    At night they ran down out of the rocks
    And bristled up their trembly fur.
    They came and howled by Polly's door
    And showed their little white teeth at her.

  31. Lincoln

    by Annette Wynne

    A log cabin, rude and rough—
    This was house and home enough
    For one small boy; there in the chimney place
    With glowing face
    The eager young eyes learned to trace
    Staunch old tales of staunch old men;
    In the firelight there and then
    The soul of Lincoln grew—
    And no one knew!
    Only the great and bitter strife
    Of later days brought into life
    Great deeds that blossomed in the gloom
    Of that dim shadowy firelit room.

  32. The Planting of the Cottonwood Tree

    by Ed Blair

    The building of the cabin home,
    The planting of the trees,
    The breaking of the virgin soil—
    What tender memories!
    What stories, told of other days,
    Come drifting back to me,
    I think this one the best of all,
    The planting of this tree.

    A little sprout she carried there
    When first the home was bought,
    For mother said "a treeless home
    Was such a lonely spot."
    And by the door where summer's breeze
    Would tune its leaves to song
    She planted it and nourished till
    Its roots grew firm and strong.

    Dear cottonwood, so lovely then,
    How wide and tall it grew.
    What joy to those long absent when
    Its top first came to view!
    A sentinel it seemed to be
    That stood majestic there,
    And guarded those who dwelt within
    That dear old home so fair.

    'Twas mother's tree! And it has stood
    For thirty years or more,
    Where loving hands had planted it
    Beside that cottage door.
    The song-birds came and nested there,
    And 'neath its cooling shade,
    The boys and girls that blessed the home
    Their first playhouses made.

  33. The Song of the Pioneer

    by William Steward Gordon

    I would sing a song for the pioneer,
    That sturdy soul and bold,
    Whose rugged worth to the western world
    Has never half been told.

    With buckskin leggins, belt and knife,
    And trusted rifle true,
    He coped with nature, beasts, and men,
    And came out victor, too.

    He often ate but once a day,
    And shivered in the rain,
    But whistled till the sun came out,
    Nor thought of it again.

    But the panorama changes soon—
    The trappers disappear—
    For red adventure is not all
    That makes a pioneer.

    Methinks I see a cattle team
    Crawl up the Rocky's crest,
    And with its freight a wife and child
    And the future of the West.

    O'er alkali, o'er marsh and moor,
    And roaring canyons deep,
    Mid panther screams and Indian yells
    Their lonely camp they keep.

    And suns they rise and suns they set,
    But westward still and on,
    Till the road fades into a winding trail,
    And the trail itself is gone.

    Through bristling forest dense and dim
    They hew a path to the sea,
    And blaze a way for the march of men
    And the millions yet to be.

    For civilization followed fast
    These men of brawn and brain,
    And o'er their trail the iron horse
    Soon galloped with his train.

    Their fathers won the eastern coast,
    With its barren hills and ice,
    But these subdued a better land—
    The western paradise.

    But where are now those fearless souls
    Of fifty-two and three?
    Meek, Nesmith, Lee, and Applegate,
    And a score of their degree?

    They rode the gaunt, black horse of death
    Over the great divide—
    They scaled the purple peaks of time
    And camped on the farther side.

    And only a remnant now remains
    Of the men of '53,
    But the work they did will stand secure
    Till time has ceased to be.

    Then let us lift our hats to them,
    Nor stop the falling tear,
    And pay our debt of gratitude
    To the honored pioneer.

  34. The Early Days

    by Robert J. C. Stead

    Yes, times have changed since the early days and things are different now;
    We used to tramp from dawn to dusk in the trail of a walking-plough,
    And sow our grain from a canvas sack with a barrel-hoop for a mouth,
    And we kind o' felt that Providence controlled the frost and drouth;
    And in the harvest work we always neighbored forth and back,
    And never thought of threshing till the grain was in the stack;
    And hauled our wood in the winter-time, and smoked beside the fire,
    And felt our lot was everything that reason could desire.

    True, we had little money; our homes were plain and bare;
    Maybe a box for a table, maybe a block for a chair;
    Straw to repose our bodies at the end of the well-worked day,
    And the stars saw through the knot-holes in the shingles where we lay;
    Food that was mostly our raising, coffee from toasted wheat,
    Cottonade for our Sunday suits, moccasins for our feet.
    Hard were our frames with labor, knotted our hands with toil.
    And we went to bed at twilight to save the price of oil.

    Hardship? Perhaps, but old-timers look back at the early days,
    Before we had come to realize that practical farming pays,
    Back at the times we were all so poor that none of us thought of wealth,
    Back at the times when we found content in industry and health,
    Back at the nights in the shanty, when the wolves howled in the snow,
    Back at the old sod stable and the cattle in a row,
    Back at the distances still unmapped, at the trails that were still untrod,
    When round about were the wastes of earth and overhead was God.

    Yes, times have changed since the early days; farming is now an art;
    They're coming for land in motor cars—but we came in a cart—
    They're tearing the prairie with steam and gas, turning the rivers loose
    To water the arid regions and bring them into use;
    Binding the earth with railway lines, netting the world with wires,
    Leaving the mail at our corner-posts, pampering our desires;
    They show us that times are better, prove it a thousand ways,
    But we think of the old-time comradeship and sigh for the early days.

  35. The Pioneers' Anniversary

    by Ed Blair

    The years are passing, Nancy,
    Yes, the years are passing fast,
    The year just gone it seems to me
    Went quicker than the last.
    Our heads are tingeing now with gray,
    Our steps not quite so sure,
    But then I'm not complaining, Dear,
    For blessings still endure.
    We'll have the children here again,
    Yes, all of them today
    Except the little one, once ours,
    Once ours, now passed away.

    How fast the years are flying now
    What changes swift they bring
    Sweet joy to some, to others pain,
    Worse than the adder's sting.
    Ah! well for us, yes, well, indeed,
    We cannot know today,
    The joys or griefs that future days
    Have for us stored away.
    An angel hand may guide us yet,
    For years before we part,
    The hands of friends be needed soon
    To bind a broken heart.

  36. The Deserted Cabin

    by Ruby Archer

    Lone, it lingers on the mountain
    With no sign or sound of life;
    No sweet, happy, household cadence,
    Laugh of child or song of wife.
    How it stares adown the valley
    With those hard and hollow eyes,
    As if waiting, empty-hearted,
    Hopeless, for some sweet surprise.
    All the doors have broken hinges,
    Rails have fallen from the fence;
    High the dove-cote leans, abandoned,
    Lonely birds have wandered hence.
    Mosses creep through every crevice,
    Sunshine bars the vacant floor,
    And a yellow ox-eyed daisy
    Peeps in wonder through the door.
    Yonder windmill turning, turning,
    In the old accustomed way,
    Feels a sympathy in moving
    With the winds that sigh alway:
    "We have lost the waving tresses
    Of a little golden head.
    We can find no touch responsive.—
    All but memory is dead."

Related Poems