Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant


OH! fly to the prairie, sweet maiden, with me,
As green, and as wide, and as wild as the sea!
Its bosom of velvet the summer winds ride,
And rank grass is waving in billowy pride.
The city's a prison too narrow for thee—
Then away to the prairies so boundless and free!
Where the sight is not check'd till the prairie and skies,
In harmony blending, commingle their dyes.
The fawns in the meadow-fields fearlessly play—
Away to the chase, lovely maiden, away!
Bound, bound to thy courser, the bison is near!
And list to the tramp of the light-footed deer.
Let England exult in her dogs and her chase—
Oh! what's a king's park to this limitless space?
No fences to leap and no thickets to turn,
No owners to injure, no furrows to spurn.
But, softly as thine on the carpeted hall,
Is heard the light foot of the courser to fall;
And close matted grass no impression receives,
As ironless hoofs bound aloft from the leaves.
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Oh, fly to the prairie! the eagle is there:
He gracefully wheels in the cloud-speckled air;
And timidly hiding her delicate young,
The prairie-hen hushes her beautiful song.
Oh, fly to the prairie, sweet maiden, with me!
The vine and the prairie-rose blossom for thee;
And, hailing the moon in the prairie-propp'd sky,
The mocking-bird echoes the katydid's cry.
Let Mexicans boast of their herds and their steeds,
The free prairie-hunter no shepherd-boy needs;
The bison, like clouds, overshadow the place,
And the wild spotted coursers invite to the chase.
The citizen picks at his turtle and fowls,
And stomachless over his fricassee growls:
We track the wild turkey; the rifle supplies
The food for the board and the stomach to prize.
The farmer may boast of his grass and his grain—
He sows them in labour, and reaps them in pain;
But here the deep soil no exertion requires,
Enrich'd by the ashes, and clear'd by the fires.
Then fly to the prairie in wonder, and gaze,
As sweeps o'er the grass the magnificent blaze;
The world cannot boast more romantic a sight—
A continent flaming, and oceans of light!
The woodman delights in his trees and his shade—
But see! there's no sun on the cheek of his maid;
His flowers are faded, his blossoms are pale,
And mildew is riding his vapoury gale.
Then fly to the prairie! no bush to obscure,
No marsh to exhale, and no ague to cure.
Translucent and fresh comes the grass-scented breeze,
Unchill'd by the mountain, unbroken by trees.
Sublime from the north he descends in his wrath,
And scatters the reeds in his snow-cover'd path;
Or, loaded with incense, steals in from the west,
As bees from the prairie-rose fly to their nest.
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Oh, fly to the prairie! for freedom is there!
Love lights not that home with the torch of despair
No wretch to entreat, and no lord to deny,
No gossips to slander, no neighbour to pry.
But struggling not there the heart's impulse to hide
Love leaps like the fount from the crystal-rock side
And strong as its adamant, pure as its spring,
Waves wildly in sunbeams his rose-colour'd wing