My First View of a Western Prairie

My First View of a Western Prairie  (1839) 
by Eliza Roxcy Snow

Appeared in Quincy Whig, June 29, 1839.

The loveliness of Nature, always did
Delight me.
          In the days of childhood; when
My young light heart, in all the buoyancy
Of its own bright imagination’s spell,
Beat in accordant consonance to all
For which it cherished an affinity;
The summer glory of the landscape, rous’d
Within my breast a princely feeling. Time’s
Obliterating glance cannot erase,
The impulse with my being interwove;
And oftentimes, in the fond ecstacy
Of youth’s effervescence, I’ve gaz’d
Upon the richly variegated fields;
Which most emphatically spoke the praise
Of Nature, and the cultivator’s skill.

     But when I heard the western traveller paint
The splendid beauties of the far-off West;
Where Nature’s pastures, rich and amply broad,
Waving in full abundance, seem to mock
The deepest schemes and boldest efforts of
The cultivators of the eastern soil;
I grew incredulous that Nature’s dress
Should be so rich, and so domestic, and
So beautiful, without the touch of Art;
And thought the picture fancifully wrought.

     Yet, in the process of revolving scenes,
I left the place of childhood and of youth;
And as I journey’d t’ward the setting sun,
As if awaking from a nightly dream,
Into a scenery grand and strangely new,
I almost thought myself transported back
Upon the retrograding wheel of time;
To days, and scenes, when Greece presided o’er
The destinies of earth; and when she shone
Like her ador’d Apollo, without one
Tall rival in the field of Literature:
And fancied then, that I was standing on
That tow’ring mount of truly classic fame,
That overlooks the rich, the fertile, and
The far-extended vales of Crissa: Or,
That in some wild poetic spell, of deep
Unconscious recklessness, I’d stray’d afar
Upon the flowing plains of Marathon.

     But soon reflection’s potent wand dispel’d
The false illusion, and I realiz’d
That I was not inhaling foreign air;
Nor moving in a scene emblazon’d with
The classic legends of antiquity:
O no; the scenery around was not
Enchantment: ’Twas the bright original,
Of those fair images and ideal forms,
Which fancy’s pencil is so prompt to sketch,
Instead of treading on Ionian fields;
I stood upon Columbian soil; and in
The rich and fertile State of Illinois.
Amaz’d, I view’d until my optic nerve
Grew dull and giddy with the phrenzy of
The innocent delight; and I exclaim’d
With Sheba’s queen, ‘one half had not been told.’

     But then my thoughts—can I describe them now?
No: for description’s ablest pow’rs grow lame,
Whenever put upon the chase of things
Of non-existence; and my thoughts had all,
Like liquid matter, melted down; and had
Become, as with a secret touch absorb’d,
In the one all-engrossing feeling of
Deep admiration, vivid and intense.
And my imagination too, for once,
Acknowledged its own imbecility,
And cower’d down, as if to hide away:
For all its pow’rs had been too cold and dull,
Too tame, and too domestic far, to draw
A parallel, with the bold grandeur, and
The native beauty of this “Western World.”

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.