Posted by: Oklahoma Sun | March 4, 2010

Sunset On The Prairies.

Sunset On The Prairies.

James W. Foley. Plains and Prairies, 1905.


THEY have tamed it with their harrows; they have broken it with plows;
Where the bison used to range it someone’s built himself a house;
They have stuck it full of fence posts, they have girdled it with wire,
They have shamed it and profaned it with an automobile tire;
They have bridged its gullied rivers; they have peopled it with men;
They have churched it, they have schooled it, they have steepled it—Amen.
They have furrowed it with ridges, they have seeded it with grain,
And the West that was worth knowing I shall never see again.

They have smothered all its campfires, where the beaten plainsman slept;
They have driven up their cattle where the skulking coyote crept;
They have made themselves a pasture where the timid deer would browse,
Where the antelope were feeding they have dotted o’er with cows;
There’s a yokel’s tuneless whistling down the bison’s winding trail,
Where the redman’s arrow fluttered there’s a woman with a pail
Driving up the cows for milking; they have cut its wild extent
Into forty-acre patches till its glory is all spent.

I remember in the sixties, when as far as I could see,
It had never lord or ruler but the buffalo and me;
Ere the blight of man was on it, and the endless acres lay
Just as God Almighty left them on the restful Seventh Day;
When no sound rose from its vastness but a murmured hum and dim
Like the echoed void of Silence in an unheard Prairie hymn;
And I lay at night and rested in my bed of blankets curled
Much alone as if I was the only man in all the world.

But the prairie’s passed, or passing, with the passing of the years,
Till there is no West worth knowing and there are no Pioneers;
They have riddled it with railroads, throbbing on and on and on,
They have ridded it of dangers till the zest of it is gone;
And I’ve saddled up my pony, for I’m dull and lonesome here,
To go westward, westward, westward, till we find a new frontier;
To get back to God’s own wildness and the skies we used to know—
But there is no West; it’s conquered—and I don’t know where to go.