Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > America
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX.  1876–79.
 
Introductory to Western States
Fires in Illinois
John James Piatt (1835–1917)
 
HOW bright this weird autumnal eve—
  While the wild twilight clings around,
Clothing the grasses everywhere,
  With scarce a dream of sound!
 
The high horizon’s northern line,        5
  With many a silent-leaping spire,
Seems a dark shore,—a sea of flame,—
  Quick, crawling waves of fire!
 
I stand in dusky solitude,
  October breathing low and chill,        10
And watch the far-off blaze that leaps
  At the wind’s wayward will.
 
These boundless fields, behold, once more,
  Sea-like in vanished summers stir;
From vanished autumns comes the Fire,—        15
  A lone, bright harvester!
 
I see wide terror lit before,—
  Wild steeds, fierce herds of bison here,
And, blown before the flying flame,
  The flying-footed deer!        20
 
Long trains (with shaken bells, that moved
  Along red twilights sinking slow)
Whose wheels grew weary on their way,
  Far westward, long ago;
 
Lone wagons bivouacked in the blaze,        25
  That, long ago, streamed wildly past;
Faces from that bright solitude
  In the hot gleam aghast!
 
A glare of faces like a dream,
  No history after or before,        30
Inside the horizon with the flames,
  The flames,—nobody more!
 
That vision vanishes in me,
  Sudden and swift and fierce and bright;
Another gentler vision fills        35
  The solitude, to-night:
 
The horizon lightens everywhere,
  The sunshine rocks on windy maize;
Hark, everywhere are busy men,
  And children at their plays!        40
 
Far church-spires twinkle at the sun,
  From villages of quiet born,
And, far and near, and everywhere,
  Homes stand amid the corn.
 
No longer driven by wind, the Fire        45
  Makes all the vast horizon glow,
But, numberless as the stars above,
  The windows shine below!
 
 
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