Historical Context


From Nebraska Legends and Poems by Orsamus Charles Dake. 1871.

The virgin of the wilderness,
She sits upon her hills alone;
Loose sprigs of cedar in her hair,
A vine-wreath round her zone;
As gray-eyed Pallas pure and free,
Expectant of the things to be.
No robe of art in pliant fold
Wraps her deep bosom from the cold,
Nor rustling veil, nor cheap disguise,
Conceals the freshness of her eyes.
Beneath her feet an hundred rills
Flash, singing to the naked hills;
And forest-belted rivers glide
Through prairie valleys, warm and wide.
Not hers are breadths of palm or pine,
Or sands of gold, or mountain mine,
Or dizzy steeps, or barren rocks,
But farm-land vales and grass for flocks;
And over her, spanned in splendor, rise
Mild, changeful depths of cheerful skies.

She looks across her vacant lands,
And feels a virgin’s conscious shame;
Yet not with her to shape the past—
Oh, not with her the blame!
She smiles benign on every guest,
And proffers shelter, food, and rest.
To empires thronged with men, afar,
To states where discord dwells, and war,
She calls, and shows her ample bound,
And peace within, and peace around.
To families distressed and poor,
To restless sage and o’ertasked boor,
To broken health and courage spent,
To all the sons of discontent,
Where’er they pine, whate’er they be,
She cries, “Be thine a homestead free—
A lordly right of wealthy land,
And health, ease, quiet. At my hand
Receive the cool, sustaining hours,
And energize thy weakened powers.”

She knows that she was born to be
The mother of a mighty race:
Heroic sons whom reverence seeks—
Daughters to wear all grace;—
That on her soil there yet must rise
Whatever prospects good men prize:
The pure church, up whose heaven-topped spire
Creeps the long sunset’s lingering fire;
The college in whose reverend shade
Unpolished youths are Grecians made;
And tasteful homes; and those calm keeps
Where musing memory broods and weeps.
She knows, elate, that she was born
To blend the sunset with the morn;
To add new vigor to the chain
That links the mountain to the main;
Till, growing greater and more great,
She sits the peer of every state;
And all shall love and call her blest—
The virgin Mother of the West.