Songs from the Southern Seas and Other Poems/The Wail of Two Cities

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GAUNT in the midst of the prairie,
She who was once so fair;
Charred and rent are her garments,
Heavy and dark like cerements;
Silent, but round her the air
Plaintively wails, "Miserere!"

Proud like a beautiful maiden,
Art-like from forehead to feet.
Was she till pressed like a leman
Close to the breast of the demon,
Lusting for one so sweet.
So were her shoulders laden.

Friends she had, rich in her treasures:
Shall the old taunt be true,—
Fallen, they turn their cold faces,
Seeking new wealth-gilded places,
Saying we never knew
Aught of her smiles or her pleasures?

Silent she stands on the prairie.
Wrapped in her fire-scathed sheet:
Around her, thank God! is the Nation,
Weeping for her desolation,
Pouring its gold at her feet,
Answering her "Miserere!"


O broad-breasted Queen among Nations!
O Mother, so strong in thy youth!
Has the Lord looked upon thee in ire,
And willed thou be chastened by fire,
Without any ruth?

Has the Merciful tired of His mercy,
And turned from thy sinning in wrath,
That the world with raised hands sees and pities
Thy desolate daughters, thy cities.
Despoiled on their path?

One year since thy youngest was stricken:
Thy eldest lies stricken to-day.
Ah! God, was thy wrath without pity.
To tear the strong heart from our city.
And cast it away?

O Father! forgive us our doubting;
The stain from our weak souls efface;
Thou rebukest, we know, but to chasten;
Thy hand has but fallen to hasten
Return to thy grace.

Let us rise purified from our ashes
As sinners have risen who grieved;
Let us show that twice-sent desolation
On every true heart in the nation
Has conquest achieved.