James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

October 9


By John Boyle O’Reilly (1844–1890)

  • Partly destroyed by fire, Oct. 9, 1871.

  • 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!”