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Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Prose Works. 1892.

I. Specimen Days

196. Prairie Analogies—The Tree Question

THE WORD Prairie is French, and means literally meadow. The cosmical analogies of our North American plains are the Steppes of Asia, the Pampas and Llanos of South America, and perhaps the Saharas of Africa. Some think the plains have been originally lake-beds; others attribute the absence of forests to the fires that almost annually sweep over them—(the cause, in vulgar estimation, of Indian summer.) The tree question will soon become a grave one. Although the Atlantic slope, the Rocky mountain region, and the southern portion of the Mississippi valley, are well wooded, there are here stretches of hundreds and thousands of miles where either not a tree grows, or often useless destruction has prevail’d; and the matter of the cultivation and spread of forests may well be press’d upon thinkers who look to the coming generations of the prairie States.