Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Cather Poem Found in a Box of My "Stuff"

Readers, I am purging some boxes of paper at my house, and ran across the "In Memoriam" pamphlet for the former Willa Cather Scholar-Professor at the University of Nebraska, Susan Rosowski, who passed away in 2004. I had only gotten to know her shortly before her death and she was a lovely soul, and I was fortunate to attend her beautiful funeral. This was the poem by Willa Cather that she had printed in her final goodbye to us. I have been a Cather fan and have read most of her books, and biographies. Cather experienced, in an earlier critical time, what I also experienced, that of a strong connection to the Nebraska prairie land soils, and she foresaw human nature conquering that land, with an aesthetic price to pay and with the sacrifice of the beautiful ecologically diverse native prairie grasses themselves, along with their innumerable inhabitants. And on that note, I shall add the byline today to this blog, "Who speaks for the grasses? the native prairies?"--k.m.

Prairie Spring

by Willa Cather

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.

About the photo: Dry land farm, Phelps County, Nebraska. 1880s. A woman and a girl stand near the doorway of a sod house in this 8.25" x 5.5" sepia-toned photograph. The house is surrounded by grass, and in the front of the photograph is a dirt field with rows of corn. On the left side of the photograph stands a man with two horses hitched to a plow. A windmill is visible behind the house on the right side of the photograph.