Walls of Corn

Ellen P. Allerton, 1835-1892, Padonia, KS

Smiling and beautiful, heaven's dome,
Bend softly over prairie home.
But the wide, wide lands that stretched away
Before my eyes in the month of May,
The rolling prairies' billowy swell,
Breezy upland and timbered dell,
Stately mansion and hut forlorn,
All are hidden by walls of corn.
All wide the world is narrowed down
to the walls of corn, now sere and brown.
What do they hold - these walls of corn
whose banners toss on the breeze of morn.
He who questions may soon be told;
A great states wealth these walls unfold.
No sentinels guard these walls of corn,
Never is sounded the warder's horn.
Yet the pillars are hung with gleaming gold,
Left all unbarred, though thieves are bold.
Clothes and food for the toiling poor,
Wealth to heap at the rich man's door;
Meat for the healthy and balm for him
Who moans and tosses in chamber dim;
Shoes for the barefooted, pearls to twine
in the scented tresses of ladies fine;
Things of use for the lowly cot.
Where (bless the corn!) want cometh not.
Luxuries rare for the mansion grand
Gifts of a rich and fertile land; -
All these things and so many more
It would fill a book to name them o'er,
Are hid and held in these walls of corn,
Whose banners toss in the breeze of morn.
Open the atlas, conned by rule,
in the olden days of district school.
Point to the rich and bounteous land,
That yields such fruit to the toiler's hand.
"Treeless desert," they called it then,
Haunted by beasts, forsaken by men.
Little they knew what wealth untold,
Lay hid where the desolate prairies rolled.
Who would have dared, with brush or pen,
As this land is now to paint it then?
And how would the wise ones have laughed in scorn,
Had the prophet foretold these walls of corn,
Whose banners toss in the breeze of morn!

Source: Sunflowers, A Book of Kansas Poems
Willard Wattles   -   1916

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January 25, 1999 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas / howell@kotn.org

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