Tag Archives: poem

Don’t Leave the Farm, Boys

Life has always changed, but in the last 150 years, the rate of change has steadily increased. Where it once took at least hundreds and often thousands of years for noticeable changes to be witnessed in cultures, societies, or day-to-day life, today, the change seems to be monthly. There are points in time, however, at which there were sudden bursts of change, and the late 1800s represented such a period. In the last decades of the century, we saw the birth of everything from skyscrapers to popcorn poppers to automobiles to department stores. In the U.S., there was also a tremendous surge of people away from farming. Factory jobs offered income not reliant on fickle weather patterns, and big cities offered conveniences not found in the country. These benefits drew people in increasing numbers away from farms. The U.S. changed from a country where most people lived in rural areas and raised crops to a country where city dwellers vastly outnumbered their country cousins. There were also vast numbers who were looking for easy wealth, and they flooded to the world’s gold fields, whether in California, the Yukon Territory, or even in Australia, as noted in the work below. Whatever the draw—reliable income, urban delights, or “easy” wealth—people left the farms in droves during this period.

The following poem was written by a woman named Clara F. Berry during this dynamic period. Published in 1871, it reflects not only these trends but also the sense of loss felt by those who knew that the choices being made were not necessarily better choices, just different.

Don’t Leave the Farm, Boys
Clara F. Berry 1871

Come boys, I have something to tell you,
Come near, I would whisper it low,
You’re thinking of leaving the homestead,
Don’t be in a hurry to go.
The city has many attractions,
But think of the vices and sins,
When once in the vortex of fashion,
How soon the course downward begins.

You talk of the mines of Australia,
They’re wealthy in gold without doubt,
But sh! There is gold on the farm, boys,
If only you’d shovel it out.
The mercantile trade is a hazard,
The goods are first high and then low,
Best risk the old farm a while longer,
Don’t be in a hurry to go.

The great busy west has inducements,
And so has the business mart,
But wealth is not made in a day, boys,
Don’t be in a hurry to start.
The bankers and brokers are wealthy,
They take in their thousand or so,
And think of the frauds and deceptions,
Don’t be in a hurry to go.

The farm is the safest and surest,
The orchards are loaded today,
You’re free as the air of the mountains,
And monarch of all you survey.
Best stay on the farm a while longer,
Though profits come in rather slow,
Remember you’ve nothing to risk boys,
Don’t be in a hurry to go.

 

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Nebraska Poems

One of the things that delighted me as I researched Midwest Maize was discovering how much literature, especially poetry, celebrates corn, the people who grew it, and the lands where it grew. Of course, I knew about the Carl Sandburg collection, Cornhuskers. But there were so many more wonderful poems written to the grain that built the Heartland. I start each chapter in the book with a book excerpt, quote, or poem about corn, but there were far too many to put them all in the book. So I thought I’d share a few here.

And since, after I saw the Nebraska State Capitol, I met up with friend Jane and we drove across the state to her childhood home of Arapahoe, I thought this was the perfect place to insert a few poems about Nebraska. These are from a collection called Corn Tassels, published in 1897 by William Reed Dunroy. Most of the poems are about the life events one normally associates with poetry — love, sorrow, beauty — but there are a number of Nebraska poem, and the book itself bears the dedication, “To the state I love, NEBRASKA, and to her people.” And I must say, even today, the Nebraska I saw largely reflected what Dunroy describe in his poems.

The Land of Corn

FAR inland from the raging sea,
And its boom and rush and roar,
There lies a land, wide, wide and green,
As flat as a dancing floor—
‘Tis Nebraska, the land of corn.

The sun just seems to love the land,
For it shines the whole year through,
And the skies smile down upon her plains,
Serenely, calm and blue—
O’er Nebraska, the land of corn.

And the prairies are clad for many a mile
With the tossing plumes of corn,
And the fields of wheat wave like a sea
Of green, on a summer morn—
In Nebraska, the land of corn.

A man may wander far way,
From the old Nebraska home,
But his heart will long by night and day
Wherever he dares to roam—
For Nebraska, the land of corn.

We love that land with fervent love,
All we who tread her soil,
And we pray God’s blessing upon the heads
Of the men who live and toil—
In Nebraska, the land of corn. Continue reading

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