The West Country

By Alice Cary 1820–1871 Alice Cary
Have you been in our wild west country? then
   You have often had to pass
Its cabins lying like birds’ nests in
   The wild green prairie grass.

Have you seen the women forget their wheels
   As they sat at the door to spin—
Have you seen the darning fall away
   From their fingers worn and thin,

As they asked you news of the villages
   Where they were used to be,
Gay girls at work in the factories
   With their lovers gone to sea!

Ah, have you thought of the bravery
   That no loud praise provokes—
Of the tragedies acted in the lives
   Of poor, hard-working folks!

Of the little more, and the little more
   Of hardship which they press
Upon their own tired hands to make
   The toil for the children less:

And not in vain; for many a lad
   Born to rough work and ways,
Strips off his ragged coat, and makes
   Men clothe him with their praise.

Source: The Longman Anthology of Poetry (Pearson, 2006)

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Poet Alice Cary 1820–1871

Subjects Social Commentaries, Jobs & Working, Activities

 Alice  Cary


The sisters Alice and Phoebe Cary grew up on a farm near Cincinnati, Ohio. There they immersed themselves in the classics of literature under the tutelage of an older sister whose death in 1833 affected them deeply. Although both published poems while still teenagers, it wasn’t until 1850, after their work had been noticed by such luminaries as Edgar Allan Poe and John Greenleaf Whittier, that a book—Poems of Alice and Phoebe . . .

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SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Jobs & Working, Activities

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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