Nature: an Artistic Resource and Renewer of the Soul

Photo by Cody Doherty

The Giant Cactus of Arizona

by Harriet Monroe (1914)

The cactus in the desert stands
Like time’s inviolate sentinel,
Watching the sun-washed waste of sands
Lest they their ancient secrets tell.
And the lost lore of mournful lands
It knows alone and guards too well.

Wiser than Sphynx or pyramid,
It points a stark hand at the sky,
And all the stars alight or hid
It counts as they go rolling by;
And mysteries the gods forbid
Darken its heavy memory.

I asked how old the world was—yea,
And why yon ruddy mountain grew
Out of hell’s fire. By night nor day
It answered not, though all it knew,
But lifted, as it stopped my way,
Its wrinkled fingers toward the blue

Inscrutable and stern and still
It waits the everlasting doom.
Races and years may do their will—
Lo, it will rise above their tomb,
Till the drugged earth has drunk her fill
Of light, and falls asleep in gloom.

Note from Poem-a-dayHarriet Monroe, born on December 23, 1860, in Chicago, was a poet, critic, and editor best known as the founding publisher and editor of Poetry magazine.


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