A Celebration of Women Writers

"Chicago." by Miss Marion Couthouy Smith (1853-1931).
Publication: Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, ed. The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893. Chicago, Ill: Monarch Book Company, 1894. pp. 616-617.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 616] 




The poem which I shall have the honor of reading to you today, was published in the "Century" magazine, in March, 1893. It represents Chicago before the Exposition, during the time of preparation and may now be regarded as a prophecy fulfilled.

Among the newspaper comments upon this poem was one which amused me greatly, and pleased me also, because of its unintentional praise. The critic said of me: "She evidently lives in Chicago." I am a native of Philadelphia, and now live just across the river from New York. I never saw Chicago until last week, but I felt her; and I was glad to be so identified with her, even in the mind of a would-be satirical critic, at a time when every sympathetic spirit in the land was touched with the thrill of her heroic endeavor and her magnificent achievement.

Philadelphia did her best in '76; but the great wave of artistic impulse which has since swept over the world was, at that time, only beginning to gather. It remained for Chicago to ride the crest of that wave, and to show to the world–in this magical White City–the very utmost that art can achieve–art, which is man's vision of God's reality. Here it is manifested that Imagination, noblest of human faculties, has survived the intense realism of our century. For there is nothing sordid about this work; that is the joy of it. It is "all for glory and for beauty."

So last year I saw Chicago as in a vision; and now that I have beheld the result of her labor and her munificence, I rejoice that my little song can be added to the great chorus of praise.

The poem is simply entitled, "Chicago."


The blue lake ripples to her feet,
    The wind is in her hair;
She stands, a maiden mild and sweet,
    With sinewy form and fair.

No stress of age her hope restrains,
    Nor checks its high emprise;
The blood of youth is in her veins,
    Youth's challenge in her eyes.                     

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She seized, with movement swift as light,
    The hour's most precious spoil;
Now, glowing with her promise bright,
    Her strength makes joy of toil.

With dextrous hand, with dauntless will,
    Her pearl white towers she rears–
The memory of whose grace shall thrill
    The illimitable years.

O'er leagues of waste, in sun and storm,
    Their proud pure domes shall gleam,
The substance, wrought in noblest form,
    Oft Art's imperial dream.

Here shall she stand, the Old World's bride,
    Crowned with the Age's dower;
Toward her shall set the abounding tide
    Of life's full pomp and power.

She hears the nations' coming tread,
    The rushing of the ships;
And waits with queenly hands outspread,
    And welcome on her lips.

The races, 'neath her generous sway,
    Shall spread their splendid mart;
And here, for one brief perfect day,
    Shall beat the World's great heart.

[Page 616] 

Miss Marion Couthouy Smith was born in Philadelphia, Pa., October 22, 1853. Her parents were Henry Pratt, of Philadelphia, and Maria Couthouy Williams, of Boston. She was educated at Miss Anable's School in Philadelphia. Pa. Her principal literary works consist of magazine articles and poems contributed to the "Century," "Atlantic Monthly," "The New England Magazine," and other publications; also a booklet entitled "Chorister No. 13." Though retarded in her work by ten years of ill health, yet she has demonstrated her ability, and a novel, published as a serial in "The Living Church," Chicago (which won a one hundred dollar prize) entitled "A Working Woman," accords to her talent of a superior order. In religious faith Miss Smith is an Episcopalian. Her postoffice address is No. 38 Walnut Street, East Orange, N. J.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer
Mary Hitchcock.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom