“A Century Hence”

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In 1880, Missouri  attorney William McClung Paxton wrote the following poem detailing his vision of how life will be in America in 1980:

In the midst, at St. Louis, the Capitol loomed,
With lofty and glittering steeple —
The seat of a Nation, where freedom first bloomed,
Containing a billion of people.
“And now,” he exclaimed, “the whole Continent’s ours,
From Panama, North to the pole!
For naught but the ocean can fetter our powers,
Or give to us less than the whole!”

As we walked to the house, my companions reported,
That roads through the land were not found,
That men, on light wings, in the atmosphere sported,
Or walked, as they pleased, on the ground.
With the new motive power, one man could do more
Than fifty, without it, could do;
So people were able to add to their store,
And be generous, noble and true.

An order for supper, by telephone, now,
Had scarcely been made, by my host,
When in sprang a servant, I cannot tell how,
With coffee, ham, biscuit and toast.
He’d come from St. Louis, three hundred miles out,
With dishes delicious and rare;
There were venison, and turkey, and salmon, and trout,
With pine-apple, orange and pear.

When supper was ended, I found it still light;
I looked for a lamp, and found none;
I stepped to the door, and looked forth on the night,
And lo! every house had a sun.
Above me in splendor, surpassing the moon,
A disk, in the heavens gave light;
And neighboring orbs gave the brightness of noon,
And scattered the darkness of night.

By reflectors, the light of these beacons was cast,
On parlor, and chamber, and hall;
And candles and lamps were consigned to the past,
And light, like the air, was for all.
Now worn by the scenes of the day, I need rest,
And find it in slumber elysian;
But rise in the morning, perplexed and distressed;
‘Twas all but a beautiful vision.

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is edmarklaw@learnfunfacts.com

26 thoughts on ““A Century Hence”

    1. He’d be amazed at the technological development though he’d be disappointed that roads still exist (with new problems like traffic jams, pollution and increase of road accidents).

      I’m not really sure though if he’d find life today as enjoyable as hoped.

      Perhaps, he’d just utter the last lines of his poem:

      But rise in the morning, perplexed and distressed;
      ‘Twas all but a beautiful vision.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sadly, this is true Edmark. Sometimes this world moves too fast for me and I would like to jump off and return to a simpler era, long before technology, fast cars and unsafe drivers … sometimes the day’s events just boggle my mind.

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  1. “And scattered the darkness of night.” aggghhhh! I like the night and curse the light pollution.

    In the day there is but one star and it is far to bright to appreciate. But at night, in a dark area, the billions of distant stars are like sand across the sky. We build are marvelous cities and scatter the darkness of the night and forget the beautiful night sky above our heads (which are pointed down at our phones). Let the day be bright and the night be dark.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. With the new motive power, one man could do more
    Than fifty, without it, could do;

    Prophetic. But unless a replacement for oil is found — and fast — we’ll all be reverting to starving serfdom, by and by….

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No borders, no trade wars, and no immigration issues – they’d all be Americans! Which, honestly, would be more of an issue for the Canadians since they aren’t illegally immigrating to the US, but anyone south of the border appears to want to come to the US so that makes the solution to that problem easy to solve.

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      2. LOL…yeah, they are clearly the problem. 😉 The reality is the neighbors the north aren’t really the problem, but they are probably an unintended victim.

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      3. Bit like Australia. We are supposed to be the closest Ally of the US. And we haven’t had a US ambassador appointed since the new US Administration. Makes you understand that we don’t actually rate at all from a US point of view.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. As a (former) high school history teacher, when I think of a long-time, die-hard, “Best buddies” kind of relationship with another country I would have to say England falls in that category. As odd as that sounds, after all we are just a “colony gone bad”, right? But, when it comes to international conflict they seem to have our back and we have theirs. We have lots of other allies, but when it gets right down to it and you have to look for some one to bail you out, England is where it’s at. That’s not to say that other allies haven’t been there, but it is more to say that international relations are always about what can we get from them when we need them – which goes both ways.

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      5. In many ways I agree with you, but at the same time I don’t think I have read or heard anyone try so hard to say that Australia doesn’t count for anything as far as the US is concerned, without actually saying it. It would be hard for me to tell those mates of mine who have come back from Vietnam, (where there were no Brits) my son’s friends who have come back from Afghanistan and Iraq, some with severe PTSD, that American history teachers have been telling their students how the US/Australian alliance is worth so little.
        Most Australian veterans have been honoured to have served beside their US mates. And many of my US friends have reciprocated that feeling.

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      6. No, no, not at all. Australia has contributed to lots of efforts over the years and is an important partner for stability in that part of the world. Yes, there have been sacrifices made by your country and that never goes unappreciated.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This poem is a lot of fun.

    It wasn’t until I researched a paper on the history of technology in America that I realized how often early attempts at artificial lighting were attempts to simulate the sun by installing one giant lightpost in a town square, say. The reason why is quite obvious, but the fact was obscured by what really developed in daily life…

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Seems like thinking and dreaming about the future is one of mankind’s perennially favorite pastimes. Now the question is who will write a poem about the year 2118? Would that person dare to be so optimistic? Thanks for sharing this poem!

    Liked by 4 people

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