St Louis: A Song of the City

Edgar Albert Guest

I was in St. Louis when their mystic Prophet came
From his dark, mysterious haunts to gaze upon the throngs.
None had ever seen his face and none could tell his name.
Yet they greeted him with cheers and welcomed him with songs.

'Who is he?' I asked of men, standing by my side.
'No one knows, they answered me, pausing then to cheer.
'Once a year he comes to us through the streets to ride.
Comes to crown his chosen queen and then to disappear.

None there was could tell his name in all that crowded place.
Deep and dark the secret which the people talked about.
But I knew that I had seen the Prophet's shining face.
Seen it on the city's streets beyond the slightest doubt.

I had seen it everywhere in factories and stores.
Seen it walking Locust Street at morning, noon and night;
Seen it at the schoolhouse and at humble cottage doors.
Seen it at the churches—and I knew that I was right.

Twas no vague and shadowy form, no dim and spectral wraith
Heralded by bugle blasts and drums which beat and roll.
Here it was—the symbol of a city's sturdy faith.
Him they called the Prophet was the city's living soul!

Love of country, love of home and love of nobler things.
All that makes a city great the Prophet typified;
Gardens in the tiny yards, the songs a mother sings.
These the multitude beheld as children, open-eyed.

Not upon the wealth of gold the emphasis was laid.
Not upon the fleeting fame of marble buildings tall.
But upon the lasting works of which are cities made.
Noble hearts and kindly ways and God above them all.

Here's a city great and good, a city staunch and true,
A city where the best of life is found on every hand.
For when the Prophet vanished, what had made it so I knew.
For I had seen the city's soul and I could understand. 

The Veiled Prophet appears every year in the July 4th parade in St Louis to choose a queen. The masked figure's identity is kept secret.

Main Location:

Locust Street, St Louis, Missouri

Other locations:

An early image of the Veiled Prophet of St Louis from the 1870s