| Best Poems | Short Poems
On Susquehanna's side, fair Wyoming!
Although the wild-flower on thy ruin'd wall,
And roofless homes, a sad remembrance bring,
Of what thy gentle people did befall;
Yet thou wert once the loveliest land of all
That see the Atlantic wave their morn restore.
Sweet land! may I thy lost delights recall,
And paint thy Gertrude in her bowers of yore,
Whose beauty was the love of Pennsylvania's shore!
Delightful Wyoming! beneath thy skies,
The happy shepherd swains had nought to do
But feed their flocks on green declivities,
Or skim perchance thy lake with light canoe,
From morn till evening's sweeter pastimes grew,
With timbrel, when beneath the forests brown,
Thy lovely maidens would the dance renew;
And aye those sunny mountains half-way down
Would echo flageolet from some romantic town.
Then, where of Indian hills the daylight takes
His leave, how might you the flamingo see
Disporting like a meteor on the lakes--
And playful squirrel on his nut-grown tree:
And every sound of life was full of glee,
From merry mock-bird's song, or hum of men;
While hearkening, fearing naught their revelry,
The wild deer arch'd his neck from glades, and then,
Unhunted, sought his woods and wilderness again.
And scarce had Wyoming of war or crime
Heard, but in transatlantic story rung,
For here the exile met from every clime,
And spoke in friendship every distant tongue:
Men from the blood of warring Europe sprung
Were but divided by the running brook;
And happy where no Rhenish trumpet sung,
On plains no sieging mine's volcano shook,
The blue-eyed German changed his sword to pruning-hook.
Nor far some Andalusian saraband
Would sound to many a native roundelay--
But who is he that yet a dearer land
Remembers, over hills and far away?
Green Albin! what though he no more survey
Thy ships at anchor on the quiet shore,
Thy pelloch's rolling from the mountain bay,
Thy lone sepulchral cairn upon the moor,
And distant isles that hear the loud Corbrechtan roar!
Alas! poor Caledonia's mountaineer,
That wants stern edict e'er, and feudal grief,
Had forced him from a home he loved so dear!
Yet found he here a home and glad relief,
And plied the beverage from his own fair sheaf,
That fired his Highland blood with mickle glee:
And England sent her men, of men the chief,
Who taught those sires of empire yet to be,
To plant the tree of life,--to plant fair Freedom's tree!
Here was not mingled in the city's pomp
Of life's extremes the grandeur and the gloom
Judgment awoke not here her dismal tromp,
Nor seal'd in blood a fellow-creature's doom,
Nor mourn'd the captive in a living tomb.
One venerable man, beloved of all,
Sufficed, where innocence was yet in bloom,
To sway the strife, that seldom might befall:
And Albert was their judge, in patriarchal hall.
How reverend was the look, serenely aged,
He bore, this gentle Pennsylvanian sire,
Where all but kindly fervors were assuaged,
Undimm'd by weakness' shade, or turbid ire!
And though, amidst the calm of thought entire,
Some high and haughty features might betray
A soul impetuous once, 'twas earthly fire
That fled composure's intellectual ray,
As AEtna's fires grow dim before the rising day.
I boast no song in magic wonders rife,
But yet, oh Nature! is there naught to prize,
Familiar in thy bosom scenes of life?
And dwells in day-light truth's salubrious skies
No form with which the soul may sympathise?--
Young, innocent, on whose sweet forehead mild
The parted ringlet shone in simplest guise,
An inmate in the home of Albert smiled,
Or blest his noonday walk--she was his only child.
The rose of England bloom'd on Gertrude's cheek--
What though these shades had seen her birth, her sire
A Briton's independence taught to seek
Far western worlds; and there his household fire
The light of social love did long inspire,
And many a halcyon day he lived to see
Unbroken but by one misfortune dire,
When fate had reft his mutual heart--but she
Was gone--and Gertrude climb'd a widow'd father's knee.
A loved bequest,--and I may half impart--
To them that feel the strong paternal tie,
How like a new existence to his heart
That living flower uprose beneath his eye
Dear as she was from cherub infancy,
From hours when she would round his garden play,
To time when as the ripening years went by,
Her lovely mind could culture well repay,
And more engaging grew, from pleasing day to day.
I may not paint those thousand infant charms;
(Unconscious fascination, undesign'd!)
The orison repeated in his arms,
For God to bless her sire and all mankind;
The book, the bosom on his knee reclined,
Or how sweet fairy-lore he heard her con,
(The playmate ere the teacher of her mind:)
All uncompanion'd else her heart had gone
Till now, in Gertrude's eyes, their ninth blue summer shone.
And summer was the tide, and sweet the hour,
When sire and daughter saw, with fleet descent,
An Indian from his bark approach their bower,
Of buskin limb, and swarthy lineament;
The red wild feathers on his brow were blent,
And bracelets bound the arm that help'd to light
A boy, who seem'd, as he beside him went,
Of Christian vesture, and complexion bright,
Led by his dusky guide, like morning brought by night.
Yet pensive seem'd the boy for one so young--
The dimple from his polish'd cheek had fled;
When, leaning on his forest-bow unstrung,
Th' Oneyda warrior to the planter said,
And laid his hand upon the stripling's head,
"Peace be to thee! my words this belt approve;
The paths of peace my steps have hither led:
This little nursling, take him to thy love,
And shield the bird unfledged, since gone the parent dove.
Christian! I am the foeman of thy foe;
Our wampum league thy brethren did embrace:
Upon the Michigan, three moons ago,
We launch'd our pirogues for the bison chase,
And with the Hurons planted for a space,
With true and faithful hands, the olive-stalk;
But snakes are in the bosoms of their race,
And though they held with us a friendly talk,
The hollow peace-tree fell beneath their tomahawk!
It was encamping on the lake's far port,
A cry of Areouski broke our sleep,
Where storm'd an ambush'd foe thy nation's fort
And rapid, rapid whoops came o'er the deep;
But long thy country's war-sign on the steep
Appear'd through ghastly intervals of light,
And deathfully their thunders seem'd to sweep,
Till utter darkness swallow'd up the sight,
As if a shower of blood had quench'd the fiery fight!
It slept--it rose again--on high their tower
Sprung upwards like a torch to light the skies,
Then down again it rain'd an ember shower,
And louder lamentations heard we rise;
As when the evil Manitou that dries
Th' Ohio woods, consumes them in his ire,
In vain the desolated panther flies,
And howls amidst his wilderness of fire:
Alas! too late, we reach'd and smote those Hurons dire!
But as the fox beneath the nobler hound,
So died their warriors by our battle brand;
And from the tree we, with her child, unbound
A lonely mother of the Christian land:--
Her lord--the captain of the British band--
Amidst the slaughter of his soldiers lay.
Scarce knew the widow our delivering hand;
Upon her child she sobb'd and soon'd away,
Or shriek'd unto the God to whom the Christians pray.
Our virgins fed her with their kindly bowls
Of fever-balm and sweet sagamite:
But she was journeying to the land of souls,
And lifted up her dying head to pray
That we should bid an ancient friend convey
Her orphan to his home of England's shore;
And take, she said, this token far away,
To one that will remember us of yore,
When he beholds the ring that Waldegrave's Julia wore.
And I, the eagle of my tribe, have rush'd
With this lorn dove.
"--A sage's self-command
Had quell'd the tears from Albert's heart that gush'd;
But yet his cheek--his agitated hand--
That shower'd upon the stranger of the land
No common boon, in grief but ill beguiled
A soul that was not wont to be unmann'd;
"And stay," he cried, "dear pilgrim of the wild,
Preserver of my old, my boon companion's child!--
Child of a race whose name my bosom warms,
On earth's remotest bounds how welcome here!
Whose mother oft, a child, has fill'd these arms,
Young as thyself, and innocently dear,
Whose grandsire was my early life's compeer.
Ah, happiest home of England's happy clime!
How beautiful even' now thy scenes appear,
As in the noon and sunshine of my prime!
How gone like yesterday these thrice ten years of time!
And Julia! when thou wert like Gertrude now
Can I forget thee, favorite child of yore?
Or thought I, in thy father's house, when thou
Wert lightest-hearted on his festive floor,
And first of all his hospitable door
To meet and kiss me at my journey's end?
But where was I when Waldegrave was no more?
And thou didst pale thy gentle head extend
In woes, that ev'n the tribe of deserts was thy friend!"
He said--and strain'd unto his heart the boy;--
Far differently, the mute Oneyda took
His calumet of peace, and cup of joy;
As monumental bronze unchanged his look;
A soul that pity touch'd but never shook;
Train'd from his tree-rock'd cradle to his bier
The fierce extreme of good and ill to brook
Impassive--fearing but the shame of fear--
A stoic of the woods--a man without a tear.
Yet deem not goodness on the savage stock
Of Outalissi's heart disdain'd to grow;
As lives the oak unwither'd on the rock
By storms above, and barrenness below;
He scorn'd his own, who felt another's wo:
And ere the wolf-skin on his back he flung,
Or laced his mocassins, in act to go,
A song of parting to the boy he sung,
Who slept on Albert's couch, nor heard his friendly tongue.
"Sleep, wearied one! and in the dreaming land
Shouldst thou to-morrow with thy mother meet,
Oh! tell her spirit, that the white man's hand
Hath pluck'd the thorns of sorrow from thy feet;
While I in lonely wilderness shall greet
They little foot-prints--or by traces know
The fountain, where at noon I thought it sweet
To feed thee with the quarry of my bow,
And pour'd the lotus-horn, or slew the mountain roe.
Adieu! sweet scion of the rising sun!
But should affliction's storms thy blossom mock,
Then come again--my own adopted one!
And I will graft thee on a noble stock:
The crocodile, the condor of the rock,
Shall be the pastime of thy sylvan wars;
And I will teach thee in the battle' shock
To pay with Huron blood thy father's scars,
And gratulate his soul rejoicing in the stars!"
So finish'd he the rhyme (howe'er uncouth)
That true to nature's fervid feelings ran;
(And song is but the eloquence of truth:)
Then forth uprose that lone wayfaring man;
But dauntless he, nor chart, nor journey's plan
In woods required, whose trained eye was keen,
As eagle of the wilderness, to scan
His path by mountain, swamp, or deep ravine,
Or ken far friendly huts on good savannas green.
Old Albert saw him from the valley's side--
His pirogue launch'd--his pilgrimage begun--
Far, like the red-bird's wing he seem'd to glide;
Then dived, and vanish'd in the woodlands dun.
Oft, to that spot by tender memory won,
Would Albert climb the promontory's height,
If but a dim sail glimmer'd in the sun;
But never more to bless his longing sight,
Was Outalissi hail'd, with bark and plumage bright.
A valley from the river shower withdrawn
Was Albert's home, two quiet woods between,
Whose lofty verdure overlook'd his lawn
And waters to their resting-place serene
Came freshening, and reflecting all the scene:
(A mirror in the depth of flowery shelves;)
So sweet a spot of earth, you might (I ween,)
Have guess'd some congregation of the elves,
To sport by summer moons, had shaped it for themselves.
Yet wanted not the eye far scope to muse,
Nor vistas open'd by the wandering stream;
Both where at evening Alleghany views
Through ridges burning in her western beam
Lake after lake interminably gleam:
And past those settlers' haunts the eye might roam
Where earth's unliving silence all would seem;
Save where on rocks the beaver built his dome,
Or buffalo remote low'd far from human home.
But silent not that adverse eastern path,
Which saw Aurora's hills th' horizon crown;
There was the river heard, in bed of wrath,
(A precipice of foam from mountains brown,)
Like tumults heard from some far distant town;
But softening in approach he left his gloom,
And murmur'd pleasantly, and laid him down
To kiss those easy curving banks of bloom,
That lent the windward air an exquisite perfume.
It seem'd as if those scenes sweet influence had
On Gertrude's soul, and kindness like their own
Inspired those eyes affectionate and glad,
That seem'd to love whate'er they look'd upon;
Whether with Hebe's mirth her features shone,
Or if a shade more pleasing them o'ercast,
(As if for heavenly musing meant alone;)
Yet so becomingly th' expression past,
That each succeeding look was lovelier than the last.
Nor guess I, was that Pennsylvanian home,
With all its picturesque and balmy grace,
And fields that were a luxury to roam,
Lost on the soul that look'd from such a face!
Enthusiast of the woods! when years apace
Had bound thy lovely waist with woman's zone,
The sunrise path, at morn, I see thee trace
To hills with high magnolia overgrown,
And joy to breathe the groves, romantic and alone.
The sunrise drew her thoughts to Europe forth,
That thus apostrophised its viewless scene:
"Land of my father's love, my mother's birth!
The home of kindred I have never seen!
We know not other--oceans are between:
Yet say, far friendly hearts! from whence we came,
Of us does oft remembrance intervene?
My mother sure--my sire a thought may claim;--
But Gertrude is to you an unregarded name.
And yet, loved England! when thy name I trace
In many a pilgrim's tale and poet's song,
How can I choose but wish for one embrace
Of them, the dear unknown, to whom belong
My mother's looks; perhaps her likeness strong?
Oh, parent! with what reverential awe,
From features of thine own related throng,
An image of thy face my soul could draw!
And see thee once again whom I too shortly saw!"
Yet deem not Gertrude sighed for foreign joy;
To soothe a father's couch her only care,
And keep his reverend head from all annoy:
For this, methinks, her homeward steps repair,
Soon as the morning wreath had bound her hair;
While yet the wild deer trod in spangling dew,
While boatmen carol'd to the fresh-blown air,
And woods a horizontal shadow threw,
And early fox appear'd in momentary view.
Apart there was a deep untrodden grot,
Where oft the reading hours sweet Gertrude wore,
Tradition had not named its lonely spot;
But here (methinks) might India's sons explore
Their fathers' dust, or lift, perchance of yore,
Their voice to the great Spirit:--rocks sublime
To human art a sportive semblance bore,
And yellow lichens color'd all the clime,
Like moonlight battlements, and towers decay'd by time.
But high in amphitheatre above,
Gay tinted woods their massy foliage threw:
Breathed but an air of heaven, and all the grove
As if instinct with living spirit grew,
Rolling its verdant gulfs of every hue;
And now suspended was the pleasing din,
Now from a murmur faint it swell'd anew,
Like the first note of organ heard within
Cathedral aisles,--ere yet its symphony begin.
It was in this lonely valley she would charm
The lingering noon, where flowers a couch had strown;
Her cheek reclining, and her snowy arm
On hillock by the pine-tree half o'ergrown:
And aye that volume on her lap is thrown,
Which every heart of human mould endears;
With Shakspear's self she speaks and smiles alone,
And no intruding visitation fears,
To shame the unconscious laugh, or stop her sweetest tears.
And naught within the grove was heard or seen
But stock-doves plaining through its gloom profound,
Or winglet of the fairy humming-bird,
Like atoms of the rainbow fluttering round;
When, lo! there enter'd to its inmost ground
A youth, the stranger of a distant land;
He was, to weet, for eastern mountains bound;
But late th' equator suns his cheek had tann'd,
And California's gales his roving bosom fann'd.
A steed, whose rein hung loosely o'er his arm,
He led dismounted; here his leisure pace,
Amid the brown leaves, could her ear alarm,
Close he had come, and worshipp'd for a space
Those downcast features:--she her lovely face
Uplift on one, whose lineaments and frame
Wore youth and manhood's intermingled grace:
Iberian seem'd his booth--his robe the same,
And well the Spanish plume his lofty looks became.
For Albert's home he sought--her finger fair
Has pointed where the father's mansion stood.
Returning from the copse he soon was there;
And soon has Gertrude hied from dark greenwood:
Nor joyless, by the converse, understood
Between the man of age and pilgrim young,
That gay congeneality of mood,
And early liking from acquaintance sprung;
Full fluently conversed their guest in England's tongue.
And well could he his pilgrimage of taste
Unfold,--and much they loved his fervid strain,
While he each fair variety retraced
Of climes, and manners, o'er the eastern main.
Now happy Switzer's hills,--romantic Spain,--
Gay lilied fields of France,--or, more refined,
The soft Ausonia's monumental reign;
Nor less each rural image he design'd
Than all the city's pomp and home of humankind.
Anon some wilder portraiture he draws;
Of Nature's savage glories he would spea,--
The loneliness of earth at overawes,--
Where, resting by some tomb of old Cacique,
The lama-driver on Peruvia's peak
Nor living voice nor motion marks around;
But storks that to the boundless forest shriek,
Or wild-cane arch high flung o'er gulf profound,
That fluctuates when the storms of El Dorado sound.
Pleased with his guest, the good man still would ply
Each earnest question, and his converse court;
But Gertrude, as she eyed him, knew not why
A strange and troubling wonder stopt her short.
"In England thou hast been,--and, by report,
An orphan's name (quoth Albert) may'st have known.
Sad tale!--when latest fell our frontier fort,--
One innocent--one soldier's child--alone
Was spared, and brought to me, who loved him as my own.
Young Henry Waldegrave! three delightful years
These very walls his infants sports did see,
But most I loved him when his parting tears
Alternately bedew'd my child and me:
His sorest parting, Gertrude, was from thee;
Nor half its grief his little heart could hold;
By kindred he was sent for o'er the sea,
They tore him from us when but twelve years old,
And scarcely for his loss have I been yet consoled!"
His face the wanderer hid--but could not hide
A tear, a smile, upon his cheek that dwell;
"And speak! mysterious strange!" (Gertrude cried)
"It is!--it is!--I knew--I knew him well;
'Tis Waldegrave's self, of Waldegrave come to tell!"
A burst of joy the father's lips declare!
But Gertrude speechless on his bosom fell;
At once his open arms embraced the pair,
Was never group more blest in this wide world of care.
"And will ye pardon then (replied the youth)
Your Waldegrave's feign'd name, and false attire?
I durst not in the neighborhood, in truth,
The very fortunes of your house inquire;
Lest one that knew me might some tidings dire
Impart, and I my weakness all betray,
For had I lost my Gertrude and my sire
I meant but o'er your tombs to weep a day,
Unknown I meant to weep, unknown to pass away.
But here ye life, ye bloom,--in each dear face,
The changing hand of time I may not blame;
For there, it hath but shed more reverend grace,
And here, of beauty perfected the frame:
And well I know your hearts are still the same--
They could not change--ye look the very way,
As when an orphan first to you I came.
And have ye heard of my poor guide, I pray?
Nay, wherefore weep ye, friends, on such a joyous day!"
"And art thou here? or is it but a dream?
And wilt thou, Waldegrave, wilt thou, leave us more!"
"No, never! thou that yet dost lovelier seem
Than aught on earth--than even thyself of yore--
I will not part thee from thy father's shore;
But we shall cherish him with mutual arms,
And hand in hand again the path explore
Which every ray of young remembrance warms,
While thou shalt be my own, with all thy truth and charms!"
At morn, as if beneath a galaxy
Of over-arching groves in blossoms white,
Where all was odorous scent and harmony,
And gladness to the heart, nerve, ear, and sight:
There, if, O gentle Love! I read aright
The utterance that seal'd thy sacred bond,
'Twas listening to these accents of delight,
She hid upon his breast those eyes, beyond
Expression's power to paint, all languishingly fond--
"Flower of my life, so lovely, and so lone!
Whom I would rather in this desert meet,
Scorning, and scorn'd by fortune's power, than own
Her pomp and splendors lavish'd at my feet!
Turn not from me thy breath, move exquisite
Than odors cast on heaven's own shrine--to please--
Give me thy love, than luxury more sweet,
And more than all the wealth that loads the breeze,
When Coromandel's ships return from Indian seas.
Then would that home admit them--happier far
Than grandeur's most magnificent saloon,
While, here and there, a solitary star
Flush'd in the darkening firmament of June;
And silence brought the soul-felt hour, full soon
Ineffable, which I may not portray;
For never did the hymenean moon
A paradise of hearts more sacred sway,
In all that slept beneath her soft voluptuous ray.
O Love! in such a wilderness as this,
Where transport and security entwine,
Here is the empire of thy perfect bliss,
And here thou art a god indeed divine.
Here shall no forms abridge, no hours confine
The views, the walks, that boundless joy inspire!
Nor, blind with ecstacy's celestial fire,
Shall love behold the spark of earth-born time expire.
Three little moons, how short! amidst the grove
And pastoral savannas they consume!
While she, beside her buskin'd youth to rove,
Delights, in fancifully wild costume,
Her lovely brow to shade with Indian plume;
And forth in hunter-seeming vest they fare;
But not to chase the deer in forest gloom,
'Tis but the breath of heaven--the blessed air--
And interchange of hearts unknown, unseen to share.
What though the sportive dog oft round them note,
Or fawn, or wild bird bursting on the wing;
Yet who, in Love's own presence, would devote
To death those gentle throats that wake the spring,
Or writhing from the brook its victim bring?
No!--nor let fear one little warbler rouse;
But, fed by Gertrude's hand, still let them sing,
Acquaintance of her path, amidst the boughs,
That shade ev'n now her love, and witness'd first her vows.
Now labyrinths, which but themselves can pierce,
Methinks, conduct them to some pleasant ground,
Where welcome hills shut out the universe,
And pines their lawny walk encompass round;
There, if a pause delicious converse found,
'Twas but when o'er each heart th' idea stole,
(Perchance a while in joy's oblivion drown'd)
That come what may, while life's glad pulses roll,
Indissolubly thus should soul be knit to soul.
And in the visions of romantic youth,
What years of endless bliss are yet to flow!
But mortal pleasure, what art thou in truth?
The torrent's smoothness, ere it dash below!
And must I change my song? and must I show,
Sweet Wyoming! the day when thou art doom'd,
Guiltless, to mourn thy loveliest bowers laid low!
When were of yesterday a garden bloom'd,
Death overspread his pall, and blackening ashes gloom'd!
Sad was the year, by proud oppression driven,
When Transatlantic Liberty arose,
Not in the sunshine and the smile of heaven,
But wrapt in whirlwinds, and begirt with woes,
Amidst the strife of fratricidal foes;
Her birth star was the light of burning plains;
Her baptism is the weight of blood that flows
From kindred hearts--the blood of British veins--
And famine tracks her steps, and pestilential pains.
Yet, here the storm of death had raged remote,
Or seige unseen in heaven reflects its beams,
Who now each dreadful circumstance shall note,
That fills pale Gertrude's thoughts, and nightly dreams!
Dismal to her the forge of battle gleams
Portentous light! and music's voice is dumb;
Save where the fife its shrill reveille screams,
Or midnight streets re-echo to the drum,
That speaks of maddening strife, and blood-stained fields to come.
It was in truth a momentary pang;
Yet how comprising myriad shapes of wo!
First when in Gertrude's ear the summons rang,
A husband to the battle doom'd to go!
"Nay meet not thou( she cried) thy kindred foe!
But peaceful let us seek fair England's strand!"
"Ah, Gertrude, thy beloved heart, I know,
Would feel like mine the stigmatising brand!
Could I forsake the cause of Freedom's holy band!
But shame--but flight--a recreant's name to prove,
To hide in exile ignominous fears;
Say, ev'n if this I brook'd, the public love
Thy father's bosom to his home endears:
And how could I his few remaining years,
My Gertrude, sever from so dear a child?"
So, day by day, her boding heart he cheers:
At last that heart to hope is half beguiled,
And, pale, through tears suppress'd, the mournful beauty smiled.
Night came,--and in their lighted bower, full late,
The joy of converse had endured--when, hark!
Abrupt and loud, a summons shook their gate;
And heedless of the dog's obstrep'rous bark,
A form had rush'ed amidst them from the dark,
And spread his arms,--and fell upon the floor:
Of aged strength his limbs retained the mark;
But desolate he look's and famish'd, poor,
As ever shipwreck'd wretch lone left on desert shore.
Uprisen, each wond'ring brow is knit and arch'd:
A spirit form the dead they deem him first:
To speak he tries; but quivering, pale, and parch'd,
From lips, as by some powerless dream accursed
Emotions unintelligible burst;
And long his filmed eye is red and dim;
At length the pity-proffer'd cup his thirst
Had half assuaged, and nerved his shuddering limb
When Albert's hand he grasp'd;--but Albert knew not him--
"And hast thou then forgot," (he cried forlorn,
And eyed the group with half indignant air,)
"Oh! hast thou, Christian chief, forgot the morn
When I with thee the cup of peace did share?
Then stately was this head, and dark this hair,
That now is white as Appalachia's snow;
But, if the weight of fifteen years' despair,
And age hath bow'd me, and the torturing foe,
Bring me my boy--and he will his deliverer know!"--
It was not long, with eyes and heart of flame,
Ere Henry to his loved Oneyda flew:
"Bless thee, my guide!"--but backward as he came,
The chief his old bewilder'd head withdrew,
And grasp'd his arm, and look'd and look'd him through.
'Twas strange--nor could the group a smile control--
The long, the doubtful scrutiny to view:
At last delight o'er all his features stole,
"It is--my own," he cried, and clasp'd him to his soul.
"Yes! thou recallest my pride of years, for then
The bowstring of my spirit was not slack,
When, spite of woods and floods, and ambush'd men,
I bore thee like the quiver on my back,
Fleet as the whirlwind hurries on the rack;
Nor foreman then, nor cougar's crouch I fear'd,
For I was strong as mountain cataract:
And dost thou not remember how we cheer'd,
Upon the last hill-top, when white men's huts appear'd?
Then welcome be my death-song, and my death
Since I have seen thee, and again embrac'd.
And longer had he spent his toil-worn breath;
But with affectionate and eager haste,
Was every arm outstretch'd around their guest,
To welcome and to bless his aged head.
Soon was the hospitable banquet placed;
And Gertrude's lovely hands a balsam shed
On wounds with fever'd joy that more profusely bled.
"But this is not a time,"--he started up,
And smote his breast with wo-denouncing hand--
"This is no time to fill the joyous cup,
The Mammoth comes,--the foe,--the Monster Brandt,--
With all his howling desolating band;
These eyes have seen their blade and burning pine
Awake at once, and silence half your land.
Red is the cup they drink; but not with wine:
Awake, and watch to-night, or see no morning shine!
Scorning to wield the hatchet for his bribe,
'Gainst Brandt himself I went to battle forth:
Accursed Brandt! he left of all my tribe
Nor man, nor child, nor thing of living birth:
No! not the dog that watch'd my household hearth,
Escaped that night of blood, upon our plains!
All perish'd!--I alone am left on earth!
To whom nor relative nor blood remains.
No! not a kindred drop that runs in human veins!
But go!--and rouse your warriors, for, if right
These old bewilder'd eyes could guess, by signs
Of striped, and starred banners, on yon height
Of eastern cedars, o'er the creek of pines--
Some fort embattled by your country shines:
Deep roars th' innavigable gulf below
Its squared rock, and palisaded lines.
Go! seek the light its warlike beacons show;
Whilst I in ambush wait, for vengeance, and the foe!"
Scarce had he utter'd--when Heaven's virge extreme
Reverberates the bomb's descending star,
And sounds that mingled laugh,--and shout,--and scream,--
To freeze the blood in once discordant jar
Rung to the pealing thunderbolts of war.
Whoop after whoop with rack the ear assail'd;
As if unearthly fiends had burst their bar;
While rapidly the marksman's shot prevail'd:--
And aye, as if for death, some lonely trumpet wail'd.
Then look'd they to the hills, where fire o'erhung
The bandit groups, in one Vesuvian glare;
Or swept, far seen, the tower, whose clock unrung
Told legible that midnight of despair.
She faints,--she falters not,--th' heroic fair,
As he the sword and plume in haste array'd.
One short embrace--he clasp'd his dearest care--
But hark! what nearer war-drum shakes the glade?
Joy, joy! Columbia's friends are trampling through the shade!
Then came of every race the mingled swarm,
Far rung the groves and gleam'd the midnight grass,
With Flambeau, javelin, and naked arm;
As warriors wheel'd their culverins of brass,
Sprung from the woods, a bold athletic mass,
Whom virtue fires, and liberty combines:
And first the wild Moravian yagers pass,
His plumed host the dark Iberian joins--
And Scotia's sword beneath the Highland thistle shines.
And in, the buskin'd hunters of the deer,
To Albert's home, with shout and cymbal throng--
Roused by their warlike pomp, and mirth, and cheer,
Old Outalissi woke his battle song,
And, beating with his war-club cadence strong,
Tells how his deep-stung indignation smarts,
Of them that wrapt his house in flames, ere long,
To whet a dagger on their stony hearts,
And smile avenged ere yet his eagle spirit parts.
Calm, opposite the Christian father rose,
Pale on his venerable brow its rays
Of martyr light the conflagration throws;
One hand upon his lovely child he lays,
And one th' uncover'd crowd to silence sways;
While, though the battle flash is faster driven,--
Unaw'd, with eye unstartled by the blaze,
He for his bleeding country prays to Heaven,--
Prays that the men of blood themselves may be forgiven.
Short time is now for gratulating speech:
And yet, beloved Gertrude, ere began
Thy country's flight, yon distant towers to reach,
Looks not on thee the rudest partisan
With brow relax'd to love? And murmurs ran,
As round and round their willing ranks they drew,
From beauty's sight to shield the hostile van.
Grateful on them a placid look she threw,
Nor wept, but as she bade her mother's grave adieu!
Past was the flight, and welcome seem'd the tower,
That like a giant standard-bearer frown'd
Defiance on the roving Indian power,
Beneath, each bold and promontory mound
With embrasure emboss'd, and armor crown'd.
And arrowy frise, and wedg'd ravelin,
Wove like a diadem its tracery round
The loft summit of that mountain green;
Here stood secure the group, and eyed a distant scene--
A scene of death! where fires beneath the sun,
And blended arms, and white pavilions glow;
And for the business of destruction done,
Its requiem the war-horn seem'd to blow:
There, sad spectatress of her country's wo!
The lovely Gertrude, safe from present harm,
Had laid her cheek, and clasp'd her hands of snow
On Waldegrave's shoulder, half within his arm
Enclosed, that felt her heart, and hush'd its wild alarm!
But short that contemplation--sad and short
The pause to bid each much-loved scene adieu!
Beneath the very shadow of the fort,
Where friendly swords were drawn, and banners flew;
Ah! who could deem that root of Indian crew
Was near?--yet there, with lust of murd'rous deeds,
Gleam'd like a basilisk, form woods in view,
The ambush'd foeman's eye, his volley speeds,
And Albert--Albert falls! the dear old father bleeds!
And tranced in giddy horror Gertrude swoon'd;
Yet, while she clasps him lifeless to her zone,
Say, burst they, borrow'd from her father's wound,
These drops?--Oh, God! the life-blood is her own!
And faltering on her Waldegrave's bosom thrown;
"Weep not, O Love!"--she cries, "to see me bleed;
Thee, Gertrude's sad survivor, thee alone
Heaven's peace commiserate; for scarce I heed
These wounds;--yet thee to leave is death, is death indeed!
Clasp me a little longer on the brink
Of fate! while I can feel thy dear caress;
And when this heart hath ceased to beat--oh! think,
And let it mitigate thy wo's excess,
That thou hast been to me all tenderness,
And friend no more than human friendship just.
Oh! by that retrospect of happiness,
And by the hopes of an immortal trust,
God shall assuage thy pangs--when I am laid in dust!
Go, Henry, go not back, when I depart,
The scene thy bursting tears too deep will move,
Where my dear father took thee to his heart,
And Gertrude thought it ecstacy to rove
With thee, as with an angel, through the grove
Of peace, imagining her lot was cast
In heaven; for ours was not like earthly love.
And must this parting be our very last!
No! I shall love thee still, when death itself is past.
Half could I bear, methinks, to leave this earth,--
And thee, more loved than aught beneath the sun,
If I had lived to smile but on the birth
Of one dear pledge;--but shall there then be none
In future times--no gentle little one,
To clasp thy neck, and look, resembling me?
Yet seems it, even while life's last pulses run,
A sweetness in the cup of death to be,
Lord of my bosom's love! to die beholding thee!"
Hush'd were his Gertrude's lips! but still their bland
And beautiful expression seem'd to melt
With love that could not die! and still his hand
She presses to the heart no more that felt.
Ah, heart! where once each fond affection dwelt,
And features yet that spoke a soul more fair.
Mute, gazing, agonizing as he knelt,--
Of them that stood encircling his despair,
He heard some friendly words;--but knew not what they were.
For now, to mourn their judge and child, arrives
A faithful band.
With solemn rites between
'Twas sung, how they were lovely in their lives,
And in their deaths had not divided been.
Touch'd by the music, and the melting scene,
Was scarce one tearless eye amidst the crowd:--
Stern warriors, resting on their swords, were seen
To veil their eyes, as pass'd each much-loved shroud,
While woman's softer soul in wo, dissolved aloud.
Then mournfully the parting bugle bid
Its farewell, o'er the grave of worth and truth;
Prone to the dust, afflicted Waldegrave hid
His face on earth; him watch'd, in gloomy ruth,
His woodland guide; but words had none to soothe
The grief that knew not consolation's name;
Casting his Indian mantle o'er the youth,
He watch'd, beneath its folds, each burst that came
Convulsive, ague-like, across his shuddering frame!
"And I could weep;"--th' Oneyda chief
His descant wildly thus begun:
"But that I may not stain with grief
The death-song of my father's son,
Or bow this head in wo!
For by my wrongs, and by my wrath!
To-morrow Areouski's breath,
(That fires yon heaven with storms of death,)
Shall light us to the foe:
And we shall share, my Christian boy!
The foeman's blood, the avenger's joy!
But thee, my flower whose breath was given
By milder genii o'er the deep,
The spirits of the white man's heaven
Forbid not thee to weep:--
Nor will the Christian host,
Nor will thy father's spirit grieve,
To see thee, on the battle's eve,
Lamenting take a mournful leave
Of her who loved thee most:
She was the rainbow to thy sight!
Thy sun--thy heaven--of lost delight!
To-morrow let us do or die!
But when the bolt of death is hurl'd,
Ah! whither then with thee to fly,
Shall Outalissi roam the world?
Seek we thy once-loved home?
The hand is gone that cropt its flowers;
Unheard their clock repeats its hours!
Cold is the hearth within their bowers!
And should we thither roam,
Its echoes, and its empty tread,
Would sound like voices from the dead!
Or shall we cross yon mountains blue,
Whose streams my kindred nation quaff'd
And by my side, in battle true,
A thousand warriors drew the shaft?
Ah! there, in desolation cold,
The desert serpent dwells alone,
Where grass o'ergrows each mouldering bone
And stones themselves to ruin grown
Like me are death-like old.
Then seek we not their camp,--for there--
The silence dwells of my despair!
But hark, the trump!--to-morrow thou
In glory's fires shalt dry thy tears:
Ev'n from the land of shadows now
My father's awful ghost appears,
Amidst the clouds that round us roll;
He bids my soul for battle thirst--
He bids me dry the last--the first--
The only tears that ever burst
From Outalissi's soul;
Because I may not stain with grief
The death-song of an Indian chief!"
Top Thomas Campbell Poems