James Wallis Eastburn Poems >>
Yamoyden: Canto I

I.

THE morning air was freshly breathing,
The morning mists were wildly wreathing;
Day's earliest beams were kindling o'er
The wood-crowned hills and murmuring shore.
'Twas summer; and the forests threw
Their chequered shapes of varying hue,
In mingling, changeful shadows seen,
O'er hill and bank, and headland green.
Blithe birds were carolling on high
Their matin music to the sky,
As glanced their brilliant hues along,
Filling the groves with life and song;
All innocent and wild and free
Their sweet, ethereal minstrelsy.
The dew drop sparkled on the spray,
Danced on the wave the inconstant ray;
And moody grief, with dark control,
There only swayed the human soul!

II.

With equal swell, above the flood,
The forest-cinctured mountain stood;
Its eastward-cliffs, a rampart wild,
Rock above rock sublimely piled.
What scenes of beauty met his eye,
The watchful sentinel on high!
With all its isles and inlets lay
Beneath, the calm, majestic bay;
Like molten gold, all glittering spread,
Where the clear sun his influence shed;
In wreathy, crisped brilliance borne,
While laughed the radiance of the morn.
Round rocks, that from the headlands far
Their barriers reared, with- murmuring war,
The chafing stream, in eddying play,
Fretted and dashed its foamy spray;
Along the shelving sands its swell
With hushed and equal cadence fell;
And here, beneath the whispering grove,
Ran rippling in the shadowy cove.
Thy thickets with their liveliest hue,
Aquetnet green! were fair to view;
Far curved the winding shore, where roses
Pocasset's hills in calm repose;
Or where descending rivers gave
Their tribute to the ampler wave.
Emerging frequent from the tide,
Scarce notices mid its waters wide,
Lay flushed with lnorning's roseate smile,
The gay bank of some little isle;
Where the lone heron plumed his wing,
Or spread it as in act to spring,
Yet paused, as if delight it gave
To bend above the glorious wave.

III.

Where northward spread the unbounded scene,
Oft, in the valley's bosom green,
The hamlets' mouldering ruins showed,
Where war with demon brand had strode.
By prostrate hedge and fence o'erthrown,
And fields by blackening hillocks known,
And leafless tree, and scattered stone,
The midnight murderer's work was shown,
Oft melting in the distant view
The cot sent up its incense blue,
As yet unwrapt by hostile fire;
And, mid its trees, some rustic spire,
A peaceful signal, told that there
Was sought the God of peace in prayer.
The WAMPANOAG from the height
Of Haup, who strained his anxious sight,
To mark if foes their covert trace,
Beheld, and curst the Christian race!

IV.

Now two score years of peace had past,
Since in the west the battle yell
Was borne on every echoing blast,
Until the Pequots' empire fell;
And SASSACOUS, now no more,
Lord of a thousand bowmen, fled;
And all the chiefs, his boast before,
Were mingled with the unhonoured dead.
Sannap and Sagamore were slain,
On Mystic's banks, in one red night;
The once far-dreaded king in vain
Sought safety in inglorious flight;
And reft of all his regal pride,
By the fierce Maqua's hand he died.
Long o'er the land, with cloudless hue,
Had peace outspread her skies of blue;
The blood-stained axe was buried long;
Till METACom his war-dance held,
And round the flaming pyre the song
Of vengeance and of death was yelled.
The steeps of Haup reverbed afar
The Wampanoaigs' shout for war;
Fiercely they trim their crested hair,
The sanguine battle stains prepare,
And martial gear, while over all
Proud waves the feathery coronal.
Their peig belts are girt for fight,
Their loaded pouches slung aright,
The musket's tube is bright and true,
The tomahawk's edge is sharped anew,
And counsels stern, and flashing eyes
Betoken dangerous enterprise.

V.

The red fire is blazing; ring compassing ring,
They whirled in the war-dance, and circuiting sing;
And the chieftains, in turn to the pile as they go,
In each brand saw a warrior, each gleed was a foe;
Revenge on the whites and their allies they swear,
Mohegans, Niantics and Pequots they dare,
And slay in the dream of their ire;
The hills of Pocasset replied to the call,
And their QUEEN sent her chiefs and her warriors all,
To the rites of the lurid fire.

VI.

Thro' Narraganset's countless clan
The secret wildfire circling ran;
In northern wilds, the gathering word
The tributary Nipnets heard.
Busy and quick, to their errand true-,
The messengers of mischief flew,
Noiseless as speeds the painted dart,
In the thicket's shade, to the quarry's heart,
That scares not in its passage fleet
The woodland hosts from their green retreat.

VII.

But SAUSAMAN untimely slain,
Kindled too soon the fatal train.
From where with mild, majestic pride,
Their peaceful, and abounding tide
Quunihticut's broad waters pour
Even to the ocean's sounding shore-
Began one universal strife,
One murderous hlunt for human life.
The wexing moon oft waned anew,
Ere grass upon the war-path grew:
On every gale the war-whoop rung;
From every grove the ambush sprung;
The hamlet's blaze, the midnight yell,
Ceased not the desperate strife to tell,
Till o'er the land, with blood defiled,
Went forth a voice of wailing wild;
A voice of mourning and of pain,
Their youngest and their bravest slain.

VIII.

Full high the savage pride was raised,
Till Narraganset's fortress blazed.
When bleak December sheeted o'er
The wilderness with mantle hoar,
Reckless within their hold assailed,
They saw the avenging army pour,
Beheld their boasted bulwarks scaled.
The whitemen made their entrance good,
All slippery with their comrades' blood;
A thousand wigwams kindled sent
Their glare along the firmament;
The sun declining from his noon,
Faded, a dim, wan circle soon;
The heavens, around that lurid light,
Frowned like the realms of central night;
Far, far around, the greening snow
Was ruddy with the unnatural glow;
Where the dun column wreathing rolled,
Red flowed the river's tides below.
Amid the slaughtered, in their hold,
Stifling, in vain their warriors bold
Each blazing sconce in fury sought,
Poured on the foe their deadly shot,
Or in mad leaps of torture broke
Thro' sulphurous fire and volumed smoke;
While uproar, flame and deafening yell
Mlade the scene seem the vault of hell,
Where, writhing wild in penance dire,
Fiends danced mid pyramids of fire!
Nor ceased the musket roar, the shout,
The obstreperous clamours of the rout,
Till gathering night with shades profound
Of gloom and horror closed around.
Tracked by their blood along the snow,
Returned the victors, sad and slow;
But, where the smoking ruins show
The prostrate citadel-one heap
Of smouldering ashes, broad and deep,
Where friend or husband none may trace,,
The pride of Narraganset's race,
The grisly trophy of the fray,
A holocaust for freedom lay!

IX.

Stabbed in the heart of all their power,
The voice of triumph from that hour
Rose faintly, mid the heathen host,
Sunk was their pride, and quelled their boast.
Broken and scattering wide and far,
Feebly they yet maintained the war.
Spring came; on blood alone intent,
Men o'er her flowers regardless went;
Thro' cedar grove and thicket green,
The serried steel was glistening sheen;
Earth lay untilled; the deadly chase
Ceased not of that devoted race,
Till of the tribes whose rage at first
In one o'erwhelming deluge burst,
No trace the inquiring eye could find,
Save in the ruins left behitd.
Like wintry torrent they had poured,
O'er mounds and rocks it raved and roared,
Dashed in blind fury where it broke
In showery spray and wavy smoke;
And now, sad vestige of its wrath,
Alone was left its wasted path.

X.

Stark thro' the dismal fens they lie,
Or on the felon gibbet high
Their mangled members hung proclaim
Their constancy-their conquerors' shame.
Ah! happier they, who in the strife
For freedom fell, than o'er the main,
Those who in slavery's galling chain
Still bore the load of hated life,
Bowed to base tasks their generous pride,
And scourged and broken-hearted died!
The remnant of the conquered band,
Submissive, at the victors' hand,
As for a boon of mercy, crave
A shred of all their Fathers' land,
A transient shelter and a grave.
Or far where boundless lakes expand,
With weary feet the exiles roam,
Until their tawny brethren gave
The persecuted race a home.

XI.

But METACOM, the cause of all,
Last of his host, was doomed to fall.
Unconquered yet, when at his side
His boldest and his wisest died;
When all whom kin or friendship made
To his fallen fortunes dear were dead;
Beggared in wealth and power; pursued
A sentenced wretch, thro' swamp and wood;
Yet he escaped-tho' he might hear
The hunters' uproar round him wake,
And bullets whispered death was near:
O'er bank and stream, thro' grove and brake
He led them, fleet as mountain deer,
Nor yet his limbs had learned to quake,
Nor his heart caught the taint of fear.

XII.

His covert to his foes unknown,
With such worn train as war had spared,
Once more to Haup the chief repaired,
Of all his line the home and throne.
There, where the spirits of the dead
Seemed flitting through each moonlight glade,
Where pageant hosts of glory fled
In mockery rose with vain parade,
In gloomy grandeur o'er his head,
Where forests cast congenial shade,-
Brooding mid scenes of perished state,
He mused to madness on his fate.
South from the tarled swamp that spread
Below the mount, an upland rose;
Where towering elms all gray with eid,
And birchen thickets close concealed
The hunted race from quest of foes,
Beneath, their screen the elders threw,
And fern and bramble rankly grew;
By simple nature wisely taught
Such covert still the savage sought:
So in her leafy form the hare
Sits couched and still, when down the gale,
Of hounds and horns the mingling blare
She hears in tones of terror swell.
So spreads, beneath the liquid surge,
To shun the approaching monster's gorge,
The wary fish its inky blood,
And dies with rayless hue the flood.

XIII.

Beside the mountain's rugged steeps,
The SACHEM now his council keeps;
Though straightened in that hopeless stound,
Begirt with fear and famine round,
Resolved himself on daring deed,
He listened reckless of their rede.
Once more within their ancient hold,
How dwindled from their pomp of old
Toilworn and few and doubtful met
The PANIESE in their council state.
High rose the cliffs; but proud above
The regal oaks their branches fling,
Arching aloft with verdant cove,
Where thick their leaves they interwove,
Fit canopy for woodland king.
Vines, with tenacious fibres, high
Clomb o'er those rocks luxuriantly;
Oft o'er their rugged masses gray,
With rustling breeze the wild flowers play;
While at the base their purple hues,
Impearled with morning's glittering dews,
Bloomed round the pile of rifted stone,
Which, as in semblance of a throne,
The hand of Nature there had placed;
And rambling wild, where lower still
Bubbled and welled a sparkling rill,
These simple flowers its margin graced.
Clear as the brightest steel to view,
Thro' mossy turf of greenest hue,
It's lymph that gushing fountain spread:
And still through ages since have sped,
That little spring is seen;
It bears his name whose deeds of dread
Disturbed its margin green;
As pure, as full, its waters rise,
While those who once its peace profaned,
Have past, and to the stranger's eyes
Nor trace nor memory hath remained.
Smooth lay the turf before the seat,
Sprinkled with flow'rets fair and sweet;
The violet and the daisy gay,
And goldcups bright like spangles lay.
Thick round the gladethe forest grew,
Whose quivering leaves and pillars through,
The eye might catch the sparkling ray,
Where sea-gulls wheeled in mazy play.

XIV.

There met the council, round the throne,
Where he, in power, in thought alone,
Not like the sentenced outlaw sate,
The abandoned child of wayward fate,
But as of those tall cliffs a part,
Cut by some bolder sculptor's art,
The imaged God, erect and proud,
To whom the simple savage bowed.
His was the strength the weak that sways;
The glance the servile herd obeys;
The brow of majesty, where thought
And care their deepest lines had wrought,
And told, like furrows broad that mark
The giant ash-tree's fretted bark,
How stormy years, with forceful stay,
Will wear youth's scarless gloss away.
Shorn were his lccks, whose ample flow
Had else revealed him to the foe;
And travel-stained the beaver spoils,
That sheathed his martial limbs below.
But seemed it that he yet would show,
Even mid the hunter's closing toils,
Some splendours of his former state,
When in his royalties he sate.
Like the pine on their native mountain side,
That will not bow in its deathless pride;
Whose rugged limbs of stubborn tone
No flexuous power of art will own,
But bend to Heaven's red bolt alone-!
How their hue is deep as the western die
That fades in Autumtnn's evening sky;
That lives for-ever upon their brow,
In the summer's heat, and the winter's snow;
How their raven locks of tameless strain,
Stream like the desert courser's mane:
How their glance is far as the eagle's flight,
And fierce and true as the panther's sight:
How their souls are like the crystal wave,
Where the spirit dwells in his northern cave;
Unruffled in its caverned bed,
Calm lies its glimmering surface spread;
Its springs, its outlet unconfest,
The pebble's weight upon its breast
Shall wake its echoing thunders deep,
And when their muttering accents sleep,
Its dark recesses hear them yet,
And tell of deathless love or hate!