Songs of the Common Day, and Ave!

An Ode for the Shelley Centenary

by Charles G.D. Roberts


 

HOW THE MOHAWKS SET OUT FOR MEDOCTEC


 

[When the invading Mohawks captured the outlying Melicite village of Madawaska, they spared two squaws to guide them down stream to the main Melicite town of Medoctec, below Grand Falls. The squaws steered themselves and their captors over the Falls.]

 

I

 

GROWS the great deed, though none
Shout to behold it done!
To the brave deed done by night
Heaven testifies in the light

Stealthy and swift as a dream,

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Crowding the breast of the stream,
In their paint and plumes of war
And their war-canoes four score,

They are threading the Oolastook,
Where his cradling hills o'erlook.

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The branchy thickets hide them;
The unstartled waters guide them.

 

II

 

Comes night to the quiet hills
Where the Madawaska spills,—
To his slumbering huts no warning,
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Nor mirth of another morning!

No more shall the children wake
As the dawns through the hut-door break;
But the dogs, a trembling pack,
With wistful eyes steal back.

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And, to pilot the noiseless foe
Through the perilous passes, go
Two women who could not die—
Whom the knife in the dark passed by.

 

III

 

Where the shoaling waters froth,
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Churned thick like devils' broth,—
Where the rocky shark-jaw waits,
Never a bark that grates.

And the tearless captives' skill
Contents them. Onward still!

30

And the low-voiced captives tell
The tidings that cheer them well:

How a clear stream leads them down
Well-nigh to Medoctec town,
Ere to the great Falls' thunder

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The long wall yawns asunder.

 

IV

 

The clear stream glimmers before them;
The faint night falters o'er them;
Lashed lightly bark to bark,
They glide the windless dark.
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Late grows the night. No fear
While the skilful captives steer!
Sleeps the tired warrior, sleeps
The chief; and the river creeps.

 

V

 

In the town of the Melicite
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The unjarred peace is sweet,
Green grows the corn and great,
And the hunt is fortunate.

This many a heedless year
The Mohawks come not near.

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The lodge-gate stands unbarred;
Scarce even a dog keeps guard.

No mother shrieks from a dream
Of blood on the threshold stream,—
But the thought of those mute guides

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Is where the sleeper bides!

 

VI

 

Gets forth those caverned walls
No roar from the giant Falls,
Whose mountainous foam treads under
The abyss of awful thunder.
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But—the river's sudden speed!
How the ghost-grey shores recede!
And the tearless pilots hear
A muttering voice creep near.A tremor!

The blanched waves leap.

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The warriors start from sleep.
Faints in the sudden blare
The cry of their swift despair,

And the captives' death-chant shrills . . .
But afar, remote from ills,

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Quiet under the quiet skies
The Melicite village lies.