IN FOUR CANTOS
Long has Apollo, in his flaming car,
Lashd his hot coursers up the Eastern sky:
These now, all fierce and snorting from afar,
Tramp the light ethers, spurning as they fly;
While dazzled at the scene, the morning star
5 Hides his pale cheek, and startled from on high,
Awaits the moment when Auroras charms
Shall hail him blushing to her trembling arms.
The hour is that when, checking his career,
The God low stoops to kiss his mistress Earth;
10 And with his breath consuming dry the tear,
With which fell Night, of melancholy birth,
Damps the warm bosom of the glowing sphere,
Whose face, now radiant, proves her secret mirth,
And burning blushes mark the mighty power
15 Of him her lover in that ardent hour.
The slumbering lake is one broad silvery plain,
Within whose mirror, move reflected there,
Along the cloudless sky, a mingled train
Of various birds, that cleave the highest air,
As if unable longer to sustain
The warmth of earth, which like the siroc drear,
Enchains all nature in its magic fold,
And fills the atmosphere with flakes of gold.
The forest-deer wends fearless to the tide,
25 And laps his pendent tongue within the stream;
Then panting casts him at the gaunt wolfs side,
(Struck by the ardor of the raging beam)
Whose wearied frame, in strange inaction tied,
Lies tame and spell-bound there, as if a dream
30 Or incantation hung upon the scene,
And changd his nature with Creations mien.
The scaly serpent, deckd in hues of gold,
Basks near the drooping warbler of the spray;
Nor twines him now in dire and tortuous fold
35 To spring envenomd on his wonted prey:
That eye, which late all-fascinating rolld
In colors brilliant as the Iris ray,
Has lost its dreadful harmonies to lure,
Een tho the victim felt it not secure.
The very waters, with the heat imbued,
The languid fishes now essay to shun;
Save where the weeping willows thickly strewed,
Oerhang the stream and shield them from the sun;
There, blended in one group, a gasping brood
45 Of harmless sporters all-confiding run,
And linger near the fierce voracious pike,
Who, with the powerlacks the will to strike.
All nature owns the universal charm,
And slumbers in inaction to the close;
50 But man alone preserves his power to harm,
And spurns the very semblance of repose;
Nor his fell wrath could Chaos self disarm
Though Earth convulsive heave her latest throes,
And skies, and seas, and Heaven are overcast,
55 Still man works on, and hardens to the last!
There is a beauteous sight upon that plain,
Whose dazzling bosom with no breathing sighs;
Twice twenty helmsmen steer a gallant train,
Which through the liquid silver lightly flies;
60 Twelve paddlers each their seprate race maintain,
All Warriors bold, whose streamers gaily rise,
And dip their splendid beauties in the tide
Oer which the prows they deck triumphant ride.
Twice twenty Chieftains, rivals in the race,
65 Urge on to greater speed each generous crew;
Twice twenty war-shouts ring along the space,
And nerve the band their scudding boats pursue:
But now they nearthey gain upon the chase
One straining bark leaps foremost to subdue,
70 And soon upon the foemans deck, in gloom,
High towers the Warrior of the snow-white plume.
A bloodless conquest this, no death-wounds stain
The arms of those oer whom that Chief presides;
And now the capture follows in their train,
75 As through the lake each frail bark swiftly glides,
And strives a high and jutting rock to gain,
Oer which the fortress rears her giant sides,
Whence many a bright and well-contented eye
Hangs oer the war-boats as they proudly fly.
Wide thrown are now the portals of that hall,
Whose lofty arch reverberates deep sound,
Or to the council speech, or flying ball,
Which oft within that porch is heard to bound;
Or warriors muskets, ringing as they fall;
85 Or hymns to High Jehovah which resound
Each Sabbath morn within that joint abode (1)
Of Sages, Chiefs, and Ministers of God.
Already there the Elders of the State,
And Christian leaders now are met to treat
90 Of the impending danger, and debate
The measures of defensive war, most meet
To foil th advancing enemy, who late
Restord from one long tissue of defeat,
Had swelld their columns to a locust band,
95 And threatend soon to subjugate the land.
Fair shone the Warriors form amid that group,
As now, with eye deep-searching, yet serene,
He led the Chieftains from each gay chaloupe
To their wont stations in the council scene;
100 While, girt in glittering arms, they gravely stoop,
And place them seated, with that sober mien
Which well becomes the all-important power
They meet to canvass in that serious hour!
Near the stern Chief, and wrapt in sullen pride,
105 The captive leader of the bark appears;
Who, summond by the council to confide
The foemans measures, and his strength of spears,
Confirms the scouts reportnor seeks to hide
Those facts which wake the Fathers strongest fears,
110 If fear be termd those feelings which prevail,
When Wars resources and defences fail.
The wampum pledge is passed from hand to hand,
As, in due order, moves each Warrior-Chief,
To say the feelings of his seprate band,
115 And in strange tonguesyet energetic, brief,
Or point the danger of the threatend land,
Or press the means which offer yet relief;
While the loud shout, at intervals, approves
What most the feelings of each listener moves.
Divided in their judgements, some addeem
It more expedient to await the blow
Where their proud barks, triumphant on the stream,
Prepare to land the legions of the foe;
While those, more prudent of the council, seem
125 To urge, that where the Thames sweet waters flow,
And higher banks, with thickning woods are crownd,
A post more fitted for defence is found.
These last the Christian leaders part approve,
And most the Father of the mutual chain,
130 Whose speech responsiveas it may behove,
Dwells on the few resources which remain
To stay the progress of the fleets, which move,
Uncheckd, their cruisers oer the lakes broad plain;
While swayd by prudent reasonings, and meet,
135 He gives his voice in favor of retreat.
With various thoughts the anxious Chiefs receive
The measure, as their various feelings urge;
The fiery and the daring secret grieve,
And burn to grapple with their countrys scourge,
140 Een at that point, where all alike believe
Their barks preparing to surmount the surge;
While cooler hearts, and hoarier heads proclaim
Retreat expedientnor the movement shame.
Uprose Tecumseh, with impatient bound,
145 Fire in his mien, and anger in his eye;
Flashd his proud glance contemptuously around,
While his tall crest plumes, nodding from on high,
Bent oer the brow that now indignant frownd,
And lent his swarthy cheek a duskier dye:
150 Then burst the passions of his warrior-soul,
Which een that council stern could not control.
No word of ire to lesser Chief he deignd,
The curl upon his lips spoke only there;
But turning quick to him who then sustaind
155 The arduous duties of the regal chair,
In speech of fire the Fathers act arraignd,
And, hurried by his passions fitful glare,
Proclaimd his prudencebase, unmanly fear,
Which shrank from danger as the foe drew near.
"Never," he cried, and as he spoke, the vault
Rang in wild echoes to his wrathful mood,
"Never do I, in the strong camps assault,
Or, where the foemen line the dusky wood,
Behind the columns of my Warriors halt,
165 Or bid them go and do a deed of blood:
With thirsting steel and stout arm fiercely bare
Tecumseh ever is the foremost there.
"Neer do I say to these my young men, go
Do thatthen linger basely in their rear;
170 But bid them come and, as they follow, show
What perils dire their leading Chief can dare:
With them my blood is ever wont to flow;
With them the toils of victory I share;
And with the glaive hot reeking in my hand,
175 By deeds, and not by words, urge on my band.
"Well have I markd our Father of the lake,
In pride of soul against the foeman sail;
Well have I heard his rolling thunders break,
And blend with war-cries rising on the gale:
180 That eagle heart was never known to quake,
That eye to falter, or that cheek to pale:
But conquest hangs not always oer the brave,
And now, perchance, he sleeps beneath the wave.
"Yet he hath perish’d in the brave man’s fame,
185 And though a mightier foe hath swept him down,
He shrank not quailing from the battles flame,
But scornd at danger with the Warriors frown;
No stain can light upon his future name,
No dark cloud hover oer his fair renown;
190 And every Warrior bold shall drop a tear
Oer him who graspd at fame, and found a bier.
"But thou," and here his eye glancd fiercely round
"Scarce dost thou know the foeman at thy gate,
Than struck with terror, like some coward hound,
Thou shunnst the fight, and fleest thy helpless State;
Thy gallant youths, in combat foremost found,
Obey thy will, nor murmur at their fate;
But well their drooping heads and hearts proclaim
How much they curse thy fiat, and their shame.
"But since the blood runs coldly thro thy veins,
And love of life belies the Warriors creed,
Gofleeand leave to hostile swords these plains,
Then tell thy Father of the glorious deed:
Yet say, that well one native Chief maintains
205 The faith he pledged, and on this spot will bleed
For, by the Spirit of our mighty sphere,
Tecumseh moves not while a foe is near."
He ceasdand burst one vast and deafning sound
Of crashing thunder from the swarthy crew;
210 Uprose each Chieftain with elastic bound,
As high in air their glittering weapons flew;
And yells discordant shook the walls around,
And fiercer now the wild alarum grew:
While, thro the portals of that hall there rang
215 To the forts base the loud and deafening clang.
Amid the fearful clamours of that day,
How looked the Christian Chiefs assembled there?
There was a feeling would have been dismay,
But that such hearts are strangers to despair;
220 In these had sprung the thought that treachery lay
Beneath the darkness of that Warriors air,
But that they knew him, as the soul of youth,
Daring in speechyet rich in genuine truth.
Nor judgd him wrongfor with that haughty look
225 Which markd the native empire of command
That glance which few could eer unhumbled brook,
The Chieftain motiond silence to the band,
Whose brandishd weapons now more faintly shook,
And frantic shoutings sunk to murmurs bland,
230 Like sounds which issue from the forest drear,
When storms are lulling with the lightnings glare.
Restord the order of that solemn scene,
The Christian Father, in his judgment firm,
Still deems retreat the most expedient mean
235 To thwart the foemans measures in the germ;
To this, as late, the elder Warriors lean,
And urge again the Thames banks as the term
Of retrogressive march, where less secure,
The foe may fall, and perish in the lure.
Already high the spectre Famine rears
Her hideous crest along the fated land,
While twice five thousand fresh and hostile spears
Are joined to leap upon th unguarded strand:
To these a force inferior far appears,
245 And, of the whole defensive little band,
Scarce now two thousand active youth remain,
To wage the contest with that mighty train.
The lonely harbour, of her strength divest,
No fire repulsive warms within her womb;
250 While on the fortress weakend sides there rest
Faint means to throw the round shot or the bomb:
The dreaded barriers which they late possessd,
Are wrested from their grasp, while deeper gloom
Awaits the Warriors, in the scanty hoard
255 Of food essential which the walls afford.
But where the wild yclepd Moravian spreads
Her scatterd hamlets oer the Thames fair banks,
A dark ravine, where rear their giant heads
Thick pines and firs, in Natures tallest ranks,
260 Affords the war defensive in its beds
Of rocks uneven, while the bending flanks
Are hemmd securely by the rolling flood,
And heights close studded with impervious wood.
Here then the Father, after due debate,
265 And those most prudent of the league, propose
To lead their several Warriors, and await
The first fierce onset of their numerous foes;
Who, flushd with hope, and in their strength elate,
Would scarcely reck to linger in repose;
270 But, close pursuing in their flying rear,
Fall in the toil their wily arts prepare.
High glowed the Warriors cheek with generous heat,
And flashd his eye with deep contemptuous scorn;
What! he join tamely in that base retreat!
275 But, harkthe troop-call from the Christian horn
Now bids the glittering forces instant meet:
The light artillery the roads adorn,
And all the movements of that band proclaim
The firm resolve to stamp their mutual shame.
"Then be it on the Thames broad banksI yield
To riper Chieftains and more prudent Sires,"
(And with the prudent there was ill conceald
The scorn which mingled with his souls hot fires)
"But by the mighty Prophet, on that field
285 Tecumseh combatsconquers or expires;
There shall he wash in blood this damning stain,
And crush his foe, or perish on the plain.
"Ere then ten suns have rolld their daily course,
Upon the spot convend we, Father, meet;
290 Not there, as here, to count the adverse force
To shrink from numbers, or propose retreat;
But there to speed the death-shot from its source
To fall, or lay our foemen at our feet,
Who talks of council there has my disdain;
295 Peace to thee, Father, till we meet again."
He said, and strode indignant from the throng,
Whose every eye close fixed his martial frame;
No heart was there that felt inclined to wrong
The noble ardor which his wrath became:
300 Hot words were his; but such, I ween, belong
To sanguine men, whose every thought is flame,
Whose burning passions mark the generous soul,
And shine most virtuous where they least control.
Dissolvd that warlike council by the Sire,
305 The various Chieftains to their tribes resort;
While, by the Leader, to the sweeping fire
The fortress is condemnd, and gloomy port,
And holds of strength, and all that may require
A foe invading for their due support:
310 So that stern Famines hideous frown may greet,
And mock their columns landing from the fleet.
This task unwelcome slow the troops obey,
With saddend hearts, and more unwilling hands;
Alas! how oft within those precincts gay,
315 The laugh has echoed to their joyous bands;
How oft at eve, in summer-tide, have they
Pitchd the firm quoit where now the fireman stands;
Or bent the bow, or whirld the flying ball,
Where now the miner saps the tottering wall.
It is in truth a joyless sight to view
The home which housed us from the winter blast
The scenes which hourly more familiar grew,
In one wild ruin darkly overcast:
Others may rise upon their site more new,
325 But still the heart clings fondly to the past:
And, though their form and matter be the same,
They come as strangers, and without a name!
Fast now the crackling flames ascend and fly;
Low sinks each buttress with tremendous crash:
330 While clouds of smoke pollute the spotless sky,
And gleams afar the blazing columns flash;
The ponderous beams fall startling from on high,
And lighter fragments in the river splash,
While anguishd crowds, deplorers of the scene,
335 Watch the flames progress with distracted mien.
The work of melancholy waste complete,
The shrill-toned bugles sound the Chiefs command;
And soon, upon the adjacent plain sad meet
The different stragglers of the little band;
340 Each heart with various images replete,
As still they mark the fiercely flaming brand
Feed on those scenes, which, ere the morrows dawn,
Must be, forever, from their gaze withdrawn.
The moon shines dimly, as the close ranks bend
Their joyless march throughout the gloomy wood,
Whose hollow moanings with the night-winds blend,
And stamp more deep their melancholy mood:
While oft at intervals, the storm-birds send
Their lonely plainings oer the hazy flood,
350 And fiercer wolves, recovered from their spell,
Speed their wild howlings oer each echoing dell.
Near where the ashes of young Uncas sleep,
As now the much-encumbered troop repose,
A tall and lonely form is seen to creep,
355 And bear him cautious where the forest throws
A shade upon the wilderness more deep,
And where, alone illuminate, there glows
The fire-fly lingering near that rayless tomb,
Whose very light is borrowed from its gloom.
That figure was Tecumseh, who had stayed
To pay sad tribute oer his lovd boys grave;
Sore was the Chieftains heart, but not dismayed:
His son had perished as eer fall the brave;
And though all-lonely in that spot is laid
365 The latest, fairest hope his spring-tide gave,
In other realms the boy shall greet his Sire,
With deathless welcome, and with holiest fire.
Fair wreaths of flowers and sweet grass deck his tomb,
Culld by the hands of brightest Indian maids;
370 And, nursed by dew-drops from that forests gloom,
Shed their sweet odours oer the deepening shades;
The air around imbibes the rich perfume
And wafts the scent voluptuous to the shades,
Like incense rising on the wing of Night,
375 Pure and most hallowed to the throne of light.
Low bent the Warrior oer the fragrant clay
Which pressd the bosom of his Uncas dear;
Till now the glittering arms, in moonlight gray,
And hum of feet, attest the columns near;
380 When, starting from the grave on which he lay,
He sought concealment mid the forest drear,
And, by a pass circuitous and wild,
Had joind his Warriors ere the troops defiled.