Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
From “Tecumseh: A Drama”
 
Charles Mair (b. 1840)
 
 
LEFROY IN THE FOREST

THIS region is as lavish of its flowers
As Heaven of its primrose blooms by night.
This is the Arum, which within its root
Folds life and death; and this the Prince’s Pine,
Fadeless as love and truth—the fairest form        5
That ever sun-shower washed with sudden rain.
This golden cradle is the Moccasin Flower,
Wherein the Indian hunter sees his hound;
And this dark chalice is the Pitcher-Plant,
Stored with the water of forgetfulness.        10
Whoever drinks of it, whose heart is pure,
Will sleep for aye ’neath foodfull asphodel,
And dream of endless love.
 
  There was a time on this fair continent
When all things throve in spacious peacefulness.        15
The prosperous forests unmolested stood,
For where the stalwart oak grew there it lived
Long ages, and then died among its kind.
The hoary pines—those ancients of the earth—
Brimful of legends of the early world,        20
Stood thick on their own mountains unsubdued;
And all things else illumined by the sun,
Inland or by the lifted wave, had rest.
The passionate or calm pageants of the skies
No artist drew; but in the auburn west        25
Innumerable faces of fair cloud
Vanished in silent darkness with the day.
The prairie realm—vast ocean’s paraphrase—
Rich in wild grasses numberless, and flowers
Unnamed save in mute Nature’s inventory,        30
No civilized barbarian trenched for gain.
And all that flowed was sweet and uncorrupt:
The rivers and their tributary streams,
Undammed, wound on forever, and gave up
Their lonely torrents to weird gulfs of sea,        35
And ocean wastes unshadowed by a sail.
And all the wild life of this western world
Knew not the fear of man; yet in those woods,
And by those plenteous streams and mighty lakes,
And on stupendous steppes of peerless plain,        40
And in the rocky gloom of canyons deep,
Screened by the stony ribs of mountains hoar
Which steeped their snowy peaks in purging cloud,
And down the continent where tropic suns
Warmed to her very heart the mother earth,        45
And in the congealed north where silence self
Ached with intensity of stubborn frost,
There lived a soul more wild than barbarous;
A tameless soul—the sunburnt savage free—
Free and untainted by the greed of gain,        50
Great Nature’s man, content with Nature’s food.
 
IENA’S SONG

FLY far from me,
  Even as the daylight flies,
And leave me in the darkness of my pain!
Some earlier love will come to thee again,        55
  And sweet new moons will rise,
And smile on it and thee.
 
Fly far from me,
  Even whilst the daylight wastes—
Ere thy lips burn me in a last caress;        60
Ere fancy quickens, and my longings press,
  And my weak spirit hastes
For shelter unto thee!
 
Fly far from me,
  Even whilst the daylight pales—        65
So shall we never, never meet again!
Fly! for my senses swim—Oh, Love! Oh, Pain!—
  Help! for my spirit fails—
I cannot fly from thee!
 
THE BUFFALO HERDS

  Lefroy.        We left
        70
The silent forest, and, day after day,
Great prairies swept beyond our aching sight
Into the measureless West: uncharted realms,
Voiceless and calm, save when tempestuous wind
Rolled the rank herbage into billows vast,        75
And rushing tides, which never found a shore.
And tender clouds, and veils of morning mist
Cast flying shadows, chased by flying light,
Into interminable wildernesses,
Flushed with fresh blooms, deep perfumed by the rose,        80
And murmurous with flower-fed bird and bee.
The deep-grooved bison-paths like furrows lay,
Turned by the cloven hoofs of thundering herds
Primeval, and still travelled as of yore.
And gloomy valleys opened at our feet—        85
Shagged with dusk cypresses and hoary pine;
And sunless gorges, rummaged by the wolf,
Which through long reaches of the prairie wound,
Then melted slowly into upland vales,
Lingering, far-stretched amongst the spreading hills.        90
  Brock.  What charming solitudes! And life was there!
  Lefroy.  Yes, life was there! inexplicable life,
Still wasted by inexorable death.
There had the stately stage his battle-field—
Dying for mastery among his hinds.        95
There vainly sprung the affrighted antelope,
Beset by glittering eyes and hurrying feet.
The dancing grouse, at their insensate sport,
Heard not the stealthy footstep of the fox;
The gopher on his little earthwork stood,        100
With folded arms, unconscious of the fate
That wheeled in narrowing circles overhead,
And the poor mouse, on heedless nibbling bent,
Marked not the silent coiling of the snake.
At length we heard a deep and solemn sound—        105
Erupted moanings of the troubled earth
Trembling beneath innumerable feet.
A growing uproar blending in our ears,
With noise tumultuous as ocean’s surge,
Of bellowings, fierce breath and battle shock,        110
A multitude whose trampling shook the plains,
With discord of harsh sound and rumblings deep,
As if the swift revolving earth had struck,
And from some adamantine peak recoiled—
Jarring. At length we topped a high-browed hill—        115
The last and loftiest of a file of such—
And, lo! before us lay the tameless stock,
Slow-wending to the northward like a cloud!
A multitude in motion, dark and dense—
Far as the eye could reach, and farther still,        120
In countless myriads stretched for many a league.
 

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