Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
 
Narrative and Legendary Poems
The Fountain
 
          On the declivity of a hill in Salisbury, Essex County, is a fountain of clear water, gushing from the very roots of a venerable oak. It is about two miles from the junction of the Powow River with the Merrimac.

TRAVELLER! on thy journey toiling
  By the swift Powow,
With the summer sunshine falling
  On thy heated brow,
Listen, while all else is still,        5
To the brooklet from the hill.
 
Wild and sweet the flowers are blowing
  By that streamlet’s side,
And a greener verdure showing
  Where its waters glide,        10
Down the hill-slope murmuring on,
Over root and mossy stone.
 
Where yon oak his broad arms flingeth
  O’er the sloping hill,
Beautiful and freshly springeth        15
  That soft-flowing rill,
Through its dark roots wreathed and bare,
Gushing up to sun and air.
 
Brighter waters sparkled never
  In that magic well,        20
Of whose gift of life forever
  Ancient legends tell,
In the lonely desert wasted,
And by mortal lip untasted.
 
Waters which the proud Castilian        25
  Sought with longing eyes,
Underneath the bright pavilion
  Of the Indian skies,
Where his forest pathway lay
Through the blooms of Florida.        30
 
Years ago a lonely stranger,
  With the dusky brow
Of the outcast forest-ranger,
  Crossed the swift Powow,
And betook him to the rill        35
And the oak upon the hill.
 
O’er his face of moody sadness
  For an instant shone
Something like a gleam of gladness,
  As he stooped him down        40
To the fountain’s grassy side,
And his eager thirst supplied.
 
With the oak its shadow throwing
  O’er his mossy seat,
And the cool, sweet waters flowing        45
  Softly at his feet,
Closely by the fountain’s rim
That lone Indian seated him.
 
Autumn’s earliest frost had given
  To the woods below        50
Hues of beauty, such as heaven
  Lendeth to its bow;
And the soft breeze from the west
Scarcely broke their dreamy rest.
 
Far behind was Ocean striving        55
  With his chains of sand;
Southward, sunny glimpses giving,
  ’Twixt the swells of land,
Of its calm and silvery track,
Rolled the tranquil Merrimac.        60
 
Over village, wood, and meadow
  Gazed that stranger man,
Sadly, till the twilight shadow
  Over all things ran,
Save where spire and westward pane        65
Flashed the sunset back again.
 
Gazing thus upon the dwelling
  Of his warrior sires,
Where no lingering trace was telling
  Of their wigwam fires,        70
Who the gloomy thoughts might know
Of that wandering child of woe?
 
Naked lay, in sunshine glowing,
  Hills that once had stood
Down their sides the shadows throwing        75
  Of a mighty wood,
Where the deer his covert kept,
And the eagle’s pinion swept!
 
Where the birch canoe had glided
  Down the swift Powow,        80
Dark and gloomy bridges strided
  Those clear waters now;
And where once the beaver swam,
Jarred the wheel and frowned the dam.
 
For the wood-bird’s merry singing,        85
  And the hunter’s cheer,
Iron clang and hammer’s ringing
  Smote upon his ear;
And the thick and sullen smoke
From the blackened forges broke.        90
 
Could it be his fathers ever
  Loved to linger here?
These bare hills, this conquered river,—
  Could they hold them dear,
With their native loveliness        95
Tamed and tortured into this?
 
Sadly, as the shades of even
  Gathered o’er the hill,
While the western half of heaven
  Blushed with sunset still,        100
From the fountain’s mossy seat
Turned the Indian’s weary feet.
 
Year on year hath flown forever,
  But he came no more
To the hillside on the river        105
  Where he came before.
But the villager can tell
Of that strange man’s visit well.
 
And the merry children, laden
  With their fruits or flowers,—        110
Roving boy and laughing maiden,
  In their school-day hours,
Love the simple tale to tell
Of the Indian and his well.

  1837.
 
 
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