Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Yamoyden
By Robert C. Sands (1797?–1819)
 
PROEM.

  GO forth, sad fragments of a broken strain,
  The last that either bard shall e’er essay;
  The hand can ne’er attempt the chords again,
  That first awoke them, in a happier day:
  Where sweeps the ocean breeze its desert way,        5
  His requiem murmurs o’er the moaning wave;
  And he who feebly now prolongs the lay,
  Shall ne’er the minstrel’s hallowed honors crave;
His harp lies buried deep in that untimely grave!
 
  Friend of my youth! with thee began the love        10
  Of sacred song; the wont, in golden dreams,
  ’Mid classic realms of splendors past to rove,
  O’er haunted steep, and by immortal streams;
  Where the blue wave, with sparkling bosom gleams
  Round shores, the mind’s eternal heritage,        15
  For ever lit by memory’s twilight beams;
  Where the proud dead, that live in storied page,
Beckon, with awful port, to glory’s earlier age.
 
  There would we linger oft, entranced, to hear,
  O’er battle fields, the epic thunders roll;        20
  Or list, where tragic wail upon the ear,
  Through Argive palaces shrill echoing, stole;
  There would we mark, uncurb’d by all control,
  In central heaven, the Theban eagle’s flight;
  Or hold communion with the musing soul        25
  Of sage or bard, who sought, ’mid Pagan night,
In loved Athenian groves, for truth’s eternal light.
 
  Homeward we turn’d to that fair land, but late
  Redeem’d from the strong spell that bound it fast,
  Where Mystery, brooding o’er the waters, sate        30
  And kept the key, till three millenniums past;
  When, as creation’s noblest work was last,
  Latest, to man it was vouchsafed, to see
  Nature’s great wonder, long by clouds o’ercast,
  And veil’d in sacred awe, that it might be        35
An empire and a home, most worthy for the free.
 
  And here, forerunners strange and meet were found,
  Of that blest freedom, only dream’d before;—
  Dark were the morning mists, that linger’d round
  Their birth and story, as the hue they bore.        40
  “Earth was their mother;”—or they knew no more,
  Or would not that their secret should be told;
  For they were grave and silent; and such lore,
  To stranger ears, they loved not to unfold,
The long-transmitted tales, their sires were taught of old.        45
 
  Kind nature’s commoners, from her they drew
  Their needful wants, and learnt not how to hoard;
  And him whom strength and wisdom crown’d, they knew,
  But with no servile reverence, as their lord.
  And on their mountain summits they adored        50
  One great, good Spirit, in his high abode,
  And thence their incense and orisons pour’d
  To his pervading presence, that abroad
They felt through all his works,—their Father, King, and God.
 
  And in the mountain mist, the torrent’s spray,        55
  The quivering forest, or the glassy flood,
  Soft falling showers, or hues of orient day,
  They imaged spirits beautiful and good;
  But when the tempest roar’d, with voices rude,
  Or fierce, red lightning fired the forest pine,        60
  Or withering heats untimely sear’d the wood,
  The angry forms they saw of powers malign;
These they besought to spare, those blest for aid divine.
 
  As the fresh sense of life, through every vein,
  With the pure air they drank, inspiring came,        65
  Comely they grew, patient of toil and pain,
  And, as the fleet deer’s, agile was their frame;
  Of meaner vices scarce they knew the name;
  These simple truths went down from sire to son,—
  To reverence age,—the sluggish hunter’s shame,        70
  And craven warrior’s infamy, to shun,—
And still avenge each wrong, to friends or kindred done.
 
  From forest shades they peer’d, with awful dread,
  When, uttering flame and thunder from its side,
  The ocean-monster, with broad wings outspread,        75
  Came, ploughing gallantly the virgin tide.
  Few years have past, and all their forests’ pride
  From shores and hills has vanish’d, with the race,
  Their tenants erst, from memory who have died,
  Like airy shapes, which eld was wont to trace,        80
In each green thicket’s depths, and lone, sequester’d place.
 
  And many a gloomy tale Tradition yet
  Saves from oblivion, of their struggles vain,
  Their prowess and their wrongs, for rhymer meet,
  To people scenes, where still their names remain;        85
  —And so began our young, delighted strain,
  That would evoke the plumed chieftains brave,
  And bid their martial hosts arise again,
  Where Narragansett’s tides roll by their grave,
And Haup’s romantic steeps are piled above the wave.        90
 
  Friend of my youth! with thee began my song,
  And o’er thy bier its latest accents die;
  Misled in phantom-peopled realms too long,—
  Though not to me the muse averse deny,
  Sometimes, perhaps, her visions to descry,—        95
  Such thriftless pastime should with youth be o’er;
  And he who loved with thee his notes to try,
  But for thy sake such idlesse would deplore,—
And swears to meditate the thankless muse no more.
 
  But no! the freshness of that past shall still        100
  Sacred to memory’s holiest musings be;
  When through the ideal fields of song, at will,
  He roved, and gather’d chaplets wild with thee;
  When, reckless of the world, alone and free,
  Like two proud barks, we kept our careless way,        105
  That sail by moonlight o’er the tranquil sea;
  Their white apparel and their streamers gay,
Bright gleaming o’er the main, beneath the ghostly ray;—
 
  And downward, far, reflected in the clear
  Blue depths, the eye their fairy tackling sees;        110
  So, buoyant, they do seem to float in air,
  And silently obey the noiseless breeze;—
  Till, all too soon, as the rude winds may please,
  They part for distant ports: The gales benign
  Swift wafting, bore, by Heaven’s all-wise decrees,        115
  To its own harbor sure, where each divine
And joyous vision, seen before in dreams, is thine.
 
  Muses of Helicon! melodious race
  Of Jove and golden-hair’d Mnemosyne!
  Whose art from memory blots each sadder trace,        120
  And drives each scowling form of grief away!
  Who, round the violet fount, your measures gay
  Once trod, and round the altar of great Jove;
  Whence, wrapt in silvery clouds, your nightly way
  Ye held, and ravishing strains of music wove,        125
That soothed the Thunderer’s soul, and fill’d his courts above.
 
  Bright choir! with lips untempted, and with zone
  Sparkling, and unapproach’d by touch profane;
  Ye, to whose gladsome bosoms ne’er was known
  The blight of sorrow, or the throb of pain;—        130
  Rightly invoked,—if right the elected swain,
  On your own mountain’s side ye taught of yore,
  Whose honor’d hand took not your gift in vain,
  Worthy the budding laurel-bough it bore,—
Farewell! a long farewell! I worship you no more!        135
 
KNOW ye the Indian warrior race?
How their light form springs in strength and grace,
Like the pine on their native mountain side,
That will not bow in its deathless pride;
Whose rugged limbs of stubborn tone        140
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 Autumn’s evening sky;
That lives for ever upon their brow,        145
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:        150
How their souls are like the crystal wave,
Where the spirit dwells in the northern cave;
Unruffled in its cavern’d bed,
Calm lies its glimmering surface spread;
Its springs, its outlet unconfess’d,        155
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!        160
 
SONG.
THEY say that afar in the land of the west,
Where the bright golden sun sinks in glory to rest,
’Mid fens where the hunter ne’er ventured to tread,
A fair lake unruffled and sparkling is spread;
Where, lost in his course, the rapt Indian discovers,        165
In distance seen dimly, the green isle of lovers.
 
There verdure fades never; immortal in bloom,
Soft waves the magnolia its groves of perfume;
And low bends the branch with rich fruitage depress’d,
All glowing like gems in the crowns of the east;        170
There the bright eye of nature, in mild glory hovers:
’T is the land of the sunbeam,—the green isle of lovers!
 
Sweet strains wildly float on the breezes that kiss
The calm-flowing lake round that region of bliss;
Where, wreathing their garlands of amaranth, fair choirs        175
Glad measures still weave to the sound that inspires
The dance and the revel, ’mid forests that cover
On high with their shade the green isle of the lover.
 
But fierce as the snake with his eyeballs of fire,
When his scales are all brilliant and glowing with ire,        180
Are the warriors to all, save the maids of their isle,
Whose law is their will, and whose life is their smile;
From beauty there valor and strength are not rovers,
And peace reigns supreme in the green isle of lovers.
 
And he who has sought to set foot on its shore,        185
In mazes perplex’d, has beheld it no more;
It fleets on the vision, deluding the view,
Its banks still retire as the hunters pursue;
O! who in this vain world of wo shall discover,
The home undisturb’d, the green isle of the lover!        190
 
ODE TO THE MANITTO OF DREAMS.
SPIRIT! thou spirit of subtlest air,
Whose power is upon the brain,
When wondrous shapes, and dread, and fair,
As the film from the eyes
At thy bidding flies,        195
To sight and sense are plain!
 
Thy whisper creeps where leaves are stirr’d;
Thou sighest in woodland gale;
Where waters are gushing thy voice is heard;
And when stars are bright,        200
At still midnight,
Thy symphonies prevail!
 
Where the forest ocean, in quick commotion,
Is waving to and fro,
Thy form is seen, in the masses green,        205
Dimly to come and go.
From thy covert peeping, where thou layest sleeping,
Beside the brawling brook,
Thou art seen to wake, and thy flight to take
Fleet from thy lonely nook.        210
 
Where the moonbeam has kiss’d
The sparkling tide,
In thy mantle of mist
Thou art seen to glide.
Far o’er the blue waters        215
Melting away,
On the distant billow,
As on a pillow,
Thy form to lay.
 
  Where the small clouds of even        220
  Are wreathing in heaven
  Their garland of roses,
  O’er the purple and gold,
  Whose hangings enfold
  The hall that encloses        225
  The couch of the sun,
  Whose empire is done,—
  There thou art smiling,
  For thy sway is begun;
  Thy shadowy sway,        230
  The senses beguiling,
  When the light fades away,
And thy vapor of mystery o’er nature ascending,
  The heaven and the earth,
  The things that have birth,        235
And the embryos that float in the future is blending.
 
From the land, on whose shores the billows break
The sounding waves of the mighty lake;
From the land where boundless meadows be,
Where the buffalo ranges wild and free;        240
With silvery cot in his little isle,
Where the beaver plies his ceaseless toil;
The land where pigmy forms abide,
Thou leadest thy train at the even tide;
And the wings of the wind are left behind,        245
So swift through the pathless air they glide.
 
Then to the chief who has fasted long,
When the chains of his slumber are heavy and strong,
Spirit! thou comest; he lies as dead,
His wearied lids are with heaviness weigh’d;        250
But his soul is abroad on the hurricane’s pinion,
Where foes are met in the rush of fight,
In the shadowy world of thy dominion
Conquering and slaying, till morning light!
 
Then shall the hunter who waits for thee,        255
The land of the game rejoicing see
Through the leafless wood,
O’er the frozen flood,
And the trackless snows
His spirit goes,        260
Along the sheeted plain,
Where the hermit bear, in his sullen lair,
Keeps his long fast, till the winter hath past,
And the boughs have budded again.
Spirit of dreams! all thy visions are true,        265
Who the shadow hath seen, he the substance shall view!
 
Thine the riddle, strange and dark,
Woven in the dreamy brain;—
Thine to yield the power to mark
Wandering by, the dusky train;        270
Warrior ghosts for vengeance crying,
Scalp’d on the lost battle’s plain,
Or who died their foes defying,
Slow by lingering tortures slain.
 
Thou the war-chief hovering near,        275
Breathest language on his ear;
When his winged words depart,
Swift as arrows to the heart;
When his eye the lightning leaves;
When each valiant bosom heaves;        280
Through the veins when hot and glowing
Rage like liquid fire is flowing;
Round and round the war pole whirling,
Furious when the dancers grow;
When the maces swift are hurling        285
Promised vengeance on the foe;
Thine assurance, Spirit true!
Glorious victory gives to view!
 
When of thought and strength despoil’d,
Lies the brave man like a child;        290
When discolor’d visions fly,
Painful, o’er his gazing eye,
And wishes wild through his darkness rove,
Like flitting wings through the tangled grove,—
Thine is the wish; the vision thine,        295
And thy visits, Spirit! are all divine!
 
When the dizzy senses spin,
And the brain is madly reeling,
Like the Pow-wah, when first within
The present spirit feeling;        300
When rays are flashing athwart the gloom,
Like the dancing lights of the northern heaven,
When voices strange of tumult come
On the ear, like the roar of battle driven,—
The Initiate then shall thy wonders see,        305
And thy priest, O Spirit! is full of thee!
 
Spirit of dreams! away! away!
It is thine hour of solemn sway;
And thou art holy; and our rite
Forbids thy presence here tonight.        310
Go light on lids that wake to pain;
Triumphant visions yield again!
If near the Christian’s cot thou roam,
Tell him the fire has wrapt his home:
Where the mother lies in peaceful rest,        315
Her infant slumbering on her breast,
Tell her the red man hath seized its feet,
And against a tree its brains doth beat:
Fly to the bride who sleeps alone,
Her husband forth for battle gone;        320
Tell her, at morn,—and tell her true,—
His head on the bough her eyes shall view;
While his limbs shall be the raven’s prey:—
Spirit of dreams! away! away!
 
SONG OF THE POW-WAHS.
Beyond the hills the Spirit sleeps,
        325
His watch the power of evil keeps;
The Spirit of fire has sought his bed,
The Sun, the hateful Sun is dead.
Profound and clear is the sounding wave,
In the chambers of the Wakon-cave;        330
Darkness its ancient portal keeps;
And there the Spirit sleeps,—he sleeps.
 
Come round on raven pinions now,
Spirits of ill, to you we bow!
Whether ye sit on the topmost cliff,        335
  While the storm around is sweeping,
’Mid the thunder shock, from rock to rock
  To view the lightning leaping;
As ye guide the bolt, where towers afar
  The knotted pine to heaven,        340
And where it falls, your serpent scar
  On the blasted trunk is graven:—
Whether your awful voices pour
Their tones in gales that nightly roar;—
Whether ye dwell beneath the lake,        345
In whose depths eternal thunders wake,—
Gigantic guard the glittering ore,
That lights Maurepas’ haunted shore,—
On Manataulin’s lonely isle,
The wanderer of the wave beguile,—        350
Or love the shore where the serpent-hiss
And angry rattle never cease,—
Come round on raven pinion’s now!
Spirits of evil! to you we bow.
 
Come ye hither, who o’er the thatch        355
Of the coward murderer hold your watch;
Moping and chattering round who fly
Where the putrid members reeking lie,
Piece-meal dropping, as they decay,
O’er the shuddering recreant day by day;        360
Till he loathes the food that is whelm’d amid
The relics, by foul corruption hid;
And the crawling worms about him bred
Mistake the living for the dead!
 
Come ye who give power        365
To the curse that is said,
And a charm that shall wither
To the drops that are shed
On the cheek of the maiden,
Who never shall hear        370
The kind name of Mother
Saluting her ear;
But sad as the turtle
On the bare branch reclining,
She shall sit in the desert,        375
Consuming and pining;
With a grief that is silent,
Her beauty shall fade,
Like a flower nipt untimely,
On its stem that is dead.        380
 
Come ye who as hawks hover o’er
The spot where the war-club is lying,
Defiled with the stain of their gore,
The foemen to battle defying;
On your dusky wings wheeling above,        385
Who for vengeance and slaughter come crying:
For the scent of the carnage ye love,
The groans of the wounded and dying.
 
Come ye, who at the sick man’s bed,
Watch beside his burning head;        390
When the vaunting juggler tries in vain
Charm and fast to soothe his pain,
And his fever-balm and herbs applies,
Your death watch ye sound till your victim dies.
 
And ye who delight        395
The soul to affright,
When naked and lonely,
Her dwelling forsaken,
To the country of spirits
Her journey is taken;        400
When the wings of a dove
She has borrow’d to fly,
Ye swoop from above,
And around her ye cry;
She wanders and lingers        405
In terror and pain,
While the souls of her kindred
Expect her in vain.
 
By all the hopes that we forswear;
By the potent rite we here prepare;        410
By every shriek whose echo falls
Around the Spirit’s golden walls;
By our eternal league made good;
By all our wrongs and all our blood;
By the red battle-axe uptorn;        415
By the deep vengeance we have sworn;
By the uprooted trunk of peace,
And by the wrath that shall not cease,
Where’er ye be, above, below,
Spirits of ill! we call ye now!        420
 
 
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