Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
The Dying Indian
By Philip Freneau (1752–1832)
 
ON yonder lake I spread the sail no more!
Vigor, and youth, and active days are past—
Relentless demons urge me to that shore
On whose black forests all the dead are cast:
Ye solemn train, prepare the funeral song,        5
For I must go to shades below,
Where all is strange, and all is new;
Companion to the airy throng,
    What solitary streams,
    In dull and dreary dreams,        10
All melancholy, must I rove along!
 
To what strange lands must Shalum take his way?
Groves of the dead departed mortals trace;
No deer along those gloomy forests stray,
No huntsmen there take pleasure in the chase,        15
But all are empty unsubstantial shades,
That ramble through those visionary glades;
  No spongy fruits from verdant trees depend:
    But sickly orchards there
    Do fruits as sickly bear,        20
And apples a consumptive visage shew,
And wither’d hangs the whortle-berry blue.
  Ah me! what mischiefs on the dead attend!
Wandering a stranger to the shores below,
Where shall I brook or real fountain find?        25
Lazy and sad deluding waters flow—
Such is the picture in my boding mind!
    Fine tales indeed, they tell
    Of shades and purling rills,
    Where our dead fathers dwell        30
    Beyond the western hills,
But when did ghost return his state to shew;
Or who can promise half the tale is true?
 
I too must be a fleeting ghost—no more—
None, none but shadows to those mansions go;        35
I leave my woods, I leave the Huron shore,
    For emptier groves below!
    Ye charming solitudes,
    Ye tall ascending woods,
  Ye glassy lakes and prattling streams,        40
    Whose aspect still was sweet,
    Whether the sun did greet,
  Or the pale moon embraced you with her beams—
    Adieu to all!
To all, that charm’d me where I stray’d,        45
The winding stream, the dark sequester’d shade;
    Adieu all triumphs here!
  Adieu the mountain’s lofty swell,
  Adieu, thou little verdant hill,
  And seas, and stars, and skies—farewell,        50
    For some remoter sphere!
 
Perplex’d with doubts, and tortured with despair,
Why so dejected at this hopeless sleep?
Nature at last these ruins may repair,
When fate’s long dream is o’er, and she forgets to weep.        55
Some real world once more may be assign’d,
Some new born mansion for th’ immortal mind!
Farewell, sweet lake; farewell surrounding woods,
To other groves, through midnight glooms, I stray,
Beyond the mountains, and beyond the floods,        60
      Beyond the Huron bay!
Prepare the hollow tomb, and place me low,
My trusty bow and arrows by my side,
The cheerful bottle, and the ven’son store;
For long the journey is that I must go,        65
Without a partner, and without a guide.”
 
  He spoke, and bid the attending mourners weep:
Then closed his eyes, and sunk to endless sleep!
 
 
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