Dead Man's Run

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

He rode adown the autumn wood,
A man dark-eyed and brown;
A mountain girl before him stood
Clad in a homespun gown.

'To ride this road is death for you!
My father waits you there;
My father and my brother, too,
You know the oath they swear.'

He holds her by one berry-brown wrist,
And by one berry-brown hand;
And he hath laughed at her and kissed
Her cheek the sun hath tanned.

'The feud is to the death, sweetheart;
But forward will I ride.'
'And if you ride to death, sweetheart,
My place is at your side.'

Low hath he laughed again and kissed
And helped her with his hand;
And they have ridd'n into the mist
That belts the autumn land.

And they had passed by Devil's Den,
And come to Dead Man's Run,
When in the brush rose up two men,
Each with a levelled gun.

'Down! down! my sister!' cries the one;
She gives the reins a twirl
The other shouts, 'He shot my son!
And now he steals my girl!'

The rifles crack: she will not wail:
He will not cease to ride:
But, oh! her face is pale, is pale,
And the red blood stains her side.

'Sit fast, sit fast by me, sweetheart!
The road is rough to ride!'
The road is rough by gulch and bluff,
And her hair blows wild and wide.

'Sit fast, sit fast by me, sweetheart!
The bank is steep to ride!'
The bank is steep for a strong man's leap,
And her eyes are staring wide.

'Sit fast, sit fast by me, sweetheart!
The Run is swift to ride!'
The Run is swift with mountain drift,
And she sways from side to side.

Is it a wash of the yellow moss,
Or drift of the autumn's gold,
The mountain torrent foams across
For the dead pine's roots to hold?

Is it the bark of the sycamore,
Or peel of the white birch-tree,
The mountaineer on the other shore
Hath followed and still can see?

No mountain moss or leaves, dear heart!
No bark of birchen gray!
Young hair of gold and a face death-cold
The wild stream sweeps away.

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