Travellers in Mexico have found the form of a serpent invariably pictured over the doorways of the Indian Temples, and on the interior walls, the impression of a red hand.
The superstitions attached to the phenomena of the thunderstorm and Aurora Borealis, alluded to in the poem, are well authenticated.
I saw him in vision,--the last of that race
Who were destined to vanish before the Pale-face,
As the dews of the evening from mountain and dale,
When the thirsty young Morning withdraws her dark veil;
Alone with the Past and the Future's chill breath,
Like a soul that has entered the valley of Death.
He stood where of old from the Fane of the Sun,
While cycles unnumbered their centuries run,
Never quenched, never fading, and mocking at Time,
Blazed the fire sacerdotal far o'er the fair clime;
Where the temples o'ershadowed the Mexican plain,
And the hosts of the Aztec were conquered and slain;
Where the Red Hand still glows on pilaster and wall,
And the serpent keeps watch o'er the desolate hall.
He stood as an oak, on the bleak mountainside,
The lightning hath withered and scorched in its pride
Most stately in death, and refusing to bend
To the blast that ere long must its dry branches rend;
With coldness and courage confronting Life's care,
But the coldness, the courage, that's born of despair.
I marked him where, winding through harvest-crowned plain,
The "Father of Waters" sweeps on to the main,
Where the dark mounds in silence and loneliness stand,
And the wrecks of the Red-man are strewn o'er the land:
The forests were levelled that once were his home,
O'er the fields of his sires glittered steeple and dome;
The chieftain no longer in greenwood and glade
With trophies of fame wooed the dusky-haired maid,
And the voice of the hunter had died on the air
With the victor's defiance and captive's low prayer;
But the winds and the waves and the firmament's scroll,
With Divinity still were instinct to his soul;
At midnight the war-horse still cleaved the blue sky,
As it bore the departed to mansions on high;
Still dwelt in the rock and the shell and the tide
A tutelar angel, invisible guide;
Still heard he the tread of the Deity nigh,
When the lightning's wild pinion gleamed bright on the eye,
And saw in the Northern-lights, flashing and red,
The shades of his fathers, the dance of the dead.
And scorning the works and abode of his foe,
The pilgrim raised far from that valley of woe
His dark, eagle gaze, to the sun-gilded west,
Where the fair "Land of Shadows" lay viewless and blest.
Again I beheld him where swift on its way
Leaped the cataract, foaming, with thunder and spray,
To the whirlpool below from the dark ledge on high,
While the mist from its waters commixed with the sky.
The dense earth thrilled deep to the voice of its roar,
And the "Thunder of Waters" shook forest and shore,
As he steered his frail bark to the horrible verge,
And, chanting his death-song, went down with the surge.
"On, on, mighty Spirit!
I welcome thy spray
As the prairie-bound hunter
The dawning of day;
No shackles have bound thee,
No tyrant imprest
The mark of the Pale face
On torrent and crest.
"His banners are waving
O'er hill-top and plain,
The stripes of oppression
Blood-red with our slain;
The stars of his glory
And greatness and fame,
The signs of our weakness,
The signs of our shame.
"The hatchet is broken,
The bow is unstrung;
The bell peals afar
Where the war-whoop once rung:
The council-fires burn
But in thoughts of the Past,
And their ashes are strewn
To the merciless blast.
"But though we have perished
As leaves when they fall,
Unhonored with trophies,
Unmarked by a pall,
When our names have gone out
Like a flame on the wave,
The Pale race shall weep
'Neath the curse of our brave.
"On, on, mighty Spirit!
Unchecked in thy way;
I smile on thine anger,
And sport with thy spray;
The soul that has wrestled
With Life's darkest form,
Shall baffle thy madness
And pass in the storm."