The Phantom Bride. - Indian Legends.

A poem by Mary Gardiner Horsford

During the Revolutionary war, a young American lady was murdered, while dressed in her bridal robe, by a party of Indians, sent by her betrothed to conduct her to the village where he was encamped. After the deed was done, they carried her long hair to her lover, who, urged by a frantic despair, hurried to the spot to assure himself of the truth of the tale, and shortly after threw himself, in battle, on the swords of his countrymen. After this event, the Indians were never successful in their warfare, the spectre of their victim presenting itself continually between them and the enemy.


The worn bird of Freedom had furled o'er our land
The shattered wings, pierced by the despot's rude hand,
And stout hearts were vowing, 'mid havoc and strife,
To Liberty, fortune, fame, honor, and life.

The red light of Morning had scarcely betrayed
The sweet summer blossoms that slept in the glade,
When a horseman rode forth from his camp in the wood,
And paused where a cottage in loneliness stood.
The ruthless marauder preceded him there,
For the green vines were torn from the trellis-work fair,
The flowers in the garden all hoof-trodden lay,
And the rafters were black with the smoke of the fray:
But the desolate building he heeded not long,
Was it echo, the wind, or the notes of a song?
One moment for doubt, and he stood by the side
Of the dark-eyed young maiden, his long-promised bride.
Few and short were their words, for the camp of the foe
Was but severed from them, by a stream's narrow flow,
And her fair cheek grew pale at the forest bird's start,
But he said, as he mounted his steed to depart,
"Nay, fear not, but trust to the chief for thy guide,
And the light of the morrow shall see thee my bride."
Why faltered the words ere the sentence was o'er?
Why trembled each heart like the surf on the shore?
In a marvellous legend of old it is said,
That the cross where the Holy One suffered and bled
Was built of the aspen, whose pale silver leaf,
Has ever more quivered with horror and grief;
And e'er since the hour, when thy pinion of light
Was sullied in Eden, and doomed, through a night
Of Sin and of Sorrow, to struggle above,
Hast thou been a trembler, O beautiful Love!

'T was the deep hush of midnight; the stars from the sky
Looked down with the glance of a seraph's bright eye,
When it cleaveth in vision from Deity's shrine
Through infinite space and creation divine,
As the maiden came forth for her bridal arrayed,
And was led by the red men through forest and shade,
Till they paused where a fountain gushed clear in its play,
And the tall pines rose dark and sublime o'er their way.
Alas for the visions that, joyous and pure,
Wove a vista of light through the Future's obscure!
Contention waxed fierce 'neath the evergreen boughs,
And the braves of the chieftain were false to his vows;
In vain knelt the Pale-Face to merciless wrath,
The tomahawk gleamed on her desolate path,
One prayer for her lover, one look towards the sky,
And the dark hand of Death closed the love-speaking eye.

They covered with dry leaves the cold corpse and fair,
And bore the long tresses of soft, golden hair,
In silence and fear, through the dense forest wide,
To the home that the lover had made for his bride.
He knew by their waving those tresses of gold,
Now damp with the life-blood that darkened each fold,
And, mounting his steed, pausing never for breath
Sought the spot where the huge trees stood sentries of Death;
Tore wildly the leaves from the loved form away,
And kissed the pale lips of inanimate clay.

But hark! through the green wood what sounded afar,
'T was the trumpet's loud peal--the alarum of war!
Again on his charger, through forest, o'er plain,
The soldier rode swift to his ranks 'mid the slain:
They faltered, they wavered, half turning to fly
As their leader dashed frantic and fearlessly by,
The damp turf grew crimson wherever he trod,
Where his sword was uplifted a soul went to God.
But that brave arm alone might not conquer in strife,
The madness of grief was conflicting with Life;
His steed fell beneath him, the death-shot whizzed by,
And he rushed on the swords of the victors to die.

'Neath the murmuring pine trees they laid side by side,
The gallant young soldier, the fair, murdered bride:
And never again from that traitorous night,
The red man dared stand in the battle's fierce storm,
For ever before him a phantom of light,
Rose up in the white maiden's beautiful form;
And when he would rush on the foe from his lair,
Those locks of pale gold floated past on the air.

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