Mazelli - Canto II.

A poem by George W. Sands


He stood where the mountain moss outspread
Its smoothness beneath his dusky foot;
The chestnut boughs above his head,
Hung motionless and mute.
There came not a voice from the wooded hill,
Nor a sound from the shadowy glen,
Save the plaintive song of the whip-poor-will,[2]
And the waterfall's dash, and now and then,
The night-bird's mournful cry.
Deep silence hung round him; the misty light
Of the young moon silvered the brow of Night,
Whose quiet spirit had flung her spell
O'er the valley's depth, and the mountain's height,
And breathed on the air, till its gentle swell
Arose on the ear like some loved one's call;
And the wide blue sky spread over all
Its starry canopy.
And he seemed as the spirit of some chief,
Whose grave could not give him rest;
So deep was the settled hue of grief,
On his manly front impressed:
Yet his lips were compressed with a proud disdain,
And his port was erect and high,
Like the lips of a martyr who mocks at pain,
As the port of a hero who scorns to fly,
When his men have failed in fight;
Who rather a thousand deaths would die,
Than his fame should suffer blight.


And who by kith, and who by name,
Is he, that lone, yet haughty one?
By his high brow, and eye of flame,
I guess him old Ottalli's son.
Ottalli! whose proud name was here
In other times, a sound of fear!
The fleet of foot, and strong of hand,
Chief of his tribe, lord of the land,
The forest child, of mind and soul
Too wild and free to brook control!
In chase was none so swift as he,
In battle none so brave and strong;
To friends, all love and constancy, -
But we to those who wrought him wrong!
His arm would wage avenging strife,
With bow, and spear, and bloody knife,
Till he had taught his foes to feel,
How true his aim, how keen his steel.
Now others hold the sway he held, -
His day and power have passed away;
His goodly forests all are felled,
And songs of mirth rise, clear and gay,
Chaunted by youthful voices, where
His battle-hymn once filled the air -
Where blazed the lurid council fire,
The village church erects its spire;
And where the mystic war-dance rang,
With its confused, discordant clang,
While stern, fierce lips, with many a cry
For blood and vengeance, filled the sky,
Mild Mercy, gentle as the dove,
Proclaims her rule of peace and love.
And of his true and faithful clan,
Of child and matron, maid and man,
Of all he loved, survives but one -
His earliest, and his only son!
That son's sole heritage his fame,
His strength, his likeness, and his name.


And thus from varying year to year,
The youthful chief has lingered here;
Chief! - why is he so nobly named?
How many warriors at his call,
By Arcouski's breath inflamed,
Would with him fight, and for him fall?
Of all his father's warrior throng,
Remains not one whose lip could now
Rehearse with him the battle song,
Whose hand could bend the hostile bow.
And yet, no weak, complaining word,
From his stern lip is ever heard;
And his bright eye, so black and clear,
Is never moistened by a tear;
Of quiet mien, and mournful mood,
He lives, a stoic of the wood;
Gliding about from place to place,
With noiseless step, and steady pace,
Haunting each fountain, glen, and grot,
Like the lone Genius of the spot.


And this was he who, standing there,
Seemed as an image of Despair,
Which agony's convulsive strife,
Had quickened into breathing life.
The writhing lip, the brow all wet
With Pain's cold, clammy, deathlike sweat;
The hand, that with unconscious clasp,
Strained his keen dagger in its grasp;
The eye, that lightened with the blaze
Of frenzied Passion's maniac gaze;
The nervous, shuddering thrill, which came
At intervals along his frame;
The tremulously heaving breast, -
These signs the inward storm confessed:
Yet, through those signs of wo, there broke
Flashes of fearless thought, which spoke
A soul within, whose haughty will
Would wrestle with immortal ill,
And only quit the strife, when fate
Its being should annihilate.
Silent he stood, until the breeze
Bore from his lips some words like these.


"The words I speak are no complaint
And if I breathe out my despair,
It is not that my heart grows faint,
Or shrinks from what 'tis doomed to bear.
Though every sorrow which may shake
Or rend man's heart, should pierce my own,
Their strength united, should not make
My lip breathe one complaining tone.
If I must suffer, it shall be
With a firm heart, a soul elate,
A wordless scorn, which silently
Shall mock the stern decrees of fate.
The weak might bend, the timid shrink,
Until misfortune's storm blew by,
But I, a chieftain's son, should drink
Its proffered cup without a sigh.
And it will scarcely, to my lip,
Seem harsher than yon fountain's flow,
For I have held companionship
With Misery, from my youth till now -
Have felt, by turns, each pang, each care,
Her hapless sons are doomed, to bear; -
I caught my mother's parting breath,
When passed she to the spirit land;
And from the fatal field of death,
Where, leading on his fearless band,
With fiery and resistless might,
He fell, though victor in the fight,
Pierced by the arrow of some foe,
I saw my father's spirit go.
And I have seen his warrior men,
From mountain, valley, hill, and glen,
Departing one by one, since then,
As from the dry and withered spray,
The wilted leaves are blown away,
Upon some windy autumn day:
I, only I, am left to be
The last leaf of the blighted tree,
Which the first wind that through the sky
Goes carelessly careering by,
Will, in its wild, unheeded mirth,
Rend from its hold, and dash to earth:
Thus, here alone have I remained,
An outcast, where I should have reigned.


"How shall I to myself alone,
The weakness of my bosom own?
Why, mindful of my fame and pride,
When my brave brethren had died;
Why, with my friendly, ready knife,
Drew I not forth my useless life?
Was it a coward fear of death,
That bade me treasure up my breath?
Or had life yet some genial ray,
That wooed me in its warmth to stay?
Had earth yet one whose smile could stir,
My spirit with deep love for her?
Yes, though within me hope was dead,
And wild Ambition's dreams were fled;
Though o'er my blighted heart, Despair
Desponded, love still nestled there;
Love! how the pale-faced scorner's lip
Would sneer, to hear me name that name;
Yet was it deep within my soul
A secret but consuming flame;
Whose overruling mastership,
Defied slow Reason's dull control!
And felt for one of that vile race,
To whom my tribe had given place;
Was nursed in silence and in shame!
Shame, for the weakness of a heart,
Yet bleeding from th' oppressor's blow,
Which could bestow its better part
Upon the offspring of a foe!
They, the mean delvers of the soil,
The wielders of the felling axe, -
Because we will not stoop to toil,
Nor to its burdens bond our backs;
Because we scorn Seduction's wiles,
Her lying words and forged smiles,
They, the foul slaves of lust and gold,
Say that our blood and hearts are cold.[3]
But ere the morrow's dawning light
Has climbed yon eastern craggy height,
One, whose fierce eye and haughty brow,
Are lit with pride and pleasure now,
Shall learn, at point of my true steel,
How much the Red man's heart may feel, -
How fearlessly he strikes the foe,
When love and vengeance prompt the blow!
Though scorned by him, I know an art
Could stop the beatings of his heart,
Ere his own lips could say, 'Be still!'
A single arrow from my bow,
Bathed in the poisonous manchenille,[4]
Would in an instant lay him low;
So deadly is the icy chill,
With which the life-blood it congeals,
The wounded warrior scarcely feels
Its fatal touch ere he expire:
But, when Revenge would glut his ire,
He stops not with immediate death
The current of his victim's breath;
With gasp, and intervening pause,
The lifeblood from its source he draws,
Marks, in the crimson stream that flows,
How near life verges to its close, -
And its last soul-exhaling groan,
To him is music's sweetest tone!
And he, whose fate it is to die,
Ere Morning's banner flouts the sky,
The eye shall see, the arm shall know,
That guides and deals th' avenging blow;
And ere his spirit goes to rest,
Right well his scornful heart shall learn,
How fiercely, in a savage breast,
The flames of love and hate may burn."
He spake, and down the mountain's side,
With quick, impatient step, he hied,
Threading the forest's lonely gloom,
A ruthless minister of doom.


'Twas midnight; calmly slept the Earth,
And the mysterious eyes above,
Gazed down with chastened looks of love,
Not, as when first they hymned her birth,
With ardent songs of holy mirth,
But mournfully serene and clear; -
As on some erring one we gaze,
Whose feet have strayed from wisdom's ways,
But who, in error, still is dear.
Far o'er yon swiftly flowing stream
Fair fell the young moon's silver beam,
And gazing on its restless sheen,
Stood one whose garb, and port, and mien,
Bespoke him of a foreign land,
One born to win, and hold command;
The master mind, the leading one,
Where deeds of manly might were done.
Yet, by the hallowed glow, that came
O'er lip and cheek, o'er eye and brow,
He who beheld, might guess that now
His thoughts were not of wealth and fame:
Whence could that veiling radiance shine,
Save from Affection's holy shrine?
And this was he, who from afar,
Had come to bear away his bride;
And love had been the guiding star,
That lit him o'er the trackless tide;
"To-morrow, on its sunny wing,
My bridal hour soon shall bring;
And those bright orbs which o'er me shed
Such gentle radiance from on high,
Shall shine upon my nuptial bed,
When next they walk along the sky.
O! what are all the pomps of earth,
Of honour, glory, greatness, worth,
Beside the bliss which Love confers
Upon his humblest followers!"
He said, and from the river turned; -
An eye, that with fierce hatred burned,
Met his, and this reply was made:
"Thou, haughty one, shalt be a shade
Ere dawns the coming morrow's sun."
Then, ere the point he could evade,
He felt the sharp steel pierce his breast,
While he, who the foul deed had done
Stood calmly by, and saw him sink
In death, beside the water's brink,
Saw, gush by gush, the crimson blood
Pour out, and mingle with the flood;
Then drew his dagger from its rest,
And gazing on its fearful hue,
Said, "Thou hast yet one task to do.
He who, death-wounded, welters there,
Came hither, o'er the deep to bear
Far off from her paternal nest,
The white dove I have watched so long.
The falcon's wing was bold and strong,
Yet thou hast stayed him in his flight;
Strike one more blow, and thou to-night
May'st rest;" then laid his bosom bare,
And buried deep the dagger there,
And by his victim's lifeless trunk,
Without a sigh or groan he sunk.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Mazelli - Canto II.' by George W. Sands

comments powered by Disqus