In those vast forests dwelt a race of kings,
Free as the eagle when he spreads his wings -
His wings which never in their wild flight lag -
In mists which fly the fierce tornado's flag;
Their flight the eagle's! and their name, alas!
The eagle's shadow swooping o'er the grass,
Or, as it fades, it well may seem to be
The shade of tempest driven o'er the sea.
Fierce, too, this race, as mountain torrent wild,
With haughty hearts, where Mercy rarely smiled -
All their traditions - histories imbued
With tales of war and sanguinary feud,
Yet though they never couched the knightly lance,
The glowing songs of Europe's old romance
Can find their parallels amid the race,
Which, on this spot, met England face to face.
And when they met the white man, hand to hand,
Twilight and sunrise stood upon the strand -
Twilight and sunrise? Saxon sunshine gleams
To-day o'er prairies and those distant streams,
Which hurry onward through far Western plains,
Where the last Indian, for a season, reigns.
Here, the red CANUTE on this spot, sat down,
His splendid forehead stormy with a frown,
To quell, with the wild lightning of his glance
The swift encroachment of the wave's advance;
To meet and check the ruthless tide which rose,
Crest after crest of energetic foes,
While high and strong poured on each cruel wave,
Until they left his royalty - a grave;
But, o'er this wild, tumultuous deluge glows
A vision fair as Heaven to saint e'er shows;
A dove of mercy o'er the billows dark
Fluttered awhile then fled within God's ark.
Had I the power, I'd reverently describe
That peerless maid - the "pearl of all her tribe,"
As evening fair, when coming night and day
Contend together which shall wield its sway.
But, here abashed, my paltry fancy stays;
For her, too humble its most stately lays.
A shade of twilight's softest, sweetest gloom -
The dusk of morning - found a splendid tomb
In England's glare; so strange, so vast, so bright,
The dusk of morning burst in splendid light,
Which falleth through the Past's cathedral aisles,
Till sculptured Mercy like a seraph smiles.
And though Fame's grand and consecrated fane
No kingly statue may, in time, retain,
Her name shall linger, nor with age grow faint;
Its simple sound - the image of a saint.
Sad is the story of that maiden's race,
Long driven from each legendary place.
All their expansive hunting-grounds are now
Torn by the iron of the Saxon's plough,
Which turns up skulls and arrow-heads and bones -
Their places nameless and unmarked by stones.
Now freighted vessels toil along the view,
Where once was seen the Indian's bark canoe;
And to the woods the shrill escaping steam
Proclaims our triumph in discordant scream.
Where rose the wigwam in its sylvan shade,
Where the bold hunter in his freedom strayed,
And met his foe or chased the bounding stag,
The lazy horses at the harrow lag.
Where the rude dance was held or war-song rose,
The scene is one of plenty and repose.
The quiver of her race is empty now,
Its bow lies broken underneath the plough;
And where the wheat-fields ripple in the gale,
The vanished hunter scarcely leaves a trail.
'Twas where yon river musically flows,
The European's nomenclature rose;
A keen-edged axe, which since, alas! has swept
Away their names - those boughs, which blossoms kept,
Leaving so few, that when their story's drowned,
'Twill sink, alas! with no fair garland crowned.
What strange vicissitudes and perils fell
On the first settlers 'tis not mine to tell;
I scarce may pause to syllable the name
Which the great Captain left behind to fame;
A name which echoes through the tented past
Like sound of charge rung in a bugle's blast.
His age, although it still put faith in stars,
No longer glanced through feudal helmet's bars,
But stood in its half armor; thus stands he
An image half of antique chivalry,
And half presented to our eager eyes,
The brilliant type of modern enterprise.
A knightly blade, without one spot of rust,
Undimmed by time and undefaced by dust,
His name hangs up in that past age's hall,
Where many hang, the brightest of them all.