Far, far away, where sunsets weave
Their golden tissues o'er the scene,
And distant glaciers, dimly heave,
Like trailing ghosts, their peaks between
Where, at the Rocky Mountain's base,
Arkansas, yet an infant, lingers,
A while the drifting leaves to chase,
Like laughing youth, with playful fingers
There Nature, in her childhood, wrought
'Mid rock and rill, with leaf and flower,
A vale more beautiful than thought
E'er gave to favored fairy's bower:
And in that hidden hermitage,
Of forest, river, lake, and dell,
While Time himself grew gray and sage,
The lone Enchantress loved to dwell.
Ages have flown, the vagrant gales
Have swept that lonely land; the flowers
Have nodded to the breeze; the vales,
Long, long, have sheltered in their bowers,
The forest minstrels; and the race
Of mastodons hath come and gone;
And with the stream of time, the chase
Of bubbling life hath swept the lawn,
Unmarked, save that the bedded clay,
Tells where some giant sleeper lies;
And wrinkled cliffs, tottering and gray,
Whisper of crumbled centuries.
Yet there the valley smiles; the tomb
Of ages is a garden gay,
And wild flowers freshen in their bloom,
As from the sod they drink decay.
And creeping things of every hue,
Dwell in this savage Eden-land,
And all around it blushes new,
As when it rose at God's command.
Untouched by man, the forests wave,
The floods pour by, the torrents fall,
And shelving cliff and shadowy cave,
Hang as bold nature hung them all!
The hunter's wandering foot hath wound,
To this far scene, perchance like mine,
And there a Forest Dreamer found,
Who walks the dell with spectral mien.
Youthful his brow, his bearing high
Yet writhed his lip, and all subdued,
The fire that once hath lit his eye.
Wayward and sullen oft his mood;
But he perchance may deign to tell,
As he hath told to me, his tale,
In words like these, while o'er the dell,
The autumn twilight wove its veil.
"Stranger! these woods are wild and drear;
These tangled paths are rough and lone;
These dells are full of things of fear,
And should be rather shunned than known.
Then turn thy truant foot away,
And seek afar the cultured glade,
Nor dare with reckless step to stray,
'Mid these lone realms of fear and shade!
You go not, and you seek to hear,
Why one like me should idly roam,
'Mid scenes like these, so dark, so drear
These rocks my bed, these woods my home?
"One crime hath twined with serpent coil
Around my heart its fatal fold;
And though my struggling bosom toil,
To heave the monster from its hold
It will not from its victim part.
By day or night, in down or dell,
Where'er I roam, still, still my heart
Is pressed by that sad serpent spell.
Aye, as the strangling boa clings
Around his prey with fatal grasp,
And as he feels each struggle, wrings
His victim with a closer clasp;
Nor yet till every pulse is dumb,
And every fluttering spasm o'er,
Releases, what, in death o'ercome,
Can strive or struggle now no more;
So is my wrestling spirit wrung,
By that one deep and deadly sin,
That will not, while I live, be flung,
From its sad work of woe within.
"My native hills are far away,
Beneath a soft and sunny sky;
Green as the sea, the forests play,
'Mid the fresh winds that sweep them by.
I loved those hills, I loved the flowers,
That dashed with gems their sunny swells,
And oft I fondly dreamed for hours,
By streams within those mountain dells.
I loved the wood each tree and leaf,
In breeze or blast, to me was fair,
And if my heart was touched with grief,
I always found a solace there.
My parents slumbered in the tomb;
But thrilling thoughts of them came back,
And seemed within my breast to bloom.
As lone I ranged the forest track.
The wild flowers rose beneath my feet
Like memories dear of those who slept,
And all around to me was sweet,
Although, perchance, I sometimes wept.
I wept, but not, oh not in sadness,
And those bright tears I would not smother,
For less they flowed in grief than gladness,
So blest the memory of my mother.
And she was linked, I know not why,
With leaves and flowers, and landscapes fair
And all beneath the bending sky,
As if she still were with me there.
The echo bursting from the dell,
Recalled her song beside my bed;
The hill-side with its sunny swell,
Her bosom-pillow for my head.
The breathing lake at even-tide,
When o'er it fell the down of night,
Seemed the sweet heaven, which by her side,
I found in childhood's dreams of light:
And morning, as it brightly broke,
And blessed the hills with joyous dyes,
Was like her look, when first I woke,
And found her gazing in my eyes.
"Nature became my idol; wood,
Wave, wilderness, I loved them all;
I loved the forest and the solitude,
That brooded o'er the waterfall,
I loved the autumn winds that flew
Between the swaying boughs at night,
And from their whispers fondly drew
Wild woven dreams of lone delight.
I loved the stars, and musing sought
To read them in their depths of blue
My fancy spread her sail of thought,
And o'er that sea of azure flew.
Hovering in those blest paths afar,
The wheeling planets seem to trace,
My spirit found some islet-star,
And chose it for its dwelling-place.
I loved the morn, and ere the lay
Of plaintive meadow-lark began,
'Mid dewy shrubs I tore my way,
Up the wild crag where waters ran.
I listened to the babbling tide,
And thought of childhood's merry morn,
I listened to the bird that tried
Prelusive airs, amid the thorn.
And then I went upon my way;
Yet ere the sunrise kissed my cheek,
I stood upon the forehead gray
Of some lone mountain's dizzy peak.
A ruddy light was on the hill,
But shadows in the valley slept;
A white mist rested o'er the rill,
And shivering leaves with tear-drops wept.
The sun came up, and nature woke,
As from a deep and sweet repose;
From every bush soft music broke,
And blue wreaths from each chimney rose.
From the green vale that lay below.
Full many a carol met my ear;
The boy that drove the teeming cow.
And sung or whistled in his cheer;
The dog that by his master's side,
Made the lone copse with echoes ring:
The mill that whirling in the tide,
Seemed with a droning voice to sing;
The lowing herd, the bleating flock,
And many a far-off murmuring wheel:
Each sent its music up the rock,
And woke my bosom's echoing peal.
"And thus my early hours went o'er:
Each scene and sound but gave delight;
Or if I grieved, 'twas like the shower,
That comes in sunshine, brief and bright.
My heart was like the summer lake,
A mirror in some valley found,
Whose depths a mimic world can make
More beautiful than that around.
The wood, the slope, the rocky dell,
To others dear, were dearer yet
To me; for they would fondly dwell
Mirrored in memory; and set
In the deep azure of my dreams
At night, how sweet they rose to view!
How soft the echo, and the streams,
How swift their laughing murmurs flew!
And when the vision broke at morn,
The music in my charmed ear,
As of some fairy's lingering horn,
My native hills, how soft, how dear!
"So passed my boyhood; 'twas a stream
Of frolic flow, 'mid Nature's bowers;
A ray of light a golden dream
A morning fair a path of flowers!
But now another charm came o'er me:
The ocean I had never seen;
Yet suddenly it rolled before me,
With all its crested waves of green!
Soft sunny islands, far and lone,
Where the shy petrel builds her nest;
Deep coral caves to mermaids known
These were my visions bright and blest.
Oh! how I yearned to meet the tide,
And hear the bristling surges sweep;
To stand the watery world beside,
And ponder o'er the glorious deep!
I bade my home adieu, and bent
My eager footsteps toward the shore,
And soon my native hills were blent,
With the pale sky that arched them o'er.
Four days were passed, and now I stood
Upon a rock that walled the deep:
Before me rolled the boundless flood,
A glorious dreamer in its sleep.
'Twas summer morn, and bright as heaven;
And though I wept, I was not sad,
For tears, thou knowest, are often given
When the overflowing heart is glad.
Long, long I watched the waves, whose whirls
Leaped up the rocks, their brows to kiss,
And dallied with the sea-weed curls,
That stooped and met, as if in bliss.
Long, long I listened to the peal,
That whispered from the pebbly shore,
And like a spirit seemed to steal
In music to my bosom's core.
And now I looked afar, and thought
The sea a glad and glorious thing;
And fancy to my bosom brought
Wild dreams upon her wizard wing
Her wing that stretched o'er spreading waves,
And chased the far-off flashing ray,
Or hovering deep in twilight caves,
Caught the lone mermaid at her play.
"And thus the sunny day went by,
And night came brooding o'er the seas;
A thick cloud swathed the distant sky,
And hollow murmurs filled the breeze.
The white gull screaming, left the rock,
And seaward bent its glancing wing,
While heavy waves, with measured shock,
Made the dun cliff with echoes ring.
How changed the scene! The glassy deep
That slumbered in its resting-place,
And seeming in its morning sleep
To woo me to its soft embrace,
Now wakened, was a fearful thing,
A giant with a scowling form,
Who from his bosom seemed to fling
The blackened billows to the storm.
The wailing winds in terror gushed
From the swart sky, and seemed to lash
The foaming waves, which madly rushed
Toward the tall cliff with headlong dash.
Upward the glittering spray was sent,
Backward the growling surges whirled,
And splintered rocks by lightnings rent,
Down thundering midst the waves were hurled.
I trembled, yet I would not fly;
I feared, yet loved, the awful scene;
And gazing on the sea and sky,
Spell-bound I stood the rocks between.
"'Twas strange that I, a mountain boy,
A lover of green fields and flowers,
One, who with laughing rills could toy,
And hold companionship for hours,
With leaves that whispered low at night,
Or fountains bubbling from their springs,
Or summer winds, whose downy flight,
Seemed but the sweep of angel wings:
'Twas strange that I should love the clash
Of ocean in its maddest hour,
And joy to see the billows dash
O'er the rent cliff with fearful power.
'Twas strange, but I was nature's own,
Unchecked, untutored; in my soul
A harp was set that gave its tone
To every touch without control.
The zephyr stirred in childhood warm,
Thoughts like itself, as soft and blest;
And the swift fingers of the storm
Woke its own echo in my breast.
Aye, and the strings that else had lain
Untouched, and to myself unknown,
Within my heart, gave back the strain
That o'er the sea and rock was thrown.
Yes, and wild passions, which had slept
Within their cradle, as the waves
At morning by the winds unswept,
Rippling within their infant caves
Now, wakened into billows, rose,
And held communion with the storm:
I saw the air and ocean close
In deadly struggle; marked the form
Of the dun cloud with misty wing,
That wrestled with the giant main;
I saw the racing billows spring
Like lions leaping from the plain;
I saw the surf that upward threw
Gray pyramids of foam to heaven;
I heard the battle-cry that flew
Along the cliff, as though t'were given
To cheer the elemental war;
I heard the wild bird screaming near;
I felt the rock beneath me jar,
As if the granite thrilled with fear;
I saw, I heard, yet in my heart
The cloud, the cliff, the billow seemed
As of myself an imaged part,
Things I had seen, or oft had dreamed;
And in my ear, the thundering tide
Was music, and the ocean's moan
An echo of my spirit, wide
As the wave, and stormy as its own.
"So passed my morning dreams away,
Like birds that shun a wintry cloud,
And phantom visions, grim and gray,
Came mist-like from the watery shroud:
Prophetic visions of the deep,
Emblems of those within the breast,
Which, summoned from their shadowy sleep,
Ride on the storm by passion pressed!
In ghastly shapes they rose to view,
All gibbering from their crystal caves,
As if some horrid mirth they drew
From the wild uproar of the waves.
With beckoning hands they seemed to urge
My footsteps down the dizzy way,
To join their train upon the surge,
And dance with them amidst the spray:
And such the madness of my brain,
That I was fain to seek the throng;
To meet and mingle on the main,
With their mad revelry and song.
One step, and down the dizzy cliff,
My form had to the waters swung,
But gliding in a wreathy skiff,
That o'er the crested billows hung,
A white form like my mother seemed
To shine a moment on my eye;
With warning look the vision gleamed,
Then vanished upward to the sky!
"I left the thundering tide, and sought
Once more the mountain and the stream;
But long the wrestling ocean wrought
Within my bosom: as a dream
My boyhood vanished, and I woke
Startled to manhood's early morn;
No father's hand my pride to yoke,
No mother's angel voice to warn.
No, and the gentle vision, lost,
That once could curb my wayward will,
And lull my bosom passion-tossed,
With one soft whisper, "Peace, be still!"
That vision, spurned by manhood's pride,
Came down from heaven to me no more,
And I was launched without a guide,
To be a wreck on passion's shore.
Alas! the giddy bark at sea,
'Mid waves that woo it down to death,
From helm and compass wafted free,
The toy of every tempest's breath,
Is but a type of him who goes,
Trusting to nature, on the tide
Of life, where breezy passion blows,
To whelm the adventurer in his pride.
Yes, for the smoothest lake hath waves
Within its bosom, which will rise
And revel when the tempest raves;
The cloud will come o'er gentlest skies;
And not a favored spot on earth,
The furrowing ploughman finds, but there
The rank and ready weeds have birth,
Sown by the winds to mock his care.
'Tis thus with every human heart;
The seeds of ill are scattered wide,
And flaunting flowers of vice will start
Thick o'er the soil they seek to hide.
Aye, and the gentleness of youth,
That seems some hill-side sown with flowers,
Odorous, as if with budding truth,
Shoots into wild fantastic bowers.
The spark for ever tends to flame;
The ray that quivers in the plash
Of yonder river, is the same
That feeds the lightning's ruddy flash.
The summer breeze that fans the rose,
Or eddies down some flowery path,
Is but the infant gale that blows
To-morrow with the whirlwind's wrath.
And He alone, who wields the storm,
And bids the arrowy lightning play,
Can guide the heart, when wild and warm,
It springs on passion's wing away!
One angel minister is sent,
To guard and guide us to the sky,
And still Her sheltering wing is bent,
Till manhood rudely throws it by.
Oh, then with mad disdain we spurn
A mother's gentle teaching; throw
Her bosom from us, and we burn,
To rush in freedom, where the glow
Of pleasure lights the dancing wave:
We launch the bark, we woo the gale,
And reckless of the darkling grave
That yawns below, we speed the sail!
"Stranger! a murderer stands before thee!
To tell the guilty tale were vain
It is enough the curse is o'er me
And I am but a wandering Cain.
What boots it that the world bestows,
For deeds of death its honors dear?
The blood that from the duel flows,
Will cry to heaven, and heaven will hear!
Thou shalt not kill!' 'Twas deeply traced
In living stone, and thunder-sealed;
It cannot be by man effaced,
Or fashion's impious act repealed.
And though we seek with thin deceit,
To blind Jehovah's piercing gaze,
Call murder, honor, can we cheat
The Omniscient with a specious phrase?
Alas! 'tis adding crime to crime,
To veil the blood our hands have spilt,
And seek by words of softening chime,
To lend blest virtue's charm to guilt.
Oh, no! in vain the world may give
The fearful deed a gentle name
I slew my friend, and now I live
To feel perdition's glowing flame.
His missile cut the upward air
Mine, winged with murder won its way,
Straight to his manly bosom, there
He fell, unconscious as the clay!
One thrill of triumph through me swept,
But, as I gazed upon his brow,
A chilling horror o'er me crept,
And I am what thou seest now!
"Stranger, thy bosom cannot know
The desolation of the soul,
When the rough, gale hath ceased to blow,
Yet o'er it bids the billow roll.
A helmless wreck upon the tide
An earthquake's ruin wrapped in gloom
A gnarled oak blasted in its pride
Are feeble emblems of my doom.
There is a tongue in every leaf,
A sigh in every tossing tree
A murmur in each wave; of grief
They whisper, and they speak to me.
Nature hath many voices strings
Of varied melody: and oft
Lone spirits come on breezy wings,
To wake their music sad or soft.
But in the wilderness, where Heaven
Is the wrapt listener, the tone
Is ever mournful: there is given,
A chorus for the skies, alone.
At night, when the pale moonlight falls
O'er prairies, sleeping like a grave,
And glorious through these mountain halls,
Pours in a flood its silvery wave
I climb the cliff, and hear the song,
That o'er the breast of stillness steals:
I hear the cataract thundering strong
From far; I hear the wave that peals
Along the lone lake's pebbly shore;
I hear the sweeping gust that weaves
The tree tops, and the winds that pour
In rippling lapses through the leaves.
And as the diapason sweeps
Across the breast of night, the moan
Of wolves upon the spirit creeps,
Lending the hymn a wilder tone.
The panther's wail, the owlet's scream,
The whippoorwill's complaining song,
Blend with the cataract's solemn theme,
And the wild cadences prolong.
And often when the heart is chilled
By the deep harmony, the note
Of some light-hearted bird is trilled
Upon the breeze. How sweet its throat!
Yet, as a gem upon the finger
Of a pale corse, deepens the gloom,
By its bright rays that laugh and linger
In the dread bosom of the tomb;
So doth the note of that wild bird,
Sadden the anthem of the hills,
And my hushed bosom, spirit-stirred,
With lonelier desolation thrills.
"You bid me pray? aye, I have prayed!
Each cliff and cave, each rock and glen,
Have heard my ardent lips invade
The ear of Heaven, again, again.
And in the secret hour of night,
When all-revealing darkness brings
Its brighter world than this of light
My spirit, borne on wizard wings,
Hath won its upward way afar,
And ranged the shoreless sea of dreams
Hath touched at many a wheeling star
That shines beyond these solar beams;
And on the trackless deep of thought,
Like Him, who found this Western World,
'Mid doubt and storm my passage wrought,
Till weary fancy's wing was furled
And, as the sky-bent eagle, borne
Down by the lightning blast of heaven,
So was my outcast spirit torn,
And backward to its dwelling driven.
Yet not in vain, perchance, my tears,
My penitence, my patient prayer,
For, softened with the flow of years,
My breast is lightened of its care.
And once at night when meteors flew
Down on their glittering wings from heaven,
My mother's spirit met my view,
Whispering of peace and sin forgiven!
Yet, though my lip to thee confess,
My wrestling bosom's sweet relief,
Think not I count my crime the less,
That pitying Heaven hath soothed my grief.
No yon wild rose hath sweet perfume
To scatter on this desert air;
Yet, hid beneath its fragrant bloom,
Sharp thorns are set, the flesh to tear.
And thus, repentance, while it brings
Forgiveness to the broken heart,
Still leaves contrition's thousand stings
To waken sorrow with their smart.
"Such is my story this my home,
And I the monarch of the dell
Above my head, the forest dome,
Around, the battlements that swell
To heaven, and make my castle strong.
My messengers are winds that lave
Far reedy shores, and bring me song,
Blent with the murmurs of the wave.
And birds of every rainbow hue,
The antelope, and timid deer,
The wild goat mingling with the blue
Of heaven on yonder rock, are here.
And oft at morn, the mocking-bird
Doth greet me with its sweetest lay;
The wood-dove, where the bush is stirred,
Looks from its cover on my way.
I would not break the spider's thread,
The buzzing insect dances free;
I crush no toad beneath my tread,
The lizard crawls in liberty!
I harm no living thing; my sway
Of peace hath soothed the grumbling bear,
The wolf walks by in open day,
And fawns upon me from his lair.
Aye, and my heart hath bowed so low,
I gather in this solitude,
Joy from the love that seems to flow
From these brute tenants of the leafy wood.
"Stranger, farewell! The deepening eve doth warn,
And the mild moonlight beckons thee away;
And, ere the lingering night shall melt to morn,
Let thy swift foot across the prairie stray.
Nay, tempt me not! for I alone am cast,
A wretch from all I used to grieve or bless;
And doomed to wail and wander here at last,
Am deeply wedded to the wilderness.
Thy hand again shall feel the thrilling grasp
Of friendship and thine ear shall catch the tone
Of joyous kindred; and thine arm shall clasp,
Perchance, some gentle bosom to thine own.
Oh God! 'tis right for he hath never torn,
With his own daring hand the thread of life
He ne'er hath stolen thy privilege, or borne
A fellow mortal down in murderous strife!
"Stranger, farewell! these woods shall be my home,
And here shall be my grave! My hour is brief,
But while it lasts, it is my task to roam,
And read of Heaven from nature's open leaf.
And though I wander from my race away,
As some lone meteor, dim and distant, wheels
In wintry banishment, where but a ray
Of kindred stars in timid twilight steals
Still will I catch the light that faintly falls
Through my leaf-latticed window of the skies,
And I will listen to the voice that calls
From heaven, where the wind stricken forest sighs.
And I will read of dim Creation's morn,
From the deep archives of these mossy hills
On wings of wizard thought, my fancy, borne
Back by the whispers of these pouring rills,
Shall read the unwritten record of the land
For God, unwitnessed here hath walked the dell,
These cliffs have quivered at his loud command,
These waters blushed, where his deep shadow fell!
And at his bidding, 'mid these solitudes,
The ebb and flow of life have poured their waves,
Till Time, the hoary sexton of these woods,
Despairing, broods o'er the uncounted graves.
And warrior tribes have come from some far land,
And made these mountains echo with their cry
And they have mouldered and their mighty hand
Hath writ no record on the earth or sky!
And 'mid the awful stillness of their grave,
The forest oaks have flourished; and the breath
Of years hath swept their races, wave on wave,
As ages fainted on the shores of death.
The tumbling cliff perchance hath thundered deep,
Like a rough note of music in the song
Of centuries, and the whirlwind's crushing sweep,
Hath ploughed the forest with its furrows strong.
And though these legends, like the eddying leaves
Of autumn, scattered by the whirlwind's breath,
Are borne away where dim Oblivion weaves
Her shroud, within the rayless halls of death;
Still with a prophet gaze I'll thread my way,
And wake the giant spectres of the tomb;
With fancy's wand I'll chase the phantoms gray,
And burst the shadowy seal that shrouds their doom.
Thus shall the past its misty lore unfold,
And bid my soul on nature's ladder rise,
Till I shall meet some clasping hand, whose hold
Shall draw my homesick spirit to the skies.
"Farewell! the thread of sympathy that tied
My heart to man is sundered, and I go
To hold communion with the shades that glide,
Wherever forests wave, or waters flow.
And when my fluttering heart shall faint and fail,
These limbs shall totter to some hollow cave,
Where the poor Dreamer's dream shall cease. The gale
Shall gather music from the wood and wave,
And pour it in my dying ear; the wing
Of busy zephyrs to the flowers shall go,
And from them all their sweetest odors bring,
To soothe, perchance, their fainting lover's woe.
My sinking soul shall catch the dreamy sound
Of far-off waters, murmuring to their doom,
And eddying winds, from distant mountains bound,
Shall come to sing a requiem round my tomb.
The breeze shall o'er me weave a leafy shroud,
And I shall slumber in the shadowy dell
Till God shall rend the spirit's darkling cloud,
And give it wings of light. Stranger, Farewell!"