Early Writing in Canada
The Ojibway Conquest: A Tale of the Northwest
30th Aug 2022Posted in: Early Writing in Canada, George Copway 0

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THE OJIBWAY CONQUEST.

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[unnumbered page, includes illustration: ENGRAVED BY T.B. WELCH, FROM A DAGUERREOTYPE BY MCCLEES & GERMON]

THE OJIBWAY CONQUEST,

A TALE OF THE NORTHWEST.

BY

KAH-GE-GA-GAH-BOWH,

OR,

G. COPWAY, CHIEF OF THE OJIBWAY NATION.


NEW YORK:

PUBLISHED FOR THE AUTHOR BY

GEORGE P. PUTNAM, 155 BROADWAY.

1850.

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1850, by

G. COPWAY,

In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States for the

Southern District of New York.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

C. W. BENEDICT,

   Stereotyper and Printer,

       201 Willian st. [unnumbered page]

THIS SHORT SKETCH

OF THE

BRAVERY AND PROWESS

OF THE

OJIBWAY NATION,

IS MOST

RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED TO

COL. T. L. McKINNEY,

                                                                                                                BY HIS FRIEND

   K

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NOTE TO THE READER.


    OF all the numerous and populous tribes of Indians found inhabiting the northern part of this continent, at the time of its discovery, the Sioux and Ojibways alone retain anything like their original character.

    Of these two tribes, or nations, the Ojibways inhabit principally the mountainous country about Lake Superior, extending south to the plains of Illinois or Wisconsin, and on the west bordering on that of the Sioux, between whom and they have had a bloody warfare. The Mississippi valley now forms a common boundary, with the exception of the upper or the head of the great river.

    It is a well-known fact, known by all who have travelled among them, or who are conversant with [unnumbered page] their past history, and, as traditions transmitted to the present races indicates, that all the country lying south and west of the head of Lake Superior, once belonged to the Sioux. By a constant warfare, carried on for a great many years, and a succession of misfortunes and defeats, the Sioux were at length compelled to abandon, to their more fortunate enemies, all of their possessions east of the Mississippi river, and even a not inconsiderable portion on the west of its more northern sources. Tradition says that the last decisive battle was fought near the islands of the south-west end of the Superior, known as the “Apostle Islands,” on a point where La Point now stands. It is on this circumstance that the following tale is founded.

    This is given in a form which may be interesting to some, who otherwise might not be interested in the nation,—whose ever kind intercourse with the pale faces has ever been apparent. None who have lived any length of time among us, could but have observed the manner of relating historical narrations of by-gone days to the children, as the Ojibways do.

    I am very glad to think that justice has been done [page viii] to them by many writers, in their tales, and the peculiar romance which belong to them.

    A residence of Teba-koo-ne-wa-we-ne-neh, in the remote west, originated the tale     presented now presented to the public.

                                                                                     KAH-GE-GA-GAH-BOWH,

                                                                                                                          Ojibway Nation.

    NEW YORK, April 25, 1850. [page ix]

TO ELIZA ——.

I HAVE no words to tell the loveliness

Which breathes o’er thy fair form; then how much less

The bright, the pure, the beautiful, the blest,

Which wake their harmony within thy breast.

When after weary wanderings by wood,

And lake, and stream, and mountain wilds, I stood

Upon thy island home, thy guileless heart

A healing welcome gave. When forced to part,

And the frail bark, that o’er the waters bore

Me on my way at last from thy loved shore,

Receded in the distance from thy view,

Thy lovely hand waved a most sweet adieu.

Fair daughter! accept this tribute of a breast,

Rich in thy smiles, hath been so richly blest. [unnumbered page]

THE OJIBWAY CONQUEST.


THE ST. LOUIS.

THERE is a stream that hath its rise

Beneath the veil of northern skies,

Where frosts, and snows eternal meet

In wild array the wanderer’s feet,

And all, above, beneath, around,

Is fast in icy fetters bound;

A gloomy, wild, a dreary waste

As ever the eye of man embraced;

Where shrub,—if shrub perchance be there,

Blooms not as elsewhere, fresh and fair;

But stinted, bare, and small of growth,

It nestles to the earth as loath

To spread its branches where the breeze [unnumbered page]

Which passes, kisses but to freeze;

And if a flower should rear its head

From such inhospitable bed,

When thawing snows may yield a day

To summer sun’s resistless sway,

It is a flower which doth not blight (1)

By frosts that clothe its leaves in white,

But smiles e’en from its bed of snow.

Like Hope upon the lap of Woe.

The reindeer there, roams fleet and free,

And men as wild and fleet as he,—

Though small in size, of iron mould,—

No fear of storms,— no thought of cold,—

With limbs unchilled, unslackened pace,

They fleetly follow in the chase,

From dawn till twilight paints the west, (2)

Without a moment lent to rest,—

Then stretched at length upon the snows,

Till morn they find a sweet repose.

    Ah! little knows the child of ease,—

Whom everything is culled to please,

To whose convenience every shore,

From North and South must yield its store, [page 12]

And o’er whose well protected form

There never beats the freezing storm,—

Ah! little knows he of the woes

Which gather round the life of those

Who live, in nature’s rudest mood,

In these deep haunts of solitude,—

For though the tempest’s power hath wrought,

To their bold minds, with danger fraught,

Though youth and manhood, and old age

Succeed in their accustomed stage,

The body bared to every wind,—

The chase that leaves the deer behind,—

The frequent want, the frequent fast,

Break up life’s healthful flow at last,

And leave a wreck ’tis dread to see,

Of what was once so bold and free. [page 13]

II.


THE STREAM.

“THOU fair St. Louis! such the scene (3)

    From which thy waters flow;

But different far the land of green

    To which from thence they go,—

For many a long, long mile they speed,

    Through fairer, brighter lands,

Tranquil and free like a noble steed

    Unchecked by rider’s hands;

From their far source to where they pour

    Into bright Superior’s side,

All is wild nature on thy shore,—

    Man hath not curbed thy tide;—

But on thou flowest in thy might

    Untainted as when God

First called thee sparkling unto light,

    At his creative nod. [unnumbered page]

The vale through which thy waters sweep,—

The forest shade, the craggy steep,—

The eataract whose thunder fills

The echoes of an hundred hills,

The deep ravine, the precious mine,

Whose ores beneath thy current shine,

Such is the path thy waters take,

Ere lost within the Ocean Lake.

O! often on thy limpid stream,

Hid from the noon tide’s sultry beam,

By trees, whose giant branches cast

A deep shade o’er me as I passed,

Hath my light bark now danced along

To music of some carolled song,—

Or floating, like the lightest bird,

It only with the current stirred,

While I have passed hour after hour,

Beneath the scene’s enchanting power,—

The sweetest perfume on the air

From thousand wild flowers growing there,—

And colours of the brightest hue

On every side that met the view;

The wild rose, with its sweets beguiling [page 15]

Along the shore so brightly smiling,

Whose petals falling on the wave,

Their own hue to the current gave;—

The mellow light of different dyes

Which came from forest shaded skies;—

The stillness, over all that dwelt,

So deep it could almost be felt;—

All these have held me many a day

    O, who that has a heart to feel,

Would barter one such hour as this

    For all the gay world can reveal,

Or all it ever knew of bliss!

    Pleasures! in vain the precious gem

Ye seek in fashion’s heartless throng,—

    Ask those who seek there, ask them

Who sought the floating phantom long.

    There’s not a joy that throng can give,

Which does not cost a pang more deep;

    There’s not a pleasure it bids live,

But lulls some virtue into sleep. [page 16]

III.


THE DANCE.

MANY a year has passed away

Sinee at the close of summer’s day

Upon a green and level side

Which overlooks St. Louis’ tide

A noble band of warriors stood

Who roam at will this solitude.

The bow, the spear, the barbed dart,

Which errs not pointed at the heart,

The paint in earnest colours spread,

Not for maid’s love, but foeman’s dread,

The plumes which in their raven hair

Waved graceful at each breath of air,—

The trophies in their battles taken,

When foeman’s prowess had been shaken,— [unnumbered page]

Each warrior there, was decked with these, (4)

Profuse as summer decks the trees.

The foremost of this hero band

A standard carried in his hand,

Which from its waving top displayed

A flag most curiously made

From feathers of the wild bird’s wing, (5)

Of every shade of colouring.

He was a youth, in whom combined

All that was bright, in form and mind;

The noble forehead, broad and high,

The soul that shone within his eye,

The thoughts which o’er his features played

With quick and ever varying shade,

The limbs where strength was seen to dwell

In every full and graceful swell,

Distinguished him as one of those

Where nature’s fairest gifts repose,—

ME-GI-SI,* such the name he bore,

The Eagle of the Lonely Shore,

And as he planted in the ground

That pinion’s shaft amid the sound

          *Name of the eagle.—OJIBWAY LANGUAGE. [page 18]

Of drum, and song, and echoing shout, (6)

He looked like Mars himself come out

To take, as in the days of yore,

The van upon the field of gore.

Around this shaft with measured pace

Each warrior found a ready place,

And soon the circling folds advance

And mingling in the wild war-dance,

While ever and anon a loud

And piercing whoop rose from the crowd,

In answering echoes far and near;—

And when they died in air away,

Each warrior in that dread array

Stood like a statue planted deep,

So still and firm their track they keep;

While at each pause a brave advanced

Within the ring, then round him glance,

And in rude eloquence portrayed

The havoc he in war had made,

The feats of bravery he had done, (7)

The scalps from slaughtered victims won,

As well of fallen warrior bold, [page 19]

As wife and child, of these he told,

And as he held them out to view.

Some of them yet of fresh blood hue,

And raised the war whoop loud and high,

With swelling breast and flashing eye,

He seemed again amid the strife

With which his tale had been so rife—

That morn had pealed the rolling drum

Amid the cry “They come! They come!

The Sioux! The Sioux!” And at the sound,

Each warrior’s foot was on the ground,

And knife to knife, breast to breast,

The doubtful strife they long contest,—

They fought as though their blood were water,

Resumed again when ceased the slaughter,

They fought like men whose deadly hate

Nothing but death could satiate.

The Sioux at length were forced to yield

And leave to foe a hard-earned field—

Some fled and some were captive led,

Better to have been with the dead,—

Better by far, for thought to-night

They have from death a brief respite, [page 20]

They’re not deceived, for well they know

To-morrow comes the fatal blow,

It comes with all the cruel art

Hate can invent to wring the heart,

When should it quail or yield to fear,

They die without a pitying tear,—

They die and meet the recreant’s end,

Despised alike by foe and friend. [page 21]

IV.


THE WENDIGO.

THE dance is o’er—the revel past,

And of that savage host the last

Hath thrown himself upon the ground

And his accustomed slumber found.

Close by their side the captives slept,

And watch or guard there none was kept,

For hand and foot securely tied,

Vain were the effort, had they tried,

To shake from off their limbs the thong

Which bound them in its folds so strong;

Vain, did I say;—no, one was there,

Who, though the bands he knew to wear,

While eye of foe was on him bent,—

And to his skill a caution lent,— [unnumbered page]

When watchful eyes were sunk to rest,

And measured breathings heaved the breast,

Could tear those shackles from his flesh,

As easy as the spider’s mesh. (8)

The frosts of many winters sped

Had left their traces upon his head,—

His life, which passed in constant wars,

Had marked him with a thousand scars,—

But every iron muscle told

That vigor had not yet grown old.

He might have lost youth’s spring and grace,

But strength had well supplied their place,

Whether by force or magic spell

He burst his shackles, none could tell,

Yet never, but for one brief hour,

Had they upon his limbs a power.

Among his native brethren famed

For many years he had been named

For feats of strength and wondrous art,—

The WEN DI GO OF ICY HEART. (9)

In the day’s strife of ancient foes,

To which this night had brought a close,

His heavy blows, which fell like rain, [page 23]

Had worked his way with heaps of slain.

Through yielding ranks he held his place,

Till like a rock at whose firm base

The ocean breaks in murmurs hoarse,

ME-GI-SI checked his onward course.

       As springs the tiger on his prey

When pressed by hunger, so sprang they;—

Reckless of all that might oppose,

They rushed upon each others blows,

And grappled with a force they feel

To which the grasp of vice of steel

Would be an infant’s touch. The knife

Then flashes quick in deadly strife.

They fought as though on them alone

The fortunes of the day were thrown.

They fought as if they proudly felt

On no mean foe their blows were dealt.

Each nerve to its last tension wrought—

Like meeting thunder-bolts they fought.

The WEN DI GO’s superior strength

O’ercame youth’s suppleness at length,

And while ME-GI-SI freely bleeds,

He of the icy heart succeeds; [page 24]

His blade is raised to strike the blow,

The last he need to strike, when lo!

His threatening arm all sudden stops,

And down as by a palsy drops;

He stood a moment fixed and still,

Then yielded at ME-GI-SI’s will;

And captive now and captor keeping

Side by side are calmly sleeping.

    Midnight had passed, and there they lay

In rest unbroke, that warrior band;—

The powerful conflict of the day

Had now relaxed each iron hand.

The moon, too, now had sunk to rest

Behind the hills which skirt the west,

And damp mists from the river rose,

And o’er the banks in circles close.

A silence deep was over all

Except the noisy waterfall,

That, indistinct by distance, fell

Alternatively in ebb and swell,

When hush! a careful hand is pressed

Upon the brave ME-GI-SI’s breast.

The touch awoke him quick as thought; [page 25]

He sprang upon his feet and caught

Within one hand his ready blade,

The other on the foeman laid;

But when he saw in what calm mood

The WEN-DI-GO before him stood,

He did not strike, but for a space

They looked within each other’s face,—

ME-GI-SI with a blended feeling

Of awe and wonder o’er him stealing,

And which he could not all conceal

By the dim light the stars reveal,—

Sternness and dignity alone

Upon the other’s features shone.

The WEN-DI-GO the silence broke,

As scarce above his breath he spoke,

“Youth are you brave! Then follow me;” (10)

Thus saying, turning carefully,

And with a step that had no sound,

To wake the foemen sleeping round,

He passed,—and striding on before,

Pursued the winding trail that bore

Through wild grass of a growth most rank

Along the river’s sloping bank. [page 26]

ME-GI-SI for a moment cast

His eyes upon him as he passed,—

Irresolute then quickly sped

Along the track the other led,

And now by the dim starlight they

Together hold their silent way. [page 27]

V.


THE CAVE.

A LEAGUE was passed, yet on they went,—

Whate’er their thoughts, they had no vent;

But mute they still their way pursued,

Deeper within the solitude.

    At length the youth impatient grown,

Paused and exclaimed in no slight tone—

“That I am brave no longer thou

Canst doubt from what thou seest now,—

If thou hadst not that lesson learned

By yesterday’s experience earned.

The distance now precludes all fear

Of treacherous band or listening ear,

Then tell thy wish what e’er it be,

Thou’ll find no coward heart in me,— [unnumbered page]

Speak! or this knife may shame to wear

Another sheath than that I bear.”

“Peace, fool,” replied the WEN-DI-GO,

As quick as he turned and struck a blow

That sent the spinning blade so well

They could not hear it where it fell.

“Check thy hot blood, nor deem that I

Have brought thee here for treachery,—

Think you, had I desired your life,

Ere you awoke could not my knife

Have borne to your unconscious breast

The blow that brings eternal rest?

I have a tale will pierce thy heart

Worse than a foeman’s barbed dart,—

Doubt not, but follow me,” and then

Turned and pursued the trail again,—

Nor long pursued before around

A bold and rocky point it would,

Which sent its craggy summit high

Aloft into the dusky sky,

And terminated in a cove

Formed by the arching rocks above.

Here entered they, and on a rock, [page 29]

Torn from the roof by some rude shock,

They took their seat. A wilder spot

Throughout the universe is not

As this which now their steps had found,

Than that by which they were surround.

Far, far away beneath the ground

There came a hoarse and gurgling sound

Of water into fury lashed,

As o’er some precipice ’twere dashed;—

The owl, scared by their entrance, fled,

And screamed its notes above their head;—

Lank wolves, whose den the cave had been,

Prowled round them as they entered in,—

While just without the cavern’s door,

The waters of St. Louis roar,

As o’er the dizzy fall they flow;

And then an hundred feet below,

With deafening sound they break and boil

In endless strife and wild turmoil.

“Here in this dark and gloomy grot,”—

The WEN-DI-GO began,—“a spot

Where oft, ’tis said, the Manitou

Unveils himself to human view. [page 30]

And smiles or frowns as he discovers

Of truth or falsehood they are lovers;—

Here let me rest while I disclose

A tale may leave us no more foes,

And the Great Spirit do by me

As I shall deal in truth with thee.

    You wonder that I brought you here,

But ah! you know not half how dear

Is this wild spot to me. Strange chance

Which brings again within my glance

The scenes where long, long winters past,

When the quiet blood of youth flowed fast,

I wandered with my bow well strung

And quiver o’er my shoulders flung,

And if my arrow rightly sped

When pointed at the wild bird’s head,

Whatever fortune might betide,

My merry heart was satisfied.

Here, too, in after years I roved

In fondness with the bride I loved;—

This was our home, till that foul day

When the accursed Ojibway

Rushed down upon us, scattering death [page 31]

Like Evil Spirit’s poisoned breath,

And with false heart and bloody hand

Drove us from our paternal land.

Thou knowest well the hatred strong

Hath dwelt between our nations long,

And from this land where now you see

The curs’d Ojibway roving free,

Thou knowest by that hated race

The Sioux was torn till not a place

By stream or mountain now is left

Of which he hath not been bereft.

Strange chance! Upon that very steep

Where those we left so lately, sleep,

My wigwam stood. My bride as bright

As the unclouded moon at night;—

Ahpuckways from rushes wove (11)

And sung sweet notes which spake of love, —

While o’er the grass with prattling joy

Gambolled, with happy heart, our boy.

It was a bright and summer’s day;—

They were alone, I was away

Upon the wild deer’s track. Night fell

And I returned, but who can tell [page 32]

The anguish of that hour! I came

To see my wigwam in a flame,—

My wife was slain,— the purple tide

Was oozing yet warm from her side,

But still so sweet was that faint smile

Which shone upon her face the while,

I could not deem her dead, but flung

Myself upon the ground, and clung

To her loved side, kissing away

The crimson drops of blood that lay

Sprinkled upon her pallid cheeks;

And then in wild and broken shrieks

I fondly called upon her name;—

I kissed her lips; but closed in death

Those lips from which there came no breath.

I sought my boy, but he was gone,

And I in anguish and alone,

Stood like an oak, The thunder bird

Had riven at the spirit’s word. (12)

Till that day passion’s fearful blast

Had never o’er my spirit passed.—

No angry strife, no withering care,

No burning curse had entered there; [page 33]

My bride, my boy, they were the springs

That ever moved my spirit’s wings.— 

But as I stood and wept to view

Her own heart’s blood, my bride bedew,

And thought upon the hated foe

Whose arm had dealt the scathing blow,

Dark thoughts within my soul found place

In strange and lightening-like embrace.

Horror and anguish, and despair

Alone at first were mingled there,

But these full soon gave place to one

Deep, burning passion, which alone

Took full possession of my breast.

Revenge! Revenge! How I caressed

The darling thought.—All else that life

Deems worthy of a mortal’s strife,

Was swallowed up in this wild thirst

For vengeance on the foe accursed.

I knelt upon the turf beside

The murdered body of my bride,

And with one hand upon her head,

The other with the warm blood red,

There in a presence of the dead, [page 34]

I vowed my first and latest breath

To hate, to vengeance and to death!

    Winters have passed, and it is now

Long since I made that fearful vow,

But never since that fatal hour

Hath it a moment lost its power.

How well it hath been kept, let those

Who fell beneath my arm disclose.

Revenge! It is a powerful charm

To steel the heart and nerve the arm,

To give the foot unwanted speed,

And to the eye in hour of need

A lynx-like quickness; such I’ve proved

The passion that within me moved.

An hundred warriors hath this hand

Already sent to that far land

Where wander shadows of the dead

By the dim light Aurora shed. (13)

Thine would have been among the rest,

But that I marked upon thy breast

That which withheld my lifted head.

My bride had in our happy hours,

Marked, with the dyes of various flowers, [page 35]

Such as our tribe alone employ,

Our Totem on our little boy. (14)

I saw upon thy breast that sign,—

I knew it well,—Yes! Thou art mine!—

My long lost child! Thy purple veins

No foul Ojibway blood sustains.

O’er thy bold form there is no trace

Of that despised, snake-hearted race,

Who not contented our fair land

To desolate with knife and brand,

Must yet, our very sons engage,

Contest against their sires to wage.

But theirs no more, thy iron nerve;

Rather than thou that foe shouldst serve

My blade shall penetrate thy heart,

E’en though my only child thou art.

If yet a single spark remains

Of noble impulse in thy veins,

And contact with the Ojibway

Hath not extinguished the last ray

Of the proud spirit of thy sires,—

Now, ere the waning night expires,

Swear to revenge the wrongs we bear, [page 36]

And hers, thy murdered mother’s, swear!”

The old man ceased, and had the light

Permitted him the welcome sight,

He would have seen that haughty ire

Which lent his eye its dazzling fire,

The features of the youth reveal,

As thus he answered the appeal:—

    “By the dread Monitou that dwells

Within these arched and craggy dells,—

By her whose bright and watchful eye

Was o’er me bent in infancy,  

I swear!” The echoes of the word

Along the cavern’s roof was heard,

And when they died away, a sigh,

Soft as when evening winds pass by,—

Sweet as the swan’s expiring notes (15)

Upon the air around them floats.

“Hush,” said the WEN-DI-GO; “It is

My bride came from the bower of bliss,

In the far country of the dead,

To breathe a blessing o’er thy head.

Thou shadowy spirit, for whose sake, (16)

I live both when I sleep and wake, [page 37]

Whose influence in rest and strife

Hath been the guide-star of my life,

And to revenge whose wrongs, no pains,

No torture could my hand restrain,

Delay thy flight to the bright shore,

Which waits thy coming, till once more,

As in that bitter day, I swear

For every tress of thy fair hair

Which decked thy head when laid so low

I’ll pluck a scalp from that of foe.

Spirit! Let this thy sadness cheat,

Till shadows both again we meet. (17)  [page 38]

VI.


THE COUNCIL.

UPON a mountain whose high peak

The very heavens seems to seek

Which rises on the southern shore

And looks Superior’s water o’er,

Are gathering now the few who fled,

When yesterday so illy sped.

Though the gray dawn of morn appeared,

Ere from the cave their course they steered,

And many a long mile lay between

This place and where the strife had been,

The gathered ranks already show

ME-GI-SI and the WEN-DI-GO.

     Quickly they came and silent meet, [unnumbered page]

Without a word or look to greet,—

But each as up the steep he wound,

Threw himself mutely on the ground,

Till of that scattered band the last

Had to his place in silence passed.

No darkly agitated trace

Could be discovered in the face

Of ardent youth of furrowed age

To tell of passion’s inward rage,—

But, every brow was calm and stern,

Whatever smothered fires might burn

The WEN-DI-GO, to whom the lead,

As well in council as in dead,

Had long been given as his due,

For wisdom, deep, and courage true,

Slowly arose. There was no burst

Of passion in his words at first,

But calmly over each event

That marked their recent strife he went

And e’en his voice grew sadly mild

As his words turned upon his child

Whom the great Monitou, he said,

Had now restored as from the dead, [page 40]

From which the cheering hope he drew,

Although their numbers might be few,

The Monitou was still their friend,

And would not fail them in the end,

A hallowed cause like theirs to bless

With signal and complete success.—

But when he dwelt upon the wrong

Which they had now endured so long

From the foul race of Ojibway,

And pointed to the land that lay

Far as the eye around could roam,

And told them, that was once their home,

But home from which they were expelled,

And now by hated foemen held,—

The powers which in his bosom reigned,

But which till then he had restrained,

Burst forth and like Heaven’s lightning glowed,

While every working feature showed

The fearful torrent-like control

Which passion held within his soul.

Like fire when o’er the prairies rushing

Or torrents from a mountain gushing,

The impulse of his own was pressed [page 41]

With light-like speed from breast to breast.

No bosom there but was on fire,

No heart which did not glow with ire;

And when he ceased, in such dread yell

Upon the air their warwhoop fell,

The wild beast from his covert fled,

The wild birds screamed above their head,

And long when from their lips it died,

It echoed down the mountain’s side.

    A free discussion then arose

For every warrior to propose

What to each one might seem to show

The best advantage o’er the foe.

    At no great distance to the right,

And only hidden from their sight

By rocky bluffs, which ledge on ledge

Abrupt rose in the water’s edge,

Within a large and quiet bay

A clustering group of islands lay.

Here scattered o’er the banks of green,

And shady groves, there might be seen

Many a lodge whose bark so white (18)

Was sending back the noonday light. [page 42]

Upon these isles the Ojibway,

Since, from their homes they drove away

The conquered Sioux, had dwelt secure,

And deeming them at once a sure

And safe retreat, had gathered all

Incessant warfare did not call,

To deeds from deeds already done,

To keep the land thus foully won.

To this fair spot each thought was turned,

And every warrior’s bosom burned

To win again those long-lost isles

And live within their quiet smiles.

Here then each heart resolved as soon

As reached to-morrow’s sun its noon,

To strike a blow should free the land

From the accursed foemen’s hand,

Or fighting till the last was slain,

Leave their hearts’ blood upon the plain. [page 43]

VII.


THE SACRIFICE.

THE day that dawned upon the foe,

ME-GI-SI and the WEN-DI-GO

Had left while all unconscious rest

Was reigning over every breast,

Awoke the encampment’s busy hum,

And, at the sound of signal drum,

The warriors gathered round their chief,

Whose look was stern, whose words were brief.

He waved his hand, and quick as thought

A shaft of stoutest oak was brought

And planted firmly in the ground;—

To this with wending thongs were bound

The captives whose unhappy fate,

Must gratify their captor’s hate. [unnumbered page]

And where is he who always bore

The foremost honors heretofore,—

And where the noble captive he

Had led in their late victory?

Strange that he comes not, he, whose hand

Was ever first to light the brand,

And by whom were the victors tied;—

None ever knew the knots to slide.

ME-GI-SI, favourite of all,

Why comes he not at comrades call?—

And why lays he the rest behind,

While other hands the victories bind?—

These are the questions rapidly

From lip to lip are heard to fly.

    By the Ojibway ’tis believed

That when a mortal hath received

A victorious and fearful fast,

And day and night in watching passed,

And who hath long withdrawn his mind

From all communion with his kind,

And hath within the forest’s shade

His home with evil spirits made,

Learning from them each magic art [page 45]

Which their instruction can impart,

And hath his heart darkly imbued

With all of ill, and naught of good.—

These do a fearful power instil

Beyond all merely human skill,

Freedom, at will the form to change,

The water, earth, or air to range,—

And most of all they strangely give

Desire on human flesh to live.

Thus when an hour or more is sped,

And still no trace of either fled,

They doubt not that the haughty Sioux,

With whom ME-GI-SI had to do,

Was one of these, and deem full well

Their favorite by his magic fell.

The unhallowed rites no longer wait,

Their thirst for blood to satiate,

But with redoubled zeal are made,

Because unwillingly delayed.—

Nothing their vengeance could suggest

To daunt the heart or wring the breast,

But was prepared with savage art

In the dire scene to bear a part.— [page 46]

The faggots at the victim’s feet,

The scrouge their naked flesh to beat,

The arrows of the pine well dried,

The bow to hurl them in their side,

And as the flames around them rise,

Burning to aid their agonies;—

Tortures like these they do not lack

The victim’s outward sense to rack;—

But more tormenting far are those

Designed to wake his inward throes,—

The taunts, the gibe, the goading sneer,

The insulting charge of coward fear,

Imbecile strength the bow to bend,

And erring skill the shaft to send,

A soul which could not look on pain,

And hands which had no foeman slain,

Limbs bowed with grief and not with years,

And eyes which shone, but not with tears;—

Such were the taunts upon them hurled,

As o’er their forms the hot blaze curled.

    What sounds are those that fills the air,

Above all others echoing there,

As doth the cataract’s loud roar, [page 47]

The brook which murmurs at its shore,

Or thunders bursting through the sky,

The owlets hoarse and startled cry?

It is the victim’s death-song shout

Which burst from their firm bosoms out,

Casting defiance at their foes,

And mocking at the torturing throes

Their thirsty vengeance would bestow;—

The hissing flames which round them glow

To break their courage have no power,

But as exulting as in hour

When victory hath wreathed their brow,

Is the bold shout they put forth now.

The noble deeds they have performed,

The noble thoughts their hearts have warmed,

The sunset land, so bright and fair,

Which waits to bid them welcome there;—

These are the burden of their song

Which swells in such proud notes along.

    Brave Sons of Nature! Ye need not,

To make you at this moment what

Hath been, will be, while time succeeds,

And hearts alive to noble deeds,— [page 48]

The admiration of mankind,

Ye need not in the mazes wind

Of the philosophy of schools,

To teach you the eternal rules

Of fortitude and self-control

And all, which doth exalt the soul.

    Fainter and fainter,—yet still clear

That death-song falls upon the ear

Of those who dance around the fires,

Where bravery such as this expires.

At length each victim’s voice is still

And vengeance now hath drank its fill.


   

The fires are out, the warriors gone,—

And, MO-NING-WUN-AH ere the sun

Sinks to his couch behind the west,

Their barks upon thy shores shall rest. [page 49]

VIII.


THE LOVERS.

THE sun had set,—the clouds which fringed

The sky were gorgeously tinged

With gold, and purple, and all dyes

Which make the summer sunset skies

So lovely, and whose rays impart

To every impulse of the heart

Such chastened, hallowed thoughts, as are

Akin to the soft light which there

Beams forth so beautifully bright,

Sweet herald of approaching night!

    O’er the calm waters of the bay,

Where the Ojibway Island lay,

Those rays are glanced in many a track

To the bright clouds, which send them back [unnumbered page]

Beneath the waters where they glow,

Forming a mimic heaven below.

Oh! that such hallowed scenes as this

Should ever look on ought but bliss!

When the fond soul hath felt the power

Of this enchanting, soothing hour

To wipe out every stain which care

Or sin hath left corroding there,—

Oh! why will it again return

To drink from the polluted urn,

With which guilty pleasures allure

The bosoms thus, once, rendered pure.


This lovely scene has passed away,

And the last tints of dying day

Are fading from the western skies,—

When MO-NING-WUN-AH, there arise

Along thy shores a voice’s wail,

Whose accents through thy lovely vale

All sorrowful and plaintive spread;—

It is the wailing for the dead (19)

When the light barks, the rest that bore, [page 51]

Passed rapidly upon thy shore,

A maiden band was there to find

If brother, lover, stayed behind;

And as they found them there, or not,

With joy or grief they left the spot,—

And now when the faint twilight spreads

Its sombre veil above their heads,

The voice of mother, sister, bride,

Is mingled in the plaintive tide,

For those they may not greet again,

Who sleeps upon the battle plain.

But one was there from whose distressed

And deeply agitated breast

No wailings flowed;— she could not weep,—

Her agony was all too deep.

ME-ME, fair child of light and love! (20)

Lovely and beautiful above

All earthly power to describe,

In the soft language of her tribe. (21)

She had most fittingly been styled

The DOVE, so innocent and mild

The feelings nature had impressed

Upon her bright and sinless breast. [page 52]

No thought which did not breathe of Heaven

Had ever to her heart been given,—

No passion angels might not own

Had ever in her dark eyes shone,—

But all was hallowed, pure and bright

As heaven’s own celestial light.

The form that held that soul encased

So sinless, was the no less graced

With more that the rapt heart ere deemed

Of bright when it most fondly dreamed.

She loved with all the power of such,

To love when tones from others tough

The chords which with responsive thrill

Vibrate in their own heart until

There is no power or faculty

Within the soul, all joyously

Which doth not tremble with the weight

Of feeling which it hath in freight.

Such was the love, so pure, so deep,

ME-GI-SI from its mystic sleep

Had wakened never more to rest,

To life within her gentle breast.

They loved as mortals never should— [page 53]

To stake the whole life hath of good

Upon one cast, and see that fail,—

O, the sad tortures which assail

The trusting heart! And ME-ME felt

Hers with this bitter anguish melt,

When he whose smiles alone could give

All for which she would wish to live,

Came not, and as she deemed no more

Would roam with her their happy shore.

    There was a sweet secluded spot,

A gentle point which slightly shot

With sloping bank into the bay,

Where often at the close of day,

Apart from these whose noisy mirth

Had in it all too much of earth

For pleasures of that hallowed kind

Which love had in their hearts enshrined,

She and ME-GI-SI passed the hours

In weaving garlands of bright flowers,

And circling with love’s trembling hand,

Around their brows the fragrant band,

Or breathing to each other’s ear

The tender words they loved to hear,— [page 54]

He with a deep and noble feeling

His passion’s fervent strength revealing,—

While she with less of words perchance,

But with a bright, enrapturing glance

From her full eyes responsive turned,

To all that in his own heart burned;

Or leaning fondly on his breast,

She sung the dying day to rest.

    Now, while with melancholy swell

The dirge upon the night air fell,

She sought this spot, and, seated there,

Upon her hands she bowed her fair

And gentle face, o’er which was spread

The marble paleness of the dead.

Ah! ME-ME! none can ever know

The full extent of that deep woe

Which wrung thy heart, until the hour

When they, like thee, have felt it’s power

    While thus she sat, a bark appeared,

And to this spot its swift course steered.—

A moment, and its prow was fast

Upon the shore, and from it passed

A tall and noble youth, who went [page 55]

With gentle steps and slowly bent

In saddened fondness by her side.

She saw him not; for sorrow’s tide

Had swept across her heart until

Her senses sank beneath its chill.

But when her name he fondly spoke,

She raised her hand—“ME-GI-SI” broke

In joyful accents, as she sprung

And round his neck in transport clung.

The sudden joy his presence brought

Upon her hear so overwrought,

Her consciousness fled with the shock,

And now like ivy to the rock

She lay in sweet, unconscious rest,

Entwined around her lover’s breast.

And when at length her eyes unclosed

To his, on whose breast she reposed,

The look was all so mild and sweet

With which those eyes her lover’s greet,

As though their light beamed from a soul

Into which Heaven’s sunshine stole.

“To what a fearful weight of grief

Beloved, thou hast brought relief!” [page 56]

Thus she began, “ I ask not what

The reasons why thou camest not,

When others of our tribe returned,

From whom the fearful tale I learned

That thou hadst fall’n beneath the art

Of one of those of icy heart,—

Once in the power of whose dread spell

None e’er returned his fate to tell.

It is enough for my glad heart

To know that here again thou art,—

That oft in this, our loved retreat,

With gladsome hearts, we yet may meet,

To tell o’er and o’er to thee

How very dear thou art to me,—

And thou to fold me to thy breast,

And say ‘thou art in that love blest.’

O! when we meet at times like this,

It seems as though the whole of bliss

Which ever in the bright world shone,

Gathers in my poor heart alone!

To gaze, in fondness on thy brow,

And feel thy heart, as I do now,

Beneath my own so wildly beat,— [page 57]

To hear thy words so soft and sweet

Call me, as oft they do, thy bride,

O! what hath earth to give beside!

When will the war-cry cease to grieve

My heart, because it bids thee leave;

While I an hundred times a day

Come to this lovely spot to pray,

Until it seems my heart would break

To the Great Spirit for thy sake.

Say, must thou yet again expose

They life among those cruel foes,

The fearful Sioux?—but ah, love! why

Breaks from thy bosom that deep sigh?

Has thy heart any care? ah, say,

And let me kiss that care away,”

She said, and with her fingers fair

She brushed away the raven hair

Which o’er his forehead clustering strayed,

And then upon his brow she laid

Her gentle lips. ME-GI-SI felt

His purpose almost in him melt,

And for a moment he forgot

His sad, inexorable lot, [page 58]

So sweet the thrill that kiss had sent

Through his sad heart; but when he bent

His eyed upon her lovely face,

And saw how deep and pure the trace

Of trusting love in every look,

His bosom heaved, and his soul shook

With the intensity of pain

Its breaking chords had to sustain,

As rushing thoughts again impress

The withering, blighting consciousness

That he no more upon that smile

Which had such power to beguile,

Could in the bliss of former days

Fix his full soul’s adoring gaze.

Alas! he knew the dream was past,

And this fond look must be his last.

He knew that should those eyes beam yet

When he was gone, as when they met,

He could not, must not, from the sight

Receive, as he had done, delight.

He knew if yet that eheek should wear

The hallowed smiled which now were there,

The thrills of rapture they impart [page 59]

Must fall upon another’s heart.

If those eyes beam! If that cheek glow!

Alas! He doth too sadly know,

His presence only can awake

Those smiles which beam but for his sake,—

That he alone can give the light

Without which they will sink in night.

’Twas this which gave the deadliest sting

To all his soul was suffering.

If he alone might meet the blow,

And his heart only feel the woe,—

If on his own the blight might rest,

And leave unscathed her tender breast,

He could sustain the scathing stroke,

And firmly meet it like the oak

Whose trunk lightening indeed might break,

But whose firm roots they could not shake

But that the misery he knew

Should tear her heart asunder, too!—

O! that was torture all too deep;

He felt these thoughts in tumult sweep

Across his brain,—and when at length

A powerful effort called the strength [page 60]

Into his prostate breast again,

And he so far o’ercame its pain

As to, in broken words, relate

The tale he knew must seal their fate,

It was with accents so subdued,

In spite of all his fortitude,

As though at every word he spoke

A chord within his sad heart broke.—

“Ah! ME-ME, thou hast been and art

The sparkling dew-drop of my heart,

Beneath whose brightness I have felt

In that of love all feelings melt;—

O, ’twas a glorious dream that stole

So sweetly, purely o’er my soul:—

I did not dream that I should wake

To see my heart with that dream break.

But, ME-ME, that bright dream is fled:—

Like the cold fingers of the dead,

I feel its dead joys o’er my breast

In icy suffocation pressed.

O, what but thee and this dear spot

Would I not give could I but blot

From memory all that hath passed [page 61]

Since in this bower we parted last.

I’ve struggled, but it is in vain;

The fire is in my heart and brain,

And will not cease its torturing strife

Until extinguished with my life.

Thou knowest the totem I have borne

Is not such as by thy tribe worn;—

That we, unknowing what its name,

Have often wondered how it came

That I alone have worn a crest

Differing so strangely from the rest.

’Tis strange no more; the battle-field

The mystery hath at length revealed,

And thy fond lover hath his sire

Among the foe whom thy tribe’s ire

Hath driven from their native land,

A scattered but unconquered band.

Yes, ME-ME, I am one of those,

Thy nation’s fiercest, deadliest foes,

Whom, but a moment since, so true

Thou didst well term the fearful Sioux.

Fearful they are, and will be yet,

To those who shall their path beset. [page 62]

Thou knowest between this tribe of thine

And that which henceforth must be mine

Exist a hatred strong as death,

Resigned not even with their breath.

Judge, then, if they could e’en abide

To see the dove the eagle’s bride.

Alas! ME-ME, it may not be,

And were it not, my love, for thee,

I could rejoice that my firm nerve

To direful vengeance yet might serve,

For her whose soft and gentle lays

Were carolled to my infant days,

But whom the Ojibway beguiled,

And robbed at once of wife and child;—

And I have sworn my soul to give

To retribution while I live;—

But short the moments that remain

Before that vow will be in vain.—

To-morrow’s sun will see its beam

Flashed back in many a war-knife’s gleam,

Ans yonder waters on whose breast

The moonbeams now so sweetly rest,

Shall drink before the day shall close, [page 63]

The mingled blood of warning foes.

Ans I shall be amidst the strife,—

But not as erst, against the life

Of sire and kindred warrior, no,—

My arm must find more fitting foe.

Something forewarns me that my blood

Shall mingle with to-morrow’s flood;—

I feel it now within my heart,—

To-night, for the last time, we part;

And yonder stars which shine so bright.

When they come not another night,

Will look upon my bleeding form

No longer with life’s pulses warm,

And that brow, cold, and damp in death,

So lately hallowed by thy breath.

But let it come! Why should I live

When life hath nothing now to give

But blighted hopes and vain regrets;

And every lingering sun that sets

Adds only to the bitter store

With which the heart was charged before

Yet O, how happy! were it not

That this inexorable lot [page 64]

Hath interposed its withering blight

Between my heart and all that’s bright,—

How happy to observe each day

Beneath thy sweet smile pass away,

To feel thy warm breath on my cheek,

To see thee, love thee, hear thee speak,—

And shield thy tender heart from all

Which on it might too rudely fall.

Bright picture of out former days,

But one on which I must not gaze,—

I’ve braved both friends’ and foemen’s power

For the enjoyment of this hour,—

To bathe my soul once more in light,

Ere it sink into endless night.”

    He paused, and closer to his breast

The maiden’s from he wildly pressed,

As if that pressure could keep under

A heart which else would burst asunder.

And there they stood, that hapless pair,

The victim each of mute despair;—

Yet how exalted, noble, pure,

The anguish which their souls endure!—

When the full bosom swells like this [page 65]

With feelings boundless, fathomless,

There’s something so exalted there,

That e’en though springing from despair,

The heart would scarce desire repose

If purchased at the life of those.

Sensations vague and undefined

Had agitated ME-ME’s mind

When first, ME-GI-SI’s words conveyed

The destiny o’er them weighed,—

But when at length, she knew the worst,

And the full truth upon her burst,

A pang shot through her heart and brain,

But one,— and all was calm again;

But with that pang had fled all sense

Of pain or woe forever hence.

’Twas so intense no other grief

Could wake a throe, however brief,—

And then a holy calmness came,

Succeeded to the passioned flame,

Which had so brightly, till that hour,

Maintained within her breast its power.

It was a calmness which had birth

In the conviction that the earth [page 66]

With all its pleasure, all its sweet,

Had nothing which could ever cheat,

Even for one brief moment’s flight,

The sadness of her bosom’s blight.

All tranquilly she raised her head,

Drooping like lily, o’er its bed,

And gently loosed her from the clasp

Convulsive of her lover’s grasp,

And spoke with look so calm and mild

It might almost he said she smiled,

But such as smile, as one might trace

Upon the cold and marble face

Of one whose spirit had just riven

The bonds which checked its flight to heaven.—

“ME-GI-SI, O how glad would I

Lay this poor body down to die,

Could it but bring again to thine

The joy that can no more be mine.

Let not thy ME-ME’s broken heart

One sorrow to thine own impart;

O, no, but go, forget, that we

Have ever loved so trustfully.—

Thy duty calls, then be it so, [page 67]

And let no thought of me e’er throw

Across thy breast a single cloud

The sunshine of its peace to shroud.

What though this fate shall blight my powers

Like early frosts, the gladsome flowers,

And my poor body find its rest

Full soon, upon the earth’s cold breast?—

My spirit still shall hover near thee,

And this, its only thought to cheer thee,

And pour most fondly into thine

The light which in itself shall shine.

Yes, go, forget that we have met,

Or if thou canst not all forget,

Think of it as a dream which stole

In. night’s calm hours into thy soul,

Whose memory perchance may cling

Around thy softened heart and fling

A shade of sadness which you may

Not altogether dash away,

But which thou shouldst not let control

The strength and bravery of thy soul.—

No, if thou canst not banish all,

And memory will at times recall [page 68]

The gladsome hours our hearts have known,

Thrilled by each other’s look and tone,

There let thy fond thoughts only dwell

On this, thy ME-ME loved thee well,

And only look on those sweet hours

As thou would’st look on lovely flowers,

From which the freshness might be fled,

But which, though withered, yet would shed

Their fragrance sweet as when their hue

Was heightened by the night’s soft dew.

O! let me deem that thus thy heart

Will look on me, and I can part

With one less pang from all those bright

And happy dreams which take their flight,

Till on the far-off spirit-shore

We meet again to part no more.”

    O, Love! How hallowed, noble, pure,

The feeling which thou dost secure

Unto the breast where thou dost deign

To institute thy perfect reign!

When touched by thee, how all the dross

Of earthly passions, which so toss

And heave their billows o’er the soul [page 69]

Before it hath felt thy control,—

By thy strong alchemy expelled.

Yields up the places it hath held,

And all that finds acceptance there

Is hallowed as the breath of prayer,—

And ME-ME, though despairs cold breath

Had sent the icy chill of death

Over her bosom’s tender chords,

Yet even then her love found words,

She fondly hoped might interpose

A power to sooth her lovers woes.

But vain! The love which thus could make

Such sacrifices, for his sake,

Had kindled in his heart the same

Self-sacrificing, generous flame,—

And when his quick sense caught this new

And last fond proof of love so true,

And saw and felt himself how much

The purpose cost which made it such,

And gazed upon her standing there

So droopingly and yet so fair,

It was too much,—he could not brook

That quiet and heart-stricken look. [page 70]

He caught her up and wildly pressed

The blighted lily to his breast,

And for a moment yielded all

His heart and soul to love’s fond call,

Resolved to brave scorn, torture, death

To save that gentle heart from scath.

Fond dreamer, up! away! away!

Death and dishonor if you stay,—

But death and honor if you go—

Away! to meet your country’s foe!

A moment, and he felt it true,—

No word broke forth to say adieu,

But one long burning kiss he gave

Upon that brow he could not save,—

Then turned and wildly rushed again,

With wildered sense and maddened brain,

To where his light bark floating lay,

And o’er the waters shot his way. [page 71]

IX.


THE LAST BATTLE.

’TIS noon again. The sun’s warm beam

Is gleaming brightly o’er the stream,

Which, with a current calm and slow,

Bears on its breast the stealthy foe,

Within their light barks noiselessly;

Who now have paused a moment by

Its entrance to the crystal bay,

Opposed to where the islands lay.

A few brief words, to nerve their breast,

The WEN-DI-GO to each addressed,

With promises of bravery’s meed,

Shouid they in that day’s strife succeed,

And meed to warrior’s heart more sweet, (22)

Which in the spirit-land should greet [unnumbered page]

Their souls, should death their past beset,

And when it came, be bravely met.

These said— his bark, whose prow displayed

A feathery pennon’s varying shade,

Shot from among the rest, and led

The way around a woodland head

Which had they bay and isles concealed,—

And now before them lay revealed

The scenes whose memory around

Their warmest feelings long had wound,

And where so soon they must decide

If once again they shall abide

Within their quiet spell, or whether

They and this last hope die together.

As the last bark in that array

Came out upon the open bay

And caught the view,—a moment’s pause

Ran through the whole, while each one draws

A smothered breath and drops a prayer

For the Great Spirit’s guardian care;—

Then with a shout of curses dread

To gather upon foemen’s head,

By their strong arms each light bark there

            4 [page 73]

Sped onwards like a thing of air,—

And should no foemen check their speed,

Short were the moments that they need

Ere they shall rest their glancing oar

Upon the nearest island’s shore,

Where o’er the green and shady strand

The lodges of Ojibway stand,

Beneath whose shady folds repose,

Unconscious of approaching foes,

The chiefs and warriors, but with spear,

And bow, and war-club lying near,

Ready, upon the first alarm,

To be resumed with sturdy arm.

The foremost of the barks hath now

Almost upon the shore its prow,

When sudden from the Ojibway’s rang

The way-cry’s blast, and, with it sprang

Each warrior there upon his feet

With answering shout, and rushed to meet,

In strife too wild and dark for name,

The foe that thus upon them came.

Then grappled each his nearest foe,

Nor yielded either till the blow [page 74]

Which drank life’s latest current well,

Left him all lifeless where he fell.

But vain the strife,—through for each Sioux

There perished of his foemen two,—

There lived but two of that brave band

To track through foes their way to land.—

ME-GI-SI and the WEN-DI-GO,

Around whom fell at every blow

Victims to their resistless strength,

Had fought their bloody way at length

Upon the beath, and there they stood

Alone, unconquered, unsubdued,—

Keeping, like lions fierce, at bay

Surrounding foeman’s whole array,

Or those who were upon them rushing,

In ghastly heaps around them crushing.

Maddened to see the slaughtering tide

And feel their power thus defied,—

Shame to their courage adding wing,

The Ojibways upon them spring

Like famished wolves upon the prey

That chance hath thrown within their way,

And sire and son are borne beneath,— [page 75]

Their flesh an hundred weapons sheath;

And when the rushing crowd gave peace,

Within ME-GI-SI’s breast all trace

Or life with all its pain had fled,—

Mangled he lay among the dead!

But from beneath their raining blows

The WEN-DI-GO again arose,

And dashing off, as things of naught,

Those who to stop his progress sought,

One thrilling yell of scorn he gave,

Then plunged beneath the blood-dyed wave.—

They saw no more,—and weather then

His spirit passed, or if again,

Concealed by magic from the view

He living rose, none ever knew;

Still they believe, amid the dirge

Of winter’s winds and water’s surge,

Or in the tempest’s blasting hour,

They hear his voice and feel his power.—

And even upon summer’s night,

When winds are hushed and starts are bright,

They sometimes see his shadow pass

Slowly along the moon-lit grass,— [page 76]

And then with bloodless lips they tell

Of some mischance they know full well

To fall on whom the spirit’s eye

Glanced angrily as it passed by. [page 77]

THE REQUIEM.


THE eve that gathered o’er the water,

Yet crimson with the recent slaughter,

Came slowly, beautifully on;

And when its last faint hues were gone,

Shadowed in the embrace of night,

The moon and stars looked down as bright

As though no scenes of carnage lay

Where now their beams so sweetly stray.

Chance led at this delightful hour

A band of maidens to the bower

Where ME-ME and her lover parted

The night before so broken hearted;

And there upon a mossy bed

Lay ME-ME, silent, cold, and dead. [unnumbered page]

With the last look on lover cast,

Her gentle spirit sweetly passed,—

And now she lay in cold death sleeping,

Their watch, the wild flowers o’er her keeping,—

And, as they waved with the soft sigh

Of the night zephyrs passing by,

Wept dewy tears o’er one so fair,

Laying like blighted rose-bud there,

And, poured the fragrance of their breath

To hallow such a tristful death.

When first beheld, the maidens deemed

’Mid flowers and moonbeam’s light she dreamed,

But when they gathered near and felt,

As by her side they fondly knelt,

That death’s ride fingers had impressed

Their icy touch upon her breast,

Stilling each throb of bliss or pain

Beyond the power to beat again,—

A wailing, low, like sighing tone

Of winds when through the trees they moan,

While all around beside was hushed,

From their full bosoms sadly gushed, [page 79]

“Heart of our hearts,—farewell, farewell,”—

Thus rose the dirge’s plaintive swell,—

“Thou wast the sunbeam, spirit given,

But softened like the light of even,

Within our darkened bosoms stealing,

That kissed the buds of happy feeling,

And in the fragrant breath and hue

Of sweetest love to flowers drew.

O, what shall keep that hue so fair, —

O, what shall keep that fragrance there,—

Their warmth, and light, with thee withdrawn,

Their hue is fled, their fragrance gone.

We withered where our sister fell,—

Heart of our hearts,—farewell, farewell.”


Ere the sad tones had left the ear,

An airy spirit hovering near,

Caught up again the lingering strains,

And in such music as enchains

The raptured heart in childhood’s dreams,

When in some fairy land it deems

’Mid bright etherial forms, it dwells,

The requiem around them swells. [page 80]

“There’s a bower prepared in the land of blest,

Where the young, and the pure, and the lovely shall rest,

Who have left the sad earth, where the tempests that rushed

O’er their sensitive bosoms, forever are hushed.

O, the heart of the dead beat too warmly for earth,—

Like a bird in the far sunny south that had birth,

But which wandered where winds from the northern sky passed,

Where it sung one sweet strain, then sank in the blast.

So the soul that once dwelt in that fair form of clay,

Over which you now weep, that it thus passed away,

Like that bird hovered near you, then went to its rest

In the sweet spirit home, in the land of the west.

Weep not that her spirit thus early hath fled,—

That spirit still lives, though the body be dead;—

It lives where its joy pass no more with a sigh,—

It lives where its happiness never shall die.” [page 81]

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NOTES.


  1. “It is a kind which doth not blight.”

    In the north and north-west there is a kind of flower which matures late in the fall, and still blossoms in the dead of winter. There is a strange contrast between its snowy bed and its delicate hues. In spring it dies with the snow, and again reappears in the fall

    (2) “From down till twilight paints, &c.”

    The facility to endure long journeys and fatigues has long been the admiration of the people abroad. Those Indians who lived in the north and about the head waters of Lake Superior, are an active and the most energetic race. Long journeys were performed in times of war; and with little or no rest during the day of hunting. One would hardly credit the feats they can perform in the dead of winter. Over hill and down ravines, covered with snow, they make their snow-shoe track. Through the forest-world, the trees heavily ladened with snow, they seek the game; and this is done day after day though the period of life. [unnumbered page]

    (3) “Thou fair St. Louis !”

    There must be a peculiar interest attached to the St. Louis river, arising from the consideration that it is the proper source of that mighty chain of water, which, after pouring their tide through more than half the extent of the western hemisphere, at last discharge themselves in the Gulf

of St. Lawrence, where they mingle with and are lost in those of the Atlantic. But if it had not this fact to draw an interest around it, the character of the river itself is such as to leave an impression upon the mid of one who has glided upon its pure waters not easily to be forgotten. The variety of its scenery—the beauty of its evergreen edges—the rapid and whirling toss of its waves, and the high cliffs of rocks, where it swells its maddening roar;—all this can be seen in the St. Louis about the extreme west end of Lake Superior, and one cam follow it up though its various windings, now narrow, and then widens like a lake. The scenery about the head of Lake Superior is picturesque and grand, and a little way up, farther on, dashing with impetuous fury through some narrow and rocky passes, or over falls, from whose height the beholder becomes dizzy in looking down, make the voyage one of continual excitement and delight. We might here present a more minute description of the onward windings of this river, but we forbear at present, believing none will contradict us when we say it is not less in grandeur than the scenery on the North River.

    (4) “Each warrior there was decked with these.”

    There is no time in which an Indian brave adorns his person with so much care as when going to war. Here the warrior lays aside the encumbering articles of dress worn at other [page 84] times, and only wears those light, and yet, often extremely ornamental, which, without confining in the least the free and easy motion of every limb, exhibits their fine forms to the best possible advantage.

    (5) “From feathers of the wild bird’s wing,”

    The feather flag is the flag which was and, in some parts, is yet used. The feathers of the rare gray eagle are knitted together over four feet long. When ready for war, this is stuck in the centre of the war-party, while now and then the standard-bearer waves it, while the rest send a piercing shout to heaven.

    (6) “                               amid the sound

    Of drum, and song, and echoing shout.”

    The drum is one of the principle instruments we used in time of war preparations, and at all times, and although very unmusical to finer ears in the civilized world, is by us held in great estimation. It is made by tightly stretching a piece of deer-hide over a hoop, and somewhat resembles a tambourine. The drum-stick is a piece of wood with a short cross at one end, with which the drum is beaten.

    (7) “The feats of bravery he had done.”

    At the public dances of our nation is the only place where any one can boast of bravery, and it is not expected a brave should boast at all times, but at such places, of their exploits in battle. On such occasions I have sat to listen to their bold eloquence and graphic descriptions, until my own breast irresistibly caught the passionate feelings of theirs. [page 85]

    (8) “Could tear those shackles from his flesh”

    I would not like to hazard the assertion, in this enlightened age, that there is such a thing as magic or supernatural agency among the Indians, but I must confess myself unable as all have done who have witnessed those exhibitions, to account for satisfactorily;— one of those Indians who pretends to have an intercourse with spirits, will permit himself to be bound hands and feet, then wrapped closely in a blanket or deer’s hide, bound around his whole body with cords and

thongs, as long and as tightly as the incredulity of any one present may see fit to continue the operation, after which he is thrown into a small lodge. He begins a low, unintelligible incantation to the gods, and increases in rapidity and loudness until he works himself up into a great pitch of seeming or real frenzy, at which time, usually three or four minutes after being put in, he opens the lodge and throws out the thongs and hides with which he was bound without a single knot being untied or fold displaced, himself sitting calm and free on the ground. Carver, in his travels, gives a curious and interesting account of an exhibition of this kind, accompanied with a prophecy, which was astonishing fulfilled. Those who possess this art pretend that a spirit comes and relieves them from their bonds. You say this is superstition. Much of the same kind is among the pale faces. I believe the Indians had, and do have, and mesmerism among them.

    (9) “The Wen-di-go of icy heart.”

    This Wen-di-go, in the idea of the Indians, is a monster, who lives in the north;—a supernatural being, who roams about the earth in search of victims, for he lives on human flesh. He is represented to be as tall as the pine trees; a [page 86] whirlwind’s trend is heard around him wherever he is. Frost and cold are his companions. He is devoid of feeling. “Icy heart.” It is believed men have become Wen-di-go’s by a mysterious process, and if any one is supposed to become one, he is immediately dispatched. When a Wen-di-go can be killed, it is only done by men who are supposed to have a strong arm, or an array of favorites from the spirits to aid them.

    (10) “Youth, are you a brave?”

    This is an expression we use in challenging one another when we desire to engage another in any enterprise which requires the exercise of his attribute of the mind. When any one is insulted by another, he immediately calls at the wigwam, and in looking through the lodge, asks him this question, and if he speaks in the affirmative, an appeal then is immediately made to their relative prowess. If he does not so answer, he is immediately branded as an old “women,” an appellation

for all cowards, not that all women are cowards, for some deal in cowhides in civilized countries.

    (11) “Ahpuckways from soft rushes wove.”

    Ahpuckway is a kind of mat which is made out of the blades of the rush, vulgarly called “cattail,” with great skill, for the purpose of covering the wigwams of the natives. They appear at a distance, light, and glisten before the sun. These, too, they make mats for their beds, to repose upon in the night.

    (12) “Stood like an oak. The thunder bird

           Had riven at the spirit’s word.”

    Our nation believe that thunder is caused by a large bird [page 87] which lives so far up in the sky as not to be visible. The noise is caused by the motion of his wings. This idea, no doubt, they received from the drumming of the pheasant, which so nearly resembles distant thunder. The lightning they imagine the opening and shutting of the bird’s eye;—and its fierceness is sometimes so fearful and keen as to ignite the object on which it falls. This happens when fire follows a stroke of lightning. Whenever lightning strikes an object, they think that the bird shoots from its eye a small round stone, which produces the effect; and assure you that if you will dig and examine where the lightning enters the ground, this stone will be, and has been, found.  

    (13) “Where wander shadows of the dead

           By the dim light aurora shed.”

    The Indians, unable to account for the various phenomenas of nature, have associated with most of them some curious superstition. The aurora borealis they believe shines to illuminate the pastime of the disembodied spirits, when, in the shadowy land, they gather in the chase, or mingle in the dances, with which they amuse themselves.

    O-ge-chog means shadow, and when applied to man, we say, in reference to his soul, his shadow;—the reality of such attribute they see, yet cannot feel.

    (14) “Our totem on our little boy.”

    Among the Indians each family is designated by some distinguished badge or crest, such as the figure of a swan, deer, crane, eagle, bear, otter or moose. This emblem we call a totem. The laws relative to it are somewhat curious. It is not permitted for a male and female to intermarry whose [page 88] totem happens to be the same; they are all considered as brother and sister. In adopting or inheriting their totem among the children, the boys and girls take that of their father, and sometimes the girls can only take that of their mother. This is only true, as to the different other nations.

     (15) “Sweet as the swan’s expiring notes.”

     Though this is a common-place allusion, yet, the lakes about the country where the scenes are we speak of, are filled with wild fowl, and among which is the most graceful of all birds, the swan.

    (16) “Thou shadowy spirit, for whose sake.”

    Like all unenlightened nations, our nation have many extremely superstitious nations. They believe the visitation of the souls of their departed friends not often to be visible with a natural body, but they hear them in some way,—by the sighing of the winds, the hum of creation, or fancy they ride on the fleecy clouds of an evening sky.

    (17) “Till shadows both, again we meet.”

    Some of the ideas in reference to the immorality of the soul they represent under the idea of a shadow. Their explanation which they generally give of the reason why they bury their dead with weapons of hunting and war, food, and apparel, is so curious and indigenous that we cannot help

relating it. The Indian is asked why he does this. His reply is, that the shadow of the body has left for the distant west;—that the soul needs the shadow of these articles, and not the material. The shadow of these things serves to the soul as they did to the body while living. [page 89]

    (18) “Many a lodge, whose bark so white.”

    The lodges are made by poles stuck in the ground, and these meet at the ends, which, in meeting, lap over and are tied, and these are covered with the white birch. This kind of bark is so white that when many are seen at a distance they appear as though there were more than what is really the number.

    This bark is used for almost every purpose. We cover our wigwams with it—make our canoes—vessels for water, and the dishes we used to eat out of. Fancy work-boxes are made

out of this material. Our songs of war, triumphs, and traditions, are recorded on this bark.

    One Indian family often have five thousand, six thousand, eight thousand, and ten thousand dishes, to gather sap from the noble trees, in the spring, and the bark holds the sugar which has been made.

    (19) “It is the wailing for the dead.”

    The evening is always the time the friends of the deceased collect around their graves, and sing a low, wailing sound of the voice. Often, by the banks of the Mississippi, we have heard the Ojibway sing the death-song, and the voice seems to creep over the distant hills, which sound, they believe, aids the soul in travelling to the distant west. When the shadows of the red races collect from the valleys of that Happy Land, they send their echoing shouts to each other from hill to hill

    (20) “Me-me, fair child of light and love.”

    This is one of the most harmless of birds, which you call dove. A beautiful legend is told to the children, of this bird, [page 90] when in flocks they return from the north in the spring, in the wigwam.

    (21) “In the soft language of her tribe.”

    Travellers have found the language of the Ojibway to be very musical, and at the same time to be one of the most noble in America. This is susceptible of expressing the nicest shade of thought by endless modifications of the verb. The language of the nation has justly been called the “Greek of America.”

    (22) “And meed to warrior’s heart more sweet.”

    In the idea to the Indian, bravery is the key that unlocks the entrance to the most exalted joys of the Great West, or future state. The peaceful and Christian virtue of humanity, forgiveness, and benevolence, are powerless to open the gates of an Indian’s Paradise.

    Things have changed, and now it is otherwise. Once, the Indian brave adored the man who recognized him as a noble warrior; yet, however he may now admire that quality in man, it has been so refined by education, he yet loves to exhibit that manliness which exalts and ennobles man. Never will a true Indian stoop to low cunning and meanness which characterizes the higher state of pretended civilized life of other nations.

    One of the greatest reasons which has made the pale face desist in his endeavors to civilize the Indian, is because he could not subdue the high state of noble independence in him, as though it was necessary that his spirit was to be subdued first, before he could he taught the noble spirit of

Christian morals. [page 91]

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