LAND of the foaming cataract,—
   Whose Savage grandeur awes the soul,
As downward, thro’ their wave-worn track
   Thy floods impetuously roll;—
Land of the wild woods,—where we trace
   Far as the eye extends its power,
One boundless barrenness of space,
   Since undefined creation’s hour,
When a mysterious Godhead, first
   His glorious works of nature plann’d,
And light, and life, and reason, burst
   Refulgent from his mighty hand.—
Clime,—where the voice of Time,—no claim
   To deeds of glorious cause, can breathe
Coeval, with the pompous name
   Which Rome to ages did bequeath;—
Whose fields, unciviliz’d,—unknown,
   Were buried ’neath oblivion’s shroud,
Until that Godhead from his throne,
   Outstretch’d his arm, and, (as the cloud
Before the wind dispers’d and driven,
Which leaves undimm’d, the arch of Heaven,)
Thus, from thy face, benignly tore
The veil of night from off thy shore,
And to the zealous Christian, gave
Beyond the blue Atlantic’s wave,
Another land, to seek, and save!—

Far in those wilds,—where Wabash pours
   Its tributary tide, along,—
Now, gently skirting the green shores—

   Now, darkly lashing, swift and strong,
O’er rocks, whose varied scenes, display’d
The roaring rapid, or cascade,
And the thick woods, threw shadowing down
Upon the floods,—their hues of brown;—
For many a year, untam’d—unknown,
The Shawanee, call’d this his own
Unconquer’d land;—and rear’d to toil
And war, to guard his native soil,—
Train’d to the bow,—and skill’d in chase,
Not one, amongst each savage race,
Whose tribes were scatter’d o’er the land,
Could vaunt of sons, in heart and hand,
More daring or expert, to sway
Their prowess over men, or prey.—
So journey’d Fate, for many a year,
And left him in his lone career,
His heart was free, his wants were few,
The twanging bow,—the light canoe,
The wooden spear,—’twas all he knew,
Or all the aim of art could see,
In nature’s ingenuity.
Adown the swifter rapid’s tide,
’Twas wonderful to see him glide,
With the bold skill of one, who ne’er
Had felt the icy chill of fear,
And rule the current with a hand,
Whose slender paddle, seem’d the wand
Of fairy powers,—to guide along
To the wild numbers of his song.
Along the woods, with nimble feet,
Strong as the breeze,—tho’ not as fleet,
O’er mossy trunk, and rocky way,
Boldly he followed on his prey;—
And even there,—’twas striking too,
To mark his arrow as it flew
True to its aim;—the panting deer
Escap’d him not in his career,
The slower bear, and slyer fox,
That oft the hunter’s labour mocks,—
The beaver, whose instinct provides
Its cell, wher’er the streamlet glides,—
The fiercer buffalo, that roves
Where verdure flowers in grassy groves,—
These, and the more, by nature given,
(For where is space, where shines not Heaven
With the free bounty of its hand,)
These made his daring heart expand
In active toil,—so to supply
The store, for man’s necessity. 80

Year roll’d on year, (Time shadows all,
And spreads o’er every land its pall,)
Thus thro’ each age, from sire to son,
The Shawanee’s fierce tribe liv’d on,
In native ease, and ruder grace;—

Ne’er had he seen the white man’s face;
If led to war,—he met his own
Dark swarthy skin of dusky brown
In naked manliness of form,
And sternness as the gathering storm.
Unknown to Luxury’s disease,
Which enervates man’s energies,—
The ground his couch,—the birchen dome
His canopy, and wood, his home,
The sparkling spring, from nature burst
To coolness,—choicest to his thirst,—
The berry rich from plant or tree
In gushing ripe luxuriancy,—
The forest tribe, and finny race,
The guerdon of his toil, and chase,—
Were banquets to his uncloy’d taste
More sweet than all the charms of waste;—
He saw the sun in splendour roll
And light its beacon to the pole,
Beheld the moon in beauty shine,
And made them idols of his shrine;
By their strict course, he summ’d his days,
How oft returning Summer’s rays
Had visited his solitudes,
And by the star-beam travers’d woods,
When no one beacon shone afar,
Save some well known presiding star.

And thus it past,—dun autumn’s sun
Its beauteous race had nearly run,
The night fires sparkled ’neath the boughs,

As twilight sank to soft repose;
Around their blaze,—the listeners drew,—
For even there was converse too,
The rude, bold licence of the tongue
To gesture wild, and accents strung.
And who was he, who held each mind
To his recital, thus inclin’d?
The Prophet;—he of all the rest
Of deeper instinct’s powers possess’d;
Skill’d in astrology’s pretence,
Which rules weak Fancy’s wayward sense,
Chain’d his wild brethren by the charms
Of Superstition’s stern alarms,
And incantation’s strange belief,
To turn away, the frown of grief,—
And dive into the hidden powers(1)
Of Fate’s fast coming future hours.

Around the fire,—the listeners stirr’d,
And star’d, and startled at his word,
Which told of dreams, both dark and drear,

Of dismal sign, and deadly fear,
Of clouded sky, and vapoury moon,
And night-blast, in whose moaning tune,
Prophetic murmurs sigh’d a tale
Of something, that would soon prevail.—
The dream was told,—when, lo, a sound
Of quick approach, made all around,
Turn with the hurried looks of those
Who fear the footsteps of false foes.
Who comes?—a stern, athletic form
In grace tho’ rude—in action warm;—
At his advance, the throng withdraw
With an habitual mark of awe,
Whilst from the whispering lips of some,
"Our C
HIEF,—our chief,"—their murmurs hum.
The Prophet stood alone to meet,
A brother’s safe return, and greet
With welcome sounds;—"The chase to-day
"Hath surely led thee far astray,
"Since day-light long hath ceas’d to burn,
"And anxious Hope, sought thy return,—
"Where is the prey?"—he look’d,—but, lo,—
There hung alone, the spear and bow;—
Whilst seriousness, within his air,
His stern, and sorrow’d looks declare.—
’Twas silence long,—the crowd’s surprise
Exchang’d their fears, with staring eyes
Of meaning mute;—whilst the chief stood
In that same pensiveness of mood,
And scann’d the Prophet with a gaze,
Which often more than word conveys.
Turning at length unto the west,
With left arm folded to his breast,
He raised, and pointed with the right
To where day’s last expiring light
Had wan’d to sleep;—but silent still,—
What meant that import of his will?
The sculptor, who, in marble vied
   To emulate the form, and face
Of humankind, or deified

   Symbol of majesty and grace,
In that expressive form might now
   Have found a model to essay,
(In manhood’s strength, and manly brow,
   Where Pride, and Freedom lent a ray

Of dignity,)—the nobler art
   With which true Genius consecrates,
The bright inventions of the heart,
   When it aspires and elevates
The mind to the ennobled aim
   Of the competitors of Fame,
Thus to embody form and face
   With all but life’s immortal grace.
There, stood the savage of the woods,
   For even there, did Nature shower
In these, her wilder solitudes,
   Some traits of her diviner power,
In giving man the instinct bright,
   Which prompts to Freedom’s glorious light;
And to the intellectual ray,
   A feeling which throughout the whole,
Made blood, and nerve, and reason play,
   To vivify th’ untutored soul!

All eyes seem’d aw’d,—but most the gaze
   Of him, who held the loftier mind

Of all who stood in wrapt amaze,
   To watch the feelings there combin’d:—
"By the great spirit of the woods,"—
   At length, the Chieftain he address’d,
"By stormy sky, and rising floods,
   Which drive the wild swan from her nest,
"Yet doth the Eagle not appal,
"Which soars as high, when thunders call,
"To rouse the spirits of the air,
"By howling blast, and meteor glare;—
"Speak—if to-day, such lot were thine,
"Of spirits’ call, or evil sign?"
Tecumthe turn’d his dark jet eye,
Upon his brother in reply,
And said, "It is not grief nor fear,
"Can shake the heart’s stern impulse here,
"Nor spirit of the dismal swamp
"Which leads astray by meteor-lamp,
"To the morass or lonely glen,
"Where hissing serpents have their den:—
"Brother,—the white man comes in arms,—
   "See, where yon star shines in the west,
"He comes from thence, to wake alarms
   "And chase us from our land of rest.—
"Behold, the morning saw me rise,
   "With the great spirit of the day,
"Which shone resplendent o’er the skies,
   "To tread the boundless forest’s way,—
"When, lo, methought, I heard afar
   "A sound,—a distant sound, which broke
"More awful than the cry of war,
   "Which Chippawayan tongue ere spoke,—
"I follow’d on to that far side,
   "Where Wabash mingles its clear stream
"With the great Mississippi’s tide,—
   "And still I heard at times, the scream
"Or blast, which from the echoing horn,
   "O’er hill and lake is loudly borne.—
"I saw their watch-fire’s wreathing smoke,
   "Curl up above the towering oak,
"Whose spreading branches to the light,
   "Kept their pale white forms from my sight;—
"And heard the sound, and saw the flash,
   "Which darts from forth the musket’s mouth
"As when the thunder’s distant crash,
   "Reverb’rates from the sultry south;—
"But by the spirit of our sires
"Which burns in indignation’s fires,
"As the strewn sear’d leaves on the ground
"Scatter’d by winter’s blast around,
"Their scalps shall bleach on every tree
"Torn by our heart’s stern enmity
"Ere vile oppression shall ordain,
"Our bondage with the white man’s chain."

Still, and sedate, the Prophet stood

Nor by surprise, nor fear subdued
In outward sign, of frown or start,
Which speaks the bickerings of the heart.
Wrapt in the wilful, wild design
Of making all his tribe incline
(And even his brother’s loftier soul,)
To his persuasive art’s controul,—
A thrill of fear, or word of ire
Might turn their thoughts from his desire,
Of awing their untutor’d sense
To own his mind’s pre-eminence
Gifted as craft’s beguiling scheme
(By token, tempest, deed, or dream,)
Dispos’d and tried, with treacherous bribe,
To make him, mighty, ’midst that tribe.
"What fear we from the strangers’ arm,
   "If the high spirits of the air,
"Fly round us with a smile and charm,
   "To keep us from the deadman’s lair?
"There is a spell within the cloud,
"Which speaks its will in thunders loud;—
"There is a beacon in the flash,
"Which light’nings fire, when wild storms clash;
"There is a voice within the blast,
"When vapours dark are hurrying past;
"And in the meteor and the star
"A sign—to warn us from afar.
"The white man seeks the forest prey,
"And not to rouse us in his way,
"To lay his scalp and entrail bare,
"As branches with the winter air.—
"Peace to your hearts,—to-morrow’s sun
"Shall scarcely see its day-light done,
"When we will offer sacrifice,
"And call the spirits of the skies
"To speak by token and by sign,
"Which way their awful fates incline."—

A shout from the surrounding crowd,
As the wild tyger’s, hoarse and loud,
Stern and uncouth their joy bespoke,

And thus in rous’d convulsions broke,
With coarsest gestures, loose and free,
Made known in rude hilarity.—
Tecumthe only, ’midst the crew,
Look’d silence, in its sullen hue,—
Nor spoke, in turning to depart,
If joy or anger stirr’d his heart.
The Prophet eyed the warrior’s face,
And as he turn’d, there strove to trace,
The acquiescence, which his pride,
To all his counsels had allied;—
But the repugnance to enthrone
One mind superior to our own,
Link’d, even to the savage breast
The fault, with which all are possess’d,
And makes vain man the wayward-tied
Offspring of folly and of pride.

The moon has set behind the hill,
The air is cloudless, calm, and still;
And all things, save the labouring breast

Of each wild form, betoken rest;—
But Nature, from her fiercest mood,
Wooes silence,—sleep,—and solitude,—
If storms arise, and loudly ring,
Calmness soon comes with downy wing;—
The ruder elements alarms,
Repose at length in Quiet’s charms;
If tempests have arous’d their jar,
And Boreas whirl’d his noisy car
On winged wheels,—the fleet steeds tire,
And clamorous winds, and peals expire;
On the fair bosom of the skies,
’Midst sunshine’s glowing smiles, soon lies
The cloud, in golden splendour drest
Like Power, repos’d on Beauty’s breast;—
On the clear surface of the tides,
The sparkling wavelet gently glides,
Dimpling, beneath the halcyon sky,
Whilst soft winds sing its lullaby;—
All nature gladdens,—glows at last
In calmer hours, from angers past,—
Until exhausted passions creep,
Fainting and frail, subdued, to sleep.

                 END OF CANTO I.