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Chicomico - Part V - Poem by Lucretia Maria Davidson

THE fourth day found the dark tribe brooding o'er
Their chieftain's body, chieftain now no more!
As fire half-quench'd, some faint spark lives,
Glimmers, half dies, and then revives,
Revives to kindle far and wide,
And spread with devastating stride;
So glimmered, so revived, so spread
The mourners' rage around the dead!
Their quivers o'er their shoulders flung,
Up rose the aged and the young;
And swore, as tenants of the wood,
By all their hearts held dear or good,
That, ere another sun should rise,
Their slaughtered foes should glut their eyes.
They swore revenge and bloodshed too,
As their slain chieftain's rightful due,
They swore that blood should freely flow
For their poor, lost Chicomico!

'T was evening: all was fair and still;
The orb of night now sparkling on the rill;
Now glittering o'er the fern, and water-brake,
Cast its broad eye-beam o'er the lake!
Far through the forest, where no footpath lay,
Old Montonoc pursued his onward way;
The fair-haired stranger hung upon his arm,
Shook at each noise, and trembled with alarm;
'Well do I know the woodland way,
For I have tracked it many a day,
When mountain bear or wilder deer
Have called me to this forest drear.
Fear'st thou with Montonoc to stray,
Why wand'rest thou so far away,
From friends, from safety, and from home,
To war, and weariness, and gloom?
Thou must not hope, as yet, to bear
Free from disguise that form so dear;
It must not, and it will not be,
Till, buried in the dark Monee,
The last of yonder tribe of blood,
Lies weltering in the sable flood!
But rest thee on this fresh green seat,
And I will trace his wandering feet;
Warn him to watch the lurking foe,
Whose bloody breasts for vengeance glow;
Then rest thee here; within yon dell
I saw his form, and knew him well!'

Thus spoke the prophet of the wood,
As near the stranger maid he stood.

'Then go,' she cried, half-faltering, 'go!
Bid him beware the bloody foe!
But give me, ere we part,' she cried,
'Yon blood-stained death-blade from your side;
Perhaps this arm, though weak, may find
Strength, in the hour of deep distress;
Go! my preserver, and my friend,
May heaven thy steps and efforts bless!'

Cautious and swift the Indian went;
His head was raised, his bow was bent,
And as he on, like wild-deer, sped,
So light, so silent, was his tread,
That scarce a leaf was heard to move,
Of flower below, or branch above!

Where Rathmond, with a heart of woe,
Had gazed on lost Chicomico,
There, on that spot, the prophet's eye
Mark'd the young warrior's farewell sigh.
'Why lingerest thou here, Young Eagle,' he cried,
'The foe 'neath the fern, and the dark hazel hide!
Blood, blood! be our war-cry, for vengeance is theirs!
Their arrows are winged by despair and by fears!
When the last of the tribe of Hillis-ad-joe,
Hath plunged him beneath the deep waters below,
Thy heart shall possess all it wishes for here,
Unchilled by a sigh, unbedewed by a tear!
But till then, cold and vacant thy bosom shall be,
And the idol to which thou hast bended thy knee,
Shall mark thee, and love thee, in peril and woe,
Yet till then that dear being thou never shalt know!'

'What meanest thou, prophet of the eagle-eye,
By thy mysterious prophecy?
Well knowest thou that yon bloody chief
Doomed her to death, and me to grief!
That round that form, the wild flames rolled,
And wafted far her angel soul!
Why didst thou not arrest the brand?
For, prophet, fate was in thy hand.'

''T is well,' the Indian calmly said,
''T is well,' and bowed to earth his head;
'But,' he exclaimed, with eye less grave,
'I left a skiff on yonder wave —
Say, dark-eyed Eagle, dost thou know
Aught of the dire, blood-thirsty foe?'

'No, Montonoc! no foe was she,
Who plunged adown the swift Monee.
Chicomico is cold and damp!
The wave her couch — the moon her lamp;
But mark! adown the foaming stream
The barks beneath the moon's pale beam!
What bode they? or of weal, or woe?
Do they betoken friend or foe?
Perchance to rouse the wildwood deer
The Indian hunters landed there.'

Back they retraced their steps, till from the hill
A female shriek rang loud, distinct, and shrill!
Both start, both stop, and Montonoc's dark eye
Flashed like a meteor of the northern sky. —
But hark! what cry of savage joy is there,
Borne through the forest on the midnight air?

It is the foe! — the band of blood-hounds came,
Who erst had lit the Chieftain's funeral flame!
Revenge and death around their arrows gleam,
And murder shudders'neath the moon's pale beam!
The fiercest warrior of their tribe, their chief,
Sage in the council, bloody in the strife,
High towered dark Wompaw's snowy plume in air,
Waved on the breeze, and shone a beacon there!
Old Ompahaw, with brow of fire,
And bosom burning high with ire
And sparkling eye, and burning brand,
Which gleamed athwart both lake and strand,
Still echoed back the lengthened yell
Which startled wildwood, rock, and dell!
And more were there, so dread, so wild,
Nature might shudder at her child,
And curse the hand that e'er had made
So dark a stain, so deep a shade!

On, on they flew, with lengthened stride
But, ah! the victims, where are they? —
Naught but the lake lies open wide,
And the broad bosom of the bay!

But, ah! 't is well; — that shrill shriek toll'd
The death-knell of their chief once more!
Yes, Rathmond, yes, the deed was bold,
That stretched yon whte plume on the shore!

Safe crouch'd 'neath fern-bush, dark and low
Rathmond had truly bent his bow,
And Montonoc, with steady eye,
From 'mid the oak's arms broad and high,
Took aim as sure; his arrows sped,
And many a bloody foe is dead!
Wide tumult spreads! — afar they fly,
Each rustling brake, which meets the eye,
Seems shrouding still some warrior there,
With bloody brand and eye of fire.
Slow dropping from his safe retreat,
The prophet glides to Rathmond's seat;
Then raised loud yells of various tone,
Such as are given at victory won,
And Rathmond joined, till long and high,
Rang the loud chorus to the sky!
Hark! o'er the rocks, the shrieks are answered wild
Can it be Echo, Nature's darling child?
No —'t is a whoop of horror and despair,
Which knows no sympathy, which sheds no tear!

Lo! on yon cliff, which frowns above the wave,
Mark the stern warriors hovering o'er their grave!
'T is done: the sullen bosom of the bay
Opens and closes o'er its sinking prey!

One hollow splashing, as the waters part,
Sad welcome of the victim to his bed,
One mournful, shuddering echo, and the heart
Turns, chilled, at length, from scenes of death and dread!

But ah! like some sad spectre lingering near,
A form still hovers o'er the scene of woe; —
Does it await its hour of vengeance here,
Watching the cold forms weltering below?

The morn was dawning slowly in the east,
A few faint gleams of light were bursting through,
When the dread warriors sought the lake's calm breast
And sullen sunk amid its waters blue!

That rude, wild phantom hovering there,
Poised on the precipice mid-way in air,
Like some stern spirit of the dead,
Rising indignant from its bed,
Was Ompahaw! alone, he stood,
Gazing on Heaven, on hill, and wood!
His eye was wilder than the eagles' glare;
Its glance was triumph, mingled with despair!
Far floated on the breeze his plumes of red,
Waving in warlike pride around his head;
His bow was aimless, bent within his hand;
His scalping-knife was gleaming in its band;
And his gay dress, bedecked for battle's storm,
Was wildly fluttering round his warrior-form!

'Farewell!' he cried, 'this aged hand
Draws the last bow-string of our band!'
He spoke, and, sudden as the lightning's glance,
The dart, one moment, o'er the waters danced;
Like comet's blaze, like shooting star,
It whirled across the waters far!
The dark lake sparkled, as the arrow fell,
Foaming, death's herald, a last, bright farewell!
Then from his belt his tomahawk he tore,
'Man shall ne'er stain thy blade again with gore!'
Then raised on high his arm, and wildly sung
The death-song of his tribe, till nature rung!


'The last of the tribe of Hillis-ad-joe
Falls not by the hand of the bloody foe
But they fled to the Heaven of peace in the west,
The Great Spirit called, and they flew to be blessed!

'From the dark rock's frowning brow
They flew to the deep below;
They feared not, for the Heaven of peace in the west
Was smiling them welcome, sweet welcome to rest!

'The last of the tribe of Hillis-ad-joe
Now plunges him'mid the deep waters below!
I come, Great Spirit, take me to thy rest!
Lo! my freed soul is winged towards the west!'

'T is past! the rude, wild sons of Nature sleep,
Calm, undisturbed, amid the waters deep!
'T is past! — the deed is done, the tribe has gone!
Not one is left to mourn it, no, not one!

The last of all that tribe of blood
Lies weltering in the sable flood!
Oh! where is yonder fair-haired maid?
Say, whither hath the lone one strayed?
'Mid the wild tumult of the strife,
Where fled she from the scalping-knife?
Angels around her spread their arm,
And shrouded her from fear and harm!
But oh! what shriek rang shrill and clear,
And echoed still in Rathmond's ear?
Why should he note that voice, that scream?
Was it his fancy, or a dream?
Or was it — hope illumed his eye,
And pointed to the prophecy!

'But no! — 't were madness to return
To those bright scenes of joy,' he cried,
'Her bones are whitening in the sun,
Her ashes scattered far and wide!'

But where is Montonoc? alone,
Rathmond is musing on the strand;
Say, whither has the prophet gone?
Why does young Rathmond heedless stand?

Oh! he is picturing to his vacant breast
Those scenes of joy, those moments doubly blessed,
Which youthful hope had promised should be his,
When all was light, and love, and cloudless bliss!
Oh! he was sighing o'er the dreary waste,
Left in that bosom, which had loved so well!
Oh! he was wishing for some place of rest,
Some gloomy cavern, or some lonely cell!

But, ah! the voice of Montonoc is heard,
Loud as the notes of yonder gloomy bird
'Eagle!' he cried, 'the fatal charm hath passed!
The blood-red tribe have darkly sunk at last!
And, warrior, now I yield unto thy power
The latest trophy of my ]ife's last hour!
Deal with him as thou wilt, for he is thine!
But mark! 't was I who gave, for he was mine!
Adieu! I go!' — He closed his fiery eye,
And his stern spirit flew to heaven on high!

The prisoner sighed, and mutely gazed awhile
Upon the fallen prophet's brow of toil,
Then towards the warrior turned, dropped the dark hood,
And, lo! Cordelia before Rathmond stood!

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