Gertrude of Wyoming- A Poem in three parts

Discussion in 'Revolutionary War' started by FortyForter, Dec 28, 2009.

  1. FortyForter

    FortyForter New Member

    The scene of the poem is the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania and the massacre that occurred there on July 3, 1778. On that day, more than three hundred American Revolutionaries died at the hands of Loyalists and their Iroquois allies. At the time, it was widely believed that the attack was led by Joseph Brant; in the poem, Brant is described as the "Monster Brant" because of the atrocities committed, although it was later determined that Brant had not actually been present. The poem has been criticized for other historical inaccuracies. see:

    Enjoy the read: :)

    Gertrude of Wyoming

    PART I

    On Susquehanna's side, fair Wyoming!
    Although the wild-flower on thy ruin'd wall,
    And roofless homes, a sad remembrance bring,
    Of what thy gentle people did befall;
    Yet thou wert once the loveliest land of all
    That see the Atlantic wave their morn restore.
    Sweet land! may I thy lost delights recall,
    And paint thy Gertrude in her bowers of yore,
    Whose beauty was the love of Pennsylvania's shore!

    Delightful Wyoming! beneath thy skies,
    The happy shepherd swains had nought to do
    But feed their flocks on green declivities,
    Or skim perchance thy lake with light canoe,
    From morn till evening's sweeter pastimes grew,
    With timbrel, when beneath the forests brown,
    Thy lovely maidens would the dance renew;
    And aye those sunny mountains half-way down
    Would echo flageolet from some romantic town.

    Then, where of Indian hills the daylight takes
    His leave, how might you the flamingo see
    Disporting like a meteor on the lakes--
    And playful squirrel on his nut-grown tree:
    And every sound of life was full of glee,
    From merry mock-bird's song, or hum of men;
    While hearkening, fearing naught their revelry,
    The wild deer arch'd his neck from glades, and then,
    Unhunted, sought his woods and wilderness again.

    And scarce had Wyoming of war or crime
    Heard, but in transatlantic story rung,
    For here the exile met from every clime,
    And spoke in friendship every distant tongue:
    Men from the blood of warring Europe sprung
    Were but divided by the running brook;
    And happy where no Rhenish trumpet sung,
    On plains no sieging mine's volcano shook,
    The blue-eyed German changed his sword to pruning-hook.

    Nor far some Andalusian saraband
    Would sound to many a native roundelay--
    But who is he that yet a dearer land
    Remembers, over hills and far away?
    Green Albin! what though he no more survey
    Thy ships at anchor on the quiet shore,
    Thy pelloch's rolling from the mountain bay,
    Thy lone sepulchral cairn upon the moor,
    And distant isles that hear the loud Corbrechtan roar!

    Alas! poor Caledonia's mountaineer,
    That wants stern edict e'er, and feudal grief,
    Had forced him from a home he loved so dear!
    Yet found he here a home and glad relief,
    And plied the beverage from his own fair sheaf,
    That fired his Highland blood with mickle glee:
    And England sent her men, of men the chief,
    Who taught those sires of empire yet to be,
    To plant the tree of life,--to plant fair Freedom's tree!

    Here was not mingled in the city's pomp
    Of life's extremes the grandeur and the gloom
    Judgment awoke not here her dismal tromp,
    Nor seal'd in blood a fellow-creature's doom,
    Nor mourn'd the captive in a living tomb.
    One venerable man, beloved of all,
    Sufficed, where innocence was yet in bloom,
    To sway the strife, that seldom might befall:
    And Albert was their judge, in patriarchal hall.

    How reverend was the look, serenely aged,
    He bore, this gentle Pennsylvanian sire,
    Where all but kindly fervors were assuaged,
    Undimm'd by weakness' shade, or turbid ire!
    And though, amidst the calm of thought entire,
    Some high and haughty features might betray
    A soul impetuous once, 'twas earthly fire
    That fled composure's intellectual ray,
    As AEtna's fires grow dim before the rising day.

    I boast no song in magic wonders rife,
    But yet, oh Nature! is there naught to prize,
    Familiar in thy bosom scenes of life?
    And dwells in day-light truth's salubrious skies
    No form with which the soul may sympathise?--
    Young, innocent, on whose sweet forehead mild
    The parted ringlet shone in simplest guise,
    An inmate in the home of Albert smiled,
    Or blest his noonday walk--she was his only child.

    The rose of England bloom'd on Gertrude's cheek--
    What though these shades had seen her birth, her sire
    A Briton's independence taught to seek
    Far western worlds; and there his household fire
    The light of social love did long inspire,
    And many a halcyon day he lived to see
    Unbroken but by one misfortune dire,
    When fate had reft his mutual heart--but she
    Was gone--and Gertrude climb'd a widow'd father's knee.

    A loved bequest,--and I may half impart--
    To them that feel the strong paternal tie,
    How like a new existence to his heart
    That living flower uprose beneath his eye
    Dear as she was from cherub infancy,
    From hours when she would round his garden play,
    To time when as the ripening years went by,
    Her lovely mind could culture well repay,
    And more engaging grew, from pleasing day to day.

    I may not paint those thousand infant charms;
    (Unconscious fascination, undesign'd!)
    The orison repeated in his arms,
    For God to bless her sire and all mankind;
    The book, the bosom on his knee reclined,
    Or how sweet fairy-lore he heard her con,
    (The playmate ere the teacher of her mind:)
    All uncompanion'd else her heart had gone
    Till now, in Gertrude's eyes, their ninth blue summer shone.

    And summer was the tide, and sweet the hour,
    When sire and daughter saw, with fleet descent,
    An Indian from his bark approach their bower,
    Of buskin limb, and swarthy lineament;
    The red wild feathers on his brow were blent,
    And bracelets bound the arm that help'd to light
    A boy, who seem'd, as he beside him went,
    Of Christian vesture, and complexion bright,
    Led by his dusky guide, like morning brought by night.

    Yet pensive seem'd the boy for one so young--
    The dimple from his polish'd cheek had fled;
    When, leaning on his forest-bow unstrung,
    Th' Oneyda warrior to the planter said,
    And laid his hand upon the stripling's head,
    "Peace be to thee! my words this belt approve;
    The paths of peace my steps have hither led:
    This little nursling, take him to thy love,
    And shield the bird unfledged, since gone the parent dove.

    Christian! I am the foeman of thy foe;
    Our wampum league thy brethren did embrace:
    Upon the Michigan, three moons ago,
    We launch'd our pirogues for the bison chase,
    And with the Hurons planted for a space,
    With true and faithful hands, the olive-stalk;
    But snakes are in the bosoms of their race,
    And though they held with us a friendly talk,
    The hollow peace-tree fell beneath their tomahawk!

    It was encamping on the lake's far port,
    A cry of Areouski broke our sleep,
    Where storm'd an ambush'd foe thy nation's fort
    And rapid, rapid whoops came o'er the deep;
    But long thy country's war-sign on the steep
    Appear'd through ghastly intervals of light,
    And deathfully their thunders seem'd to sweep,
    Till utter darkness swallow'd up the sight,
    As if a shower of blood had quench'd the fiery fight!

    It slept--it rose again--on high their tower
    Sprung upwards like a torch to light the skies,
    Then down again it rain'd an ember shower,
    And louder lamentations heard we rise;
    As when the evil Manitou that dries
    Th' Ohio woods, consumes them in his ire,
    In vain the desolated panther flies,
    And howls amidst his wilderness of fire:
    Alas! too late, we reach'd and smote those Hurons dire!

    But as the fox beneath the nobler hound,
    So died their warriors by our battle brand;
    And from the tree we, with her child, unbound
    A lonely mother of the Christian land:--
    Her lord--the captain of the British band--
    Amidst the slaughter of his soldiers lay.
    Scarce knew the widow our delivering hand;
    Upon her child she sobb'd and soon'd away,
    Or shriek'd unto the God to whom the Christians pray.

    Our virgins fed her with their kindly bowls
    Of fever-balm and sweet sagamite:
    But she was journeying to the land of souls,
    And lifted up her dying head to pray
    That we should bid an ancient friend convey
    Her orphan to his home of England's shore;
    And take, she said, this token far away,
    To one that will remember us of yore,
    When he beholds the ring that Waldegrave's Julia wore.

    And I, the eagle of my tribe, have rush'd
    With this lorn dove."--A sage's self-command
    Had quell'd the tears from Albert's heart that gush'd;
    But yet his cheek--his agitated hand--
    That shower'd upon the stranger of the land
    No common boon, in grief but ill beguiled
    A soul that was not wont to be unmann'd;
    "And stay," he cried, "dear pilgrim of the wild,
    Preserver of my old, my boon companion's child!--

    Child of a race whose name my bosom warms,
    On earth's remotest bounds how welcome here!
    Whose mother oft, a child, has fill'd these arms,
    Young as thyself, and innocently dear,
    Whose grandsire was my early life's compeer.
    Ah, happiest home of England's happy clime!
    How beautiful even' now thy scenes appear,
    As in the noon and sunshine of my prime!
    How gone like yesterday these thrice ten years of time!

    And Julia! when thou wert like Gertrude now
    Can I forget thee, favorite child of yore?
    Or thought I, in thy father's house, when thou
    Wert lightest-hearted on his festive floor,
    And first of all his hospitable door
    To meet and kiss me at my journey's end?
    But where was I when Waldegrave was no more?
    And thou didst pale thy gentle head extend
    In woes, that ev'n the tribe of deserts was thy friend!"

    He said--and strain'd unto his heart the boy;--
    Far differently, the mute Oneyda took
    His calumet of peace, and cup of joy;
    As monumental bronze unchanged his look;
    A soul that pity touch'd but never shook;
    Train'd from his tree-rock'd cradle to his bier
    The fierce extreme of good and ill to brook
    Impassive--fearing but the shame of fear--
    A stoic of the woods--a man without a tear.

    Yet deem not goodness on the savage stock
    Of Outalissi's heart disdain'd to grow;
    As lives the oak unwither'd on the rock
    By storms above, and barrenness below;
    He scorn'd his own, who felt another's wo:
    And ere the wolf-skin on his back he flung,
    Or laced his mocassins, in act to go,
    A song of parting to the boy he sung,
    Who slept on Albert's couch, nor heard his friendly tongue.

    "Sleep, wearied one! and in the dreaming land
    Shouldst thou to-morrow with thy mother meet,
    Oh! tell her spirit, that the white man's hand
    Hath pluck'd the thorns of sorrow from thy feet;
    While I in lonely wilderness shall greet
    They little foot-prints--or by traces know
    The fountain, where at noon I thought it sweet
    To feed thee with the quarry of my bow,
    And pour'd the lotus-horn, or slew the mountain roe.

    Adieu! sweet scion of the rising sun!
    But should affliction's storms thy blossom mock,
    Then come again--my own adopted one!
    And I will graft thee on a noble stock:
    The crocodile, the condor of the rock,
    Shall be the pastime of thy sylvan wars;
    And I will teach thee in the battle' shock
    To pay with Huron blood thy father's scars,
    And gratulate his soul rejoicing in the stars!"

    So finish'd he the rhyme (howe'er uncouth)
    That true to nature's fervid feelings ran;
    (And song is but the eloquence of truth:)
    Then forth uprose that lone wayfaring man;
    But dauntless he, nor chart, nor journey's plan
    In woods required, whose trained eye was keen,
    As eagle of the wilderness, to scan
    His path by mountain, swamp, or deep ravine,
    Or ken far friendly huts on good savannas green.

    Old Albert saw him from the valley's side--
    His pirogue launch'd--his pilgrimage begun--
    Far, like the red-bird's wing he seem'd to glide;
    Then dived, and vanish'd in the woodlands dun.
    Oft, to that spot by tender memory won,
    Would Albert climb the promontory's height,
    If but a dim sail glimmer'd in the sun;
    But never more to bless his longing sight,
    Was Outalissi hail'd, with bark and plumage bright.

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