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By WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, the poet of America. Professor
Wilson considered this to be one of his finest compositions.
Thou who wouldst see the lovely and the wild
Mingled in harmony on Nature's face,
Ascend our rocky mountains. Let thy foot
Fail not with weariness, for on their tops
The beauty and the majesty of earth,
Spread wide beneath, shall make thee to forget
The steep and toilsome way. There as thou stand'st,
The haunts of men below thee and around
The mountain summits, thy expanding heart
Shall feel a kindred with that loftier world
To which thou art translated, and partake
The enlargement of thy vision. Thou shalt look
Upon the green and rolling forest tops,
And down into the secrets of the glens
And streams that with their bordering thickets strive
To hide their windings. Thou shalt gaze, at once,
Here on white villages, and tilth, and herds,
And swarming roads, and there on solitudes
That only hear the torrent, and the wind,
And eagle's shriek. There is a precipice
That seems a fragment of some mighty wall,
Built by the hand that fashion'd the old world,
To separate its nations, and thrown down
When the flood drown'd them. To the north, a path
Conducts you up the narrow battlement.
Steep is the western side, shaggy and wild
With mossy trees, and pinnacles of flint,
And many a hanging crag. But, to the east,
Sheer to the vale go down the bare old cliffs,
Huge pillars, that in middle heaven upbear
Their weather-beaten capitals, here dark
With the thick moss of centuries, and there
Of chalky whiteness where the thunderbolt
Has splinter'd them. It is a fearful thing
To stand upon the beetling verge, and see
Where storm and lightning, from that huge gray wall,
Have tumbled down vast blocks, and at the base
Dash'd them in fragments, and to lay thine ear
Over the dizzy depth, and hear the sound
Of winds that struggle with the woods below,
Come up like ocean murmurs. But the scene
Is lovely round; a beautiful river there
Wanders amid the fresh and fertile meads,
The paradise he made unto himself,
Mining the soil for ages. On each side
The fields swell upward to the hills ; beyond
Above the hills, in the blue distance, rise
The mighty columns with which earth props heaven.
There is a tale about these reverend rocks, A sad tradition of unhappy love, And sorrows borne and ended, long ago, When over these fair vales the savage sought His game in the thick woods. There was a maid, The fairest of the Indian maids, bright-eyed, With wealth of raven tresses, a light form, And a gay heart. About her cabin-door The wide old woods resounded with her song And fairy laughter all the summer day. She loved her cousin ; such a love was deemed, By the morality of those stern tribes, Incestuous, and she struggled bard and long Against her love, and reason'd with her heart, As simple Indian maiden might. In vain. Then her eye lost its lustre, and her step Its lightness, and the gray-hair'd men that pass'd Her dwelling wonder'd that they heard no more The accustom'd song and laugh of her, whose looks Were like the cheerful smile of Spring, they said, Upon the winter of their age. She went To weep where no eye saw, and was not found When all the merry girls were met to dance, And all the hunters of the tribe were out: Nor when they gather'd from the rustling husk The shining ear; nor when, by the river's side, They pull'd the grape and startled the wild shades With sounds of mirth. The keen-eyed Indian dames Would whisper to each other, as they saw Her wasting form, and say " the girl will die.”
One day into the bosom of a friend,
A playmate of her young and innocent years,
She pour'd her griefs. “ Thou know'st, and thou alone."
She said, “ for I bave told theé, all my love,
And guilt, and sorrow. I am sick of life.
All night I weep in darkness, and the morn
Glares on me, as upon a thing accursed,
That has no business on the earth. I hate
The pastimes and the pleasant toils that once
I loved; the cheerful voices of my friends
Have an unnatural horror in my ear.
In dreams my mother, from the land of souls,
Calls me and chides me. All that look on me
Do seem to know my shame; I cannot bear
Their eyes ; I cannot from my heart root out
The love that wrings it so, and I must die."
It was a summer morning and they went To this old precipice. About the cliffs Lay garlands, ears of maize, and shaggy skins Of wolf and bear, the offerings of the tribe Here made to the Great Spirit, for they deem'd, Like worshippers of the elder time, that God Doth walk on the high places and affect The earth-o'erlooking mountains. She had on The ornaments with which her father loved To deck the beauty of his bright-eyed girl, And bade her wear when stranger warriors came To be his guests. Here the friends sat them down, And sang, all day, old songs of love and death, And deck'd the poor wan victim's hair with flowers, And pray'd that safe and swift might be her way To the calm world of sunshine, where no grief Makes the heart heavy and the eyelids red. Beautiful lay the region of her tribe Below her-waters resting in the embrace Of the wide forest, and maize-planted glades Opening amid the leafy wilderness. She gazed upon it long, and at the sight Of her own village peeping through the trees, And her own dwelling, and the cabin roof Of him she loved with an unlawful love, And came to die for, a warm gush of tears Ran from her eyes. But when the sun grew low And the hill shadows long, she threw herself
From the steep rock and perish'd. There was scooped
Upon the mountain's southern slope a grave:
And there they laid her, in the very garb
With which the maiden deck'd herself for death,
With the same withering wild flowers in her hair.
And o'er the mould that cover'd her, the tribe
Built up a simple monument, a cone
Of small loose stones. Thenceforward all who pass'd,
Hunter, and dame, and virgin, laid a stone
In silence on the pile. It stands there yet.
And Indians from the distant west, who come
To visit where their father's bones are laid,
Yet tell the sorrowful tale, and to this day
The mountain where the hapless maiden died
Is call’d the Mountain of the Monument.
TO ONE IN PARADISE.
By Edgar A. PoE.
Thou wast all that to me, love,
For which my soul did pine-
A green isle in the sea, love,
A fountain and a shrine,
All wreath'd with fairy fruits and flowers,
And all the flowers were mine.
Ah, dream too bright to last!
Ah, starry hope that didst arise
But to be overcast !
A voice from out the future cries,
“On! on!"_but o'er the Past
(Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies Mute, motionless, aghast !
For, alas! alas ! with me
The light of life is o'er!
No more—no moreno more-
(Such language holds the solemn sea
To the sands upon the shore)
Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree,
Or the stricken eagle soar.
And all my days are trances,
And all my nightly dreams
And were thy dark eye glances,
And where thy footstep gleams-
In what ethereal dances,
By what eternal streams.
A DEAD PAST. Extracted from a recent number of Household Words, where it appears anonymously.
SPARE her at least ; look, you have taken from me
The present, and I murmur not, nor moan;
The future, too, with all her glorious promise ;
But do not leave me utterly alone.
Spare me the Past-for, see, she cannot harm you,
she lies so white and cold, wrapp'd in her shroud,
All, all my own! and trust me I will hide her
Within my soul, nor speak to her aloud.
I folded her soft hands upon her bosom
And strew'd my flowers upon her-they still live-
Sometimes I like to kiss her closed white eyelids,
And think of all the joy she used to give.
Cruel indeed it were to take her from me;
She sleeps, she will not wake-no fear-again.
And so I laid her, such a gentle burthen,
Quietly on my heart to still its pain.
I do not think the rosy smiling present,
Or the vague future, spite of all her charms,
Could ever rival her. You know you laid her,
Long years ago, then living, in my arms.
Leave her at least - while my tears fall upon her,
I dream she smiles, just as she did of yore;
As dear as ever to me-nav, it may be,
Even dearer still-since I have nothing more.