Poems (Eliza Gabriella Lewis)/The Backwoodsman's Tale

4532931Poems — The Backwoodsman's TaleEliza Gabriella Lewis

"And in a voice of solemn joy that awed
Echo into oblivion, he said—"

Heaven smiled propitiously upon the land
My fathers won, and the Creator's hand
Conspicuous shone; for there, luxuriant fields
A wealthy harvest to the farmer yields,
And shady groves, with cooling streams unite
To temper with their freshness Heaven's warm light.
Fruits, flowerets, herbs profusely scattered o'er
Bade e'en the savage, Nature's God adore—
To lowly bow, and 'neath each shady bower
By nature softened, own a higher power.
Creation's beauties filling every sense,
He asks the cause, and owns th' Omnipotence.

And I was blest! my child—our only one—
Sought my caress at eve, when toil was done;
Whilst my own Mary dressed the cleanly board
With wholesome food, and fruits delicious stored.
Each Sabbath morn, at the first dawn of day,
By the pure light we rose, for we could pray
To the blessed giver of content, as well
'Neath the wide Heavens as by the chapel bell.
The grateful heart a response still may find
In the fair fields—or breathing on the wind.
The Indian tribes, by treaties, bad been won
Afar to wander—where the setting sun
Claims as his own the vallies, fields and wood
Glowing beneath—of light a glorious flood.
Not then had murder loosed her fiendish train,
But peace and plenty ruled the fertile plain.

One stilly eve we sat within the porch,
Watching our child—as , eager for the torch
Of the fire-fly, that, circling round his head,
Flashed tiny lightning, after it he sped,
(My fearless boy) bounding within the gloom
Of the deep forest. Faded then the bloom
From his fond mother's cheek—"Oh, haste!" she cried,
"The prowling wolves within the forest bide;
No later than this morn their steps were nigh
Our cottage door." I listened to her cry,
And sought the child with undefined alarm—
A fearful trembling—could our boy meet harm
In the dark wood? Hark! was it Mary's scream?
I flew to meet my child lest she should deem
Some evil had befallen; all was still
As the calm tomb—when, suddenly, a shrill
And bitter cry rose 'mid the solitude,
And a bright light illuming where I stood,
Showed me my boy—dead—dead! Oh! God! oh! God!
His fair locks trampled in the bloody sod.

I do not rave—nay, stare not thus aghast,
That vision shakes my soul, but it hath past;
Weeping I bore him to our once calm cot;
He, the young blessing of our lonely lot
Had yielded his pure soul; I was alone!
And, mourning, I retraced my steps—when shone
A fiercer light—and yells, as if were hurled
A spirit of the tortured on the world;
Curdled my blood;—I saw the flaming torch
Upon my dwelling; by the crumbling porch
Stood the dark savage—demon—murderous foe,
Aiming o'er Mary's head the deadly blow.
Thank Heaven! my arm was strong; he fell,
Pierced by my bullet—how, I scarce can tell.
Mary was saved; but, senseless, from the ground
I raised her, and the first low sound
Was, "My dear boy—oh! bring him to me now;
Let us together to our Maker bow.
Are we not saved? Come husband let us pray!"
And starting from my bosom, where she lay,
Ere I could break to her the dreadful tale.
She saw the murdered child; one bitter wail
Burst from her lips; then quietly she knelt,
And wiped his brow; and his stilled bosom felt,
And gazed on him; alas! her reason passed
E'en as she gazed; upon them both the blast
Had fallen—ever, from that hour,
Speechless, she was—a pale and dying flower
Wrecked by the wintry wind—her form
Felt not the glowing summer's breathing warm;
Yet still she lived, if such can be called breath—
This lingering 'twixt the arms of love and death;
Dead to all here—patient, but still; so still,
That e'en the sufferer's death were lesser ill.

And years had passed—alas! she could not die,
But still breathed on—the spring-time now was nigh.
And Mary sat with me within the door,
For she the wintry months had lingered o'er,
Brooding with moody lips—mute, startful, hot—
A maniac look—that tale had o'er her shot.
I turned upon the sufferer to look—
Her frame with all-unwonted tremors shook,
And the long-absent blood rushed to her cheek;
She wept—oh! did I dream?—My Mary, speak,
I cried.—She met my gaze
With all the fondness of our happier days.
My husband, murmured she; my child, my child!
Lay me with him! then, kissing me, she smiled,
And, bending her meek head upon my breast,
So died.—I laid her where she prayed to rest.

And through the pathless prairies, unseen
'Till now, by man, a wanderer I've been.
Each year I seek their grave. Stranger, I pray
That soon my aged bones in peace may lay
With theirs so loved. ****