Till the bell of Ghent responded o'er lagoon and dike of sand, "I am Roland! I am Roland! there is victory in the land!"
Then the sound of drums aroused me. The awakened city's roar Chased the phantoms I had summoned back into their graves once more.
Hours had passed away like minutes; and, before I was aware, Lo! the shadow of the belfry crossed the sun-illumined square.
A GLEAM OF SUNSHINE
This is the place. Stand still, my steed, Let me review the scene, And summon from the shadowy Past The forms that once have been.
The Past and Present here unite Beneath Time's flowing tide, Like footprints hidden by a brook, But seen on either side.
Here runs the highway to the town; There the green lane descends, Through which I walked to church with thee, O gentlest of my friends!
The shadow of the linden-trees Lay moving on the grass; Between them and the moving boughs, A shadow, thou didst pass.
Thy dress was like the lilies, And thy heart as pure as they: One of God's holy messengers Did walk with me that day.
I saw the branches of the trees Bend down thy touch to meet, The clover-blossoms in the grass Rise up to kiss thy feet,
"Sleep, sleep to-day, tormenting cares, Of earth and folly born!" Solemnly sang the village choir On that sweet Sabbath morn.
Through the closed blinds the golden sun Poured in a dusty beam, Like the celestial ladder seen By Jacob in his dream.
And ever and anon, the wind, Sweet-scented with the hay, Turned o'er the hymn-book's fluttering leaves That on the window lay.
Long was the good man's sermon, Yet it seemed not so to me; For he spake of Ruth the beautiful, And still I thought of thee.
Long was the prayer he uttered, Yet it seemed not so to me; For in my heart I prayed with him, And still I thought of thee.
But now, alas! the place seems changed; Thou art no longer here: Part of the sunshine of the scene With thee did disappear.
Though thoughts, deep-rooted in my heart, Like pine-trees dark and high, Subdue the light of noon, and breathe A low and ceaseless sigh;
This memory brightens o'er the past, As when the sun, concealed Behind some cloud that near us hangs Shines on a distant field.
THE ARSENAL AT SPRINGFIELD
This is the Arsenal. From floor to ceiling, Like a huge organ, rise the burnished arms; But front their silent pipes no anthem pealing Startles the villages with strange alarms.
Ah! what a sound will rise, how wild and dreary, When the death-angel touches those swift keys What loud lament and dismal Miserere Will mingle with their awful symphonies
I hear even now the infinite fierce chorus, The cries of agony, the endless groan, Which, through the ages that have gone before us, In long reverberations reach our own.
On helm and harness rings the Saxon hammer, Through Cimbric forest roars the Norseman's song, And loud, amid the universal clamor, O'er distant deserts sounds the Tartar gong.
I hear the Florentine, who from his palace Wheels out his battle-bell with dreadful din, And Aztec priests upon their teocallis Beat the wild war-drums made of serpent's skin;
The tumult of each sacked and burning village; The shout that every prayer for mercy drowns; The soldiers' revels in the midst of pillage; The wail of famine in beleaguered towns;
The bursting shell, the gateway wrenched asunder, The rattling musketry, the clashing blade; And ever and anon, in tones of thunder, The diapason of the cannonade.
Is it, O man, with such discordant noises, With such accursed instruments as these, Thou drownest Nature's sweet and kindly voices, And jarrest the celestial harmonies?
Were half the power, that fills the world with terror, Were half the wealth, bestowed on camps and courts, Given to redeem the human mind from error, There were no need of arsenals or forts:
The warrior's name would be a name abhorred! And every nation, that should lift again Its hand against a brother, on its forehead Would wear forevermore the curse of Cain!
Down the dark future, through long generations, The echoing sounds grow fainter and then cease; And like a bell, with solemn, sweet vibrations, I hear once more the voice of Christ say, "Peace!"
Peace! and no longer from its brazen portals The blast of War's great organ shakes the skies! But beautiful as songs of the immortals, The holy melodies of love arise.
In the valley of the Pegnitz, where across broad meadow-lands Rise the blue Franconian mountains, Nuremberg, the ancient, stands.
Quaint old town of toil and traffic, quaint old town of art and song, Memories haunt thy pointed gables, like the rooks that round them throng:
Memories of the Middle Ages, when the emperors, rough and bold, Had their dwelling in thy castle, time-defying, centuries old;
And thy brave and thrifty burghers boasted, in their uncouth rhyme, That their great imperial city stretched its hand through every clime.
In the court-yard of the castle, bound with many an iron hand, Stands the mighty linden planted by Queen Cunigunde's hand;
On the square the oriel window, where in old heroic days Sat the poet Melchior singing Kaiser Maximilian's praise.
Everywhere I see around me rise the wondrous world of Art: Fountains wrought with richest sculpture standing in the common mart;
And above cathedral doorways saints and bishops carved in stone, By a former age commissioned as apostles to our own.
In the church of sainted Sebald sleeps enshrined his holy dust, And in bronze the Twelve Apostles guard from age to age their trust;
In the church of sainted Lawrence stands a pix of sculpture rare, Like the foamy sheaf of fountains, rising through the painted air.
Here, when Art was still religion, with a simple, reverent heart, Lived and labored Albrecht Durer, the Evangelist of Art;
Hence in silence and in sorrow, toiling still with busy hand, Like an emigrant he wandered, seeking for the Better Land.
Emigravit is the inscription on the tombstone where he lies; Dead he is not, but departed,—for the artist never dies.
Fairer seems the ancient city, and the sunshine seems more fair, That he once has trod its pavement, that he once has breathed its air!
Through these streets so broad and stately, these obscure and dismal lanes, Walked of yore the Mastersingers, chanting rude poetic strains.
From remote and sunless suburbs came they to the friendly guild, Building nests in Fame's great temple, as in spouts the swallows build.
As the weaver plied the shuttle, wove he too the mystic rhyme, And the smith his iron measures hammered to the anvil's chime;
Thanking God, whose boundless wisdom makes the flowers of poesy bloom In the forge's dust and cinders, in the tissues of the loom.
Here Hans Sachs, the cobbler-poet, laureate of the gentle craft, Wisest of the Twelve Wise Masters, in huge folios sang and laughed.
But his house is now an ale-house, with a nicely sanded floor, And a garland in the window, and his face above the door;
Painted by some humble artist, as in Adam Puschman's song, As the old man gray and dove-like, with his great beard white and long.
And at night the swart mechanic comes to drown his cark and care, Quaffing ale from pewter tankard; in the master's antique chair.
Vanished is the ancient splendor, and before my dreamy eye Wave these mingled shapes and figures, like a faded tapestry.
Not thy Councils, not thy Kaisers, win for thee the world's regard; But thy painter, Albrecht Durer, and Hans Sachs thy cobbler-bard.
Thus, O Nuremberg, a wanderer from a region far away, As he paced thy streets and court-yards, sang in thought his careless lay:
Gathering from the pavement's crevice, as a floweret of the soil, The nobility of labor,—the long pedigree of toil.
THE NORMAN BARON Dans les moments de la vie ou la reflexion devient plus calme et plus profonde, ou l'interet et l'avarice parlent moins haut que la raison, dans les instants de chagrin domestique, de maladie, et de peril de mort, les nobles se repentirent de posseder des serfs, comme d'une chose peu agreable a Dieu, qui avait cree tous les hommes a son image.—THIERRY, Conquete de l'Angleterre.
In his chamber, weak and dying, Was the Norman baron lying; Loud, without, the tempest thundered And the castle-turret shook,
In this fight was Death the gainer, Spite of vassal and retainer, And the lands his sires had plundered, Written in the Doomsday Book.
By his bed a monk was seated, Who in humble voice repeated Many a prayer and pater-noster, From the missal on his knee;
And, amid the tempest pealing, Sounds of bells came faintly stealing, Bells, that from the neighboring kloster Rang for the Nativity.
In the hall, the serf and vassal Held, that night their Christmas wassail; Many a carol, old and saintly, Sang the minstrels and the waits;
And so loud these Saxon gleemen Sang to slaves the songs of freemen, That the storm was heard but faintly, Knocking at the castle-gates.
Till at length the lays they chanted Reached the chamber terror-haunted, Where the monk, with accents holy, Whispered at the baron's ear.
Tears upon his eyelids glistened, As he paused awhile and listened, And the dying baron slowly Turned his weary head to hear.
"Wassail for the kingly stranger Born and cradled in a manger! King, like David, priest, like Aaron, Christ is born to set us free!"
And the lightning showed the sainted Figures on the casement painted, And exclaimed the shuddering baron, "Miserere, Domine!"
In that hour of deep contrition He beheld, with clearer vision, Through all outward show and fashion, Justice, the Avenger, rise.
All the pomp of earth had vanished, Falsehood and deceit were banished, Reason spake more loud than passion, And the truth wore no disguise.
Every vassal of his banner, Every serf born to his manor, All those wronged and wretched creatures, By his hand were freed again.
And, as on the sacred missal He recorded their dismissal, Death relaxed his iron features, And the monk replied, "Amen!"
Many centuries have been numbered Since in death the baron slumbered By the convent's sculptured portal, Mingling with the common dust:
But the good deed, through the ages Living in historic pages, Brighter grows and gleams immortal, Unconsumed by moth or rust
RAIN IN SUMMER
How beautiful is the rain! After the dust and heat, In the broad and fiery street, In the narrow lane, How beautiful is the rain!
How it clatters along the roofs, Like the tramp of hoofs How it gushes and struggles out From the throat of the overflowing spout!
Across the window-pane It pours and pours; And swift and wide, With a muddy tide, Like a river down the gutter roars The rain, the welcome rain!
The sick man from his chamber looks At the twisted brooks; He can feel the cool Breath of each little pool; His fevered brain Grows calm again, And he breathes a blessing on the rain.
From the neighboring school Come the boys, With more than their wonted noise And commotion; And down the wet streets Sail their mimic fleets, Till the treacherous pool Ingulfs them in its whirling And turbulent ocean.
In the country, on every side, Where far and wide, Like a leopard's tawny and spotted hide, Stretches the plain, To the dry grass and the drier grain How welcome is the rain!
In the furrowed land The toilsome and patient oxen stand; Lifting the yoke encumbered head, With their dilated nostrils spread, They silently inhale The clover-scented gale, And the vapors that arise From the well-watered and smoking soil. For this rest in the furrow after toil Their large and lustrous eyes Seem to thank the Lord, More than man's spoken word.
Near at hand, From under the sheltering trees, The farmer sees His pastures, and his fields of grain, As they bend their tops To the numberless beating drops Of the incessant rain. He counts it as no sin That he sees therein Only his own thrift and gain.
These, and far more than these, The Poet sees! He can behold Aquarius old Walking the fenceless fields of air; And from each ample fold Of the clouds about him rolled Scattering everywhere The showery rain, As the farmer scatters his grain.
He can behold Things manifold That have not yet been wholly told,— Have not been wholly sung nor said. For his thought, that never stops, Follows the water-drops Down to the graves of the dead, Down through chasms and gulfs profound, To the dreary fountain-head Of lakes and rivers under ground; And sees them, when the rain is done, On the bridge of colors seven Climbing up once more to heaven, Opposite the setting sun.
Thus the Seer, With vision clear, Sees forms appear and disappear, In the perpetual round of strange, Mysterious change From birth to death, from death to birth, From earth to heaven, from heaven to earth; Till glimpses more sublime Of things, unseen before, Unto his wondering eyes reveal The Universe, as an immeasurable wheel Turning forevermore In the rapid and rushing river of Time.
TO A CHILD
Dear child! how radiant on thy mother's knee, With merry-making eyes and jocund smiles, Thou gazest at the painted tiles, Whose figures grace, With many a grotesque form and face. The ancient chimney of thy nursery! The lady with the gay macaw, The dancing girl, the grave bashaw With bearded lip and chin; And, leaning idly o'er his gate, Beneath the imperial fan of state, The Chinese mandarin.
With what a look of proud command Thou shakest in thy little hand The coral rattle with its silver bells, Making a merry tune! Thousands of years in Indian seas That coral grew, by slow degrees, Until some deadly and wild monsoon Dashed it on Coromandel's sand! Those silver bells Reposed of yore, As shapeless ore, Far down in the deep-sunken wells Of darksome mines, In some obscure and sunless place, Beneath huge Chimborazo's base, Or Potosi's o'erhanging pines And thus for thee, O little child, Through many a danger and escape, The tall ships passed the stormy cape; For thee in foreign lands remote, Beneath a burning, tropic clime, The Indian peasant, chasing the wild goat, Himself as swift and wild, In falling, clutched the frail arbute, The fibres of whose shallow root, Uplifted from the soil, betrayed The silver veins beneath it laid, The buried treasures of the miser, Time.
But, lo! thy door is left ajar! Thou hearest footsteps from afar! And, at the sound, Thou turnest round With quick and questioning eyes, Like one, who, in a foreign land, Beholds on every hand Some source of wonder and surprise! And, restlessly, impatiently, Thou strivest, strugglest, to be free, The four walls of thy nursery Are now like prison walls to thee. No more thy mother's smiles, No more the painted tiles, Delight thee, nor the playthings on the floor, That won thy little, beating heart before; Thou strugglest for the open door.
Through these once solitary halls Thy pattering footstep falls. The sound of thy merry voice Makes the old walls Jubilant, and they rejoice With the joy of thy young heart, O'er the light of whose gladness No shadows of sadness From the sombre background of memory start.
Once, ah, once, within these walls, One whom memory oft recalls, The Father of his Country, dwelt. And yonder meadows broad and damp The fires of the besieging camp Encircled with a burning belt. Up and down these echoing stairs, Heavy with the weight of cares, Sounded his majestic tread; Yes, within this very room Sat he in those hours of gloom, Weary both in heart and head.
But what are these grave thoughts to thee? Out, out! into the open air! Thy only dream is liberty, Thou carest little how or where. I see thee eager at thy play, Now shouting to the apples on the tree, With cheeks as round and red as they; And now among the yellow stalks, Among the flowering shrubs and plants, As restless as the bee. Along the garden walks, The tracks of thy small carriage-wheels I trace; And see at every turn how they efface Whole villages of sand-roofed tents, That rise like golden domes Above the cavernous and secret homes Of wandering and nomadic tribes of ants. Ah, cruel little Tamerlane, Who, with thy dreadful reign, Dost persecute and overwhelm These hapless Troglodytes of thy realm! What! tired already! with those suppliant looks, And voice more beautiful than a poet's books, Or murmuring sound of water as it flows. Thou comest back to parley with repose; This rustic seat in the old apple-tree, With its o'erhanging golden canopy Of leaves illuminate with autumnal hues, And shining with the argent light of dews, Shall for a season be our place of rest. Beneath us, like an oriole's pendent nest, From which the laughing birds have taken wing, By thee abandoned, hangs thy vacant swing. Dream-like the waters of the river gleam; A sailless vessel drops adown the stream, And like it, to a sea as wide and deep, Thou driftest gently down the tides of sleep.
O child! O new-born denizen Of life's great city! on thy head The glory of the morn is shed, Like a celestial benison! Here at the portal thou dost stand, And with thy little hand Thou openest the mysterious gate Into the future's undiscovered land. I see its valves expand, As at the touch of Fate! Into those realms of love and hate, Into that darkness blank and drear, By some prophetic feeling taught, I launch the bold, adventurous thought, Freighted with hope and fear; As upon subterranean streams, In caverns unexplored and dark, Men sometimes launch a fragile bark, Laden with flickering fire, And watch its swift-receding beams, Until at length they disappear, And in the distant dark expire.
By what astrology of fear or hope Dare I to cast thy horoscope! Like the new moon thy life appears; A little strip of silver light, And widening outward into night The shadowy disk of future years; And yet upon its outer rim, A luminous circle, faint and dim, And scarcely visible to us here, Rounds and completes the perfect sphere; A prophecy and intimation, A pale and feeble adumbration, Of the great world of light, that lies Behind all human destinies.
Ah! if thy fate, with anguish fraught, Should be to wet the dusty soil With the hot tears and sweat of toil,— To struggle with imperious thought, Until the overburdened brain, Weary with labor, faint with pain, Like a jarred pendulum, retain Only its motion, not its power,— Remember, in that perilous hour, When most afflicted and oppressed, From labor there shall come forth rest.
And if a more auspicious fate On thy advancing steps await Still let it ever be thy pride To linger by the laborer's side; With words of sympathy or song To cheer the dreary march along Of the great army of the poor, O'er desert sand, o'er dangerous moor. Nor to thyself the task shall be Without reward; for thou shalt learn The wisdom early to discern True beauty in utility; As great Pythagoras of yore, Standing beside the blacksmith's door, And hearing the hammers, as they smote The anvils with a different note, Stole from the varying tones, that hung Vibrant on every iron tongue, The secret of the sounding wire. And formed the seven-chorded lyre.
Enough! I will not play the Seer; I will no longer strive to ope The mystic volume, where appear The herald Hope, forerunning Fear, And Fear, the pursuivant of Hope. Thy destiny remains untold; For, like Acestes' shaft of old, The swift thought kindles as it flies, And burns to ashes in the skies.
THE OCCULTATION OF ORION
I saw, as in a dream sublime, The balance in the hand of Time. O'er East and West its beam impended; And day, with all its hours of light, Was slowly sinking out of sight, While, opposite, the scale of night Silently with the stars ascended.
Like the astrologers of eld, In that bright vision I beheld Greater and deeper mysteries. I saw, with its celestial keys, Its chords of air, its frets of fire, The Samian's great Aeolian lyre, Rising through all its sevenfold bars, From earth unto the fixed stars. And through the dewy atmosphere, Not only could I see, but hear, Its wondrous and harmonious strings, In sweet vibration, sphere by sphere, From Dian's circle light and near, Onward to vaster and wider rings. Where, chanting through his beard of snows, Majestic, mournful, Saturn goes, And down the sunless realms of space Reverberates the thunder of his bass.
Beneath the sky's triumphal arch This music sounded like a march, And with its chorus seemed to be Preluding some great tragedy. Sirius was rising in the east; And, slow ascending one by one, The kindling constellations shone. Begirt with many a blazing star, Stood the great giant Algebar, Orion, hunter of the beast! His sword hung gleaming by his side, And, on his arm, the lion's hide Scattered across the midnight air The golden radiance of its hair.
The moon was pallid, but not faint; And beautiful as some fair saint, Serenely moving on her way In hours of trial and dismay. As if she heard the voice of God, Unharmed with naked feet she trod Upon the hot and burning stars, As on the glowing coals and bars, That were to prove her strength, and try Her holiness and her purity.
Thus moving on, with silent pace, And triumph in her sweet, pale face, She reached the station of Orion. Aghast he stood in strange alarm! And suddenly from his outstretched arm Down fell the red skin of the lion Into the river at his feet. His mighty club no longer beat The forehead of the bull; but he Reeled as of yore beside the sea, When, blinded by Oenopion, He sought the blacksmith at his forge, And, climbing up the mountain gorge, Fixed his blank eyes upon the sun.
Then, through the silence overhead, An angel with a trumpet said, "Forevermore, forevermore, The reign of violence is o'er!" And, like an instrument that flings Its music on another's strings, The trumpet of the angel cast Upon the heavenly lyre its blast, And on from sphere to sphere the words Re-echoed down the burning chords,— "Forevermore, forevermore, The reign of violence is o'er!"
I stood on the bridge at midnight, As the clocks were striking the hour, And the moon rose o'er the city, Behind the dark church-tower.
I saw her bright reflection In the waters under me, Like a golden goblet falling And sinking into the sea.
And far in the hazy distance Of that lovely night in June, The blaze of the flaming furnace Gleamed redder than the moon.
Among the long, black rafters The wavering shadows lay, And the current that came from the ocean Seemed to lift and bear them away;
As, sweeping and eddying through them, Rose the belated tide, And, streaming into the moonlight, The seaweed floated wide.
And like those waters rushing Among the wooden piers, A flood of thoughts came o'er me That filled my eyes with tears.
How often, oh, how often, In the days that had gone by, I had stood on that bridge at midnight And gazed on that wave and sky!
How often, oh, how often, I had wished that the ebbing tide Would bear me away on its bosom O'er the ocean wild and wide!
For my heart was hot and restless, And my life was full of care, And the burden laid upon me Seemed greater than I could bear.
But now it has fallen from me, It is buried in the sea; And only the sorrow of others Throws its shadow over me.
Yet whenever I cross the river On its bridge with wooden piers, Like the odor of brine from the ocean Comes the thought of other years.
And I think how many thousands Of care-encumbered men, Each bearing his burden of sorrow, Have crossed the bridge since then.
I see the long procession Still passing to and fro, The young heart hot and restless, And the old subdued and slow!
And forever and forever, As long as the river flows, As long as the heart has passions, As long as life has woes;
The moon and its broken reflection And its shadows shall appear, As the symbol of love in heaven, And its wavering image here.
TO THE DRIVING CLOUD
Gloomy and dark art thou, O chief of the mighty Omahas; Gloomy and dark as the driving cloud, whose name thou hast taken! Wrapt in thy scarlet blanket, I see thee stalk through the city's Narrow and populous streets, as once by the margin of rivers Stalked those birds unknown, that have left us only their footprints. What, in a few short years, will remain of thy race but the footprints?
How canst thou walk these streets, who hast trod the green turf of the prairies! How canst thou breathe this air, who hast breathed the sweet air of the mountains! Ah! 't is in vain that with lordly looks of disdain thou dost challenge Looks of disdain in return, and question these walls and these pavements, Claiming the soil for thy hunting-grounds, while down-trodden millions Starve in the garrets of Europe, and cry from its caverns that they, too, Have been created heirs of the earth, and claim its division!
Back, then, back to thy woods in the regions west of the Wabash! There as a monarch thou reignest. In autumn the leaves of the maple Pave the floors of thy palace-halls with gold, and in summer Pine-trees waft through its chambers the odorous breath of their branches. There thou art strong and great, a hero, a tamer of horses! There thou chasest the stately stag on the banks of the Elkhorn, Or by the roar of the Running-Water, or where the Omaha Calls thee, and leaps through the wild ravine like a brave of the Blackfeet!
Hark! what murmurs arise from the heart of those mountainous deserts? Is it the cry of the Foxes and Crows, or the mighty Behemoth, Who, unharmed, on his tusks once caught the bolts of the thunder, And now lurks in his lair to destroy the race of the red man? Far more fatal to thee and thy race than the Crows and the Foxes, Far more fatal to thee and thy race than the tread of Behemoth, Lo! the big thunder-canoe, that steadily breasts the Missouri's Merciless current! and yonder, afar on the prairies, the camp-fires Gleam through the night; and the cloud of dust in the gray of the daybreak Marks not the buffalo's track, nor the Mandan's dexterous horse-race; It is a caravan, whitening the desert where dwell the Camanches! Ha! how the breath of these Saxons and Celts, like the blast of the east-wind, Drifts evermore to the west the scanty smokes of thy wigwams!
THE DAY IS DONE
The day is done, and the darkness Falls from the wings of Night, As a feather is wafted downward From an eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village Gleam through the rain and the mist, And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me That my soul cannot resist:
A feeling of sadness and longing, That is not akin to pain, And resembles sorrow only As the mist resembles the rain.
Come, read to me some poem, Some simple and heartfelt lay, That shall soothe this restless feeling, And banish the thoughts of day.
Not from the grand old masters, Not from the bards sublime, Whose distant footsteps echo Through the corridors of Time.
For, like strains of martial music, Their mighty thoughts suggest Life's endless toil and endeavor; And to-night I long for rest.
Read from some humbler poet, Whose songs gushed from his heart, As showers from the clouds of summer, Or tears from the eyelids start;
Who, through long days of labor, And nights devoid of ease, Still heard in his soul the music Of wonderful melodies.
Such songs have power to quiet The restless pulse of care, And come like the benediction That follows after prayer.
Then read from the treasured volume The poem of thy choice, And lend to the rhyme of the poet The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music And the cares, that infest the day, Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs, And as silently steal away.
AFTERNOON IN FEBRUARY
The day is ending, The night is descending; The marsh is frozen, The river dead.
Through clouds like ashes The red sun flashes On village windows That glimmer red.
The snow recommences; The buried fences Mark no longer The road o'er the plain;
While through the meadows, Like fearful shadows, Slowly passes A funeral train.
The bell is pealing, And every feeling Within me responds To the dismal knell;
Shadows are trailing, My heart is bewailing And tolling within Like a funeral bell.
TO AN OLD DANISH SONG-BOOK
Welcome, my old friend, Welcome to a foreign fireside, While the sullen gales of autumn Shake the windows.
The ungrateful world Has, it seems, dealt harshly with thee, Since, beneath the skies of Denmark, First I met thee.
There are marks of age, There are thumb-marks on thy margin, Made by hands that clasped thee rudely, At the alehouse.
Soiled and dull thou art; Yellow are thy time-worn pages, As the russet, rain-molested Leaves of autumn.
Thou art stained with wine Scattered from hilarious goblets, As the leaves with the libations Of Olympus.
Yet dost thou recall Days departed, half-forgotten, When in dreamy youth I wandered By the Baltic,—
When I paused to hear The old ballad of King Christian Shouted from suburban taverns In the twilight.
Thou recallest bards, Who in solitary chambers, And with hearts by passion wasted, Wrote thy pages.
Thou recallest homes Where thy songs of love and friendship Made the gloomy Northern winter Bright as summer.
Once some ancient Scald, In his bleak, ancestral Iceland, Chanted staves of these old ballads To the Vikings.
Once in Elsinore, At the court of old King Hamlet Yorick and his boon companions Sang these ditties.
Once Prince Frederick's Guard Sang them in their smoky barracks;— Suddenly the English cannon Joined the chorus!
Peasants in the field, Sailors on the roaring ocean, Students, tradesmen, pale mechanics, All have sung them.
Thou hast been their friend; They, alas! have left thee friendless! Yet at least by one warm fireside Art thou welcome.
And, as swallows build In these wide, old-fashioned chimneys, So thy twittering songs shall nestle In my bosom,—
Quiet, close, and warm, Sheltered from all molestation, And recalling by their voices Youth and travel.
WALTER VON DER VOGELWEID
Vogelweid the Minnesinger, When he left this world of ours, Laid his body in the cloister, Under Wurtzburg's minster towers.
And he gave the monks his treasures, Gave them all with this behest: They should feed the birds at noontide Daily on his place of rest;
Saying, "From these wandering minstrels I have learned the art of song; Let me now repay the lessons They have taught so well and long."
Thus the bard of love departed; And, fulfilling his desire, On his tomb the birds were feasted By the children of the choir.
Day by day, o'er tower and turret, In foul weather and in fair, Day by day, in vaster numbers, Flocked the poets of the air.
On the tree whose heavy branches Overshadowed all the place, On the pavement, on the tombstone, On the poet's sculptured face,
On the cross-bars of each window, On the lintel of each door, They renewed the War of Wartburg, Which the bard had fought before.
There they sang their merry carols, Sang their lauds on every side; And the name their voices uttered Was the name of Vogelweid.
Till at length the portly abbot Murmured, "Why this waste of food? Be it changed to loaves henceforward For our tasting brotherhood."
Then in vain o'er tower and turret, From the walls and woodland nests, When the minster bells rang noontide, Gathered the unwelcome guests.
Then in vain, with cries discordant, Clamorous round the Gothic spire, Screamed the feathered Minnesingers For the children of the choir.
Time has long effaced the inscriptions On the cloister's funeral stones, And tradition only tells us Where repose the poet's bones.
But around the vast cathedral, By sweet echoes multiplied, Still the birds repeat the legend, And the name of Vogelweid.
INSCRIPTION FOR AN ANTIQUE PITCHER
Come, old friend! sit down and listen! From the pitcher, placed between us, How the waters laugh and glisten In the head of old Silenus!
Old Silenus, bloated, drunken, Led by his inebriate Satyrs; On his breast his head is sunken, Vacantly he leers and chatters.
Fauns with youthful Bacchus follow; Ivy crowns that brow supernal As the forehead of Apollo, And possessing youth eternal.
Round about him, fair Bacchantes, Bearing cymbals, flutes, and thyrses, Wild from Naxian groves, or Zante's Vineyards, sing delirious verses.
Thus he won, through all the nations, Bloodless victories, and the farmer Bore, as trophies and oblations, Vines for banners, ploughs for armor.
Judged by no o'erzealous rigor, Much this mystic throng expresses: Bacchus was the type of vigor, And Silenus of excesses.
These are ancient ethnic revels, Of a faith long since forsaken; Now the Satyrs, changed to devils, Frighten mortals wine-o'ertaken.
Now to rivulets from the mountains Point the rods of fortune-tellers; Youth perpetual dwells in fountains,— Not in flasks, and casks, and cellars.
Claudius, though he sang of flagons And huge tankards filled with Rhenish, From that fiery blood of dragons Never would his own replenish.
Even Redi, though he chaunted Bacchus in the Tuscan valleys, Never drank the wine he vaunted In his dithyrambic sallies.
Then with water fill the pitcher Wreathed about with classic fables; Ne'er Falernian threw a richer Light upon Lucullus' tables.
Come, old friend, sit down and listen As it passes thus between us, How its wavelets laugh and glisten In the head of old Silenus!
THE OLD CLOCK ON THE STAIRS
L'eternite est une pendule, dont le balancier dit et redit sans cesse ces deux mots seulement dans le silence des tombeaux: "Toujours! jamais! Jamais! toujours!"—JACQUES BRIDAINE.
Somewhat back from the village street Stands the old-fashioned country-seat. Across its antique portico Tall poplar-trees their shadows throw; And from its station in the hall An ancient timepiece says to all,— "Forever—never! Never—forever!"
Half-way up the stairs it stands, And points and beckons with its hands From its case of massive oak, Like a monk, who, under his cloak, Crosses himself, and sighs, alas! With sorrowful voice to all who pass,— "Forever—never! Never—forever!"
By day its voice is low and light; But in the silent dead of night, Distinct as a passing footstep's fall, It echoes along the vacant hall, Along the ceiling, along the floor, And seems to say, at each chamber-door,— "Forever—never! Never—forever!"
Through days of sorrow and of mirth, Through days of death and days of birth, Through every swift vicissitude Of changeful time, unchanged it has stood, And as if, like God, it all things saw, It calmly repeats those words of awe,— "Forever—never! Never—forever!"
In that mansion used to be Free-hearted Hospitality; His great fires up the chimney roared; The stranger feasted at his board; But, like the skeleton at the feast, That warning timepiece never ceased,— "Forever—never! Never—forever!"
There groups of merry children played, There youths and maidens dreaming strayed; O precious hours! O golden prime, And affluence of love and time! Even as a Miser counts his gold, Those hours the ancient timepiece told,— "Forever—never! Never—forever!"
From that chamber, clothed in white, The bride came forth on her wedding night; There, in that silent room below, The dead lay in his shroud of snow; And in the hush that followed the prayer, Was heard the old clock on the stair,— "Forever—never! Never—forever!"
All are scattered now and fled, Some are married, some are dead; And when I ask, with throbs of pain. "Ah! when shall they all meet again?" As in the days long since gone by, The ancient timepiece makes reply,— "Forever—never! Never—forever!"
Never here, forever there, Where all parting, pain, and care, And death, and time shall disappear,— Forever there, but never here! The horologe of Eternity Sayeth this incessantly,— "Forever—never! Never—forever!"
THE ARROW AND THE SONG
I shot an arrow into the air, It fell to earth, I knew not where; For, so swiftly it flew, the sight Could not follow it in its flight.
I breathed a song into the air, It fell to earth, I knew not where; For who has sight so keen and strong, That it can follow the flight of song?
Long, long afterward, in an oak I found the arrow, still unbroke; And the song, from beginning to end, I found again in the heart of a friend.
Half of my life is gone, and I have let The years slip from me and have not fulfilled The aspiration of my youth, to build Some tower of song with lofty parapet. Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret Of restless passions chat would not be stilled, But sorrow, and a care that almost killed, Kept me from what I may accomplish yet; Though, half way up the hill, I see the Past Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights,— A city in the twilight dim and vast, With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights.— And hear above me on the autumnal blast The cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.
THE EVENING STAR
Lo! in the painted oriel of the West, Whose panes the sunken sun incarnadines, Like a fair lady at her casement, shines The evening star, the star of love and rest! And then anon she doth herself divest Of all her radiant garments, and reclines Behind the sombre screen of yonder pines, With slumber and soft dreams of love oppressed. O my beloved, my sweet Hesperus! My morning and my evening star of love! My best and gentlest lady! even thus, As that fair planet in the sky above, Dost thou retire unto thy rest at night, And from thy darkened window fades the light.
Thou comest, Autumn, heralded by the rain, With banners, by great gales incessant fanned, Brighter than brightest silks of Samarcand, And stately oxen harnessed to thy wain! Thou standest, like imperial Charlemagne, Upon thy bridge of gold; thy royal hand Outstretched with benedictions o'er the land, Blessing the farms through all thy vast domain! Thy shield is the red harvest moon, suspended So long beneath the heaven's o'er-hanging eaves; Thy steps are by the farmer's prayers attended; Like flames upon an altar shine the sheaves; And, following thee, in thy ovation splendid, Thine almoner, the wind, scatters the golden leaves!
Tuscan, that wanderest through the realms of gloom, With thoughtful pace, and sad, majestic eyes, Stern thoughts and awful from thy soul arise, Like Farinata from his fiery tomb. Thy sacred song is like the trump of doom; Yet in thy heart what human sympathies, What soft compassion glows, as in the skies The tender stars their clouded lamps relume! Methinks I see thee stand, with pallid cheeks, By Fra Hilario in his diocese, As up the convent-walls, in golden streaks, The ascending sunbeams mark the day's decrease; And, as he asks what there the stranger seeks, Thy voice along the cloister whispers, "Peace!"
Solemnly, mournfully, Dealing its dole, The Curfew Bell Is beginning to toll.
Cover the embers, And put out the light; Toil comes with the morning, And rest with the night.
Dark grow the windows, And quenched is the fire; Sound fades into silence,— All footsteps retire.
No voice in the chambers, No sound in the hall! Sleep and oblivion Reign over all!
The book is completed, And closed, like the day; And the hand that has written it Lays it away.
Dim grow its fancies; Forgotten they lie; Like coals in the ashes, They darken and die.
Song sinks into silence, The story is told, The windows are darkened, The hearth-stone is cold.
Darker and darker The black shadows fall; Sleep and oblivion Reign over all.
A TALE OF ACADIE
This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight, Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic, Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms. Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.
This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts that beneath it Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the huntsman Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers,— Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands, Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven? Waste are those pleasant farms, and the farmers forever departed! Scattered like dust and leaves, when the mighty blasts of October Seize them, and whirl them aloft, and sprinkle them far o'er the ocean Naught but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand-Pre.
Ye who believe in affection that hopes, and endures, and is patient, Ye who believe in the beauty and strength of woman's devotion, List to the mournful tradition still sung by the pines of the forest; List to a Tale of Love in Acadie, home of the happy.
PART THE FIRST
In the Acadian land, on the shores of the Basin of Minas, Distant, secluded, still, the little village of Grand-Pre Lay in the fruitful valley. Vast meadows stretched to the eastward, Giving the village its name, and pasture to flocks without number. Dikes, that the hands of the farmers had raised with labor incessant, Shut out the turbulent tides; but at stated seasons the flood-gates Opened, and welcomed the sea to wander at will o'er the meadows. West and south there were fields of flax, and orchards and cornfields Spreading afar and unfenced o'er the plain; and away to the northward Blomidon rose, and the forests old, and aloft on the mountains Sea-fogs pitched their tents, and mists from the mighty Atlantic Looked on the happy valley, but ne'er from their station descended There, in the midst of its farms, reposed the Acadian village. Strongly built were the houses, with frames of oak and of hemlock, Such as the peasants of Normandy built in the reign of the Henries. Thatched were the roofs, with dormer-windows; and gables projecting Over the basement below protected and shaded the doorway. There in the tranquil evenings of summer, when brightly the sunset Lighted the village street and gilded the vanes on the chimneys, Matrons and maidens sat in snow-white caps and in kirtles Scarlet and blue and green, with distaffs spinning the golden Flax for the gossiping looms, whose noisy shuttles within doors Mingled their sound with the whir of the wheels and the songs of the maidens, Solemnly down the street came the parish priest, and the children Paused in their play to kiss the hand he extended to bless them. Reverend walked he among them; and up rose matrons and maidens, Hailing his slow approach with words of affectionate welcome. Then came the laborers home from the field, and serenely the sun sank Down to his rest, and twilight prevailed. Anon from the belfry Softly the Angelus sounded, and over the roofs of the village Columns of pale blue smoke, like clouds of incense ascending, Rose from a hundred hearths, the homes of peace and contentment. Thus dwelt together in love these simple Acadian farmers,— Dwelt in the love of God and of man. Alike were they free from Fear, that reigns with the tyrant, and envy, the vice of republics. Neither locks had they to their doors, nor bars to their windows; But their dwellings were open as day and the hearts of their owners; There the richest was poor, and the poorest lived in abundance.
Somewhat apart from the village, and nearer the Basin of Minas, Benedict Bellefontaine, the wealthiest farmer of Grand-Pre, Dwelt on his goodly acres: and with him, directing his household, Gentle Evangeline lived, his child, and the pride of the village. Stalworth and stately in form was the man of seventy winters; Hearty and hale was he, an oak that is covered with snow-flakes; White as the snow were his locks, and his cheeks as brown as the oak-leaves. Fair was she to behold, that maiden of seventeen summers. Black were her eyes as the berry that grows on the thorn by the wayside, Black, yet how softly they gleamed beneath the brown shade of her tresses! Sweet was her breath as the breath of kine that feed in the meadows. When in the harvest heat she bore to the reapers at noontide Flagons of home-brewed ale, ah! fair in sooth was the maiden, Fairer was she when, on Sunday morn, while the bell from its turret Sprinkled with holy sounds the air, as the priest with his hyssop Sprinkles the congregation, and scatters blessings upon them, Down the long street she passed, with her chaplet of beads and her missal, Wearing her Norman cap and her kirtle of blue, and the ear-rings, Brought in the olden time from France, and since, as an heirloom, Handed down from mother to child, through long generations. But a celestial brightness—a more ethereal beauty— Shone on her face and encircled her form, when, after confession, Homeward serenely she walked with God's benediction upon her. When she had passed, it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music.
Firmly builded with rafters of oak, the house of the farmer Stood on the side of a hill commanding the sea; and a shady Sycamore grew by the door, with a woodbine wreathing around it. Rudely carved was the porch, with seats beneath; and a footpath Led through an orchard wide, and disappeared in the meadow. Under the sycamore-tree were hives overhung by a penthouse, Such as the traveller sees in regions remote by the roadside, Built o'er a box for the poor, or the blessed image of Mary. Farther down, on the slope of the hill, was the well with its moss-grown Bucket, fastened with iron, and near it a trough for the horses. Shielding the house from storms, on the north, were the barns and the farm-yard, There stood the broad-wheeled wains and the antique ploughs and the harrows; There were the folds for the sheep; and there, in his feathered seraglio, Strutted the lordly turkey, and crowed the cock, with the selfsame Voice that in ages of old had startled the penitent Peter. Bursting with hay were the barns, themselves a village. In each one Far o'er the gable projected a roof of thatch; and a staircase, Under the sheltering eaves, led up to the odorous corn-loft. There too the dove-cot stood, with its meek and innocent inmates Murmuring ever of love; while above in the variant breezes Numberless noisy weathercocks rattled and sang of mutation.
Thus, at peace with God and the world, the farmer of Grand-Pre Lived on his sunny farm, and Evangeline governed his household. Many a youth, as he knelt in the church and opened his missal, Fixed his eyes upon her as the saint of his deepest devotion; Happy was he who might touch her hand or the hem of her garment! Many a suitor came to her door, by the darkness befriended, And, as he knocked and waited to hear the sound of her footsteps, Knew not which beat the louder, his heart or the knocker of iron; Or at the joyous feast of the Patron Saint of the village, Bolder grew, and pressed her hand in the dance as he whispered Hurried words of love, that seemed a part of the music. But, among all who came, young Gabriel only was welcome; Gabriel Lajeunesse, the son of Basil the blacksmith, Who was a mighty man in the village, and honored of all men; For, since the birth of time, throughout all ages and nations, Has the craft of the smith been held in repute by the people. Basil was Benedict's friend. Their children from earliest childhood Grew up together as brother and sister; and Father Felician, Priest and pedagogue both in the village, had taught them their letters Out of the selfsame book, with the hymns of the church and the plain-song. But when the hymn was sung, and the daily lesson completed, Swiftly they hurried away to the forge of Basil the blacksmith. There at the door they stood, with wondering eyes to behold him Take in his leathern lap the hoof of the horse as a plaything, Nailing the shoe in its place; while near him the tire of the cart-wheel Lay like a fiery snake, coiled round in a circle of cinders. Oft on autumnal eves, when without in the gathering darkness Bursting with light seemed the smithy, through every cranny and crevice, Warm by the forge within they watched the laboring bellows, And as its panting ceased, and the sparks expired in the ashes, Merrily laughed, and said they were nuns going into the chapel. Oft on sledges in winter, as swift as the swoop of the eagle, Down the hillside hounding, they glided away o'er the meadow. Oft in the barns they climbed to the populous nests on the rafters, Seeking with eager eyes that wondrous stone, which the swallow Brings from the shore of the sea to restore the sight of its fledglings; Lucky was he who found that stone in the nest of the swallow! Thus passed a few swift years, and they no longer were children. He was a valiant youth, and his face, like the face of the morning, Gladdened the earth with its light, and ripened thought into action. She was a woman now, with the heart and hopes of a woman. "Sunshine of Saint Eulalie" was she called; for that was the sunshine Which, as the farmers believed, would load their orchards with apples She, too, would bring to her husband's house delight and abundance, Filling it full of love and the ruddy faces of children.
Now had the season returned, when the nights grow colder and longer, And the retreating sun the sign of the Scorpion enters. Birds of passage sailed through the leaden air, from the ice-bound, Desolate northern bays to the shores of tropical islands, Harvests were gathered in; and wild with the winds of September Wrestled the trees of the forest, as Jacob of old with the angel. All the signs foretold a winter long and inclement. Bees, with prophetic instinct of want, had hoarded their honey Till the hives overflowed; and the Indian bunters asserted Cold would the winter be, for thick was the fur of the foxes. Such was the advent of autumn. Then followed that beautiful season, Called by the pious Acadian peasants the Summer of All-Saints! Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape Lay as if new-created in all the freshness of childhood. Peace seemed to reign upon earth, and the restless heart of the ocean Was for a moment consoled. All sounds were in harmony blended. Voices of children at play, the crowing of cocks in the farm-yards, Whir of wings in the drowsy air, and the cooing of pigeons, All were subdued and low as the murmurs of love, and the great sun Looked with the eye of love through the golden vapors around him; While arrayed in its robes of russet and scarlet and yellow, Bright with the sheen of the dew, each glittering tree of the forest Flashed like the plane-tree the Persian adorned with mantles and jewels.
Now recommenced the reign of rest and affection and stillness. Day with its burden and heat had departed, and twilight descending Brought back the evening star to the sky, and the herds to the homestead. Pawing the ground they came, and resting their necks on each other, And with their nostrils distended inhaling the freshness of evening. Foremost, bearing the bell, Evangeline's beautiful heifer, Proud of her snow-white hide, and the ribbon that waved from her collar, Quietly paced and slow, as if conscious of human affection. Then came the shepherd back with his bleating flocks from the seaside, Where was their favorite pasture. Behind them followed the watch-dog, Patient, full of importance, and grand in the pride of his instinct, Walking from side to side with a lordly air, and superbly Waving his bushy tail, and urging forward the stragglers; Regent of flocks was he when the shepherd slept; their protector, When from the forest at night, through the starry silence, the wolves howled. Late, with the rising moon, returned the wains from the marshes, Laden with briny hay, that filled the air with its odor. Cheerily neighed the steeds, with dew on their manes and their fetlocks, While aloft on their shoulders the wooden and ponderous saddles, Painted with brilliant dyes, and adorned with tassels of crimson, Nodded in bright array, like hollyhocks heavy with blossoms. Patiently stood the cows meanwhile, and yielded their udders Unto the milkmaid's hand; whilst loud and in regular cadence Into the sounding pails the foaming streamlets descended. Lowing of cattle and peals of laughter were heard in the farm-yard, Echoed back by the barns. Anon they sank into stillness; Heavily closed, with a jarring sound, the valves of the barn-doors, Rattled the wooden bars, and all for a season was silent.
In-doors, warm by the wide-mouthed fireplace, idly the farmer Sat in his elbow-chair, and watched how the flames and the smoke-wreaths Struggled together like foes in a burning city. Behind him, Nodding and mocking along the wall, with gestures fantastic, Darted his own huge shadow, and vanished away into darkness. Faces, clumsily carved in oak, on the back of his arm-chair Laughed in the flickering light, and the pewter plates on the dresser Caught and reflected the flame, as shields of armies the sunshine. Fragments of song the old man sang, and carols of Christmas, Such as at home, in the olden time, his fathers before him Sang in their Norman orchards and bright Burgundian vineyards. Close at her father's side was the gentle Evangeline seated, Spinning flax for the loom, that stood in the corner behind her. Silent awhile were its treadles, at rest was its diligent shuttle, While the monotonous drone of the wheel, like the drone of a bagpipe, Followed the old man's songs and united the fragments together. As in a church, when the chant of the choir at intervals ceases, Footfalls are heard in the aisles, or words of the priest at the altar, So, in each pause of the song, with measured motion the clock clicked.
Thus as they sat, there were footsteps heard, and, suddenly lifted, Sounded the wooden latch, and the door swung back on its hinges. Benedict knew by the hob-nailed shoes it was Basil the blacksmith, And by her beating heart Evangeline knew who was with him. "Welcome!" the farmer exclaimed, as their footsteps paused on the threshold. "Welcome, Basil, my friend! Come, take thy place on the settle Close by the chimney-side, which is always empty without thee; Take from the shelf overhead thy pipe and the box of tobacco; Never so much thyself art thou as when through the curling Smoke of the pipe or the forge thy friendly and jovial face gleams Round and red as the harvest moon through the mist of the marshes." Then, with a smile of content, thus answered Basil the blacksmith, Taking with easy air the accustomed seat by the fireside:— "Benedict Bellefontaine, thou hast ever thy jest and thy ballad! Ever in cheerfullest mood art thou, when others are filled with Gloomy forebodings of ill, and see only ruin before them. Happy art thou, as if every day thou hadst picked up a horseshoe." Pausing a moment, to take the pipe that Evangeline brought him, And with a coal from the embers had lighted, he slowly continued:— "Four days now are passed since the English ships at their anchors Ride in the Gaspereau's mouth, with their cannon pointed against us. What their design may be is unknown; but all are commanded On the morrow to meet in the church, where his Majesty's mandate Will be proclaimed as law in the land. Alas! in the mean time Many surmises of evil alarm the hearts of the people." Then made answer the farmer:—"Perhaps some friendlier purpose Brings these ships to our shores. Perhaps the harvests in England By untimely rains or untimelier heat have been blighted, And from our bursting barns they would feed their cattle and children." "Not so thinketh the folk in the village," said, warmly, the blacksmith, Shaking his head, as in doubt; then, heaving a sigh, he continued:— "Louisburg is not forgotten, nor Beau Sejour, nor Port Royal. Many already have fled to the forest, and lurk on its outskirts, Waiting with anxious hearts the dubious fate of to-morrow. Arms have been taken from us, and warlike weapons of all kinds; Nothing is left but the blacksmith's sledge and the scythe of the mower." Then with a pleasant smile made answer the jovial farmer:— "Safer are we unarmed, in the midst of our flocks and our cornfields, Safer within these peaceful dikes, besieged by the ocean, Than our fathers in forts, besieged by the enemy's cannon. Fear no evil, my friend, and to-night may no shadow of sorrow Fall on this house and hearth; for this is the night of the contract. Built are the house and the barn. The merry lads of the village Strongly have built them and well; and, breaking the glebe round about them, Filled the barn with hay, and the house with food for a twelvemonth. Rene Leblanc will be here anon, with his papers and inkhorn. Shall we not then be glad, and rejoice in the joy of our children?" As apart by the window she stood, with her hand in her lover's, Blushing Evangeline heard the words that her father had spoken, And, as they died on his lips, the worthy notary entered.
Bent like a laboring oar, that toils in the surf of the ocean, Bent, but not broken, by age was the form of the notary public; Shocks of yellow hair, like the silken floss of the maize, hung Over his shoulders; his forehead was high; and glasses with horn bows Sat astride on his nose, with a look of wisdom supernal. Father of twenty children was he, and more than a hundred Children's children rode on his knee, and heard his great watch tick. Four long years in the times of the war had he languished a captive, Suffering much in an old French fort as the friend of the English. Now, though warier grown, without all guile or suspicion, Ripe in wisdom was he, but patient, and simple, and childlike. He was beloved by all, and most of all by the children; For he told them tales of the Loup-garou in the forest, And of the goblin that came in the night to water the horses, And of the white Letiche, the ghost of a child who unchristened Died, and was doomed to haunt unseen the chambers of children; And how on Christmas eve the oxen talked in the stable, And how the fever was cured by a spider shut up in a nutshell, And of the marvellous powers of four-leaved clover and horseshoes, With whatsoever else was writ in the lore of the village. Then up rose from his seat by the fireside Basil the blacksmith, Knocked from his pipe the ashes, and slowly extending his right hand, "Father Leblanc," he exclaimed, "thou hast heard the talk in the village, And, perchance, canst tell us some news of these ships and their errand." Then with modest demeanor made answer the notary public,— "Gossip enough have I heard, in sooth, yet am never the wiser; And what their errand may be I know not better than others. Yet am I not of those who imagine some evil intention Brings them here, for we are at peace; and why then molest us?" "God's name!" shouted the hasty and somewhat irascible blacksmith; "Must we in all things look for the how, and the why, and the wherefore? Daily injustice is done, and might is the right of the strongest!" But, without heeding his warmth, continued the notary public,— "Man is unjust, but God is just; and finally justice Triumphs; and well I remember a story, that often consoled me, When as a captive I lay in the old French fort at Port Royal." This was the old man's favorite tale, and he loved to repeat it When his neighbors complained that any injustice was done them. "Once in an ancient city, whose name I no longer remember, Raised aloft on a column, a brazen statue of Justice Stood in the public square, upholding the scales in its left hand, And in its right a sword, as an emblem that justice presided Over the laws of the land, and the hearts and homes of the people. Even the birds had built their nests in the scales of the balance, Having no fear of the sword that flashed in the sunshine above them. But in the course of time the laws of the land were corrupted; Might took the place of right, and the weak were oppressed, and the mighty Ruled with an iron rod. Then it chanced in a nobleman's palace That a necklace of pearls was lost, and erelong a suspicion Fell on an orphan girl who lived as maid in the household. She, after form of trial condemned to die on the scaffold, Patiently met her doom at the foot of the statue of Justice. As to her Father in heaven her innocent spirit ascended, Lo! o'er the city a tempest rose; and the bolts of the thunder Smote the statue of bronze, and hurled in wrath from its left hand Down on the pavement below the clattering scales of the balance, And in the hollow thereof was found the nest of a magpie, Into whose clay-built walls the necklace of pearls was inwoven." Silenced, but not convinced, when the story was ended, the blacksmith Stood like a man who fain would speak, but findeth no language; All his thoughts were congealed into lines on his face, as the vapors Freeze in fantastic shapes on the window-panes in the winter.
Then Evangeline lighted the brazen lamp on the table, Filled, till it overflowed, the pewter tankard with home-brewed Nut-brown ale, that was famed for its strength in the village of Grand-Pre; While from his pocket the notary drew his papers and inkhorn, Wrote with a steady hand the date and the age of the parties, Naming the dower of the bride in flocks of sheep and in cattle. Orderly all things proceeded, and duly and well were completed, And the great seal of the law was set like a sun on the margin. Then from his leathern pouch the farmer threw on the table Three times the old man's fee in solid pieces of silver; And the notary rising, and blessing the bride and the bridegroom, Lifted aloft the tankard of ale and drank to their welfare. Wiping the foam from his lip, he solemnly bowed and departed, While in silence the others sat and mused by the fireside, Till Evangeline brought the draught-board out of its corner. Soon was the game begun. In friendly contention the old men Laughed at each lucky hit, or unsuccessful manoeuver, Laughed when a man was crowned, or a breach was made in the king-row Meanwhile apart, in the twilight gloom of a window's embrasure, Sat the lovers, and whispered together, beholding the moon rise Over the pallid sea and the silvery mist of the meadows. Silently one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven, Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.
Thus was the evening passed. Anon the bell from the belfry Rang out the hour of nine, the village curfew, and straightway Rose the guests and departed; and silence reigned in the household. Many a farewell word and sweet good-night on the door-step Lingered long in Evangeline's heart, and filled it with gladness. Carefully then were covered the embers that glowed on the hearth-stone, And on the oaken stairs resounded the tread of the farmer. Soon with a soundless step the foot of Evangeline followed. Up the staircase moved a luminous space in the darkness, Lighted less by the lamp than the shining face of the maiden. Silent she passed the hall, and entered the door of her chamber. Simple that chamber was, with its curtains of white, and its clothes-press Ample and high, on whose spacious shelves were carefully folded Linen and woollen stuffs, by the hand of Evangeline woven. This was the precious dower she would bring to her husband in marriage, Better than flocks and herds, being proofs of her skill as a housewife. Soon she extinguished her lamp, for the mellow and radiant moonlight Streamed through the windows, and lighted the room, till the heart of the maiden Swelled and obeyed its power, like the tremulous tides of the ocean. Ah! she was fair, exceeding fair to behold, as she stood with Naked snow-white feet on the gleaming floor of her chamber! Little she dreamed that below, among the trees of the orchard, Waited her lover and watched for the gleam of her lamp and her shadow. Yet were her thoughts of him, and at times a feeling of sadness Passed o'er her soul, as the sailing shade of clouds in the moonlight Flitted across the floor and darkened the room for a moment. And, as she gazed from the window, she saw serenely the moon pass Forth from the folds of a cloud, and one star follow her footsteps, As out of Abraham's tent young Ishmael wandered with Hagar!
Pleasantly rose next morn the sun on the village of Grand-Pre. Pleasantly gleamed in the soft, sweet air the Basin of Minas, Where the ships, with their wavering shadows, were riding at anchor. Life had long been astir in the village, and clamorous labor Knocked with its hundred hands at the golden gates of the morning. Now from the country around, from the farms and neighboring hamlets, Came in their holiday dresses the blithe Acadian peasants. Many a glad good-morrow and jocund laugh from the young folk Made the bright air brighter, as up from the numerous meadows, Where no path could be seen but the track of wheels in the greensward, Group after group appeared, and joined, or passed on the highway. Long ere noon, in the village all sounds of labor were silenced. Thronged were the streets with people; and noisy groups at the house-doors Sat in the cheerful sun, and rejoiced and gossiped together. Every house was an inn, where all were welcomed and feasted; For with this simple people, who lived like brothers together, All things were held in common, and what one had was another's. Yet under Benedict's roof hospitality seemed more abundant: For Evangeline stood among the guests of her father; Bright was her face with smiles, and words of welcome and gladness Fell from her beautiful lips, and blessed the cup as she gave it.
Under the open sky, in the odorous air of the orchard, Stript of its golden fruit, was spread the feast of betrothal. There in the shade of the porch were the priest and the notary seated; There good Benedict sat, and sturdy Basil the blacksmith. Not far withdrawn from these, by the cider-press and the beehives, Michael the fiddler was placed, with the gayest of hearts and of waistcoats. Shadow and light from the leaves alternately played on his snow-white Hair, as it waved in the wind; and the jolly face of the fiddler Glowed like a living coal when the ashes are blown from the embers. Gayly the old man sang to the vibrant sound of his fiddle, Tous les Bourgeois de Chartres, and Le Carillon de Dunkerque, And anon with his wooden shoes beat time to the music. Merrily, merrily whirled the wheels of the dizzying dances Under the orchard-trees and down the path to the meadows; Old folk and young together, and children mingled among them. Fairest of all the maids was Evangeline, Benedict's daughter! Noblest of all the youths was Gabriel, son of the blacksmith!
So passed the morning away. And lo! with a summons sonorous Sounded the bell from its tower, and over the meadows a drum beat. Thronged erelong was the church with men. Without, in the churchyard, Waited the women. They stood by the graves, and hung on the headstones Garlands of autumn-leaves and evergreens fresh from the forest. Then came the guard from the ships, and marching proudly among them Entered the sacred portal. With loud and dissonant clangor Echoed the sound of their brazen drums from ceiling and casement,— Echoed a moment only, and slowly the ponderous portal Closed, and in silence the crowd awaited the will of the soldiers. Then uprose their commander, and spoke from the steps of the altar, Holding aloft in his hands, with its seals, the royal commission. "You are convened this day," he said, "by his Majesty's orders. Clement and kind has he been; but how you have answered his kindness, Let your own hearts reply! To my natural make and my temper Painful the task is I do, which to you I know must be grievous. Yet must I bow and obey, and deliver the will of our monarch; Namely, that all your lands, and dwellings, and cattle of all kinds Forfeited be to the crown; and that you yourselves from this province Be transported to other lands. God grant you may dwell there Ever as faithful subjects, a happy and peaceable people! Prisoners now I declare you; for such is his Majesty's pleasure!" As, when the air is serene in the sultry solstice of summer, Suddenly gathers a storm, and the deadly sling of the hailstones Beats down the farmer's corn in the field and shatters his windows, Hiding the sun, and strewing the ground with thatch from the house-roofs, Bellowing fly the herds, and seek to break their enclosures; So on the hearts of the people descended the words of the speaker. Silent a moment they stood in speechless wonder, and then rose Louder and ever louder a wail of sorrow and anger, And, by one impulse moved, they madly rushed to the door-way. Vain was the hope of escape; and cries and fierce imprecations Rang through the house of prayer; and high o'er the heads of the others Rose, with his arms uplifted, the figure of Basil the blacksmith, As, on a stormy sea, a spar is tossed by the billows. Flushed was his face and distorted with passion; and wildly he shouted,— "Down with the tyrants of England! we never have sworn them allegiance! Death to these foreign soldiers, who seize on our homes and our harvests!" More he fain would have said, but the merciless hand of a soldier Smote him upon the mouth, and dragged him down to the pavement.
In the midst of the strife and tumult of angry contention, Lo! the door of the chancel opened, and Father Felician Entered, with serious mien, and ascended the steps of the altar. Raising his reverend hand, with a gesture he awed into silence All that clamorous throng; and thus he spake to his people; Deep were his tones and solemn; in accents measured and mournful Spake he, as, after the tocsin's alarum, distinctly the clock strikes. "What is this that ye do, my children? what madness has seized you? Forty years of my life have I labored among you, and taught you, Not in word alone, but in deed, to love one another! Is this the fruit of my toils, of my vigils and prayers and privations? Have you so soon forgotten all lessons of love and forgiveness? This is the house of the Prince of Peace, and would you profane it Thus with violent deeds and hearts overflowing with hatred? Lo! where the crucified Christ from his cross is gazing upon you! See! in those sorrowful eyes what meekness and holy compassion! Hark! how those lips still repeat the prayer, 'O Father, forgive them!' Let us repeat that prayer in the hour when the wicked assail us, Let us repeat it now, and say, 'O Father, forgive them!'" Few were his words of rebuke, but deep in the hearts of his people Sank they, and sobs of contrition succeeded the passionate outbreak, While they repeated his prayer, and said, "O Father, forgive them!"
Then came the evening service. The tapers gleamed from the altar. Fervent and deep was the voice of the priest and the people responded, Not with their lips alone, but their hearts; and the Ave Maria Sang they, and fell on their knees, and their souls, with devotion translated, Rose on the ardor of prayer, like Elijah ascending to heaven.
Meanwhile had spread in the village the tidings of ill, and on all sides Wandered, wailing, from house to house the women and children. Long at her father's door Evangeline stood, with her right hand Shielding her eyes from the level rays of the sun, that, descending, Lighted the village street with mysterious splendor, and roofed each Peasant's cottage with golden thatch, and emblazoned its windows. Long within had been spread the snow-white cloth on the table; There stood the wheaten loaf, and the honey fragrant with wild-flowers; There stood the tankard of ale, and the cheese fresh brought from the dairy; And, at the head of the board, the great arm-chair of the farmer. Thus did Evangeline wait at her father's door, as the sunset Threw the long shadows of trees o'er the broad ambrosial meadows. Ah! on her spirit within a deeper shadow had fallen, And from the fields of her soul a fragrance celestial ascended,— Charity, meekness, love, and hope, and forgiveness, and patience! Then, all-forgetful of self, she wandered into the village, Cheering with looks and words the mournful hearts of the women, As o'er the darkening fields with lingering steps they departed, Urged by their household cares, and the weary feet of their children. Down sank the great red sun, and in golden, glimmering vapors Veiled the light of his face, like the Prophet descending from Sinai. Sweetly over the village the bell of the Angelus sounded.
Meanwhile, amid the gloom, by the church Evangeline lingered. All was silent within; and in vain at the door and the windows Stood she, and listened and looked, till, overcome by emotion, "Gabriel!" cried she aloud with tremulous voice; but no answer Came from the graves of the dead, nor the gloomier grave of the living. Slowly at length she returned to the tenantless house of her father. Smouldered the fire on the hearth, on the board was the supper untasted, Empty and drear was each room, and haunted with phantoms of terror. Sadly echoed her step on the stair and the floor of her chamber. In the dead of the night she heard the disconsolate rain fall Loud on the withered leaves of the sycamore-tree by the window. Keenly the lightning flashed; and the voice of the echoing thunder Told her that God was in heaven, and governed the world he created! Then she remembered the tale she had heard of the justice of Heaven; Soothed was her troubled soul, and she peacefully slumbered till morning.
Four times the sun had risen and set; and now on the fifth day Cheerily called the cock to the sleeping maids of the farm-house. Soon o'er the yellow fields, in silent and mournful procession, Came from the neighboring hamlets and farms the Acadian women, Driving in ponderous wains their household goods to the sea-shore, Pausing and looking back to gaze once more on their dwellings, Ere they were shut from sight by the winding road and the woodland. Close at their sides their children ran, and urged on the oxen, While in their little hands they clasped some fragments of playthings.
Thus to the Gaspereau's mouth they hurried; and there on the sea-beach Piled in confusion lay the household goods of the peasants. All day long between the shore and the ships did the boats ply; All day long the wains came laboring down from the village. Late in the afternoon, when the sun was near to his setting, Echoed far o'er the fields came the roll of drums from the churchyard. Thither the women and children thronged. On a sudden the church-doors Opened, and forth came the guard, and marching in gloomy procession Followed the long-imprisoned, but patient, Acadian farmers. Even as pilgrims, who journey afar from their homes and their country, Sing as they go, and in singing forget they are weary and wayworn, So with songs on their lips the Acadian peasants descended Down from the church to the shore, amid their wives and their daughters. Foremost the young men came; and, raising together their voices, Sang with tremulous lips a chant of the Catholic Missions:— "Sacred heart of the Saviour! O inexhaustible fountain! Fill our hearts this day with strength and submission and patience!" Then the old men, as they marched, and the women that stood by the wayside Joined in the sacred psalm, and the birds in the sunshine above them Mingled their notes therewith, like voices of spirits departed.
Half-way down to the shore Evangeline waited in silence, Not overcome with grief, but strong in the hour of affliction,— Calmly and sadly she waited, until the procession approached her, And she beheld the face of Gabriel pale with emotion. Team then filled her eyes, and, eagerly running to meet him, Clasped she his hands, and laid her head on his shoulder, and whispered,— "Gabriel! be of good cheer! for if we love one another Nothing, in truth, can harm us, whatever mischances may happen!" Smiling she spake these words; then suddenly paused, for her father Saw she slowly advancing. Alas! how changed was his aspect! Gone was the glow from his cheek, and the fire from his eye, and his footstep Heavier seemed with the weight of the heavy heart in his bosom. But with a smile and a sigh, she clasped his neck and embraced him, Speaking words of endearment where words of comfort availed not. Thus to the Gaspereau's mouth moved on that mournful procession.
There disorder prevailed, and the tumult and stir of embarking. Busily plied the freighted boats; and in the confusion Wives were torn from their husbands, and mothers, too late, saw their children Left on the land, extending their arms, with wildest entreaties. So unto separate ships were Basil and Gabriel carried, While in despair on the shore Evangeline stood with her father. Half the task was not done when the sun went down, and the twilight Deepened and darkened around; and in haste the refluent ocean Fled away from the shore, and left the line of the sand-beach Covered with waifs of the tide, with kelp and the slippery sea-weed. Farther back in the midst of the household goods and the wagons, Like to a gypsy camp, or a leaguer after a battle, All escape cut off by the sea, and the sentinels near them, Lay encamped for the night the houseless Acadian farmers. Back to its nethermost caves retreated the bellowing ocean, Dragging adown the beach the rattling pebbles, and leaving Inland and far up the shore the stranded boats of the sailors. Then, as the night descended, the herds returned from their pastures; Sweet was the moist still air with the odor of milk from their udders; Lowing they waited, and long, at the well-known bars of the farm-yard,— Waited and looked in vain for the voice and the hand of the milkmaid. Silence reigned in the streets; from the church no Angelus sounded, Rose no smoke from the roofs, and gleamed no lights from the windows.
But on the shores meanwhile the evening fires had been kindled, Built of the drift-wood thrown on the sands from wrecks in the tempest. Round them shapes of gloom and sorrowful faces were gathered, Voices of women were heard, and of men, and the crying of children. Onward from fire to fire, as from hearth to hearth in his parish, Wandered the faithful priest, consoling and blessing and cheering, Like unto shipwrecked Paul on Melita's desolate sea-shore. Thus he approached the place where Evangeline sat with her father, And in the flickering light beheld the face of the old man, Haggard and hollow and wan, and without either thought or emotion, E'en as the face of a clock from which the hands have been taken. Vainly Evangeline strove with words and caresses to cheer him, Vainly offered him food; yet he moved not, he looked not, he spake not But, with a vacant stare, ever gazed at the flickering fire-light. "Benedicite!" murmured the priest, in tones of compassion. More he fain would have said, but his heart was full, and his accents Faltered and paused on his lips, as the feet of a child on a threshold, Hushed by the scene he beholds, and the awful presence of sorrow. Silently, therefore, he laid his hand on the head of the maiden, Raising his tearful eyes to the silent stars that above them Moved on their way, unperturbed by the wrongs and sorrows of mortals. Then sat he down at her side, and they wept together in silence.
Suddenly rose from the south a light, as in autumn the blood-red Moon climbs the crystal walls of heaven, and o'er the horizon Titan-like stretches its hundred hands upon mountain and meadow, Seizing the rocks and the rivers, and piling huge shadows together. Broader and ever broader it gleamed on the roofs of the village, Gleamed on the sky and the sea, and the ships that lay in the roadstead. Columns of shining smoke uprose, and flashes of flame were Thrust through their folds and withdrawn, like the quivering hands of a martyr. Then as the wind seized the gleeds and the burning thatch, and, uplifting, Whirled them aloft through the air, at once from a hundred house-tops Started the sheeted smoke with flashes of flame intermingled.
These things beheld in dismay the crowd on the shore and on shipboard. Speechless at first they stood, then cried aloud in their anguish, "We shall behold no more our homes in the village of Grand-Pre!" Loud on a sudden the cocks began to crow in the farm-yards, Thinking the day had dawned; and anon the lowing of cattle Came on the evening breeze, by the barking of dogs interrupted. Then rose a sound of dread, such as startles the sleeping encampments Far in the western prairies or forests that skirt the Nebraska, When the wild horses affrighted sweep by with the speed of the whirlwind, Or the loud bellowing herds of buffaloes rush to the river. Such was the sound that arose on the night, as the herds and the horses Broke through their folds and fences, and madly rushed o'er the meadows.
Overwhelmed with the sight, yet speechless, the priest and the maiden Gazed on the scene of terror that reddened and widened before them; And as they turned at length to speak to their silent companion, Lo! from his seat he had fallen, and stretched abroad on the sea-shore Motionless lay his form, from which the soul had departed. Slowly the priest uplifted the lifeless head, and the maiden Knelt at her father's side, and wailed aloud in her terror. Then in a swoon she sank, and lay with her head on his bosom. Through the long night she lay in deep, oblivious slumber; And when she woke from the trance, she beheld a multitude near her. Faces of friends she beheld, that were mournfully gazing upon her, Pallid, with tearful eyes, and looks of saddest compassion. Still the blaze of the burning village illumined the landscape, Reddened the sky overhead, and gleamed on the faces around her, And like the day of doom it seemed to her wavering senses. Then a familiar voice she heard, as it said to the people,— "Let us bury him here by the sea. When a happier season Brings us again to our homes from the unknown land of our exile, Then shall his sacred dust be piously laid in the churchyard." Such were the words of the priest. And there in haste by the sea-side, Having the glare of the burning village for funeral torches, But without bell or book, they buried the farmer of Grand-Pre. And as the voice of the priest repeated the service of sorrow, Lo! with a mournful sound, like the voice of a vast congregation, Solemnly answered the sea, and mingled its roar with the dirges. 'T was the returning tide, that afar from the waste of the ocean, With the first dawn of the day, came heaving and hurrying landward. Then recommenced once more the stir and noise of embarking; And with the ebb of the tide the ships sailed out of the harbor, Leaving behind them the dead on the shore, and the village in ruins.
PART THE SECOND
Many a weary year had passed since the burning of Grand-Pre, When on the falling tide the freighted vessels departed, Bearing a nation, with all its household gods, into exile. Exile without an end, and without an example in story. Far asunder, on separate coasts, the Acadians landed; Scattered were they, like flakes of snow, when the wind from the northeast Strikes aslant through the fogs that darken the Banks of Newfoundland. Friendless, homeless, hopeless, they wandered from city to city, From the cold lakes of the North to sultry Southern savannas,— From the bleak shores of the sea to the lands where the Father of Waters Seizes the hills in his hands, and drags them down to the ocean, Deep in their sands to bury the scattered bones of the mammoth. Friends they sought and homes; and many, despairing, heart-broken, Asked of the earth but a grave, and no longer a friend nor a fireside. Written their history stands on tablets of stone in the churchyards. Long among them was seen a maiden who waited and wandered, Lowly and meek in spirit, and patiently suffering all things. Fair was she and young; but, alas! before her extended, Dreary and vast and silent, the desert of life, with its pathway Marked by the graves of those who had sorrowed and suffered before her, Passions long extinguished, and hopes long dead and abandoned, As the emigrant's way o'er the Western desert is marked by Camp-fires long consumed, and bones that bleach in the sunshine. Something there was in her life incomplete, imperfect, unfinished; As if a morning of June, with all its music and sunshine, Suddenly paused in the sky, and, fading, slowly descended Into the east again, from whence it late had arisen. Sometimes she lingered in towns, till, urged by the fever within her, Urged by a restless longing, the hunger and thirst of the spirit, She would commence again her endless search and endeavor; Sometimes in churchyards strayed, and gazed on the crosses and tombstones, Sat by some nameless grave, and thought that perhaps in its bosom He was already at rest, and she longed to slumber beside him. Sometimes a rumor, a hearsay, an inarticulate whisper, Came with its airy hand to point and beckon her forward. Sometimes she spake with those who had seen her beloved and known him, But it was long ago, in some far-off place or forgotten. "Gabriel Lajeunesse!" they said; "yes! we have seen him. He was with Basil the blacksmith, and both have gone to the prairies; Coureurs-des-Bois are they, and famous hunters and trappers." "Gabriel Lajeunesse!" said others; "O yes! we have seen him. He is a Voyageur in the lowlands of Louisiana." Then would they say, "Dear child! why dream and wait for him longer? Are there not other youths as fair as Gabriel? others Who have hearts as tender and true, and spirits as loyal? Here is Baptiste Leblanc, the notary's son, who has loved thee Many a tedious year; come, give him thy hand and be happy! Thou art too fair to be left to braid St. Catherine's tresses." Then would Evangeline answer, serenely but sadly, "I cannot! Whither my heart has gone, there follows my hand, and not elsewhere. For when the heart goes before, like a lamp, and illumines the pathway, Many things are made clear, that else lie hidden in darkness." Thereupon the priest, her friend and father-confessor, Said, with a smile, "O daughter! thy God thus speaketh within thee! Talk not of wasted affection, affection never was wasted; If it enrich not the heart of another, its waters, returning Back to their springs, like the rain, shall fill them full of refreshment; That which the fountain sends forth returns again to the fountain. Patience; accomplish thy labor; accomplish thy work of affection! Sorrow and silence are strong, and patient endurance is godlike. Therefore accomplish thy labor of love, till the heart is made godlike, Purified, strengthened, perfected, and rendered more worthy of heaven!" Cheered by the good man's words, Evangeline labored and waited. Still in her heart she heard the funeral dirge of the ocean, But with its sound there was mingled a voice that whispered, "Despair not?" Thus did that poor soul wander in want and cheerless discomfort Bleeding, barefooted, over the shards and thorns of existence. Let me essay, O Muse! to follow the wanderer's footsteps;— Not through each devious path, each changeful year of existence; But as a traveller follows a streamlet's course through the valley: Far from its margin at times, and seeing the gleam of its water Here and there, in some open space, and at intervals only; Then drawing nearer its banks, through sylvan glooms that conceal it, Though he behold it not, he can hear its continuous murmur; Happy, at length, if he find the spot where it reaches an outlet.
It was the month of May. Far down the Beautiful River, Past the Ohio shore and past the mouth of the Wabash, Into the golden stream of the broad and swift Mississippi, Floated a cumbrous boat, that was rowed by Acadian boatmen. It was a band of exiles: a raft, as it were, from the shipwrecked Nation, scattered along the coast, now floating together, Bound by the bonds of a common belief and a common misfortune; Men and women and children, who, guided by hope or by hearsay, Sought for their kith and their kin among the few-acred farmers On the Acadian coast, and the prairies of fair Opelousas. With them Evangeline went, and her guide, the Father Felician. Onward o'er sunken sands, through a wilderness sombre with forests, Day after day they glided adown the turbulent river; Night after night, by their blazing fires, encamped on its borders. Now through rushing chutes, among green islands, where plumelike Cotton-trees nodded their shadowy crests, they swept with the current, Then emerged into broad lagoons, where silvery sand-bars Lay in the stream, and along the wimpling waves of their margin, Shining with snow-white plumes, large flocks of pelicans waded. Level the landscape grew, and along the shores of the river, Shaded by china-trees, in the midst of luxuriant gardens, Stood the houses of planters, with negro-cabins and dove-cots. They were approaching the region where reigns perpetual summer, Where through the Golden Coast, and groves of orange and citron, Sweeps with majestic curve the river away to the eastward. They, too, swerved from their course; and, entering the Bayou of Plaquemine, Soon were lost in a maze of sluggish and devious waters, Which, like a network of steel, extended in every direction. Over their heads the towering and tenebrous boughs of the cypress Met in a dusky arch, and trailing mosses in mid-air Waved like banners that hang on the walls of ancient cathedrals. Deathlike the silence seemed, and unbroken, save by the herons Home to their roasts in the cedar-trees returning at sunset, Or by the owl, as he greeted the moon with demoniac laughter. Lovely the moonlight was as it glanced and gleamed on the water, Gleamed on the columns of cypress and cedar sustaining the arches, Down through whose broken vaults it fell as through chinks in a ruin. Dreamlike, and indistinct, and strange were all things around them; And o'er their spirits there came a feeling of wonder and sadness,— Strange forebodings of ill, unseen and that cannot be compassed. As, at the tramp of a horse's hoof on the turf of the prairies, Far in advance are closed the leaves of the shrinking mimosa, So, at the hoof-beats of fate, with sad forebodings of evil, Shrinks and closes the heart, ere the stroke of doom has attained it. But Evangeline's heart was sustained by a vision, that faintly Floated before her eyes, and beckoned her on through the moonlight. It was the thought of her brain that assumed the shape of a phantom. Through those shadowy aisles had Gabriel wandered before her, And every stroke of the oar now brought him nearer and nearer.
Then in his place, at the prow of the boat, rose one of the oarsmen, And, as a signal sound, if others like them peradventure Sailed on those gloomy and midnight streams, blew a blast on his bugle. Wild through the dark colonnades and corridors leafy the blast rang, Breaking the seal of silence, and giving tongues to the forest. Soundless above them the banners of moss just stirred to the music. Multitudinous echoes awoke and died in the distance, Over the watery floor, and beneath the reverberant branches; But not a voice replied; no answer came from the darkness; And, when the echoes had ceased, like a sense of pain was the silence. Then Evangeline slept; but the boatmen rowed through the midnight, Silent at times, then singing familiar Canadian boat-songs, Such as they sang of old on their own Acadian rivers, While through the night were heard the mysterious sounds of the desert, Far off,—indistinct,—as of wave or wind in the forest, Mixed with the whoop of the crane and the roar of the grim alligator.
Thus ere another noon they emerged from the shades; and before them Lay, in the golden sun, the lakes of the Atchafalaya. Water-lilies in myriads rocked on the slight undulations Made by the passing oars, and, resplendent in beauty, the lotus Lifted her golden crown above the heads of the boatmen. Faint was the air with the odorous breath of magnolia blossoms, And with the heat of noon; and numberless sylvan islands, Fragrant and thickly embowered with blossoming hedges of roses, Near to whose shores they glided along, invited to slumber. Soon by the fairest of these their weary oars were suspended. Under the boughs of Wachita willows, that grew by the margin, Safely their boat was moored; and scattered about on the greensward, Tired with their midnight toil, the weary travellers slumbered. Over them vast and high extended the cope of a cedar. Swinging from its great arms, the trumpet-flower and the grapevine Hung their ladder of ropes aloft like the ladder of Jacob, On whose pendulous stairs the angels ascending, descending, Were the swift humming-birds, that flitted from blossom to blossom. Such was the vision Evangeline saw as she slumbered beneath it. Filled was her heart with love, and the dawn of an opening heaven Lighted her soul in sleep with the glory of regions celestial.
Nearer, ever nearer, among the numberless islands, Darted a light, swift boat, that sped away o'er the water, Urged on its course by the sinewy arms of hunters and trappers. Northward its prow was turned, to the land of the bison and beaver. At the helm sat a youth, with countenance thoughtful and careworn. Dark and neglected locks overshadowed his brow, and a sadness Somewhat beyond his years on his face was legibly written. Gabriel was it, who, weary with waiting, unhappy and restless, Sought in the Western wilds oblivion of self and of sorrow. Swiftly they glided along, close under the lee of the island, But by the opposite bank, and behind a screen of palmettos, So that they saw not the boat, where it lay concealed in the willows, All undisturbed by the dash of their oars, and unseen, were the sleepers, Angel of God was there none to awaken the slumbering maiden. Swiftly they glided away, like the shade of a cloud on the prairie. After the sound of their oars on the tholes had died in the distance, As from a magic trance the sleepers awoke, and the maiden Said with a sigh to the friendly priest, "O Father Felician! Something says in my heart that near me Gabriel wanders. Is it a foolish dream, an idle and vague superstition? Or has an angel passed, and revealed the truth to my spirit?" Then, with a blush, she added, "Alas for my credulous fancy! Unto ears like thine such words as these have no meaning." But made answer the reverend man, and he smiled as he answered,— "Daughter, thy words are not idle; nor are they to me without meaning. Feeling is deep and still; and the word that floats on the surface Is as the tossing buoy, that betrays where the anchor is hidden. Therefore trust to thy heart, and to what the world calls illusions. Gabriel truly is near thee; for not far away to the southward, On the banks of the Teche, are the towns of St. Maur and St. Martin. There the long-wandering bride shall be given again to her bridegroom, There the long-absent pastor regain his flock and his sheepfold. Beautiful is the land, with its prairies and forests of fruit-trees; Under the feet a garden of flowers, and the bluest of heavens Bending above, and resting its dome on the walls of the forest. They who dwell there have named it the Eden of Louisiana."
With these words of cheer they arose and continued their journey. Softly the evening came. The sun from the western horizon Like a magician extended his golden wand o'er the landscape; Twinkling vapors arose; and sky and water and forest Seemed all on fire at the touch, and melted and mingled together. Hanging between two skies, a cloud with edges of silver, Floated the boat, with its dripping oars, on the motionless water. Filled was Evangeline's heart with inexpressible sweetness. Touched by the magic spell, the sacred fountains of feeling Glowed with the light of love, as the skies and waters around her. Then from a neighboring thicket the mocking-bird, wildest of singers, Swinging aloft on a willow spray that hung o'er the water, Shook from his little throat such floods of delirious music, That the whole air and the woods and the waves seemed silent to listen. Plaintive at first were the tones and sad; then soaring to madness Seemed they to follow or guide the revel of frenzied Bacchantes. Single notes were then heard, in sorrowful, low lamentation; Till, having gathered them all, he flung them abroad in derision, As when, after a storm, a gust of wind through the tree-tops Shakes down the rattling rain in a crystal shower on the branches. With such a prelude as this, and hearts that throbbed with emotion, Slowly they entered the Teche, where it flows through the green Opelousas, And, through the amber air, above the crest of the woodland, Saw the column of smoke that arose from a neighboring dwelling;— Sounds of a horn they heard, and the distant lowing of cattle.