Lament of the Indian

Peter John Allan

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Thou ancient pine! beneath whose lofty shade,
Pensive I watch the sun's declining ray,
Thy glorious crown no scorching sun can fade,
Nor all the wrath of winter send away;
Thou bearest now an undisputed sway;
But monarch of the forest, it may be,
That thou shalt scarcely, dying of decay,
Wither from earth all lone and silently--
The white man's hatchet keen may be reserv'd for thee.

The flowers, whose odours breathe sweet prayers for
And grateful praises to the God of light,
Ye cannot with the snow-king wage a strife;
All perish for a time, but summer bright
Full soon compels your enemy to flight,
And ye again awake in joyfulness
And bloom of beauty; different far your plight
When stranger steps this verdant turf shall press,
The plough shall desecrate your lovely wilderness.

Shades of my fathers! ye whose feet were loose
To follow far, o'er boundless hill and plain,
The timid carraboo or stately moose,
Rise! give your children back their land again--
For nought of strength or wisdom we retain,
Though once they both were ours; and to our foes,
Who treat in us their vices with disdain,
We pay not back the wrongful scorn with blows,
But, crouching 'neath the lash, we closer hug our woes.

Oh! could my spirit animate the heart
Of this fast-waning people, they should learn
That, in his blindness for the bow and dart--
Weak weapon!--the vile pale-face, proud and
Gave us the gun; and soon, if all would burn
For vengeance as I burn, the craven hound
Should at our feet be forced to writhe in turn,
And yield us once again our fathers' ground, [found.
Where, in the days of old, our prey we sought and

Yes! had I hearts a hundred, and no more,
Dauntless, as this of mine, without a fear
I'd face these base invaders of our shore,
And slaughter them as I would slaughter deer.
For by what right are these men masters here?
Are they our elder brethren, that they seize
On our possessions? Red men shed no tear,
They groan not like the whites when ill at ease;
We who can conquer self, can easier conquer these.

But no! it is a dream, and I must die
And exile in my native land; 'tis well,
For who would live beneath the evil eye
Of this accursed race, whose tongues can tell
The honied lie, while in their bosoms swell
Wrath and malignity? Yes! let me die,
Since I have seen my own, my native glen,
Trampled by stranger feet, and in the sky,
The smoke from white men's hearths rise curling
fast and high.

Old Tosca's wigwam now is mould'ring low,
Its ashes fit manure for white man's field;
Ah, once I had a wife to soothe each woe--
One whose bright smile could blest contentment yield.
All her own griefs she carefully concealed,
Smiling when dying, smiling even in death;
Our wisest said she never could be healed
And I upbraided them with angry breath,
I swore she could not die, my gentle Agaleth.

But when I saw my arms held not her soul,
My heart was bowed within me, and I stood
Silently gazing on her form; the goal
Of misery had been gained, and in this mood
Of agony I felt the solitude
Of one who knows there's none to love him now;
Sudden I rushed deep, deep into the wood,
And 'neath a gloomy fir's low-spreading bough,
I threw myself, and lay with fevered heart and brow.

All tearless yet, but presently my grief
Grew far too mighty for the man to bear;
Tears, bitter tears, a moment brought relief,
And groans my bosom rent of fierce despair.
At length I rose, and as the summer air
Breathed gently on my haggard cheeks, I sought
The dreadful wigwam where that woman fair,
Who had my pining heart wise lessons taught,
Of virtue and content, for ay, lay reft of thought.

There was I met by those vain comforters,
Who strive with words to balsam sorrow's smart;
They said what noble qualities were hers.
That we should meet again and never part;
It was the truth they spake, but ah! the heart
Once broken, scorns its agony to hide.
My silent look of anguish said, Depart,
Vainly you seek to comfort me--she died--
They went--I was alone, her breathless form beside.

My babes had died in childhood, and now she,
My best-beloved Agaleth, was gone;
And I was doomed a wanderer to be.
Where she had dwelt, how could I dwell alone?
Next morn I dug the grave and raised the stone,
For whose rough brow I wove a wreath of flowers,
And with one bitter tear, one bitter groan,
I hastened forth amid these woodland bow'rs,
Where, until now, have passed my solitary hours.

And now the poor remains which I possess,
Of wisdom, or of strength, I still would use
To drive these robbers from our wilderness.
Our ancient forests shortly we shall lose,
Our conquerors means of life will soon refuse;
And if we do not bravely hold our own,
And rather than be slaves to white men, choose
To battle with our tyrants, all is gone,
And the weak red man is for evermore o'erthrown.

It will be so, and in their hunting ground
This must I shortly to our fathers say,
That of their dwindled race, cannot be found
A man to rise and hold these dogs at bay;
Not one to sally forth in war array,
And sell his life full dearly to his foe;
Not one the deadly tomahawk to sway,
Not one to strike a haughty pale face low;
All sleep despair's deep sleep, and dream of endless woe.

My arm is weak to what it was; my hair
Is silv'ry, and decrepid I am grown;
Yet like the famished wolf when in his lair
Surprised by hunters, I would stand alone
Against the pale face, till my life were flown,
And dying, leave behind a deed of fame,
That might for my weak brethren's sloth atone,
And make a war-cry of my deathless name,
To free my countrymen, and wipe out all their shame.

Vain thought, the serpent's coils are round us now;
One struggle and it stings. Oh, hated race,
Whose vile injustice lifts a lofty brow
Unblushing for its sin! Oh, four times base!
When we beheld you with so white a face,
We deemed the soul as spotless, and we gave
Our tyrants food, and a warm dwelling-place,
And in return did we for nothing crave;
But they who seize our lands, now offer us a grave.

Spirit, whose eye hath mark'd my people's woe,
God of the Indian, hear an Indian's prayer;
Pity thy wretched children, fallen low,
And driven by the pale face to despair.
Pity, and with thy lightning's deadly glare
Smite the invaders of the forest haunts;
The villains who, for their vile use, would dare
Fell these old woods, and with their noisy vaunts
Of knowledge, on our race fling poverty and taunts.

But, no! the mighty Spirit's wrath is hot
Against our fated tribes, and we can be
No more a people, but from ev'ry spot
Of our possessions driven, must rise and flee,
'Till we are whelmed in that accursed sea
That hither brought our conquerors. No more
Within my soul the sun of prophecy,
To bright with mid-day brightness--it is o'er,
Our tribes are doom'd indeed, but I see white men's gore.

Yes, the devouring wolves shall turn and rend
Each other's throats, and meet the fate they gave;
For stronger, wilier far than they, shall bend
Hither their way; and many a bloody grave
Shall scar their fruitful fields, and none shall save
Their houses from the flames, and there shall die
Their wives and children; methinks I hear them rave
For succour in their fiery tombs. Ah, why
Could not old Tosca view the dear reality?

But no; my days are numbered, and I go
From this dark world to taste the endless bliss,
The calm forgetfulness of ev'ry woe,
That in the happy hunting-ground, o'er this
Sad heart shall breathe a calm content I wis;
That when the mighty Spirit's voice shall call,
Tosca will gird this longing soul of his
For the glad journey; and his fun'ral pall
Shall be the forest shade, and joyful will he fall.

Come, Death; dost fear thy power I would resist,
And strive to lengthen out a useless life?
No, oldest of all warriors; when thou list,
Dismiss me to the dwelling of my wife.
Now, all remote from misery and strife,
She clasps her babes unto her hapless breast.
Oh, such a meeting were with transport rife!
Hasten thy sluggish steps, O death, thou best
Friend that the Indian has, dismiss me to my rest.

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