Charles Mair

Tecumseh to General Harrison

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TECUMSEH ....
Once this mighty continent was ours,
And the Great Spirit made it for our use.
He knew no boundaries, so had we peace
In the vast shelter of His handiwork,
And, happy here, we cared not whence we came.
We brought no evils thence–no treasured hate,
No greed of gold, no quarrels over God;
Add so our broils, to narrow issues joined,
Were soon composed, and touched the ground of peace.
Our very ailments, rising from the earth,
And not from any foul abuse in us,
Drew back, and let age ripen to death's hand.
Thus flowed our lives until your people came,
Till from the East our matchless misery came!
Since then our tale is crowded with your crimes,
With broken faith, with plunder of reserves–
The sacred remnants of our wide domain–
With tamp'rings, and delirious feasts of fire,
The fruit of your thrice-cursèd stills of death
Which make our good men bad, our bad men worse,
Ay, blind them till they grope in open day
And stumble into miserable graves!
Oh, it is piteous, for none will hear!
There is no hand to help, no heart to feel,
No tongue to plead for us in all your land.
But every hand aims death, and every heart,
Ulcered with hate, resents our presence here;
And every tongue cries for our children's land
To expiate their crime of being born.
Oh, we have ever yielded in the past,
But we shall yield no more! Those plains are ours!
Those forests are our birth-right and our home!
Let not the Long-Knife build one cabin there–
Or fire from it will spread to every roof,
To compass you, and light your souls to death!
–Scene IV, Act II.


Enter General Brock and Lefroy
BROCK. You may be right, Lefroy, but, for my part,
I stand by old tradition and the past.
My father's God is wise enough for me,
And wise enough this gray world's wisest men.
LEFROY. I tell you, Brock,
The world is wiser than its wisest men,
And shall outlive the wisdom of its gods,
Made after man's own liking. The crippled throne
No longer shelters the uneasy king,
And outworn sceptres and Imperial crowns
Now grow fantastic as an idiot's dream.
These perish with the kingly pastime, war,
And war's blind tool, the monster, Ignorance,
Both hateful in themselves, but this the worst.
One tyrant will remain–one impious fiend
Whose name is Gold–our earliest, latest foe.
Him must the earth destroy, ere man can rise,
Rightly self-made, to his high destiny,
Purged of his grossest faults: humane and kind;
Co-equal with his fellows and as free.
BROCK. Lefroy, such thoughts let loose would wreck the world.
The kingly function is the soul of state,
The crown the emblem of authority,
And loyalty the symbol of all faith.
Omitting these, man's government decays–
His family falls into revolt and ruin.
But let us drop this bootless argument,
And tell me more of those unrivalled wastes
You and Tecumseh visited.
LEFROY. We left
The silent forest, and, day after day,
Great prairies swept beyond our aching sight
Into the measureless West; uncharted realms,
Voiceless and calm, save when tempestuous wind
Rolled the rank herbage into billows vast,
And rushing tides which never found a shore.
And tender clouds, and veils of morning mist,

Cast flying shadows, chased by flying light,
Into interminable wildernesses,
Flushed with fresh blooms, deep perfumed by the rose,
And murmurous with flower-fed bird and bee.
The deep-grooved bison-paths like furrows lay,
Turned by the cloven hoofs of thundering herds
Primeval, and still travelled as of yore.
And gloomy valleys opened at our feet,
Shagged with dusk cypresses and hoary pine;
The sunless gorges, rummaged by the wolf,
Which through long reaches of the prairie wound,
Then melted slowly into upland vales,
Lingering, far-stretched amongst the spreading hills.
BROCK. What charming solitudes! And life was there?
LEFROY. Yes, life was there, inexplicable life,
Still wasted by inexorable death!
There had the stately stag his battle-field–
Dying for mastery among his hinds.
There vainly sprung the affrighted antelope,
Beset by glittering eyes and hurrying feet.
The dancing grouse, at their insensate sport,
Heard not the stealthy footstep of the fox;
The gopher on his little earthwork stood,
With folded arms, unconscious of the fate
That wheeled in narrowing circles overhead;
And the poor mouse, on heedless nibbling bent,
Marked not the silent coiling of the snake.
At length we heard a deep and solemn sound–
Erupted moanings of the troubled earth
Trembling beneath innumerable feet.
A growing uproar blending in our ears,
With noise tumultuous as ocean's surge,
Of bellowings, fierce breath and battle shock,
And ardour of unconquerable herds.
A multitude whose trampling shook the plains,
With discord of harsh sound and rumblings deep,
As if the swift revolving earth had struck,
And from some adamantine peak recoiled,
Jarring. At length we topped a high-browed hill–
The last and loftiest of a file of such–

And lo, before us lay the tameless stock,
Slow wending to the northward like a cloud!
A multitude in motion, dark and dense–
Far as eye could reach, and farther still,
In countless myriads stretched for many a league.
BROCK. You fire me with the picture! What a scene!
LEFROY. Nation on nation was invillaged there,
Skirting the flanks of that imbanded host;
With chieftains of strange speech and port of war,
Who, battle-armed, in weather-brawny bulk,
Roamed fierce and free in huge and wild content.
These gave Tecumseh greetings fair and kind,
Knowing the purpose havened in his soul.
And he, too, joined the chase as few men dare:
For I have seen him, leaping from his horse,
Mount a careering bull in foaming flight,
Urge it to fury o'er its burden strange,
Yet cling tenacious, with a grip of steel,
Then, by a knife-plunge, fetch it to its knees
In mid career and pangs of speedy death.
BROCK. You rave, Lefroy, or saw this in a dream!
LEFROY. No, no; 'tis true–I saw him do it, Brock!
Then would he seek the old, and with his spoils
Restore them to the bounty of their youth,
Cheering the crippled lodge with plenteous feasts,
And warmth of glossy robes, as soft as down,
Till withered cheeks ran o'er with feeble smiles,
And tongues, long silent, babbled of their prime.
BROCK. This warrior's fabric is of perfect parts!
A worthy champion of his race–he heaps
Such giant obligations on our heads
As will outweigh repayment. It is late,
And rest must preface war's hot work to-morrow,
Else would I talk till morn. How still the night!
Here Peace has let her silvery tresses down
And falls asleep beside the lapping wave.
—Scene VI, Act IV.

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Charles Mair