Saville In Trouble

Albery Allson Whitman

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Sing muse! of Saville and the direful day
When beauty fell, to ruthless hands a prey;
And life a sacrifice to savage hate,
Smoked on the alter of a peaceful State.
The pensive forest in his saddest wear,
Leaned on the threshold of the Autumn sere,
And mourned his ills in parting Summer's ear.
And waters leaving for the distant main
Sang their departure in a muffled strain.
The dove complaing at the barn was heard,
In wanton gales the naked orchards stirred.
And scarce within the dreamy vision's reach
The sheep cote elms flapped their rocky speech.
In Saville, then, the border village rude,
Full plenty's songs the ear of labor wooed,
And lulled him on the lap of solitude.
The sun had swum high on his blazoned way,
Exulting in the power of his sway.
And rural comfort's well-contented hum,
Rejoiced in each household cherrysome.
The milkmaid gossipped at her busy churn,
The groaning windlass coughed at each slow turn,
The distaff whirred and chattered in the door,
The swift brooch danced along the sounding floor;
The matron scolded, and her hands applied,
The loom reechoed and the wheel replied.
Sir Maxey then, with horns, and hunters proud,
For chase assembled in a roaring crowd.
The champing horses pawed the anxious ground,
And windy signals roused the kenneled hound.
And as the mingling bands their saddles strode,
The wayside trembled and deep groaned the road.
Three miles from Saville, in the branchy West,
The horsemen on their boist'rous way had pressed,
When on the wild marge of a pathless wood,
They reined their speed, and, list'ning, eager stood.
The hounds had touched a trail upon the brink,
Where late an antlered stag had come to drink,
And cool, within the windings of a brook,
That mused away thro' many a forest nook.
Soon lively baying o'er the distance broke,
The hills re-echoed and the forest spoke.
The flying pack their goodly prey had sprung,
St. Vincennes' pulseless woodlands deep among.
Like eagles flashing from the vaulted blue,
The firey steeds in level flight pursue.
In winding glens their hoofy thunders break,
And cliffs responsive all their voices wake.
Sir Maxey, putting spurs, directs the course,
And sweeps away upon his coal black horse.
His comrades follow close in lengthy file,
Wind their glad horns and prime their guns the while.
The woods before them part upon the eye,
And pass in dizzy currents as they fly;
And crouching thickets scamper as they near,
And flee together as they disappear.
Beyond the vision's bounds they thus have gone,
Up hill and down, o'er streams and on and on.
Meanwhile, alone on foot young Rodney hastes
Along a passage that divides the wastes.
Forbid to rank he cannot take his place
With mounted hunters in the merry chase.

The day wore on, and yet no tidings gave,
Of horse or hunter to the anxious slave,
Till he, despairing, turned to watch a trail,
That saunteringly wound along the vale.

The chase now hushed; the stag beyond his range,
Had lost his loud pursuers in a forest strange;
Till worn and hungry, these leisurely drew
To where small fenceless fields adorned their view.
Beyond, bark lodges here and there were seen,
Where lofty woods climbed o'er a long ravine.
And slowly nearing, on their wond'ring eyes,
Soft circling smoke-wreathes from a village rise,
And float in dreamy banks against the peaceful skies.
They pause, look onward, know not what to say,
When thus, Sir Maxey, spurring, leads the way:
"Come on, we'll venture down and ask for food
And friendship in this city of the wood."
The hunters follow at a timid pace,
And apprehension kindles in each face.

They reach the village, slowly thro' it ride,
And every part explore from side to side.
They find it is deserted by all save
Small groups of children and the aged brave.
These sit in converse at their wigwam doors,
While memory the valiant past explores.
They on the neighb'ring slopes in peaceful plays,
Their numbers gather and their voices raise.
The squaws are lab'ring in their scanty fields,
Content with what their wild industry yields;
To bide their warriors' much desired return
From distant hunting grounds and long sojourn.

The Autumn hills appear in brown repose,
And, clothed in lofty forests, seem to dose.
And solitude asserts her reign, remote
From civilization's rest-disturbing throat.
But, hoofy 'larm the woody silence breaks,
The lone boughs flutter and the scene awakes.
Around the hunters, childhood flocks to gaze,
And age arising, looks in mute amaze
Upon the daring strangers, who proceed
To rifle tents, and load each ready steed
With what few skins their wintry hunt can hoard,
And swallow what poor food their empty stores afford.
The helpless fathers of the forest race
Glance fearful each into the other's face,
Pursue the pillagers with heated eyes,
And empty out their souls in frequent sighs;
While in their gath'ring frowns and gestures rude,
Wild valor overleaps decrepitude,
And such a flourish of contempt displays,
As shows that stern resentment is ablaze.
Ah! could they but recall the fleeting years,
Or backwards journey to where disappears
The dim seen past, and reach that stalwart time
When nimble life exulted in its prime;
Three-fold the numbers that their tents defile,
Would meet destruction in their conduct vile.
The hunters mount menacing as they go,
And thro' the village disappearing slow,
Betake them to the woods and brisker ride
Along the neighb'ring forest's eastern side.

There where a peaceful streamlet ambles by
Thro' dabbling ferns and gossips cheerfully
With shaggy roots that reach into the flood,
They spy a maid just bord'ring womanhood.
Now ranging feathers in her head-gear fair,
And with her fingers combing out her hair,
She on the prone bank stands, where smoothly flows
The liquid mirror, and her beauty shows.
Now grand old sylvans raise their solemn heads,
And make obesience as she lightly treads
Beneath their outstretched arms, and looks around
To gather nuts upon the leaf-spread ground.
The hunters see her, wayward, wild and sweet;
She sees them not, nor hears their horses' feet.
"Hold!" cries Sir Maxey, "What a lovely maid!
Ah! what a princess of this ancient shade!
Let me behold her! Quiet! Don't move!
Did admiration e'er see such a dove?
Young love no sweeter image ever drew
Upon imagination's tender view.
Her perfect form in idle movements seems
The fleeting creature of our youthful dreams."
A rougher comrade at his elbow growls,
"A purty good 'un o' the dusky fowls,
She's hard o' hearin', le'me try my gun;
Give her a skere, and see the red wench run."
His deadly eye directs, his rifle speaks,
The maiden throws her arms and runs and shrieks;
Towards the hunters pitiously flies,
The mournful wastes lamenting with her cries,
Till at their feet she sinks, and all is o'er,
Poor bleeding Nanawawa is no more.

Kind Heaven reports the shameful news around,
Far as her sorrowing winds can waft the sound;
Soft echo in her grot hears with a sigh,
And saddened hills refuse to make reply.
"I struck her," grunts the ruffian, looking down,
"Let's leave," Sir Maxey mutters with a frown;
And on they ride, and covenant to keep
The crime a secret in their bosoms hidden deep.

But hark! what mean those distant shouts that rise
And seem to flap and clamor in the skies?
Flying this way, the pulseless air they wing,
And nearer, clearer, shriller, faster ring.
The forest rages, groan the loud hills sore,
The hoarse earth murmurs and the heavens roar.
Returning warriors flash the trees between;
The fatal gun has called them to the scene.
Blazing resentment fires their warlike blood,
They've passed their dwellings and enraged pursued.
And mark the hunter whom their wrath o'ertakes,
For on his head a storm of ruin breaks.
Sir Maxey's band their loud pursuers hear,
And spurring onward leave them on the rear;
For Saville wheeling quick each headlong steed,
And dash between the forests with defiant speed.
The raging warriors reach the bloody scene,
See Nanawawa lifeless on the green,
A moment pause and scan the mournful place,
Still, crafty vengeance darkening in each face,
The way the band went, narrowly then view,
And all another route at once pursue.
But one tall form his further flight restrains;
Lo! over Nanawawa's sad remains
The White Loon bends, and kisses her pale cheek,
And trembling lips that can no longer speak;
While from his eyes the streams of loud grief start,
And downwards pour the anguish of a manly heart.

As some wild wand'ring brook that surges hoarse,
And chafes and struggles in its winding course
Through tangled roots, and under mossy stones,
And over foamy cat'racts makes its moans,
Till headlong down the mountain's steepy sides,
The smoother current unobstructed glides;
Flows ev'ner as it meets the level main,
And murmurs leisurely along the plain;
So now the pluming bands their numbers drew,
In fretful streams the pathless forests thro'.
This way and that, low crouched, they galloped on,
Stood list'ning, here and there, a hight upon;
Moved down in level flight beyond the glade,
And glided into silent ambuscade;
And in the branchy covert pond'ring lay
Beside the coming hunter's thoughtless way.
As hungry cougars in the deep morass,
To seize on unsuspecting herds that pass,
Lie close and closer as their prey draws nigh,
Glance at each other with impatient eye,
And press the eager moments as they fly;
So watch these cougars of the wilderness,
And so the moment of assault they press.
With envious haste their barb'rous knives they clasp,
And poise their hatchets in a deadly grasp,
And leaning forward on their ponies wait,
Like eagles on their pinions. Coming straight
Along the gorge the hunter's chatting trot
All unsuspecting; till the fatal spot
They reach, when forth from stilly ambush nigh,
The yelling furies on their pathway fly.
Once from the tangling branches fairly freed,
Wild retribution fledges savage speed,
Straight on the hunter's right and left they wheel,
And thro' their vitals plunge the reeky steel
Swift as their iron strength the blows can deal.

All, save Sir Maxey, perish; he again
Rides through the storm like lightning to the plain,
Drives up his speed and shaves the lev'ler main.
So when fierce eagle shoots along the skies,
Breaks thro' the ambient clouds and downward flies,
Above the landscape swings his open sail,
And hangs in stately triumph o'er the vale.
Forward he leans at each successive bound,
As on and on he reaches o'er the ground.
Hard bears his courser on th' unyielding reins,
Close-scented danger swells his fiery veins,
Dilates his nostrils, to his knees inclined,
And pours their steamy volumes on the wind.
O'er log, stone, ditch, mound, shrub and brushy heaps,
Away, away he unobstructed sweeps.
In vain the heaving earth beneath him groans,
In vain the rising distance makes her moans,
In vain the wand'ring eye his flight pursues,
In vain the ear his feet receding woos;
Across their utmost limits both he shaves,
Drown'd in the rolling depths of dusty waves.
The passing gale behind him list'ning swings,
To view the rival of her speedy wings,
With breath suppressed, as when some maiden sees
A deer go fleeting by her 'mong the trees.

Meanwhile, away behind, disheartened not,
The streaming warriors hard pursuing trot.
What tho' the courser leave them like the wind?
His trail they see and stopping they will find.

Five miles or more, from where began the flight,
Along the summit of a woody hight,
Sir Maxey reins his courser to the ground,
And far and near for Rodney looks around.

As some dark cloud that spurns the rising gale,
Athwart it rolls and deepens in the vale,
Pours loud alarm upon the plains below;
Where, in midfield, stands the deserted plow,
And tall dread-breathing forests timid grow;
So seemed the surging courser as he trode,
With bois'trous hoof, to plunge along the road.

Now plodding near along the deep wood-side,
The expert of the wilds, Sir Maxey spied.
A brace of fowls and bleeding doe are strung
His rifle on and o'er his shoulder swung.
Homewards he strides anticipating toast,
Stewed fowl abundant, and savory roast.

"Here! Rodney! Here!" Sir Maxey urgent cries,
The expert pausing, lifts his downward eyes;
Alarm is flashing in his master's face,
With looks inquiring now he mends his pace,
When thus Sir Maxey loud begins to cry:
"Fly for your life! for God's sake, Rodney, fly!
A tribe of Sacs are swarming on my rear
Dreadful to see, but dreadful more to hear!
They'll scalp us all and burn the town I fear."
Towards the town the Champion lifts his eyes,
And on his master fixing, thus replies:
"No! let us meet them; hold your further flight,
Retreat's in order ne'er before a fight.
To fly will but reduce our wonted strength,
And make resistance feebler, and at length
Expose our village to the storming foe;
Who, if repulsed, will reinforcements show.
Lead not an enemy our helpless homes to know."
As some loud boar who hears his baying foes,
Upon his sedgy realms begin to close,
With groaning rage flies from his hidings dense,
And throws his lordly strength on the defense;
So Rodney, from his cov'ring in the wood,
Flew to the breach, and waiting, firmly stood.
Straight he beheld the warriors close at hand,
Him they behold, his movements understand,
Wheel from his rifle, and their flight renew,
All, save two mightiest, to their man pursue.
These now dismounted, turn their ponies loose
And in the woods their vantage places choose,
Peer thro' the thick boughs with a stealthy eye,
Till at his mark one lets an arrow fly.
Thro' flinching branches rings the feathered harm,
And strikes its painful barb into his arm.
E'en as some bear whom crouching hunters wound,
Tears at the pain, and rages o'er the ground,
Till in the copse the hidden foe he spies,
And on his covert fierce as fury flies;
So Rodney, when the flinty stroke he feels,
The shaft plucks out, and from his cover wheels;
Rages defiant thro' the sounding wood,
Till near the wary foe his steps intrude.
Qnick as some stag, when horns and hounds assail
His secret lair within the leafy vale;
The pluming champion springs upon his feet;
His and bold Rodney's eyes defiant meet.
Loud as two bulls that roar upon the plain,
Plunge on each others frothy sides amain,
Till wasted strength their foaming rage prevent,
The dread combatants groan with dire intent.

Each dreads the onset for the glare of death
Warms his foe's eyes, and fury wings his breath.
The chief's arm ne'er by wilds nor dangers swerved,
And Rodney's by successive hardships nerved,
With nervous haste their leathern girdles feel,
And on the gaze unsheath their deadly steel.
Each lifted hand its ghastly freight displays,
Each hurried glance the narrow field surveys;
With each, defiance can no farther go,
Unless it walk beyond a prostrate foe.
As two tall beeches shaken by the wind
Approach each other; now with heads inclined,
Now rush away with quick impetuous roar,
And now approach, inclining as before;
So bending to and fro the champions stand,
Till loud they rush together, hand-to-hand,
Rough as the surge when sounding billows meet
Between the schooners of an anchored fleet.
Each in his left hand holds the other's right,
And struggles o'er the ground in horrid plight,
Now on their knees, now bounding in the air,
And now half-stooped to earth, and groaning there.
Their lips all death-like on their teeth they clench
And grate defiance harsh at each long wrench,
That vainly strives the grasp to disengage,
And in the foe's heart plunge the steely edge.
The savage champion feels his waning strength
Give away, and yielding to his fears, at length
Pours forth three dreadful whoops of wild distress,
That start the lone ear of the wilderness.
An answer in the distance soon was heard,
And parting a dense thicket now appeared
A warrior fell, with cautious step and slow,
As when some cougar scents a covered foe.
New life to Rodney! Gracious Heaven save!
A doubled danger doubly nerves the brave!
He frees his knife with desp'rateness of strength,
And in the savage sheaths its deadly length;
And as he lifeless sinks with a loud groan,
Bold Rodney at the other heaves a stone.
Firm on his head the shrieking fragment flies,
The dying warrior rolls his painful eyes,
Sinks on the turf, that whitens with his brains,
And hugs the clod that drinks his flowing veins.

The dauntless hero of the woody waste,
To leave the scene of blood directs his haste;
With gun in hand, surveys his passage well,
And strides along the stream-divided dell;
Arrives in Saville ere the sun goes down;
Explains his wounds, and makes his combat known.
With tongues of praise the village meets her slave,
The women soothing, cheering him, the brave.

No strength has courage, to the fears disguise
In downcast glances of his serious eyes.
The horrid brake conceals the skulky foe,
And o'er him darkness falleth like a mantle low.
"Ah! Sad mistake!" the fathers of the town
In painful concert mutter up and down
The mournful streets; "Ah me! a fatal freak!
When wisdom yields to folly, valor's weak.
Ah, indiscretion! parent of all woe,
That causeth peace to rouse a crouching foe!
The sober blacksmith threw his hammer down,
And wiped the great drops from a sooty frown,
His anvil mounted, and with words of steel
Went on to utter what his heart did feel.
And as the sun sank in the hills' embrace,
His sad rays streaming in old Joseph's face,
That vacant looked, a picture made of dread,
That many strong hearts trembled as they read.
And Gabriel Grimes, the 'Squire, 'mong his books
Sat drown'd, assaying in his serious looks,
To trace a legal thicket on his gaze,
That showed no exit and no ent'ring ways.

"What? Ho!" Sir Maxey shouts with martial air,
"Before a struggle yield not to despair.
For these discretions valor makes amends,
We hold the means, but Providence the ends.
Fly to your arms, and set a heavy guard,
And coolness keep for strategy prepared.
Have wives and children shut in doors till morn,
And then will danger of his locks be shorn."

The honest cotters hear him with a sigh,
And glance around them with a doubtful eye;
Proceed toward the village church and stand
In dread suspense, a hopeless little band.
Now darkness lowers like a gloomy pall,
The muffled drum proclaims a solemn call,
And lights blown out reposeless courage waits
The signal of the sentry at the gates.
In converse low, the fathers watch in arms,
For night's familiar sounds now seem alarms.
The deep low baying of unusual curs,
Discloses restlessness not wholly theirs,
For honest dogs that stealthiness abhor,
Which doth conceal the steps of savage war.
Hark! List! a war-whoop starts the dismal fen!
A moment lingers, and is heard again.
Hope stops her flight, conjectures disappear,
Attack is certain, and is crouching near.
With noiseless tread the sylvan warrior steals,
(Him darkness in her mantle's folds conceals,)
Beneath the very cabin's walls, unseeen,
And yet may pass the peering watch between.
When Heav'n responsive to his sally cries,
Will hideous grow, and shut her sickened eyes,
And from the pitchy womb of darkness born,
Red massacre behold the mournful morn.
Ah! now must courage meet the unsheathed test
That makes stern manhood tremble in his breast.
Escape hath shut her paths upon his eye
And leaves him doomed to conquer or to die.

In age's low'ring look and muffled speech,
The young see trouble, and with sobs beseech
An explanation at the lips which hold
The dreadful secret that cannot be told.
Childhood avoids the wand of magic sleep;
Forgetfulness assays in vain to steep
His wakeful senses in her drowsy dews;
Close on composure's heels alarm pursues.
In solemn council lean the village sires,
Where hope's last smold'ring ember-glow expires;
Sir Maxey's indiscretions yet deplore,
And thus in concert sad their minds explore:
"Our ammunition most in hunting spent,
Our numbers scattered and resistance bent,
To send to Dearborn yet for aid remains
The only prospect that our reason gains,
That rises hopeful from disaster's plains.
The troops perhaps, by timely warning may,
In mounted march, rescue the sinking day.
But, who will go? Who'll dare these twenty miles,
Of forest peril, night and savage wiles?
Who'll bear the news, when he on foot must go,
For not a horse can 'scape the wary foe!"

The young and valiant called upon to choose
The way to glory or her hights refuse,
In vacant looks this truth leave manifest,
The glory-fires warm another's breast.
Then, as a hunter calls his faithful dog,
To dare the treach'rous sands and cross some bog,
Sir Maxey to his bleeding servant cries:
"Say, Rodney, can't you fly to Dearborn? Rise,
Your rifle take, be quick! look sharp! be gone!
Let what you do be well and quickly done."

As some firm rock that brawling floods oppose,
In all their wanton rage, Rodney arose,
Disgust red kindling in his manly face,
Looked on the lords of his unhappy race,
And spoke: "My masters, such your titles are,
Let all irreverence from my thoughts be far;
But I've till now a silent list'ner been,
And have your timid operations seen.
And now I ask, with but a servant's claim
To audience, and in a servant's name,
I ask, with what do brave men guard their wives,
And homes, and children, but with their own lives?
With all your bosoms cherish as their own,
With all they know, and all they've ever known,
Exposed to danger, sueing you for aid,
I ask, why have you this evasion made?
If I, an alien to your house and hearth,
The ignoble sharer of a slavish birth,
Am called to take your parts, be well apprised,
Your conduct is but cowardice disguised.
Had I a single treasure to me dear,
A single home joy bright, or, even were
I owner of my life, my arm I'd bare,
And thrust my fingers into peril's hair.
But none of these, and not a cheer within
My darkened breast; what may I hope to win?
Naught but the praise of mere obedience,
The fame of dogs! Nay! ere I journey hence,
Bring down command to tent with kind request,
Own me a man, and trust a manly breast.
For be assured, although your slave am I,
He will not cower, who will dare to die;
He sees no terror in menace's eye.
The gaping wounds I for my master wear,
Already warn me that I unrewarded bear."

Now, Rodney ended, and a mute despair
Fell on his hearers, for he breathed an air,
So foreign to their knowledge of a slave,
With liberty so audaciously brave;
That with the tameness of stupidity,
They on their bosoms leaned their chins, to see
Weak folly tamper with a lion; when
Sir Maxey turned away, and never spoke again.
In hope's wide fields there was no further day,
And now their only star had passed away.
As when beseiging cloud ssurround the hills,
Whose troubled bosom night with terror fills,
Rude shepherds tremble in their darkened tent,
To hear the mountains wail and woods lament;
Till lo! upon the brim of vision far
Appears the joyous-beaming morning star;
So quaked these townsmen of St. Vincennes' wood,
Till in their midst fair Dora Maxey stood,
A ray of hope to all their bosoms dear,
A day-break in their cloud-gloom'd land of fear.
So young and gentle, so serenely wild,
At once a heroine and a lovely child!
The band dispersing with her conqu'ring eyes,
In daring tones to Rodney she replies:
"Brave servant, thou hast nobly said and true,
Let valor wear his scars and glory too,
But know that woman by her jealous lords
Unhindered, in her great heart e'er awards
To stalwart manhood, love, esteem and praise,
And glories most in his most daring ways.
By caste's frail grants let those win hearts who can,
What woman loves is manliness in man.
Now she is here, for her thy life expose,
And nobler years will her rewards disclose.
The time now wings this way, when Gratitude
Shall clasp thee to her bosom, and the good
And great, and brave of all the valiant earth
Will own, nay more, delight to own thy worth.
To Dearborn then and spread the dreadful news,
While danger's hights more timid souls refuse."

Now Rodney bow'd his face towards the ground,
Until his bosom this expression found:
"The humble subject of thy will I stand,
For thy request to me is a command,
The which to disobey 's the coward's task,
Mine is to do, fair one, and yours to ask.

Now Dora's lilly-touch with sweetest haste,
Her father's weapons on his servant placed,
And thus the fortunes of the hour decides;
For he, with gun in hand and nimble strides,
The speechless groups of villagers divides,
With cougar caution slowly out proceeds,
But faster goes as further he recedes,
Till sent'nels past, deep in the howling night
His footsteps sink, and he is out of sight.

While still suspense with throbbing int'rest waits,
And slow-speeched dolour instances relates
Of grisly dangers conquered by the fates;
Of savage bands, when border strength was small,
Beat back from many a forest-cabin's wall,
Of women moulding as their husbands fired,
And children watching where the foe retired;
Fair Dora leaning on her elbow, sate
Within her window, o'er the village gate
That eastward looked towards Dearborn, and prayed
That Rodney's flight in no mishap be stayed.

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