Albery Allson Whitman

The Old Sac Village

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Ye who read in musty volumes
Pages worn of Backwoods Times,
Of the red man and the white man,
In the thrilling days of danger,
In the gall of border troubles,
In the wastes of deadly revenge,
And the ruffian hands of torture;
And of long and fierce death grapples,
With the bloody hands of combat,
On the yawning edge of famine;
Of adventure's rustling footsteps,
When the knees of stoutest valor
Smote together as they paused, where
Lynx-eyed strategy lay crouching,
On the bosom of still ambush,
Ready from his hands to let loose
A loud leash of swift cruelties;
Ye who read these musty volumes,
Till a strange sensation thrills you,
As of Indians skulking near you,
Lay aside your volume lightly,
Hear me sing of Nanawawa.

Ye who pore for weary hours,
In the deep wild nooks of legend,
In the forest-nooks of legend,
Gath'ring up these strange old relics,
For your idle thoughts to play with;
Such as wigwams rude, and war posts,
Belts of wampum, bows and arrows,
Scalping-knives, and rough stone hatchets,
Peace pipes and great council fires,
Forest senates, and wise treaties,
Forest seers and superstitions,
And inconstancy and cunning,
In the savage world of promise;
Ye who pore for weary hours
In these pathless nooks of legend,
Wake, and hear of Nanawawa.

Ye who wander long delighted,
In the distant realms of romance,
On the mountain hights of romance,
And in woody depths of romance,
Getting lost in shady windings,
Looking not to find your way out,
But a wood to wander off in,
And a nook to lose yourselves in;
With majestic trees around you,
Clasping in their arms of grandeur,
Densest depths of sleeping silence,
Clear, deep, still lakes, on whose margins
Peaceful herds feed, dreams the heron,
On whose bosoms swift and light glide
Birch canoes, arrowy darting,
Like soft shadows, smooth and soundless;
Floating thro' unbroken stillness,
Save the distant fret of oar-locks,
And the pebbly speech of bright waves;
Ye who seek these depths of romance,
Where the noon-beam parts the fore locks
Of the forest looking shyly,
Where a thousand wind-swung branches,
Wild songs pour in Solitude's ear,
And the heart of meditation
Slowly beats and warms in beating;
Pause, and hear of Nanawawa.

Ye who shut up in warm houses,
Late on sombre Winter evenings,
Lulled by pleasant roaring grate fires,
And the cozy flap of curtains,
And the chirp of vacant childhood,
And the cheery streams of gaslight
Meekly stealing, that pause, bashful,
On the plushy lap of softness;
Ye who thus shut up in houses,
Dream of early life and hardships,
Shut in humble frontier cabins,
Far out on the unknown borders;
Dream of weariness o'ercoming
The lost traveler on his journey
Overtaken by the snow-storm;
Lone at night and his path dimming,
Sinking down to sleep his death sleep;
Chilly leagues from any dwelling,
And while loneliness bewails him,
Through the drear woods shrieks the gray blast,
Shrieks the eager flying North blast,
As a hungry eagle shrieketh;
Ye who shut up thus in houses,
Dream of these fell border hardships;
Hear me sing of Nanawawa.
Ah! ye shall behold a beauty!
On the lap of an old forest,
In the wigwam of her fathers,
By the cascades of her childhood
Ye shall see a sylvan maiden,
Meek as April's first fresh rose is,
Sweet as blushing light e'er looked on,
Brilliant as a melting dewdrop,
But in love pensively youthful.

In the days that long ere these times,
Went their way with loud importance,
On the thrilling lips of warfare,
And the tongue of backwoods valor,
Told to many generations;
There was a rude Indian village,
Far within a glen sequestered,
In the basin of a clear brook,
Near the waters of the Wabash,
In the Mississippi valley.
In this ancient birch bark village,
With his daughter, Nanawawa,
Dwelt the chief of all the Sac tribes,
Old and austere Pashepaho,
Powerful and warlike Stabber.
On a hill, the Stabber's tent stood
High above the other lodges,
And the goodliest among them.
Once upon the moon of bright nights,
On a day in budding April,
At his tent door sat the Stabber,
With his chin leaned on his hands, sat
Knitting thoughts above his sage brow,
And pursuing speculations,
Through the sober depths of study.
"What a brilliant sun-set," said he,
As the world of quiet West woods
Slowly reddened into amber,
And the sunset-spangled clouds threw
Up their long arms tipped with fire,
And sank down in sleepy glory,
In a deep still sea of glory.
"Sing a camp song, Nanawawa,"
"I will help you sing it over."
Said he, turning to his daughter.
"On the morrow is the full moon,
And the great feast of the Sac tribes,
When the Chiefs of all the nations
Will come in to see the Stabber
And report upon the country.
They will tell me of their huntings,
And of fishings in their clear streams,
Of their pleasant sugar makings,
And of fields of green maize growing;
They will tell of wild adventures
With the bear and with the bison,
And will tell the great traditions
Of their tribes and of their totems.
Goodly presents they will bring me,
Venison to make the feast with,
Bear skins to adorn my tent with,
Paints to make my old age youthful,
Beads to brighten favor's dull eyes,
Wampum to revive old friendships,
And great words to move the heart with.

"Sing a camp song, Nanawawa,
Sing until the time of sleep comes,
I will join and help you sing it."
Nanawawa sang a camp song,
And the Stabber joined the singing,
Till asleep they sat and sang yet,
Till they went to sleep a singing.
Morning came, and as the hours
Went their way, they brought crowds with them,
Of the distant tribes and totems.
Noon approached, and saw the great feast,
In its highest wild demeanor,
In the savage hights of ardor.
Eating, drinking, gaming, dancing,
Mingled in a ceaseless whirling
To the sound of forest music.
Evening came, and as the feast sank
To repose, as sinks the warrior
On his shield, of fields aweary
And the long parade of armies,
To the tent door of the Stabber,
Chieftains came and stood in silence.
Pashepaho in his tent floor,
On his bear skins sat a smoking.
Not a word said he to any,
But a seat he motioned them to,
And went dryly on a smoking
As they settled close around him.

Young men, chiefs of the Ojibways,
The Miamis, and Dacotahs,
And the mighty Sacs and Foxes,
Laid their presents rare and costly,
At the Stabber's feet; and seated
On their armor, in great phrases
Of their forest tongues, made speeches.
On her tent floor, Nanawawa
Looking not upon the young men,
Heard their sounding words of valor.
Tho' the eyes of great chiefs sought her,
She would starve their eager glances,
Turning from them on the tent floor.

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Albery Allson Whitman