Albery Allson Whitman

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Fair Saville! earliest village of the wood,
To break the reign of ancient soltitude,
Where erst the dusky tennants of the shade,
Along the Mississippi's waters strayed;
Thou once did flourish on the lap of fame,
When to thy rude abodes adventure's wand'ring footsteps came.

I turn with reverential step and slow,
To trace the scenes my recollections know.
Where now thy cliffs bleak winter's wiles oppose,
When through the screeching air his blasts he throws,
There warring totems once prolonged their stay,
And then e'en with reluctance went their way.
And where yon blossomed fields, and orchards green,
Fresh meadows, and contented flocks are seen,
There erst the Indian reared his wigwam rude,
Deep in the wide forest's pathless solitude.

Dear to me yet, and every day more dear,
Familiar sounds revive upon my ear;
Familiar scenes come to me o'er the past,
And I, recolling from the Future vast,
Revisit in my dreams and solitude,
The pleasant places of thy borders rude.
Thus, when from tempest-brooding heav'ns I fly;
When life's meridian's in a pensive sky,
Back to the charms of other days I come,
And seem a traveler returning home.

Then cumbrous backwoods life wide o'er the vale,
Heard a responsive tongue in every gale.
Loud baying hounds pressed hard the fleety deer,
Replying horns pursued along the rear,
Wild song attuned the breezy throat of morn;
The plowman whistled to his growing corn,
And lads with hoes, garrulous as they went,
Close on his heels their nimble footsteps bent.
And there was heard from morn till evening late
The various accents of a happy state,
The waste echoing to the axe remote,
The anvil groaning as the blacksmith smote,
The plashy labors of the slumb'rous mill,
The brook reposing as the wheel stood still;
Loud shouts arising childhood's sports among,
And matrons scolding as their flax wheels sung.

And often gathered when the joyous Spring,
Had livened Winter's latest lingering,
When all the voiceless wastes of recent gloom
Awoke to song and warbled into bloom;
Beneath the spreading shades that arch yon green
In happy groups the village train were seen.
Near where yon footpath climbs behind the town,
And straggles off into a hazel down,
Their wonted sports through shining hours would stray,
Till time unnoticed brought the close of day;
And silent wheeling, scarce above the fence,
The crooked bat did aimless flights commence;
Slow-toned the cow-bell, and sad whippoorwill
Mourned in her darkling copse behind the hill.
Then when the tasks of ev'ning all were done,
Around the blazing hearth new sports begun;
When corn was pestled for the next day's meals,
The bands were slackened on their cumb'rous wheels,
The woodsman from his labor had come home
And plowmen from their furrows wearysome;
Loud glee pursued the "blind man" round and round,
Till roaring laughter tripped him to the ground.
The "old gray witch," slow-motioned, then would stare,
While the gay rompers felt a secret scare, --
Went crouching from her, dodged from wall to wall,
Or in the corners scrambling, tumbled all.
Thus poured the murmuring tide of childish mirth,
While sober converse leaned around the hearth,
And weighty matters in each earnest breast,
Beguiling time, prolonged the way to rest.
Oh happy times of man's innocency!
When earth was as like Heaven as could be,
When simple relish made each sport more dear,
Delayed the seasons and prolonged the year.

Within yon rude-built pile with gables gray,
With which the wanton blasts of Winter play,
When all disconsolate they moan and fret,
The simple council of the village met.
Where mutual interests called them to consult
Life's surest course, and probable result.
Hark! yon small rusty bell shakes from its throat
A few slow sounds, the assembling hour to note.
No paid men patriotic speeches make,
No brazen instruments their music wake,
Nor pages pass their sparkling draughts around,
And yet the weight of policies profound,
Burdens each breast, and doctrines pure and sound,
Consult a future people's liberties,
Without the pomp of courtly vanities.
Their theme the building of a colony,
Their views as various as their interests be,
The past is traversed with a sober gaze,
Truths gathered from experience's ways,
And probabilities dexterously thrown
In Reason's scales, to balance up or down.
Suggestions follow; till each one in turn,
His neighbor's leading views succeeds to learn.
Discussion then proceeds, orderly, clear,
Each member striving simplest to appear,
And each assuming rather to be taught,
Than teach the other, e'en if teach he ought.
If different grounds their judgments mild divide,
Each yields his own to take the other's side;
Or, if one holds a point at one's expense,
He argues only in his point's defense,
And not against the others, shows how plain
His views are to discover his friend's gain.
Thus order o'er the council all prevails,
And harshness ne'er reflection's ear assails.
So when some peaceful stream pursues its course
Down moaning falls and rapids gurgling hoarse,
Each separate object finds a tongue distinct,
But all together blend, and each in one's extinct.

These names were chief in council: 'Squire Grimes,
A stern Lycurgus of the backwoods times,
And pious parson Deems, of honored name,
And mild Sir Maxey of lineal fame.
A man of little more than medium size
Was he, with soft brown hair and hazel eyes,
A light gray even beard, an open face,
An easy carriage, and a happy trace
Of deep reflection in his general mien,
That e'en by dull observers might be seen.
Unlike the C├Žsar of a forest shed,
To daring deeds, and frontier perils bred,
So sensitive his elevated mind,
For combat and disaster too refined,
At bloody sights a horror seized his breath,
And fears swum thro' his veins at thought of death.
And such is man, to different fortunes born;
When different schools his early life adorn,
A hero dwindles to a merest lout
When nothing calls the latent hero out.

The name of Gabriel Grimes, whene'er one spoke,
The thought of law immediately awoke.
His mien meant law, his voice and his attire, --
In truth the very man seemed born a 'Squire.
Not tall was he but round, and fat and tan,
And twice as thick as any other man.
Reserved, yet free, incautious, yet alert,
He suffered ne'er his character a hurt
By weightless talk. When others laughed he'd frown,
When others frowned he'd laugh, and so renown,
E'en as the jackal hunts the lion down,
Ran after him all frothy mouthed; and praise
Sounded her horn at his peculiar ways.
'Twas granted all the depths of law he knew,
For what he did know, others ne'er saw thro'.
His strength lay not in doing mighty things,
But giving mighty inferences wings,
And thus it is with many great of earth,
Not what they are, but what we think them worth.
But David Deems, his opposite in all,
Was pleasant, candid, unassuming, tall.
A cloud of fleecy locks hung peacefully
About his neck, according happily
With his broad look of open charity,
And ever in his careful placid face
The sweet light shone of vital inward grace,
Like dawnings of a better world -- no glare
Of hot ambitions e'er ascending there,
Nor earth's polluting fires. His was no mien
Of sanctity affected, while between
His precepts and his practice, regions lay
Untraversed in his life; but as the day,
The cloudless lustre of his zealous soul
Beamed solid forth, and held in mute control,
Or stirred with song-cheer all within his reach.
He practiced how to live as well as preach,
And when he prayed, "Our debtors be forgiven,"
His soul and mind and strength conversed with Heaven,
Denouncing sin, the rebel, trembling heard,
And breathless hung upon his lightest word;
Describing bliss, wretchedness raised her eyes,
And with his lifted hand assayed to rise,
To spurn cold earth and dwell beyond the skies.
But when with pity streaming down his cheek,
The pierced bleeding Lamb of God, so meek
He pointed to, loud sobs responsive told
What sway o'er hearts a godly man may hold.
Ah, God! for more such in these turbid days,
Who preach to save souls, not to win mere praise,
Who walk with men to lead them out of vice,
And cause them to secure the "pearl of price."

'Twas then fair Saville that thy just renown
Was trumpeted in all the pride of town.
For all the hunting stations far and near,
Thou wast a depot to all hunters dear.
The tide of immigration drifting e'er,
Far on thy desert shores, some pioneer;
Soon far around, in distant wilds unknown,
Rude lodges from adventurer's hands were strewn,
And Husbandry went forth with sturdy hand,
To clear the waste and dress a prosperous land.
The voice of cleavers in yon valleys wide,
Were heard from breaking morn till eventide;
Loud rang their sudden axes blow on blow,
Deep thro' the waste re-echoed from below,
Great trees came crashing with a thundering sound,
Heaved from their stumps, and groaned along the ground.

Lo! in the mountains where yon wild cascade
Leaps thro' the sun and trembles in the shade,
Or sings in the sad ear of loneliness;
Where noteless birds come in the drowsiness
Of pulseless Summer's unremitting heat,
Where o'er the stream the forest branches meet,
Where rocks oppose the climber's sterile way --
And gorges yawn beneath in rugged gray,
High in the seat of Ancient Solitude,
The border woodsman rears his cabin rude.
Equipped with rifle, axe, and fathful dogs,
Here dwells the sovereign of a hut of logs;
By one attended of the fearless fair,
A consort in the wilds well worth his care.

By day the husband ventures forth for food,
Far from his lodge, within some friendly wood;
At eve returning to that constant one,
Who dared to bide his coming all alone.
Then when the twilight spreads her mantle pale
O'er wood and hill, and darkens in the vale,
His axe, and ready loaded gun near by,
His watchful mastiffs snugly napping nigh,
The window latched, and stoutly barred the door,
The day's adventures are recounted o'er.
The bear is now pursued over fallen logs,
Opposed by these, and pressed by eager dogs,
The herd's seen pouring thro' the startled dell,
The fleet stag's shot and hung up where he fell.
Thus on, the current of narration flows,
Deeper and deeper wearing as it goes,
Till heavy slumber settles on their eyes;
Converse moves sluggish, thoughts slower arise,
And faint and fainter flick'ring, sink the rays,
That wander from the fagot's dying blaze,
Till embers pale surviving -- nothing more,
Light them to rest to dream their chattings o'er.

Look where yon hunters two or three or more,
The solitary wilds to westward now explore.
Thro' mountain paths, by lakes and streams they roam,
The woods their dwelling-place, the world their home!
In beast skins clad, dark jungles wind they thro',
With eager strides their desert way pursue,
And with wild pleasure gaze on every prospect new.
At times hopelessly lost these wandered long,
The hostile tribes of savages among.
By day their only show of safety
Their excellence in sylvan strategy.
The wild bird's song seemed as a mournful tale,
And e'en a twig's fall turned their faces pale;
And every little throat did omens bear,
That shocked their senses with a seige of fear,
Till restless hunger whetted valor keen,
And dared the perils of the dismal scene.
When thro' the darkling bosom of the dell
The footsteps of the cautious ranger fell
In measured silence on the Indian trail,
And fierce alarm was tongued by every gale;
When streamed the burning wigwam's lurid light
Against the forest walls of troubled night,
And quick-eyed dragoons threaded every pass,
O'er mountain rocks, and in the deep morass,
Then cougar-footed strategy slunk in
Before the lion tread of Discipline.

For these, fair Saville, these frontiersmen bold,
Whose praise in song or story ne'er was told,
For these, thou wast a haven where all turned,
And where for all a genial hearth e'er burned.
When fugitives to this free home of ours,
Sought liberty beneath thy Western bowers;
From shores whence bigotry, with flaming hand,
Expelled poor conscience naked from the land,
Pale wanderers flocked to thee in many a trembling band.

From torpid Norway's habitations drear,
Where Summer smiles to soothe the frigid year
In vain, and boisterous, railing torrents moan
The bitter discord of their cheerless zone,
And wintry blasts o'er naked landscapes shriek,
While sparse fed herds migrate from peak to peak
In dismal groups, to browse the thawing slope,
Or huddle in the drowsy mountain cope;
From fair Italia's hills of evergreen,
O'er-canopied in stillest blue serene,
From fields where Summer plants her fragrant train
Beside the lucent streamlets of the plain;
From old determined Britian; morose Wales --
Where life's as stately as a ship with sails --
From Scotia's genial bourne of soul and song,
Where poverty, though simple, spurns the wrong,
Where love and labor meet fraternally;
Fair land of Burns and wand'ring minstrelsy;
From Germany's wide realms of smoke and beer,
Where dreamy metaphysics sits austere;
From over-flowing, ever-bowing France,
The home of fashions, fopperies and dance;
From sacred Judah, and beyond the Nile,
And from priest-ridden Erin's suppliant isle,
Escaping bands from Famine, Tyranny
And Ignorance, fled here for liberty.
A home for empty indigence was here;
The broken spendthrift found a friendly sphere,
The hopeless suiter came in all his throes,
To sport away the burdens of his woes;
Here wealth and romance found a fit abode,
And hand-in-hand with fame and fancy strode;
Ambition, in his sanguinest career,
Found a theatre for his conquests here;
And grave philanthropy, advising stood,
Disposed to do the unborn future good;
And here apostles of the hidden life
Implored kind Heaven to hold the winds of strife,
Pronounced swift judgment on transgression's ways,
Encouraged virtue, recommended praise,
Enlivened hope, taught faith to patient be,
Cheered manly toil and lauded charity.

With strongest cords of mutual interest bound,
All hands together were employed found.
Engaged to arm against a common foe,
The strength of unity they learned to know;
And what convenience Art had them denied,
United, willing hands full well supplied.
They reared their cabins, built their forest forts
Together, hunted, fished and held their sports.
The sick they joined to nurse with sleepless care,
To soothe the suffering, knew no pains to spare,
And when from earth the patient spirit fled,
They joined their mournful tributes to the dead.
Thus plenty flourished on the lap of ease,
And even danger's self was made to please.
Bold industry at hardships learned to smile,
Uproot vast wants and hew down woods of toil.
So when the forest matron crowned her board
With health and sustenance from her good hoard,
The unknown wanderer had a welcome there,
And indolence was e'en allowed a chair.
Lo! where yon woodsman skirts the neighboring weald,
And nears his smoking cot behind the field.
His step aweary quickens at eace pace,
And satisfaction lightens his tired face
As home he views; Home! isle in time's rough sea,
Where rests the voyager serene and free
From hollow, howling sorrows, that surround
His rock, and shake life's groaning depths profound --
Where winds repose, in long unruffled peace, --
Dear isle! where love's bright shine doth never cease --
And where no sooner doth the bloomy train,
Their sweetness drop, than blooms revive again.
Lo, now the evening star in grandeur still
Ascends yon upland wood and sheep cote hill,
Like some pale maiden at the trysting late,
Hard thro' the twilight peering o'er the gate;
The loud cur at the hollow nightfall bays,
And whispers flutter round the bright hearth's blaze,
Then nearer draws the rustic to his seat,
His warming heart outstrips his hasting feet;
All day his manly arms to labor bared,
Have wrought the task, returning want prepared.
Blest be the man, who void of all pretense,
Repays in ample sweat kind Providence,
For all His goods, and great beneficence!
And blest the consort of his lusty cares,
Who seeks his pleasures and his labor shares.
Behold the pilgrim leaning at their door,
Water he begs and shelter -- nothing more;
The frowning wealth of some far distant land,
Has driven him to leave with empty hand.
See how the wond'ring little ones apprise
Their busy mother with their sparkling eyes.
She to the stranger bows, extends a chair,
And chides her bright-eyed cherubs if they stare.
Hark! now the cotter's well-known steps draw near,
And patter faster as the stile they clear.
Soon in the door appears his open face,
A flock of kisses fly to his embrace;
The smaller, raised upon his manly breast,
Chirp out, and crow, and carrol at the rest.
And the kind housewife, hasty to obey
A tender conscience, happy seems as they.
Her eyes upon the hoary stranger bent,
Speak her desire, and ask her lord's consent.
All signs and looks unpleasant are repressed,
And ample supper set before their guest;
Who, having vanquished potent hunger quite,
Is kindly pressed upon to stay all night!
Blest be the man! his hands arrest his wants,
His charity is great, but never vaunts.
He now to quiet night's embrace repairs,
And sleeps away his weariness and cares.
Sweet be the visions of his manly breast,
Nor by remorseful dreams of wealth, nor banished joys opprest.

These were the mighty days of little things,
Ere soaring vanity had yet her wings.
Her patron wealth was then but poorly known,
For gain was satisfied with but his own.
Then aspirations of the noblest kind,
Dear humble comfort to her hights confined.
These were the good old times of simple worth,
When love aud reverence met at every hearth;
When strong toil stretched beneath green plenty's tree,
And worshipped home's best god dear Industry.
Then gaunt-armed indiscretion, pale and sore,
Groaning beneath disease's dreaded sting
Through sleepless hours, was never known. The king
Most terrible of all the hordes of bale,
Intemp'rance, did not then the peace assail
Of hopeful hearts, breathing out crime and hate,
And houseless want and hearths all desolate.
Then blushing beauty's cheek of tender hues,
Showed not excessive drink and what ensues.
Ah! fatal days of wantonness and wine,
In which now youthful wealth assays to shine,
Deriding with the jeers of native glee,
The homespun customs of their ancestry!
Regarding lights which made our land sublime,
As smouldering embers on the hearth of time.
In wilds remote from fame's resounding horn,
Where courts were never dreamed of, kings were born,
Or minds that might have worn star-gemmed renown,
And added lustre to a James' crown
With all the sovereign claims of Royalty,
Wisdom, valor, and sterling honesty.
The way from office then was hedged by fines,
The way to office now by party lines.
Oh, God! for a return to simple ways,
Such as crowned Saville in her valiant days,
Ere yet the pluming warrior's barb'rous knife
Cut down the flower on the lap of life!

But, Saville, pause! for God's sake pause! I beg!
For thy fair bosom warms a viper's egg.
The hatching ruin will thy young life sting,
And pour a deadly poison thro' thy nature's spring.
Thou hold'st one slave! Of barbarisms old
An evil seed now in thy life takes hold.

Prosperity's big rain to cheer thee falls,
And plenty overhangs thy garden walls;
Soft blooming gladness in thy hedges peep,
And green delight doth at thy waysides creep,
Contentment murmurs in thy valleys low,
And health's rejoicing streams from fruitful hillsides flow;
But Justice n'er can say, "peace be in thee,"
While one beneath thy grinding heel pants to be free.
Ah! can'st thou hold the life of one in chains,
With eighty-five per cent. of Saxon in his veins?
Oh, Saville, look at what a crime thy nature stains!

Thy Rodney, see, how noble he appears,
Just on the summit of his tender years!
His Summers number scarce a single score,
And yet his manly face seems marked by more.
When pity calls, his brawny arm assumes
A woman's softness, and as light becomes.
But when the right enlists him to oppose,
On whate'er grounds, whatever of her foes,
His face as gentle as a sleeping child's,
Would dare the fury of the roaring wilds;
His nerves put on their fearless strength, and steeled
By valor stern, the knife or rifle wield.
Erect in air he stands full six-feet, three,
Broad shouldered, strong, a goodly man is he.
A lover of fair women, and as blind
To her weaknesses as Egyptian night,
A fondler with soft childhood, and as kind
To its mistakes, as if mistakes were right;
Skilled in the feats that backwoods life adorn,
Although a stranger to the backwoods born,
The shelly clamor of the Autumn trees,
Or howl of beasts, or savages alike can please.
And he a slave? Ah, Saville, can it be
That such a noble heart can not beat free!

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