Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
 
The Oneyda’s Death Song
By Thomas Campbell (1777–1844)
 
[From Gertrude of Wyoming, Part III.]

HUSHED were his Gertrude’s lips, but still their bland
And beautiful expression seemed to melt
With love that could not die; and still his hand
She presses to the heart no more that felt.
Ah heart! where once each fond affection dwelt,        5
And features yet that spoke a soul more fair.
Mute, gazing, agonizing as he knelt,—
Of them that stood encircling his despair,
He heard some friendly words;—but knew not what they were.
 
For now, to mourn their judge and child, arrives        10
A faithful band. With solemn rites between,
’Twas sung, how they were lovely in their lives,
And in their deaths had not divided been.
Touch’d by the music, and the melting scene,
Was scarce one tearless eye amidst the crowd:—        15
Stern warriors, resting on their swords, were seen
To veil their eyes, as pass’d each much-loved shroud—
While woman’s softer soul in woe dissolved aloud.
 
Then mournfully the parting bugle bid
Its farewell, o’er the grave of worth and truth;        20
Prone to the dust, afflicted Waldegrave hid
His face on earth;—him watched in gloomy ruth
His woodland guide; but words had none to soothe
The grief that knew not consolation’s name:
Casting his Indian mantle o’er the youth,        25
He watch’d, beneath its folds, each burst that came
Convulsive, ague-like across his shuddering frame!
 
      ‘And I could weep;’—th’ Oneyda chief
      His descant wildly thus begun;
      ‘But that I may not stain with grief        30
      The death-song of my father’s son,
      Or bow this head in woe;
      For by my wrongs and by my wrath
      To-morrow Areouski’s breath
      (That fires you heav’n with storms of death)        35
      Shall light us to the foe;
      And we shall share, my Christian boy,
      The foeman’s blood, the avenger’s joy!
 
      ‘But thee, my flower, whose breath was given
      By milder genii o’er the deep,        40
      The spirits of the white man’s heaven
      Forbid not thee to weep;
      Nor will the Christian host,
      Nor will thy father’s spirit grieve
      To see thee, on the battle’s eve,        45
      Lamenting, take a mournful leave
      Of her who loved thee most:
      She was the rainbow to thy sight!
      Thy sun—thy heaven—of lost delight!—
 
      ‘To-morrow let us do or die!        50
      But when the bolt of death is hurled,
      Ah! whither then with thee to fly
      Shall Outalissi roam the world?
      Seek we thy once-loved home?—
      The hand is gone that cropt its flowers,        55
      Unheard their clock repeats its hours,
      Cold is the hearth within their bowers,
      And should we thither roam,
      Its echoes and its empty tread
      Would sound like voices from the dead.        60
 
      ‘Or shall we cross yon mountains blue,
      Whose streams my kindred nation quaff’d,
      And by my side, in battle true,
      A thousand warriors drew the shaft?
      Ah! there in desolation cold        65
      The desert serpent dwells alone,
      Where grass o’ergrows each mouldering bone,
      And stones themselves to ruin grown,
      Like me, are death-like old:
      Then seek we not their camp—for there        70
      The silence dwells of my despair.
 
      ‘But hark, the trump!—to-morrow thou
      In glory’s fires shalt dry thy tears:
      Ev’n from the land of shadows now
      My father’s awful ghost appears        75
      Amidst the clouds that round us roll;
      He bids my soul for battle thirst,
      He bids me dry the last—the first—
      The only tears that ever burst
      From Outalissi’s soul;        80
      Because I may not stain with grief
      The death-song of an Indian chief.’
 
 
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