Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
Appendix I. Early and Uncollected Verses
The Fratricide
HE stood on the brow of the well-known hill,
Its few gray oaks moan’d over him still;
The last of that forest which cast the gloom
Of its shadow at eve o’er his childhood’s home;
And the beautiful valley beneath him lay        5
With its quivering leaves, and its streams at play,
And the sunshine over it all the while
Like the golden shower of the Eastern isle.
He knew the rock with its fingering vine,
And its gray top touch’d by the slant sunshine,        10
And the delicate stream which crept beneath
Soft as the flow of an infant’s breath;
And the flowers which lean’d to the West wind’s sigh,
Kissing each ripple which glided by;
And he knew every valley and wooded swell,        15
For the visions of childhood are treasured well.
Why shook the old man as his eye glanced down
That narrow ravine where the rude cliffs frown,
With their shaggy brows and their teeth of stone,
And their grim shade back from the sunlight thrown?        20
What saw he there save the dreary glen,
Where the shy fox crept from the eye of men,
And the great owl sat on the leafy limb
That the hateful sun might not look on him?
Fix’d, glassy, and strange was that old man’s eye,        25
As if a spectre were stealing by,
And glared it still on that narrow dell
Where thicker and browner the twilight fell;
Yet at every sigh of the fitful wind,
Or stirring of leaves in the wood behind,        30
His wild glance wander’d the landscape o’er,
Then fix’d on that desolate dell once more.
Oh, who shall tell of the thoughts which ran
Through the dizzied brain of that gray old man?
His childhood’s home, and his father’s toil,        35
And his sister’s kiss, and his mother’s smile,
And his brother’s laughter and gamesome mirth,
At the village school and the winter hearth;
The beautiful thoughts of his early time,
Ere his heart grew dark with its later crime.        40
And darker and wilder his visions came
Of the deadly feud and the midnight flame,
Of the Indian’s knife with its slaughter red,
Of the ghastly forms of the scalpless dead,
Of his own fierce deeds in that fearful hour        45
When the terrible Brandt was forth in power,
And he clasp’d his hands o’er his burning eye
To shadow the vision which glided by.
It came with the rush of the battle-storm—
With a brother’s shaken and kneeling form,        50
And his prayer for life when a brother’s arm
Was lifted above him for mortal harm,
And the fiendish curse, and the groan of death,
And the welling of blood, and the gurgling breath,
And the scalp torn off while each nerve could feel        55
The wrenching hand and the jagged steel!
And the old man groan’d—for he saw, again,
The mangled corse of his kinsman slain,
As it lay where his hand had hurl’d it then,
At the shadow’d foot of that fearful glen!        60
And it rose erect, with the death-pang grim,
And pointed its bloodied finger at him!
And his heart grew cold—and the curse of Cain
Burn’d like a fire in the old man’s brain.
Oh, had he not seen that spectre rise        65
On the blue of the cold Canadian skies?
From the lakes which sleep in the ancient wood,
It had risen to whisper its tale of blood,
And follow’d his bark to the sombre shore,
And glared by night through the wigwam door;        70
And here, on his own familiar hill,
It rose on his haunted vision still!
Whose corse was that which the morrow’s sun,
Through the opening boughs, look’d calmly on?
There were those who bent o’er that rigid face        75
Who well in its darken’d lines might trace
The features of him who, a traitor, fled
From a brother whose blood himself had shed,
And there, on the spot where he strangely died,
They made the grave of the Fratricide!


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