Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
By Samuel B. Beach (1793/4–1866)
      THE WAR-WHOOP’S 1 boding sound
    Rose fearfully and shrill:
    By echo’s thousand voices, round,
    Wide wafted over dale and hill,
    It volley’d through the distant plain,        5
    That peal’d its thunders back again.
    The wolf aroused him from his den,
    Far northward, in the wildest glen
    On Simcoe’s dreary shore;
    And, high o’er Alleghany’s peak,        10
    The vulture heard, and trimm’d his beak
    To feast on human gore.
    The runners, by their Chief’s command,
    The war-club, tinged with fearful red,
    Rear’d high in air, a signal dread,        15
    And waved it through the land.
    It glanced amid the pathless wood
    That shadow’d Susquehannah’s flood;
    And down Ontario’s wilds, afar,
    Told proudly of the coming war:        20
    On dark Missouri’s turbid stream
    The countless tribes beheld it gleam,
    And blithely, for the field array’d,
    Obedience to its summons paid.
By its own gallant chieftains led on to the fight,        25
Each tribe musters proudly its numbers and might,
And—like mountain streams rushing to mingle their foam
In the dell’s troubled bosom—all darkly they come;
*      *      *      *      *
      The line is forming, broad and bright,
    Like meteors on the brow of night,        30
    As to the wind their light folds stream,
    Standards and banners o’er it gleam;
    And plumes and shields and helmets, glancing
    From mail-clad chiefs in hurried motion,
    Rise, sink and glow, like bubbles dancing        35
    Upon the storm-vex’d face of ocean.
      In front, and facing to the fosse,
    O’er which the coming foe must cross—
    Their left arms bare, and round the waist
    Their quivers, stored with arrows, braced,        40
    Ready of eye and firm of hand,
    The light and active archers stand;
    Each with his bow of ample length,
    Well proved for vigor and for strength,
    And cloth-yard shafts—that to the heart        45
    May pierce, when from the string they part.
    Supporting these—with rearward sweep,
    In darkening columns, broad and deep—
    Fast to their posts wheel silently
    The close-rank’d veteran infantry,        50
    The sinews of the host—who bear
    The tug and burden of the war,
    When man to man his might opposes
    In long and fierce and doubtful strife,
    And one or both must part with life        55
    Before the awful contest closes.
    Upon the wings form, prompt and free,
    The light and heavy cavalry;
And the snort and the neigh of each bounding steed,
As his rider is curbing his headlong speed,        60
And the foam on the bit which he angrily champs,
And the short, hollow moan of the ground, as he stamps
And spurns it impatiently—tell to the eye
And the ear, he is conscious the battle is nigh;
And pants for the moment when, loose from the rein,        65
He shall rush on the flying and trample the slain.
*      *      *      *      *
  Far down Ohio’s vale, the pilgrim sees
The rank grass floating, in the grateful breeze,
Above the hallow’d mould, where sleep the brave
Of ages past, in the neglected grave;        70
And of the peasant, as his labors turn
The whitening bones above their earthly urn,
Pauses a moment, o’er his reckless share,
To wonder whose sad relics moulder there:
Yet, nor the peasant nor the pilgrim knows        75
The record of their fame, the story of their woes.
But viewless spirits linger round the scene
Where valor, worth and glory erst have been;
Bidding each gale, as far its sweets are shed,
Sigh nature’s requiem o’er the mighty dead:        80
While their high harps, responsive, wake again
The echoes of the sadly-pleasing strain,
To prompt from pity’s eye the willing tear
And tell their wondrous tale in Fancy’s ear.
  Soothed by the sound, the native minstrel caught        85
A portion of the lay their numbers taught,
And from his rustic lyre, by Freedom strung
Its plaintive wild-notes fearlessly he flung.
Rude is the theme he chose, and small the praise
He claims, to recompense his artless lays:        90
Content, if Genius, from her boundless mines,
Hath lent one gem, to deck the wreath he twines;
Or taste shall find one native flowret there,
Which claims her plaudits and his country’s care.
  To thee, my country! and to thine, belong        95
The fame, the labors of thy “sons of song:”
Be thine, henceforth, the pleasing task, to give
The boon which bids that fame, those labors live;
Nor deem, of course, the chaplet little worth,
Whose wreaths are twined from flowers of native growth.        100
Proud of their freedom, let thy children be
In taste and science, as in spirit, free;
So shall thy daring minstrels soon aspire
With bolder sweep to wake the slumbering lyre;
Till, o’er the broad Atlantic echoing round,        105
Admiring Europe hail the heavenly sound,
And, roused to rapture by its magic charms,
Confess thy bards as matchless as thy arms.
Note 1. Beach wrote Escalala, an American Tale, published at Utica, New York, in 1824. [back]

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