Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
Anti-Slavery Poems
Le Marais du Cygne
          The massacre of unarmed and unoffending men, in Southern Kansas, in May, 1858, took place near the Marais du Cygne of the French voyageurs.

A BLUSH as of roses
  Where rose never grew!
Great drops on the bunch-grass,
  But not of the dew!
A taint in the sweet air        5
  For wild bees to shun!
A stain that shall never
  Bleach out in the sun!
Back, steed of the prairies!
  Sweet song-bird, fly back!        10
Wheel hither, bald vulture!
  Gray wolf, call thy pack!
The foul human vultures
  Have feasted and fled;
The wolves of the Border        15
  Have crept from the dead.
From the hearths of their cabins,
  The fields of their corn,
Unwarned and unweaponed,
  The victims were torn,—        20
By the whirlwind of murder
  Swooped up and swept on
To the low, reedy fen-lands,
  The Marsh of the Swan.
With a vain plea for mercy        25
  No stout knee was crooked;
In the mouths of the rifles
  Right manly they looked.
How paled the May sunshine,
  O Marais du Cygne!        30
On death for the strong life,
  On red grass for green!
In the homes of their rearing,
  Yet warm with their lives,
Ye wait the dead only,        35
  Poor children and wives!
Put out the red forge-fire,
  The smith shall not come;
Unyoke the brown oxen,
  The ploughman lies dumb.        40
Wind slow from the Swan’s Marsh,
  O dreary death-train,
With pressed lips as bloodless
  As lips of the slain!
Kiss down the young eyelids,        45
  Smooth down the gray hairs;
Let tears quench the curses
  That burn through your prayers.
Strong man of the prairies,
  Mourn bitter and wild!        50
Wail, desolate woman!
  Weep, fatherless child!
But the grain of God springs up
  From ashes beneath,
And the crown of his harvest        55
  Is life out of death.
Not in vain on the dial
  The shade moves along,
To point the great contrasts
  Of right and of wrong:        60
Free homes and free altars,
  Free prairie and flood,—
The reeds of the Swan’s Marsh,
  Whose bloom is of blood!
On the lintels of Kansas        65
  That blood shall not dry;
Henceforth the Bad Angel
  Shall harmless go by;
Henceforth to the sunset,
  Unchecked on her way,        70
Shall Liberty follow
  The march of the day.


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