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Of their fierce fathers ; and the savage soul,
Nursed e'en in youth on thoughts in carnage dyed, Instinctively, with simultaneous swell, Sent from their lips the unfledged battle yell.
Their little bows they twanged with threatening mien,
Their little war-clubs shook to tell their ires ; Their mimic scalping-knives they brandished keen,
And acted o’er the stories of their sires ; And had their fathers at this moment seen
(For they were gone to Potowomet’s fires), Our Founder's guide, they might have caught the tone Of their young urchins, and the hatchet thrown.
Still village after village smoked ; the woods
All swarmed with life as forward still they fared; For numbers great, but not for multitudes
So numberless, had Williams been prepared ; Was it for him to tamper with the moods
Of these fierce savages, whose arms were bared, Whose souls were ripe, and stalwart bodies trim, For the wild revelry of slaughter grim ?
How could he hope a safe abiding place,
Far in these forests, and his friends so few Among a wild and blood-besotted race,
That naught of laws divine or human knew ; Their wars proceeding oft from mad caprice,
Their hearts as hard 's the tomahawks they threw : Would his temerity by Heaven be blest? Would God nurse zephyrs on the whirlwind's breast ?
Whilst musing thus, and onward moving still,
His soul o'ershadowed with suspicious fears, He gained the summit of a towering hill,
And downward gazed. — Far stretched beneath appears A woodland plain ; and murmurs harsh and shrill,
As from accordant voices, on his ears
And now to sight, through leafless boughs revealed,
Now hid where thicker branches wove their screen, Bounding and glancing, in swift circles wheeled
Men painted, plumed, and armed with weapons sheen , And flashing clear or by the trees concealed,
Glimmering again and waved with threatening mien, The lifted tomahawks and lances bright Seemed to forestall the the frenzied joy of fight.
Mixed with the sound of voices and of feet,
Alternate slow and fast, the hollow drum Its measured rote or rolling numbers beat,
And ruled in various mood the general hum ;
Till at a sudden pause, did thrilling come
As 'twere from frantic demons. And the face
Of Waban paled — then darkened as he said, “The Narragansets there their war-dance trace,
They count our scalps, and name our kindred dead;
This heart grows big — it cannot ask for peace;
'Twould rather rot upon a gory bed Than hear the spirits of its sires complain, And call for blood, -- but ever call in vain.”
“Waban,” said Williams, “ dost thou fear to go?
Wilt thou thy Yengee sachem leave alone? How will thy Sagamore the speeches know,
If homeward now his messenger should run? Not thou, but I will ask the haughty foe
To quench his fires, and quell the dance begun ; But for thy safety, thou the calumet Shalt bear beside me, till the chiefs are met.”
• Waban,” he answered, “never shook with fear,
Nor left his Sachem when he needed friends; It is the thought of many a by-gone year
That kindles wrath within my breast, and sends Through all this frame, my boiling blood on fire !
Still Waban on his pale-faced chief attends, But bears no pipe ; – the Wampanoag's pride Bids him to die, as his brave fathers died.”
Waban, at least, will smoke the pipe awhile ?
Said Williams gravely to his moody guide, “ Its fragant breath is as on billows oil ;
It calms the troubled waves of memory's tide." The grateful offer seemed to reconcile
The peaceful emblem to the warrior's pride : He fills the bowl he wakes the kindling fire And o'er his head the curling clouds aspire.
And whilst he sits, the sylvan muse will string
Her rustic harp to wake no gentle strain
The song of vengeance to their raptured train ; Of councils, and of wizard priests that bring
Strange omens, dark dominion to maintain ; Of incantations dire, and of that spell By Sesek wrought - which seemed the feat of Hell. ,
(SCENE. The Narraganset Camp at Potowomet.]
The twain have left the height, and sought the glade
Where the red warriors wheel the martial dance ; A while the thick young cedars round them made
A cover that concealed their still advance; But passing quickly through the denser shade,
Sire Willliams sent abroad his searching glance O’er the rude camp, and saw, on every side, Around the blazing fires the dancers glide.
Hundreds on hundreds thronged the glade, I ween,
With painted visages and pluméd hair ;
And brandished knives upon the ambient air
Their dark locks streaming and their muscles bare, The dancers circled o'er the thundering ground, And leaping, breathed the hard, harsh, aspirated sound...
But chiefly tow’rd the centre pressed the throngs
Where plied the bravest chiefs their dances rude : There listened to their Sachem's battle songs,
And when he ceased, in leaps his lance pursued; The while the tumult swelled until their lungs,
Wrung to the highest effort, filled the wood With the wild war-whoop, tremulous and shrill, Then hushed itself and suddenly was still;