Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, INDIAN WOMAN'S DEATH-SONG, by FELICIA DOROTHEA HEMANS



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INDIAN WOMAN'S DEATH-SONG, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Down a broad river of the western wilds
Last Line: "one moment, and that realm is ours. On, on, dark rolling stream!"
Alternate Author Name(s): Browne, Felicia Dorothea
Subject(s): Drowning; Native Americans; Women; Indians Of America; American Indians; Indians Of South America


DOWN a broad river of the western wilds,
Piercing thick forest-glooms, a light canoe
Swept with the current: fearful was the speed
Of the frail bark, as by a tempest's wing
Borne leaf-like on to where the mist of spray
Rose with the cataract's thunder. Yet within,
Proudly, and dauntlessly, and all alone,
Save that a babe lay sleeping at her breast,
A woman stood! Upon her Indian brow
Sat a strange gladness, and her dark hair waved
As if triumphantly. She pressed her child,
In its bright slumber, to her beating heart,
And lifted her sweet voice, that rose awhile
Above the sound of waters, high and clear,
Wafting a wild proud strain -- a song of death.

"ROLL swiftly to the spirit's land, thou mighty stream and free!
Father of ancient waters, roll! and bear our lives with thee!
The weary bird that storms have tossed would seek the sunshine's calm,
And the deer that hath the arrow's hurt flies to the woods of balm.

"Roll on! -- my warrior's eye hath looked upon another's face,
And mine hath faded from his soul, as fades a moonbeam's trace:
My shadow comes not o'er his path, my whisper to his dream,
He flings away the broken reed. Roll swifter yet, thou stream!

"The voice that spoke of other days is hushed within his breast,
But mine its lonely music haunts, and will not let me rest;
It sings a low and mournful song of gladness that is gone --
I cannot live without that light. Father of waves! roll on!

"Will he not miss the bounding step that met him from the chase?
The heart of love that made his home an ever-sunny place?
The hand that spread the hunter's board, and decked his couch of yore?
He will not! Roll, dark foaming stream, on to the better shore!

"Some blessed fount amidst the woods of that bright land must flow,
Whose waters from my soul may lave the memory of this woe;
Some gentle wind must whisper there, whose breath may waft away
The burden of the heavy night, the sadness of the day.

"And thou, my babe! though born, like me, for woman's weary lot,
Smile! -- to that wasting of the heart, my own! I leave thee not;
Too bright a thing art thou to pine in aching love away --
Thy mother bears thee far, young fawn! from sorrow and decay.

"She bears thee to the glorious bowers where none are heard to weep,
And where the unkind one hath no power again to trouble sleep;
And where the soul shall find its youth, as wakening from a dream:
One moment, and that realm is ours. On, on, dark rolling stream!"





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