Part the First:
Part the Second:
A Tale of Arcadie
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Part the Second
- FAR in the West there lies a desert land, where the mountains
- Lift, through perpetual snows, their lofty and luminous summits.
- Down from their jagged, deep ravines, where the gorge, like a gateway,
- Opens a passage rude to the wheels of the emigrant's wagon,
- Westward the Oregon flows and the Walleway and Owyhee.
- Eastward, with devious course, among the Windriver Mountains,
- Through the Sweetwater Valley precipitate leaps the Nebraska;
- And to the south, from Fontaine-qui-bout and the Spanish sierras,
- Fretted with sands and rocks, and swept by the wind of the desert,
- Numberless torrents, with ceaseless sound, descend to the ocean,
- Like the great chords of a harp, in loud and solemn vibrations.
- Spreading between these streams are the wondrous, beautiful prairies,
- Billowy bays of grass ever rolling in shadow and sunshine,
- Bright with luxuriant clusters of roses and purple amorphas.
- Over them wander the buffalo herds, and the elk and the roebuck;
- Over them wander the wolves, and herds of riderless horses;
- Fires that blast and blight, and winds that are weary with travel;
- Over them wander the scattered tribes of Ishmael's children,
- Staining the desert with blood; and above their terrible war-trails
- Circles and sails aloft, on pinions majestic, the vulture,
- Like the implacable soul of a chieftain slaughtered in battle,
- By invisible stairs ascending and scaling the heavens.
- Here and there rise smokes from the camps of these savage marauders;
- Here and there rise groves from the margins of swift-running rivers;
- And the grim, taciturn bear, the anchorite monk of the desert,
- Climbs down their dark ravines to dig for roots by the brookside,
- And over all is the sky, the clear and crystalline heaven,
- Like the protecting hand of God inverted above them.
- Into this wonderful land, at the base of the Ozark Mountains,
- Gabriel far had entered, with hunters and trappers behind him.
- Day after day, with their Indian guides, the maiden and Basil
- followed his flying steps, and thought each day to o'ertake him.
- Sometimes they saw, or thought they saw, the smoke of his camp-fire
- Rise in the morning air from the distant plain; but at nightfall,
- When they had reached the place, they found only embers and ashes.
- And, though their hearts were sad at times and their bodies were weary,
- Hope still guided them on, as the magic Fata Morgana
- Showed them her lakes of light, that retreated and vanished before them.
- Once, as they sat by their evening fire, there silently entered
- Into the little camp an Indian woman, whose features
- Wore deep traces of sorrow, and patience as great as her sorrow.
- She was a Shawnee woman returning home to her people,
- From the far-off hunting-grounds of the cruel Camanches,
- Where her Canadian husband, a Coureur-des-Bois, had been murdered.
- Touched were their hearts at her story, and warmest and friendliest welcome
- Gave they, with words of cheer, and she sat and feasted among them
- On the buffalo meat and the venison cooked on the embers.
- But when their meal was done, and Basil and all his companions,
- Worn with the long day's march and the chase of the deer and the bison,
- Stretched themselves on the ground, and slept where the quivering firelight
- Flashed on their swarthy cheeks, and their forms wrapped up in their blankets,
- Then at the door of Evangeline's tent she sat and repeated
- Slowly, with soft, low voice, and the charm of her Indian accent,
- All the tale of her love, with its pleasures, and pains, and reverses.
- Much Evangeline wept at the tale, and to know that another
- Hapless heart like her own had loved and had been disappointed.
- Moved to the depths of her soul by pity and woman's compassion,
- Yet in her sorrow pleased that one who had suffered was near her,
- She in turn related her love and all its disasters.
- Mute with wonder the Shawnee sat, and when she had ended
- Still was mute; but at length, as if a mysterious horror
- Passed through her brain, she spake, and repeated the tale of the Mowis;
- Mowis, the bridegroom of snow, who won and wedded a maiden,
- But, when the morning came, arose and passed from the wigwam,
- Fading and melting away and dissolving into the sunshine,
- Till she beheld him no more, though she followed far into the forest.
- Then, in those sweet, low tones, that seem like a weird incantation,
- Told she the tale of the fair Lilinau, who was wooed by a phantom,
- That, through the pines o'er her father's lodge, in the hush of the twilight,
- Breathed like the evening wind, and whispered love to the maiden,
- Till she followed his green and waving plume through the forest,
- And never more returned, nor was seen again by her people.
- Silent with wonder and strange surprise Evangeline listened
- To the soft flow of her magical words, till the region around her
- Seemed like enchanted ground, and her swarthy guest the enchantress.
- Slowly over the tops of the Ozark Mountains the moon rose,
- Lighting the little tent, and with a mysterious splendor
- Touching the somber leaves, and embracing and filling the woodland.
- With a delicious sound the brook rushed by, and the branches
- Swayed and sighed overhead in scarcely audible whispers.
- Filled with the thoughts of love was Evangeline's heart, but a secret,
- Subtile sense crept in of pain and indefinite terror,
- As the cold, poisonous snake creeps into the nest of the swallow.
- It was no earthly fear. A breath from the region of spirits
- Seemed to float in the air of night; and she felt for a moment
- That, like the Indian maid, she, too, was pursuing a phantom.
- And with this thought she slept, and the fear and the phantom had vanished.
- Early upon the morrow the march was resumed; and the Shawnee
- Said, as they journeyed along -- "On the western slope of these mountains
- Dwells in his little village the Black Robe chief of the Mission.
- Much he teaches the people, and tells them of Mary and Jesus;
- Loud laugh their hearts with joy, and weep with pain, as they hear him."
- Then, with a sudden and secret emotion, Evangeline answered --
- "Let us go to the Mission, for there good tidings await us!"
- Thither they turned their steeds; and behind a spur of the mountains,
- Just as the sun went down, they heard a murmur of voices,
- And in a meadow green and broad, by the bank of a river,
- Saw the tents of the Christians, the tents of the Jesuit Mission.
- Under a towering oak, that stood in the midst of the village,
- Knelt the Black Robe chief with his children. A crucifix fastened
- High on the trunk of the tree, and overshadowed by grape-vines,
- Looked with its agonized face on the multitude kneeling beneath it.
- This was their rural chapel. Aloft, through the intricate arches
- Of its aerial roof, arose the chant of their vespers,
- Mingling its notes with the soft susurrus and sighs of the branches.
- Silent, with heads uncovered, the travelers, nearer approaching,
- Knelt on the swarded floor, and joined in the evening devotions.
- But when the service was done, and the benediction had fallen
- Forth from the hands of the priest, like seed from the hands of the sower,
- Slowly the reverend man advanced to the strangers, and bade them
- Welcome; and when they replied, he smiled with benignant expression,
- Hearing the homelike sounds of his mother tongue in the forest,
- And with words of kindness conducted them into his wigwam.
- There upon mats and skins they reposed, and on cakes of the maize-ear
- Feasted, and slaked their thirst from the water-gourd of the teacher.
- Soon was their story told; and the priest with solemnity answered:
- "Not six suns have risen and set since Gabriel, seated
- On this mat by my side, where now the maiden reposes,
- Told me this same sad tale; then arose and continued his journey!"
- Soft was the voice of the priest, and he spake with an accent of kindness;
- But on Evangeline's heart fell his words as in winter the snowflakes
- Fall into some lone nest from which the birds have departed.
- "Far to the north he has gone," continued the priest; "but in autumn,
- When the chase is done, will return again to the Mission."
- Then Evangeline said, and her voice was meek and submissive --
- "Let me remain with thee, for my soul is sad and afflicted."
- So seemed it wise and well unto all; and betimes on the morrow,
- Mounting his Mexican steed, with his Indian guides and companions,
- Homeward Basil returned, and Evangeline stayed at the Mission.
- Slowly, slowly, slowly the days succeeded each other, --
- Days and weeks and months; and the fields of maize that were springing
- Green from the ground when a stranger she came, now waving above her,
- Lifted their slender shafts, with leaves interlacing, and forming
- Cloisters for mendicant crows and granaries pillaged by squirrels.
- Then in the golden weather the maize was busked, and the maidens
- Blushed at each blood-red ear, for that betokened a lover,
- But at the crooked laughed, and called it a thief in the corn-field.
- Even the blood-red ear to Evangeline brought not her lover.
- "Patience!" the priest would say; "have faith, and thy prayer will be answered!
- Look at this delicate plant that lifts its head from the meadow,
- See how its leaves all point to the north, as true as the magnet;
- It is the compass-flower, that the finger of God has suspended
- Here on its fragile stalk, to direct the traveler's journey
- Over the sea-like, pathless, limitless waste of the desert.
- Such in the soul of man is faith. The blossoms of passion,
- Gay and luxuriant flowers, are brighter and fuller of fragrance,
- But they beguile us, and lead us astray, and their odor is deadly.
- Only this humble plant can guide us here, and hereafter
- Crown us with asphodel flowers, that are wet with the dews of nepenthe."
- So came the autumn, and passed, and the winter -- yet Gabriel came not;
- Blossomed the opening spring, and the notes of the robin and bluebird
- Sounded sweet upon wold and in wood, yet Gabriel came not.
- But on the breath of the summer winds a rumor was wafted
- Sweeter than song of bird, or hue or odor of blossom.
- Far to the north and east, it said, in the Michigan forests,
- Gabriel had his lodge by the banks of the Saginaw river.
- And, with returning guides, that sought the lakes of St. Lawrence,
- Saying a sad farewell, Evangeline went from the Mission.
- When over weary ways, by long and perilous marches,
- She had attained at length the depths of the Michigan forests,
- Found she the hunter's lodge deserted and fallen to ruin!
- Thus did the long sad years glide on, and in seasons and places
- Divers and distant far was seen the wandering maiden;--
- Now in the tents of grace of the meek Moravian Missions,
- Now in the noisy camps and the battle-fields of the army,
- Now in secluded hamlets, in towns and populous cities,
- Like a phantom she came, and passed away unremembered.
- Fair was she and young, when in hope began the long journey;
- Faded was she and old, when in disappointment it ended.
- Each succeeding year stole something away from her beauty,
- Leaving behind it, broader and deeper, the gloom and the shadow.
- Then there appeared and spread faint streaks of gray o'er her forehead,
- Dawn of another life, that broke o'er her earthly horizon,
- As in the eastern sky the first faint streaks of the morning.
to Part II, Canto V.