Fitz-Greene Halleck (- )



THOU com'st, in beauty, on my gaze at last,
"On Susquehannah's side, fair Wyoming!"
Image of many a dream, in hours long past,
When life was in its bud and blossoming,
And waters, gushing from the fountain spring
Of pure enthusiast thought, dimmed my young eyes,
As by the poet borne, on unseen wing,
I breathed, in fancy, 'neath thy cloudless skies,
The summer's air, and heard her echoed harmonies.


I then but dreamed: thou art before me now,
In life, a vision of the brain no more.
I've stood upon the wooded mountain's brow,
That beetles high thy lovely valley o'er;
And now, where winds thy river's greenest shore,
Within a bower of sycamores am laid;
And winds, as soft and sweet as ever bore
The fragrance of wild flowers through sun and shade,
Are singing in the trees, whose low boughs press my head.


Nature hath made thee lovelier than the power
Even of Campbell's pen hath pictured: he
Had woven, bad he gazed one sunny hour
Upon thy smiling vale, its scenery
With more of truth, and made each rock and tree
Known like old friends, and greeted from afar:
And there are tales of sad reality,
In the dark legends of thy border war,
With woes of deeper tint than his own Gertrude's are.


But where are they, the beings of the mind,
The bard's creations, moulded not of clay,
Hearts to strange bliss and suffering assigned
Young Gertrude, Albert, Waldegravewhere are they?
We need not ask. The people of to-day
Appear good, honest, quiet men enough,
And hospitable toofor ready pay,
With manners like their roads, a little rough,
And hands whose grasp is warm and welcoming, tho' tough.


Judge Hallenbach, who keeps the toll-bridge gate,
And the town records, is the Albert now
Of Wyoming: like him, in church and state,
Her doric column; and upon his brow
The thin hairs, white with seventy winters' snow,
Look patriarchal. Waldegrave 'twere in vain
To point out here, unless in yon scare-crow,
That stands full-uniformed upon the plain,
To frighten flocks of crows and blackbirds from the grain.


For he would look particularly droll
In his "Iberian boot" and "Spanish plume,"
And be the wonder of each Christian soul
As of the birds that scare-crow and his broom.
But Gertrude, in her loveliness and bloom,
Hath many a model here,for Woman's eye,
In court or cottage, wheresoe'er her home
Hath a heart-spell too holy and too high
To be o'er-praised even by her worshipperPoesy.


There's one in the next fieldof sweet sixteen
Singing and summoning thoughts of beauty born
In heaven-with her jacket of light green,
"Love-darting eyes, and tresses like the morn,"
Without a shoe or stocking,hoeing corn.
Whether, like Gertrude, she oft wanders there,
With Shakspeare's volume in her bosom borne,
I think is doubtful. Of the poet-player
The maiden knows no more than Cobbett or Voltaire.


There is a woman, widowed, gray, and old,
Who tells you where the foot of Battle stept
Upon their day of massacre. She told
Its tale, and pointed to the spot, and wept,
Whereon her father and five brothers slept
Shroudless, the bright-dreamed slumbers of the brave,
When all the land a funeral mourning kept.
And there, wild laurels planted on the grave
By Nature's hand, in air their pale red blossoms wave.


And on the margin of yon orchard hill
Are marks where time-worn battlements have been,
And in the tall grass traces linger still
Of "arrowy frieze and wedged ravelin."
Five hundred of her brave that Valley green
Trod on the morn in soldier-spirit gay;
But twenty lived to tell the noon-day scene
And where are now the twenty? Passed away.
Has Death no triumph-hours, save on the battle-day?

Fitz-Greene Halleck's other poems:
  1. Red Jacket
  2. Psalm CXXXVIII. By the rivers of Babylon
  3. Magdalen
  4. To ****
  5. A Sketch

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