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- Tecumseh: A Drama - 3/21 -
Whilst ours are countless as the forest leaves, Or grains of sand upon the Wabash shores. Rely not on the English to protect you! They are not able to protect themselves. They will not war with us, for, if they do, Ere many moons have passed our battle flag Shall wave o'er all the forts of Canada. What reason have you to complain of us? What have we taken? or what treaties maimed? You tell us we have robbed you of your lands-- Bought them from nameless braves and village chiefs Who had no right to sell--prove that to us, And they will be restored. I have full power To treat with you. Bring your complaint to me, And I, in honor, pledge your safe return."
TECUMSEH. Is this it all?
BARRON. Yes, all. I have commands To bear your answer back without delay.
PROPHET. This is our answer, then, to Harrison: Go tell that bearded liar we shall come, With forces which will pledge our own return!
TECUMSEH. What shall my answer be?
PROPHET. Why, like my own--There is no answer save that we shall go.
TECUMSEH. (_To_ BARRON.) I fear that our complaint lies all too deep For your Chief's curing. The Great Spirit gave The red men this wide continent as theirs, And in the east another to the white; But, not content at home, these crossed the sea, And drove our fathers from their ancient seats. Their sons in turn are driven to the Lakes, And cannot further go unless they drown. Yet now you take upon yourselves to say This tract is Kickapoo, this Delaware, And this Miami; but your Chief should know That all our lands are common to our race! How can one nation sell the rights of all Without consent of all? No! For my part I am a Red Man, not a Shawanoe, And here I mean to stay. Go to your chief, And tell him I shall meet him at Vincennes.
[_Exeunt all but_ TECUMSEH.]
What is there in my nature so supine That I must ever quarrel with revenge? From vales and rivers which were once our own The pale hounds who uproot our ancient graves Come whining for our lands, with fawning tongues, And schemes and subterfuge and subtleties. O for a Pontiac to drive them back And whoop them to their shuddering villages! O for an age of valour like to his, When freedom clothed herself with solitude, And one in heart the scattered nations stood, And one in hand. It comes! and mine shall be The lofty task to teach them to be free-- To knit the nations, bind them into one, And end the task great Pontiac begun!
SCENE II.--ANOTHER PART OF THE FOREST.
_Enter_ LEFROY, _carrying his rifle, and examining a knot of wild flowers._
LEFROY. This region is as lavish of its flowers As Heaven of its primrose blooms by night. This is the Arum which within its root Folds life and death; and this the Prince's Pine, Fadeless as love and truth--the fairest form That ever sun-shower washed with sudden rain. This golden cradle is the Moccasin Flower, Wherein the Indian hunter sees his hound; And this dark chalice is the Pitcher-Plant Stored with the water of forgetfulness. Whoever drinks of it, whose heart is pure, Will sleep for aye 'neath foodful asphodel, And dream of endless love. I need it not! I am awake, and yet I dream of love. It is the hour of meeting, when the sun Takes level glances at these mighty woods, And Iena has never failed till now, To meet me here! What keeps her? Can it be The Prophet? Ah, that villain has a thought, Undreamt of by his simple followers, Dark in his soul as midnight! If--but no-- He fears her though he hates! What shall I do? Rehearse to listening woods, or ask these oaks What thoughts they have, what knowledge of the past? They dwarf me with their greatness, but shall come A meaner and a mightier than they, And cut them down. Yet rather would I dwell With them, with wildness and its stealthy forms-- Yea, rather with wild men, wild beasts and birds, Than in the sordid town that here may rise. For here I am a part of Nature's self, And not divorced from her like men who plod The weary streets of care in search of gain. And here I feel the friendship of the earth: Not the soft cloying tenderness of hand Which fain would satiate the hungry soul With household honey-combs and parloured sweets, But the strong friendship of primeval things-- The rugged kindness of a giant heart, And love that lasts. I have a poem made Which doth concern earth's injured majesty-- Be audience, ye still untroubled stems!
There was a time on this fair continent When all things throve in spacious peacefulness. The prosperous forests unmolested stood, For where the stalwart oak grew there it lived Long ages, and then died among its kind. The hoary pines--those ancients of the earth-- Brimful of legends of the early world, Stood thick on their own mountains unsubdued. And all things else illumined by the sun, Inland or by the lifted wave, had rest. The passionate or calm pageants of the skies No artist drew; but in the auburn west Innumerable faces of fair cloud Vanished in silent darkness with the day. The prairie realm--vast ocean's paraphrase-- Rich in wild grasses numberless, and flowers Unnamed save in mute Nature's inventory No civilized barbarian trenched for gain. And all that flowed was sweet and uncorrupt. The rivers and their tributary streams, Undammed, wound on forever, and gave up Their lonely torrents to weird gulfs of sea, And ocean wastes unshadowed by a sail. And all the wild life of this western world Knew not the fear of man; yet in those woods, And by those plenteous streams and mighty lakes, And on stupendous steppes of peerless plain, And in the rocky gloom of canyons deep, Screened by the stony ribs of mountains hoar Which steeped their snowy peaks in purging cloud, And down the continent where tropic suns Warmed to her very heart the mother earth, And in the congeal'd north where silence self Ached with intensity of stubborn frost, There lived a soul more wild than barbarous; A tameless soul--the sunburnt savage free-- Free, and untainted by the greed of gain: Great Nature's man content with Nature's food.
But hark! I hear her footsteps in the leaves-- And so my poem ends.
_Enter_ IENA, _downcast._
My love! my love!
What! Iena in tears! your looks, like clouds, O'erspread my joy which, but a moment past, Rose like the sun to high meridian. Ah, how is this? She trembles, and she starts, And looks with wavering eyes through oozing tears, As she would fly from me. Why do you weep?
IENA. I weep, for I have come to say--farewell.
LEFROY. Farewell! I have fared well in love till now; For you are mine, and I am yours, so say Farewell, farewell, a thousand times farewell.
IENA. How many meanings has the word? since yours Is full of joy, but mine, alas, of pain. The pale-face and the Shawanoe must part.
LEFROY. Must part? Yes part--we parted yesterday-- And shall to-day--some dream disturbs my love.
IENA. Oh, that realities were dreams! 'Tis not A dream that parts us, but a stern command. Tecumseh has proclaimed it as his law-- Red shall not marry white; so must you leave; And therefore I have come to say farewell.
LEFROY. That word is barbed, and like an arrow aimed. The maid who saved my life would mar it too!
IENA. Speak not of that! Your life's in danger now. Tecumseh has returned, and--knowing all-- Has built a barrier betwixt our loves, More rigid than a palisade of oak.
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