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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

New England: Sebago, the Lake, Me.

Funeral Tree of the Sokokis

By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)


AROUND Sebago’s lonely lake

There lingers not a breeze to break

The mirror which its waters make.

The solemn pines along its shore,

The firs which hang its gray rocks o’er,

Are painted on its glassy floor.

The sun looks o’er, with hazy eye,

The snowy mountain-tops which lie

Piled coldly up against the sky.

Dazzling and white! save where the bleak,

Wild winds have bared some splintering peak,

Or snow-slide left its dusky streak.

Yet green are Saco’s banks below,

And belts of spruce and cedar show,

Dark fringing round those cones of snow.

The earth hath felt the breath of spring,

Though yet on her deliverer’s wing

The lingering frosts of winter cling.

Fresh grasses fringe the meadow-brooks,

And mildly from its sunny nooks

The blue eye of the violet looks.

And odors from the springing grass,

The sweet birch and the sassafras,

Upon the scarce-felt breezes pass.

Her tokens of renewing care

Hath Nature scattered everywhere,

In bud and flower, and warmer air.

But in their hour of bitterness,

What reck the broken Sokokis,

Beside their slaughtered chief, of this?

The turf’s red stain is yet undried,—

Scarce have the death-shot echoes died

Along Sebago’s wooded side:

And silent now the hunters stand,

Grouped darkly, where a swell of land

Slopes upward from the lake’s white sand.

Fire and the axe have swept it bare,

Save one lone beech, unclosing there

Its light leaves in the vernal air.

With grave, cold looks, all sternly mute,

They break the damp turf at its foot,

And bare its coiled and twisted root.

They heave the stubborn trunk aside,

The firm roots from the earth divide,—

The rent beneath yawns dark and wide.

And there the fallen chief is laid,

In tasselled garbs of skins arrayed,

And girded with his wampum-braid.

The silver cross he loved is pressed

Beneath the heavy arms, which rest

Upon his scarred and naked breast.

’T is done: the roots are backward sent,

The beechen-tree stands up unbent,—

The Indian’s fitting monument!