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

Introductory to Southern States


By Felicia Hemans (1793–1835)

  • The Stranger in Louisiana
  • “An early traveller mentions people on the banks of the Mississippi who burst into tears at the sight of a stranger. The reason of this is, that they fancy their deceased friends and relations to be only gone on a journey, and, being in constant expectation of their return, look for them vainly amongst these foreign travellers.”—Picart’s Ceremonies and Religious Customs.

  • WE saw thee, O stranger! and wept.

    We looked for the youth of the sunny glance

    Whose step was the fleetest in chase or dance;

    The light of his eye was a joy to see,

    The path of his arrows a storm to flee.

    But there came a voice from a distant shore,—

    He was called,—he is found midst his tribe no more:

    He is not in his place when the night-fires burn,

    But we look for him still,—he will yet return!

    His brother sat with a drooping brow

    In the gloom of the shadowing cypress bough:

    We roused him,—we bade him no longer pine,

    For we heard a step,—but the step was thine!

    We saw thee, O stranger! and wept.

    We looked for the maid of the mournful song,—

    Mournful, though sweet,—she hath left us long:

    We told her the youth of her love was gone,

    And she went forth to seek him,—she passed alone.

    We hear not her voice when the woods are still,

    From the bower where it sang, like a silvery rill.

    The joy of her sire with her smile is fled,

    The winter is white on his lonely head:

    He hath none by his side when the wilds we track,

    He hath none when we rest,—yet she comes not back!

    We looked for her eye on the feast to shine,

    For her breezy step,—but the step was thine!

    We saw thee, O stranger! and wept.

    We looked for the chief, who hath left the spear

    And the bow of his battles forgotten here:

    We looked for the hunter, whose bride’s lament

    On the wind of the forest at eve is sent:

    We looked for the first-born, whose mother’s cry

    Sounds wild and shrill through the midnight sky!—

    Where are they? Thou ’rt seeking some distant coast:

    O, ask of them, stranger!—send back the lost!

    Tell them we mourn by the dark-blue streams,

    Tell them our lives but of them are dreams!

    Tell, how we sat in the gloom to pine,

    And to watch for a step,—but the step was thine!