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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Americas: Vol. XXX. 1876–79.

British America: St. Regis, Canada

The Bell of St. Regis

By Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791–1865)

  • In 1704, when Deerfield was taken by the Indians, a small church-bell was carried away on a sledge as far as Lake Champlain and buried. It was afterwards taken up and conveyed to Canada.

  • THE RED men came in their pride and wrath,

    Deep vengeance fired their eye,

    And the blood of the white was in their path,

    And the flame from his roof rose high.

    Then down from the burning church they tore

    The bell of tuneful sound,

    And on with their captive train they bore

    That wonderful thing to their native shore,

    The rude Canadian bound.

    But now and then, with a fearful tone,

    It struck on their startled ear,—

    And sad it was, mid the mountains lone,

    Or the ruined tempest’s muttered moan,

    That terrible voice to hear.

    It seemed like the question that stirs the soul

    Of its secret good or ill,

    And they quaked as its stern and solemn toll

    Re-echoed from rock to hill.

    And they started up in their broken dream,

    Mid the lonely forest-shade,

    And thought that they heard the dying scream,

    And saw the blood of slaughter stream

    Afresh through the village glade.

    Then they sat in council, those chieftains old,

    And a mighty pit was made,

    Where the lake with its silver waters rolled

    They buried that bell ’neath the verdant mould,

    And crossed themselves and prayed.

    And there till a stately powow came

    It slept in its tomb forgot;

    With a mantle of fur, and a brow of flame,

    He stood on that burial spot:

    They wheeled the dance with its mystic round

    At the stormy midnight hour,

    And a dead man’s hand on his breast he bound,

    And invoked, ere he broke that awful ground,

    The demons of pride and power.

    Then he raised the bell, with a nameless rite,

    Which none but himself might tell,

    In blanket and bear-skin he bound it tight,

    And it journeyed in silence both day and night,

    So strong was that magic spell.

    It spake no more, till St. Regis’ tower

    In northern skies appeared,

    And their legends extol that powow’s power

    Which lulled that knell like the poppy flower,

    As conscience now slumbereth a little hour

    In the cell of a heart that ’s seared.