Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Forest Cemetery

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

Middle States: Norman’s Kill (Tawasentha), N. Y.

The Forest Cemetery

By Charles Fenno Hoffman (1806–1884)


WILD Tawasentha! in thy brook-laced glen

The doe no longer lists her lost fawn’s bleating,

As panting there, escaped from hunter’s ken,

She hears the chase o’er distant hills retreating;

No more, uprising from the fern around her,

The Indian archer, from his “still-hunt” lair,

Wings the death-shaft which hath that moment found her

When Fate seemed foiled upon her footsteps there.

Wild Tawasentha! on thy cone-strewed sod,

O’er which yon pine his giant arm is bending,

No more the Mohawk marks its dark crown nod

Against the sun’s broad disk toward night descending,

Then crouching down beside the brands that redden

The columned trunks which rear thy leafy dome,

Forgets his toils in hunter’s slumbers leaden,

Or visions of the red man’s spirit home:

But where his calumet by that lone fire,

At night beneath these cloistered boughs was lighted,

The Christian orphan will in prayer aspire,

The Christian parent mourn his proud hope blighted;

And in thy shade the mother’s heart will listen

The spirit-cry of babe she clasps no more,

And where thy rills through hemlock-branches glisten,

There many a maid her lover will deplore.

Here children linked in love and sport together,

Who check their mirth as creaks the slow hearse by,

Will totter lonely in life’s autumn weather,

To ponder where life’s spring-time blossoms lie;

And where the virgin soil was never dinted

By the rude ploughshare since creation’s birth,

Year after year fresh furrows will be printed

Upon the sad cheek of the grieving Earth.

Yon sun, returning in unwearied stages,

Will gild the cenotaph’s ascending spire,

O’er names on history’s yet unwritten pages

That unborn crowds will, worshipping, admire;

Names that shall brighten through my country’s story

Like meteor hues that fire her autumn woods,

Encircling high her onward course of glory

Like the bright bow which spans her mountain-floods.

Here where the flowers have bloomed and died for ages,—

Bloomed all unseen and perished all unsung,—

On youth’s green grave, traced out beside the sage’s,

Will garlands now by votive hearts be flung;

And sculptured marble and funereal urn,

O’er which gray birches to the night air wave,

Will whiten through thy glades at every turn,

And woo the moonbeam to some poet’s grave!

Thus back to Nature, faithful, do we come,

When Art hath taught us all her best beguiling,

Thus blend their ministry around the tomb

Where, pointing upward, still sits Nature smiling!

And never, Nature’s hallowed spots adorning,

Hath Art, with her a sombre garden dressed,

Wild Tawasentha! in this vale of mourning

With more to consecrate their children’s rest.

And still that stream will hold its winsome way,

Sparkling as now upon the frosty air,

When all in turn shall troop in pale array

To that dim land for which so few prepare.

Still will yon oak, which now a sapling waves,

Each year renewed, with hardy vigor grow,

Expanding still to shade the nameless graves

Of nameless men that haply sleep below.