Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Indian Mound

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

Middle States: Hudson, the River, N. Y.

The Indian Mound

By Alfred Billings Street (1811–1881)

THE MOUND now towers

Close to my step. The grouped sheep scamper wide,

Turn their smooth, pointed faces, gaze and bleat,

Then scamper as before.
The crest I win.

A hazed horizon of aerial tints,

Melting the mountains to a tender dream,

Tinging the nearer hills, and quivering round

The neighboring roofs in hues that scarce are hues,

But delicate shadows, fleeting breaths of hues,

Semi-transparent veils of shimmering light.

At length the landscape struggles clearer out;

Mountains and woodlands outlined dim, with curves

Of filmy hills and streaks of gauzy green.

The lowering eye then lights upon the domes

And steeples of the city; then the broad

Transparent river. Thence dark crossing lines

Of fences, nestling homesteads, scattered trees,

Red buckwheat stubbles, withered stacks of corn,

And fading fields, come stretching to the Mound.

I hear Æolian tones: the rapid bark,

The mellowed low, the pleasant bleat, the hum

Of toil, the shout, the whistle, and the song,

Keen clink of scythe, and now and then the smite

Of hoof upon the road, the whir of wheels

On the smooth track, and then the rumble brief

Over the bridge. The heaped hay-wagon jerks

Across the mounded field, its hillock brown

Holding the harvesters, with pitchforks struck

Within the odorous mass. White cattle gleam

From apple-shades, the red kine mingling in

So as scarce rounding forth. The unkempt colt

Perks his observant ear, and glares as goes

The tottering wagon with the welcome hay

Through the barn’s weedy lane.
A sketch of smoke

Catches my eye; the narrow steamboat glides

Along the mirrored river; to the shore

Dances the swell. The tall and tapering sloop,

Lazily next, with her great mainsail spread

To catch the air, moves past; then darts a skiff

With glittering oars.
While drinking in the scene,

My mind goes back upon the tide of years,

And lo, a vision! On its upward path

The Half-Moon glides. The crowded forests lean

Their foliage in the waters, and expand

One sea of leaves all round me. On the deck

Stands the bold Hudson, gazing at the sights

Opening successive,—point and rock and hill,

Majestic mountain-top, and nestling vale.

As the white sail glints sudden to the sun,

Off swings the eagle from the neighboring pine;

And as the long boom brushes by the brink,

The brown bear jolts away within the bush,

The drinking deer winks from the sandy point,

And breath-like from the ledge the panther melts.

As up some reach the vessel moves, within

The archway of a creek the bark canoe

Darts arrow-like; as turns the prow in-shore

The Indian hunter with recoiling form

Stands grasping idly his forgotten bow;

And as the yacht around some headland breaks,

Amid the rounded wigwams on the bank

Leap startled movements of tumultuous life,

Pointing with eager haste, and gazing wild.

Still on the Half-Moon glides; before her rise

Swarms of quick water-fowl, and from her prow

The sturgeon leaps, and falls with echoing splash.

Between the frequent islets brimmed with leaves

The sheldrake, in his green and silver, shoots,

And antlers stem the gloss. But now the sun

Slants low, and by an island of the stream

The anchor plunges, and the Half-Moon sits

Still as a sleeping duck. I start, and wake.

The busy river-scene again extends

In the soft sundown glow. The grouping herds

Through the sleek fields of golden velvet graze

Slow toward the farm-yard; softened rural sounds—

The wheezing bellow, the quick, peevish bleat,

And the clear, jerking crow—fall on my ear;

And, with quick footsteps through the amber scene,

Past maple-nestling homesteads, where the steeds

Unloosed are led to water; where the kine,

Patient, await within the lane, the pail;

And where the mouse-like wren creeps in and out

Its little cottage fastened to the tree,

To give one chatter more; past laboring groups

Loitering along with instruments of toil,

Past farmers’ wagons clattering toward their homes

From city barterings,—contrast strong to when,

A century since, one forest clothed the whole,

One silent solitude,—the river’s bank

I reach, where, in the hush, the rowlock sounds

Loud, and the tiller of the crawling sloop

Creaks louder; thence, swift wafted o’er the tide,

I gain the peopled streets that hold my home;

Dwelling upon the everlasting stream

Of change and progress coursing through the world.