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

Southern States: Appendix: Têche, the River, La.

The River Têche

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

(From Evangeline)

SOFTLY the evening came. The sun from the western horizon

Like a magician extended his golden wand o’er the landscape;

Twinkling vapors arose; and sky and water and forest

Seemed all on fire at the touch, and melted and mingled together.

Hanging between two skies, a cloud with edges of silver,

Floated the boat, with its dripping oars, on the motionless water.

Filled was Evangeline’s heart with inexpressible sweetness.

Touched by the magic spell, the sacred fountains of feeling

Glowed with the light of love, as the skies and waters around her.

Then from a neighboring thicket the mocking-bird, wildest of singers,

Swinging aloft on a willow spray that hung o’er the water,

Shook from his little throat such floods of delirious music,

That the whole air and the woods and the waves seemed silent to listen.

Plaintive at first were the tones and sad; then soaring to madness

Seemed they to follow or guide the revel of frenzied Bacchantes.

Single notes were then heard, in sorrowful, low lamentation;

Till, having gathered them all, he flung them abroad in derision,

As when, after a storm, a gust of wind through the tree-tops

Shakes down the rattling rain in a crystal shower on the branches.

With such a prelude as this, and hearts that throbbed with emotion,

Slowly they entered the Têche, where it flows through the green Opelousas,

And, through the amber air, above the crest of the woodland,

Saw the column of smoke that arose from a neighboring dwelling;—

Sounds of a horn they heard, and the distant lowing of cattle.

Near to the bank of the river, o’ershadowed by oaks, from whose branches

Garlands of Spanish moss and of mystic mistletoe flaunted,

Such as the Druids cut down with golden hatchets at Yule-tide,

Stood, secluded and still, the house of the herdsman. A garden

Girded it round about with a belt of luxuriant blossoms,

Filling the air with fragrance. The house itself was of timbers

Hewn from the cypress-tree, and carefully fitted together.

Large and low was the roof; and on slender columns supported,

Rose-wreathed, vine-encircled, a broad and spacious veranda,

Haunt of the humming-bird and the bee, extended around it.

At each end of the house, amid the flowers of the garden,

Stationed the dove-cots were, as love’s perpetual symbol,

Scenes of endless wooing, and endless contentions of rivals.

Silence reigned o’er the place. The line of shadow and sunshine

Ran near the tops of the trees; but the house itself was in shadow,

And from its chimney-top, ascending and slowly expanding

Into the evening air, a thin blue column of smoke rose.

In the rear of the house, from the garden gate, ran a pathway

Through the great groves of oak to the skirts of the limitless prairie,

Into whose sea of flowers the sun was slowly descending.

Full in his track of light, like ships with shadowy canvas

Hanging loose from their spars in a motionless calm in the tropics,

Stood a cluster of trees, with tangled cordage of grapevines.