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

Southern States: Toccoa, the Falls, Ga.


By J. M. Legaré (1823–1859)

CAN I forget that happiest day,

That happiest day of all the year,

When on the sloping rock I lay,

Toccoa dripping near?

The lifted wonder of thy eyes

The marvel of thy soul expressed.

Aloft I saw serenest skies,

Below, thy heaving breast.

On wings of mist, in robes of spray

Long trailed, and flowing wide and white,

Adown the mountain steep and gray

We saw Toccoa glide.

Her garments sweeping through the vale

Began the whispering leaves to wake,

And wafted like a tiny sail

A leaf across the lake.

The murmur of the falling shower,

Which did the solitude increase,

We heard; the cool and happy hour

Filled our young hearts with peace.

Thou sattest with a maiden grace,

Thou sawest the rugged rocks and hoary,

As with a half-uplifted face

Thou listenedst to my story.

How many of the banished race,

Those old red warriors of the bow,

Have slumbered in this shadowy place,

Have watched Toccoa flow.

Perchance, where now we sit, they laid

Their arms, and raised a boastful chant,

While through the gorgeous Autumn shade

The sunshine shot aslant.

One night, a hideous howling night,

The black boughs swaying overhead,—

Three painted braves across the height

A false Pe-ro-kah led.

Bright were her glances, bright her smiles,

Wondrous her waving length of hair,

(Ye who descend through slippery wiles,

A maiden’s eyes beware!)

What saw these swarthy Cherokees

In the deep darkness on the brink?

They saw a red fire through the trees,

Through the tossed branches wave and wink;

They saw pale faces white and dreaming,

Clutched their keen knives, and held their breath,

—All this was but a cheating seeming,

For them, not for the phantom’s death.

Spoke then the temptress (maid or devil),—

“Let the pale sleepers sleep no more!”

Whoop!—three good bounds on solid rock,

Then empty blackness for a floor.

Yelled the fierce braves with rage and fright,

With fright their bristling war-plumes rose:

On these down fluttering, did the night

Her jaws sepulchral close.

These rocks tall-lifted, rent apart,

This Indian legend old

To thee, enchantress as thou art,

A warning truth unfold.

Who love, mid midnight dangers stand,

To them false fires wink:

Accursèd be the evil hand

That beckons to the brink.