Home  »  The Poetical Works In Four Volumes  »  The Bridal of Pennacook
III. The Daughter

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892). The Poetical Works in Four Volumes. 1892.

Narrative and Legendary Poems

The Bridal of Pennacook
III. The Daughter

THE SOOT-BLACK brows of men, the yell

Of women thronging round the bed,

The tinkling charm of ring and shell,

The Powah whispering o’er the dead!

All these the Sachem’s home had known,

When, on her journey long and wild

To the dim World of Souls, alone,

In her young beauty passed the mother of his child.

Three bow-shots from the Sachem’s dwelling

They laid her in the walnut shade,

Where a green hillock gently swelling

Her fitting mound of burial made.

There trailed the vine in summer hours,

The tree-perched squirrel dropped his shell,—

On velvet moss and pale-hued flowers,

Woven with leaf and spray, the softened sunshine fell!

The Indian’s heart is hard and cold,

It closes darkly o’er its care,

And formed in Nature’s sternest mould,

Is slow to feel, and strong to bear.

The war-paint on the Sachem’s face,

Unwet with tears, shone fierce and red,

And still, in battle or in chase,

Dry leaf and snow-rime crisped beneath his foremost tread.

Yet when her name was heard no more,

And when the robe her mother gave,

And small, light moccasin she wore,

Had slowly wasted on her grave,

Unmarked of him the dark maids sped

Their sunset dance and moonlit play;

No other shared his lonely bed,

No other fair young head upon his bosom lay.

A lone, stern man. Yet, as sometimes

The tempest-smitten tree receives

From one small root the sap which climbs

Its topmost spray and crowning leaves,

So from his child the Sachem drew

A life of Love and Hope, and felt

His cold and rugged nature through

The softness and the warmth of her young being melt.

A laugh which in the woodland rang

Bemocking April’s gladdest bird,—

A light and graceful form which sprang

To meet him when his step was heard,—

Eyes by his lodge-fire flashing dark,

Small fingers stringing bead and shell

Or weaving mats of bright-hued bark,—

With these the household-god had graced his wigwam well.

Child of the forest! strong and free,

Slight-robed, with loosely flowing hair,

She swam the lake or climbed the tree,

Or struck the flying bird in air.

O’er the heaped drifts of winter’s moon

Her snow-shoes tracked the hunter’s way;

And dazzling in the summer noon

The blade of her light oar threw off its shower of spray!

Unknown to her the rigid rule,

The dull restraint, the chiding frown,

The weary torture of the school,

The taming of wild nature down.

Her only lore, the legends told

Around the hunter’s fire at night;

Stars rose and set, and seasons rolled,

Flowers bloomed and snow-flakes fell, unquestioned in her sight.

Unknown to her the subtle skill

With which the artist-eye can trace

In rock and tree and lake and hill

The outlines of divinest grace;

Unknown the fine soul’s keen unrest,

Which sees, admires, yet yearns alway;

Too closely on her mother’s breast

To note her smiles of love the child of Nature lay!

It is enough for such to be

Of common, natural things a part,

To feel, with bird and stream and tree,

The pulses of the same great heart;

But we, from Nature long exiled,

In our cold homes of Art and Thought

Grieve like the stranger-tended child,

Which seeks its mother’s arms, and sees but feels them not.

The garden rose may richly bloom

In cultured soil and genial air,

To cloud the light of Fashion’s room

Or droop in Beauty’s midnight hair;

In lonelier grace, to sun and dew

The sweetbrier on the hillside shows

Its single leaf and fainter hue,

Untrained and wildly free, yet still a sister rose!

Thus o’er the heart of Weetamoo

Their mingling shades of joy and ill

The instincts of her nature threw;

The savage was a woman still.

Midst outlines dim of maiden schemes,

Heart-colored prophecies of life,

Rose on the ground of her young dreams

The light of a new home, the lover and the wife.