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

Narrative and Legendary Poems

The Bridal of Pennacook

  • Winnepurkit, otherwise called George, Sachem of Saugus, married a daughter of Passaconaway, the great Pennacook chieftain, in 1662. The wedding took place at Pennacook (now Concord, N. H.), and the ceremonies closed with a great feast. According to the usages of the chiefs, Passaconaway ordered a select number of his men to accompany the newly-married couple to the dwelling of the husband, where in turn there was another great feast. Some time after, the wife of Winnepurkit expressing a desire to visit her father’s house was permitted to go, accompanied by a brave escort of her husband’s chief men. But when she wished to return, her father sent a messenger to Saugus, informing her husband, and asking him to come and take her away. He returned for answer that he had escorted his wife to her father’s house in a style that became a chief, and that now if she wished to return, her father must send her back, in the same way. This Passaconaway refused to do, and it is said that here terminated the connection of his daughter with the Saugus chief.—Vide MORTON’S New Canaan.

  • WE had been wandering for many days

    Through the rough northern country. We had seen

    The sunset, with its bars of purple cloud,

    Like a new heaven, shine upward from the lake

    Of Winnepiseogee; and had felt

    The sunrise breezes, midst the leafy isles

    Which stoop their summer beauty to the lips

    Of the bright waters. We had checked our steeds,

    Silent with wonder, where the mountain wall

    Is piled to heaven; and, through the narrow rift

    Of the vast rocks, against whose rugged feet

    Beats the mad torrent with perpetual roar,

    Where noonday is as twilight, and the wind

    Comes burdened with the everlasting moan

    Of forests and of far-off waterfalls,

    We had looked upward where the summer sky,

    Tasselled with clouds light-woven by the sun,

    Sprung its blue arch above the abutting crags

    O’er-roofing the vast portal of the land

    Beyond the wall of mountains. We had passed

    The high source of the Saco; and bewildered

    In the dwarf spruce-belts of the Crystal Hills,

    Had heard above us, like a voice in the cloud,

    The horn of Fabyan sounding; and atop

    Of old Agioochook had seen the mountains

    Piled to the northward, shagged with wood, and thick

    As meadow mole-hills,—the far sea of Casco,

    A white gleam on the horizon of the east;

    Fair lakes, embosomed in the woods and hills;

    Moosehillock’s mountain range, and Kearsarge

    Lifting his granite forehead to the sun!

    And we had rested underneath the oaks

    Shadowing the bank, whose grassy spires are shaken

    By the perpetual beating of the falls

    Of the wild Ammonoosuc. We had tracked

    The winding Pemigewasset, overhung

    By beechen shadows, whitening down its rocks,

    Or lazily gliding through its intervals,

    From waving rye-fields sending up the gleam

    Of sunlit waters. We had seen the moon

    Rising behind Umbagog’s eastern pines,

    Like a great Indian camp-fire; and its beams

    At midnight spanning with a bridge of silver

    The Merrimac by Uncanoonuc’s falls.

    There were five souls of us whom travel’s chance

    Had thrown together in these wild north hills:

    A city lawyer, for a month escaping

    From his dull office, where the weary eye

    Saw only hot brick walls and close thronged streets;

    Briefless as yet, but with an eye to see

    Life’s sunniest side, and with a heart to take

    Its chances all as godsends; and his brother,

    Pale from long pulpit studies, yet retaining

    The warmth and freshness of a genial heart,

    Whose mirror of the beautiful and true,

    In Man and Nature, was as yet undimmed

    By dust of theologic strife, or breath

    Of sect, or cobwebs of scholastic lore;

    Like a clear crystal calm of water, taking

    The hue and image of o’erleaning flowers,

    Sweet human faces, white clouds of the noon,

    Slant starlight glimpses through the dewy leaves,

    And tenderest moonrise. ’T was, in truth, a study,

    To mark his spirit, alternating between

    A decent and professional gravity

    And an irreverent mirthfulness, which often

    Laughed in the face of his divinity,

    Plucked off the sacred ephod, quite unshrined

    The oracle, and for the pattern priest

    Left us the man. A shrewd, sagacious merchant,

    To whom the soiled sheet found in Crawford’s inn,

    Giving the latest news of city stocks

    And sales of cotton, had a deeper meaning

    Than the great presence of the awful mountains

    Glorified by the sunset; and his daughter,

    A delicate flower on whom had blown too long

    Those evil winds, which, sweeping from the ice

    And winnowing the fogs of Labrador,

    Shed their cold blight round Massachusetts Bay,

    With the same breath which stirs Spring’s opening leaves

    And lifts her half-formed flower-bell on its stem,

    Poisoning our seaside atmosphere.
    It chanced

    That as we turned upon our homeward way,

    A drear northeastern storm came howling up

    The valley of the Saco; and that girl

    Who had stood with us upon Mount Washington,

    Her brown locks ruffled by the wind which whirled

    In gusts around its sharp, cold pinnacle,

    Who had joined our gay trout-fishing in the streams

    Which lave that giant’s feet; whose laugh was heard

    Like a bird’s carol on the sunrise breeze

    Which swelled our sail amidst the lake’s green islands,

    Shrank from its harsh, chill breath, and visibly drooped

    Like a flower in the frost. So, in that quiet inn

    Which looks from Conway on the mountains piled

    Heavily against the horizon of the north,

    Like summer thunder-clouds, we made our home:

    And while the mist hung over dripping hills,

    And the cold wind-driven rain-drops all day long

    Beat their sad music upon roof and pane,

    We strove to cheer our gentle invalid.

    The lawyer in the pauses of the storm

    Went angling down the Saco, and, returning,

    Recounted his adventures and mishaps;

    Gave us the history of his scaly clients,

    Mingling with ludicrous yet apt citations

    Of barbarous law Latin, passages

    From Izaak Walton’s Angler, sweet and fresh

    As the flower-skirted streams of Staffordshire,

    Where, under aged trees, the southwest wind

    Of soft June mornings fanned the thin, white hair

    Of the sage fisher. And, if truth be told,

    Our youthful candidate forsook his sermons,

    His commentaries, articles and creeds,

    For the fair page of human loveliness,

    The missal of young hearts, whose sacred text

    Is music, its illumining, sweet smiles.

    He sang the songs she loved; and in his low,

    Deep, earnest voice, recited many a page

    Of poetry, the holiest, tenderest lines

    Of the sad bard of Olney, the sweet songs,

    Simple and beautiful as Truth and Nature,

    Of him whose whitened locks on Rydal Mount

    Are lifted yet by morning breezes blowing

    From the green hills, immortal in his lays.

    And for myself, obedient to her wish,

    I searched our landlord’s proffered library,—

    A well-thumbed Bunyan, with its nice wood pictures

    Of scaly fiends and angels not unlike them;

    Watts’ unmelodious psalms; Astrology’s

    Last home, a musty pile of almanacs,

    And an old chronicle of border wars

    And Indian history. And, as I read

    A story of the marriage of the Chief

    Of Saugus to the dusky Weetamoo,

    Daughter of Passaconaway, who dwelt

    In the old time upon the Merrimac,

    Our fair one, in the playful exercise

    Of her prerogative,—the right divine

    Of youth and beauty,—bade us versify

    The legend, and with ready pencil sketched

    Its plan and outlines, laughingly assigning

    To each his part, and barring our excuses

    With absolute will. So, like the cavaliers

    Whose voices still are heard in the Romance

    Of silver-tongued Boccaccio, on the banks

    Of Arno, with soft tales of love beguiling

    The ear of languid beauty, plague-exiled

    From stately Florence, we rehearsed our rhymes

    To their fair auditor, and shared by turns

    Her kind approval and her playful censure.

    It may be that these fragments owe alone

    To the fair setting of their circumstances,—

    The associations of time, scene, and audience,—

    Their place amid the pictures which fill up

    The chambers of my memory. Yet I trust

    That some, who sigh, while wandering in thought,

    Pilgrims of Romance o’er the olden world,

    That our broad land,—our sea-like lakes and mountains

    Piled to the clouds, our rivers overhung

    By forests which have known no other change

    For ages than the budding and the fall

    Of leaves, our valleys lovelier than those

    Which the old poets sang of,—should but figure

    On the apocryphal chart of speculation

    As pastures, wood-lots, mill-sites, with the privileges,

    Rights, and appurtenances, which make up

    A Yankee Paradise, unsung, unknown,

    To beautiful tradition; even their names,

    Whose melody yet lingers like the last

    Vibration of the red man’s requiem,

    Exchanged for syllables significant,

    Of cotton-mill and rail-car, will look kindly

    Upon this effort to call up the ghost

    Of our dim Past, and listen with pleased ear

    To the responses of the questioned Shade.