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IV. The Wedding

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

Narrative and Legendary Poems

The Bridal of Pennacook
IV. The Wedding

COOL and dark fell the autumn night,

But the Bashaba’s wigwam glowed with light,

For down from its roof, by green withes hung,

Flaring and smoking the pine-knots swung.

And along the river great wood-fires

Shot into the night their long, red spires,

Showing behind the tall, dark wood,

Flashing before on the sweeping flood.

In the changeful wind, with shimmer and shade,

Now high, now low, that firelight played,

On tree-leaves wet with evening dews,

On gliding water and still canoes.

The trapper that night on Turee’s brook,

And the weary fisher on Contoocook,

Saw over the marshes, and through the pine,

And down on the river, the dance-lights shine.

For the Saugus Sachem had come to woo

The Bashaba’s daughter Weetamoo,

And laid at her father’s feet that night

His softest furs and wampum white.

From the Crystal Hills to the far southeast

The river Sagamores came to the feast;

And chiefs whose homes the sea-winds shook

Sat down on the mats of Pennacook.

They came from Sunapee’s shore of rock,

From the snowy sources of Snooganock,

And from rough Coös whose thick woods shake

Their pine-cones in Umbagog Lake.

From Ammonoosuc’s mountain pass,

Wild as his home, came Chepewass;

And the Keenomps of the hills which throw

Their shade on the Smile of Manito.

With pipes of peace and bows unstrung,

Glowing with paint came old and young,

In wampum and furs and feathers arrayed,

To the dance and feast the Bashaba made.

Bird of the air and beast of the field,

All which the woods and the waters yield,

On dishes of birch and hemlock piled,

Garnished and graced that banquet wild.

Steaks of the brown bear fat and large

From the rocky slopes of the Kearsarge;

Delicate trout from Babboosuck brook,

And salmon speared in the Contoocook;

Squirrels which fed where nuts fell thick

In the gravelly bed of the Otternic;

And small wild-hens in reed-snares caught

From the banks of Sondagardee brought;

Pike and perch from the Suncook taken,

Nuts from the trees of the Black Hills shaken,

Cranberries picked in the Squamscot bog,

And grapes from the vines of Piscataquog:

And, drawn from that great stone vase which stands

In the river scooped by a spirit’s hands,

Garnished with spoons of shell and horn,

Stood the birchen dishes of smoking corn.

Thus bird of the air and beast of the field,

All which the woods and the waters yield,

Furnished in that olden day

The bridal feast of the Bashaba.

And merrily when that feast was done

On the fire-lit green the dance begun,

With squaws’ shrill stave, and deeper hum

Of old men beating the Indian drum.

Painted and plumed, with scalp-locks flowing,

And red arms tossing and black eyes glowing,

Now in the light and now in the shade

Around the fires the dancers played.

The step was quicker, the song more shrill,

And the beat of the small drums louder still

Whenever within the circle drew

The Saugus Sachem and Weetamoo.

The moons of forty winters had shed

Their snow upon that chieftain’s head,

And toil and care and battle’s chance

Had seamed his hard, dark countenance.

A fawn beside the bison grim,—

Why turns the bride’s fond eye on him,

In whose cold look is naught beside

The triumph of a sullen pride?

Ask why the graceful grape entwines

The rough oak with her arm of vines;

And why the gray rock’s rugged cheek

The soft lips of the mosses seek:

Why, with wise instinct, Nature seems

To harmonize her wide extremes,

Linking the stronger with the weak,

The haughty with the soft and meek!