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VI. At Pennacook

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

Narrative and Legendary Poems

The Bridal of Pennacook
VI. At Pennacook

THE HILLS are dearest which our childish feet

Have climbed the earliest; and the streams most sweet

Are ever those at which our young lips drank,

Stooped to their waters o’er the grassy bank.

Midst the cold dreary sea-watch, Home’s hearth-light

Shines round the helmsman plunging through the night;

And still, with inward eye, the traveller sees

In close, dark, stranger streets his native trees.

The home-sick dreamer’s brow is nightly fanned

By breezes whispering of his native land,

And on the stranger’s dim and dying eye

The soft, sweet pictures of his childhood lie.

Joy then for Weetamoo, to sit once more

A child upon her father’s wigwam floor!

Once more with her old fondness to beguile

From his cold eye the strange light of a smile.

The long, bright days of summer swiftly passed,

The dry leaves whirled in autumn’s rising blast,

And evening cloud and whitening sunrise rime

Told of the coming of the winter-time.

But vainly looked, the while, young Weetamoo,

Down the dark river for her chief’s canoe;

No dusky messenger from Saugus brought

The grateful tidings which the young wife sought.

At length a runner from her father sent,

To Winnepurkit’s sea-cooled wigwam went:

“Eagle of Saugus,—in the woods the dove

Mourns for the shelter of thy wings of love.”

But the dark chief of Saugus turned aside

In the grim anger of hard-hearted pride;

“I bore her as became a chieftain’s daughter,

Up to her home beside the gliding water.

“If now no more a mat for her is found

Of all which line her father’s wigwam round,

Let Pennacook call out his warrior train,

And send her back with wampum gifts again.”

The baffled runner turned upon his track,

Bearing the words of Winnepurkit back.

“Dog of the Marsh,” cried Pennacook, “no more

Shall child of mine sit on his wigwam floor.

“Go, let him seek some meaner squaw to spread

The stolen bear-skin of his beggar’s bed;

Son of a fish-hawk! let him dig his clams

For some vile daughter of the Agawams,

“Or coward Nipmucks! may his scalp dry black

In Mohawk smoke, before I send her back.”

He shook his clenched hand towards the ocean wave,

While hoarse assent his listening council gave.

Alas poor bride! can thy grim sire impart

His iron hardness to thy woman’s heart?

Or cold self-torturing pride like his atone

For love denied and life’s warm beauty flown?

On Autumn’s gray and mournful grave the snow

Hung its white wreaths; with stifled voice and low

The river crept, by one vast bridge o’er-crossed,

Built by the hoar-locked artisan of Frost.

And many a moon in beauty newly born

Pierced the red sunset with her silver horn,

Or, from the east, across her azure field

Rolled the wide brightness of her full-orbed shield.

Yet Winnepurkit came not,—on the mat

Of the scorned wife her dusky rival sat;

And he, the while, in Western woods afar,

Urged the long chase, or trod the path of war.

Dry up thy tears, young daughter of a chief!

Waste not on him the sacredness of grief;

Be the fierce spirit of thy sire thine own,

His lips of scorning, and his heart of stone.

What heeds the warrior of a hundred fights,

The storm-worn watcher through long hunting nights,

Cold, crafty, proud of woman’s weak distress,

Her home-bound grief and pining loneliness?