In the thick darkness of the midnight woods,
I sit alone within the hemlock camp,
Silent and thoughtful. All about me rise
The dark, columnar giants of the wild, ---
Funereal hemlock and majestic pine,
The gnarled oak-tree and the quivering birch.
And how profound the hush! When evening threw
Its glimmering shades across these forest aisles
The mingled voices of the living world
Died out, and birds and creatures of the wild were still,
The woodpecker its drum-like tappings ceas’d,
The partridge sought her nest; the pied bluejay
Ceas’d its harsh clamor, and the pigeon wild
Folded its azure pinions and was still.
As shaded fell deep in tangled copse and glade,
The cawing crow-flocks settled from their flight,
The high-flying hawks descended from the air,
And silence all around me wove its spell.
The tall black trunks of the great forest kings
That hedg’d me round seem’d all instinct with life;
Seem’d to my fever’d fancy like the forms
Of the barbaric warriors who once trod
These lonely wilds, majestic, stern and grave, ---
Those feather’d forest chieftains, grim, severe,
Painted for war and terrible with arms,
With quiver, shield, and club, and lofty spear.
Then thro’ the thickening glooms would seem to shine
The eyeballs of wild creatures, wolf and bear,
And great imperial stag with branching horns;
But when I snatch’d my rifle they would seem
To disappear, and melt away from sight.
Then sudden from the dry dead leaves around
I rais’d a camp-fire that illum’d the woods,
And caus’d how strange a change! The sombre shades
Vanish’d away, and the rough boles of trees
Thro’ all their drooping foliage shone and smil’d
In the blithe, cheerful radiance of my fire;
So all the phantom specters fled away.
As in my hemlock camp I sank to rest,
I felt secure in such companionship
Of those red flames that seem’d to guard my couch,
And all the shapes that fancy conjur’d forth
Vanish’d like dreams --- and rest and sleep more sweet.
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