THE WESTERN EMIGRANTS AND SQUATTERS a Poem
THE WESTERN EMIGRANTS AND SQUATTERS
YEARS since, far in the prairie-land,
The bold frontiersmen press'd their venturous way,-
A hardy, brave, indomitable band,
Treading the wastes and wildernesses gray.
The good French Father from Canadian wild
Came with symbolic cross, in coarse black gown,
To preach to Nature's rude, untutor'd child
Christ's martyrdom and crown !
The voyageurs from Northern waters came,
Singing gay songs as blithe they plied the oar;
The squatter kindled in the woods his flame,
The trapper would the otter-streams explore;
And there, in woods magnificently grand,
The hunter came, with rifle in his hand,
To chase the elk, the buffalo, and deer,
And gaunt wolf howling in his wild career.
From fort to lonely, solitary fort—
Thousands of miles they floated down the stream,
Startling the panther in his lone resort—
Where howl of wolf and catamount's shrill scream
Fill'd the dark swamps and thickets all the day,
And thrill'd the silent hours when night was gray.
The seasons pass'd,—the tender, budding Spring,
The ripen'd Summer with its flowery bloom;
Autumn with his red offering,
Winter that brought his frosty seal of doom;
And all was wondrous, beauteous to their eyes,
Impressive majesty and golden skies !
Then came the hardy emigrants of old
From rough New England's rock-engirdled coast,
And where Ohio's crystal waves are roll'd,
Where Pennsylvanian woods by winds are toss'd;
From fair Kentucky, with her hills of green,
From broad plantations o'er Virginian soil—
All came, this land so glorious, so serene,
To people and redeem with manful toil.
The Indians in their native haunts beheld
These fresh invaders with regardful eye;
They wist not then their final doom was knell'd
That the poor red men from their homes must fly!
One bond of brotherhood did seem to bind
These divers races in one social chain.
The red men welcom'd with a greeting kind
The coming stranger to his broad domain;
They pour'd the cup, they shar'd the hunter's tent,
They smok'd the pipe and told the tales of war;
In marriage-rites united they were blent.
In war, in chase, they fought, they roam'd afar;
A common bond of fellowship did hold
The Indian warrior and those hunters bold.
But soon a new race o'er the prairie-plain
Came softly, one by one, with axe and spade;
Crept o'er the wild the farmer's white-topp'd wain,
And soon fair Nature's bloom began to fade,
As the sharp plough cleav'd smoothly through the sod,
And golden corn-fields rustled o'er the clod:
The old woods groan'd and bow'd the lofty head,
And cultivated glebes were wide outspread,
The Indian then, the skin-clad trapper too,
And stalwart hunter with his rifle true,
Forsook their ancient haunts by stream and wood,
And pass'd away elsewhere to seek their food;
Slow and regretful vanish'd all away,
To find new homes beyond the setting day !
McLellan, Isaac. Poems of the Rod and Gun. New York: Henry Thorpe, 1886.
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