The White Stone Canoe by Mrs J C Yule

AN INDIAN TRADITION; VERSIFIED FROM SCHOOLCRAFT

It was a day of festive-mirth,
And bright the Indian wigwams shone,
For ’twas a chieftain’s bridal-day,
And gladness dwelt in every tone;
But ere the glow of sunset hours
Upon the western hills was shed,
Deep sadness rested on those bowers–
The bride was numbered with the dead.

Days passed; and still beside her tomb
The stricken lover bowed his head;
And-nightly, through the forest’s gloom
The stars beheld him with his dead.
In vain did grey-haired chieftains urge
The youthful hunter to the chase;–
He heard, yet heeded not their words,
For grief had chained him to the place.

They laid his war-club by his side,
His bow and arrows, too, they brought,
And sang of glorious deeds of might
That stately chiefs of yore had wrought;
But listlessly he heard their songs,
Flung back his bow with sullen pride,
And by the silent grave sat down
Where they had laid his youthful bride.

But pleasant memories came at length
Of what he learned in boyhood’s day,
Of a bright path that led from earth
O’er the blue mountains far away
To the best land where spirits dwell,
The home of GHEEZHA MONEDO, [1]
Where parted loved ones meet again
Beyond the reach of pain and woe.

Then from the ground the warrior rose,
And bade the sleeping dust adieu,
And started for the spirit-shore
With the bright southern skies in view;–
Forests, and hills, and vales, and streams,
In his quick flight he left behind;–
Earth’s stores of rare and lovely things
Had nought to charm the wand’rer’s mind.

The snow, that lay upon the earth
When he forsook his native hills,
Had slowly melted from his path,
And sought the bed of crystal rills;
The woods assumed a gayer hue,
The flowers put on the bloom of spring,
The clear sky shone with brighter blue,
And birds sped by on joyous wing.

By these blest signs the warrior knew
That he was travelling aright;
For old Tradition taught him so,
And on he pressed with fresh delight.
At length the shining path he spied
Winding amid a beauteous grove,
Up to the summit of a hill
That rose the verdant plain above.

High on the summit stood a lodge
To which this mystic pathway led;–
Thither, with undeclining zeal
And ardent hopes, the warrior sped.
An old man met him at the door,
With piercing eyes and long, white hair,
Who took the wand’rer by the hand,
And kindly bade him welcome there.

“I know thy quest!” the old man said,
“Leave here thy arrows and thy bow;
Thy body, too, thou must forsake–
Thither thy soul alone can go.
Thou seest yon gulf, and far away
Beyond, a region bright and fair,
Whose blue hills in the distance rise,
Warrior, the land of souls is there’

“My lodge the gate of entrance is,–
I’ll guard whatever thou leav’st behind,
And thou may’st hasten on thy way,
A joyous spirit unconfined.”
Thus saying, the aged man withdrew;
And the freed traveller sped away–
As though his feet were changed to wings–
Upon his fair, but shadowy way.

Shadowy indeed, for all he passed–
Trees, plants, and flowers no substance wore,
And birds and beasts were but the souls
Of those that dwelt on earth before;–
Yet birds swept by on joyous wing,
And, pausing, gazed the timid deer
With fearless look, as if to say,
“We have no strife or bloodshed here!”

Onward he went, till, just before,
A beauteous lake appeared in view;
And at the water’s edge he spied
A snow-white, shining, stone canoe.
Lightly the warrior sprang within,
And grasped the paddle by his side;
When turning, lo, beside him sat
The spirit of his beauteous bride

She sat within a light canoe,
And sweetly beckoned him away
To a green isle that, like a gem,
Amidst the sparkling waters lay;
High leaped the waves, yet on they pressed,
Wreath after wreath of foam they passed,–
Thus gliding o’er the water’s breast
They reached the wished-for shore at last.

Together o’er those verdant plains,
‘Mid fadeless flowers the lovers walked;
And of their native hills and streams,
And forest-homes, they freely talked.
There were no storms, no chilling winds,
No frost, no blight, to dim the flowers,
But never-fading summer reigned
Amid those calm and peaceful bowers.

None hungered there–no death, no pain,
No blighted hope, no sleepless fear;
No mourner sorrowed o’er the dead,
And no bereaved one dropped a tear;
Serenest skies were spread above,
Bright flowers were blooming all around
And every eye was filled with love,
And music dwelt in every sound.

“Here let me stay!” the warrior cried,
“On this secluded, happy shore;
Here, with my loved and beauteous bride,
Where bitter partings are no more!”
Thus spake the youth, but, ere the words
Had died away upon the breeze,
There came a low, sweet spirit-voice
Murm’ring among the sheltering trees.

“Warrior!”–thus spake the breezy voice–
“Return unto thy native shore;
Resume again thy mortal frame,
And mingle with thy tribe once more.
Listen to him who keeps the gate,
And he will tell thee what to do;
Obey his voice, return to earth,
And virtue’s pleasant paths pursue.

“Thy time to die has not arrived;
But let each gloomy thought be still,
Thy maiden waits thee on this shore,
Subject no more to pain or ill!
In never-fading youth arrayed.
Here shall ye dwell in peace at last,
When thou hast done thy work on earth,
And life’s brief wanderings are past.

“Return!–thou yet must lead thy tribe
Through many a wild, adventurous scene;
But when a good old age is reached,
And thou their leader long hast been,
Then will I call thee to thy rest
In this bright island of the skies,
Where thou mayst mingle with the blest,
While long, succeeding ages rise!”

The chieftain woke–’twas fancy all,
The bright revealings of a dream;–
Around him still the forest stood
Beneath the cold moon’s placid beam.
Up from the ground he proudly rose,
Took up his war-club and his bow,
Quelled in his soul the bitter floods
Of disappointment and of woe,–

And, turning from the grave of her
Who erst was all the world to him,
He wiped away the gathering tears
That made his eagle-glances dim;
And with a proud, majestic step
He slowly from the grave withdrew,
Resolved to hope and labor on,
With better prospects in his view

[Footnote 1: Merciful Spirit.]

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