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Poem by John Greenleaf Whittier
On the declivity of a hill in Salisbury, Essex County, is a fountain of clear water, gushing from the very roots of a venerable oak. It is about two miles from the junction of the Powow River with the Merrimac.
TRAVELLER! on thy journey toiling By the swift Powow, With the summer sunshine falling On thy heated brow, Listen, while all else is still, To the brooklet from the hill. Wild and sweet the flowers are blowing By that streamlet's side, And a greener verdure showing Where its waters glide, Down the hill-slope murmuring on, Over root and mossy stone. Where yon oak his broad arms flingeth O'er the sloping hill, Beautiful and freshly springeth That soft-flowing rill, Through its dark roots wreathed and bare, Gushing up to sun and air. Brighter waters sparkled never In that magic well, Of whose gift of life forever Ancient legends tell, In the lonely desert wasted, And by mortal lip untasted. Waters which the proud Castilian Sought with longing eyes, Underneath the bright pavilion Of the Indian skies, Where his forest pathway lay Through the blooms of Florida. Years ago a lonely stranger, With the dusky brow Of the outcast forest-ranger, Crossed the swift Powow, And betook him to the rill And the oak upon the hill. O'er his face of moody sadness For an instant shone Something like a gleam of gladness, As he stooped him down To the fountain's grassy side, And his eager thirst supplied. With the oak its shadow throwing O'er his mossy seat, And the cool, sweet waters flowing Softly at his feet, Closely by the fountain's rim That lone Indian seated him. Autumn's earliest frost had given To the woods below Hues of beauty, such as heaven Lendeth to its bow; And the soft breeze from the west Scarcely broke their dreamy rest. Far behind was Ocean striving With his chains of sand; Southward, sunny glimpses giving, 'Twixt the swells of land, Of its calm and silvery track, Rolled the tranquil Merrimac. Over village, wood, and meadow Gazed that stranger man, Sadly, till the twilight shadow Over all things ran, Save where spire and westward pane Flashed the sunset back again. Gazing thus upon the dwelling Of his warrior sires, Where no lingering trace was telling Of their wigwam fires, Who the gloomy thoughts might know Of that wandering child of woe? Naked lay, in sunshine glowing, Hills that once had stood Down their sides the shadows throwing Of a mighty wood, Where the deer his covert kept, And the eagle's pinion swept! Where the birch canoe had glided Down the swift Powow, Dark and gloomy bridges strided Those clear waters now; And where once the beaver swam, Jarred the wheel and frowned the dam. For the wood-bird's merry singing, And the hunter's cheer, Iron clang and hammer's ringing Smote upon his ear; And the thick and sullen smoke From the blackened forges broke. Could it be his fathers ever Loved to linger here? These bare hills, this conquered river,-- Could they hold them dear, With their native loveliness Tamed and tortured into this? Sadly, as the shades of even Gathered o'er the hill, While the western half of heaven Blushed with sunset still, From the fountain's mossy seat Turned the Indian's weary feet. Year on year hath flown forever, But he came no more To the hillside on the river Where he came before. But the villager can tell Of that strange man's visit well. And the merry children, laden With their fruits or flowers, Roving boy and laughing maiden, In their school-day hours, Love the simple tale to tell Of the Indian and his well.
John Greenleaf Whittier
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