Page images



tranquil and unenvious equality in which they passed their days, form altogether a scene, on which the eye of philanthropy is never wearied with gazing, and to which, perhaps, no parallel can be found in the annals of the fallen world. The heart turns with delight from the feverish scenes of European history, to the sweet repose of this true Atlantis; but sinks to reflect, that though its reality may still be attested by surviving witnesses, no such spot is now left, on the whole face of the earth, as a refuge from corruption and misery!

The poem opens with a fine description of this enchanting retirement. One calm summer morn, a friendly Indian arrives in his canoe, bringing with him a fair boy, who, with his mother, were the sole survivors of an English garrison which had been stormed by a hostile tribe. The dying mother had commended her boy to the care of her wild deliverers; and their chief, in obedience to her solemn bequest, now delivers him into the hands of the most respected of the adjoining settlers. Albert recognizes the unhappy orphan as the son of a beloved friend; and rears young Henry Waldegrave as the happy playmate of Gertrude, and sharer with her in the joys of their romantic solitude, and the lessons of their venerable instructor. When he is scarcely entered upon manhood, Henry is sent for by his friends in England, and roams over Europe in search of improvement for eight or nine years, — while the quiet hours are sliding over the father and daughter in the unbroken tranquillity of their Pensylvanian retreat. At last, Henry, whose heart had found no resting place in all the world beside, returns in all the mature graces of manhood, and marries his beloved Gertrude. Then there is bliss beyond all that is blissful on earth, — and more feelingly described than mere genius can ever hope to describe any thing. But the war of emancipation begins; and the dream of love and enjoyment is broken by alarms and dismal forebodings. While they are sitting one evening enjoying those tranquil delights, now more endeared by the fears which gather around them, an aged Indian rushes into their habitation, and, 182 CAMPBELL'S GERTRUDE, SUBSTANCE OF THE STORY.

after disclosing himself for Henry's antient guide and preserver, informs them, that a hostile tribe which had exterminated his whole family, is on its march towards their devoted dwellings. With considerable difficulty they effect their escape to a fort at some distance in the woods; and at sunrise, Gertrude, and her father and husband, look from its battlements over the scene of desolation which the murderous Indian had already spread over the pleasant groves and gardens of Wyoming. While they are standing wrapt in this sad contemplation, an Indian marksman fires a mortal shot from his ambush at Albert; and as Gertrude clasps him in agony to her heart, another discharge lays her bleeding by his side! She then takes farewell of her husband, in a speech more sweetly pathetic than any thing ever written in rhyme. Henry prostrates himself on her grave in convulsed and speechless 'agony; and his Indian deliverer, throwing his mantle over him, watches by him a while in gloomy silence; and at last addresses him in a sort of wild and energetic descant, exciting him, by his example, to be revenged, and to die! The poem closes with this vehement and impassioned exhortation.

Before proceeding to lay any part of the poem itself before our readers, we should try to give them some idea of that delightful harmony of colouring and of expression, which serves to unite every part of it for the production of one effect; and to make the description, narrative, and reflections, conspire to breathe over the whole a certain air of pure and tender enchantment, which is not once dispelled, through the whole length of the poem, by the intrusion of any discordant impression. All that we can now do, however, is, to tell them that this was its effect upon our feelings; and to give them their chance of partaking in it, by a pretty copious selection of extracts.

The descriptive stanzas in the beginning, which set out with an invocation to Wyoming, though in some places a little obscure and overlaboured, are, to our taste, very soft and beautiful.



On Susquehana's side, fair Wyoming!
Although the wild-flower on thy ruin'd wall
And roofless homes, a sad remembrance bring
Of what thy gentle people did befall,
Yet thou wert once the loveliest land of all
That see the Atlantic wave their morn restore.
Sweet land! may I thy lost delights recall,
And paint thy Gertrude in her bowers of yore,

Whose beauty was the love of Pensylvania's shore !
" It was beneath thy skies that, but to prune

His autumn fruits, or skim the light canoe,
Perchance, along thy river calm, at noon,
The happy shepherd swain had nought to do,
From morn till evening's sweeter pastime grew;
Their timbrel, in the dance of forests brown
When lovely maidens prankt in flowrets new;
And aye, those sunny mountains half way down

Would echo flagelet from some romantic town.
* Then, where of Indian hills the daylight takes

His leave, how might you the flamingo see
Disporting like a meteor on the lakes
And playful squirrel on his nut-grown tree:
And ev'ry sound of life was full of glee,
From merry mock-bird's song, or hum of men;
While heark'ning, fearing nought their revelry,
The wild deer arch'd his neck from glades — and, then

Unhunted, sought his woods and wilderness again.
“ And scarce had Wyoming of war or crime
Heard but in transatlantic story rung,” &c.

- p. 5—7. The account of the German, Spanish, Scottish, and English settlers, and of the patriarchal harmony in which they were all united, is likewise given with great spirit and brevity; as well as the portrait of the venerable Albert, their own elected judge and adviser. A sudden transition is then made to Gertrude.

Young, innocent! on whose sweet forehead mild

The parted ringlet shone in simplest guise,
An inmate in the home of Albert smil'd,

Or blest his noonday walk- she was his only child !
“The rose of England bloom'd on Gertrude's cheek

What though these shades had seen her birth,” &c. – p. 11. After mentioning that she was left the only child of her mother, the author goes on in these sweet verses.



“A lov'd bequest! and I may half impart,

To them that feel the strong paternal tie,
How like a new existence to his heart
Uprose that living flow'r beneath his eye!
Dear as she was, from cherub infancy,
From hours when she would round his garden play,
To time when, as the rip’ning years went by,
Her lovely mind could culture well repay,

And more engaging grew from pleasing day to day.
“I may not paint those thousand infant charms;

(Unconscious fascination, undesignd!)
The orison repeated in his arms,
For God to bless her sire and all mankind !
The book, the bosom on his knee reclind,
Or how sweet fairy-lore he heard her con,
(The playmate ere the teacher of her mind);
All uncompanion'd else her years had gone
Till now in Gertrude's eyes their ninth blue summer shone.
“ And summer was the tide, and sweet the hour,

When sire and daughter saw, with fleet descent,

An Indian from his bark approach their bow'r,” &c. - p. 12, 13. This is the guide and preserver of young Henry Waldegrave; who is somewhat fantastically described as appearing

“ Led by his dusky guide, like Morning brought by Night." The Indian tells his story with great animation — the storming and blowing up of the English fort — and the tardy arrival of his friendly and avenging warriors. They found all the soldiers slaughtered.

“ And from the tree we with her child unbound
A lonely mother of the Christian land
“Her lord — the captain of the British band-
“ Amidst the slaughter of his soldiers lay;
“ Scarce knew the widow our deliv'ring hand :

Upon her child she sobb’d, and swoon'd away; “ Or shriek'd unto the God to whom the Christians pray. – “Our virgins fed her with their kindly bowls “ Of fever balm, and sweet sagamité; “ But she was journeying to the land of souls, " And lifted up her dying head to pray “ That we should bid an antient friend convey " Her orphan to his home of England's shore; “And take, she said, this token far away “ To one that will remember us of yore, * When he beholds the ring that Waldegrave's Julia wore. — "

p. 16, 17.



Albert recognises the child of his murdered friend, with great emotion; which the Indian witnesses with characteristic and picturesque composure.

" Far differently the mute Oneyda took

His calumet of peace, and cup of joy;
As monumental bronze unchang'd his look:
A soul that pity touchd, but never shook :
Train'd, from his tree-lock'd cradle to his bier,
The fierce extremes of good and ill to brook
Impassive — fearing but the shame of fear
A stoic of the woods a man without a tear. -

· "p. 20. This warrior, however, is not without high feelings and tender affections.

p. 21, 22.

" He scorn'd his own, who felt another's woe :
And ere the wolf-skin on his back he flung,
Or laced his mocasins, in act to go,
A song of parting to the boy he sung,

Who slept on Albert's couch, nor heard his friendly tongue.
“Sleep, wearied one! and in the dreaming land,
"Shouldst thou the spirit of thy mother greet,
“Oh! say, to-morrow, that the white man's hand
“ Hath pluck'd the thorns of sorrow from thy feet ;
" While I in lonely wilderness shall meet
Thy little foot-prints or by traces know
“ The fountain, where at noon I thought it sweet
To feed thee with the



my bow,
“ And pour'd the lotus-horn, or slew the mountain roe.

· Adieu ! sweet scion of the rising sun!” &c. The Second Part opens with a fine description of Albert's sequestered dwelling. It reminds us of that enchanted landscape in which Thomson has embosomed his Castle of Indolence. We can make room only for the first stanza.

A valley from the river shore withdrawn

Was Albert's home two quiet woods between,
Whose lofty verdure overlook'd his lawn;
And waters to their resting-place serene,
Came, fresh'ning and reflecting all the scene :
(A mirror in the depth of flowery shelves ;)
So sweet a spot of earth, you might (I ween)
Have guess'd some congregation of the elves,
To sport by summer moons, had shap'd it for themselves."

p. 27.

« PreviousContinue »