Sunday, May 11, 2014

"The Albany Cemetery" by Charles Fenno Hoffman (1847)

The Albany Cemetery.


WILD TAWASENTHA in that brook laced glen

        The doe no longer lasts her lost fawn's bleating,

As panting there, escaped from hunter's ken

        She hears the chase o'er distant hills retreating;

No more uprising from the fern around her,

        The Indian archer, from his “still hunt” lair,

Wings the death-shaft which hath that moment found her

        When Fate seemed foiled upon her footsteps there:

Wild Tawasentha! on thy cone-strew'd sod,

        O’er which yon pine his giant arm is bending,

No more the Mohawk marks its dark crown nod

        Against the sun’s broad disk toward night descending,

Then crouching down beside the brands that redden

        The columned trunks which rear thy leafy dome,

Forgets his toils in hunter’s slumbers leaden,

        Or visions of the red man’s spirit home:

But where his calumet by that lone fire,

        At night beneath these cloistered boughs was lighted,

The Christian orphan will in prayer aspire,

        The Christian parent mourn his proud hope blighted;

And in thy shade the mother’s heart will listen

        The spirit cry of babe she clasps no more,

And where thy rills through hemlock-branches glisten,

        There many a maid her lover will deplore.

Here children linked in love and sport together,

        Who check their mirth as creaks the slow hearse by,

Will totter lonely in life’s Autumn weather,

        To ponder where life’s Springtime blossoms lie;

And where the virgin soil was never dinted

        By the rude ploughshare since creation’s birth,

Year after year fresh furrows will be printed

        Upon the sad cheek of the grieving earth.

Yon sun, returning in unwearied stages,

        Will gild the cenotaph’s ascending spire,

O’er names on history’s yet unwritten pages

        That unborn crowds will, worshipping, admire;

Names that shall brighten through my country’s story

        Like meteor hues that fire her autumn woods,

Encircling high her onward course of glory

        Like the bright bow which spans her mountain-floods.

Here where the flowers have bloomed and died for ages—

        Bloomed all unseen and perished all unsung—

On youth’s green grave, traced out beside the sage’s,

        Will garlands now by votive hearts be flung;

And sculptured marble and funereal urn,

        O’er which gray birches to the night air wave,

        Will whiten through thy glades at every turn,

        And woo the moonbeam to some poet’s grave!

Thus back to Nature, faithful, do we come,

        When Art hath taught us all her best beguiling,

Thus blend their ministry around the tomb

        Where, pointing upward, still sits Nature smiling!

And never, Nature’s hallowed spots adorning,

        Hath Art, with her a sombre garden dressed,

Wild Tawasentha! in this vale of mourning

        With more to consecrate their children’s rest.

And still that stream will hold its winsome way,

        Sparkling as now upon the frosty air, When all in turn shall troop in pale array

        To that dim land for which so few prepare.

Still will yon oak, which now a sapling waves,

        Each year renewed, with hardy vigor grow,

Expanding still to shade the nameless graves

        Of nameless men that haply sleep below.

Nameless as they,—in one dear memory blest,

        How tranquil in these phantom peopled bowers

Could I here wait the partner of my rest

        In some green nook, which should be only ours;

Under old boughs, where moist the livelong summer

        The moss is green and springy to the tread,

When thou, my friend, shouldst be an often comer

        To pierce the thicket, seeking for my bed:

For thickets heavy all around should screen it

        From careless gazer that might wander near,

Nor e'en to him who by some chance had seen it,

        Would I have aught to catch his eye, appear:

One lonely stem—a trunk those old boughs lifting,

        Should mark the spot; and, haply, new thrift owe

To that which upward through its sap was drifting

        From what lay mouldering round its roots below.

The Wood-duck there her glossy-throated brood

        Should unmolested gather to her wings;

The schoolboy, awed, as near that mound he stood,

        Should spare the Redstart's nest that o'er it swings,

And thrill when there, to hear the cadenc'd winding

        Of boatman's horn upon the distant river,

Dell unto dell in long-link'd echoes binding—

        Like far off requiem, floating on for ever.

There my freed spirit with the dawn's first beaming

        Would come to revel round the dancing spray;

There would it linger with the day's last gleaming,

        To watch thy footsteps thither track their way.

The quivering leaf should whisper in that hour

        Things that for thee alone would have a sound,

And parting houghs my spirit-glances shower

        In gleams of light upon the mossy ground.

There, when long years and all thy journeyings over—

        Loosed from this world thyself to join the free,

Thou too wouldst come to rest beside thy lover

        In that sweet cell heneath our Trysting-Tree;

Where earliest birds ahove our narrow dwelling

        Should pipe their matins as the morning rose,

And woodland symphonies majestic swelling,

        In midnight anthem, hallow our repose.

        Tawasentha meaning in Mohawk, "The place of the many Dead," is the finely appropriate name of the new Forest Cemetery on the banks of the Hudson, between Albany and Troy.

Albany Evening Journal. May 29, 1847: 2 col 1.

Charles Fenno Hoffman's poem has also been published under the title "The Forest Cemetery."

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