Glen of Ghosts

by W.H.C. HOSMER (1814-1877)

NEAR the roadside yawns a dismal glen,
Where the wolf of yore found a brambly den;
The fissured rocks rise, ledge on ledge,
And a stream leaps over the precipice-edge
That makes, while melting in wreaths of snow,
A heavy and churning sound below.

A leaning pine, whose rugged cone
Is the forest eagle’s ancient throne—
Old birchen trees that drink the spray,
Encased in bark that is ghostly and gray,
And the hemlock’s cloak of sombre green
Comport with the quiet of the scene.

It is a wild, a fearful spot,
And the sinless birds they love it not;
From its dark abyss unclouded day
Drives never the shades of night away,
And dungeon low, and cavern’d tomb
Have less of deep, mysterious gloom.

An old companion in the chase,
A belted son of that red-browed race
Who ranged, a few, brief years ago,
This realm with feathered shaft and bow,
Near the ” Glen of Ghosts,” with shudder cold,
To me the tale that follows told.

“Ere felled by axe was forest tree
On flowery banks of the Genesee,
Or plough, by cunning white man made,
Tore the green carpet of the glade,
Shemokun, bravest of the brave,
Law to a mighty people gave.

“In the chill moon of the falling leaf,
Declined the health of the mighty chief;
His stately form grew thin and weak,
Vanished the war-paint from his cheek—
Untrimm’d he wore his scalp-lock gray,
And waned the strength of his soul away.

“Wise elders of the tribe, in vain,
Sought moon-lit herbs on hill and plain,
To thrill with energy once more
The flagging pulse of the sagamore;
And idly tried low-mutter’d charm
The sluggish blood in his veins to warm.

“It chanced that from a dream one night
The sufferer woke in wild affright,
While, by his couch of panther-skin,
Kept watch the man of medicine,
And, with a loud, entreating tone,
Pronounced the name of Wah-non-ti-gne.

“Next morn, throughout the village spread,
From lodge to lodge the tidings dread,
That lurking wizard’s hellish art
Had withered Shemokun’s arm and heart;
And crested brave, and tottering sire
Convened to light the council-fire.

“When pipe had passed the ring around,
Rose from his mat a sage renowned,
And Wah-non-ti-gne against him heard
The charge of witchcraft foul preferred,
His bold accusers then defied
In the fierce tones of scorn and pride.

“They doomed the warrior to die,
Ere sunset flushed the western sky;
And, binding each athletic limb,
In the Lodge of Judgment prisoned him
While stake was drest, and brush up-piled
Beneath the dim, o’er-arching wild.

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