lies the reed-bordered, beautiful river.
Like two flying coursers that strain,
on the track, neck and neck on the home-stretch,
With nostrils distended and mane froth-flecked,
and the neck and the shoulders,
Each urged to his best by the cry
and the whip and the rein of his rider,
Now they skim o’er the waters and fly,
side by side, neck and neck, through the meadows,
The blue heron flaps from the reeds,
and away wings her course up the river:
Straight and swift is her flight o’er the meads,
but she hardly outstrips the canoemen.
See! the voyageurs bend to their oars
till the blue veins swell out on their foreheads;
And the sweat from their brawny breasts pours;
but in vain their Herculean labor;
For the oars of Tamdoka are ten,
and but six are the oars of the Frenchman,
And the red warriors’ burden of men
is matched by the voyageurs’ luggage.
Side by side, neck and neck, for a mile,
still they strain their strong arms to the utmost,
Till rounding a willowy isle,
now ahead creeps the boat of Tamdoka,
And the neighboring forests profound,
and the far-stretching plain of the meadows
To the whoop of the victors resound,
while the panting French rest on their paddles.
With sable wings wide o’er the land
night sprinkles the dew of the heavens;
And hard by the dark river’s strand,
in the midst of a tall, somber forest,
Two camp fires are lighted and beam
on the trunks and the arms of the pine trees.
In the fitful light darkle and gleam
the swarthy-hued faces around them.
And one is the camp of DuLuth,
and the other the camp of Tamdoka.
But few are the jests and uncouth
of the voyageurs over their supper,
While moody and silent the braves
round their fire in a circle sit crouching;
And low is the whisper of leaves
and the sough of the wind in the branches;
And low is the long-winding howl
of the lone wolf afar in the forest;
But shrill is the hoot of the owl,
like a bugle-blast blown in the pine-tops,
And the half-startled voyageurs scowl
at the sudden and saucy intruder.
Like the eyes of the wolves are the eyes
of the watchful and silent Dakotas;
Like the face of the moon in the skies,
when the clouds chase each other across it,
Is Tamdoka’s dark face in the light
of the flickering flames of the camp-fire.
They have plotted red murder by night,
and securely contemplate their victims.