“The red men say that here she walked
A thousand moons ago;
They never raise the war-whoop here,
And never twang the bow.
“I love to watch her as she feeds,
And think that all is well
While such a gentle creature haunts
The place in which we dwell.”
The youth obeyed, and sought for game
In forests far away,
Where, deep in silence and in moss,
The ancient woodland lay.
But once, in autumn’s golden time,
He ranged the wild in vain,
Nor roused the pheasant nor the deer,
And wandered home again.
The crescent moon and crimson eve
Shone with a mingling light;
The deer, upon the grassy mead,
Was feeding full in sight.
He raised the rifle to his eye,
And from the cliffs around
A sudden echo, shrill and sharp,
Gave back its deadly sound.
Away into the neighbouring wood
The startled creature flew,
And crimson drops at morning lay
Amid the glimmering dew.
Next evening shone the waxing moon
As sweetly as before;
The deer upon the grassy mead
Was seen again no more.
But ere that crescent moon was old,
By night the red men came,
And burnt the cottage to the ground,
And slew the youth and dame.
Now woods have overgrown the mead,
And hid the cliffs from sight;
There shrieks the hovering hawk at noon,
And prowls the fox at night.
I’ve watched too late; the morn is near;
One look at God’s broad silent sky!
Oh, hopes and wishes vainly dear,
How in your very strength ye die!
Even while your glow is on the cheek,
And scarce the high pursuit begun,
The heart grows faint, the hand grows weak,
The task of life is left undone.
See where upon the horizon’s brim,
Lies the still cloud in gloomy bars;
The waning moon, all pale and dim,
Goes up amid the eternal stars.
Late, in a flood of tender light,
She floated through the ethereal blue,
A softer sun, that shone all night
Upon the gathering beads of dew.
And still thou wanest, pallid moon!
The encroaching shadow grows apace;
Heaven’s everlasting watchers soon
Shall see thee blotted from thy place.
Oh, Night’s dethroned and crownless queen!
Well may thy sad, expiring ray
Be shed on those whose eyes have seen
Hope’s glorious visions fade away.
Shine thou for forms that once were bright,
For sages in the mind’s eclipse,
For those whose words were spells of might,
But falter now on stammering lips!
In thy decaying beam there lies
Full many a grave on hill and plain,
Of those who closed their dying eyes
In grief that they had lived in vain.
Another night, and thou among
The spheres of heaven shalt cease to shine,
All rayless in the glittering throng
Whose lustre late was quenched in thine.