For here the fair savannas know
No barriers in the bloomy grass;
Wherever breeze of heaven may blow,
Or beam of heaven may glance, I pass.
In pastures, measureless as air,
The bison is my noble game;
The bounding elk, whose antlers tear
The branches, falls before my aim.
Mine are the river-fowl that scream
From the long stripe of waving sedge;
The bear that marks my weapon’s gleam,
Hides vainly in the forest’s edge;
In vain the she-wolf stands at bay;
The brinded catamount, that lies
High in the boughs to watch his prey,
Even in the act of springing, dies.
With what free growth the elm and plane
Fling their huge arms across my way,
Gray, old, and cumbered with a train
Of vines, as huge, and old, and gray!
Free stray the lucid streams, and find
No taint in these fresh lawns and shades;
Free spring the flowers that scent the wind
Where never scythe has swept the glades.
Alone the Fire, when frost-winds sere
The heavy herbage of the ground,
Gathers his annual harvest here,
With roaring like the battle’s sound,
And hurrying flames that sweep the plain,
And smoke-streams gushing up the sky:
I meet the flames with flames again,
And at my door they cower and die.
Here, from dim woods, the aged past
Speaks solemnly; and I behold
The boundless future in the vast
And lonely river, seaward rolled.
Who feeds its founts with rain and dew;
Who moves, I ask, its gliding mass,
And trains the bordering vines, whose blue
Bright clusters tempt me as I pass?
Broad are these streams—my steed obeys,
Plunges, and bears me through the tide.
Wide are these woods—I thread the maze
Of giant stems, nor ask a guide.
I hunt till day’s last glimmer dies
O’er woody vale and grassy height;
And kind the voice and glad the eyes
That welcome my return at night.
What heroes from the woodland sprung,
When, through the fresh awakened land,
The thrilling cry of freedom rung,
And to the work of warfare strung
The yeoman’s iron hand!
Hills flung the cry to hills around,
And ocean-mart replied to mart,
And streams whose springs were yet unfound,
Pealed far away the startling sound
Into the forest’s heart.
Then marched the brave from rocky steep,
From mountain river swift and cold;
The borders of the stormy deep,
The vales where gathered waters sleep,
Sent up the strong and bold,—
As if the very earth again
Grew quick with God’s creating breath,
And, from the sods of grove and glen,
Rose ranks of lion-hearted men
To battle to the death.
The wife, whose babe first smiled that day,
The fair fond bride of yestereve,
And aged sire and matron gray,
Saw the loved warriors haste away,
And deemed it sin to grieve.