The Poetical Writings of Fitz-Greene Halleck/Red Jacket
A Chief of the Indian Tribes, the Tuscaroras.
ON LOOKING AT HIS PORTRAIT BY WEIR.
ooper, whose name is with his country’s woven,
First in her files, her Pioneer of mind—
A wanderer now in other climes, has proven
His love for the young land he left behind;
And throned her in the senate-hall of nations,
Robed like the deluge rainbow, heaven-wrought;
Magnificent as his own mind’s creations,
And beautiful as its green world of thought:
And faithful to the Act of Congress, quoted
As law authority, it passed nem. con.:
He writes that we are, as ourselves have voted,
The most enlightened people ever known:
That all our week is happy as a Sunday
In Paris, full of song, and dance, and laugh;
And that, from Orleans to the Bay of Fundy,
There’s not a bailiff or an epitaph:
And furthermore—in fifty years, or sooner,
We shall export our poetry and wine;
And our brave fleet, eight frigates and a schooner,
Will sweep the seas from Zembla to the Line.
If he were with me, King of Tuscarora!
Gazing, as I, upon thy portrait now,
In all its medalled, fringed, and beaded glory,
Its eye’s dark beauty, and its thoughtful brow—
Its brow, half martial and half diplomatic,
Its eye, upsoaring like an eagle’s wings;
Well might he boast that we, the Democratic,
Outrival Europe, even in our Kings!
For thou wast monarch born. Tradition’s pages
Tell not the planting of thy parent tree,
But that the forest tribes have bent for ages
To thee, and to thy sires, the subject knee.
Thy name is princely—if no poet’s magic
Could make Red Jacket grace an English rhyme,
Though some one with a genius for the tragic
Hath introduced it in a pantomime—
Yet it is music in the language spoken
Of thine own land, and on her herald-roll;
As bravely fought for, and as proud a token
As Cœur de Lion’s of a warrior’s soul.
Thy garb—though Austria’s bosom-star would frighten
That medal pale, as diamonds the dark mine,
And George the Fourth wore, at his court at Brighton
A more becoming evening dress than thine;
Yet ’tis a brave one, scorning wind and weather,
And fitted for thy couch, on field and flood,
As Rob Roy’s tartan for the Highland heather,
Or forest green for England’s Robin Hood.
Is strength a monarch’s merit, like a whaler’s?
Thou art as tall, as sinewy, and as strong
As earth’s first kings—the Argo’s gallant sailors,
Heroes in history and gods in song.
Is beauty?—Thine has with thy youth departed;
But the love-legends of thy manhood’s years,
And she who perished, young and broken-hearted,
Are—but I rhyme for smiles and not for tears.
Is eloquence?—Her spell is thine that reaches
The heart, and makes the wisest head its sport;
And there’s one rare, strange virtue in thy speeches,
The secret of their mastery—they are short.
The monarch mind, the mystery of commanding,
The birth-hour gift, the art Napoleon,
Of winning, fettering, moulding, wielding, banding
The hearts of millions till they move as one:
Thou hast it. At thy bidding men have crowded
The road to death as to a festival;
And minstrels, at their sepulchres, have shrouded
With banner-folds of glory the dark pall.
Who will believe? Not I—for in deceiving
Lies the dear charm of life’s delightful dream;
I cannot spare the luxury of believing
That all things beautiful are what they seem;
Who will believe that, with a smile whose blessing
Would, like the Patriarch’s, soothe a dying hour,
With voice as low, as gentle, and caressing,
As e’er won maiden’s lip in moonlit bower:
With look like patient Job’s eschewing evil;
With motions graceful as a bird’s in air;
Thou art, in sober truth, the veriest devil
That e’er clinched fingers in a captive’s hair!
That in thy breast there springs a poison fountain,
Deadlier than that where bathes the Upas-tree;
And in thy wrath a nursing cat-o’-mountain
Is calm as her babe's sleep compared with thee!
And underneath that face, like summer ocean’s,
Its lip as moveless, and its cheek as clear,
Slumbers a whirlwind of the heart’s emotions,
Love, hatred, pride, hope, sorrow—all save fear:
Love—for thy land, as if she were thy daughter,
Her pipe in peace, her tomahawk in wars;
Hatred—of missionaries and cold water;
Pride—in thy rifle-trophies and thy scars;
Hope—that thy wrongs may be, by the Great Spirit,
Remembered and revenged when thou art gone;
Sorrow—that none are left thee to inherit
Thy name, thy fame, thy passions, and thy throne!