Sketch of Connecticut, Forty Years Since/Chapter XII

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"Disperse! Disperse! The gathering boats I view.
   Sad parting friends around the waters stray,
Yet shall dark Fate their distant steps pursue;
Alike with those who go, and those who stay,
   The withering curse shall stalk, companion of their way."

On the ensuing Sunday, Mr. Occom gave his farewell discourse to the separating tribe. It was founded on that part of Scripture, which describes the division of land among the people brought out of Egypt, and the departure of the half tribe of Manasseh, to a distant inheritance with the Reubenites, and Gadites—"Now to one-half of this tribe, Moses had given possession in Bashan: but unto the other half thereof, gave Joshua a possession, among their brethren on the other side of Jordon westward." The object of his address was to calm the current of perturbed feelings, to strengthen the ground of confidence in Him "who appointeth the bounds of man's habitation," and to enforce the motives of faithful obedience to his commands. The following clay, all Mohegan were assembled upon the banks of the river. There lay the boats, prepared to convey to their distant abode the emigrants, whose number was about two hundred. There were sorrowful countenances, and solemn partings, and mutual good wishes, and blessings. Amid the throng, the lofty figure of the young, warriour Ontologon was seen, [172] bending in deep conversation with a maiden. They loved each other, and she would have joined his enterprize, but the sickness of an infirm mother incited duty to conquer love.

"Would to God, that I might lead thee by the hand to my boat," said the dark eyed youth. "I would throw over thee an awning of the deer-skin, and neither wind or rain should visit thee. Our voyage should be prosperous, because thou wert with me, and in storms the Great Spirit would have mercy upon me for thy sake. I would build thee a cabin in our new country, and thou shouldest be all the world to me."

"Ontologon," said the maiden, "thou art young, and thy arm is strong. Thou art sufficient to thine own subsistence, thine own joys. My mother languishes, and is sick—who shall feed her? If I depart with thee, who shall comfort her? Hath she any other child, to make the corn grow around her habitation, or to seek in the woods those roots which ease her pains? Her groans would raise from its sepulchre the spirit of my father. It would curse the daughter who could forsake, for her own pleasures, the cry of misery in that home, where her own infant cries were soothed. It would frown on her who could bid to make her own grave that mother whose breast had given her nourishment. That frown would wither my soul, even while thy love cherished it. Tempt me no more Ontologon. The sound of thy voice is sweeter to my ear than the song of the bird making its first nest in the spring. [173] My eyes pour forth water at thy words, but my heart is fixed."

"I will not leave thee, Zenelasie, said the lover. My boat shall pursue the fish into the deepest waters, and my arrow bring the birds from the highest boughs for thee. Thou shalt watch by the couch of thy mother; but let me be thy husband, Zenelasie, and sustain the heart that pours life into hers."

"Thou hast given thy word to the chiefs and warriours," she answered. "Make not thyself false for a woman. I will not see the finger pointed at thee, and hear the brave say, Ontologon hath no soul. Thou wouldst soon be as the chained lion, for love is a fleeting flame. Oh! son of Lodonto. It falls like a band of snow from the breast of the warriour. The heart has other voices, than those which it utters in the spring, in the bloom of flowers. Be wise, and it shall breathe music, when the frosts of winter shall come, and the flowers are faded. Go then where are wider waters, and higher mountains than these. The eye of the pale race blasts our glory. We fleet before them, as the brook vanishes in the summer. Go then to the country, where are none but red men, and let thy name be among their bravest."

The dark brow'd youth replied, "Ah! whither shall we go, and not hear the speech of the white man? If we hide in the thickest forest, he is there, and the loftiest trees fall before him. If we dive beneath the darkest waters, his ships cover them, ere we can rise again. We [174] cannot fly so swiftly that he overtakes us not; so far, but he is there before us. He speaks, and our wigwams vanish, and his cities spring up, like the mushroom, in one night. It is written upon the earth, and in the sky, that the Indians must perish, and the white man blot out his name. Yet fear not that the soul of Ontologon shall bow. No! he will go to another land where the ancient spirit of his race hath yet a little resting-place, "like a wayfaring man, who tarrieth for a night." When it slumbers, he will awake it; when it departs, he will follow it. If it die, he will die also, and there shall his grave be. Ontologon will be first among the hunters, and captain among the brave. He will gain a name for thy sake, and when thy mother sleeps where is no waking, he will return and claim thee.

"Go then warriour!" said the maiden, throwing off the melancholy that had marked her tone. Go, bold son of Lodonto, whose arm was mighty in battle. Yet speak not of the death of her who bore me. I will guard her as the apple of my eye. Who knoweth but she may yet rise up from her sorrows, as the drooping willow rises after the storm? Who knows but she may yet lay her head on my grave, and mourn. A little while, and I shall no longer see thy noble form, towering above the loftiest. I will watch thee, as thy oars bear thee from our shore. When thy boat is as a speck, I shall know it, from those which surround it. When it loses itself in darkness, I will lay my face in the dust, and weep. But what are the tears [175] of a woman. Regard them not, O son of Lodonto! Think of the fame of our fathers, ere the glory departed from them. When the Sun sinks to his rest, or rising reddens the hill-tops, and I speak to Him whom the eye seeth not, thy name, Ontologon, will be first,—last in my prayer. I would not that thou shouldst know all the weakness of my heart. Be thou strong in the day of evil, and the Great Spirit give thee a name among thy race."

Scarcely had she finished speaking, when the Pastor of the tribe, having ended his private farewells, and benedictions, advanced to the centre of the circle. His head was uncovered, and traces of emotion were visible on his brow. Waving his hand the throng separated, those who were to depart, from those who were to remain. There was a brief and heavy silence, during which he past his hand over his eyes. Then, gathering firmness as he proceeded, he spoke with the tenderness of a father, who sees the children, whom he has reared, departing from the paternal abode; yet with the solemnity of a spiritual teacher, who desires above all things, the edification of his flock.

"Think ye not, as ye thus divide, neighbour from neighbour, and friend from friend, and parent from child—think ye not of that eternal separation at the last day, where on one side shall be anthems of joy, on the other wailing and gnashing of teeth? And what hand shall then remove you one from another, as "a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats?" What hand, but that which was pierced [176] for you, which is still stretched out to draw every soul of you within the Ark of the Covenant? See that ye refuse not Him who speaketh from Heaven; for there remaineth no other sacrifice for sin. Hoary heads arise here and there among you. Fathers! God only knoweth whether I shall see your faces again on earth, I charge ye by the fear of Jehovah, by the love of Christ, by the consolations of the Holy Spirit, that ye look upon my face with joy, when this earth, and these heavens shall vanish like a scroll. Here also stand those, whom age has not bowed down—the youth in his strength—and the babe of a few summers. Remember that Death hath set his seal upon you also. He forgetteth none born of woman. Many herbs are cut down or wither in their greenness. Few are brought to the harvest, fully ripe. See that none of you disobey Him, whose anger ye cannot bear. If you hear my voice no more upon earth, remember, whenever you stand upon this river's brink, that I warned you with tears to make your Judge your friend. See that not one of you, "drink the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture," where is no hope.

Kneeling upon the young turf, he commended them in fervent supplication, to the keeping of an Almighty Protector; and rising, gave his paternal benediction to all. Laying his hand upon the head of John Cooper, whom he desired should be a shepherd to his flock, until his next visitation, he said, "receive him! he hath corrupted no man, he hath defrauded no man."—"The blessing of the Almighty [177] be upon thee," replied the pious husbandman. "May his dews refresh the new branch of thy planting, and his sunbeams remember the broken tree thou leavest behind thee. Saith not his holy word "that there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease?" Thus may it be with our people—with our Church. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground, yet through the scent of water may it bud, and bring forth boughs as a plant." Amen! said their Pastor, and bowing himself to the people, turned his steps down ward to the water. This was understood as the signal for departure, and every emigrant entered his boat. It had been concerted that a parting hymn should be sung, expressive of their sympathies and devout hopes. It rose in deep and solemn melody from the waters, while the measured stroke of the oar gave it energy, as it softened in distance. From the shore the response swelled fitfully, and in its cadence were heard the voices of those that wept. It was like the music on the coast of Labrador, where, amid the cold blasts, the poor Esquimaux raises his anthem, at the departure of their yearly mission ship, which brings relief to his poverty, and sheds light on his darkness. It was like the music of the Jews, at the foundation of their second temple, where the sound of cymbal and trumpet, could not be distinguished from "the noise of the weeping" of those who remembered the glory of their first holy and beautiful house. At length [178] all was silent. The echo died upon the waters, and the sob upon the shore. Each might be seen, slowly taking his way to his respective abode, yet often lingering to try if, amid the diminishing throng, the brother could distinguish the boat of his brother, or the father that of his son. Last of all Zenelasie was seen, wrapping her head in her mantle, and flying like a young roe to the habitation of her mother.

But long after her departure, the form of Robert, the mournful Chief, was discovered slowly pacing the bank of the river. He had spoken a few words, with animated gesture to the remainder of his tribe, ere they dispersed, and had then sought to conceal himself from them. His pride would not permit his heart to unburthen itself in their presence, or to reveal to his inferiours how deeply it was pierced. He wandered silently onward, his head declined upon his breast, until he reached the solitary recess, which still bears the name of "the chair of Uncas." It is a rude seat, formed by Nature in the rock, and so encompassed with masses of the same material, and embosomed in the thicket, as to be almost impervious to the eye, except from the water. When, in the seventeenth centutury, the fort of that monarch was invested by the Narragansetts, and his people perishing with famine, he took measures to inform the English of their perilous situation, and was found seated in this rude recess, anxiously watching the river, when those supplies arrived which rescued him from destruction. These were conveyed in a large [179] canoe from Say brook, under cover of darkness, by an enterprising man of the name of Leffingwell, to whom Uncas, as a testimony of gratitude, gave a large tract of land, comprising the whole of the present town of N.

There that king sat, on the throne furnished by Nature, with no guard, but the shapeless columns of stone, whose mossy helmets waved over him, and no canopy but the midnight cloud, listening with throbbing heart, for the dash of that oar, on which hung his only hope. At a distance were his famishing people, and his besieging foes holding the war-dance, which preceded their morning battle, and their expected victory. On the same seat, after the lapse of more than a hundred years, reclined this lonely Chief of a diminished and dispersed tribe. Behind him was no fort, no warriours. Upon the still waters, where his eye rested, was no hope. The setting Sun threw his lustre over them for a moment, as if they were an expanse of liquid silver, and illumined the bold, broad forehead of the Chieftain, half-hidden by his dark clustering locks, over which a slight tinge of snow had been scattered, not by time, but by sorrow. He watched the last rays, and as they faded into twilight exclaimed in agony, "Thou shalt rise again in glory; but for us there is no returning,—no dawn." He concealed his brow with his hands, and his bursts of grief were long, and passionate. None were there to report, "I saw my Chief mourning." Day, at her return, found him in the same spot in the same attitude, as when she sank to repose. Starting, as her beams [180] discovered him, "through the misty mountain-tops," he left communing with the shades of his fathers, and sought the remnant of his people.