My footsteps press where, centuries ago,
The Red Men fought and conquered; lost and won.
Whole tribes and races, gone like last year's snow,
Have found the Eternal Hunting-Grounds, and run
The fiery gauntlet of their active days,
Till few are left to tell the mournful tale:
And these inspire us with such wild amaze
They seem like spectres passing down a vale
Steeped in uncertain moonlight, on their way
Towards some bourn where darkness blinds the day,
And night is wrapped in mystery profound.
We cannot lift the mantle of the past:
We seem to wander over hallowed ground:
We scan the trail of Thought, but all is overcast.
There was a time-and that is all we know!
No record lives of their ensanguined deeds:
The past seems palsied with some giant blow,
And grows the more obscure on what it feeds.
A rotted fragment of a human leaf;
A few stray skulls: a heap of human bones!
These are the records-the traditions brief-
'Twere easier far to read the speechless stones.
The fierce Ojibwas, with tornado force,
Striking white terror to the hearts of braves!
The mighty Hurons, rolling on their course,
Compact and steady as the ocean waves!
The stately Chippewas, a warrior host!
Who were they?-Whence?-And why? no human tongue can boast.