Far in the centre of the deepest wood,
The assembled fathers of their country stood.
'Twas midnight now; the pine-wood fire burned red,
And to the leaves a shadowy glimmer spread;
The struggling smoke, or flame with fitful glance,
Obscured, or showed, some dreadful countenance;
And every warrior, as his club he reared,
With larger shadow, indistinct, appeared;
While more terrific, his wild locks and mien,
And fierce eye, through the quivering smoke, was seen.
In sea-wolf's skin, here Mariantu stood;
Gnashed his white teeth, impatient, and cried, blood!
His lofty brow, with crimson feathers bound,
Here, brooding death, the huge Ongolmo frowned;
And, like a giant of no earthly race,
To his broad shoulders heaved his ponderous mace.
With lifted hatchet, as in act to fell,
Here stood the young and ardent Teucapel.
Like a lone cypress, stately in decay,
When time has worn its summer boughs away,
And hung its trunk with moss and lichens sere,
The Mountain-warrior rested on his spear.
And thus, and at this hour, a hundred chiefs,
Chosen avengers of their country's griefs;
Chiefs of the scattered tribes that roam the plain,
That sweeps from Andes to the western main,
Their country-gods, around the coiling smoke,
With sacrifice, and silent prayers, invoke.
For all, at first, were silent as the dead;
The pine was heard to whisper o'er their head,
So stood the stern assembly; but apart,
Wrapped in the spirit of his fearful art,
Alone, to hollow sounds of hideous hum,
The wizard-seer struck his prophetic drum.
Silent they stood, and watched with anxious eyes,
What phantom-shape might from the ground arise;
No voices came, no spectre-form appeared;
A hollow sound, but not of winds, was heard
Among the leaves, and distant thunder low,
Which seemed like moans of an expiring foe.
His crimson feathers quivering in the smoke,
Then, with loud voice, first Mariantu spoke:
Hail we the omen! Spirits of the slain,
I hear your voices! Mourn, devoted Spain!
Pale-visaged tyrants! still, along our coasts,
Shall we despairing mark your iron hosts!
Spirits of our brave fathers, curse the race
Who thus your name, your memory disgrace!
No; though yon mountain's everlasting snows
In vain Almagro's toilsome march oppose;
Though Atacama's long and wasteful plain
Be heaped with blackening carcases in vain;
Though still fresh hosts those snowy summits scale,
And scare the Llamas with their glittering mail;
Though sullen castles lour along our shore;
Though our polluted soil be drenched with gore;
Insolent tyrants! we, prepared to die,
Your arms, your horses, and your gods, defy!
He spoke: the warriors stamped upon the ground,
And tore the feathers that their foreheads bound.
Insolent tyrants! burst the general cry,
We, met for vengeance--we, prepared to die,
Your arms, your horses, and your gods, defy!
Then Teucapel, with warm emotion, cried:
This hatchet never yet in blood was dyed;
May it be buried deep within my heart,
If living from the conflict I depart,
Till loud, from shore to shore, is heard one cry,
See! in their gore where the last tyrants lie!
The Mountain-warrior: Oh, that I could raise
The hatchet too, as in my better days,
When victor on Maypocha's banks I stood;
And while the indignant river rolled in blood,
And our swift arrows hissed like rushing rain,
I cleft Almagro's iron helm in twain!
My strength is well-nigh gone! years marked with woe
Have o'er me passed, and bowed my spirit low!
Alas, I have no son! Beloved boy,
Thy father's last, best hope, his pride, his joy!
Oh, hadst thou lived, sole object of my prayers,
To guard my waning life, and these gray hairs,
How bravely hadst thou now, in manhood's pride,
Swung the uplifted war-club by my side!
But the Great Spirit willed not! Thou art gone;
And, weary, on this earth I walk alone;
Thankful if I may yield my latest breath,
And bless my country in the pangs of death!
With words deliberate, and uplifted hand,
Mild to persuade, yet dauntless to command,
Raising his hatchet high, Caupolican
Surveyed the assembled chiefs, and thus began:
Friends, fathers, brothers, dear and sacred names!
Your stern resolve each ardent look proclaims;
On then to conquest; let one hope inspire,
One spirit animate, one vengeance fire!
Who doubts the glorious issue! To our foes
A tenfold strength and spirit we oppose.
In them no god protects his mortal sons,
Or speaks, in thunder, from their roaring guns.
Nor come they children of the radiant sky;
But, like the wounded snake, to writhe and die.
Then, rush resistless on their prostrate bands,
Snatch the red lightning from their feeble hands,
And swear to the great spirits, hovering near,
Who now this awful invocation hear,
That we shall never see our household hearth,
Till, like the dust, we sweep them from the earth.
But vain our strength, that idly, in the fight,
Tumultuous wastes its ineffectual might,
Unless to one the hatchet we confide;
Let one our numbers, one our counsels guide.
And, lo! for all that in this world is dear,
I raise this hatchet, raise it high, and swear,
Never again to lay it down, till we,
And all who love this injured land, are free!
At once the loud acclaim tumultuous ran:
Our spears, our life-blood, for Caupolican!
With thee, for all that in this world is dear,
We lift our hatchets, lift them high, and swear,
Never again to lay them down, till we,
And all who love this injured land, are free!
Then thus the chosen chief: Bring forth the slave,
And let the death-dance recreate the brave.
Two warriors led a Spanish captive, bound
With thongs; his eyes were fixed upon the ground.
Dark cypresses the mournful spot inclose:
High in the midst an ancient mound arose,
Marked on each side with monumental stones,
And white beneath with skulls and scattered bones.
Four poniards, on the mound, encircling stood,
With points erect, dark with forgotten blood.
Forthwith, with louder voice, the chief commands:
Bring forth the lots, unbind the captive's hands;
Then north, towards his country, turn his face,
And dig beneath his feet a narrow space.
Caupolican uplifts his axe, and cries:
Gods, of our land be yours this sacrifice!--
Now, listen, warriors!--and forthwith commands
To place the billets in the captive's hands--
Soldier, cast in the lot!
With looks aghast,
The captive in the trench a billet cast.
Soldier, declare, who leads the arms of Spain,
Where Santiago frowns upon the plain?

CAPTIVE.

Villagra!

WA RRIOR.

Earth upon the billet heap;
So may a tyrant's heart be buried deep!
The dark woods echoed to the long acclaim,
Accursed be his nation and his name!

WARRIOR.

Captive, declare who leads the Spanish bands,
Where the proud fortress shades Coquimbo's sands.

CAPTIVE.

Ocampo!

WARR IOR.

Earth upon the billet heap;
So may a tyrant's heart be buried deep!
The dark woods echoed to the long acclaim,
Accursed be his nation and his name!

WARRIOR.

Cast in the lot.
Again, with looks aghast,
The captive in the trench a billet cast.
Pronounce his name who here pollutes the plain,
The leader of the mailed hosts of Spain!

CAPTIVE.

Valdivia!
At that name a sudden cry
Burst forth, and every lance was lifted high.

WARRIOR.

Valdivia!
Earth upon the billet heap;
So may a tyrant's heart be buried deep!
The dark woods echoed to the long acclaim,
Accursed be his nation and his name!

And now loud yells, and whoops of death resound;
The shuddering captive ghastly gazed around,
When the huge war-club smote him to the ground.
Again deep stillness hushed the listening crowd,
While the prophetic wizard sang aloud.

SONG TO THE GOD OF WAR.

By thy habitation dread,
In the valley of the dead,
Where no sun, nor day, nor night,
Breaks the red and dusky light;
By the grisly troops, that ride,
Of slaughtered Spaniards, at thy side,--
Slaughtered by the Indian spear,
Mighty Epananum, hear!
Hark, the battle! Hark, the din!
Now the deeds of Death begin!
The Spaniards come, in clouds! above,
I hear their hoarse artillery move!
Spirits of our fathers slain,
Haste, pursue the dogs of Spain!
The noise was in the northern sky!
Haste, pursue! They fly--they fly!
Now from the cavern's secret cell,
Where the direst phantoms dwell,
See they rush, and, riding high,
Break the moonlight as they fly;
And, on the shadowed plain beneath,
Shoot, unseen, the shafts of Death!
O'er the devoted Spanish camp,
Like a vapour, dark and damp,
May they hover, till the plain
Is hid beneath the countless slain;
And none but silent women tread
From corse to corse, to seek the dead!

The wavering fire flashed with expiring light,
When shrill and hollow, through the cope of night,
A distant shout was heard; at intervals,
Increasing on the listening ear it falls.
It ceased; when, bursting from the thickest wood,
With lifted axe, two gloomy warriors stood;
Wan in the midst, with dark and streaming hair,
Blown by the winds upon her bosom bare,
A woman, faint from terror's wild alarms,
And folding a white infant in her arms,
Appeared. Each warrior stooped his lance to gaze
On her pale looks, seen ghastlier through the blaze.
Save! she exclaimed, with harrowed aspect wild;
Oh, save my innocent, my helpless child!
Then fainting fell, as from death's instant stroke;
Caupolican, with stern inquiry, spoke:
Whence come, to interrupt our awful rite,
At this dread hour, the warriors of the night?
From ocean.
Who is she who fainting lies,
And now scarce lifts her supplicating eyes?
The Spanish ship went down; the seamen bore,
In a small boat, this woman to the shore:
They fell beneath our hatchets,--and again,
We gave them back to the insulted main.
The child and woman--of a race we hate--
Warriors, 'tis yours, here to decide their fate.
Vengeance! aloud fierce Mariantu cried:
Let vengeance on the race be satisfied!
Let none of hated Spanish blood remain,
Woman or child, to violate our plain!
Amid that dark and bloody scene, the child
Stretched to the mountain-chief his hands and smiled.
A starting tear of pity dimmed the eye
Of the old warrior, though he knew not why.
Oh, think upon your little ones! he cried,
Nor be compassion to the weak denied.
Caupolican then fixed his aspect mild
On the white woman and her shrinking child,
Then firmly spoke:--
White woman, we were free,
When first thy brethren of the distant sea
Came to our shores! White woman, theirs the guilt!
Theirs, if the blood of innocence be spilt!
Yet blood we seek not, though our arms oppose
The hate of foreign and remorseless foes;
Thou camest here a captive, so abide,
Till the Great Spirit shall our cause decide.
He spoke: the warriors of the night obey;
And, ere the earliest streak of dawning day,
They lead her from the scene of blood away.

More verses by William Lisle Bowles

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