An American Tale

Attic Chest Wednesday May 8th 1816


O’er plains where Chile’s warlike race
 Th’ invading Spaniard’s force withstood,
And still Aranco bears the trace
 Of stern Valdivia’s noble blood,
The fleet Telasco urged the chase,
 He speeds o’er mountain, lake, and wood,
Swift fly the birds, for well they know
The terrors of his sounding bow.


The blood of brave Caupolican
 Flowed freely in his grand-child’s veins
Less fleet the agile llama ran
 O’er mountain crags, or naked plains
And in the combat, not a man
 Of all the tribes, his arm sustains.
Victorious o’er a thousand foes
To hunt the youthful chieftain goes.


No mother’s baneful cares defaced
 The beauty of his ample brows,
Or marred that form, by Nature graced
 With all that healthful toil bestows.
As o’er the wide uncultured waste
 With godlike energy he goes.
A Grecian bard, as swift he strode,
Had deemed the youth their archer god.


With poisoned shafts a quiver filled
 A bow of stubborn wood he bore,
A tiger which his arm had killed,
 Supplied the only garb he wore.
A lance of pointed wood he held,
 Which many a llama shall deplore,
And in his slender scrip was seen
That powder famed, of potent green.


Where pungent salt and pounded maize
 With sweet angelica unite,
Sustained by this, thro’ rugged ways
 He roams for many a day and night,
Nor courage fails, nor strength decays,
 Nor calls the craving appetite,
While with unerring shafts he slays,
Provision for the wintry days.


The lofty peak of Tencapel
 In burning pride before him rose
And far behind in bolder swell
 Flamed Chillan mid a waste of snows.
O’er rugged steep, thro’ woody dell
 With foot untired Telasco goes.
He starts not from impending ice,
He skirts the desperate precipice.


In vain the mild alpaca flies,
 His darts the llama’s speed attain
By him th’ unwieldy tapir dies,
 The birds ascend the skies in vain.
From rock to rock the hunter hies,
 He springs thro’ thicket, grove and plain,
The tiger marked his rapid way,
And dared not rush upon his prey.


Now plunging in primeval shades
 That scarce admit the light of day
Thro’ tangling brakes and trackless glades
 Telasco forced his desperate way.
More thick the verdant umbrage spreads
 While dangled from each graceful spray,
The clematis of rich perfume,
The purple cogul’s scentless bloom.


In lilac pride or fragrant white
 The rich magnolia blossomed there
And flowers that scent the silent night,
 And pale syringas sweet as pair,
And trees that in the pallid light,
 As clothed with silvery scales appear.
And there the vermil kalmia vies
With the loved rose of Eastern skies.


But whence that cry, so loud and near,
 That echoes thro’ the quivering shade?
A wandering nation visit there
 The turf that hides the mighty dead
And by their honoured bones they swear
 To feed the hate their fathers fed
While vengeance mingles with the wail
Of filial grief that loads the gale.


And well their chief Telasco knows,
 The crimson feathers of his crest
The fiery eye and flattened brows
 His deadliest enemy attest.
Another day, the furious foes
 His unprotected tribe molest,
While heedless he pursues the chase,
Destruction hovers o’er his race.


But who is she whose sable hair
 A curious wreath of shells entwines?
While her short vest of feathers rare
 A band of glittering beads confines.
A ring of gold in either ear
 On either polished ankle shines,
Her lively smile, her graceful mien,
Seemed brighter in so rude a scene.


But hark! thro’ all the startled air
 Reverberates low a sullen sound,
The screaming birds attest their fear,
 Heaves like the waves the quaking ground.
And thro’ the darkened atmosphere,
 The scorching cinders fall around
Hark! distant Cotiapo roars
His vast eruptions shake the shores.


The opening ground a rent displayed,
 Dense fumes and noxious vapours rise,
And on its brink the trembling maid
 Stands while her heedless father flies.
And all his tribe refuse their aid
 Regardless of her piercing cries.
Her dangerous state Telasco viewed,
He bore her to the sheltering wood.


But woods afford no friendly shade,
 She branches wave, the trunks are riven,
Swift from the falling groves they fled
 They seek again the open heaven — 
The shocks have ceased, the skies are red
 Red with the tranquil light of even
But that broad flame in middle air
Is that the dread volcano’s glare.


“No,” cried the maid, “in that bright blaze
 Telasco’s hated race expires
My father’s tribe, by secret ways
 Approach to spread the fatal fires.
Perchance amid those sanguine rays
 The savage chieftain’s soul aspires.
Then farewell sorrow, doubt alarm,
My sire need fear no meaner arm.”


Telasco’s hand the hatchet raised — 
 It sunk inactive by his side;
His eyes with sudden fury blazed — 
 In pity’s dew the flashes died.
While on the gentle maid he gazed,
 Grief, anger and and revenge subside?
In her he less had liked to trace
A heart and alien to her race.


“Farewell!” he cried, “my duty calls,
 The combat I must seek to share,
Due westward and lie thy native walls,
 Its issue wait in safety there.
Secure whate’er thy sire befalls
 Telasco’s arm he need not fear.
By his if thy preserver die,
Give to his fate one passing sigh.”


Fleet as the archer’s winged reeds
 Yet silent as the dews of night.
Low crouched amid the tangled weeds
 Telasco still pursues the light.
Swift as the gliding snake he speeds,
 His blazing huts are full in sight,
While standing on their comrades slain,
His men a fruitless fight maintain.


Concealed behind a spreading tree,
 With fatal aim his javelin flew,
While sent by hands they cannot see
 His shafts the foremost foemen slew.
 Some with sudden panic flee
Telasco’s rallying friends pursue,
While to avenge their comrades’ blood
The holder few surround the wood.


Now hence now there Telasco goes,
 At every turn he makes his stand,
And darts as from a thousand bows.
 Fall thick upon the shrinking band,
Again their lives the wood enclose,
 Their Cacique seized a lighted brand.
He fires the wood, the crackling blaze,
Shoots to the skies its sanguine rays.


Now fall primeval groves, and wide
 The devastating fury spread,
Trees that in patriarchal pride
 Waned o’er their great forefathers dead,
And tender saplings by their side
 Gleam one sad mass of dusky red.
They totter, lo! the crashing sound
The fiery hail that rises round.


Affrighted by the sultry glare
 On high the screaming birds arose
The tiger started from his lair,
 And howling sprung upon his foes,
From slumber roused the unwieldy bear.
 Swift o’er the blazing branches goes,
And followed by the angry boar
The nearest of the assailants tore.


Still fought Telasco unsubdued,
 His arrows kindle as they fly,
And branches from the blazing wood
 His quiver’s failing store supply.
And now against a pine he stood
 Whose shady honours flamed on high.
His sinewy arms its trunk enclose.
It falls, it whelms an hundred foes.


With it the brave Telasco fell
 But rose, his hatchet in his hand,
And leaping forth, with hideous yell
 He slays the boldest of the band.
His force not all their ranks repel.
 They fly, or strew the blazing sand.
Their chief alone to combat runs,
Their chief alone Telasco shuns.


For well Oneyda’s sire, he knows,
 Whose cherish’d life he vowed to shame
But while he falls on meaner foes
 The Cacique’s hatchet rose in air.
Deep in his naked side it goes.
 He fell, and life had ended there,
But vengeance, still unsated saves,
For keener woes the life she craves.


Far from the burning scene of strife
 They give him to Oneyda’s care,
Oh! could he spurn the draught of life
 From heart so kind or hands so fair
Tho’ for the hour with tortures rife,
 Those cares his wasted strength repair.
Or could she see his sunken eye,
And sternly kind those cares deny.


Telasco cannot hope for grace
 Nor could his spirit brook to be
Adopted offspring of a race
 His arm so oft hat taught to flee,
Nor shall his end a chief disgrace
 No sign of pain his foes shall see,
In death alone he hopes to prove
He might deserve Oneyda’s love.


Yet fancy sometimes pictures scenes
 The fairer, that he knows them vain.
A gleam of rapture intervenes
 E’en in his darkest hours of pain
Now on his arm Oneyda leans,
 For her he seeks the juicy cane.
Or lists to the bird that tells,
Where bees conceal their honied cells.


And now for her with pointed spear
 He wounds the ocean’s finny race,
Or bounding high, in full career
 Outstrips the llama in the chase.
Or while she sings, assists to rear
 Their field of manioc or of maize
to her the mocking bird replies — 
Alas, the golden vision flies.


But time rolls on: the hour is nigh,
 Fixed for Telasco’s sacrifice,
Each warrior comes to feast his eye
 With the lost hero’s agonies.
Oh, say, does less of mercy lie
 In those by whom a prisoner dies;
Who tear his senseless flesh, or those,
Who banquet on his living woes.


Yet once Oneyda strove to wake
 Some pity in her stubborn sire,
No tears the fires of vengeance slake
 On her she draws his fiercest ire,
“Thou alien, pleadst thou for his sake,
 Then thou shalt light the fatal pyre,
And learn like me to glut thine eyes
While he in lingering torments dies.”


The hour is come, the victim placed,
 The gathering crowds each moment swell,
And thrice her torch Oneyda raised
 Thrice nerveless at her side it fell.
At once her eye more brightly blazed
 Her glowing cheeks new courage tell
Telasco with unshrinking frame
Beholds her light the fatal flame.


But yestermorn those youthful trees
 Spread their green branches to the day
Yet now they blaze and vengeance sees
 Half his rich harvest torn away
Oneyda from th’ industrious bees
 Had stolen their waxen cells away
Haste wretches, glut your savage ire
Soon will your helpless prey expire.


But pause we here, the Muse delights
 In scenes of horror less o’erbearing
When for his country’s weal he fights
 She loves the hero’s matchless daring
She follows to his funeral rites
 Where grief with patriot pride is sharing
But sickening turns her heavenly eye
From brutal coward cruelty


Yet still the victims limbs sustain
 Exhausted hatred’s fiercest store,
“Fool, fools,” Oneyda cried, “’tis vain
 Desist! your senseless arts give o’er.
Tho’ keen your instruments of pain
 This simple dart shall touch him more.”
She spoke, she plunged it in her side
Gazed on his altered face and died.


Oh! then Telasco’s shriek of woe
 Was mingled with her father’s cry
His cheeks a deadlier paleness show
 His hands are clenched in agony.
Then as the fires more keenly glow
 To end his hour of misery,
He smiles to see his wasting frame
He sinks amid the hottest flame.