1799
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Dirge of the American Widow.

Morning Post and Gazetteer (11 September 1799).

Robert Southey


Eleven blank-verse quatrains, not at all in the manner of Collins's Ode to Evening. The singer contemplates the sad and unexpected death of her husband in war — the omens had been silent — and anticipates the joy of putting captives to death on the morrow: "The vengeance of anguish shall soon have its course, | The fountains of grief and of fury shall flow; | I will think, AMALAHTA, of thee, | Will remember the days of our love." The poem, not signed, was reprinted by Southey in Metrical Tales (1805) with the title "Song of the Chikkasah Widow."



'Twas the voice of my husband that came on the gale,
The unappeas'd spirit in anger complains,
Rest, rest, AMALAHTA! be still!
The day of revenge is at hand.

The stake is made ready, the captives shall die,
To-morrow the song of their death shalt thou hear;
To-morrow thy Widow shall wield
The knife and the fire; be at rest!

The vengeance of anguish shall soon have its course,
The fountains of grief and of fury shall flow;
I will think, AMALAHTA, of thee,
Will remember the days of our love.

AMALAHTA, all day by the war-pole I sat,
Where idly thy hatchet of battle is hung,
I gaz'd on the bow of thy strength
As it wav'd on the stream of the wind.

The scalps that we number'd in triumph were there,
And the musket that never was levell'd in vain,
What a leap has it giv'n to my heart
To see thee suspend it in peace!

When the black and blood-banner was spread on the gale,
When thrice the deep voice of the war-drum was heard,
I remember thy terrible eyes
How they flash'd the dark glance of thy joy.

I remember the hope that shone over thy cheek,
As thy hand from the pole reach'd its doers of death,
Like the ominous gleam of the cloud
Ere the thunder and lightning are born.

He went — and ye came not to warn him in dreams,
Kindred Spirits of him who is Holy and Great!
O bird! and thy song was not heard,
The timely announcer of ill!

Alas, when thy brethren in conquest return'd,
When I saw the white plumes bending over their head,
And the pine boughs of triumph before,
Where the scalps of their victory swing.

The war-hymn they pour'd, and thy voice was not there!
I call'd thee! alas, the white deer-skin was brought,
And thy grave was prepar'd in the tend
That I had made ready for joy!

AMALAHTA, all day by thy war-pole I sit,
AMALAHTA, all night I weep over thy grave;
To-morrow the victims shall die,
And I shall have joy in revenge.

[unpaginated]