1820
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Yamoyden: Introductions and Conclusion.

Yamoyden, a Tale of the Wars of King Philip, in six Cantos, by the late Rev. James Wallis Eastburn, A.M. and his Friend.

Robert Charles Sands


Robert Charles Sands frames his tale of King Philips's War with 22 Spenserians. This practice had been introduced by Walter Scott in the Lady of the Lake (1810), though Sands no doubt also recalls Thomas Campbell's Gertrude of Wyoming, where the narrative itself is written in Spenserians. Yamoyden, written in collaboration with James Wallis Eastburn, is written in mixed measures with copious notes. Compare Sands's address to the "Spirit of Eld" to Scott's address to the "Harp of the North" in Lady of the Lake.

Advertisement: "The Poem, in the main, is still to be considered as having been written three years ago; when the age of Mr. Eastburn was twenty, and that of the Editor eighteen years. The latter had scarce attempted versification, of any kind, from the time when the draught of Yamoyden was finished: and nothing but the circumstances he has stated, could have induced him to resume the practice, or appear as the author of a poem. As to his individual reputation, on that score, he believes, he is sincerely and perfectly indifferent: but it would be folly to deny, that he could not, without pain, see this joint production, now consecrated in his memory by the death of his friend, meet with unfair criticism or sullen neglect..." p. vii.

New England Galaxy: "There is a very beautiful Proem in this work, in which the Editor gives vent to his attachment for his friend, and dwells on the recollections of their infancy. It is written in the Spenserian measure, and distinguished by uncommon classical purity and elegance. Byron, misanthrope as he is, would not be ashamed of it, and Scott would hug the author to his breast with a manly sympathy" 4 (11 May 1821) 121.

Literary and Scientific Repository: "The scene is Mount Haup; a spot to which its own romantic beauty, and the death of the warrior king, have given just celebrity. Setting aside the beautiful descriptions of scenery, with which the poem abounds, and the Indian superstitions which form its machinery, and are thoroughly wrought into its texture, the story is briefly told. — After the general defeat of the Pequots with other barbarous tribes, and the destruction of Narraganset Fort, Philip, with his followers, is lurking in the forests of Mount Haup. — He recounts to them their injuries in a powerful harangue, and rouses them to a general expression of revengeful determination, by their characteristic war-whoop; — one of them, Agamoun, does not join the cry; and being sternly questioned by Philip, confesses that he considers all further attempts to resist their civilized invaders, useless; and advises that they should purchase peace by submitting to their power. Philip instantly executes the summary justice of a Sachem, upon his traitorous officer; and threatens Ahauton, a leader of the same tribe, who interposes in behalf of his friend, with similar punishment; Ahauton desists, and since he is unable to save, determines to avenge his brother warrior. The dangers, to which Philip and his tribe are exposed, requiring exclusive devotion on the part of his followers, he orders several of them, among whom is Ahauton, to remove secretly the wife and child of Yamoyden, a Nipnet chief attached to his cause, so that being free from the ties of domestic affection, he may yield himself up entirely to the hatred of their enemies and the service of his leader; this introduces two new characters of considerable interest; Fitzgerald, who, having killed his own brother in Cromwell's wars, and having been afterwards bereaved of a beloved wife, flies in remorse and disgust of life to the wilds of America; and Nora, his daughter, who adds another to the list of her father's woes by deserting him and following her lover, Yamoyden, to his retreat. She and her child are seized, during Yamoyden's absence, by the party commissioned by Philip; but she is afterwards rescued by a party of Indians and settlers, among whom is her father; one of the Indians whose prisoner she had been, escapes with her child; but Ahauton surrenders himself, and offers to guide the enemies of Philip to his retreat; in order that he may accomplish his purpose, of avenging his friend Agamoun: He does so; the followers of Philip are massacred; and he falls himself by the hand of Ahauton; the child of Yamoyden is killed by one of the followers of Philip, in attempting to avert a blow aimed at Fitzgerald; and Nora, who has been an agitated spectator of the whole contest, expires on the body of Yamoyden" 2 (January 1821) 53-54.



INTRODUCTION.
Hark to that shriek upon the summer blast!
Wildly it swells the fitful gusts between,
And as its dying echoes faint have past,
Sad moans the night-wind o'er the troubled scene.
Sunk is the day, obscured the valleys green;
Nor moon, nor stars are glimmering in the sky,
Thick veiled behind their tempest-gathered screen;
Lost in deep shades the hills and waters lie;
Whence rose that boding scream, that agonizing cry?

Spirit of Eld! who, on thy moss-clad throne,
Record'st the actions of the mighty dead;
By whom the secrets of the past are known,
And all oblivion's spell-bound volume read;—
Sleep wo and crime beneath thine awful tread?
Or is it but idle fancy's mockery vain,
Who loves the mists of wonder round to spread?
No! 'tis a sound of sadder, sterner strain,
Spirit of by-gone years, that haunts thine ancient reign!

'Tis the death wail of a departed race,—
Long vanished hence, unhonoured in their grave;
Their story lost to memory, like the trace
That to the greensward erst their sandals gave;
—Wail for the feather-cinctured warriors brave,
Who, battling for their fathers' empire well,
Perished, when valour could no longer save
From soulless bigotry, and avarice fell,
That tracked them to the death, with mad, infuriate yell.

Spirit of Eld! inspire one generous verse,
The unpractised minstrel's tributary song;
Mid these thine ancient groves he would rehearse
On that rude column, shrined thy wrecks among,
Tradition! names there are, which time hath worn,
Nor yet effaced; proud names, to which belong
A dismal tale of foul oppressions borne,
Which man can ne'er recall, but which the muse may mourn.

CANTO SECOND.
Hail! sober Evening! thee the harassed brain
And aching heart with fond orisons greet:
The respite thou of toil; the balm of pain;
To thoughtful mind the hour for musing meet:
'Tis then the sage, from forth his lone retreat,
The rolling universe around espies;
'Tis then the bard may hold communion sweet
With lovely shapes, unkenned by grosser eyes,
And quick perception comes of finer mysteries.

The silent hour of bliss! when in the west
Her argent cresset lights the star of love:—
The spiritual hour! when creatures blest
Unseen return o'er former haunts to rove;
While sleep his shadowy mantle spreads above,
Sleep, brother of forgetfulness and death,
Round well-known couch, with noiseless tread they rove,
In tones of heavenly music comfort breathe,
And tell what weal or bale shall chance the moon beneath.

Hour of devotion! like a distant sea,
The world's loud voices faintly murmuring die;
Responsive to the spheral harmony,
While grateful hymns are borne from earth on high.
O! who can gaze on yon unsullied sky,
And not grow purer from the heavenward view!
As those, the Virgin Mother's meek, full eye,
Who met, if uninspired lore be true,
Felt a new birth within, and sin no longer knew.

Let others hail the oriflamme of morn,
O'er kindling hills unfurled with gorgeous dies!
O mild, blue Evening! still to thee I turn,
With holier thought, and with undazzled eyes;—
Where wealth and power with glare and splendour rise,
Let fools and slaves disgustful incense burn!
Still Memory's moonlight lustre let me prize;
The great, the good, whose course is o'er, discern,
And, from their glories past, time's mighty lessons learn!

CANTO THIRD.
Bright as the bird whom Indian legends sing,
Whose glance was lightning, and whose eye was flame,
The deep-voiced thunder trembling in his wing,
When from the ocean earth emerging came;—
Fair freedom soars with wing and glance the same,
And calls, from depths profound and cheerless waste,
The quickening spark that fires the burning frame,
Glows deathless in the patriot's ardent breast,
While loud the thunders speak, where lie her sons opprest.

O who hath ever from her buoyant air
Drank vigorous life beneath her wings outspread,
And would not that the scenes of nature fair
Lay rather like the desert seared and dead,—
Than see the spirit that inspired them fled,
Quenched the bright lightnings of her awful eye;
Hope, valour, crushed beneath oppression's tread,
And o'er the darkening scene of death descry
How stern destruction holds her drear ascendency.

Hearts that loved freedom came, away to tear
From fellow men, that birthright which they blest;
And they, to whom religion's cause was dear,
Fanned the unholy passion in their breast;—
The persecuted sought on the opprest
To trample; — bared the exterminating sword,
Above their victim's last, defenceless rest;
Yea, self-deluded, loud their cries they pour'd
For aid, to HIM, the God of peace, whom they adored.

CANTO FOURTH.
As if to battle, o'er the midnight heaven
The clouds are hurrying forth: now veiled on high,
Now sallying out, the moon and stars are driven,
As wandering doubtful; in the shifting sky,
Mid mazes strange the Dancers seem to fly;
Wildly the unwearied hunters drive the Bear:
Through the deep groves is heard a Spirit's cry;
And hark! what strain unearthly echoes there,
Borne fitful from afar, along the troubled air.


CANTO FIFTH.
'Tis night; the loud wind through the forest wakes,
With sound like ocean's roaring, wild and deep,
And in yon gloomy pines strange music makes,
Like symphonies unearthly, heard in sleep;
The sobbing waters dash their waves and weep;
Where moans the blast its dreary path along,
The bending firs a mournful cadence keep;
And mountain rocks re-echo to the song,
As fitful raves the storm, the hills and woods among.

CANTO SIXTH.
Woman! blest partner of our joys and woes!
Even in the darkest hour of earthly ill,
Untarnished yet, thy fond affection glows,
Throbs with each pulse, and beats with every thrill!
Bright o'er the wasted scene, thou hoverest still,
Angel of comfort to the failing soul;
Undaunted by the tempest, wild and chill,
That pours its restless and disastrous roll,
O'er all that blooms below, with sad and hollow howl!

When sorrow rends the heart, when feverish pain
Wrings the hot drops of anguish from the brow,
To sooth the soul, to cool the burning brain,
O, who so welcome and so prompt as thou!
The battle's hurried scene and angry glow,—
The death-encircled pillow of distress,—
The lonely moments of secluded wo,—
Alike thy care and constancy confess,
Alike thy pitying hand, and fearless friendship bless!

Thee youthful fancy loves in aid to call;
Thence first invoked the sacred sisters were;
The form that holds the enthusiast's heart in thrall,
He, mid his bright creation, paints most fair;—
True, — in this earthly wilderness of care,—
As hunter's path the wilds and forests through;
And firm, — all fragile as thou art, — to bear
Life's dangerous billows, — as the light canoe,
That shoots, with all its freight, the impetuous rapid's flow.

Thee, Indians tell, the first of men to win,
Clomb long the vaulted heaven's unmeasured height:
And well their uncouth fable speaks therein
The worth even savage souls can never slight.
Tired with the chase, the hunter greets at night
Thy welcome smile, the balm of every wo;
Thy patient toil makes all his labours light;
And from his grave when friends and kindred go,
Thou weeping comest, the sweet sagamite to strow!

CONCLUSION.
Sad was the theme, which yet to try we chose,
In pleasant moments of communion sweet;
When least we thought of earth's unvarnished woes,
And least we dreamed, in fancy's fond deceit,
That either the cold grasp of death should meet,
Till after many years, in ripe old age;
Three little summers flew on pinions fleet,
And thou art living but in memory's page,
And earth seems all to me a worthless pilgrimage.

Sad was our theme; but well the wise man sung,
"Better than festal halls, the house of wo;"
Tis good to stand destruction's spoils among,
And muse on that sad bourne to which we go.
The heart grows better when tears freely flow;
And, in the many-coloured dream of earth,
One stolen hour, wherein ourselves we know,
Our weakness and our vanity, — is worth
Years of unmeaning smiles, and lewd, obstreperous mirth.

'Tis good to muse on nations passed away,
For ever, from the land we call our own;
Nations, as proud and mighty in their day,
Who deemed that everlasting was their throne.
An age went by, and they no more were known!
Sublimer sadness will the mind control,
Listening time's deep and melancholy moan;
And meaner griefs will less disturb the soul;
And human pride falls low, at human grandeur's goal.

PHILIP! farewell! thee King, in idle jest,
Thy persecutors named; and if in deed,
The jewelled diadem thy front had prest,
It had become thee better, than the breed
Of palaces, to sceptres that succeed,
To be of courtier or of priest the tool,
Satiate dull sense, or count the frequent bead,
Or pamper gormand hunger; thou wouldest rule
Better than the worn rake, the glutton or the fool!

I would not wrong thy warrior shade, could I
Aught in my verse or make or mar thy fame;
As the light carol of a bird flown by,
Will pass the youthful strain that breathed thy name:
But in that land whence thy destroyers came,
A sacred bard thy champion shall be found;
He of the laureate wreath for thee shall claim
The hero's honours, to earth's farthest bound,
Where Albion's tongue is heard, or Albion's songs resound.

[pp. 3-5; 55-56; 89-90; 143; 181; 219-20; 253-55]