Written in Memory of A.D., a Pioneer of Southwest Virginia and of Bedford County, Tennessee
I. Descending Chestnut Ridge
Now let my habitude be where the vine Tumbles the sagging rails, and the late crow Alone can challenge, whom for countersign I open these uncrafty hands,
Unweaponed now to seek upon the hill Stones where no filial tribute can be lost,
Above the bones not laid in stranger’s lands,
But their own earth commingles with their dust;
To say for what beholden, to fulfill The unuttered vows.
To hear the great wind in the twilight boughs Whirl down the sapless nations and the cold Fix their long-withering moment which conceives No more the great year that their dreams foretold;
To walk where autumn heaps their promises And, unregenerate by false faith, to tread World-gazing prophecies as leaves to leaves;
To let the sibylline fragments fly.
Then slow descending by the hidden road To mark the clearing and to know the hearth Where one smoke stands against the frosty sky And one axe rings above the frosty earth.
II. The Immigrant
I cannot see him plain, that far-off sire Who notched the first oak on this western hill,
And the bronze tablet cannot tell what fire (Urging the deep bone back to the viking wave) Kindled his immigrant eye and drove his will.
But in the hearthside tale his rumor grows,
As voice to voice into the f olkchain melts And clamor of danger brings the lost kin close.
The runes run on, the song links stave by stave.
I summon him, the man of flints and pelts,
Alert with gun and axe.
The valley-rim Uplifts the wanderer on his buffalo-path,
First of the host of all who came like him,
Harried from croft and chapel, glen and strath.
And where the beech-mast falls, no pibrochs wail.
The claymore rusts forgetting once how red The dew lay at Culloden.
Old feuds fail,
And nevermore the axe sings on the wall—
Since age on age we fled,
Since we together,
Gael and Gaul,
Huguenot, came in company,
And washed the old bitter wars in the salt sea.
III. In Blue-Stocking Hollow
The time of man runs on;
Our home is far across the western wave Back of whose steeps, forsaken and forgone,
Lost continents ebb we have no power to save.
The unending cycle breaks against this strand Where blue tidewater laps our greener land.
And, once the Virginian voyage brings us clear,
The hoodless eagles of the new-world skies Towering, unshackle us, and the numberless deer Confound the musket, and the wild geese rise,
Hurling southward with invincible wing Omens unriddled for our journeying.
Rough pilgrims, faring far, whose Hesperus Stooped by the piney woods or mountain cove,
Or whom the Buffalo Gods to the perilous Lift of the Great Divide and the redwood grove Spoke on and bid lay down from sea to sea The sill and hearthstone of our destiny.
Salving our wounds, from the moody kings we came,
And even while kinsmen’s shoulders raised and set
The first log true, bethought us of a name
To seal the firm lips of our unregret,
To charm the door against the former age
And bless the lintel of our hermitage.
Recite then while the inviolate hearthflame leaps How Ilion fell, and, hound at knee, recall Platonic converse.
Let the screech owl keep Watch where the fat maize crowds the forest wall.
High by the talking waters grows the cane,
Wild by the salt lick herds the forest game.
And let the graybeard say when men and maids Come for his blessing: “This I leave to youl The Indian dream came on me in these glades,
And some strange bird-or-beast-word named me new.
Peace be to all who keep the wilderness.
Cursed be the heir who lets the freehold pass.”