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The Missionary - Canto Fourth



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.
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:50 min read
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William Lisle Bowles

William Lisle Bowles was an English poet and critic In 1783 he won the chancellors prize for Latin verse In 1789 he published in a small quarto volume Fourteen Sonnets which were received with extraordinary favour not only by the general public but by such men as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Wordsworth The Sonnets even in form were a revival a return to an older and purer poetic style and by their grace of expression melodious versification tender tone of feeling and vivid appreciation of the life and beauty of nature stood out in strong contrast to the elaborated commonplaces which at that time formed the bulk of English poetry more…

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