African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Eloise A. Bibb, "Captain Smith and Pocahontas" (1895)


The night hung o'er Virginia's forest wild,
Stately with beauty unsurpassed before
Shone the full moon serenely; and the wind
As it roused slumb'ring leaflets from their dreams,

Wakens alike the violet wet with dew,
And fans the lily on the water's breast,
Bidding the nodding petals sleep no more.
The crackling branches told a fire was stirred;

Its light wad dim; yet, round it sat huge forms,
Like lofty oaks that near the watchers stood
With giant strength, spectators dumb, yet wake
With tenderest sympathy. The Red man decked
With plumage gorgeous, and bracelet bright,

With cheek besmeared with paint, and visage wild,
In solemn conference debated now.
Murdering Captain Smith. The forest still,
With a thrill echoed angrily their loud and stormy words;
The croaking of the frog had the exactness of a dirge;

And when clouds from the moon were swept,
A prisoner bound in chains, with wan and
death-like face was seen to pray.
An Indian maid, with slender form in rustic beauty clad,
And crowned with a wealth of raven ringlets,

Heard him say in tongue familiar, these words of deep woe:
"Alone, alone, I die.
No friend or much-loved face is here to-night
To chase these visions dark from out my sight.
That blind my quiv'ring eye.

Alas! could I but live another year,
Much of the things I dream would I know here.
"How shines the moon to-night?
Divinely! with a grace I've seen before.
Ay--sick indeed this heart, these temples sore,

That could forget thy light!
Thou'll be the torch to light my light my spirit, queen,
From this bleak world to visions now unseen.
"And this is life! Ay, life!

Anxiety, dull care, a restless pain,
That rouses, thrills, and sickens sould and brain,
A never-ending strife
'Twixt the spirit and the flesh for right,

And thus we ripen in a world of night,
"But see! they hasten now,
Their consultation o'er, I soon will die;
On yonder block of stone my head will lie.

And crushed will be my brow.
Farewell, dear home and loved ones far away;
Farewell to her who taught me first to pray.
"They come,--Alas! so soon,

To die, O God! among this dusky crew,
Where there is neither friend nor kinsmen true.
Shine on, O friendly moon!
Thine is the only white face that dost see

This savage crowd that seek to murder me.
"My head is on the stone,
The chief with huge club bends to strike the blow;
A moment longer and no more I'll know,

But list! I hear a moan.
Who weeps for me and mourns that I should die?
Who wastes on Smith a tear, or e'en a sigh?
"What ! the blow does not descend!

Whose form is this that clingest to mine own?
What means these tears and that heart-breaking groan?
An angel heaven dost send
To plead my cause and save this worthless life.

That seems to love adventure, gloom and strife.
"O, Pocahontas, brave!
Thou beaut'ous queen! thou givest thy love to me,
As did Dian, unasked,--an offering free.

Cursed be the treach'rous knave,
Who would forget his manhood and destroy
Thy noble soul, or with they affections toy.
"Long livest thou, sweet maid!

My bosom glows with gratitude and love,
That thou wast sent as from the choir above,
This reckless being to save.
How sweet life seems when snatched from death and pain,

O God of love! 'tis true, I'm free again."


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