'T was night. In silence the tranquil scene
Of earth lay under a sky serene.
The moon in her peerless beauty shone.
She traversed the ether fields alone,
With mildness sending her silver beams
To glitter and play in the lakes and streams;
While over the slumbering world she cast
Her mantle of light, as on she passed
Across the numberless stars, that strewed
Her path in the calm, deep solitude.
But there was one, at this peaceful hour,
Awake to worship the holy power,
Whose wisdom the firm foundations laid
Whereon the heavens and earth were made;
Who willed; and what to a world was wrought,
Arose from the depth of eternal thought;
Who spake, while Chaos the mandate heard—
And order appeared at his mighty word;
Who marked the space for the spheres to roll;
Who breathed—and man was a living soul!
The lady her evening prayer had said,
Had sung her hymn and a tear had shed,
As the sign of her faith she marked and blessed,
Where lightly it lay on her heaving breast;
While, bowed in spirit, she mourned within
That God's fair image, enslaved by sin,
Had caused the stream from the crimsoned tree,
Where death was conquered, and man made free—
That now he must pass to his native skies
Through the blood of a guiltless sacrifice.
The cross she wore was of oaken wood,
That once in a far-off wild had stood:
'T was carved from the heart of the forest king,
And hung o'er hers by a silken string.
But what it had seen in the royal oak,
And since it bowed to the woodman's stroke,
Until to the sacred emblem formed,
And thus by a christian bosom warmed,
She asked; and this did it seem to say,
As on it, sleeping, a moonbeam lay:
'When called from my mother earth, at first
A fair, young shoot from the acorn burst;
And I was there in the infant tree;
Its vital fluid was feeding me.
And when it arose from the tender germ,
To stand in an oak mature and firm,
Its root struck deep and its head towered high,
While I, still hidden from mortal eye,
Was viewed alone by the radiant One
That kindled the stars and lit the sun.
'Unseen I've listened, and fearless heard
The cry of the savage, of beast and bird.
The heavy tramp of the gloomy bear
Has passed by me to his sunken lair;
The wolf prowled 'round me, the eagle screamed,
And near me the blood of their victims streamed.
I've heard the whiz of the Indian's dart,
The deer's last bound as it touched his heart,
And the crackling faggots that then have blazed,
But reached me not with the flame they raised.
'The wounded chieftain has pressed the sod
Beneath me, trusting an unknown God,
That he to a hunting-ground should go,
In the spirit-world, with his shafts and bow;
While death was hastening to dismiss
His blindly wandering soul from this.
And when that warrior-soul had fled,
And under the clods they laid their dead,
Then nature dissolved his mortal part,
To strengthen the oak in its root and heart.
'The scorching heat and the pinching cold
Have only rendered me strong and bold.
The storms of ages have 'round me beat,
But shook me not from my moveless seat.
The hail has rattled, the torrent poured,
The lightning glared and the thunder roared—
The wind with fury has tried its power
In vain, to ruin my strong high tower;
The sick earth opened, and heaved to free
Her fires, but never neglected me.
'And Nature her sweetest sounds has made
About me to play, in my calm, green shade.
The tender mother who found her young
Where o'er them the living veil was hung,
Would tell the joy of her downy breast
In song, while hovering 'round her nest.
The spirit that made the oak his care
Has touched his harp with a hand of air,
To whispering leaves, that danced to hear
The notes of their guardian angel near.
'But Time, who, born with his wings unfurled,
Where new-made matter became a world,
Has never suffered them since to pause,
Decrees, as first of his tyrant laws,
That all they sweep in his powerful range,
Shall take his signet, and yield to change.
And what no element could destroy,
The tree, which the savage beheld with joy,
And left it flourishing high and fair,
The hand of the white man would not spare.
'He came. The might of his arm he tried.
He smote the oak till it bowed and died.
The stately trunk of its head bereft,
When its limbs were lopped and its sides were cleft,
Was forced away from the sylvan scene,
To strengthen the frame of an ocean queen.
When pierced and probed by the cold, blue steel,
They fastened it over her noble keel,
On every side enclosing it tight
From Heaven's free air and its cheering light.
'When far from my own dear forest-ground,
I lay in irons, and firmly bound
To many an aged oak that died
To form that ship in her power and pride,
They gave her the arms of a mighty host,
And called her after Columbia's boast,
The "CONSTITUTION"—and I, in part,
Was nerve and strength to her dauntless heart.
But sad indeed were the scenes they then
Prepared for me in the ways of men!
'An exile, torn from my place of birth,
They now denied me a home on earth,
And hurried me off on the deep, to be
The restless sport of a rolling sea.
But, not the furious waves I crossed,
By winds and waters driven and tossed,
Nor yet the tempest, in all its wrath,
That came to trouble my perilous path,
Was half so terrible, as the strife
Of man with man, and his waste of life.
'When war strode over the yawning flood,
Displaying his garments drenched in blood,
The withering flash of his fiery eye
He gave as a signal for man to die.
His thundering voice for his victims roared—
And forth from their bosoms the life-streams poured!
A shroud for his banner on high he bore,
With death's dread countenance traced in gore.
'He claimed the ship. With his sword unsheathed,
He reapt on the deep, and round her wreathed
The fairest laurels, that spring and grow
Where drop the arms of a conquered foe!
And, dipped in the red and reeking sluice
Of life's warm current at once let loose,
Her palm he raised in victory high;
And bright was her glory to this world's eye,
Though weeds and weeping its light revealed,
As it shone afar from the victor's shield.
'But Time flew on; and the murdered oak
In many a battle was stricken and broke.
By the mouths of its wounds it craved release
From war and the waves, to the earth and peace.
And what it had sought in its strength, and failed,
It asked in its weakness, and thus prevailed.
From bonds and darkness 't was then set free;
And I was cut from its heart to be,
Through joy and sadness, a holy sign
Of the vow, the faith, and the hopes of thine.
'When war and death shall at length be slain,
For the Prince of peace and life to reign—
When sin, nor sorrow, nor pain, nor night,
Can pass the end of the christian fight—
Where earth's vain glory is all forgot
Before his brightness, who changeth not,
May the Spirit that hovers about thee here,
To note the cause of thy falling tear,
Attest to thy counting all as loss,
To follow the LAMB and bear the CROSS!'