Archibald Lampman

Here you will find the Long Poem At the Long Sault: May, 1660 of poet Archibald Lampman

At the Long Sault: May, 1660

Under the day-long sun there is life and mirth 
 In the working earth,
 And the wonderful moon shines bright 
 Through the soft spring night, 
 The innocent flowers in the limitless woods are springing 
 Far and away 
 With the sound and the perfume of May, 
 And ever up from the south the happy birds are winging,
 The waters glitter and leap and play 
 While the grey hawk soars.

 But far in an open glade of the forest set 
 Where the rapid plunges and roars, 
 Is a ruined fort with a name that men forget,--
 A shelterless pen 
 With its broken palisade, 
 Behind it, musket in hand, 
 Beyond message or aid 
 In this savage heart of the wild, 
 Mere youngsters, grown in a moment to men, 
 Grim and alert and arrayed, 
 The comrades of Daulac stand. 
 Ever before them, night and day, 
 The rush and skulk and cry 
 Of foes, not men but devils, panting for prey;
 Behind them the sleepless dream
 Of the little frail-walled town, far away by the plunging stream,
 Of maiden and matron and child, 
 With ruin and murder impending, and none but they 
 To beat back the gathering horror 
 Deal death while they may, 
 And then die.

 Day and night they have watched while the little plain 
 Grew dark with the rush of the foe, but their host 
 Broke ever and melted away, with no boast 
 But to number their slain; 
 And now as the days renew 
 Hunger and thirst and care 
 Were they never so stout, so true, 
 Press at their hearts; but none 
 Falters or shrinks or utters a coward word, 
 Though each setting sun 
 Brings from the pitiless wild new hands to the Iroquois horde, 
 And only to them despair.

 Silent, white-faced, again and again 
 Charged and hemmed round by furious hands, 
 Each for a moment faces them all and stands 
 In his little desperate ring; like a tired bull moose 
 Whom scores of sleepless wolves, a ravening pack, 
 Have chased all night, all day 
 Through the snow-laden woods, like famine let loose; 
 And he turns at last in his track 
 Against a wall of rock and stands at bay; 
 Round him with terrible sinews and teeth of steel 
 They charge and recharge; but with many a furious plunge and wheel, 
 Hither and thither over the trampled snow, 
 He tosses them bleeding and torn; 
 Till, driven, and ever to and fro 
 Harried, wounded, and weary grown, 
 His mighty strength gives way 
 And all together they fasten upon him and drag him down.

 So Daulac turned him anew
 With a ringing cry to his men
 In the little raging forest glen,
 And his terrible sword in the twilight whistled and slew.
 And all his comrades stood
 With their backs to the pales, and fought
 Till their strength was done;
 The thews that were only mortal flagged and broke
 Each struck his last wild stroke,
 And they fell one by one,
 And the world that had seemed so good
 Passed like a dream and was naught.

 And then the great night came
 With the triumph-songs of the foe and the flame
 Of the camp-fires.
 Out of the dark the soft wind woke,
 The song of the rapid rose alway
 And came to the spot where the comrades lay,
 Beyond help or care,
 With none but the red men round them
 To gnash their teeth and stare.

 All night by the foot of the mountain
 The little town lieth at rest,
 The sentries are peacefully pacing;
 And neither from East nor from West

 Is there rumour of death or of danger;
 None dreameth tonight in his bed
 That ruin was near and the heroes
 That met it and stemmed it are dead.

 But afar in the ring of the forest,
 Where the air is so tender with May
 And the waters are wild in the moonlight,
 They lie in their silence of clay.

 The numberless stars out of heaven
 Look down with a pitiful glance;
 And the lilies asleep in the forest
 Are closed like the lilies of France.