Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Settler

    The Settler
    By Alfred B. Street

His echoing axe the settler swung
Amid the sea-like solitude.
And rushing, thundering, down were flung
The Titans of the wood;
Loud shrieked the eagle as he dashed
From out his mossy nest, which crashed
With its supporting bough,
And the first sunlight, leaping, flashed
On the wolf's haunt below.

Rude was the garb, and strong the frame
Of him who plied his ceaseless toil:
To form that garb, the wild-wood game
Contributed their spoil;
The soul that warmed that frame, disdained
The tinsel, gaud, aud glare, that reigned
Where men their crowds collect;
The simple fur, untrimmed, unstained.
This forest tamer decked.

The paths which wound 'mid gorgeous trees,
The streams whose bright lips kissed their flowers.
The winds that swelled their harmonies
Through those sun-hiding bowers,
The temple vast—the green arcade,
The nestling vale, tho grassy glade.
Dark cave and swampy lair;
These scenes and sounds majestic, made
His world, his pleasures, there.

His roof adorned, a pleasant spot,
'Mid the black logs green glowed the grain,
And herbs and plants the woods knew not,
Throve in the sun and rain.

The smoke-wreath curling o'er the dell,
The low—the bleat—the tinkling bell,
All made a landscape strange.
Which was the living chronicle
Of deeds that wrought the change.

The violet sprung at Spring's first tinge,
The rose of Summer spread its glow,
The maize hung on its Autumn fringe,
Rude Winter brought his snow; 
And still the settler labored there,
His shout and whistle woke the air,
As cheerily he plied
His garden spade, or drove his shore
Along the hillock's side.

This poem, and others extolling the delights of the New York wilderness were reprinted in Forest Leaves, a quarterly magazine published by the TB Sanatorium at Gabriels, 1903-1934.  The poet Alfred B. Street, the onetime NY State Librarian, often wrote about life in the wilderness with poetic descriptions of nature.  Street's "The Forsaken Road" evokes the balance of wilderness and settlement that is part of the Adirondacks in its first few lines:

In the deep bosom of the wilderness,
Arbor'd with green, now hidden by the leaves
Dropp'd at the breath of Autumn, seaming here
The hollow wet with oozing springs, and there
Traced lightly on the firm and level glade
Winds, in two wheel-marks, a forsaken road.

Evert A. & George L. Duyckinck, The Cyclopedia of American Literature p.435
(Philadelphia: William Rutter & Co., 1880)(Vol. 2)

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