Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pocahontas by William Makepeace Thackeray

I've never been a big poetry reader... I'm more for the long, drawn out novels that have lots and lots of meat. But this year, for history, I'm reading a book called American History in Verse, put together by Burton Stevenson. I'm really enjoying the poems I'm reading in it, so I thought, why not? So here is one of the several poems I've read so far.


Wearied arm and broken sword
Wage in vain the desperate fight;
Round him press a countless horde,
He is but a single knight.
Hark! a cry of triumph shrill
Through the wilderness resounds,
As with twenty bleeding wounds,
Sinks the warrior, fighting still.

Now they heap the funeral pyre,
And the torch of death they light;
A! 'tis hard to die by fire!
Who will shield the captive knight?
Roud the stake with a fiendish cry
Wheel and dance the savage crowd,
Cold the victim's mien and proud,
And his breast is bared to die.

Who will shield the fearless heart?
Who avert the murderous blade?
From the throng with sudden start
See, there springs an Indian maid.
Quick she stands before the knight:
"Loose the chain, unbind the ring!
I am the daughter of the king,
And I claim the Indian right!"

Dauntlessly aside the flings
Lifted axe and thirsty knife,
Fondly to his heart she clings,
And her bosom guards his life!
In the woods of Powhatan,
Still 'tis told by Indian fires
How a daughter of their sires
Saved a captive Englishman.

- William Makepeace Thackeray

This poem is definitely not historically accurate. Historians agree that this never happened. My history book says, "...and on one of these (expeditions) was taken prisoner by the Indians and conducted to the camp of their chief, Powhatan. According to the story he sent to England a few months later, he was well treated and escorted back to Jamestown. Eight years later, when writing an account of Powhatan's younger daughter, Pocahontas, for the entertainment of Queen Anne, he embellished this plain and probably truthful tale with the romantic incidents so long received as history."

(Note: I will not be posting poems from just this history book. I daresay I'll be posting a lot about Poe in the near future... He's a very favorite, with prose and poetry.)

Happy reading! :)

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