the last indian

by “Newark Muse”

Image: Newark Public Library
Image: Newark Public Library

There stood on the shores of the western sea,
        Where it heaves its awful surge,
A lonely being, who mournfully
        Chaunted his sorrowful dirge.

                “Where are the lands of my tribe,
                        Their hunting lands;
                Where gallantly struggled and died
                        The Indian bands?”

And the breeze of the forest came whistling along–
“The white men have seized them by treachery and wrong.”

                “Where are the graves of my race,
                        Their sacred graves;
                Which the Indian in his bloodiest frays
                        From insult saves?”

And a moaning voice was heard in the air–
“Their graves are profaned, for the white men are there.”

                “Where are the red men gone,
                        The warriors brave?
                For I see not a single one
                        On land or wave.”

And the song of the Indian was heard in the west–
“The white men have slain them, but now they’re at rest,
In the Great Spirit’s land they are free from their foes,
They hunt, and they sport, and in safety repose;
Come–lonely one–come to this happy abode,
And hunt with your fathers, through field and thro’ wood.”

“I come–at the sound of your voices I come,
And sweet is the message that calleth me home.
Farewell–farewell to my native land,
And cursed be the strangers who tread on its sand;
May the curse of a blighted heart be theirs,
And the Spirit of Might turn away from their prayers;
May they go to the grave without arms by their side;
May their tombs be insulted by scorn and by pride;
And at last may they wake in that terrible place,
Where no game can be found to allure to the chase.
I come–at the sound of your voices I come,
And sweet is the message that calleth me home.”

                He gazed on earth, and sea, and air,
                        Then sprang into the wave;
                And the last Indian, gladly, there
                        Embraced a watery grave.

Gutzon Borglum’s sculpture known as “The Indian and the Puritan” was dedicated in 1916. Commemorating the purchase of land along the Passaic on which Newark’s English-speaking settlers would build their town, it includes an inscription noting, “To the north and westward the Indians lingered as if reluctant to depart.”

The above lines appeared in the New-Jersey Eagle on June 6, 1828.

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