The Yemassee

By William Gilmore Simms; Alexander Cowie | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXV

"Cords for the warrior he shall see the fray
His arm shall share not a worse doom than death,
For him whose heart, at every stroke, must bleed
Whose fortune is the stake, and yet denied
All throw to win it."

THERE was no resisting this decree of the Prophet. The Seratee chief was silenced. The people were submissive. They were given to understand that their new captive was to be reserved for the sacrifice at the close of the campaign, when, as they confidently expected, they were to celebrate their complete victory over the Carolinians. Meanwhile, he was taken back, and under proper custodians, to the place where the ceremonies were still to be continued. The war-dance was begun in the presence of the prisoner. He looked down upon the preparations for a conflict, no longer doubtful, between the savages and his people. He watched their movements, heard their arrangements, saw their direction, knew their design, yet had no power to strike in for the succour or the safety of those in whom only he lived. What were his emotions in that survey? Who shall describe them?

They began the war-dance, the young warriors, the boys, and women that terrible but fantastic whirl regulated by occasional strokes upon the uncouth drum and an attenuated blast from the more flexible native bugle. That dance of death a dance, which, perfectly military in its character, calling for every possible position or movement common to Indian strategy, moves them all with an extravagant sort of grace; and if contemplated without reference to the savage purposes which it precedes, is singularly pompous and imposing; wild, it is true, but yet exceedingly unaffected and easy, as it is one of the most familiar practices of Indian education. In this way, by extreme physical exercise, they provoke a required degree of mental enthusiasm. With this object the aborigines have many kinds of dances, and others of even more interesting character. Among many of the tribes these exhibitions are literally so many chronicles. They are the only records, left by tradition, of leading events in their history which

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