JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

THE DEMON'S CAVE

The moon is bright on the rocky hill,
But the dwarfish pines are gloomy and still,
Fixed, motionless forms in the upper air,—
The moonlight rests o'er them but darkness
is there—
Like the fitful play of the stormfire's light
On the black, wild clouds of an evil night,
Or the smile which sometimes quivers upon
The faded check of the sorrowing one—
A wasted light, a radiance lost
On the gloom which its kindly glow had

crossed! 10

A dim cave yawns in the rude hill-side Like the jaws of a monster opened wide,
Where a few wild bushes of thorn and fern
Their leaves from the breath of the night air
turn,
And half with twining foliage cover
The mouth of that shadowy cavern over.
Above it—the rock hangs gloomy and high
Like a rent in the blue of the beautiful sky,
Which seems as it opens on either hand

Like some bright sea laying a desolate land. 20

Below it—a stream on its bed of stone From a rift in the rock comes brawling down,
Telling forever the same wild tale
Of its loftier home to the lowly vale;—
And over its waters an oak is bending—
Its boughs like a skeleton's arms extending—
A shattered tree—by the lightning shorn
With trunk all sere and branches torn;
And the rocks beneath it blackened and rent

Tell where the path of the thunder went! 30

'Tis said that the cave is an evil place— The chosen haunt of a fallen race—
That the midnight traveller oft hath seen
A red flame tremble its jaws between,
And lighten and quiver the boughs among
Like the fiery play of a serpent's tongue—
The sounds of fear from its chambers swell—
The ghostly gibber—the demon's yell,—
That bodiless hands at its portals wave;—
And hence they have named it the Demon's

Cave!40

It is strange how man to this spot hath lent
A terror which Nature never meant—
For none who wander with curious eye
This dim and shadowy cavern by—
Have seen in the sun or starlight aught
Which might not beseem so lonely a spot,—
The stealthy fox and shy racoon—
The night bird's wing in the shining moon—
The frog's low croak—, and, upon the hill

The steady chant of the whippoorwill. 50

And yet there is something to romance dear, In this shadowy cave and its lingering fear,
Something which tells of another age—
Of the wizard's wand and the sybil's page—
Of the fairy ring, and the haunted glen—
Of the restless phantoms of murdered men—
Of the fears and visions of dreamy youth
Ere they pass away at the glance of truth;—
And I love even now to list the tale

Of the Demon's Cave and its haunted vale! 60

1831


TO WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON

Champion of those who groan beneath
Oppression's iron hand:
In view of penury, hate, and death,
I see thee fearless stand.
Still bearing up thy lofty brow,
In the steadfast strength of truth,
In manhood sealing well the vow
And promise of thy youth.
Go on, for thou hast chosen well;

On in the strength of God! 10
Long as one human heart shall swell
Beneath the tyrant's rod.
Speak in a slumbering nation's ear,
As thou hast ever spoken,
Until the dead in sin shall hear,
The fetter's link be broken!

-105-

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Major American Poets
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Philip Freneau 1
  • William Cullen Bryant 61
  • John Greenleaf Whittier 105
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson 191
  • Edgar Allan Poe 243
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 287
  • James Russell Lowell 435
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes 543
  • Emily Dickinson 603
  • Sidney Lanier 611
  • Walt Whitman 651
  • Vachel Lindsay 733
  • Edwin Arlington Robinson 755
  • Notes Chronological, Bibliographical, Critical 779
  • William Cullen Bryant 788
  • John Greenleaf Whittier 798
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson 817
  • Edgar Alian Poe 834
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 847
  • James Russell Lowell 860
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes 882
  • Emily Dickinson 893
  • Sidney Lanier 903
  • Walt Whitman 914
  • Vachel Lindsay 929
  • Edwin Arlington Robinson 938
  • General Principles of Poetics 948
  • General Index 951
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