Indian Names

By Lydia Huntley Sigourney 1791–1865

‘How can the red men be forgotten, while so many of our states and territories, bays, lakes, and rivers, are indelibly stamped by names of their giving?’

Ye say they all have passed away,
   That noble race and brave,
That their light canoes have vanished
   From off the crested wave;
That ’mid the forests where they roamed
   There rings no hunter shout,
But their name is on your waters,
   Ye may not wash it out.

’Tis where Ontario’s billow
   Like Ocean’s surge is curled,
Where strong Niagara’s thunders wake
   The echo of the world.
Where red Missouri bringeth
   Rich tribute from the west,
And Rappahannock sweetly sleeps
   On green Virginia’s breast.

Ye say their cone-like cabins,
   That clustered o’er the vale,
Have fled away like withered leaves
   Before the autumn gale,
But their memory liveth on your hills,
   Their baptism on your shore,
Your everlasting rivers speak
   Their dialect of yore.

Old Massachusetts wears it,
   Within her lordly crown,
And broad Ohio bears it,
   Amid his young renown;
Connecticut hath wreathed it
   Where her quiet foliage waves,
And bold Kentucky breathed it hoarse
   Through all her ancient caves.

Wachuset hides its lingering voice
   Within his rocky heart,
And Alleghany graves its tone
   Throughout his lofty chart;
Monadnock on his forehead hoar
   Doth seal the sacred trust,
Your mountains build their monument,
   Though ye destroy their dust.

Ye call these red-browned brethren
   The insects of an hour,
Crushed like the noteless worm amid
   The regions of their power;
Ye drive them from their father’s lands,
   Ye break of faith the seal,
But can ye from the court of Heaven   
   Exclude their last appeal?

Ye see their unresisting tribes,
   With toilsome step and slow,
On through the trackless desert pass
   A caravan of woe;
Think ye the Eternal’s ear is deaf?
   His sleepless vision dim?
Think ye the soul’s blood may not cry
   From that far land to him?

Source: She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century (University of Iowa Press, 1997)

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Poet Lydia Huntley Sigourney 1791–1865

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

 Lydia Huntley Sigourney

Biography

Born in Norwich, Connecticut, poet Lydia Huntley Sigourney—known as the “Sweet Singer of Hartford”—was the only daughter of a gardener. She attended private school with the assistance of her father’s employer, and founded a Hartford school for girls in 1814. At this school, without any specialized training, Sigourney taught a deaf student, Alice Cogswell, to read and write in English. Cogswell would later be the first student . . .

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Poems by Lydia Huntley Sigourney

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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