Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Malobeam's Song

I am a  mother, and a wife. This blog will chronicle, probably in no particular order, the family of my husband and my daughters: La Famille Vasseur. We descend from LeVasseur's, but my husband's great-grandfather shortened the name. Some of his descendants kept the Le and some, including mine, dropped it. I belong to the Levasseur Association of America, at www.levasseur.org.

My in-laws ancestors settled in northern New Brunswick, in the small town of Grand Falls, or Grand Sault, New Brunswick, formerly called Colebrook. Their ancestors hail from Normandie, France.

The name of my blog is Malabeam's Song. There is a wooden statue of Malabeam near the Centre Malobiannah. The poem tells of her sacrifice many years before the Vasseur's arrived in Grand Falls.


THE MAIDEN'S SACRIFICE

In the sweet days of summer five hundred years ago,
Where the broad Ouigoudy swept on in might below,
On rushed the ceaseless torrent, which down the Great Falls bore,
Over the steep, with sudden leap, full eighty feet or more.

There on the bank above it an lndian town arose,
Where dwelt the war-like Maliseets, the Mohawks were their foes.
These red-skinnedsons of slaughter had joined in many a fray;
With savage ire and carnage dire shaming the light of day.

But buried was the hatchet, they went to war no more;
The little children gambolled about each wigwam floor,
Around that savage village were maize fields waving green,
'Mid such sweet peace you scarce could guess that ever war had been.

Sakotis and his daughter, the dark-eyed Malabeam,
Sailed up the broad Ouigoudy beyond the Quisibus stream,
And there upon an island they rested for the day;
Their hearts were light, the world was bright, and
Nature's face was gay.

But like a clap of thunder when the heavens are calm and clear,
The warwhoop of the Mohawks fell on their startled ear,
And a sharp fiint-tipped arrow pierced old Sakotis' breast;
Ere Malabeam could run to him her father was at rest.

And bounding through the thicket on rushed a savage crowd
Of Mohawks in their war paint, with warwhoops fierce and loud,
And ere the orphaned maiden had time to turn and fly;
They bound her fast, all hope was past, except the hope to die.

But one who knew her language said: "As soon as the
sun goes down,
Our bark canoe shall guide us on to your father's town.
Do this, your life is spared you, then wed a Mohawk brave,
Refuse, your doom is torture, or worse, to be a slave."

There by her slaughtered father the weary hours she passed,
the sun went down, and the lofty trees a gloomy shadow cast,
Thinking of home and kindred, of the friends she could not warn,
The murderous night and the gory sight would
greet the morrow morn.

Then said she, "I will guide you and wed a Mohawk brave,
Though you have slain my father; I need not be a slave.
The stream is swift and broken, you well might go astray.
keep your canoes together and I will lead the way. "

Just as the gloom of darkness spread over hill and dale,
Down the swift Ouigoudy the Mohawk fleet set sail,
Three hundred Mohawk warriors chanting a martial song;
Their paddles gleam upon the stream as swift they speed along.

In four long lines together, each to the next held fast,
The maiden in the centre -the great canoe fleet passed.
And he who knew her language a line of silver drew;
As he bent to the forward paddle in the maiden's birch canoe.

The song was done, and silence fell upon every tongue -
Of warriors old and grizzled, and the braves untaught and young.
Hate filled each swarthy bosom, nearing the thrice doomed town,
Flow on, O mighty rivel:; and bear the foemen down!

But little cared the Mohawks, the wind might wail or sigh,
The moon might hide her glory; and clouds obscure the sky;
With hearts intent on slaughtel:; with thoughts on carnage fed.
They toiled, and still before them the strong armed maiden sped.

And now the Indian village lies but a mile below -
A sound like muffled thunder seems on their ears to grow.
"What's that?" "Tis but a torrent, " the Indian maid replied;
"It joins the great Ouigoudy; which here flows deep and wide.

Speed on a little further; the town is now hard by.
Your toils are nearly over; and night still veils the sky.
The town is wrapt in slumber; but ere the dawn of light,
What stalwart men shall perish, what warriors die tonight!"

But louder still, and louder; the sounds like thunder grew;
As down the rapid river the swift flotilla flew.
On either shore the foam wreaths shone like a line of snow;
But all in front was darkness, 'twas death which lay below.

Then, with a shout of triumph the Indian maiden cried,
"Listen, ye Mohawk warriors, who sail on death's dark tide!
Never shall earth grave hide you, or wife weep o'er your clay.
Come to your doom, ye Mohawks, and I will lead the way!"

Then sweeping with her paddle one potent stroke, her last -
Down the falls her bark is borne -the dreadful brink is passed.
And down the whole three hundred, with swift succession go,
Into the dark abyss of death -full eighty feet below.

And many a day thereafter; beyond the torrent's roar;
The swarthy Mohawk dead were found upon the river's shore.
But on brave Malabeam's dead face no human eyes were set,
She lies in the dark stream's embrace, the river claims her yet.

The waters of five hundred years have flowed above her grave,
But daring deeds can never die while human hearts are brave.
Her tribe still tell her story and round their council fires,
Bless her who died in the raging tide to rescue all their sires.

-James Hannay

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