The Captive's Hymn

The Indian war was over,
And Pennsylvania's towns
Welcomed the blessed calm that comes
When peace a conflict crowns.
Bitter and long had been the strife,
But gallant Colonel Bouquet
Had forced the foe to sue for grace,
And named the joyful day
When Shawnees, Tuscarawas,
Miamis, Delawares,
And every band that roved the land
And called a captive theirs —
From the pathless depths of the forest,
By stream and dark defile,
Should bring their prisoners, on their lives,
In safety to Carlisle;
Carlisle in the Cumberland valley,
Where Conodogwinnet flows,
And the guardian ranges, north and south,
In mountain pride repose.

Like the wind the Colonel's order
To hamlet and clearing flew;
And mourning mothers and wives and sons
From banks where Delaware seaward runs,
From Erie's wave, and Ohio's tide,
And the vales where the southern hills divide,
Flocked to the town, perchance to view,
At last, 'mid the crowds by the startled square,
The faces lost, but in memory fair.

How strange the scene on the village green
That morning cold and gray!
To right the Indian tents were set,
And in groups the dusky warriors met,
While their captives clung to the captors yet,
As wild and bronzed as they —
In rags and skins, with moccasined feet,
Some loath to part, some fain to greet
The friends of a vanished day;
And, eagerly watching the tents, to left
Stood mothers and sons and wives bereft,
While, beyond, were the throngs from hill and valley,
And, waiting the keen-eyed Colonel's rally,
The troops in their brave array.

Now friends and captives mingle,
And cries of joy or woe
Thrill the broad street as loved ones meet,
Or in vain the tale of the past repeat,
And back in anguish go.
Among them lingered a widow —
From the Suabian land was she —
And one fell morning she had lost
Husband and children three,
All slain save the young Regina,
A captive spared to be.
Nine weary years had followed,
But the wilderness was dumb,
And never a word to her aching heart
Through friend or foe had come,
And now, from Tulpehocken.
Full seventy miles away,
She had walked to seek her daughter,
The Lord her only stay.

She scanned the sun-browned maidens;
But the tunic's rough disguise,
The savage tongue, the forest ways,
Baffled and mocked her yearning gaze,
And with sobs and streaming eyes
She turned to the Colonel and told him
How hopeless was her quest —
Moaning, " Alas, Regina!
The grave for me is best! "
" Nay, Madam, " gently he replied,
" Don't be disheartened yet, but bide,
And try some other test.
What pleasant song or story
Did she love from your lips to hear? "
" O Sir, I taught her " Our Father;"
And the " Creed" we hold so dear,
And she said them over and over
While I was spinning near;
And every eve, by her little bed,
When the light was growing dim,
I sung her to sleep, my darling!
With Schmolke's beautiful hymn. "
" Then sing it now , " said the Colonel,
And close to the captive band
He brought the mother with her hymn
From the far Suabian land;
And with faltering voice and quivering lips,
While all was hushed, she sung
The strain of lofty faith and cheer
In her rich German tongue:

" Allein, und doch nicht ganz allein "
(How near the listeners press!),
Alone, yet not alone am I,
Though all may deem my days go by
In utter dreariness;
The Lord is still my company,
I am with Him, and He with me,
The solitude to bless.

He speaks to me within His word
As if His very voice I heard,
And when I pray, apart,
He meets me in the quiet there
With counsel for each cross and care,
And comfort for my heart.

The world may say my life is lone,
With every joy and blessing flown
Its vision can descry;
I shall not sorrow nor repine,
For glorious company is mine
With God and angels nigh.

As she sung, a maid of the captives
Threw back her tangled hair,
And forward leaned as if to list
The lightest murmur there;
Her breath came fast, her brown cheek flushed,
Her eyes grew bright and wide
As if some spell the song had cast,
And, ere the low notes died,
With a bound like a deer in the forest
She sprang to the singer's side,
And, " Liebe, kleine Mutter! "
Enfolding her, she cried —
" My dear, dear, little Mother! " —
Then swift before her knelt
As in the long, long buried days
When by the wood they dwelt;
And, " Vater unser, der du bist
Im Himmel, " chanted she,
The sweet " Our Father " she had learned
Beside that mother's knee;
And then the grand " Apostles' Creed "
That in her heart had lain:
" Ich glaube an Gott den Vater, "
Like a child she said again —
" I believe in God the Father " —
Down to the blest " Amen. "
Stooping and clasping the maiden
Whose soul the song had freed,
" Now God be praised! " said the mother,
" This is my child indeed! —
My own, my darling Regina,
Come back in my sorest need,
For she knows the Hymn, and " Our Father,"
And the holy " Apostles' Creed"! "
Then, while the throng was silent,
And the Colonel bowed his head,
With tears and glad thanksgivings
Her daughter forth she led;
And the sky was lit with sunshine,
And the cold earth caught its smile
For the mother and ransomed maiden,
That morning in Carlisle.
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