Johnny Appleseed

A BALLAD OF THE OLD NORTHWEST

A midnight cry appalls the gloom,
The puncheon door is shaken:
" Awake! arouse! and flee the doom!
Man, woman, child, awaken!

" Your sky shall glow with fiery beams
Before the morn breaks ruddy!
The scalpknife in the moonlight gleams,
Athirst for vengeance bloody! "

Alarumed by the dreadful word
Some warning tongue thus utters,
The settler's wife, like mother bird,
About her young ones flutters.

Her first-born, rustling from a soft
Leaf-couch, the roof close under,
Glides down the ladder from the loft,
With eyes of dreamy wonder.

The pioneer flings open wide
The cabin door, naught fearing;
The grim woods drowse on every side,
Around the lonely clearing.

" Come in! come in! nor like an owl
Thus hoot your doleful humors;
What fiend possesses you, to howl
Such crazy, coward rumors? "

The herald strode into the room;
That moment, through the ashes,
The back-log struggled into bloom
Of gold and crimson flashes.

The glimmer lighted up a face,
And o'er a figure dartled,
So eerie, of so solemn grace,
The bluff backwoodsman startled.

The brow was gathered to a frown,
The eyes were strangely glowing,
And, like a snow-fall drifting down,
The stormy beard went flowing.

The tattered cloak that round him clung
Had warred with foulest weather;
Across his shoulders broad were flung
Brown saddlebags of leather.

One pouch with hoarded seed was packed,
From Pennland cider-presses;
The other garnered book and tract
Within its creased recesses.

A glance disdainful and austere,
Contemptuous of danger,
Cast he upon the pioneer,
Then spake the uncouth stranger:

" Heed what the Lord's anointed saith:
Hear one who would deliver
Your bodies and your souls from death;
List ye to John the Giver.

" Thou trustful boy, in spirit wise
Beyond thy father's measure,
Because of thy believing eyes
I share with thee my treasure.

" Of precious seed this handful take;
Take next this Bible Holy:
In good soil sow both gifts, for sake
Of Him, the meek and lowly.

" Farewell! I go! — the forest calls
My life to ceaseless labors;
Wherever danger's shadow falls
I fly to save my neighbors.

" I save; I neither curse nor slay;
I am a voice that crieth
In night and wilderness. Away!
Whoever doubteth, dieth! "

The prophet vanished in the night,
Like some fleet ghost belated;
Then, awe-struck, fled with panic fright
The household, evil-fated.

They hurried on with stumbling feet,
Foreboding ambuscado;
Bewildered hope told of retreat
In frontier palisado.

But ere a mile of tangled maze
Their bleeding hands had broken,
Their home-roof set the dark ablaze,
Fulfilling doom forespoken.

The savage death-whoop rent the air!
A howl of rage infernal!
The fugitives were in Thy care,
Almighty Power eternal!

Unscathed by tomahawk or knife,
In bosky dingle nested,
The hunted pioneer, with wife
And babes, hid unmolested.

The lad, when age his locks of gold
Had changed to silver glory,
Told grandchildren, as I have told,
This western wildwood story.

Told how the fertile seeds had grown
To famous trees, and thriven;
And oft the Sacred Book was shown,
By that weird Pilgrim given.

Remember Johnny Appleseed,
All ye who love the apple;
He served his kind by Word and Deed,
In God's grand greenwood chapel.
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