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The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman by William Wordsworth

This is one of Wordsworth's most far-reaching poems. It takes place in a land he never set foot on: America.

Based on stories he read about traveling tribes of American Indians, he wrote this harrowing tale about a woman who is too sick to continue walking with her tribe, so they abandon her.



By WIlliam Wordsworth


[When a Northern Indian, from sickness, is unable to continue his journey with his companions ; he is left behind, covered over with Deer-skins, and is supplied with water, food, and fuel if the situation of the place will afford it. He is informed of the track which his companions intend to pursue, and if he is unable to follow, or overtake them, he perishes alone in the Desart ; unless he should have the good fortune to fall in with some other Tribes of Indians. It is unnecessary to add that the females are equally, or still more, exposed to the same fate. See that very interesting work, Hearne’s Journey from Hudson’s Bay to the Northern Ocean. When the Northern Lights, as the same writer informs us, vary their position in the air, they make a rustling and a crackling noise. This circumstance is alluded to in the first stanza of the following poem.]




Before I see another day,

Oh let my body die away !

In sleep I heard the northern gleams ;

The stars they were among my dreams ;

In sleep did I behold the skies,

I saw the crackling flashes drive ;

And yet they are upon my eyes,

And yet I am alive.

Before I see another day,

Oh let my body die away!

My fire is dead : it knew no pain ;

Yet is it dead, and I remain.

All stiff with ice the ashes lie ;

And they are dead, and I will die.

When I was well, I wished to live,

For clothes, for warmth, for food, and fire :

But they to me no joy can give,

No pleasure now, and no desire.

Then here contented will I lie :

Alone I cannot fear to die.

Alas ! you might have dragged me on

Another day, a single one !

Too soon despair o’er me prevailed ;

Too soon my heartless spirit failed ;

When you were gone my limbs were stronger,

And Oh how grievously I rue,

That, afterwards, a little longer,

My friends, I did not follow you !

For strong and without pain I lay,

My friends, when you were gone away.

My child ! they gave thee to another,

A woman who was not thy mother.

When from my arms my babe they took,

On me how strangely did he look !

Through his whole body something ran,

A most strange something did I see;

—As if he strove to be a man,

That he might pull the sledge for me.

And then he stretched his arms, how wild!

Oh mercy ! like a little child.

My little joy ! my little pride !

In two days more I must have died.

Then do not weep and grieve for me ;

I feel I must have died with thee.

Oh wind that o’er my heard art flying,

The way my friends their course did bend,

I should not feel the pain of dying,

could I with thee a message send.

Too soon, my friends, you went away ;

For I had many things to say.

I’ll follow you across the snow,

You travel heavily and slow :

In spite of all my weary pain,

I’ll look upon you tents again.

My fire is dead, and snowy white

The water which beside it stood ;

The wolf has come to me to-night,

And he has stolen away my food.

For ever left alone am I,

Then wherefore should I fear to die ?

My journey will be shortly run,

I shall not see another sun,

I cannot lift my limbs to know

If they have any life or no.

My poor forsaken child ! if I

For once could have thee close to me,

With happy heart I then would die,

And my last thoughts would happy be.

I feel my body die away,

I shall not see another day.


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