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A poem by Jared Barhite


Title:     Fidelity
Author: Jared Barhite [More Titles by Barhite]

A Legend of Trinity Lake, Poundridge, N. Y.
Read at a Farmers' Picnic, Trinity Lake, Sept. 1, 1891.

The Rippowams were a tribe of Indians living along the Sound near Stamford and Norwalk, Ct., and extended their territory for some miles northward. The Kitchewonks were a tribe living on the Hudson, near Sing Sing and Peekskill, N. Y., and found their way eastward. In the early days of the Indian occupation of these lands the Rippowams followed up the stream running from the three lakes--Round Pond, Middle Pond, and Lower Pond--while the Kitchewonks followed that branch of the Croton which finds its source in Cross Pond, now Lake Kitchewan. For the possession of these grounds there were frequent battles between these tribes, as the lake-land abounded in fish and game. The intercourse between these tribes, both belonging to the Mohegans, was very limited, at first, but in course of time became more frequent and friendly. A lime and marble ridge separates Lake Kitchewan from the three lower lakes and forms a watershed between the Hudson and the sound.

In recent years a dam was constructed by the Stamford Water Co., and the three lakes were made into one, and very appropriately called thereafter, Trinity. The lakes are supplied almost entirely by springs, as no streams of any size empty into them.

For several years, in the spring time, a floating island appeared in Trinity, upon which vegetation grew abundantly. This island sank upon the approach of cold weather and remained in a state of hibernation until the spring came. Some person or persons who had no love for the romantic, curious, and beautiful, loaded it so heavily with stones that it sank to rise no more.

In its departure the lake sustained the loss of an attraction which is known in but few lakes in the world.

A large rock, estimated to weigh eight or ten tons, is so nicely poised upon another rook, upon a high point about fifty rods west of the lake, that a gentle pressure of the hand will cause it to rock perceptibly.

Directly opposite the picnic grounds are precipitous rocks, below which the waters are extremely deep.--THE AUTHOR.

When the infant world in its swaddling band
Of mist and cloud and storm,
Assumed its forms of sea and land,
And the lakes and streams were born,
In this western world, on the eastern shore,
Four leagues from the inland sea,
Came a liquid crown set with jewels four,
But in union only three;
For the northern gem was a solitaire
And barred from the lesser three,
By a marble wall wrought strong and fair
By the hand of Divinity.

A silver thread from the Trinity
Ran southward through the wood,
Till it lost its flow in the land-locked sea,
And was merged in old Neptune's flood;
But the northern gem in a mystic race
Sent a message toward the west,
And linked itself in the kind embrace
Of the Hudson grandly dressed.

Ten thousand moons had waxed and waned
And flung on the mirror sheet
A train of beauty, with no discord stained
Since creation stood complete.
Here antlered deer had slaked their thirst
And fought their imaged form;
Here rolling tones of thunder burst,
As a harbinger of storm;
Here song of bird and sigh of breeze
Had ne'er met human ear;
The beast on land, the fowl on trees
Dwelt here in peace and knew no fear.

Brave Kitchewonks had traced their way
Along the stream that westward ran,
While Rippowams pursued their prey
Until this lake-land was their van.
'Twas here Mohegan met again
The blood that in Mohegan flowed,
But each regarded not the vein,
Though kinsmen, foes they firmly stood.
This lake-land, rich in fish and game,
Was ground for strife and war and blood;
From west and south the warriors came
In battle paint and surly mood.
The Kitchewonks near northern lake
Upon the Rippowams looked down,
And hoped their power and pride to break
E'er harvest-moon had fully grown.

ALMETA on the western stream
Now mourned her absent PONOMO,
For harvest-moon had sent its gleam
Across the Hudson's tidal flow,
And at its full he was to come,
And her to lake-land safely guide,
Where they should make their future home,
And she should there become his bride.
But he had with Rippowams' band,
Marched forth to meet her kinsmen dear,
And face to face they sternly stand
Prepared for battle-storm severe.

Her heart bid her to dare the shock
And seek him near the hostile camp;
Her mind her heart would basely mock,
And boding fears her ardor damp;
The bondage of her heart so great
Her coward mind could never free;
She heeds no danger, dares all fate,
And this her brief soliloquy:

"I know that tribal laws demand
My life if I should thither flee,
I must obey that great command--
God's higher law--fidelity.
No other lips my lips have pressed,
No other arms encircled me,
Since he my maiden form caressed
And each breathed vows of constancy.
For me at each returning moon
He journeyed through the forest wild,
Braved dangers that my heart hath won,
And now I must not be defiled
By any doubt or any fear
That death or suffering may bring.
I'd count such sacrifice not dear
If I must be an offering.

"What though my blood may stain the soil,
Devotion mark me for a slave
Through weary years to strive and toil,
Or fate should sink me 'neath the wave!
'Twere better far that such should be
Than I should violate my heart
And all that's sacred unto me
By acting a base traitor's part.
I must away, I must away
To meet him by the silvery lake!
'Tis crime for me to longer stay
I will not, cannot now forsake."

She speeds along the forest trail
Where warriors late in painted form,
Had marched through Kitchewan's fair vale
To meet their foes in battle-storm.
Her eyes are watchful to survey,
Her ears detect the lightest sound,
Her heart and mind to her betray
Where barriers to her flight are found.
She shuns them all by tact and skill;
Most gladly she to him will prove
The power that's in a woman's will,
The faith that's in a woman's love.

From hill and ledge she scans the ground
While dangers seem her faith to mock;
But highest point by her is found,
She stands upon the swaying rock,
Which seems unsteady 'neath her feet,
And makes her doubt if she can stand
To make inspection so complete,
She may discern PONOMO'S band.
The trembling rock and trembling heart
Are firmly fixed, no power can move;
But from its crest she must depart
In search of him her heart doth love.
She stands beside the central lake
Along whose shores the war-whoop rang,
And softly for her own heart's sake,
This song of harvest-moon she sang:

"The hunter's moon now floods the night
Turns darkness into day,
The wood and lake in mellow light,
Charm grief and care away.

"The sparkling water's silvery gleam
My sorrow soothes for me,
And lifts my soul in fancy's dream
To thoughts so pure and free.

"So bright the light that fills the night,
The song-birds sweetly sing;
From tree to tree they take their flight
On swift yet noiseless wing.

"Now come, PONOMO, come to me,
I wait your coming here;
You promised 'neath this hemlock tree,
At midnight to appear.

"My heart, my life, my all is yours,
And you are all to me;
Faith trusts your promise and assures
Unchanged fidelity.

"I know your heart is warm and true,
Your love not cold or dumb,
No earthly power can it subdue;
I know that you will come."

She hears a footstep drawing near;
Her voice is mute, her song is done,
She waits, PONOMO to appear,
In shadowed silence all alone.
Beneath lugubrious hemlock shade
Her heart beats with expectancy,
And Kitchewonk's own dusky maid
Trusts Rippowam's fidelity.
He comes! She sees him near the lake;
She knows his form, his step, his voice;
No other charm for her could make
Her heart and soul so much rejoice.

They meet beside the water's edge
Where hemlock boughs in silence nod,
And there with mutual vow and pledge,
In presence of their living God,
They join the hand, the heart, the life,
While harvest-moon a witness stood,
That he the husband, she the wife,
Should share in life's vicissitude.
That sacred pledge was heard on high
And written by an angel hand,
Nor priest, nor king, nor majesty,
Could marriage rites perform more grand.

No tribal laws or priestly hand
Can rivet adverse hearts in one;
Compulsion has no iron band
So strong it may not be undone;
But ties of mutual interest
That spring spontaneous from the soul,
Are never by themselves oppressed,
Their silken cords have full control.
To know, to feel, to fully share
The joys and sorrows of this life,
Unites the souls of mated pair,
And make the husband and the wife.

PONOMO and ALMETA there,
Where juts of rocks 'neath hemlock boughs,
Had breathed a mutual, fervent prayer,
And each to each pledged sacred vows,
When o'er the lake the war-whoop rang,
And Kitchewonks, on every side,
Swept down with shout and yell and clang,
Upon PONOMO and his bride.
On north and south, and on the west,
No way of flight then could they take,
So from the rough rocks' rugged side
They plunged into the central lake.

A hundred arrows cleft the air,
But one alone had reached its mark.
PONOMO felt it roughly tear
Its way into his faithful heart.
He shrieked and sank beneath the wave,
ALMETA followed after him;
Their bridal couch was watery grave,
The war-whoop was their requiem.

The savage yell of victory
Re-echoed then from shore to shore,
While every rock and every tree
Seemed deeply tinged with human gore,
For when the moon from heavenly throne
Looked down and saw the ghastly deed,
It veiled itself and feebly shone,
As if in agony to plead
That human souls might ever know
That God himself cannot approve
The hand that strikes avenging blow,
The soul devoid fraternal love.

'Neath crystal waters of the lake,
In silent, undisturbed repose,
Where sounds of strife no slumbers break,
Heedless alike of friends and foes,
They slept the long, long sleep of death,
Through centuries of rolling years,
While o'er their forms the zephyrs' breath
In playful eddyings oft appears.
Their race has faded from the shore
And left few traces that they were;
The war-whoop now resounds no more,
They bowed before White Conqueror.
Full many a fathom 'neath the wave,
Their forms have mouldered side by side,
While shadowy hemlocks fringe the grave
Of dark PONOMO and his bride.

The waters then were deeper made
Which gave their spirits much unrest,
The lake their agony betrayed
And seemed on every side distressed.
One spring when Nature gaily dressed
With charms that could the mind beguile,
There rose upon the lake's fair breast
A hibernating, floating isle.
Devoid of life it seemed at first,
Chaotic, dull, with beauty none,
But rays of sunshine on it burst
And changed it to a paragon.

Two alders sprang from near its edge
And twined in close embrace,
While ferns and grass gave certain pledge
That Time should give it smiling face.
But when the frosts of autumn fell
It sank from sight, perchance to rest;
No searching mind could ever tell
The secret of its rising crest.
For years, at each returning spring,
The isle would rise from 'neath the wave,
As if to memory to bring
PONOMO and ALMETA'S grave.
But when the harvest-moon shone bright,
It meekly sank; as years before
When on that dread, but fatal night,
The faithful sank by rock-bound shore.

Its verdure grew, its alders spread,
Its fame extended many a mile,
'Twas type of resurrected dead--
This hibernating, floating isle.

But vandal hands destroyed the prize
And sank it 'neath a weight of stones,
While ALMETA sends forth her sighs,
And PONOMO emits his groans.
Here let them rest, if rest they may,
Amid the beauteous scenes around,
And wait in peace the final day,
When at the angel's trumpet sound,
The water shall give up its prey,
The earth shall full surrender make,
For heaven has not a type to-day,
More perfect than this sky-blue lake.

[The end]
Jared Barhite's poem: Fidelity