Treasure Island

Albert Pike

(1809-1891 / USA)

Death In The Desert

The sun is sinking from the sky,
The clouds are clustering round the moon,
Like misty bastions, mountain-high;
And night approaches, ah! too soon.
Around me the dark prairie spreads
Its limitless monotony,
And near me, in wide sandy beds,
Runs water, salter than the sea,
Bitter as tears of misery.
And now the sharp, keen, frosty dew
Begins to fall upon my head,
Piercing each shattered fibre through;
By it my torturing wound with a fresh pain is fed.

Near me lies dead my noble horse:
I watched his last convulsive breath,
And saw him stiffen to a corse,
Knowing like his would be my death.
The cowards left me lying here
To die; and for three weary days,
I've watched the sunlight disappear:
Again I shall not see his rays;
On my dead heart they soon will blaze.
Oh, God! it is a fearful thing
To be alone in this wide plain,
To hear the hungry vulture's wing,
And watch the fainting light of my existence wane.

Am I, indeed, left here to die?
Alone! alone!—It is no dream!
At times I hope it is. Though nigh,
Already faintly sounds the stream.
I must die!—and fierce wolves will gnaw
My corpse before the pulse is still,
Before my parting breath I draw.
This doth the cup of torture fill;
This, this it is that sends a thrill
Of anguish through my inmost brain;
This thought, far bitterer than death:
I care not for the passing pain,
But fain would draw in peace my last, my parting breath.

And here, while left all, all alone,
To die, (how strange that word will sound!)
With many a bitter, mocking tone
The faces of old friends come round.
They tell of one untimely sent
Down to the dark and narrow grave,
By Honor's code; of old friends bent
With grief, for causes that I gave:
And leaning on each misty wave,
I see the shapes I loved and lost
Gather around, with deep, dim eyes,
Like drowning men to land uptossed;
And here one mocks, and my vain rage defies.

Dear God! My children,—spare the thought!
Bid it depart from me, lest I
At length to madness should be wrought,
And cursing Thee, insanely die!
Hush! the cold pulse is beating slow,—
I see death's shadow close at hand; —
I turn from sunset's golden glow,
And looking towards my native land,
Where the dark clouds, like giants, stand,
I strain my eyes, and hope, perchance,
To see beneath the calm, cold moon,
Some shape of human-kind advance,
To give a dying man the last, the saddest boon.

In vain, in vain! No footstep comes!
All is yet lone and desolate;
Deeper and darker swell the glooms,
And with them Death and eyeless Fate.
Now am I dying. Well I know
The pains that gather round the heart.
The wrist's weak pulse is beating slow,
And life and I begin to part:
Vain now would be the leech's art:—
But death is not so terrible,
As it hath been. No more I see!
My tongue is faltering! Now all's well!
My soul,—'tis Thine, oh Father!—Take it unto Thee!

Submitted: Monday, February 24, 2014
Edited: Monday, February 24, 2014

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