By A. H. Hill (1810)
The story: “…cut off in her youthful bloom”
The Murder of Polly Williams
By A. H. Hill (1810)
The sun is glowing at the close of day,
Bathing the landscape with celestial fire ;
The earth is decked with all the flowers of May,
And hills and dales smile in their fresh attire.
The mountains rear their lofty beads on high -
They too, are clad with foliage fresh and green
As though they fain would kiss the azure sky,
And thus add grace of action to the scene.
The evening air is pleasant, calm and still ;
No sighing breeze or tender zephyr blows
Against the face of the ascending hill,
To stir the wild-vine or the mountain rose.
Half hid among .the trees, full many a cliff
Clings to the mountain side ;
but there is one That rises far above the rest, as if
To catch the last rays of the setting sun.
So high it towers, that, from its lofty crest,
Full thirty miles of rolling hills are seen,
All in the pleasant garb of spring-tide dressed ;
And many vales that, sleeping, lie between.
What quiet reigns! the air how soft and mild ;
The old. gray rocks how silent and how grave;
How motionless the vines and bushes wild;
The trees how still, their branches do not wave.
But hark ! what piercing scream breaks on the air
From yonder cliff that rears so high its crest ?
What dread, what danger, or what pain is there?
What mortal so affrighted or distressed?
Or was it but a panther on the height,
That shrieked so like a human in dismay ?
Did it but call a comrade for the night,
To go and seek some unsuspecting prey?
Hark ! 'tis repeated ! 'tis a human shriek !
A maiden's voice ! -it calls aloud in fear !
What danger threatens? What aid does she seek?
Or who is there in this wild place to hear?
Do prowling wolves come swift upon her track,
Emboldened by the near approach of night?
And does she, to avert the mad attack,
Flee to the summit to the rocky height?
Ah, no ! Behold a more vindictive foe -
A murderer ! she struggles in his grasp;
He fain would hurl her to the ground below;
But still she shrieks, and clings with frantic clasp.
He heeds her not - her prayers are all in vain ;
His soul is hellish fire - his heart is stone;.
His rude hand thrusts her to the brink again;
She shrieks and falls, and now the deed is done.
At such a deed, the blushing orb of day
Covers his face behind a western hill,
As if, indeed, ashamed to longer stay,
And gaze on acts so dreadful, base and ill.
The murderer flees, his soul beset with fear;
He starts away amid the gathering night;
His deed is seen, avenging bands are near;
They swift pursue him in his hasty flight.
They've gone- the murderer and avengers too;
He rushes down the mountain like the wind;
On wings of vengeance, they as swift pursue,
And leave the solemn scene of death behind.
Where yonder cliff arises, draw thou near;
In awe, remove the covering from thy head;
Be grave and thoughtful - drop a silent tear,
Thou standest in the presence of the dead.
There lies the body, lifeless, bruised and torn;
The soul has barely winged its flight away:
The wild-vines sigh, the rude rocks laugh in scorn,
At such a helpless, useless lump of clay.
So beautiful a single hour ago;
So full of life -- the home of sense and light :
But ah, how dull, how dumb and lifeless now ;
How changed in looks, how ghastly to the sight.
Ah, maiden, what infatuating dream
Hath brought thee here to meet the murderer's wrath?
Did some impatient friend across the stream
Direct thy foot-steps up the mountain path?
Was there a beckon from an unseen hand ?
A noiseless whisper from a silent breath? -
To call thy spirit from the lower land,
And urge thy body to untimely death?
Oh, stand aside, impenetrable veil!
That hides the land of shadows from our sight!
Oh, let us see the waiting friends that bail
The maiden's spirit in its upward flight I
Ah, could we see the liberated soul
Enter the portals of the land above,
Received by waiting parents at the goal,
And clasped in arms of everlasting love !
Then might we turn, without a single tear,
And fix our gaze on the deserted clay :
The picture of the spirit's heavenly cheer
Would surely drive the earthly gloom away.
Let not the tender form lie here to-night;
Let not the pale cheek catch the falling dew :
The mournful owl is screaming on the height,
All though himself were filled with sorrow too.
The veil of night is falling thick and fast ;
The glow-worm dances on the mountain side;
On stealthy wings, the bat goes flitting past ;
The whippoorwill is chattering far and wide.
May not some hungry wolf scent from afar
Those drops of blood that sprinkle the white face?
And steal up in the darkness to devour
The helpless form once full of life and grace?
Shall flesh like this feed savage beasts of prey,
Among these lonely hills, now wrapped gloom?
Oh. no! Come friends, bear the cold form away
And, with due rites, enclose it in the tomb.