I went up to the Amite Cemetery last week to take a requested tombstone photo. I always photograph a few extra tombstones to make the trip more efficient. I happened to photograph the grave of Octavius Nash Ogden. He had poetry on his grave.
The Thrush - by Octavius Nash Ogden
What a wealth of silver sound
In thy music doth abound,
How the sylvan arches thrill
As thy soft, mellifluent bill,
Breaks the hush!
I want no anthem proud
With requiem pealing loud,
At my goal:
May such minstrelsy as thine,
Tuned by Nature's hand divine,
Waft my soul!
When I came home, I discovered online that Mr. Ogden is a poet with a book still in print. I bought one on Amazon.
It is an epic-Victorian Style poem. It has a chapter called ARCOLA.
This is my synopsis of the poem:
Halimah: a legend of the Tangipahoa
Octavius Nash 1852-1913
** The Invocation **
Please, Spirit of these natural places (in this region) tell what you know about the people who have done things here.
The Tangipahoa River has made a path through the terrain and ends up in Lake Ponchartrain.
A buck, standing in the river, gets shot by an arrow and his blood flows downstream.
A male turkey, strutting to attract a mate, gets killed by an arrow.
Indians hunt down and kill bears and panthers to wear their skins.
An Eagle who has just caught his lunch is killed by an Indian for its feathers.
A pelican is on the state emblem.
The spirit of the forest is communicating.
** Halimah **
The Indians lived and worshiped their gods here.
Their faint voices still cling to the upper tree boughs.
Birds sing on the beach of Mandeville’s white sand.
Birds sing and Indians roam in places where civilization is going to be.
Sitting in a dying sacred natural place, a person can hear the train and know that utility lines are being strung across the terrain.
The Choctaw way of life is coming to an end.
An Indian maiden named Halimah is as beautiful as the forest. Her father’s name is Chincubah.
Something about the Pearl River and Biloxi.
Something about being courted by Abita, Tchappapela, and Natalbany.
It would have been a good life for Halimah, if the Spanish hadn’t come.
** The Voyage **
The Spanish went on a voyage looking for gold. A storm in the Gulf of Mexico drove them into Lake Borgne.
In the morning they are happy to see fishes and nature.
The Spanish (pirate) captain, Alvarez, had blue eyes and was superior.
His men are happy and think they are in Florida.
There is a dry lightening storm at night and the views in the flashes are beautiful.
The seas are beautiful, but after a voyage the land looks good.
An owl screams in the night and they all think about watery graves.
Everything looks good in the morning.
They drink a toast goodbye to the ladies of Spain and a toast to the women that they are going to find here.
They row small boats to shore and drink some more.
*** Arcola ***
They hang around with some Indians for a few weeks and learn their language.
They hear a legend about gold and a mystic hill where Chinchbah lives.
A brave offers to take them there.
They go by a place where there is a big pile of shells where Indians ate seafood during hard times (long drought) inland.
All the birds get noisy as they paddle upstream.
They go through a swamp.
They go through a wood with bears, deers, and an owl.
There are muscadine grapes.
They get to higher ground where the leaves are golden because it is autumn.
They come to a place where there are signs that Indians live there.
The wood has flowers, which gives it a female charm.
They see Chinchbah’s home.
The Spanish are invited in and Halimah likes the looks of the blue-eyed one.
It is like she has known him always.
They have a feast and drink Spanish wine.
The Spanish tell the Indians about looking for gold to take back to Spain with its beautiful castles and gardens and art.
They think that there may be gold here on (in) this hill.
Men go to look for gold, forgetting what trouble it has caused.
Chincubah said that the Spanish were welcome to food and rest and could look around all they wanted – just stay away from the sacred hill.
They’ll all go to sleep and go deer hunting in the morning.
Alvarez and Halimah like each other a lot.
Alvarez goes up to the sacred hill and finds a cave blocked by a rock. He rolls it away. He goes inside. As he goes deeper, he meets Chincubah. Chincubah is the genie who guards the sacred treasure and must kill Alvarez to keep it secret.
They fight equally, sword against hatchet. Halimah comes in and throws herself at their feet. Alvarez is distracted by Halimah and Chincubah kills him. Halimah is dead, too.
I am not really good at Victorian poetry. Other interpretations are likely.
Anyway is ARCOLA the hill, the rock, the sacred treasure ........???