A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Savage of Aveyron." by Mary Darby Robinson (1758-1800)

Editorial Credits

The Savage of Aveyron

   'Twas in the mazes of a wood,
The lonely wood of Aveyron.
I heard a melancholy tone:
   lt seem'd to freeze my blood!
A torrent near was flowing fast,
And hollow was the midnight blast
As o'er the leafless woods it past,
   While terror-fraught I stood!
O! mazy woods of Aveyron!
   O! wilds of dreary solitude!
   Amid thy thorny alleys rude
I thought myself alone!
   I thought no living thing could be
   So weary of the world as me,
While on my winding path the pale moon shone.

   Sometimes the tone was loud and sad,
And sometimes dulcet, faint, and slow:
And then a tone of frantic wo:
   It almost made me mad.
The burthen was "Alone! alone!"
And then the heart did feebly groan:
Then suddenly a cheerful tone
   Proclaimed a spirit glad!
O! mazy woods of Aveyron!
   O! wilds of dreary solitude!
   Amid your thorny alleys rude
I wish'd myselfa traveller alone.

   "Alone!" I heard the wild boy say,
And swift he climb'd a blasted oak;
And there, while morning's herald woke,
   He watch'd the opening day.
Yet dark and sunken was his eye,
Like a lorn maniac's, wild and shy,
And scowling like a winter sky,
   Without one beaming ray!
Then, mazy woods of Aveyron!
   Then, wilds of dreary solitude!
   Amid thy thorny alleys rude
I sigh'd to bea traveller alone.

   "Alone, alone'" I heard him shriek,
'Twas like the shriek of dying man!
And then to mutter he began,
   But, O! he could not speak!
I saw him point to heaven, and sigh,
The big drop trembled in his eye;
And slowly from the yellow sky,
   I saw the pale morn break.
I saw the woods of Aveyron,
   Their wilds of dreary solitude:
   I mark'd their thorny alleys rude,
And wish'd to bea traveller alone!

   His hair was long and black, and he
From infancy alone had been:
   For since his fifth year he had seen,
None mark'd his destiny!
No mortal ear had heard his groan,
For him no beam of hope had shone:
While sad he sigh'd"alone, alone!"
   Beneath the blasted tree.
And then. O! woods of Aveyron,
   O! wilds of dreary solitude,
   Amid your thorny alleys rude
I thought myself a travelleralone.

   And now upon the blasted tree
He carved three notches, broad and long,
And all the while he sang a song
   Of nature's melody!
And though of words he nothing knew,
And though his dulcet tones were few,
Across the yielding bark he drew,
   Deep sighing, notches three.
O! mazy woods of Aveyron,
   O! wilds of dreary solitude,
   Amid your thorny alleys rude
Upon this blasted oak no sun beam shone!

   And now he pointed one, two, three;
Again he shriek'd with wild dismay;
And now he paced the thorny way,
   Quitting the blasted tree.
It was a dark December morn,
The dew was frozen on the thorn:
But to a wretch so sad, so lorn,
   All days alike wou'd be!
Yet, mazy woods of Aveyron,
   Yet, wilds of dreary solitude,
   Amid your frosty alleys rude
I wish'd to bea traveller alone.

   He follow'd me along the wood
To a small grot his hands had made,
Deep in a black rock's sullen shade,
   Beside a tumbling flood.
Upon the earth I saw him spread
Of wither'd leaves a narrow bed,
Yellow as gold, and streak'd with red,
   They look'd like streaks of blood!
Pull'd from the woods of Aveyron,
   And scatter'd o'er the solitude
   By midnight whirlwinds strong and rude,
To pillow the scorch'd brain that throbb'd alone.

   Wild berries were his winter food,
With them his sallow lip was dyed;
On chesnuts wild he fed beside,
   Steep'd in the foamy flood.
Chequer'd with scars his breast was seen,
Wounds streaming fresh with anguish keen,
And marks where other wounds had been
   Torn by the brambles rude.
Such was the boy of Aveyron,
   The tenant of that solitude,
   Where still, by misery unsubdued,
He wander'd nine long winters, all alone.

   Before the step of his rude throne,
The squirrel sported, tame and gay;
The dormouse slept its life away,
   Nor heard his midnight groan.
About his form a garb he wore,
Ragged it was, and mark'd with gore,
And yet, where'er 'twas folded o'er,
   Full many a spangle shone!
Like little stars, O! Aveyron,
   They gleam'd amid thy solitude;
   Or like, along thy alleys rude,
The summer dew-drops sparkling in the sun.

   It once had been a lady's vest,
White as the whitest mountain's snow,
Till ruffian hands had taught to flow
   The fountain of her breast!
Remembrance bade the wild boy trace
Her beauteous form, her angel face,
Her eye that beam'd with heavenly grace,
   Her fainting voice that blest,
When in the woods of Aveyron,
   Deep in their deepest solitude,
   Three barbarous ruffians shed her blood,
And mock'd, with cruel taunts, her dying groan.

   Remembrance traced the summer bright,
When all the trees were fresh and green,
   When lost, the alleys long between,
The lady pass'd the night:
She pass'd the night, bewilder'd wild,
She pass'd it with her fearless child,
Who raised his little arms and smiled
To see the morning light.
While in the woods of Aveyron,
   Beneath the broad oak's canopy.
   She mark'd aghast the ruffians three,
Waiting to seize the traveller alone!

   Beneath the broad oak's canopy
The lovely lady's bones were laid;
But since that hour no breeze has play d
   About the blasted treel
The leaves all wither'd ere the sun
His next day's rapid course had run,
And ere the summer day was done
   It winter seem'd to be:
And still, Oh! woods of Aveyron,
   Amid thy dreary solitude
   The oak a sapless trunk has stood,
To mark the spot where murder foul was done.

   From her the wild boy learn'd "alone,"
She tried to say, my babe will die!
But angels caught her parting sigh,
   The babe her dying tone.
And from that hour the boy has been
Lord of the solitary scene,
Wandering the dreary shades between,
   Making his dismal moan!
Till, mazy woods of Aveyron,
   Dark wilds of dreary solitude,
   Amid your thorny alleys rude
I thought myself alone.
   And could a wretch more wretched be,
   More wild, or fancy-fraught than he,
Whose melancholy tale would pierce a heart of stone.

Editorial Credits