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SHOULD you ask me, whence these stories ?
Whence these legends and traditions,
With the odors of the forest,
With the dew and damp of meadows,
With the curling smoke of wigwams,
With the rushing of great rivers,
With their frequent repetitions,
And their wild reverberations,
As of thunder in the mountains ?
I should answer, I should tell you,
From the forests and the prairies,
From the great lakes of the Northland,
From the land of the Ojibways,
From the land of the Dacotahs,
From the mountains, moors, and fen-lands,
Where the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
Feeds among the reeds and rushes.
I repeat them as I heard them
From the lips of Nawadaha,
The musician, the sweet singer.”
Should you ask where Nawadaha Found these songs, so wild and wayward, Found these legends and traditions, I should answer, I should tell you, “In the bird's-nests of the forest, In the lodges of the beaver, In the hoof-prints of the bison, In the eyry of the eagle !
“ All the wild-fowl sang them to him, In the moorlands and the fen-lands,
In the inelancholy marshes ;
Chetowaik, the plover, sang them,
Mahng, the loon, the wild goose, Wawa,
The blue heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
And the grouse, the Mushkodasa!”
If still further you should ask me,
Saying, “ Who was Nawadaha ?
Tell us of this Nawadaba,"
I should answer your inquiries
Straightway in such words as follow.
" In the Vale of Tawasentha,
In the green and silent valley,
By the pleasant water-courses,
Dwelt the singer Nawadaha.
Round about the Indian village
Spread the meadows and the corn-fields,
And beyond them stood the forest,
Stood the groves of singing pine-trees,
Green in Summer, white in Winter,
Ever sighing, ever singing.
“ And the pleasant water-courses, You could trace them through the valley, By the rushing in the Spring-time, By the alders in the Summer, By the white fog in the Autumn, By the black line in the Winter; And beside them dwelt the singer, In the Vale of Tawasentha, In the green and silent valley. “ There he
Sang the Song of Hiawatha,
Sang his wondrous birth and being,
How he prayed and how he fasted,
How he lived, and toiled, and suffered,
That the tribes of men might prosper,
That he might advance his people!”
Ye who love the haunts of Nature,
Love the sunshine of the meadow,
Love the shadow of the forest,
Love the wind among the branches,
And the rain-shower and the snow-storm,
And the rushing of great rivers
Through their palisades of pine-trees,
And the thunder in the mountains,
Whose innumerable echoes
Flap like eagles in their eyries ;
Listen to these wild traditions,
To this Song of Hiawatha!
Ye who love a nation's legends,
Love the ballads of a people,
That like voices from afar off
Call to us to pause and listen,
Speak in tones so plain and childlike,
Scarcely can the ear distinguish
Whether they are sung or spoken ;-
Listen to this Indian Legend,
To this Song of Hiawatha!
Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple,
Who have faith in God and Nature,
Who believe, that in all ages
Every human heart is human,
That in even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings
For the good they comprehend not,
That the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God's right hand in that darkness
And are lifted up and strengthened ;-
Listen to this simple story,
To this Song of Hiawatha !
Ye, who sometimes, in your rambles Through the green lanes of the country, Where the tangled barberry-bushes Hang their tufts of crimson berries Over stone walls gray with mosses, Pause by some neglected graveyard, For a while to muse, and ponder On a half-effaced inscription,
Written with little skill of song-craft,
Homely phrases, but each letter
Full of hope and yet of heart-break,
Full of all the tender pathos
Of the Here and the Hereafter ;-
Stay and read this rude inscription,
Read this Song of Hiawatha !
On the Mountains of the Prairie,
On the great Red Pipe-stone Quarry,
Gitche Manito, the mighty,
He the Master of Life, descending,
On the red crags of the quarry.
Stood erect, and called the nations,
Called the tribes of men together.
From his footprints flowed a river,
Leaped into the light of morning,
O’er the precipice plunging downward
Gleamed like Ishkoodah, the comet.
And the Spirit, stooping earthward,
With his finger on the meadow
Traced a winding pathway for it,
Saying to it, “ Run in this way!'
From the red stone of the quarry With his hand he broke a fragment, Moulded it into a pipe-head, Shaped and fashioned it with figures ; From the margin of the river Took a long reed for a pipe-stem, With its dark green leaves upon it; Filled the pipe with bark of willow, With the bark of the red willow; Breathed upon the neighbouring forest, Made its great boughs chafe together, Till in flame they burst and kindled ; And erect upon the mountains, Gitche Manito, the mighty, Smoked the calumet, the Peace-Pipe, As a signal to the nations. And the smoke rose slowly, slowly,