Page images
PDF
EPUB

VI.

HIAWATHA'S SAILING.

[ocr errors]

5 Give me of your bark, O Birch-Tree!
Of your yellow bark, O Birch-Tree!
Growing by the rushing river,
Tall and stately in the valley !
I a light canoe will build me,
Build a swift Cheemaun for sailing,
That shall float upon the river,
Like a yellow leaf in Autumn,
Like a yellow water-lily!

Lay aside your cloak, O Birch-Tree!
Lay aside your white-skin wrapper,
For the Summer-time is coming,
And the sun is warm in heaven,
And you need no white-skin wrapper!”

Thus aloud cried Hiawatha
In the solitary forest,
By the rushing Taquamenaw,
When the birds were singing gay!y,
In the Moon of Leaves were singing,
And the sun, from sleep awaking,
Started up and said, “ Behold me !
Geezis, the great Sun, behold me!”

And the tree with all its branches
Rustled in the breeze of morning,
Saying, with a sigh of patience,
" Take my cloak, O Hiawatha !”.

With his knife the tree he girdled ;
Just beneath its lowest branches,
Just above the roots, he cut it,
Till the sap came oozing outward ;
Down the trunk, from top to bottom,
Sheer he cleft the bark asunder,

With a wooden wedge he raised it,
Stripped it from the trunk unbroken.

“Give me of your boughs, O Cedar !
Of your strong and pliant branches,
My canoe to make more steady,
Make more strong and firm beneath me !"

Through the summit of the Cedar
Went a sound, a cry of horror,
Went a murmur of resistance;
But it whispered, bending downward,
“ Take my boughs, O Hiawatha !"

Down he hewed the boughs of cedar, Shaped them straightway to a framework, Like two bows he formed and shaped them, Like two bended bows together.

“Give me of your roots, O Tamarack!
Of your fibrous roots, O Larch-Tree!
My canoe to bind together,
So to bind the ends together
That the water may not enter,
That the river may not wet me!”

And the Larch, with all its fibres,
Shivered in the air of morning,
Touched his forehead with its tassels,
Said, with one long sigh of sorrow,
“ Take them all, O Hiawatha ! ”

From the earth he tore the fibres,
Tore the tough roots of the Larch-Tree,
Closely sewed the bark together,
Bound it closely to the framework.

“Give me of your balm, 0 Fir-Tree !
Of your balsam and your resin,
So to close the seams together
That the water may not enter,
That the river may not wet me!”

And the Fir-Tree, tall and sombre, Sobbed through all its robes of darkness, Rattled like a shore with pebbles, Answered wailing, answered weeping,

Take my balm, 0 Hiawatha !”

And he took the tears of balsam, Took the resin of the Fir-Tree, Smeared therewith each seam and fissure, Made each crevice safe from water.

“Give me of your quills, O Hedgehog! All your quills, o Kagh, the Hedgehog ! I will make a necklace of them, Make a girdle for my beauty, And two stars to deck her bosom!”

From a hollow tree the Hedgehog With his sleepy eyes looked at him, Shot his shining quills, like arrows, Saying, with a drowsy murmur, Through the tangle of his whiskers, “ Take my quills, O Hiawatha !

From the ground the quills he gatherea
All the little shining arrows,
Stained them red and blue and yellow,
With the juice of roots and berries ;
Into his canoe he wrought them,
Round its waist a shining girdle,
Round its bows a gleaming necklace,
On its breast two stars resplendent.

Thus the Birch Canoe was builded
In the valley, by the river,
In the bosom of the forest;
And the forest's life was in it,
All its mystery and its magic,
All the lightness of the birch-tree,
All the toughness of the cedar,
All the larch's supple sinews;
And it floated on the river
Like a yellow leaf in Autumn,

Paddles none had Hiawatha,
Paddles none he had or needed,
For his thoughts as paddles served him,

Like a yellow water-lily.

And his wishes served to guide him ;

Swift or slow at will he glided,
Veered to right or left at pleasure.

Then he called aloud to Kwasind,
To his friend, the strong man, Kwasind,
Saying, “ Help me clear this river
Of its sunken logs and sand-bars.”

Straight into the river Kwasind
Plunged as if he were an otter,
Dived as if he were a beaver,
Stood up to his waist in water,
To his arm-pits in the river,
Swam and shouted in the river,
Tugged at sunken logs and branches,
With his hands he scooped the sand-bars,
With his feet the ooze and tangle.

And thus sailed my Hiawatha Down the rushing Taquamenaw, Sailed through all its bends and windings, Sailed through all its deeps and shallows, While his friend, the strong man, Kwasind, Swam the deeps, the shallows waded.

Up and down the river went they, In and out among its islands, Cleared its bed of root and sand-bar, Dragged the dead trees from its channel, Made its passage safe and certain, Made a pathway for the people, From its springs among the mountains, To the waters of Pauwating, To the bay of Taquamenaw.

VIII.

HIAWATHA'S FISHING.

Forth

upon

the Gitche Gumee,
On the shining Big-Sea-Water,
With his fishing-line of cedar,
Of the twisted bark of cedar,
Forth to catch the sturgeon Nabma,
Mishe-Nahma, King of Fishes,
In his birch canoe exulting
All alone went Hiawatha.

Through the clear, transparent water
He could see the fishes swimming
Far down in the depths below him;
See the yellow perch, the Sahwa,
Like a sunbeam in the water,
See the Shawgashee, the craw-fish,
Like a spider on the bottom,
On the white and sandy bottom.

At the stern sat Hiawatha,
With his fishing-line of cedar;
In his plumes the breeze of morning
Played as in the hemlock branches;
On the bows, with tail erected,
Sat the squirrel, Adjidaumo;
In his fur the breeze of morning
Played as in the prairie grasses.

On the white sand of the bottom
Lay the monster Mishe-Nahma,
Lay the sturgeon, King of Fishes ;
Through his gills he breathed the water,
With his fins he fanned and winnowed,
With his tail he swept the sand-floor.

There he lay in all his armor ; On each side å shield to guard him,

« PreviousContinue »