The Project Gutenberg EBook of Indian Legends of Minnesota, by Various

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Title: Indian Legends of Minnesota

Author: Various

Editor: Mrs. Cordenio A. Severance

Release Date: June 14, 2008 [EBook #25794]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by K. Nordquist, David Edwards, grythumn (harvested
missing illustrations from Internet Archive), Diane Monico,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at

(cover) (cover)

MINNEHAHA. (Frontispiece.) MINNEHAHA. (Frontispiece.)




"Then a darker, drearier vision
Passed before me vague and cloudlike;
I beheld our nation scattered,
All forgetful of my council,
Weakened, warring with each other:
Saw the remnant of our people
Sweeping westward, wild and woful,
Like the cloud rack of a tempest,
Like the withered leaves of Autumn!"



Copyrighted, 1893,











The Lone War-Path. Elaine Goodale Eastman,9
Fond Hearts of the Forest,22
The Peace-Pipe Quarry. Adelaide George Bennett,77
The Song of Hiawatha. Henry W. Longfellow,86
Hiawatha's Wooing. Henry W. Longfellow,91
The River-Lake. E. L. Fales,95
Song of a Nadowessee Chief. Sir E. L. Bulwer,97
"Mahnusatia." Fannie L. Stone,99
The Descending Star. Ida Sexton Searls,126
The Trailing Arbutus. Adelaide George Bennett,132
Nopa. Ida Sexton Searls,136
The Sea-Gull,139
Sweet Water,162
Death of Winona. H. L. Gordon,171
The Legend of the Moccasin Flower. Ida Sexton Searls,175

[Pg 7]


In presenting to the public this volume the compiler wishes to disown any attempt at a complete collection of Indian legends; both her knowledge of archæology, and the time allowed for the completion of the work are inadequate to such an achievement. She has attempted to gather the more noticeable legends already in verse in order to stimulate interest in the scenery and romance of her State. From its name—Minnesota—to its floral emblem—the moccasin flower—the State everywhere bears the impress of former occupation. About every lake, forest, and valley clings the aroma of romance in the form of name or legend of the vanished Red Man.

The indistinct memory of his loves, wars, and adventures is growing rapidly fainter, until even the story-teller himself is confused as to the relation between event and locality. It has therefore seemed wise to link indissolubly scene and incident, that the poetry of those who have here lived and loved may not be completely displaced by the prosaic commerce of the white man.

The compiler wishes also to express her thanks to the writers who have allowed their works to[Pg 8] reappear in this volume: To Rev. E. D. Neill, D.D., for much valuable counsel, and to Houghton, Mifflin & Co., for permission to make extracts from Hiawatha.

[Pg 9]


The Lone War-Path.


O'er a vast prairie stoops the sultry night;
The moon in her broad kingdom wanders white;
High hung in space, she swims the murky blue.
Low lies yon village of the roaming Sioux—
Its smoke-stained lodges, moving toward the west,
By conquering Sleep invaded and possessed.
All there, save one, own his benign command;
Their chief has lately left this little band,
And up the glittering path of spirits fled;
Thus his young widow, not a twelvemonth wed,
In yonder solitary tent conceals
The aching hope, the trembling pangs she feels.
How breathless is the night! None saw it rise—
That black cloud stealing up the glassy skies—
[Pg 10] Till threatening murmurs, loud and louder grown,
Burst from its swelling bosom, and the moon
Slips into brief oblivion, while a glare
As of far, flickering torches, seems to bear
The challenge of the gods. Awake, awake!
Make ready for the tempest, ere it break!
Drive tent-pins deeper, stretch the covering tight—
Hobble the ponies, scattering in affright
Before the thunder-peals. When all is fast,
Keep vigil, then, till the gods' wrath be past!
A sudden fury sweeps the somber plain,
In dizzy slant descends the sheeted rain;
Sharp lightnings rend in twain the sable gloom,
While, cannon-like, the unchained thunders boom!
On this wild tumult of the angry skies
No ear discerns a woman's thrilling cries;
Yet, ere its sullen echoes die away
In caverns where the mocking spirits play,
Faint, but rejoicing, on a couch of skins,
A new-made mother lays her lusty twins!
The wise men of the tribe strange signs relate—
This stormy birth portends a stormy fate—
And since the warring heavens, that should affright,
Called forth these daring boys on such a night,
Their names must own the event that marked their birth—
The elder, "As-he-walks-he-shakes-the-earth,"
The younger twin, "Coming-his-voice-is-heard"—
Thus saith the oracle.
[Pg 11]
This mighty word
Darkens the mother's heart with nameless dread,
But casts no shadow on the unconscious head
Of either sturdy twin. Their mutual play
With joyous echoes fills the livelong day!
From helpless infancy to boyhood grown,
One brother never had been seen alone,
Till sudden sorrow bowed the mother's pride—
The elder sickened and untimely died.
The gossips point to him that's left alone—
"He, too, will die, for half himself is gone!"
At first, distraught he seemed—unlike a child;
He ate not, slept not, neither spoke nor smiled.
Then sought the forest—wandered there alone
For days—his tender mother frantic grown—
Till he returned to her, and smiling, said,
"My spirit meets and talks with him that's dead!"
Thenceforth he seemed as one who, hand-in-hand,
Walks with a brother in the spirit land.
Among the Sioux, in those heroic days,
When certain valor gained the meed of praise,
The seasoned warrior, old and full of scars,
Counted the hero of a hundred wars,
Yet craving higher honor, went alone,
On foot, to meet the enemy, and won
(If he returned victorious), on that day
A proud distinction.
Fancy her dismay,—
The mother of a tender youth untried,—
When he, the twin we know of, seeks her side
[Pg 12] And murmurs in her ear, who loves him so,—
"Mother, my elder brother bids me go
On a lone war-path." Knowing well 'twere vain
To plead with him, her tears must fall like rain
On 'broidered moccasins for those dear feet;
His pouch, her choicest store of pounded meat
Must fill before the dawn, which sends him forth
On foot, alone, to pierce the savage north.
I hear them coming who made thee weep![A]
Leap on thy father's steed
And urge him to his utmost speed,
And rush to meet the warlike host,
And meet them first, who hurt thee most.
Strike one among ten thousand,
And make but one to bleed!
So shall thy name be known,
Through all the world be known,
If one is made to bleed!
Heh-eh-eh-eh! Heh!
Now to the journey gallantly addressed,
(Still at his twin's mysterious behest),
He kills a buck with branching horns, and takes
The tongue and heart for food—then straightway makes
A sacrifice to that stern deity—
The thunder-god—who rules his destiny.
On a fair, level spot, encompassed round
With trees, he pins the carcass to the ground;
[Pg 13] Prays for success, his burning heart's desire,—
Then sleeps beside the embers of his fire.
How wearisome, how long the painful days
That follow, as he treads by unknown ways
A mazy wilderness, where lurk unseen
All perils challenging his eye-sight keen.
Yet on—with tattered shoes and blistering feet—
To find the savage foe he longs to meet!
At last, to wearied eyes that search in vain,
The far-off meeting-place of sky and plain,
A fleck of dazzling whiteness doth appear.
The youth exclaims, "My enemy is near!"
Toward that white gleam his cautious steps are bent,
Surely some roving Blackfoot's lonely tent.
Nearer and nearer creeps, with cat-like tread,
The watchful Sioux. Above his lowered head
The plumy grasses rear a swaying crest;
His sinuous motion ripples the broad breast
Of this ripe prairie, like a playful wind
That leaves its shining, silver track behind.
A tent of skins—that piercing eye saw true—
Wondrously white and beautifully new;
In all the colors known to savage art,
A life-size figure with a blood-red heart
Guards the low door. But who shall more divine,
Since not a thread of smoke, nor sound, nor sign
Of human presence makes the story clear,
Save yonder dappled ponies grazing near?
Crouched in deep grass the wily Indian lies,
Ambitious that lone hunter to surprise—[Pg 14]
His gaze the wide horizon ranges low
For the first glimpse of his returning foe;
The painted lodge full many a glance doth win—
Each moment may reveal who lurks within!
At last it moves—that swinging oval door—
At last she steps upon the prairie floor,
Shading her dark eyes from the dazzling ray—
A dusky princess, lovelier than the day!
No matron, to her hidden foeman's sight,
Has ever seemed so radiantly bright.
Her dress is rich, in style unlike the Sioux.
(These belles in doe-skin have their fashions, too!)
On either shoulder lies a jetty braid;
Her slender form, most delicately made,
Her deep, black eyes and winsome features miss
Naught of proportion. What a conquest this!
To such an enemy who would not bow?
Truly our warrior is a captive now!
Vainly she gazes—turns and disappears,
His beating heart our youthful hero hears!
Rashly he thinks to follow and surprise
This charming stranger—carry off the prize
Before her lord's return. By impulse led,
To the low door he stoops his stately head,
Flings a last hurried glance to left and right,
Then enters, and beholds this beauty bright
Seated upon a pile of costly skins,
Embroidering her hunter's moccasins!
He stands abashed—she glances up to greet
His hasty entrance with a smile so sweet,
Then drops her lashes with such coquetry.
Amazed, he thinks, "No mortal woman she,[Pg 15]
Who does not fear a stranger entering so!
Rather some teasing fairy, or a doe
In woman's form."
Abruptly he exclaims
"What are you—a Dakota?" As he names
That warlike tribe, at last she starts, and shakes
Her head; then with her slender fingers makes,
Slowly, the signs all tribes of Indians know—
"I do not speak your language."
"Is it so?
Where is your husband?" asks our hero young,
In this same silent, yet most graphic tongue.
"I am the daughter of a Blackfoot chief,
Whose home is three days' journey north. In brief,
My brother is a hunter. I am here
To keep his lodge, while he pursues the deer."
"Then I will leave you," he replies, "and when
Your brother comes, I shall return again!"
Thus saying, takes his leave; but, ere he goes,
One longing, lingering, backward glance he throws,
Which tells the maid how straight her arrow sped
To pierce the heart of him she else must dread.
My heart is heavy—my heart is sore—
I heard you were going away!
I wept all night—I wept all day—
I wept till I could weep no more
When I heard you were going away
Far, far away!
O my heart! O my poor heart!
Heh-eh-eh-eh! Ho-o-o!

[Pg 16]

Concealing in the grass his eagle plumes,
The patient Sioux his lonely watch resumes.
The reddening sun is low, when, far away,
He sees a moving speck. With its last ray
A handsome youth dismounts before the door.
His sister, as the custom was of yore,
Removes the body of the doe with speed,
Unsaddles, waters, pickets out his steed,
Leaving the wearied hunter to repose.
A film of smoke, dissolving as it goes,
Curls upward from the Blackfoot's lodge.
At last,
The youthful pair have ended their repast,
And reappear without, to taste the cool
Of evening. All their sportive converse, full
Of meaning gestures, doth right well supply
Its story to their unseen watcher's eye,
Who through the night his tireless vigil keeps,
While, wrapt in dreams, the unconscious Blackfoot sleeps.
At earliest dawn, in the chill morning gray,
Again the youthful hunter rides away;
And, when the sun mounts half way up the sky,
Her lover meets the Blackfoot maiden's eye.
Archly she greets him—"Laggard! why so late?
He whom you seek is gone—he could not wait!"
"But you—you told him not," the youth replies,
"Of my first visit!" In each other's eyes
They look and laugh; and in that laughter free
Dissolves the ancient, tribal enmity![Pg 17]
The wooing of an Indian is but brief.
He tells his tale, "My father was a chief—
These eighteen years in yonder heaven he dwells."
The maiden's heart with awe and wonder swells
On hearing that mysterious name and birth
Which mark him as a being scarce of earth.
Then, too, his gallant height and handsome face,
Equipment strange, and bearing full of grace
Ensnare her fancy.
When the bold demand
Comes from this hero for her heart and hand,
In blush and smile her answer may be guessed;
Yet, womanlike, she puts him to the test!
"Ere I consent, you must return with me
Unto my father's lodge. And first—but see
This raw-hide trunk. I pray you, creep inside—"
(All this by signs); "then you can safely hide!
I dread my brother's anger, when he hears
Our foeman asks me for a wife."
Such fears
(Prettily figured, it may be), win with ease
The youth's consent to any scheme you please;
Danger, discomfort, ridicule—all three
This gallant wooer scorns, and smilingly
Consents to crowd his noble length of limb
Within the narrow space allotted him.
Captive he lies, and, all defenseless, hears
The brother's late return. His jealous ears
Miss no least accent in the voice of each,
Yet glean so little from their foreign speech[Pg 18]
That, spite of passion (knowing woman's art),
A spasm of dread contracts the hero's heart.
Suppose, while thus in helpless case he lay,
The maid his place of hiding should betray!
Clutching with iron grasp his trusty gun,
Scarce breathing, he awaits the morrow's sun.
Meanwhile, she prattles of adventures gay—
Tells how a handsome stranger called that day,
Describes his splendid dress,—the arms he bore,
Such as no Blackfoot ever saw before;
But not a word her cunning lips let fall
Of love and courtship as the sum of all!
At daybreak forth again the hunter fares,
But with his artful sister first prepares
A fresh surprise. When scarcely out of sight,
She hastens to relieve her captive knight;
And while he gladly tastes the savory fare
Which presently her willing hands prepare,
Stretches his cramped limbs to the grateful sun,
And drinks the favoring smiles so hardly won,
A sudden shadow falls athwart his feet—
At last the war-like Sioux and Blackfoot meet.
Surely the boy his sister's secret guessed,
Since only kindness dwells within his breast
Toward his ancestral foe. By friendly signs,
Each comely youth the other's thought divines;
Then suddenly exclaims the dauntless Sioux,
"Listen, my friend! I must return with you
To ask and win this maiden for my wife!"
"Return with us! not if you prize your life—"[Pg 19]
The startled Blackfoot answers. "You must know
That all our tribe regard you as a foe;
My sister's suitors are as many now
As yonder leaves that twinkle on the bough.
Should a Dakota venture such a plea,
Our jealous youth would slay him instantly!"
The youthful warrior merely smiles, and lays
His hand upon his gun, as one who says
"I can defend myself!" "Do you so prize
This thing?" demands the other in surprise.
"Set up a mark, and you shall shortly see
What sort of weapon 'tis I bear with me!"
"Take my white pony!" "No," his friend replies,
"Set up a willow wand."
The bullet flies
Straight to its mark, and cleaves the target quite,
While youth and maiden, starting in affright,
Believe some heavenly wight this deed hath done—
Doubtless the thunder's veritable son!
Convinced at last, the Blackfoot yields assent,
And leads the stranger to his father's tent.
On the third evening, as the shadows fall,
The hospitable chief receives them all
In his great lodge, and listens to their tale
Of the brave Sioux, whose weapon cannot fail,
But, like the thunder, with mysterious roar,
Strikes enemies unseen. Well pleased before
With this fair stranger-youth's ingenuous face,
He bids him welcome with a courtly grace,
And on the morn proclaims to all his band
This warrior shall receive his daughter's hand.[Pg 20]
The fiery Blackfeet, when this word they know,
Dart glances of dire hatred at their foe;
But, hold! the criers once again appear—
"This foreign bridegroom hath a magic here!
Weapon like his no Blackfoot ever saw!
Bring forth a mark and then prepare with awe
To witness its destruction!"
Each brave presents his finest horse, while he
Accepts of one, and fires before them all.
Ah, pity! see the noble creature fall!
Hear its death-scream!
Some trembled, others fled,
But all declared so fair a maid should wed
No less a brave than this. All cavil ceased;
And now began with joy the marriage feast.
One day you will remember me—
One day—one day!
You will at last remember me,
And say,
"I was so dear to her—so dear to her!"
You will remember me
One day!
When the young hero carried home his bride,
He rode a pacing pony at her side;[Pg 21]
Twelve others followed—costly loads they bore,
Rich robes and gifts—the Blackfoot maiden's dower.
On a lone war-path finding such a fate,
His triumph all the village celebrate;
Peace is declared between the tribes; and soon—
Before the waxing of another moon—
Guns, knives and blankets, prized past all belief,
Are sent as presents to the Blackfoot chief.
Such is the tale by Indian camp-fires told—
The old, old story that grows never old!


[A] I. e., who slew thy father.

[Pg 22]

Fond Hearts of the Forest.


The hazy gloaming gathers round,
The silence mellows every sound,
The gentle wind, through foliage nigh,
Begins to breathe its plaintive sigh;
While o'er the hill creeps silver light,
Where calm and chaste the queen of night,
Awaking from her daily trance,
Doth charm all nature with her glance.
Her virgin train sweeps down the glade,
Kissing the cavern's mouth of shade;
She smiles upon the singing brook,
With sparkles filling every nook
That lurks about its dimpled face,
Giving its deepest shadows grace,
And breathing on its grassy mane
A gloss it ne'er can hope to gain
Beneath the sun's more kingly ray.
Weirdly the purling waters play
In her embrace; then break away
To vanish under bending boughs,
But giving voice to gurgling vows

[Pg 22a]


[Pg 23]

Of future tryst, of love again
Where meet the river banks and glen.
The moonlight vaults beyond the trees
To gain the river side, and sees
A dusky maiden sitting there,
Who twines her lovely raven hair,
And frequent lifts her melting eyes
To where the flashing ripple flies
Across the bosom of that glass
Where dancing stars nocturnal pass.
A princess of the wildwood she,
And graceful as the deer that flee
Till stricken by the light-winged shaft
So deadly from the hunter's craft.
The river sings beneath her feet;
It finds an echo in the sweet
And tender thought that throbs behind
The starry curtains of her mind.
And when the thrills that sweep her heart
Now from her tongue in music start,
The wavelets beating on the strand,
The murmuring leaves by zephyrs fanned,
The minor rhythms that wake the bowers
Of this fair glen when evening lowers,
And warbling birds' melodious throng,
All mingle with her low love song.
Her voice is all that's wild and sweet,
And slow must be that warrior's feet
Who would not speed with all his heart
To see her red lips meet and part.
Love moves her with his golden sway—
A young and stalwart Chippewa
Has gained her heart, and kindred ties[Pg 24]
And tribal feuds her love defies.
What cares she that her people hate
And his give back without abate?
What cares she that he is not Sioux?
If he but keep his promise true!
She sings an old song, passion-laden
By many a dead Dahkota maiden:
O where is my lodge—my love?
O where is the lord of my breast?
Reveal me, Great Spirit above,
The arms where my passion may rest!
Brave warriors are thick as the leaves
That follow the wind in the fall;
Each maiden may think she receives
The smile of the noblest of all;
But I know a chief who can slay
The panther and bear with his hand,—
As warm and as proud as the day,
And braver than all in his band.
In his sinewy arms I shall rest,
And hear his voice call me "sweet dove!"
O he is the lord of my breast!
With him is my lodge and my love!
She stops! She turns with sudden start,
With troubled eyes and beating heart,
To the frowning bluffs, where warlike cries
And sound of savage revel rise.
The warriors of her tribe are there,
All dancing in the firelight glare.[Pg 25]
Their spears with reeking scalps are clad,
Their thoughts are blood, their brains are mad;
Each yelling brave now only knows
Fierce hatred for his ancient foes.
They boast of all their deeds of might,
Of secret slaughter, deadly fight,
And woe to him who comes to meet
The lonely maid, Wenonah sweet,
If they his paddle's dip shall hear
Or after learn his presence near.
When their wild revel, to her fright,
Rose wilder with the fall of night,
She stole away and gained this place
To see again her lover's face.
She gazes on the distant shore,
But all is quiet as before.
Again she sings, her flute-like tones
So low that were the very stones
On which she rests her feet possessed
With sense to hear, what she confessed
In tuneful cadence would be lost
To them, for well she knows the cost
For him who loves her, if her thought
Be told aloud, and so there naught
Breaks on the air but melody.
If sung in words, her song would be:
My love is strong, my love is brave,
His heart is warm and true;
He soon will come across the wave
And bear me in his light canoe,
To be his queen and slave.
[Pg 26]
To me he bowed his eagle plume,
He tamed his eagle eye,
And vowed his love would life consume
If I refused with him to fly,
His teepee to illume.
O come, my chief! I watch—I wait!
I give up all for thee;
If thou wilt have an alien mate,
Wenonah longs that one to be,
That she may share thy fate.
Come quickly, love, but make no sound,
My people are thy foes,
If thou shouldst here by them be found
A warrior's death thy life would close,
Thy soul be skyward bound.
What then would poor Wenonah do
If she were left alone?
She scarce would see the hand that slew
Ere she would raise her death-chant tone,
And with thee perish too!
She scans the echoing cliff once more,
Then turns to view the farther shore,
And bending low she strives to hear
Some sound to tell her he is near.
O'er all there seems to fall a hush
As tender as her cheek's warm blush.
So firmly rooted to the spot—
As if she had all things forgot—[Pg 27]
She looks like some wild, charm-bound elf,
As lifeless as the moon itself.
But no! the parted lip and eye
Of flashing fire such thoughts belie,
And well and eloquent avow
The soul beneath that rigid brow.
O virgin heart! O passion bright!
That fills a glance with beauty's light.
O Wenijishid, happy thou,
Who surely will not tarry now!
A moment thus—then up she springs,
And now the song she softly sings
Floats o'er the water from her lip
To meet the constant, noiseless dip
Of Wenijishid's paddle blade.
How swift to greet the faithful maid
He comes! She waits, 'tween joy and fear,
While on he glides, each stroke more near.
Love gives him more than wonted strength,
And on the beach he leaps at length.
With trembling joy, with artless grace,
She springs into his glad embrace.
Within her brave young hero's arms
Forgot are all her past alarms.
One rapturous kiss with quick impress,—
His burning hands her locks caress,—
And then they gaze, at love's sweet will,
Eye into eye with answering thrill!
"Wenonah, darling, since we met,
Not once could I that smile forget
Which told me (more than words could tell)
The hopes that made this bosom swell
Were fair in our great Spirit's sight.[Pg 28]
He, ere another moon's swift flight,
Shall bid me take thee to my home
And joy in thee, no more to roam."
Her trustful voice is low and clear,
And sweetest music in his ear:
"No chief is braver, none more bold
Than he whose neck my arms enfold.
He dares the light the moonbeams make
And danger courts for my poor sake.
Hark! Wenijishid, hearest thou not
Those yells of warning? Though this spot
Rests now beneath a peaceful spell,
How long 'twill so we cannot tell.
Thy heart is big, and like a rock
Will meet the blood-storm's awful shock;
But I am weaker—and I fear
For thee each moment thou art here.
Behold how now the moonlight meets
And with a kiss each ripple greets;
Wenonah's heart, o'erflowed with bliss,
Is wholly thine, and thine her kiss."
The radiance mingled with the shade—
The murmur low by night winds made—
The rune, harmonious and complete,
Of wavelets in their ceaseless beat—
The fragrance given of sleeping flower—
The brooding hush that fits the hour,—
With this fair scene all these are met
To make the scene more lovely yet.
Wenonah's kiss would all confess,
It gives to beauty holiness;
The moments passing seem to be
Endowed with all eternity,[Pg 29]
And in this lonely spot, love found
Brings the whole universe in bound!
But, hark! what sound the breezes bear
Turning her gladness to despair?
Wenonah trembles like a reed,
With hunted look she turns to plead:
"O Wenijishid, leave me, quick!
For dangers gather round thee thick.
We are discovered, and thy death
May hang upon each wasted breath.
Fly for thy life! Too late! too late!
Together we must meet our fate."
He smiles, and there with dauntless front
Would meet the coming foemen's brunt;
But she who will not leave his side
Bears in her hand his warrior pride,
And hopes of joyous life with her
Are sweeter than the battle's stir.
His war-whoop's taunt rings through the glen,
While answering come the cries of ten.
Wenonah clasps his brawny arm,
And lest his love might come to harm
He turns to where his birchen boat
Seems chafing to be set afloat;
And, ere their foes have gained the strand,
The light canoe beneath his hand
Leaps off before a foaming track.
He flings a yell of triumph back,
And grimly smiles as on he flies
To hear their disappointed cries;
Yet lest they may too soon pursue,
He urges on the flight anew.
He plies the paddle with a will,[Pg 30]
They skim the waves,—but swifter still
A vengeful arrow cleaves the air,
To sink between his shoulders bare.
The shock is cruel, and the blade
Falls from his hand; his powers all fade
Like thought, and plunging on his face,
Deathlike he lies. Now to his place
Wenonah springs; with bloodless lip,
With gleaming eye and nervous grip,
She works the paddle with a force
Of which but love could be the source.
Beyond the range of bow, she flings
The blade aside and fiercely brings
Her wounded hero to her breast.
Now sadly called, now wildly pressed,
He breathes at last a feeble sigh,
And, feeling sure he will not die,
She labors strongly, full of hope
And nerved with any fate to cope.
She gains the shore, and stoutly bears
Her chief through brush and wild beast lairs.
All through the night she speeds her flight.
To where his people's fires burn bright.
When friendly, helping hands are found,
And she has given him to their care,
She sinks upon the leafy ground,
Panting like a hunted hare.
Her faithful powers have filled their task,
Their sacred trust no more need ask,
And now the goal is gained, they bind
Oblivion's charm around her mind.

[Pg 31]

Young life is pliant, love will give
A mighty motive still to live.
And when he wakes, with deep surprise
He meets the dark and glorious eyes
Of dear Wenonah on him bent
In passion's hope absorbed, content.

Since this took place it is not known
How many changing moons have flown;
Yet still, when Luna's rapiers bright
Pierce through the tenuous robe of Night,
And shining on the stilly shore
Create again that scene of yore,
Wenonah and her lover true
Pass over in their white canoe;
Their spirit forms unshadowed glide
Across the rapid, glistening tide.

[Pg 32]



'Tis autumn, and the breezes lift
Their melancholy tones;
'Tis evening: through each passing rift
The stars, like precious stones
In lustrous beauty (clouded soon),
Sweet incense to the sight,
Attend their white-robed mistress moon,
Queen of romantic night.
Anon, as the cloud hosts fly
Before the wind across the sky,
The court of the queen is suddenly seen,
With its pomp sublime and array
Of sparkling and glittering sheen,
More lovely than the light of day,
More glorious than the twilight gleam
That mingles with the sun's last beam
Where the waves of ocean play.
By the river's bank a wandering band
Have reared their teepee walls,
Here where the warriors all may stand
And view the mighty falls.[Pg 33]
The ivory moon is mounting high,
The lodge fires flicker low,
And slumbering forms are visible by
The embers' last faint glow,
When lightly steps a youthful brave
Out from the forest ways
Into the star-roofed nave,
Out from the shadowing trees
(Leaves fluttering slow in the slow night breeze)
Into the broad, revealing rays,
Into the silvery glow.
With step as buoyant as the air
He glides above the glistening sward;
The largest, whitest teepee there
Doth seem to center his regard,
For there his unmarked path doth end,
And there his burning glances send
Their passionate lightnings, wild, yet all
Made reverent by the spot on which they fall.
This lodge doth tower
Above the poles on every hand
Like some strange chieftain o'er his band.
Why comes he at this hour?
Hath dark revenge a purpose here?
Shall bloody strife appear
On such a scene? Ah, no! the power
That spurs him hath a softer spell;
For here the tribe's most cherished flower,
The daughter of the chief, doth dwell.
His deep, rich voice floats down the glade,
In soft, unwonted tones
Like gentle winds through pine-tree cones;[Pg 34]
He sings the Warrior's Serenade;
While at the end of every strain—
With more effect his cause to plead—
He plays a wild and shrill refrain
Upon a flute of rude-cut reed.
Lonely warbling bird of night!
Leave thy bough and perch above
The silent, dewy folds of white
That screen my sleeping love.
Drink the moonlight rays that fall
Pure and mellow, like the beams
Of starry eyes beyond my call,
Far in the land of dreams.
Tell her I am brave and strong;
Tell her I have loved her long;
Singing softly, like a dove,
Tell her all you know of love
I cannot tell in song.
Tell her I am waiting here
At the threshold of her bower;
Winds are lifting far and near
The sweets of every flower,
All the stars are out in state,
Music breathes in every stir,
All of nature seems to wait
For a glimpse of her.
Tell her I am brave and strong;
Tell her I have loved her long;
Singing softly like a dove,
Tell her all you know of love
I cannot tell in song.

[Pg 35]

Is it the wind that swings apart
The deerskin door from the lodge away?
Is it a sudden leap of his heart
That makes too vivid fancy play?
Or is it a nut-brown arm that holds
The trembling folds,
And are those liquid eyes that shine
Like diamonds fine?
Sing on, sing on, bold youth,
And hope shall lead thee to the truth!
She is lovelier than the sky,
Sweeter than the freshest bud,
I can no longer wait and sigh
Here in the moonlight flood;
All my heart is at her feet,
All my strength at her behest;
O sing, and bid her come to greet
The one who loves her best!
Tell her I am brave and strong;
Tell her I have loved her long;
Singing softly, like a dove,
Tell her all you know of love
I cannot tell in song.
His manly voice entreating calls
As softly as the dewdrop falls.
He ceases, and the night winds hush
As if they too had waited long;
The organ river's chanting rush
Seems but an echo of his song.
And shall he wait and plead in vain?
Ah, no! love is not always pain;[Pg 36]
For see, the folds are drawn aside,
And dimly there may be descried
A shadowy form of shadowy grace,
That halts while still in gloom arrayed,
With eyes that light the tawny face
And tresses darker than the shade.
O spell of song! O power and thrill
Of love! O dream that sways
The blood of youth, that feels no chill
Till love betrays!
O hark! ye sprites that haunt this time,—
This quiet moon-lit hour,
When Cupid weaves, in every clime,
His web of subtlest power,—
O, can ye hear, and not rejoice,
The music of a maiden's voice?
"Anpetusapa's glance would meet
The night bird that can sing so sweet."
With what a bounding stride he goes!
With what a light his dark eye glows!
With what a look he seeks to fire
Those gentle eyes with his desire!
"O multiply what voice reveals;
The bird can sing not half it feels!
Too deep, too deep, to tell in words,
And even too sweet for song of birds,
Is passion like this heart of mine
Doth feel for thine!"[Pg 37]
She lightly steps into the light,
She gently lifts her gentle eyes,
She flies not, though her heart takes flight
And soars without disguise.
"I know thee; thou art strong and tall,
Thy fearless deeds are known to all.
O may this eve be not more fair
Than life to thee, is all my prayer."
His mighty sinews, sternly trained,
Are now with manly grace restrained,
And the fortunate touch of a fairy's wand
Far ruder would seem than the touch of his hand;
And the light of his eye like a streamlet doth flow
Where passion and tenderness mingle and flash
On the dancing ripples, whose murmuring low
From his lips seem to dash
A faithful, harmonious echo:
"Of happiness all my life will tell
If thou in my lodge doth dwell.
Oh! couldst thou but know
The new, the glad, the tender glow
That warms my heart, so fiercely brave
When breasting battle's fiercest wave—
Couldst thou but feel it pulse and bound
Whene'er my ear is charmed to hear
Thy gentle tongue's melodious sound—
Couldst thou but see how these fond eyes
Rejoice to look upon thy face
When like a dream before them rise
Thy matchless form and wondrous grace—[Pg 38]
How deeply, thirstily they drink
Thy dew-bright eyes, whose flashing glance
Doth like a luring firefly dance
(Along an island's shadowy brink
Where rippling waters, restless waters,
Sing their low, unchanging song
Upon the pebbles all night long).
Thou art a flower whose smile hath made
A sunbeam pierce the forest shade;
Thou art a rose that fragrant grows
To beautify the darksome glade
And sweeten every breeze that blows.
Anpetusapa! wilt thou give
The promise that shall make me live
As I have never lived before?
I love thee, and the powers divine
Shall teach thy heart to pulse with mine,
And bless our union evermore
While moons shall pass or starlight shine."
The guardian bosom of her lover
Serves well her modest blush to cover;
Her willowy arms about him twine
As closely as the greenwood vine
Doth hang upon the towering oak,
That holds it safe from every stroke
And proudly shelters the delicate form
From all the buffets of the storm.
The moon and every heavenly gem
Now seem to shine alone for them.
O Time! why must thou speed away?
For knowest thou not that present joy[Pg 39]
Bears no increase for such as they,
For whom all change must bring alloy?
And thou, young Love! canst thou not make
A lonely Eden for their sake?
'Tis better that but two should find
Gladness of heart and peace of mind,
Than all the greater sum of life—
With burning hearts that fates unbind
And crowding thoughts that gender strife.
But no, the gift of life is one
Of strangest form, of blended tints
And crossing lines, with mingled hints
Of glory from an unseen sun;
And shades that hourly darker grow
For those who seek that sun to know;—
And they must take the whole or none.
So they must wake to memory
Of other things, so they must be
Reminded of the powers that hold
Their future lives, to rule and mold.
"Anpetusapa need not name
The glory of her father's fame;
He is a mighty chief, and none
Too quickly will he choose a son."
"O fear not, my blossom,
For he shall not see
The flower of his bosom
Mismated with me.
Where war-whoops are sounding
Their blood-stirring call,
There I shall go bounding[Pg 40]
The foremost of all.
When foemen shall fly me
And chiefs call me brave,
He will not deny me
The boon I shall crave."
"Yes, thou art brave for one so young;
This voice of mine thy feats hath sung
When from the war-path thou returned
On which thy first renown was earned.
If my poor love can make thy bliss,
My service give the happier life,
All hope shall dwell in one kind kiss
For thine eternal-loving wife."
"O blessed promise! future bright!
This feeble tongue of mine can never
Reveal how dear thou art to-night,
How cherished thou shalt be forever!"

The chief approved the suitor bold,
And for rich goods his daughter sold.
She thought not of the trade, but went
To her young lord with true content,
And while she dreamed of joy to come
Her heart was full, her lips were dumb;
And day by day her task was wrought,
Each hour with self-denial fraught;
His wants were met, his lodge was trim,
Her patient thoughts were all for him.
The powers divine did seem to bless
The promise of his wild caress;[Pg 41]
And so the happy moons flew by,
Till new refulgence filled her sky
When there appeared a baby boy,
Whose laugh o'erflowed her cup of joy;
For this must prove, she could but feel,
A bond between them strong as steel.
Alas, thou too confiding wife,
What clouds were gathering o'er thy life!
For vanity alone will stay
With human nature to the last;
Each happy day will slip away
Into the valleys of the past,
Returning but a ghostly thing
When the spirit drinks at Memory's spring.
Why did he vow to cherish ever?
Or why allow his heart to change?
What maid was she who came to sever
Thy love and thee? What magic strange
Had she to work her strange endeavor?
What mind shall solve the mystery
Of loves that come and loves that flee?
Why should Anpetusapa give
Her heart's whole life, her richest treasure,
To one whose boasted flame could live
Through but a dozen moons' small measure;
Whose passion was for selfish pleasure?
Yet so it was; another came
Her heart to cloud, her place to claim.
Her lodge became another's nest;
The first wife, she was second now;[Pg 42]
'Neath custom's yoke compelled to bow
And see her rival fondly pressed.
The death gloom settled on her brow,
Day brought no sun, the night no rest.
The beam of sadness lit her eye,
And memories that could never die
Until her body, void of breath,
Became the precious spoil of Death.
Morn after morn beheld her still
Slow sinking, like a mountain rill
Whose fountain-head, once bubbling bright,
Hath dried away, and left the white
And pulseless sand to mark where long
Began the sparkle and the song.
One joy alone was left to bring
The heart-swept thrill of other days,
When to her baby she would sing
Her lullaby of love and praise;
And this, even this, renewed the thought
Of joyous hopes that came to naught.
Betrayed by faith, yet faithful to the last,
She murmured not; but patiently she passed
Each day in kindly service, given
As if her heart were all unriven,
Until at length heroic strength
Could bear no more.
Upon the shore
Of wild Messipi's plunging flood,
Where they were camped so long before,
They camped again; again their blood
Marched to the music of its roar.

[Pg 43]

'Tis morning: every bird its matin sings
And beats the air with throbbing wings,
The air so sweet and quick; the glistening dew
Hangs crystal beauty on all verdant things,—
Each trembling drop reflecting true
The overspread, unclouded blue;
While from the east the cohorts of the sun
With dazzling spears begin to strew
The morning vapors, damp and dun,
Whose melting ranks are closed anew
To vanish where the rapid waters run.
Anpetusapa hides her woe
Until her husband and her foe
Have left the lodge and gone from sight.
Then with a tearless eye and bright,
She gazes madly round the place
Where every comfort bears the trace
Of wifely labor wrought with pain,
Of woman's love that lives in vain.
Here moccasins lie with bead-work gay;
Here on the wall the breezes sway
The music-breathing flute,
Whose lips are dry and mute,
While she who once inspired its tone
Now sits despairing and alone.
The very curls of smoke that rise
And mingle with the morning skies,
Are tokens of the duties done
Beneath the red eye of the rising sun.
Awhile she sits in cruel thought,[Pg 44]
Till, with her anguish overwrought,
She flies to him who sweetly bears
The image of her faithless god,
And on each infant feature wears
The smiling hopes on which he trod.
Convulsively she clasps her child,
Whose love, alone left undefiled,
Is not enough to nerve her soul
Beneath its crushing weight of dole.
She listens to the roaring water,
Whose voice she heard in music grand
When she was but the old chief's daughter,
When love such wondrous fortunes planned;
And ruthless phantoms of the past
Across her mind are flitting fast,
Each with a keen, envenomed dart
That poisons brain and tortures heart.
With breath too quick to lift a sigh,
With marble firmness on her brow,
With glassy wildness in her eye,
She seeks the river's margin now.
She springs into a birch canoe,
All beaded with the morning dew,
And clasping close her mother's pride,
Soon gains the middle of the tide.
O hark! thou selfish one who gave
Embrace more treacherous than the wave:
Does not her song which mounts the air
Reproach thee with its grand despair?
Why dost thou hurry to the river?
Why dost thou call, why dost thou shiver,[Pg 45]
While she whom thou hast driven away
Is bold amidst the chilly spray?
What good is all thy vain remorse?
Thinkst thou from jaws of death to force
A sacrifice so lightly thrust
Upon the altar of thy lust?
A host like thee could nothing urge
To meet one tone of her sad dirge:
My heart cannot live without loving;
My heart cannot give up its own;
No more will I linger with sorrow,
But follow the joys that have flown;
With Death I will rest me to-morrow
On a kind, dreamless bed of stone.
I fear not the rush of the water,
For me all its terrors are vain;
It cannot bring less than gladness,
For it banishes all my pain;
I will sink with my burden of sadness
And mix with the earth again.
My baby, my darling, my blossom,
Nor anguish nor falsehood shall know;
Together we cleave the wild billow—
Unfaltering together we go
To rest on the same rocky pillow,
To slumber and mingle below.
Plunging on the sunlit stream,
The frail canoe, with trembling leaps,[Pg 46]
Hurries toward the mists that gleam
To veil the awful steeps.
What need has she for any veil?
Despairing eyes will never quail!
See, now upon the glowing crest,
Where clouds of spray beneath her lie,
She clasps her boy upon her breast,
She gazes on the cloudless sky,
And in its blue depth seems to see
Death, robed in peaceful purity;
Then down into the boiling tomb
That makes for her the happiest doom.
How strange that peace should thus be found
Amid such tumult-breathing sound!
To leap from life and light, and find
A darkness sweeter to the mind!

Long shall the mists of morning show
The spirit of her who long ago
Wrapped them round her wearily—
A victim of love and treachery.
Long shall her mournful death-song find
An echo in the moaning wind;
Long shall Dahkota legend bind
That echo with the roaring falls,
The ancient, foam-crowned, giant falls,
Whose voice so oft hath given
The welcome of its watery halls,
That lead the soul, when the Great Spirit calls,
To the hunting-grounds of heaven.
And though a child of the forest dark[Pg 47]
Weary of life would here embark,
As to a portal hither comes,—
And yet who may not pass this way
Into eternal joy and day,—
The water hides and soon benumbs
The sorrow, and the cadence deep
Becomes a lullaby to hush
The spirit to its endless sleep
Beneath the surging rush,
Beneath the shrouding spray,
Where the tireless waters sweep
To their wild, unpausing leap—
Then fly to the South away!
The flood is cold, but the heart is bold
When the future that lives new sorrow gives;
And within the chamber halls
Of the grand and solemn falls
May be found a sleep so sweet and deep
That its darkness never palls,
While ages pass with silent creep.
Time hath no tooth to tear
The heart whose pulse is dead,
And sorrow may live in the air
But not in the river-bed!
I ween all peacefully there
Is pillowed forever the head
Of a woman whose heart was fair,
Though her cheeks were dusky red.

[Pg 48]


Winona,[1] first-born daughter, was the name
Of a Dakota girl who, long ago,
Dwelt with her people here unknown to fame.
Sweet word, Winona, how my heart and lips
Cling to that name (my mother's was the same
Ere her form faded into death's eclipse),
Cling lovingly, and loth to let it go.
All arts that unto savage life belong
She knew, made moccasins, and dressed the game.
From crippling fashions free, her well-knit frame
At fifteen summers was mature and strong.
She pitched the tipi,[2] dug the tipsin[3] roots,
Gathered wild rice and store of savage fruits.
Fearless and self-reliant, she could go
Across the prairie on a starless night;
She speared the fish while in his wildest flight,
And almost like a warrior drew the bow.
Yet she was not all hardness: the keen glance,
Lighting the darkness of her eyes, perchance
Betrayed no softness, but her voice, that rose
O'er the weird circle of the midnight dance,
Through all the gamut ran of human woes,

[Pg 48a]


[Pg 49]

Passion, and joy. A woman's love she had
For ornament; on gala days was clad
In garments of the softest doeskin fine,
With shells about her neck; moccasins neat
Were drawn, like gloves, upon her little feet,
Adorned with scarlet quills of porcupine.
Innocent of the niceties refined
That to the toilet her pale sisters bind,
Yet much the same beneath the outer rind,
She was, though all unskilled in bookish lore,
A sound, sweet woman to the very core.
Winona's uncle, and step-father too,
Was all the father that she ever knew;
By the Absarakas[4] her own was slain
Before her memory could his face retain.
Two bitter years his widow mourned him dead,
And then his elder brother she had wed.
None loved Winona's uncle; he was stern
And harsh in manner, cold and taciturn,
And none might see, without a secret fear,
Those thin lips ever curling to a sneer.
And yet he was of note and influence
Among the chieftains; true he rarely lent
More than his presence in the council tent,
And when he rose to speak disdained pretence
Of arts rhetoric, but his few words went
Straight and incisive to the question's core,
And rarely was his counsel overborne.
The Raven was the fitting name he bore;
And though his winters well-nigh reached three-score,
Few of his tribe excelled him in the chase.[Pg 50]
A warrior of renown, but never wore
The dancing eagle plumes, and seemed to scorn
The vanities and follies of his race.
I said the Raven was beloved by none;
But no, among the elders there was one
Who often sought him, and the two would walk
Apart for hours, and converse alone.
The gossips, marveling much what this might mean,
Whispered that they at midnight had been seen
Far from the village, wrapped in secret talk.
They seemed in truth an ill-assorted brace,
But Nature oft in Siamese bond unites,
By some strange tie, the farthest opposites.
Gray Cloud was oily, plausible, and vain,
A conjurer with subtle scheming brain;
Too corpulent and clumsy for the chase,
His lodge was still provided with the best,
And though sometimes but a half welcome guest,
He took his dish and spoon to every feast.[5]
Priestcraft and leechcraft were combined in him,
Two trades occult upon which knaves have thriven,
Almost since man from Paradise was driven;
Padding with pompous phrases worn and old
Their scanty esoteric science dim,
And gravely selling, at their weight in gold,
Placebos colored to their patients' whim.
Man's noblest mission here too oft is made,
In heathen as in Christian lands, a trade.
Holy the task to comfort and console
The tortured body and the sin-sick soul,[Pg 51]
But pain and sorrow, even prayer and creed,
Are turned too oft to instruments of greed.
The conjurer claimed to bear a mission high:
Mysterious omens of the earth and sky
He knew to read; his medicine could find
In time of need the buffalo, and bind
In sleep the senses of the enemy.
Perhaps not wholly a deliberate cheat,
And yet dissimulation and deceit
Oozed from his form obese at every pore.
Skilled by long practice in the priestly art,
To chill with superstitious fear the heart,
And versed in all the legendary lore,
He knew each herb and root that healing bore;
But lest his flock might grow as wise as he,
Disguised their use with solemn mummery.
When all the village wrapped in slumber lay,
His midnight incantations often fell,
His chant now weirdly rose, now sank away,
As o'er some dying child he cast his spell.
And sometimes through his frame strange tremors ran—
Magnetic waves, swept from the unknown pole
Linking the body to the wavering soul;
And swifter came his breath, as if to fan
The feeble life spark, and his finger tips
Were to the brow of pain like angel lips.
No wonder if in moments such as these
He half believed in his own deities,
And thought his sacred rattle could compel
The swarming powers unseen to serve him well.[Pg 52]
The Raven lay one evening in his tent
With his accustomed crony at his side;
Around their heads a graceful aureole
Of smoke curled upward from the scarlet bowl
Of Gray Cloud's pipe with willow bark supplied.
Winona's thrifty mother came and went,
Her form with household cares and burdens bent,
Fresh fuel adds, and stirs the boiling pot.
Meanwhile the young Winona, half reclined,
Plies her swift needle, that resource refined
For woman's leisure, whatsoe'er her lot,
The kingly palace or the savage cot.

The cronies smoked without a sign or word,
Passing the pipe sedately to and fro;
Only a distant wail of hopeless woe,
A mother mourning for her child, was heard,
And Gray Cloud moved, as though the sound had stirred
Some dusty memory; still that bitter wail,
Rachel's despairing cry without avail,
That beats the brazen firmament in vain,
Since the first mother wept o'er Abel slain.
At length the conjurer's lips the silence broke,
Softly at first as to himself he spoke,
Till warmed by his own swarming fancies' brood
He poured the strain almost in numbers rude.

[Pg 52a]


[Pg 53]

Gray Cloud shall not be as other men,
Dull clods that move and breathe a day or two,
Ere other clods shall bury them from view.
Tempest and sky have been my home, and when
I pass from earth I shall find welcome there.
Sons of the Thunder-Bird my playmates were,
Ages ago[6] (the tallest oak to-day
In all the land was but a grass blade then).
Reared with such brethren, breathing such an air,
My spirit grew as tall and bold as they;
We tossed the ball and flushed the noble prey
O'er happy plains from human footsteps far;
And when our high chief's voice to arm for war
Rang out in tones that rent the morning sky,
None of the band exulted more than I.
A god might gaze and tremble at the sight
Of our array that turned the day to night;
With bow and shield and flame-tipped arrows all,
Rushing together at our leader's call,
Like storm clouds sweeping round a mountain height.
The lofty cliffs our warlike muster saw,
Hard by the village of great Wabashaw,[7]
Where through a lake the Mississippi flows;
Far o'er the dwelling of our ancient foes,
The hated Water-Demon[8] and his sons,
Cold, dark and deep the sluggish current runs.
Up from their caverns swarming, when they heard
The rolling signal of the Thunder-Bird,[Pg 54]
The Water-Demon and his sons arose,
And answered back the challenge of their foes.
With horns tumultuous clashing like a herd
Of warring elks that struggle for the does,
They lashed the wave to clouds of spray and foam,
Through which their forms uncouth, like buffaloes
Seen dimly through a morning mist, did loom,
Or isles at twilight rising from the shore.
Though we were thirty, they at least fourscore,
We rushed upon them, and a midnight pall
Over the seething lake our pinions spread,
'Neath which our gleaming arrows thickly sped,
As shooting stars that in the rice-moon fall.
Rent by our beating wings the cloud-waves swung
In eddies round us, and our leader's roar
Smote peal on peal, and from their bases flung
The rocks that towered along the trembling shore.
A Thunder-Bird—alas, my chosen friend,
But even so a warrior's life should end,—
A Thunder-Bird was stricken; his bright beak,
Cleaving the tumult like a lightning streak,
Smote with a fiery hiss the watery plain;
His upturned breast, where gleamed one fleck of red,
His sable wings, one moment wide outspread,
Blackened the whirlpool o'er his sinking head.
The Water-Demon's sons by scores were slain
By our swift arrows falling like the rain;
With yells of rage they sank beneath the wave
That ran all redly now, but could not save.[Pg 55]
We asked not mercy, mercy never gave;
Our flaming darts lit up the farthest cave,
Fathoms below the reach of deepest line;
Our cruel spears, taller than mountain pine,
Mingled their life blood with the ruddy wave.
The combat ceased, the Thunder-Birds had won.
The Water-Demon with one favorite son
Fled from the carnage and escaped our wrath.
The vapors, thinly curling from the shore,
Faint musky odors to our nostrils bore.
The air was stilled, the silence of the dead;
The sun, just starting on his downward path,
A rosy mantle o'er the prairie shed,
Save where, like vultures, ominous and still,
We clustered close, on sullen wings outspread;
And sometimes, with a momentary chill,
A giant shadow swept o'er plain and hill,—
A Thunder-Bird careering overhead,
Seeking the track by which the foe had fled.
While thus we hovered motionless, the sun
Adown the west his punctual course had run,
When lo, two shining points far up the stream
That split the prairie with a silver seam,—
The fleeing Water-Demon and his son;
Like icicles they glittered in the beam
Still struggling up from the horizon's rim.
His sleeping anger kindled at the sight,
Our leader's eyes glowed like a flaming brand.
Thrilled by one impulse, all our sable band
Dove through the gathering shadows of the night
On wings outshaken for a headlong flight.[Pg 56]
Anger, revenge, but more than all the thirst,
The glorious emulation to be first,
Stung me like fire, and filled each quivering plume.
With tenfold speed our sharp beaks cleft the gloom,
A swarm of arrows singing to the mark,
We hissed to pierce the foe ere yet 'twas dark.
Still up the stream the Water-Demons fled,
Their bodies glowed like fox-fire far ahead;
But every moment saw the distance close
Between our thirsty spear-heads and our foes.
Louder the blast our buzzing pinions made
Than mighty forest in a whirlwind swayed;
The giant cliffs of Redwing speeding back,
Like specters melting from a cloudy wrack,
Melted from view in our dissolving track.
Kaposia's village, clustered on the shore,
With sound of snapping poles and tipis riven,
Vanished like swan's-down by a tempest driven.
Stung by our flight, the keen air smote us sore
As ragged hailstones; on, still on, we strained,
And fast and faster on the chase we gained,
But neck and neck the fierce pursuit remained,
Till close ahead we saw the rocky walls
O'er which the mighty river plunging falls,[9]
And at their base the Water-Demons lay:
The panting chase at last had turned to bay.
Then thrilled my nerves with more than mortal strength;
A breath of Deity was in the burst
That bore me out a goodly lance's length
To meet the Water-Demon's son accurst.
His evil horn clanged hollow on my shield[Pg 57]
Just as my spear transfixed him through and through;
A moment towering o'er the foam he reeled,
Then sank beneath the roaring falls from view.
A dying yell that haunts me yet he gave,
And as he fell the crippled water coiled
About him like a wounded snake, and boiled,
Lashing itself to madness o'er his grave.
We knew not where the parent Demon fled;
None of our spears might pierce his ancient mail,
Welded with skill demoniac scale on scale.
Some watery realm he wanders, and 'tis said
That he is changed and bears a brighter form,
And goodly sons again about him swarm;
And peace, 'tis but a hollow truce I know,
Now reigns between him and his ancient foe.
He hates me still, and fain would do me harm,
But neither man nor demon dares offend,
Who hath the cruel Thunder-Bird for friend.

[Pg 58]

Nature hath her élite in every land,
Sealed by her signet, felt although unseen.
Winona 'mid her fellows moved a queen,
And scarce a youthful beau in all the band
But sighed in secret longing for her hand.
One only she distinguished o'er the rest,
The latest aspirant for martial fame,
Redstar, a youth whose coup-stick like his name
(Till recently he had been plain Chaské)[10]
Was new, fresh plucked the feathers on his crest.
Just what the feats on which he based his claim
To warlike glory it were hard to say;
He ne'er had seen more than one trivial fray,
But bold assurance sometimes wins the day.
Winona gave him generous credit, too,
For all the gallant deeds he meant to do.
His gay, barbaric dress, his lofty air
Enmeshed her in a sweet bewildering snare.
Transfigured by the light of her own passion,
She saw Chaské in much the usual fashion
Of fairer maids, who love, or think they do.
'Tis not the man they love, but what he seems;
A bright Hyperion, moving stately through
The rosy ether of exalted dreams.[Pg 59]
Alas! that love, the purest and most real,
Clusters forever round some form ideal;
And martial things have some strange necromancy
To captivate romantic maiden fancy.
The very word "Lieutenant" hath a charm,
E'en coupled with a vulgar face and form,
A shriveled heart and microscopic wit,
Scarce for a coachman or a barber fit;
His untried sword, his title, are to her
Better than genius, wealth, or high renown;
His uniform is sweeter than the gown
Of an Episcopalian minister;
And "dash," for swagger but a synonym,
Is knightly grace and chivalry with him.
Unnoted young Winona's passion grew,
Chaské alone the tender secret knew;
And he, too selfish love like hers to know,
Warmed by her presence to a transient glow,
Her silent homage drank as 'twere his due.
Winona asked no more though madly fond,
Nor hardly dreamed as yet of closer bond;
But chance, or Providence, or iron Fate
(Call it what name you will), or soon or late,
Bends to its purpose every human will,
And brings to each its destined good or ill.
O'erlooking Minnetonka's shore,
A grove enchanted lured of yore,
Lured to their deepest woe and joy,
A happy maiden and careless boy;[Pg 60]
Lured their feet to its inmost core,
Where like snowy maidens the aspen trees
Swayed and beckoned in the breeze,
While the prairie grass, like rippling seas,
Faintly murmuring lulling hymns,
Rippled about their gleaming limbs.
There is no such charm in a garden-close,
However fair its bower and rose,
As a place where the wild and free rejoice.
Nor doth the storied and ivied arch
Woo the heart with half so sweet a voice
As the bowering arms of the wild-wood larch,
Where the clematis and wild woodbine
Festoon the flowering eglantine;
Where in every flower, shrub, and tree
Is heard the hum of the honey-bee,
And the linden blossoms are softly stirred,
As the fanning wings of the humming-bird
Scatter a perfume of pollen dust,
That mounts to the kindling soul like must;
Where the turtles each spring their loves renew—
The old, old story, "coo-roo, coo-roo,"
Mingles with the wooing note
That bubbles from the song-bird's throat;
Where on waves of rosy light at play,
Mingle a thousand airy minions,
And drifting as on a golden bay,
The butterfly with his petal pinions,
From isle to isle of his fair dominions
Floats with the languid tides away;
Where the squirrel and rabbit shyly mate,
And none so timid but finds her fate;[Pg 61]
The meek hen-robin upon the nest
Thrills to her lover's flaming breast.
Youth, Love, and Life, 'mid scenes like this,
Go to the same sweet tune of bliss;
E'en the flaming flowers of passion seem
Pure as the lily buds that dream
On the bosom of a mountain stream.
Such was the grove that lured of yore,
Overlooking Minnetonka's shore,
Lured to their deepest woe and joy
A happy maiden and careless boy,—
Lured their feet to its inmost core;
Where still mysterious shadows slept,
While the plenilune from her path above
With liquid amber bathed the grove,
That through the tree-tops trickling crept,
And every tender alley swept.
The happy maiden and careless boy,
Caught for a moment their deepest joy,
And the iris hues of Youth and Love,
A tender glamour about them wove;
But the trembling shadows the aspens cast
From the maiden's spirit never passed;
And the nectar was poisoned that thrilled and filled,
From every treacherous leaf distilled,
Her veins that night with a strange alloy.
Swift came the hour that maid and boy must part;
A glow unwonted, tinged with dusky red
Winona's conscious face as home she sped;
And to the song exultant in her heart,
Beat her light moccasins with rhythmic tread.[Pg 62]
But at the summit of a little hill,
Along whose base the village lay outspread,
A sudden sense of some impending ill
Smote the sweet fever in her veins with chill.
The lake she skirted, on whose mailèd breast
Rode like a shield the moon from out the west,
She neared her lodge, but there her quick eye caught
The voice of Gray Cloud, and her steps were stayed,
For over her of late an icy fear
Brooded with vulture wings when he was near.
She knew not why, her eye he never sought,
Nor deigned to speak, and yet she felt dismayed
At thought of him, as the mimosa's leaf
Before the fingers touch it shrinks with dread.
She paused a moment, then with furtive tread
Close to the tipi glided like a thief;
With lips apart, and eager bended head,
She listened there to what the conjurer said.
His voice, low, musical, recounted o'er
Strange tales of days when other forms he wore:
How, far above the highest airy plain
Where soars and sings the weird, fantastic crane,
Wafted like thistle-down he strayed at will,
With power almost supreme for good or ill,
Over all lands and nations near and far,
Beyond the seas, or 'neath the northern star,
And long had pondered where were best to dwell
When he should deign a human shape to wear.
"Whether to be of them that buy and sell,
With fish-scale eyes, and yellow corn-silk hair,[Pg 63]
Or with the stone-men chase the giant game.
But wander where you may, no land can claim
A sky so fair as ours; the sun each day
Circles the earth with glaring eye, but sees
No lakes or plains so beautiful as these;
Nor e'er hath trod or shall upon the earth
A race like ours of true Dakota birth.
Our chiefs and sages, who so wise as they
To counsel or to lead in peace or war,
And heal the sick by deep mysterious law.
Our beauteous warriors, lithe of limb and strong,
Fierce to avenge their own and others' wrong,
What gasping terror smites their battle song
When, night-birds gathering near the dawn of day,
Or wolves in chorus ravening for the prey,
They burst upon the sleeping Chippeway;[11]
Their women wail whose hated fingers dare
To reap the harvest of our midnight hair;
Swifter than eagles, as a panther fleet,
A hungry panther seeking for his meat,
So swift and noiseless their avenging feet.

Dakota matrons truest are and best,
Dakota maidens too are loveliest."
He ceased, and soon, departing through the night,
She watched his burly form till out of sight.
And then the Raven spoke in whispers low:
"Gray Cloud demands our daughter's hand, and she
Unto his tipi very soon must go."[Pg 64]
Winona's mother sought to make reply,
But something checked her in his tone or eye.
Again the Raven spoke, imperiously:
"Winona is of proper age to wed;
Her suitor suits me, let no more be said."
Winona heard no more; a rising wave
Of mingled indignation, fear, and shame
Like a resistless tempest shook her frame,
The earth swam round her, and her senses reeled;
Better for her a thousand times the grave
Than life in Gray Cloud's tent, but what could she
Against the stern, implacable decree
Of one whose will was never known to yield?
Winona fled, scarce knowing where or how;
Fled like a phantom through the moonlight cool,
Until she stood upon the rocky brow
That overlooked a deep sequestered pool,
Where slumbering in a grove-encircled bay
Lake Minnetonka's purest waters lay.
Unto the brink she rushed, but faltered there—
Life to the young is sweet; in vain her eye
Swept for a moment grove and wave and sky
With mute appeal. But see, two white swans fair
Gleamed from the shadows that o'erhung the shore,
Like moons emerging from a sable screen;
Swimming abreast, what haughty king and queen,
With arching necks their regal course they bore.
Winona marveled at the unwonted sight
Of white swans swimming there at dead of night,
Her frenzy half beguiling with the scene.[Pg 65]
Unearthly heralds sure, for in their wake
What ruddy furrows seamed the placid lake.
Almost beneath her feet they came, so near
She might have tossed a pebble on their backs,
When lo, their long necks pierced the waters clear,
As down they dove, two shafts of purest light,
And chasing fast on their descending tracks,
A swarm of spirals luminous and white,
Swirled to the gloom of nether depths from sight.
Then all was still for some few moments' space,
So smooth the pool, so vanished every trace,
It seemed that surely the fantastic pair
Had been but snowy phantoms passing there.
Winona hardly hoped to see them rise,
But while she gazed with half-expectant eyes,
The waters strangely quivered in a place
About the bigness of a tipi's space,
Where weirdly lighting up the hollow wave
Beat a deep-glowing heart, whose pulsing ray
Now faded to a rosy flush away,
Now filled with fiery glare the farthest cave.
A shapeless bulk arose, then, taking form,
Bloomed forth upon the bosom of the lake
A crystal rose, or hillock mammiform,
And round its base the curling foam did break
As round a sunny islet in a storm;
And on it poised a swiftly changing form,
With filmy mantle falling musical,
And colors of the floating bubble's ball,
Fair and elusive as the sprites that play,
Bright children of the sun-illumined spray,
'Mid rainbows of a mountain waterfall.[Pg 66]
Then mingling with the falling waters came
In whispers sibilant Winona's name;
So indistinct and low that voice intense,
That she, half frightened, cowering in the grass
In much bewilderment at what did pass,
Till thrice repeated noted not its sense.
She rose, and on the very brink defined,
Against the sky in silhouette outlined,
Erect before the Water-Demon stood.
Again those accents weird her wonder stirred,
And this is what the listening maiden heard:
"Thy fate, Winona, hangs on thine own choice
To scorn or heed the Water-Demon's voice.
Gone are thy pleasant days of maidenhood,
And evil hours draw nigh, but knowest thou not,
That what thou fleest is the common lot
Of all thy sisters? Thou must be the bride
Of one thou lovest not, must toil for him,
Watch for his coming, and endure his whim;
Must share his tent, and lying at his side
Weep for another till thine eyes grow dim.
And he, so fondly loved, will pass thee by
Indifferent with cold averted eye;
E'en he, whose wanton hands and hated arms
Have crushed the fair flower of thy maidenhood,
Will weary of thy swiftly-fading charms,
And seek another when thy beauty wanes.
Aha, thou shudderest; in thy tense veins,
Fierce and rebellious, leaps the mingling blood
Of countless warriors, high of soul and brave;
And would'st thou quench their spirit 'neath the wave?[Pg 67]
Is Gray Cloud's life more dear to thee than thine?
The village sleeps, unguarded is his tent,
Thy knife is keen, and unto thee is lent
A spell to-night of potency malign.
Cradled in blissful dreams alone he lies,
And he shall stray so deep in sleep's dominions,
He would not waken though the rushing pinions
Of his own Thunder-Bird should shake the sky.
All freedom-loving spirits are with thee,
Strike hard and fear not as thou would'st be free;
Lest thine own hatred prove too weak a charm,
The Water-Demon's hate shall nerve thine arm."
The Water-Demon sank and disappeared,
And faint and fainter fell those accents weird,
Until the air was silent as the grave,
Still as December's crystal seal the wave.
Homeward again Winona took her way.
How changed in one short hour! no longer now
The song-birds singing at her heart, but there
A thousand gnashing furies made their lair,
And urged her on; her nearest pathway lay
Over a little hill, and on its brow
A group of trees, whereof each blackened bough
Bore up to heaven as if in protest mute
Its clustering load of ghastly charnel fruit,[12]
The swaddled forms of all the village dead—
Maid, lusty warrior, and toothless hag,
The infant and the conjurer with his bag,
Peacefully rotting in their airy bed.
As on a battle plain she saw them lie,
Fouling the fairness of the moonlit sky;[Pg 68]
And heavily there flapped above her head,
Some floating drapery or tress of hair,
Loading with pestilential breath the air
That fanned her temples, or the reeking wing
Of unclean bird obscenely hovering;
And something crossed her path that halting nigh,
At the intruder glared with evil eye,—
She hardly heeded passing swiftly by.
Leaving behind that hideous umbrage fast,
What wraith escaping from its tenement,
Winona through the sleeping village passed,
And pausing not, to Gray Cloud's tipi went,
Laid back the door, and with a stealthy tread,
Entered and softly crouched beside his head.
Her gaze that seemed to pierce his inmost thought,
Keen as the ready knife her hand had sought,
And through the open door the slant moonbeams
Smiting the sleeper's face awaked him not.
He vaguely muttered in his wandering dreams
Of "medicine," and of the Thunder-Bird.
As if to go, her knife she half returned;
Whether her woman's heart with pity stirred,
Or superstitious awe, she slightly turned,
But gazing still, over his features came
The semblance of a smile, and his arms moved,
Clasping in rosy dreams some form beloved,
And his lips moved, and though no sound she heard,
She thought they shaped her name, and a red flame
Leaped to her brain, and through her vision passed;[Pg 69]
A raging demon seized and filled her frame,
And like a lightning flash leaped forth her knife:
That cold keen heart-pang is his last of life;
The Water-Demon is avenged at last.

[Pg 70]

She struck but once, no need hath lightning stroke
For second blow to rend the heart of oak,
Nor waited there to see how Gray Cloud died;
Her fury all in that fierce outburst spent,
As from a charnel cave she fled the tent;
The wolfish dog suspiciously outside
Sniffed at her moccasins but let her pass.
Her tipi soon she reached, distant no more
Than arrow from a warrior's bowstring sent,
Paused but to wipe her knife upon the grass,
And found her usual couch upon the floor.
But not to sleep; she closed her eyes in vain,
Shutting away the moonlight from her view;
Darkness and moonlight wore the same dread hue,
Flooding the universe with crimson stain.
She clasped her bosom with her hands to still
The throbbing of her heart that seemed to fill
With tell-tale echoes all the air; an owl
The secret with unearthly shrieks confessed,
And Gray Cloud's dog sent forth a doleful howl
At intervals; but worse than all the rest,
That dreadful drum still beating in her breast,
As furious war-drums in the scalp-dance beat
To the mad circling of delirious feet.

[Pg 70a]


[Pg 71]

Early next morning, as the first faint rays
Of sunlight through the rustling lindens played,
Two children sent to seek the conjurer's aid,
Gazed on the sight, with horror and amaze,
Of Gray Cloud's lifeless body rolled in blood.
Fast through the village spread the news, and stirred
With mingled fear and wonder all who heard.
The oracles were baffled and dismayed,
And spoke with muffled tones and looks of dread:
"Some envious foeman lurking in the wood,
With medicine more strong than his," they said,
"Stole in last night and gave the fatal wound."
The warriors scoured the country miles around,
Seeking for sign or trail, but naught they found:
The murderer left behind no clue or trace
More than a vampire's flight through darkling space.
The Raven with a stoic calmness heard
Of Gray Cloud's death, nor showed by look or word
The wrath that to its depth his being stirred.
Winona heard the news with false surprise,
As if just roused from sleep she rubbed her eyes;
When she arose her knees like aspens shook,
But this she quelled and forced a tranquil look
To feign the calmness that her soul forsook.
And when the mourning wail rose on the air,
Winona's voice was heard commingling there.
She gathered with the other maidens where,
On a rude bier, the conjurer's body lay
Adorned and decked in funeral array.[Pg 72]
She flung a handful of her sable hair,
And wept such tears above the painted clay[13]
As weeps a youthful widow, only heir,
Over the coffin of a millionaire.
Moons waxed to fullness and to sickles waned.
The gossips still conversed with bated breath.
The appalling mystery of Gray Cloud's death,
Wrapped in impenetrable gloom, remained
A blighting shadow o'er the village spread.
But youthful spirits are invincible,
Nor fear nor superstition long can quell
The bubbling flow of that perennial well;
And so the youths and maidens soon regained
The wonted gayety that late had fled.
All save Winona, in whose face and mien,
Unto the careless eye, no change was seen;
But one that noted might sometimes espy
A furtive fear that shot across her eye,
As in a forest, 'thwart some bit of blue,
Darts a rare bird that shuns the hunter's view.
Her laugh, though gay, a subtle change confessed,
And in her attitude a vague unrest
Betrayed a world of feelings unexprest.
A shade less light her footsteps in the dance,
And sometimes now the Raven's curious glance
Her soul with terrors new and strange oppressed.
Grief shared is lighter, none had she to share
Burdens that grew almost too great to bear,
For Redstar sometimes seemed to look askance,
And sought, they said, to win another breast.
Winona feigned to laugh, but in her heart[Pg 73]
The rumor rankled like a poisoned dart.
Sometimes she almost thought the Raven guessed
The guilty secrets that her thoughts oppressed,
And sought, whene'er she could, to shun his sight.
Apart from human kind, still more and more,
The Raven dwelt, and human speech forbore.
And once upon a wild tempestuous night,
When all the demons of the earth and air
Like raging furies were embattled there,
She, peering fearfully, amid the swarm
Flitting athwart the flashes of the storm,
By fitful gleams beheld the Raven's form.
To her he spoke not since the fateful night
His chosen comrade passed from human sight,
Save only once, forgetting he was by
And half forgetting too her care and woes,
Unto her lips some idle jest arose.
"Winona," said the Raven, in a tone
Of stern reproof that on the instant froze
All thought of mirth, and when she met his eye,
As by a serpent's charm it fixed her own;
The hate and anger of a soul intense
Were all compressed in that remorseless glance,
The coldly cruel meaning of whose sense
Smote down the shield of her false innocence.
She strove to wrest her eye from his in vain,
Held by that gaze ophidian like a bird,
As in a trance she neither breathed nor stirred.
And gazing thus an icy little lance,
Smaller than quill from wing of humming-bird,
Shot from his eyes, and a keen stinging pain
Sped through the open windows of her brain.
Her senses failed, she sank upon the ground,[Pg 74]
And darkness veiled her eyes; she never knew
How long this was, but when she slowly grew
Back from death's counterfeit, and looked around,
So little change was there, that it might seem
The scene had been but a disordered dream.
The Raven sat in his accustomed place,
Smoking his solitary pipe; his face,
A gloomy mask that none might penetrate,
Betrayed no sign of anger, grief, or hate;
Absorbed so deep in thoughts that none might share,
He noted not Winona's presence there;
From his disdainful lips the thin blue smoke
From time to time in little spirals broke,
Floating like languid sneers upon the air,
And settling round him in a veil of blue
So sinister to her disordered view,
That she arose and quickly stole away.
She shunned him more than ever from that day,
And never more unmoved could she behold
That countenance inscrutable and cold.
But Hope and Love, like Indian summer's glow,
Gilding the prairies ere December's snow,
Lit with a transient beam Winona's eye.
The season for the Maidens' Dance drew nigh,
And Redstar vowed, whatever might betide,
To claim her on the morrow as his bride.
What now to her was all the world beside?
The evil omens darkening all her sky,
Malicious sneers, her rival's envious eye,
While her false lover lingered at her side,
All passed like thistle-down unheeded by.[Pg 75]
The evening for the dance arrived at last;
An ancient crier through the village passed,
And summoned all the maidens to repair
To the appointed place, a greensward where,
Since last year unprofaned by human feet,
Rustled the prairie grass and flowers sweet.
None but the true and pure might enter there—
Maidens whose souls unspotted had been kept.
At set of sun the circle there was formed,
And thitherward the happy maidens swarmed.
The people gathered round to view the scene:
Old men in broidered robes that trailing swept,
And youths in all their finery arrayed,
Dotting like tropic birds the prairie green,
Their rival graces to the throng displayed.
Winona came the last, but as she stept
Into the mystic ring one word, "Beware!"
Rang out in such a tone of high command
That all was still, and every look was turned
To where the Raven stood; his stern eye burned,
And like a flower beneath that withering glare
She faded fast. No need that heavy hand
To lead Winona from the joyous band;
No need those shameful words that stained the air:
"Let not the sacred circle be defiled
By one who, all too easily beguiled,
Beneath her bosom bears a warrior's child."
Winona swiftly fleeing, as she passed,
One look upon her shrinking lover cast
That seared his coward heart for many a day,
Into the deepest woods she took her way.[Pg 76]
The dance was soon resumed, and as she fled,
Like hollow laughter chasing overhead,
Pursued the music and the maidens' song.
Just as she passed from sight an angry eye
Glared for a moment from the western sky,
And flung one quivering shaft of dazzling white,
With tenfold thunder-peal, adown the night.
Her mother followed her, and sought her long,
Calling and listening through the falling dew,
While fast and furious still the cadence grew
Of the gay dance, whose distant music fell,
Smiting the mother like a funeral knell.
High rode the sun in heaven next day before
The stricken mother found along the shore
The object of her unremitting quest.
The cooling wave whereon she lay at rest
Had stilled the tumult of Winona's breast
Along that shapely ruin's plastic grace,
And in the parting of her braided hair,
The hopeless mother's glances searching there
The Thunder-Bird's mysterious mark might trace.
So died Winona, and let all beware,
For vengeance follows fast and will not spare,
Nor maid, nor warrior that dares offend
Who hath the cruel Thunder-Bird for friend.

[Pg 77]


Outward swell the rolling prairies like the waves of ocean deep;
Higher rise the crested billows rolling upward as they sweep
From horizon to horizon, and the air grows pure and free,
"On the mountains of the prairie," on the wind-swept emerald sea.
As in olden time the zealots who would build unto their God,
Sacred temples for his worship, chose a "high place," and the sod
Of the consecrated mountain was made holy by the rites[Pg 78]
Of footsore and weary pilgrims who had sought the sacred heights,
So instinctively the red-men, roaming o'er the boundless main,
Looked for their Manitou above the low level of the plain;
Sought and found him on the summit of the green wave's swelling crest
Rising upward like a mountain, in the valley of the West.
Not to him they founded temples, gilded fanes and altars fair;
Looking up, they saw already Manitou enthronèd there
In the fastness of the mountain, with his sphynx-like, stony face
Watching like a guardian spirit, o'er the dusky lawless race
Who regarded not each other, and their deadly hatred slaked
In the blood of friends and foemen, when their slumbering ire was waked.
"Gitche Manitou, the Mighty," the Great Spirit throned above,
Was a God of truth and wisdom, was a God of peace and love;
And as God upon Mount Sinai, stooping from his heavenly throne,
Gave the law unto his people, deeply graven into stone,[Pg 79]
"Gitche Manitou, the Mighty," in compassion for the race
Of unlettered, untaught heathen who knew not his god-like face
Save they saw it in the tempest or the lightning's livid glare,
Or in some familiar emblem they could see, or feel, or wear,
Taught them peace and love to kindred, through an emblem formed of stone,
Fashioned in the well-known outlines of a thing they called their own.
In the caverns of his store-house, deeply sunken in the ground,
Lay the mystical red pipe-stone, never yet by sachem found.
With his strong right hand almighty, rent he now the ground in twain,
Broke the red stone of the quarry, and, resounding o'er the plain,
Came this message to the warriors:—"Let this be to you a sign:
Make you calumets of pipe-stone, pledge you peace and love divine,
By the smoking of this signet. Let it pass from hand to hand.
Cease you from your wars and wrangling, and be brothers in the land."
The Great Spirit's words were heeded, and the calumet, the pipe
Which they often smoked together in their councils, was the type[Pg 80]
Of good-will and peace thereafter, and upon the quarry's site,
Hostile tribes and tongues and races meeting, never meet to fight.
Many legends and traditions cluster round this sacred spot;
Many histories and records deep with hidden meaning fraught,
Have been chiseled on the ledges at the ancient bowlders' base,
Who, like strangers in the valley, drifted to a resting place.

Here, ere Manitou had given to the tribes the pipe of peace,
Saw he mighty war and bloodshed, saw the tribes of men decrease,
Until fleeing from destruction, come three maidens to the rocks—
The last remnant of all women, hiding from the fearful shocks[Pg 81]
Of the deadly fight and carnage which was raging through the air,
Driven to these three large bowlders, as a refuge in despair.
Now in memory of the conflict and the part the bowlders bore,
They are named in weird tradition, "The Three Maidens," evermore.

Here the thunder-bird portentous, Wakan, terrible in might,
Made his home in awful grandeur on the cliff's mysterious height.
Here the flapping of his pinions brought the fierce, hot lightning's glare,
Glazing all the fissured surface like enamel smooth and fair;
Melting all the red rock's substance till a foot-print of the bird,
Plastic then, took form and hardened for a witness of the word.

[Pg 82]

Falls of Winnewissa. Falls of Winnewissa.

[Pg 83]
Northward, just beyond the quarry, stands the famous "Leaping Rock,"
With its proud head reared to heaven, with an air that seems to mock
And to set at stern defiance, boastful braves who seek for fame,
And from agile feats to gather for themselves an envied name.
Hither came to try his daring, with brave heart to valor nerved,
Hopefully a young Sioux chieftain, never from his purpose swerved,
Came in all his youthful vigor, with his band of stalwart braves,
From the land of the Dakotas; zealously his spirit craves
To lead them all in bravery as he oft before has led,
And the plumes of the war eagle proudly waving on his head,
To wear in boastful triumph on the far-famed treacherous height,
And in his tribe's traditions, thus his envied name to write.
Fearlessly he stands a moment on the overhanging edge
Of the nearest cliff's high summit, eyes the small and slippery ledge
Just beyond the yawning chasm which his daring feet must leap;
Stands there bold and free and fearless, taking inward at a sweep[Pg 84]
All the fearful odds and chances, the deep chasm he must cross—
Calculates with hope of winning, never with a fear of loss.
High above him arch the heavens; deep below him yawns the gulf;
In his ears the cataract thunders, and before him stands the rough,
Towering rock with air defiant, standing mocking, beckoning there.
With a fixed resolve and purpose, he leaps upward in the air—
Leaps, but not as he had counted, for his feet touch not the goal,
But his body plunges downward, and the young Sioux warrior's soul,
Rising upward through the ether, seeks the happy hunting ground
Just as anxious friends and kindred gather hastily around,
Dropping tears unto his memory and with slow and measured tread,
Bear away the bold young chieftain, to the mansions of the dead.
Fear the falls of Winnewissa sweetly wooing to repose
With its murmurous plash of waters perfume-laden of the rose,
'Neath the soil which once his kindred claimed and lived in until we
Rising eastward like a storm-cloud, swept the land from sea to sea.[Pg 85]
Sleepeth well the brave young warrior in this legend-hallowed ground,
The long sleep that knows no waking till the common trump shall sound.
Still the Indian camp-fires glimmer round the sacred quarry's edge,
And the calumet, the peace-pipe, is to them a friendly pledge:
And the doubting pale-face dwelling near the blood-red mystic stone,
Feels around him peace and safety like Elijah's mantle thrown.

Long may Manitou, the mighty, the Great Spirit throned above,
Smile upon his helpless children, fill their lives with peace and love;
And at last, in the great council, at the bidding of his voice,
May they meet to smoke the peace-pipe with the people of his choice.

[Pg 86]

The Song of Hiawatha.


On the Mountains of the Prairie,[14]
On the great Red Pipe-stone Quarry,[15]
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,[Pg 87]
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,
Molded 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 neighboring 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,
Through the tranquil air of morning,
First a single line of darkness,
Then a denser, bluer vapor,
Then a snow-white cloud unfolding,
Like the tree-tops of the forest,
Ever rising, rising, rising,
Till it touched the top of heaven,
Till it broke against the heaven,
And rolled outward all around it.
From the Vale of Tawasentha,
From the Valley of Wyoming,[16]
From the groves of Tuscaloosa,[17]
From the far-off Rocky Mountains,[Pg 88]
From the Northern lakes and rivers
All the tribes beheld the signal,
Saw the distant smoke ascending,
The Pukwana of the Peace-Pipe.
And the Prophets of the nations
Said: "Behold it, the Pukwana!
By this signal from afar off,
Bending like a wand of willow,
Waving like a hand that beckons,
Gitche Manito, the mighty,
Calls the tribes of men together,
Calls the warriors to his council!"

[Pg 89]

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.
There the wrinkled, old Nokomis
Nursed the little Hiawatha,
Rocked him in his linden cradle,
Bedded soft in moss and rushes,
Safely bound with reindeer sinews;
Stilled his fretful wail by saying,
"Hush! the Naked Bear will hear thee!"[Pg 90]
Lulled him into slumber, singing,
"Ewa-yea! my little owlet!
Who is this, that lights the wigwam?
With his great eyes lights the wigwam?
Ewa-yea! my little owlet!"

[Pg 91]

Hiawatha's Wooing.

At the doorway of his wigwam
Sat the ancient Arrow-maker,
In the land of the Dacotas,
Making arrow-heads of jasper,
Arrow-heads of chalcedony.
At his side, in all her beauty,
Sat the lovely Minnehaha,
Sat his daughter, Laughing Water,
Plaiting mats of flags and rushes;
Of the past the old man's thoughts were,
And the maiden's of the future.
He was thinking, as he sat there,
Of the days when with such arrows
He had struck the deer and bison,
On the Muskoday, the meadow;
Shot the wild goose flying southward,
On the wing, the clamorous Wawa;
Thinking of the great war-parties,
How they came to buy his arrows,
Could not fight without his arrows.
Ah, no more such noble warriors,
Could be found on earth as they were!
Now the men were all like women,[Pg 92]
Only used their tongues for weapons!
She was thinking of a hunter,
From another tribe and country,
Young and tall and very handsome,
Who one morning, in the Spring-time,
Came to buy her father's arrows,
Sat and rested in the wigwam,
Lingered long about the doorway,
Looking back as he departed.
She had heard her father praise him,
Praise his courage and his wisdom;
Would he come again for arrows
To the Falls of Minnehaha?
On the mat her hands lay idle,
And her eyes were very dreamy.
Through their thoughts they heard a footstep,
Heard a rustling in the branches,
And with glowing cheek and forehead,
With the deer upon his shoulders,
Suddenly from out the woodlands
Hiawatha stood before them.
Straight the ancient Arrow-maker
Looked up gravely from his labor,
Laid aside the unfinished arrow,
Bade him enter at the doorway,
Saying, as he rose to meet him,
"Hiawatha, you are welcome!"
At the feet of Laughing Water
Hiawatha laid his burden,
Threw the red deer from his shoulders;
And the maiden looked up at him,
Looked up from her mat of rushes,
Said with gentle look and accent,[Pg 93]
"You are welcome, Hiawatha!"
Very spacious was the wigwam,
Made of deer-skin dressed and whitened,
With the Gods of the Dakotas
Drawn and painted on its curtains,
And so tall the doorway, hardly
Hiawatha stooped to enter,
Hardly touched his eagle-feathers
As he entered at the doorway.
Then uprose the Laughing Water,
From the ground fair Minnehaha,
Laid aside her mat unfinished,
Brought forth food and set before them,
Water brought them from the brooklet,
Gave them food in earthen vessels,
Gave them drink in bowls of bass-wood,
Listened while the guest was speaking,
Listened while her father answered,
But not once her lips she opened,
Not a single word she uttered.
Yes, as in a dream she listened
To the words of Hiawatha,
As he talked of old Nokomis,
Who had nursed him in his childhood.
As he told of his companions,
Chibiabos, the musician,
And the very strong man, Kwasind,
And of happiness and plenty
In the land of the Ojibways,
In the pleasant land and peaceful.
"After many years of warfare,
Many years of strife and bloodshed,
There is peace between the Ojibways[Pg 94]
And the tribe of the Dakotas."
Thus continued Hiawatha,
And then added, speaking slowly,
"That this peace may last forever,
And our hands be clasped more closely,
And our hearts be more united,
Give me as my wife this maiden,
Minnehaha, Laughing Water,
Loveliest of Dakota women!"
And the ancient Arrow-maker
Paused a moment ere he answered,
Smoked a little while in silence,
Looked at Hiawatha proudly,
Fondly looked at Laughing Water,
And made answer very gravely:
"Yes, if Minnehaha wishes;
Let your heart speak, Minnehaha!"
And the lovely Laughing Water
Seemed more lovely, as she stood there,
Neither willing nor reluctant,
As she went to Hiawatha,
Softly took the seat beside him,
While she said, and blushed to say it,
"I will follow you, my husband!"
This was Hiawatha's wooing!
Thus it was he won the daughter
Of the ancient Arrow-maker,
In the land of the Dakotas!


[Pg 95]

The River-Lake.

After the cooling shower
Soft is the twilight hour
On the river-lake.
Sweetly the plaintive note
Gushes from whippoorwill's throat,
Gently, gently we float,
Light as a fine snow-flake,
Down the river-lake.
The dripping oars at rest
Their murmurous music wake,
And ripple o'er the breast
Of the peaceful river-lake.
The lovely shadows fall
Like a sin-outshutting wall
On the river-lake,
Charming the hour and place.
The holiness we trace
In Nature's quiet grace
Makes sacred for her sake
All on the river-lake.[Pg 96]
O this is purest joy!
This it is that makes
Me love the wide St. Croix,
The river-lake of lakes.


[Pg 97]

Song of a Nadowessee Chief.

See on his mat—as if of yore,
All life-like sits he here!
With that same aspect which he wore
When light to him was dear.
But where the right hand's strength? and where
The breath that loved to breathe,
To the Great Spirit aloft in air,
The peace-pipe's lusty wreath?
And where the hawk-like eye, alas!
That wont the deer pursue,
Along the waves of rippling grass,
Or fields that shone with dew?
Are these the limber, bounding feet
That swept the winter's snows?
What stateliest stag so fast and fleet?
Their speed outstripped the roe's!
These arms, that then the steady bow
Could supple from its pride,
How stark and helpless hang they now
Adown the stiffened side![Pg 98]
Yet weal to him—at peace he stays
Where never fall the snows;
Where o'er the meadows springs the maize
That mortal never sows.
Where birds are blithe on every brake—
Where forests teem with deer—
Where glide the fish through every lake—
One chase from year to year!
With spirits now he feasts above;
All left us—to revere
The deeds we honor with our love,
The dust we bury here.
Here bring the last gift! loud and shrill
Wail, death dirge for the brave!
What pleased him most in life may still
Give pleasure in the grave.
We lay the ax beneath his head
He swung when strength was strong—
The bear on which his banquets fed—
The way from earth is long!
And here, new sharped, place the knife
That severed from the clay,
From which the ax had spoiled the life,
The conquered scalp away!
The paints that deck the dead bestow—
Yes, place them in his hand—
That red the kingly shade may glow
Amid the spirit-land.


[Pg 99]


A pine-girt lake, broad spread; a glimpse
Of clear-rimmed bay, encroaching lusk
Upon a lapse of rocky vale;
Beyond, a brunt-browed mountain, set
Abrupt against a weary waste
Of level, sparse-grown forest plain.
Vanguard of Order's birth on Earth's
Primeval stage, sphynx-like, the mount
From chaos burst upon a world
Of sea in space. It kept its head
To the sun; it pierced the dense of the mists;
It gathered forces, one by one,
Until the land by light was kissed.
The waters slunk away to Lake
Superior's bent, leaving a child
At play, on a plateau's breast, content.
Marking the march of time, the mount
Grew grim and gray, while ages stored
Their riches at its feet away:—
Ore-of-iron riches deep stowed
In vaults of rock, for creature king
Of future age to fit the key
Of genius in their ancient locks;[Pg 100]
Stowed wealth to bless a nation, whose
Motto: "Onward! Light!" befits it
For that mountain's home, which pierced through
Inchoate night; stowed signet seal,
With which to stamp that fair land's Queen
Of States, whose crested monogram,
With sheaves of wheat entwined, the North
Star scintillates.
Guarding the till
Of treasure, mountain, grim and gray,
Playing with wind and wave, child-lough
And lazy bay—Archaic group
Are they, whose quiet naught details
Of primal epochs; yet, as face
Of man with furrowed wrinkles marked
And seared, suggests his past life's course,
Their presence in itself reveals
The trace of annals which their calm
Conceals. So Mystery's seeds were sown.
Even the simple Indian folk,—
Naive indigene of primitive plain,—
Beheld with minds to quickened thought
Provoked, that single skyward height
Break stark upon the main and called
It "Wey-do-dosh-she-ma-de-nog."
Because, they said, it was the breast
Of Mother Earth, which there arose
To succor spirit souls in quest
Of joyous hunting-grounds, of which
Their wise men tell. And not to them
Alone has nature from this rare
Scene appealed to fancy; for, when[Pg 101]
Old Father Time, from out his horn
Of plenty, had poured the years full
Generations high upon the one
To which this legend runs, the white
Man came, bearing a waving stick,
His country's standard, into these
Proemial haunts. The lake, wine-stained,
He called "Vermilion," but the mount
Which broke upon his vision from
Under a chastened moon, he named,
"Jasper," after glories promised
To the kingdom of his own God.

The wild rice bent its fragile stalk
Beneath a crown of ripened grain;
The birch and oak and maple blazed
The Autumn's glory forth, and set aflame
With red and gold, the northland pines,
Perennial green. The light wind's voice
Was muffled in requiem, mournful, low,—
A parting song to Summer, sad, soft,
And measured slow. Timed to the chant
Of death, but tuned to death's sweet hope—
Joy-hope of sorrow born—fair birth,
A freer life of fuller scope!
The sinking sun set all ablush
The bosom of the lake. Upon the edge
Of twilight rode the specter moon—
Swift pinioned bird of noiseless flight—
And hung a halo far above
Mount Wey-do-dosh-she-ma-de-nog.[Pg 102]
Along the shard-strewn shore, a band
Of Chippeway braves had pitched their camp,
To celebrate, with rites of their
Medawe, the flooding season's
Tide of full-grown grain. In and out
Among the shadow-lengthened pines,
Their dusky forms moved, one by one,
To circle silently around
The council fire. And when the tribe
Were gathered all, the day was done;
Its splendor shifted to the Queen
Of Night, that, flushed with triumph, flung
Adown the path of sky, beyond
Mount Wey-do-dosh-she-ma-de-nog
A bridge of golden gleams, to lose
Themselves within the darkling depths
Of Lake Vermilion's lifeless bay.
Then Guteba, like Jacob's son,
The favored one of twelve, arose.
No warrior paint his tawny skin
Bedecked, nor eagle plume, nor claw
Of beast adorned his royal head—
Base custom that of vulgar herd.
He wore a girt of wampum, nor
Need had he of other raiment;
For form erect, and sinewy frame
And kindling eye, bespoke the garb
Of manhood.
Thus he addressed them:
"From yonder window, framed in sky,
Swings Ko-go-gau-pa-gon.[Pg 103]
The God of Life has placed it there.
Down-hanging from the happy land,
Where spirits go, it forms a bridge,
O'er which all ransomed souls must cross.

In fineness built, of beam of moon,
It sinks and rolls, my children. But
The light of foot and brave of heart
Fear not. And one thing mark: before
An Indian may touch sole upon[Pg 104]
Those gleaming strands of gold, he first
Must navigate the bay, within
Whose darkly deep and treacherous bounds
The water, shamming, seems to sleep,
But only lies, like cunning fox,
To snare unwary passers-by
And hold them from their homeward way.
"The story is not new. It is
Told with every year, as I do tell
It now, when comes Medawe time;
When all the earth was young in youth
The mighty Water reigned thereon
And breath of life was not. Then, here,
Upon the wind was heard a voice
In thunder tones, which said unto
The Water, 'Kitchie Gumme, I
Am Gezha Manitou—of Life
The Master Spirit. Lo! I bid
Thy waves recede. Here, leading up
Past Wey-do-dosh-she-ma-de-nog
Unto the Soul's Hereafter, I
Have established Ke-wa-ku-na.
Thy waters overleap my path
So that my children cannot pass.
Thou'st gone too far. Retreat to serve
Within the spacious metes which I
Have set for thee.' Because the waves
Would not, Gezha Manitou hurled
Them back upon each other, till
They sank deeper and deeper and
Deeper into perpetual sea.
Time does not count backward beyond[Pg 105]
That struggle, but the water's voice
Has ever since been dumb where it
Took place; his arms have there refused
The birch canoe to cradle, or
The fish to succor. There, also
He called the Matchie Manitou,
The evil ones, to do his will.
They slew the buffalo, until
The rocks turned red with blood. They stole
The souls of them who sought to pass
The water grave; and man grew sad
And heavy-hearted. Then the voice
Of Gezha Manitou again
Was heard in words of speech to say:
'When winter snows, and springtime showers,
And summer suns have rounded out
The moon of ripened grain, light fires
To mark the places where your dead
Await my messengers to guide
Them home. Of meat to eat provide
Them none; but shape their arrows strong
And true. My buffalo will herd
Upon the water, and, along
The shores, thy garnered stores of grass
And grain must yield them food. Their horns
Will golden glimmer on the night
To make them easy prey for home
Bound souls, and they shall not be harmed
By Matchie Manitou. All clothed
In serpent skin and sharpened tooth
And poisoned tongue, my guides will come.
Then, let the living wary be
And go not near the tombs after[Pg 106]
The haze of dusk turns dark of night;
For swift my heralds will approach
Those ghostly haunts with sure demand
For every soul that's found therein,
Be it in body dead or quick.'
"The month, the day, the hour is here,
My children, when the dead may cross
To Ke-wa-ku-na less the fear
Of harm, and we have come to say
The last farewell. Wacumic's tomb,
Among the rest, awaits the torch.
In council, he was the Wise Man;
In war, the Brave Chief, and at home
The Best Loved,—his forefathers famed
For deeds of valor, virtue, and
Wisdom far back as memory takes
The trail. His name, interpreted
'The waters ceased and earth began,'
Denotes the time to which his line
Of lineage runs. His spirit craves
The promised land of happy hunt,
And chase, and sweetly flowing streams.
Our numbers are few, but our hearts
Are strong. We are weak from the loss
Of many battles, far from home;
Our horizon is shadowed by the Sioux;
Their echoing songs ring the woodlands
Through. Is it wise for us to light
The zenith of our skies, e'en tho'
It be with flame of sacred fire?
Wacumic was my father; you
My children are. I have finished."[Pg 107]
Against the circle's center stake
The chieftain placed his wing-trimmed stick—
Most curious crozier, which gave
Unto the thought of him, whose palm
It touched a brilliant speaking tongue;
Resumed his honored place the tribe
Then stranger far, than track
Of wayward bird, or swirling wind,
Was Janishkisgan's forward course.
A maid of plebeian birth, she did
Not ask the leave of public speech—
A right to woman not allowed—
But from her people, where she sat,
With meekness due, stepped out and grasped
The staff Guteba had released,
Thus arrogating to herself
The right of oracle.
She said:
"I was thy dead chief's handmaid, Friends.
Twelve months agone, I was with him
Upon the battle-field alone.
The Sioux were all around us; their
Faces war-red painted; their cries
Of vengeance filling all the air.
He to his saddle caught me up.
The Great Spirit strengthened his arm;
The lightning whet his ax; the wind
Speeded his pony's hoofs. Through walls
Of human blood he cut our way,
And on his tomb no single scalp[Pg 108]
The deed remarks, or notes the slain
He left to whiten bones upon
The plains. He saved my life. What can
I better do with it than use
It for him? Arrows ready make;
Gather the grass and grain with which
To feed the golden horns; prepare
The fuel for the sacred fires
And I will light and keep them bright
Upon the tombs. From my lips
Speaks Gezha Manitou. I have done."
Upon the silence which her words
Produced, the night-hawk's startling cry
Succeeded, and, round and round, above
Her head a milk-white falcon soared,
Now sailing high, now skimming low,
As if some mystic orison
In exultation it performed.
Symbolic bird! Thy course no chance
Directed. Talismanic art
Thou held by this nomadic tribe:
For, when the First Wacumic ruled
The band, from all the hosts of field
And feathery flock of heaven, thou wert
Elected Totem. Favored One!
Their fate forever linked to thine;
Thy image crested on their shields;
Thy every flight prophetic held!
Now, watch the trend of savage mind.
Even Chief Guteba, who loved[Pg 109]
The Indian maid, knew that the bird
A seal had put upon her, from which
Her accomplished task alone would
Freedom give; and drove his knife
Into the thickness of his thigh
Hilt deep, to ease his pain of heart
That one so young, so fair and so
Much loved withal, must need take thought
Of courage.
The Great Medicine
Confirmed the omen, in these words:
"Daughter, thou art chosen: go forth.
I give thee holy token, no
Woman ever wore before. It is
The medicine, which none but brave
Of noble birth may wear. Though thou
Art not of chieftain father bred,
Still yet thou art born noble. Take,
Janishkisgan, and to the top
Of Wey-do-dosh-she-ma-de-nog.
There let thine eye be keen, the path
Of open safety to descry;—
Use this plume of eagle plucked,
To point to us the way. We will
Prepare the arrows; grass and grain
Arrange, and make the fuel ready for
The flame upon the graves. When four
And twenty hours have passed, light thou
The fires upon the tombs, and keep
Them brightly burning till the ripe
Rich moon has emptied all its gold."[Pg 110]
He hung the amulet about
Her throat—the medicine, a bag
Of dried, misshapen skin, that held
The healing herbs—a homely guise
That promised for them little worth;
For, so are virtues ofttimes clothed.
She raised her eyes to heaven, as one
Made free of fear and full of faith;
Then moved away, while marveled all
Who saw her glowing, peaceful face,
Not knowing that her heart held court
Within its inner self, as thus:
"I thank thee, milk-white bird, that guides
My path. E'en now Guteba's lips
Are ripe to burst with love of me.
I see it in his glance; I hear
It in his tones. My heart doth not
Respond. His presents are prepared
With which to buy me from my sire;
His wigwam waits his bride, but I
Will never follow there. Thou hast
Given me right, thou barbarous bird,
To say him nay, who loves him not;
For, where the handmaid must obey,
The maid who lights the sacred fire
And bears the medicine shall have
Her equal say. And should my life
Yield in my task, thou'rt kinder, Death,
Than wandering heart from wigwam fire."
The Chippeway band to safety moved,
Far toward the rising sun, and pitched[Pg 111]
Their camp anew; then hoped, less hope,
For tidings of Janishkisgan,
That never came.
Guteba's face
The while was draped with care, his tongue
With sadness locked. To muffled ears
His wise men spake, when they implored
Him, for his honor's sake, to take
A wife—he being counted less
Than man by Redskin code, who sits
Within his teepee door, without
The serving squaw and papoose squawk.
Meantime the Great White Bird, from out
The North, came riding on the wind,
Its wings o'er heaven spread, and shed
Its down on hill and plain, the earth
In snow deep lying. Fasted then
Guteba long, and vowed unto
Himself that, cold in death or rich
In life, the maiden should be found;
Across his shoulder flung his bow
And arrow quiver; in his belt
Placed tomahawk and battle-ax
And lance; to westward sallied forth,
Nor of his purpose spoke.
Three times the sun went round
Its course and still he tarried from
His home, while in the Chippeway camp
Anxiety grew alarm at his
Extended stay, and laggard seemed[Pg 112]
Each tiny fleeting moment to
The last, until, when three times three
The days had rolled into the past.
A shout was heard, and sound of life
And roll of drum and tramp of feet
And happy, joyous song proclaimed
The sachem's safe return.
He came
With flowing locks and steady step,
And form erect, his people round
About him flocking, wild with joy,
And full of eager questions, put,
Of where he'd been and what he'd seen;
To which his only answer was:
"Up Wey-do-dosh-she-ma-de-nog."
As one possessed by purpose stern,
He passed along, nor paused until
The halt was made his wigwam door
Before, where his aged mother stood
To give him greeting. Something more
Than sweetness beamed in welcome from
His smile the while he took her hand
In his and spoke that blessed name
Of "Mother."
Then, most sudden end
Of joy!—into her outstretched arms
He sank, as tho' he lent himself
To gentle sleep, upon his lips
The seal of Gezha Manitou;
Else had they told the tale, the which
To tell, had given him strength to bear[Pg 113]
A deep and mortal arrow wound
A long march: How Janishkisgan
Lingered from her father's tent
To nurse the water Medicine Sioux,
"Chief Minnepazuka" called, who, though
For healing arts renowned, had down
Been stricken with the plague upon
The mountain top, his wisdom shorn
Of power through lack of body strength
With which to put it into use.
The dead Chief's sense of justice craved
The gift of further speech, to tell
The facts that lead thereto as all
Sufficient in themselves to plead
Her pardon. How Janishkisgan
Found the Sioux, near the jaws of death,
And in her sympathy forgot
That she a Chippeway was and he
Of hostile stem. She took from him
The secret he had wrested from
The waves, and mixed a cure thereby
With which his life she saved. She kept
The fires burning, while waiting on
His needs, nor gave him but the time
That they required; yet both had learned
A lesson, dear as life itself—
Each to the other had taught it,
And both had learned the same—learned to love
With a love so holy, that they
Must needs a union plan, in which
There, too, should be united all
Their severed bands. Guteba heard,
With his own ears, the chieftain swear[Pg 114]
That he would bring from his far home,
On western slopes, the richest gifts
Of field and forest, to demand
His bride from her own father's hand:
And, with the rest, bring too, the white
Winged dove of peace, nor claim from lips
So passing sweet, one tiny kiss
Without this all accomplished. Chief
Guteba, hid in neighboring shrub,
O'erheard these vows, with tomahawk
Well aimed against the Sioux Chief's head;
And, hanging on the words, felt all
His being's manhood stir in plea
For nobler action: fall down let
The threatening blade, and, chief to chief,
Challenged the Sioux to combat with
The lance for Janishkisgan's hand;
It being current practice, that
He who victored in such a fray
Was held a friend for aye, by all
The vanquished chieftain's people. Hurt
With fatal stab, the Chippeway Chief
Had hastened home, to urge upon
His tribe the well-earned peace, the which
Minnepazuka's lance had won.
Inexplicable fate! That coined
His lofty purpose and effort, staunch,
Into the very ill, for whose
Opposite good he sought; in death,
Closed his lips, still undelivered
Of their message, and left instead
A gaping wound to cry, "Revenge!"[Pg 115]
The tribe tore out their hair, and put
The blackening pigment on, and sang
Their grieving songs; athirst for blood,
Unheeding danger, struck their tents
And formed for march, in single file,
Back, back in gloom, to silent tombs,
Beside the dark, deep bay, below
Mount Wey-do-dosh-she-ma-de-nog,
There to lay their beloved chief's
And, there, Janishkisgan,
Filled with the superstition of
Her kind, made pillow nightly on
Her mother's grave, as well secure
As tho' she slept within the wigwam.
And there it was, one morning's dawn,
The somber funeral cortège found
Her. Most certain proof of innocence
And guilelessness and conscience all
At ease to rest upon a grave
At night, was it considered. But thus
To be, in calm repose, a smile
Transcendent on the lips, as if
Good spirits hovered near, almost
Were past belief of seeing eye.
So moved were they, who saw her there,
They stole away in awesome hush
Along a trackless trail, beneath
A ledge of rugged rock. Above
Their heads a bowlder's jutting edge
Protruded, where, this early morn,
Minnepazuka came to sing
A song of love.[Pg 116]
Alas! That she,
Who dreamed of him, had dream so sweet,
Her smile to him disastrous proved:
For, in that northern wild, no spot
So fit for ambush was as this
Unbeaten, shrub-grown path of rock
To which the Chippeways' impulse
Led them; and none so ill-secure
From ambuscading foe as this
Same barren bowlder, upon whose
O'erhanging height, the Sioux reclined.
His prelude, played on flageolet,
In clear and clarion tones, broke through
The still of dawn and fell on ears
Of foes, who crept upon him, the while
He softly sang:
"Oh, my Dove's Eye,
Thou dear one, hearest thou not
My voice? Thou lingerest far from me.
I am the Water Medicine. Rocks
Flow living streams if I but call.
Thou sharest my secrets, wee one;
Thou, too, hast quaffed of Immortal
Waters. Why linger far from me?
When the fever was upon me,
Then wast thou near me, thou Sunbeam.
Now, I am strong. To-morrow will
I journey toward the setting sun.
But I will come back again for thee.
My people shall be thine, my own.
Hearken to the voice of my song.

[Pg 117]

[Pg 118]

My love is like the shining sun
Upon the pure snow of the mount—
It would blush upon thy cheek, but
It would not destroy thee. Hear me,
Gentle one; fear me not. Thou didst
Not love the Chief Guteba. Thy
Lips have confessed it to me, and
My lance drank his heart dry. Now, thou
Sleepest upon thy mother's tomb."
As like the lightning of the storm
Forensic message on the walls
Of heaven writes, to fill the earth
With pause of tragic dread, so did
Guteba's name, on alien tongue
For one brief moment holden stay
The stealthy steps that stole about
The Sioux and closed escaping path
Around him. And as thunder lends
Unto the tempest's roar a voice
More awful because of that but
Momentary respite, so with
The next succeeding breath, the air
Was curdled with the Chippeway cry
Of vengeance. Before the Sioux could
Change within his grasp the place
Of joyous flute for battle-ax
He was surrounded by them and made
Their royal captive.
In thongs bound
Down and tortured, Janishkisgan
Next beheld him. But love, like theirs,[Pg 119]
Which hath preserved itself through test
In purity, knows not despair.
Nor can it hush itself to ease
If it can find the chance to act
In the beloved one's behalf.
So while the maid, well-honored guard
Of sacred fires, passed freely round,
From friend, to friend, with greetings kind,
In measure full returned, her thoughts
Were busy with the night.
When all
Was still beneath the stars, she left
Her blanket couch, high-heaped on leaves,
And let the prisoner free. Under
An old oak tree they said farewell,
Not without Minnepazuka's
Protestations, who plead as thus:
"Oh, come with me, and be my bride;
My home is on the prairies wide,
Where West sweeps westward, in its pride,
To mount the heights of mountain side;
Where yellow glows the sunflower's gold,
And earth rolls rich in mellow mold;
Where cactus bloom and roses blush,
And rivers sweep through greensward lush;
Where deer and antelope and bear
Abound as free as sunlit air;
Where buffalo and cayote dwell
And perch and trout the clear brook swell.
Oh, come; oh, come, and live with me—
To serve thee I shall happy be.[Pg 120]
I'll pluck thee bed of down of swan;
Thy cares make light as foot of fawn;
I'll build canoe of birch-wood bark
To cradle thee, my Singing Lark.
I'll rob the white bear for thy frock;
I'll bring thee paint from red of rock;
I'll note the honey-bee in its flight—
Gather its sweets by bright moonlight.
I'll coax the fishes from the wave;
Thy slightest wish shall bind me slave;
My arrow true its bow will fly
To draw abundance from the sky;
The heavens shall tremble at my voice
And thy dear heart rejoice, rejoice.
Oh, fly with me, these arms to bless;
Rest, rest, my little love, on my breast."
"It cannot be, my beaming-eyed,
Until our people are allied.
My father's step is growing slow,
No other child hath he. The snow
Upon his head would pile did I
But go with thee. I beg thee fly."
"No claim so binding is as love—
Oh, come, oh, come, my nestling dove—
Thy hands have set me free. And all
The blame of my escape will fall
On thee. Thy father will disown
Thee; the children cruel will stone
Thee, and——"
"And I will think of thee."[Pg 121]
"Leave thee alone to bear such wrongs!
Oh, no. Upon my wrists bind back
The thongs. I will not freedom take.
'Twere better far than price like this
To perish at the stake. Bind back
The thongs."
"Thou wouldst spare me pain? Then,
Go. Each tiny, lapping flame of fire
That fed its tongue on thee, would scorch
The life-blood in my heart until
Upon the funeral pyre, I'd throw
My worthless self. I beg thee go."
"Alas! Thy heart is cold to me."
"Nay, nay, not so; it all is thine.
I give it in this kiss. 'Twill sing
To thee from throat of bird; it will
Echo on the wind; it will
Caress thee from the dew;—'tis all
I have; it is thine. Farewell."
"Gentle One, thou givest me life,
To take it from me. Thou lily heart,
Thou art my own, my other self:
Thy god declares it unto thee,
And mine to me."
"And over all
Is the Great Spirit. Farewell."
"Thou wilt not go?"
"Farewell."[Pg 122]
Sad fate, by human standard judged,
The Indian maiden brought upon
Herself. Given to eat with dogs,
Clothed in rags, disgraced, driven from
Her father's door, the power of love
Sustained her. Magic Power, Great
Architect, Superb Chemist Love!
The heart that entertains thee
Grows lofty in spirit gentleness,
E'en tho' thou deignst to make it but
Thy workshop. So Janishkisgan
Knew thee. Fearing only to prove
Unworthy of her august guest,
She walked in the midst of scorn,
Contempt, contumely, sneers and stern
Displeasure, with that forbearance
And kindly dignity, which re-won
Her friends, despite themselves; so that
At last they gave her pitying peace,
And listened with their heart-strings tuned
To life's better part, while she sang
Her farewell song, each eve beneath
The tree.
After a time the plague
Broke out and lamentations rose
On every hand. Old women made
Their teas and plied their healing arts;
The Great Medicine Men implored
Gezha Manitou's aid, and all
The vibrant air was resonant
With invoking incantations.—
Death marched on. Then Janishkisgan[Pg 123]
Bethought her of her lover's cure;
Gathered the balsam root and mixed
Therefrom the potent draught, as he
Had taught her. Great Medicine
It was, that brought the glow of health
Into the faded, hollow cheeks,
And all the people blessed the maid;
Called her, "Mahnusatia," which means
The balm that heals. Surrounded by
The dread disease, she came and went
Unscathed, as if by unseen hands
Protected. Where her gentle tones
Were heard or where her light step fell,
It was as if an angel passed.—
Wan faces smiled, and hearts felt hope,
And trembling lips found voice to cry:
"Mahnusatia! Mahnusatia!"
Thus in love was she renamed.
Reinstated and reintrenched
Deeper then ever in hearts which
Had once renounced her, still she lived
As one apart. The seasons came
And passed, and as they did, the tribe
Changed camp, from place to place, with each
Recurring Autumn to return
To Wey-do-dosh-she-ma-de-nog;
But "Mahnusatia" never left
The silent village. There she kept
Her vigil, night by night, under
The old oak tree. Her form became
Wasted; her eyes lustrous; her limbs
Grew to tremble, but her voice was[Pg 124]
Sweeter, as on each even's breeze,
In rain or shine, in storm or calm,
Was heard her fond farewell. Her life's
Last breath was spent in that farewell.
Her body lay under the oak, whose
Spreading branches caught up the sad
Refrain, "Farewell, farewell," and gave
It back again each eventide.
Her spirit lived in a thousand
Tongues, for where the Chippeway saw
The balsam tree, he turned his face
Toward Wey-do-dosh-she-ma-de-nog,
As Mahometan to Mecca, and
Cried out in reverential tones,
"Mahnusatia! Mahnusatia!"
It lives to-day, mere chance of fate,
Perchance, a monument of fame,
Than which nor time, nor nation, nor
People have ever better built;
A monument of State, that rears
Its regal, star-crowned head above
Its sisters', in the grandest, most
Glorious Union, which the world
Has ever known.
Yet who shall say,
Who hath not infinite knowledge,
It is but fortune's accident
That honors such fidelity?
Who, rather, shall not concede, that,
Down the path of time, a fitness,

[Pg 124a]


[Pg 125]

Everlasting, perpetuates
That sweet, sweet Indian name, which, in
Nobler accents, English spoken,
Echoes the wide, wide world around:
"Minnesota! Minnesota!"


[Pg 126]

The Descending Star.


The Chieftain sat in his wigwam door
And smoked his evening pipe,
While a crowd of Indian boys and girls,
Knowing his wisdom ripe,
Were begging him to a story tell,
For votive offering brought,
The tobacco loved by the aged sage;
So he told the tale they sought.
"There was once a time when the world was filled
With a people happy," he said:
"The crimson tide of war rolled not,
Nor against each other led,
Each rival tribe their warriors brave:
For the nations were as one,
The frightful scourge that has wasted us
Had, happily, not begun.
"With game in plenty forest and plain
Abounded. None were in want
And ghastly famine never touched
The tribes with its finger gaunt.

[Pg 126a]


[Pg 127]

At the bidding of man the beasts of the field
All meekly went and came;
For they feared him not, nor reason had,
But all were harmless and tame.
"Unending spring for winter's blasts
And chills gave never a place;
Each tree and bush bowed low with fruit
So they needed not the chase.
A carpet of flowers covered the earth,
While the air with their perfume
Was laden. The songs of mated birds
Rose ever in sweetest tune.
"The earth was indeed a paradise,
And man was worthy to live
'Mong these delights in tranquil peace
That merit alone can give.
The Indians—sole possession then—
Roamed here and there at will,
O'er plains and lakes and wilderness—
Ah, that it were so still!
"They numbered millions, as nature designed,
Enjoying her many gifts.
The sports of the field were their delight;
Such life the soul uplifts.
They watched the stars with loving gaze,
And thought that they must be
The homes of the good, with the Great Spirit
In the heavens roaming free.[Pg 128]
"One night a star shone strangely bright,
Out-shining all the rest.
At first they deemed it far away,
Its nearness never guessed.
Then some declared they believed it stood
Just over the tree-tops tall.
To solve the doubt a council of
The wisest men they call.
"These went one night and found the star
Was something like a bird.
It hovered just above the trees—
They feared, for they had heard
From their forefathers that it might
A bloody war foretell,
And over them a silent dread
Of some disaster fell.
"One moon had waned—the mystery
No one could solve or tell
If the omen of their heavenly guest
Foreboded ill or well:
When a warrior had a wondrous dream,
A lovely maiden came
And stood by his side—in sweetest tones,
She called him by his name.
"'I love your beautiful lakes,' said she,
'Your mountains clothed in green,
In yonder sky, shining above,
My sisters still are seen.[Pg 129]
But I have left them to come and live
Among your race, young brave:
To find a suitable home for me
Go ask your sages grave.'
"'And pray what form shall I assume
To be best loved by you?'
The youth awoke and stepped from his lodge
The ominous star to view.
It shone with undimmed luster where
It had stood for many a day:
Yet he firmly believed it the visitor
His waking had driven away.
"At early dawn the crier was sent
Around the camp to call
The warriors at once to the Council Lodge,
And there before them all,
The young brave told his dream so strange.
For love, they said, no doubt
For love of man the star had come
And wandered thereabout.
"To welcome her to earth next night
Five noble braves were sent.
She took the pipe of peace, which herbs
A sweet aroma lent.
Then with expanded wing she came
And hovered near their homes,
Like one who wished to be at rest
But still unwilling roams.[Pg 130]
"In dreams she asked the youth again:
'Pray tell where I shall live,
And what form now must I assume
To most enjoyment give?'
He could not decide, so she was told
For herself 'twere best to choose.
The tribe might through their ignorance
Her heavenly wisdom lose.
"On the mountains first in the pure white rose
She dwelt; but all unseen
By the tribe she loved: so next she went
To be the prairie's queen.
She trembled with fear, with ceaseless dread,
At the hoof of the buffalo;
For safety then a rocky cliff
She sought and glanced below.
"'I know where I will live,' she said,
'Where glides the swift canoe
Of the race I most admire, and where,
Dear children, always you
My playmates can be. I will kiss your cheeks
As you slumber by the lake.
Here with you all, my best beloved,
My home I will ever make.'
"These words she spoke and alighted soon
On the water's limpid breast.
Looked down at her image reflected there,
At last she was at rest.

[Pg 130a]


[Pg 131]

In the morning sun, as pure as heaven,
A thousand lilies basked;
For Wah-be-gwan-nee, water lily,
The Indian children asked.
"In the southern sky this bright star lived;
Her brethren can be seen
Far off in the cold North, hunting the bear:
Meanwhile, with ardor keen,
Her sisters watch from East and West,
And here, an exile lone,
She sees her heavenly kindred fair
In the home that was her own.
"My children, when the lilies pure
You pluck from the placid lake,
Hold them toward heaven, their rightful home,
Abandoned for your sake.
So they may be happy here on earth
As any sister star
That, stationed in the summer sky,
Gleams brightly from afar."


[Pg 132]

The Trailing Arbutus.


In the vast, primeval forest, unremembered moons ago,
When the streams were dumb and palsied, all the earth was white with snow,
When the eerie wind went chasing evil spirits through the wood,
'Neath the gaunt and leafless tree-tops, an old Indian teepee stood.
In it lived an old man only, with white locks and flowing beard,
Clad in furs from head to foot-sole, like one to the north-land reared:
Weakly his scant fire resisted the dread storm-fiend's icy breath,
And its deep, portentous rumblings spoke of swift approaching death.
Crouching there, "O Mannaboosho," cried he through the awful night,
"Here behold me, thy brave warrior. I will conquer in thy might."[Pg 133]
Then the lodge door softly opened and in stepped a beauteous form
Clad in ferns and sweet spring grasses. When she breathed, the air grew warm.
Large her eyes were, glowing brightly, as at night, the lustrous fawn's.
Red her cheeks were like wild roses or bright carmine-tinted dawns.
Long her hair and black as raven's, trailing o'er the frozen ground,
And her hands with pussy-willows, like close-fitting gloves were bound.
Fair wild-flowers crowned her tresses and her dainty little feet
Were encased in two white lilies from the great lakes pure and sweet.
Said the old man, "Ah, my daughter, I am glad to see you here.
Though my lodge is cold and cheerless, it will shield you, never fear;
But pray tell me, fearless maiden, how these icy blasts you dare
To confront in such strange clothing? Will you not the secret share?
I am old Kabibonokka, and my breath in ice congeals.
When I shake my locks, the snow falls. All the earth my power feels.
Hastily the birds fly southward and the squirrels safely hide."
"Ah how strange!" replied the maiden. "I spread beauty far and wide.[Pg 134]
When I shake my raven tresses, soft, warm rain falls from the sky,
All the birds come back a-building in the leafy tree-tops high."
Thus they talked, but soon the teepee grew like summer, strangely warm,
And the old man's head dropped listless o'er a soundly-sleeping form.
High the sun rode in the heavens, and a bluebird, pert and trim,
Called out, "Say-ee, I am thirsty;" and the rivers flowed for him.
As the old man slept, the maiden passed her hand above his head,
And he smaller grew and smaller, till, all mortal substance sped,
But a mass of green leaves growing there remained upon the earth;
And the fairy maiden stooping, with an air of quiet mirth,
Took pink-tinted flowers and hid them all about beneath the leaves;
And her sweet, fresh breath upon them, like a spell she softly breathes
As she sings with clear, wild warblings, "of my graces, I give all;
And who shall desire to pluck thee, on his bended knees shall fall."
Then as onward moved the maiden, through the woods and o'er the plains,
All the jocund birds sang to her, o'er her fell the spring-time rains,[Pg 135]
And the arbutus in beauty, 'neath her fairy footsteps sprung.
Nowhere else in vale or woodland were the precious seedlets flung.
Still Northern Minnesota, near the great unsalted sea,
Trace we will the maiden's footsteps where these self-same blossoms be.


[Pg 136]


In the shelter of the forest,
By the cataract's lonely brink,
(Shadow Falls, we call them nowadays)
Where the red deer came to drink,
Lived old Chaska and his daughter
Nopa, in their tepee small.
Handsome was this dusky maiden,
Eyes like deer and form so tall.
"Seche-do—bad man," said Chaska,
As the moccasin he laid down,
Ready for the wampum finish;
Nopa's skill his work must crown.
She had told him of an artist,
Sunny-haired with hand of snow,
Whose canoe was fastened daily,
In the river just below.
"Talk not to the treacherous white man,"
Chaska said, in tones of wrath,
"Harken, daughter, to my warning;
Never must he cross my path!"
But poor Nopa little heeded
Her old father's wise command;
Watching close, each day and evening
For the footsteps in the sand.

[Pg 136a]


[Pg 137]

Weeks have passed without his coming;
Weeks like years, so full of pain
To the Indian maiden thinking,
"Will he never come again?"
Surely now she hears his footsteps
Where the misty waters pour.
Falling headlong down the chasm:
Nopa will return no more.
Chaska hears her calling wildly;
Seeks to grasp the fleeing form
Follows till the rushing waters,
Swollen with the autumn's storm,
Cruel, cast his lifeless body
'Mong the rocks and caverns wild;
Desolate, the lonely tepee
Waits the hunter and his child.
Now, in autumn, when the aster
Nods its purple plumes in pride;
When the black-eyed Susan coyly
'Neath the gorgeous sumach hides;
And the golden-rod so stately,
To outshine all others tries;
In the mist of early evening
Two dark forms are seen to rise.
Chaska and his dusky daughter,
Shades from out the spirit-land,
Flitting, falling, downward, downward,
Till they reach the shining sand.[Pg 138]
Vanish then beside the river,
Where her faithless lover's bark
Once was moored. The waves, all lonely,
Lap the sands with shadows dark.


[Pg 139]

The Sea-Gull.[18]


In the measure of Hiawatha.

[The numerals refer to Notes to The Sea-Gull, in Appendix.]

On the shore of Gitchee Gumee[19]
Deep, mysterious, mighty waters—
Where the mânitoes—the spirits—
Ride the storms and speak in thunder,
In the days of Némè-Shómis,[20]
In the days that are forgotten,
Dwelt a tall and tawny hunter—
Gitchee Péz-ze-u—the Panther,
Son of Waub-Ojeeg,[21] the warrior,
Famous Waub-Ojeeg, the warrior.
Strong was he and fleet as roebuck,
Brave was he and very stealthy;
On the deer crept like a panther;
Grappled with Makwá,[22] the monster,
Grappled with the bear and conquered;
Took his black claws for a necklet,
Took his black hide for a blanket.[Pg 140]
When the Panther wed the Sea-Gull,
Young was he and very gladsome;
Fair was she and full of laughter;
Like the robin in the spring-time,
Sang from sunrise till the sunset;
For she loved the handsome hunter.
Deep as Gitchee Gumee's waters
Was her love—as broad and boundless;
And the wedded twain were happy—
Happy as the mated robins.
When their first-born saw the sunlight
Joyful was the heart of Panther,
Proud and joyful was the mother,
All the days were full of sunshine,
All the nights were full of starlight.
Nightly from the land of spirits
On them smiled the starry faces—
Faces of their friends departed.
Little moccasins she made him,
Feathered cap and belt of wampum
From the hide of fawn a blanket,
Fringed with feathers, soft as sable;
Singing at her pleasant labor,
By her side the tekenâgun,[23]
And the little hunter in it.
Oft the Panther smiled and fondled,
Smiled upon the babe and mother,
Frolicked with the boy and fondled.
Tall he grew and like his father,
And they called the boy the Raven—
Called him Kâk-kâh-gè—the Raven.
Happy hunter was the Panther.
From the woods he brought the pheasant,

[Pg 140a]


[Pg 141]

Brought the red-deer and the rabbit,
Brought the trout from Gitchee Gumee—
Brought the mallard from the marshes—
Royal feast for boy and mother:
Brought the hides of fox and beaver,
Brought the skins of mink and otter,
Lured the loon and took his blanket,
Took his blanket for the Raven.
Winter swiftly followed winter,
And again the tekenâgun
Held a babe—a tawny daughter,
Held a dark-eyed, dimpled daughter;
And they called her Waub-omeé-meé—
Thus they named her—the White-Pigeon.
But as winter followed winter
Cold and sullen grew the Panther;
Sat and smoked his pipe in silence;
When he spoke he spoke in anger;
In the forest often tarried
Many days, and homeward turning,
Brought no game unto his wigwam;
Only brought his empty quiver,
Brought his dark and sullen visage.
Sad at heart and very lonely
Sat the Sea-Gull in the wigwam;
Sat and swung the tekenâgun
Sat and sang to Waub-omeé-meé:
Thus she sang to Waub-omeé-meé,
Thus the lullaby she chanted:
Wâ-wa, wâ-wa, wá-we-yeà;
Kah-wéen, nee-zhéka kè-diaus-ai,[Pg 142]
Ke-gâh nau-wâi, ne-mé-go s'wéen,
Ne-bâun, ne-bâun, ne-dâun-is âis,
Wâ-wa, wâ-wa, wâ-we-yeà;
Ne-bâun, ne-bâun, ne-dâun-is-âis,
E-we wâ-wa, wâ-we-yeà,
E-we wâ-wa, wâ-we-yeà.
Swing, swing, little one, lullaby;
Thou'rt not left alone to weep;
Mother cares for you—she is nigh;
Sleep, my little one, sweetly sleep;
Swing, swing, little one, lullaby;
Mother watches you—she is nigh;
Gently, gently, wee one, swing;
Gently, gently, while I sing
E-we wâ-wa—lullaby,
E-we wâ-wa—lullaby.
Homeward to his lodge returning
Kindly greeting found the hunter,
Fire to warm and food to nourish,
Golden trout from Gitchee Gumee,
Caught by Kâh-kâh-gè—the Raven.
With a snare he caught the rabbit—
Caught Wabóse,[24] the furry-footed,
Caught Penây,[24] the forest-drummer;
Sometimes, with his bow and arrows,
Shot the red-deer in the forest,
Shot the squirrel in the pine-top,
Shot Ne-kâ, the wild-goose, flying.
Proud as Waub-Ojeeg, the warrior,[Pg 143]
To the lodge he bore his trophies.
So when homeward turned the Panther,
Ever found he food provided,
Found the lodge-fire brightly burning,
Found the faithful Sea-Gull waiting,
"You are cold," she said, "and famished;
Here are fire and food, my husband."
Not by word or look he answered;
Only ate the food provided,
Filled his pipe and pensive puffed it,
Sat and smoked in sullen silence.
Once—her dark eyes full of hunger—
Thus she spoke and thus besought him:
"Tell me, O my silent Panther,
Tell me, O beloved husband,
What has made you sad and sullen?
Have you met some evil spirit—
Met some goblin in the forest?
Has he put a spell upon you—
Filled your heart with bitter waters,
That you sit so sad and sullen,
Sit and smoke, but never answer,
Only when the storm is on you?"
Gruffly then the Panther answered:
"Brave among the brave is Panther
Son of Waub-Ojeeg, the warrior,
And the brave are ever silent;
But a whining dog is woman,
Whining ever like a coward."
Forth into the tangled forest,
Threading through the thorny thickets,
Treading trails on marsh and meadow,[Pg 144]
Sullen strode the moody hunter.
Saw he not the bear or beaver,
Saw he not the elk or roebuck;
From his path the red-fawn scampered,
But no arrow followed after;
From his den the sly wolf listened,
But no twang of bow-string heard he.
Like one walking in his slumber,
Listless, dreaming, walked the Panther;
Surely had some witch bewitched him,
Some bad spirit of the forest.
When the Sea-Gull wed the Panther,
Fair was she and full of laughter;
Like the robin in the spring-time,
Sang from sunrise till the sunset;
But the storms of many winters
Sifted frost upon her tresses,
Seamed her tawny face with wrinkles,
Not alone the storms of winters
Seamed her tawny face with wrinkles.
Twenty winters for the Panther
Had she ruled the humble wigwam;
For her haughty lord and master
Borne the burdens on the journey,
Gathered fagots for the lodge-fire,
Tanned the skins of bear and beaver,
Tanned the hides of moose and red-deer;
Made him moccasins and leggins,
Decked his hood with quills and feathers—
Colored quills of Kaug,[25] the thorny,
Feathers from Kenéw,[25] the eagle.
For a warrior brave was Panther;[Pg 145]
Often had he met the foemen,
Met the bold and fierce Dakotas,
Westward on the war-path met them;
And the scalps he won were numbered,
Numbered seven by Kenéw-feathers.
Sad at heart was Sea-Gull waiting,
Watching, waiting in the wigwam;
Not alone the storms of winters
Sifted frost upon her tresses.
Ka-be-bón-ík-ka, the mighty,[26]
He that sends the cruel winter,
He that turned to stone the Giant,
From the distant Thunder-mountain,
Far across broad Gitchee Gumee,
Sent his warning of the winter,
Sent the white frost and Kewâydin,[27]
Sent the swift and hungry North-wind.
Homeward to the South the Summer
Turned and fled the naked forests.
With the Summer flew the robin,
Flew the bobolink and blue-bird.
Flock-wise following chosen leaders,
Like the shaftless heads of arrows
Southward cleaving through the ether,
Soon the wild-geese followed after.
One long moon the Sea-Gull waited,
Watched and waited for her husband,
Till at last she heard his footsteps,
Heard him coming through the thicket.
Forth she went to meet her husband,
Joyful went to greet her husband.
Lo behind the haughty hunter,[Pg 146]
Closely following in his footsteps,
Walked a young and handsome woman,
Walked the Red Fox from the island—
Gitchee Ménis—the Grand Island—
Followed him into the wigwam,
Proudly took her seat beside him.
On the Red Fox smiled the hunter,
On the hunter smiled the woman.
Old and wrinkled was the Sea-Gull,
Good and true, but old and wrinkled.
Twenty winters for the Panther
Had she ruled the humble wigwam,
Borne the burdens on the journey,
Gathered fagots for the lodge-fire,
Tanned the skins of bear and beaver,
Tanned the hides of moose and red-deer,
Made him moccasins and leggins,
Decked his hood with quills and feathers,
Colored quills of Kaug, the thorny,
Feathers from the great war-eagle;
Ever diligent and faithful,
Ever patient, ne'er complaining.
But like all brave men the Panther
Loved a young and handsome woman;
So he dallied with the danger,
Dallied with the fair Algónkin,[28]
Till a magic mead she gave him,
Brewed of buds of birch and cedar,[29]
Madly then he loved the woman;
Then she ruled him, then she held him
Tangled in her raven tresses,
Tied and tangled in her tresses.[Pg 147]
Ah, the tall and tawny Panther!
Ah, the brave and brawny Panther!
Son of Waub-Ojeeg, the warrior!
With a slender hair she led him,
With a slender hair she drew him,
Drew him often to her wigwam;
There she bound him, there she held him
Tangled in her raven tresses,
Tied and tangled in her tresses.
Ah, the best of men are tangled—
Sometimes tangled in the tresses
Of a fair and crafty woman.
So the Panther wed the Red Fox,
And she followed to his wigwam.
Young again he seemed and gladsome,
Glad as Raven when the father
Made his first bow from the elm-tree,
From the ash-tree made his arrows,
Taught him how to aim his arrows,
How to shoot Wabóse—the rabbit.
Then again the brawny hunter
Brought the black bear and the beaver,
Brought the haunch of elk and red-deer,
Brought the rabbit and the pheasant—
Choicest bits of all for Red Fox.
For her robes he brought the sable,
Brought the otter and the ermine,
Brought the black-fox tipped with silver.
But the Sea-Gull murmured never,
Not a word she spoke in anger,
Went about her work as ever,[Pg 148]
Tanned the skins of bear and beaver,
Tanned the hides of moose and red-deer,
Gathered fagots for the lodge fire,
Gathered rushes from the marshes;
Deftly into mats she wove them;
Kept the lodge as bright as ever.
Only to herself she murmured,
All alone with Waub-omeé-meé.
On the tall and toppling highland,
O'er the wilderness of waters;
Murmured to the murmuring waters,
Murmured to the Nébe-nâw-baigs—
To the spirits of the waters;
On the wild waves poured her sorrow.
Save the infant on her bosom
With her dark eyes wide with wonder,
None to hear her but the spirits,
And the murmuring pines above her.
Thus she cast away her burdens,
Cast her burdens on the waters;
Thus unto the good Great Spirit,
Made her lowly lamentation:
Gitchee Mânito, benâ-nin!
Nah, Ba-bâ showâin neméshin!
Ka-be-bón-ík-ka,[26] the mighty,
He that sends the cruel winter,
From the distant Thunder-mountain
On the shore of Gitchee Gumee,
On the rugged northern border,
Sent his solemn, final warning,[Pg 149]
Sent the white wolves of the Nor'land.[31]
Like the dust of stars in ether—
In the Pathway of the Spirits,[32]
Like the sparkling dust of diamonds,
Fell the frost upon the forest,
On the mountains and the meadows,
On the wilderness of woodland,
On the wilderness of waters.
All the lingering fowls departed—
All that seek the South in winter,
All but Shingebís, the diver;[33]
He defies the Winter-maker,
Sits and laughs at Winter-maker.
Ka-be-bón-ík-ka, the mighty,
From his wigwam called Kewâydin—
From his home among the icebergs,
From the sea of frozen waters,
Called the swift and hungry North-wind,
Then he spread his mighty pinions
Over all the land and shook them.
Like the white down of Waubésè[34]
Fell the feathery snow and covered
All the marshes and the meadows,
All the hill-tops and the highlands.
Then old Péböân[35]—the winter—
Laughed along the stormy waters,
Danced upon the windy headlands,
On the storm his white hair streaming,
And his steaming breath, ascending,
On the pine-tops and the cedars
Fell in frosty mists of silver,[Pg 150]
Sprinkling spruce and fir with silver,
Sprinkling all the woods with silver.
By the lodge-fire all the winter
Sat the Sea-Gull and the Red Fox,
Sat and kindly spoke and chatted,
Till the twain seemed friends together.
Friends they seemed in word and action,
But within the breast of either
Smoldered still the baneful embers—
Fires of jealousy and hatred—
Like a camp-fire in the forest
Left by hunters and deserted;
Only seems a bed of ashes,
But the East wind, Wâbun-noódin,
Scatters through the woods the ashes,
Fans to flame the sleeping embers,
And the wild-fire roars and rages,
Roars and rages through the forest.
So the baneful embers smoldered,
Smoldered in the breast of either.
From the far-off Sunny Islands,
From the pleasant land of Summer,
Where the spirits of the blessèd
Feel no more the fangs of hunger,
Or the cold breath of Kewâydin,
Came a stately youth and handsome,
Came Según,[36] the foe of Winter.
Like the rising sun his face was,
Like the shining stars his eyes were,
Light his footsteps as the Morning's,
In his hand were buds and blossoms,[Pg 151]
On his brow a blooming garland.
Straightway to the icy wigwam
Of old Péböân, the Winter,
Strode Según and quickly entered.
There old Péböân sat and shivered,
Shivered o'er his dying lodge-fire.
"Ah, my son, I bid you welcome;
Sit and tell me your adventures;
I will tell you of my power;
We will pass the night together."
Thus spake Péböân—the Winter;
Then he filled his pipe and lighted;
Then by sacred custom raised it
To the spirits in the ether;
To the spirits in the caverns
Of the hollow earth he lowered it.
Thus he passed it to the spirits,
And the unseen spirits puffed it.
Next himself old Péböân honored;
Thrice he puffed his pipe and passed it,
Passed it to the handsome stranger.
"Lo I blow my breath," said Winter,
"And the laughing brooks are silent.
Hard as flint become the waters,
And the rabbit runs upon them."
Then Según, the fair youth, answered:
"Lo, I breathe upon the hillsides,
On the valleys and the meadows,
And behold, as if by magic—
By the magic of the spirits,
Spring the flowers and tender grasses."[Pg 152]
Then old Péböân replying:
"Nah![37] I breathe upon the forests,
And the leaves fall sere and yellow;
Then I shake my locks and snow falls,
Covering all the naked landscape."
Then Según arose and answered:
"Nashké![37]—see!—I shake my ringlets;
On the earth the warm rain falleth,
And the flowers look up like children
Glad-eyed from their mother's bosom.
Lo, my voice recalls the robin,
Brings the bobolink and bluebird,
And the woods are full of music.
With my breath I melt their fetters,
And the brooks leap laughing onward."
Then old Péböân looked upon him,
Looked and knew Según, the Summer,
From his eyes the big tears started
And his boastful tongue was silent.
Now Keezís—the great life-giver,
From his wigwam in Waubú-nong[38]
Rose and wrapped his shining blanket
Round his giant form and started,
Westward started on his journey,
Striding on from hill to hill-top.
Upward then he climbed the ether—
On the Bridge of Stars[39] he traveled,
Westward traveled on his journey
To the far-off Sunset Mountains—
To the gloomy land of shadows.[Pg 153]
On the lodge-poles sang the robin—
And the brooks began to murmur.
On the South-wind floated fragrance
Of the early buds and blossoms.
From old Péböân's eyes the tear-drops
Down his pale face ran in streamlets;
Less and less he grew in stature
Till he melted down to nothing;
And behold, from out the ashes,
From the ashes of his lodge-fire,
Sprang the Miscodeed[40] and, blushing,
Welcomed Según to the North-land.
So from Sunny Isles returning,
From the Summer-Land of spirits,
On the poles of Panther's wigwam
Sang Opeé-chee—sang the robin.
In the maples cooed the pigeons—
Cooed and wooed like silly lovers.
"Hah!—hah!" laughed the crow derisive,
In the pine-top, at their folly—
Laughed and jeered the silly lovers.
Blind with love were they, and saw not;
Deaf to all but love, and heard not;
So they cooed and wooed unheeding,
Till the gray hawk pounced upon them,
And the old crow shook with laughter.
On the tall cliff by the sea-shore
Red Fox made a swing. She fastened
Thongs of moose-hide to the pine-tree,
To the strong arm of the pine-tree.[Pg 154]
Like a hawk, above the waters,
There she swung herself and fluttered,
Laughing at the thought of danger,
Swung and fluttered o'er the waters.
Then she bantered Sea-Gull, saying,
"See!—I swing above the billows!
Dare you swing above the billows—
Swing like me above the billows?"
To herself said Sea-Gull—"Surely
I will dare whatever danger
Dares the Red Fox—dares my rival;
She shall never call me coward."
So she swung above the waters—
Dizzy height above the waters,
Pushed and aided by her rival,
To and fro with reckless daring,
Till the strong tree rocked and trembled,
Rocked and trembled with its burden.
As above the yawning billows
Flew the Sea-Gull like a whirlwind,
Red Fox, swifter than red lightning,
Cut the thongs, and headlong downward,
Like an osprey from the ether,
Like a wild-goose pierced with arrows,
Fluttering fell the frantic woman,
Fluttering fell into the waters—
Plunged and sunk beneath the waters!
Hark!—the wailing of the West-wind!
Hark!—the wailing of the waters,
And the beating of the billows!
But no more the voice of Sea-Gull.[Pg 155]
In the wigwam sat the Red Fox,
Hushed the wail of Waub-omeé-meé,
Weeping for her absent mother.
With the twinkling stars the hunter
From the forest came and Raven.
"Sea-Gull wanders late," said Red Fox,
"Late she wanders by the sea-shore,
And some evil may befall her."
In the misty morning twilight
Forth went Panther and the Raven,
Searched the forest and the marshes,
Searched for leagues along the lake-shore,
But they found no trace or tidings,
Found no track in marsh or meadow,
Found no trail in fen or forest,
On the shore-sand found no footprints.
Many days they sought and found not.
Then to Panther spoke the Raven:
"She is in the Land of Spirits—
Surely in the Land of Spirits.
High at midnight I beheld her—
Like a flying star beheld her—
To the waves of Gitchee Gumee
Downward flashing through the ether
Thus she flashed that I might see her,
See and know my mother's spirit;
Thus she pointed to the waters,
And beneath them lies her body,
In the wigwam of the spirits—
In the lodge of Nebe-nâw-baigs."[41]
Then spoke Panther to the Raven:
"On the tall cliff by the waters[Pg 156]
Wait and watch with Waub-omeé-meé.
If the Sea-Gull hear the wailing
Of her infant she will answer."
On the tall cliff by the waters
So the Raven watched and waited;
All the day he watched and waited,
But the hungry infant slumbered,
Slumbered by the side of Raven,
Till the pines' gigantic shadows
Stretched and pointed to Waubú-nong[38]
To the far-off land of Sunrise;
Then the wee one woke and, famished,
Made a long and piteous wailing.
From afar where sky and waters
Meet in misty haze and mingle,
Straight toward the rocky highland,
Straight as flies the feathered arrow,
Straight to Raven and the infant,
Swiftly flew a snow-white sea-gull—
Flew and touched the earth a woman.
And behold, the long-lost mother
Caught her wailing child and nursed her.
Thrice was wound a chain of silver
Round her waist and strongly fastened.
Far away into the waters—
To the wigwam of the spirits—
To the lodge of Nebe-nâw-baigs—
Stretched the magic chain of silver.
Spoke the mother to the Raven:[Pg 157]
"O my son—my brave young hunter,
Feed my tender little orphan;
Be a father to my orphan;
Be a mother to my orphan—
For the crafty Red Fox robbed us—
Robbed the Sea-Gull of her husband,
Robbed the infant of her mother.
From this cliff the treacherous woman
Headlong into Gitchee Gumee
Plunged the mother of my orphan.
Then a Nebe-nâw-baig caught me—
Chief of all the Nebe-nâw-baigs—
Took me to his shining wigwam,
In the cavern of the waters,
Deep beneath the mighty waters.
All below is burnished copper,
All above is burnished silver
Gemmed with amethyst and agates.
As his wife the Spirit holds me;
By this silver chain he holds me.
"When my little one is famished,
When with long and piteous wailing
Cries the orphan for her mother,
Hither bring her, O my Raven;
I will hear her—I will answer.
Now the Nebe-nâw-baig calls me—
Pulls the chain—I must obey him."
Thus she spoke, and in the twinkling
Of a star the spirit-woman
Changed into a snow-white sea-gull,
Spread her wings and o'er the waters
Swiftly flew and swiftly vanished.[Pg 158]
Then in secret to the Panther
Raven told his tale of wonder.
Sad and sullen was the hunter;
Sorrow gnawed his heart like hunger;
All the old love came upon him,
And the new love was a hatred.
Hateful to his heart was Red Fox,
But he kept from her the secret—
Kept his knowledge of the murder.
Vain was she and very haughty—
Oge-mâ-kwa[42] of the wigwam.
All in vain her fond caresses
On the Panther now she lavished;
When she smiled his face was sullen,
When she laughed he frowned upon her;
In her net of raven tresses
Now no more she held him tangled.
Now through all her fair disguises
Panther saw an evil spirit,
Saw the false heart of the woman.
On the tall cliff o'er the waters
Raven sat with Waub-omeé-meé,
Sat and watched again and waited,
Till the wee one, faint and famished,
Made a long and piteous wailing.
Then again the snow-white Sea-Gull,
From afar where sky and waters
Meet in misty haze and mingle,
Straight toward the rocky highland,
Straight as flies the feathered arrow,
Straight to Raven and the infant,[Pg 159]
With the silver chain around her,
Flew and touched the earth a woman.
In her arms she caught her infant—
Caught the wailing Waub-omeé-meé,
Sang a lullaby and nursed her.
Sprang the Panther from the thicket—
Sprang and broke the chain of silver!
With his tomahawk he broke it.
Thus he freed the willing Sea-Gull—
From the Water-Spirit freed her,
From the Chief of Nebe-nâw-baigs.
Very angry was the Spirit;
When he drew the chain of silver,
Drew and found that it was broken,
Found that he had lost the woman,
Very angry was the Spirit.
Then he raged beneath the waters,
Raged and smote the mighty waters,
Till the big sea boiled and bubbled,
Till the white-haired, bounding billows
Roared around the rocky headlands,
Rolled and roared upon the shingle.
To the wigwam happy Panther,
As when first he wooed and won her
Led his wife—as young and handsome.
For the waves of Gitchee Gumee
Washed away the frost and wrinkles,
And the spirits by their magic
Made her young and fair forever.[Pg 160]
In the wigwam sat the Red Fox
Sat and sang a song of triumph,
For she little dreamed of danger,
Till the haughty hunter entered,
Followed by the happy mother,
Holding in her arms her infant.
When the Red Fox saw the Sea-Gull—
Saw the dead a living woman,
One wild cry she gave despairing,
One wild cry as of a demon.
Up she sprang and from the wigwam
To the tall cliff flew in terror;
Frantic sprang upon the margin,
Frantic plunged into the waters,
Headlong plunged into the waters.
Dead she tossed upon the billows;
For the Nebe-nâw-baigs knew her,
Knew the crafty, wicked woman,
And they cast her from the waters,
Spurned her from their shining wigwams;
Far away upon the shingle
With the roaring waves they cast her.
There upon her bloated body
Fed the cawing crows and ravens,
Fed the hungry wolves and foxes.
On the shore of Gitchee Gumee,
Ever young and ever handsome,
Long and happy lived the Sea-Gull,
Long and happy with the Panther.
Evermore the happy hunter[Pg 161]
Loved the mother of his children.
Like a red star many winters
Blazed their lodge-fire on the sea-shore.
O'er the Bridge of Souls[43] together
Walked the Sea-Gull and the Panther.
To the far-off Sunny Islands—
To the Summer-Land of Spirits,
Sea-Gull journeyed with her husband—
Where no more the happy hunter
Feels the fangs of frost or famine,
Or the keen blasts of Kewâydin,
Where no pain or sorrow enters,
And no crafty, wicked woman.
There she rules his lodge forever,
And the twain are very happy,
On the far-off Sunny Islands,
In the Summer-Land of Spirits.
On the rocks of Gitchee Gumee—
On the Pictured Rocks—the legend
Long ago was traced and written,
Pictured by the Water-Spirits;
But the storms of many winters
Have bedimmed the pictured story,
So that none can read the legend
But the Jossakeeds,[44] the prophets.

[Pg 162]

Sweet Water.


Within the forest, by a crystal spring
Where I, a weary hunter, paused to fling
My form at length upon the velvet bank,
And from the cool, delicious water drank
A draught so comforting it well might seem
The fabled fount of Ponce de Leon's dream,
I met an aged half-breed, on whose cheek
The marks of seasons wild and winters bleak
Were softened by the warm light from the west—
Sunset—the last day-beauty, and the best!
Beside the spring he sat and gazed and dreamed
In melancholy silence, till it seemed
His very soul was pouring from his eyes
And melting in that mirror, where the skies
Were glassed in all their purity, and where
No ripple reached the surface from the fair
White bosom of the palpitating sand,—
A constant flowing breast o'er Nature's grand,
Tender, never weary heart! 'Twas life
Of her life which I quaffed; 'twas sweet, and rife
With flavor from foundations of her hills:[Pg 163]
'Twas strong with her strength; throbbing with her thrills;
Enriched with her untainted blood; a part
Of that divinity which rules my heart!
Thus when at last I drew my lips away,
And in the quiet of the closing day
Gave voice to my delight, the old man turned
To meet my glance. His deep eyes lit and burned
With growing brightness, and he softly said:
"This spring is sacred for the holy dead;
The spirit of Sweet Water lingers here;
The powers of mystery and reverent fear
And lovely death brood o'er this sleeping wave—
A monument for one who had no grave."
Forthwith he poured into my willing ear
A tale so wondrous I must tell it here:
One morning in the strawberry moon,
Her heart with Nature's heart in tune
A maid went forth to meet the sun.
That wonderous alchemist of day
With mystic pigments had begun
To tint the dark with twilight gray;
On mystic fans the breezy hills
Bestirred the air with perfumed thrills,
And mystic voices tried to tell
What dewy benedictions fell
Through all the silent hours of night.
The bend of eastern sky grew light
With mystic rays of silver-green,
Soon vanished in a violet sheen;
And this fair, mystic phantom flew
Before a potent golden hue.[Pg 164]
The maiden idly wandered over
Banks of moss and beds of clover,
Pausing as she strolled along
To hear the sweetest wildwood song,
Or watch the butterfly whose flight
From meadow bloom to forest flower
Enticed her pleasure-searching sight
With Nature's happiest power.
She passed along a forest trail
'Neath trees that thrilled with morning life;
Above the song-birds' concert strife
She heard the blithesome call of quail,
The scornful cry of blue-jay dressed
In splendid robes, with lordly crest.
'Twas joy to see, 'twas joy to hear,
'Twas joy to wander without fear.
O lightsome heart! O peaceful breast!
Where yet no passion brought unrest!
Gayly she tripped, unconscious all
That any danger might befall.
But suddenly the song-birds fled
From all the branches overhead.
Then on her startled hearing rang
The sharp and vengeful bow-string's twang
A whizz—a yell—a writhing mass
Fell on the path she thought to pass—
A tawny panther from whose side
An arrow drained the living tide.
With shrinking eyes she saw the beast
Rolling in agony, until
At last the sensate struggles ceased,
And all that mighty frame was still.
While she was wondering whose keen sight

[Pg 165]

[Pg 166]

So well had sped the arrow's flight,
A tall young brave stepped from the wood
And silently before her stood.
He gazed enraptured on her face,
Her womanly charms, her youthful grace;
And when he spoke, it was to tell
The flattering things that win so well.
She saw that he was one who fought
Against her father's tribe, but naught
Availed that knowledge for defense
Against his passionate eloquence,
And ere they parted on that morn
Within her breast young Love was born.
They met again, and many times,
As young hearts have in many climes.
At last, upon a starry night,
Unable longer to resist,
She gave up all and took her flight
And went with him where he might list.
While they had lingered in their love,
The stars had swiftly marched above—
And thus it chanced that on their way
They met the heralds of the day.
Her lover led through forests dim,
He brought her to the river bank;
His light canoe, all tight and trim,
He drew from grasses tall and rank.
They pushed away; no time was lost,
And soon the placid stream was crossed.
Again they plunged among the trees.
Although no doubt had power to seize
Upon the maiden's heart, she feared
And wondered that her brave appeared[Pg 167]
To lose his wonted care; she knew
'Twas strange to leave their tried canoe,
But went, unquestioning, and thought
His deeds would bring her fears to naught.
To her astonishment, he led
Her from the forest's sheltering spread
Into a small and star-lit glade,
And, turning to her, softly bade
Her fear not, for a warlike band
Encompassed them on every hand.
They were her lover's friends in arms,
The war paint on their faces filled
Her faithful breast with wild alarms,
For she herself would fain be killed
A thousand times than that her flight
Should lead her own to death that night.
She clasped his arm with trembling hand,
And lifted to his bold black eyes
A look he could but ill withstand—
Love's first reproach, doubt's first surmise.
From cold, white lips her question broke:
"Why do we thus these warriors meet
So near the lodges of my folk?
Why do you thus their presence greet?"
Before his tongue could make reply,
A burly warrior, standing by,
Strode forward, and, with murderous look,
His tomahawk before her shook,
And fiercely said: "I am Two Bear;
Great chief am I! 'Tis sweet to tear
The craven hearts and drink the blood
Of Two Bear's foes; a big red flood
Shall flow from coward Sioux, this morn[Pg 168]
Their scalps Ojibway spears adorn.
Why have you kept us waiting here?
Behold, the sun will soon appear,
The hour is late, the good time flies,
And vengeance still unsated cries!
Come," growled the brute, and clutched her wrist,
And gave it rough and cruel twist;
"Come, lead us now, with noiseless creep,
To where thy Sioux dogs lie in sleep."
Like thunderbolt from storm-filled air,
The young brave sprang upon Two Bear;
With mighty grasp he whirled him 'round
And threw him fiercely to the ground.
"Dog thou," he cried; "and darest thou pain
This beauty with thy paws again
I'll kill thee, ponderous as thou art!"
Black with the fury in his heart,
The bully rose, and toward the young
And fearless champion wildly flung
His tomahawk, which, lightly dodged,
Swung through the hissing air and lodged
Deep in the nearest cottonwood.
Brief were the moments while they stood
And glared into each other's eyes.
Then forward leaped, with fearful cries,
And joined in combat, hand to hand.
With whirlwind sweep their knives outflashed,
And lightning followed when they clashed.
The maiden stood in dumb surprise,
All heedless of the warrior band;
Too anxious for her lover's fate
To think upon his present state,
Or care what stir she might create.[Pg 169]
Sternly the conflict raged. At length,
Although he fought with giant strength,
The youthful brave was overpowered.
He fell; a crushing knee was pressed
Upon his form, his foeman towered
A moment o'er him, then his breast
Received the cruel, plunging knife.
The crimson flood gushed forth; a thrill
Of anguish swept his features o'er;
The light departed; mortal strife
Would stir the living pulse no more
Within that ghastly form so still!
Her lover's awful death awoke
The maiden from her flight-born trance.
She flashed around one fearful glance—
The peril of her people broke
Upon her mind; she must be brave,
For she alone could hope to save.
She saw with horror and alarm
Two Bear approach herself to claim
As prize for his victorious arm;
His wicked face was all aflame.
'Twas worse than death for her to stay,
And she must warn those far away.
No time was her's for useless grief.
She turned, and like a storm-chased leaf,
Fled swiftly toward the river bank.
Alas! A dozen leaps were all.
The murderous tomahawk was thrown
And cleft her brain. With one low moan,
Upon her green death-bed she sank.
But simultaneous with her fall
A wild Dahkotah war-whoop rang[Pg 170]
From out the forest, and a wall
Of warriors rose on every hand.
With common stroke their bow-strings' twang
Sounded death to that fated band.
The avengers closed upon their foe,
And ere they ceased the conflict wild,
Laid every feathered top-knot low;
In heaps Ojibway braves were piled.
When all the last red scalps were torn
They turned to find the murdered maid.
All in her tribe would rise and mourn
When dead before them she was laid.
But strange event! With wondering tone,
Each asked of each where she had flown.
In vain they searched. They found her not;
But there, upon the very spot
Where she had fallen, a fountain gushed
Which never man had seen before.
They gathered round with breathing hushed
And gazed, and wondered more and more.
While every grass-blade growing near
Was red and matted thick with gore,
The overflow was sweet and clear;
The bosom of the bubbling spring
Was spotless as a spirit's wing.
With single voice they all proclaimed
The magic spot a sacred place.
The vanished girl was thenceforth named
"Sweet Water," and to see her face
Dahkotah hearts will journey here
Till from the earth they disappear;
And when they die, their souls shall know
The secret of its crystal flow.

[Pg 170a]


[Pg 171]

Death of Winona.

Down the broad Ha-Ha Wák-pa[45] the band took their way to the Games at Keóza,
While the swift-footed hunters by land ran the shores for the elk and the bison.
Like magás[46] ride the birchen canoes on the breast of the dark, winding river,
By the willow-fringed island they cruise, by the grassy hills green to their summits;
By the lofty bluffs hooded with oaks that darken the deep with their shadows;
And bright in the sun gleam the strokes of the oars in the hands of the women.
With the band went Winona. The oar plied the maid with the skill of a hunter.
They tarried a time on the shore of Remníca—the Lake of the Mountains.[47]
There the fleet hunters followed the deer, and the thorny pahin for the women.
From the tees rose the smoke of good cheer, curling blue through the tops of the maples,
Near the foot of a cliff that arose, like the battle-scarred walls of a castle,
Up-towering, in rugged repose, to a dizzy height over the waters.[Pg 172]
But the man-wolf still followed his prey, and the step-mother ruled in the teepee;
Her will must Winona obey, by the custom and law of Dakotas.
The gifts to the teepee were brought—the blankets and beads of the White men,
And Winona, the orphaned, was bought by the crafty, relentless Tamdóka.
In the Spring-time of life, in the flush of the gladsome mid-May days of Summer,
When the bobolink sang and the thrush, and the red robin chirped in the branches,
To the tent of the brave must she go; she must kindle the fire in his teepee;
She must sit in the lodge of her foe, as a slave at the feet of her master.
Alas for her waiting! the wings of the East-wind have brought her no tidings;
On the meadow the meadow-lark sings, but sad is her song to Winona,
For the glad warbler's melody brings but the memory of voices departed.
The Day-Spirit walked in the west to his lodge in the land of the shadows;
His shining face gleamed on the crest of the oak-hooded hills and the mountains,
And the meadow-lark hied to her nest, and the mottled owl peeped from her cover.
But hark! from the teepees a cry! Hear the shouts of the hurrying warriors!
Are the feet of the enemy nigh,—of the crafty and cruel Ojibways?[Pg 173]
Nay; look!—on the dizzy cliff high—on the brink of the cliff stands Winona!
Her sad face up-turned to the sky. Hark! I hear the wild wail of her death-song:
"My Father's Spirit, look down, look down—
From your hunting grounds in the shining skies;
Behold, for the light of my heart is gone;
The light is gone and Winona dies.
"I looked to the East, but I saw no star;
The face of my White Chief was turned away.
I harked for his footsteps in vain; afar
His bark sailed over the Sunrise-sea.
"Long have I watched till my heart is cold;
In my breast it is heavy and cold as a stone.
No more shall Winona his face behold,
And the robin that sang in her heart is gone.
"Shall I sit at the feet of the treacherous brave?
On his hateful couch shall Winona lie?
Shall she kindle his fire like a coward slave?
No!—a warrior's daughter can bravely die.
"My Father's Spirit, look down, look down—
From your hunting-grounds in the shining skies;
Behold, for the light in my heart is gone;
The light is gone and Winona dies."
Swift the strong hunters climbed as she sang, and the foremost of all was Tamdóka;
From crag to crag upward he sprang; like a panther he leaped to the summit.[Pg 174]
Too late!—on the brave as he crept turned the maid in her scorn and defiance;
Then swift from the dizzy height leaped. Like a brant arrow-pierced in mid-heaven,
Down whirling and fluttering she fell, and headlong plunged into the waters.
Forever she sank mid the wail, and the wild lamentation of women.
Her lone spirit evermore dwells in the depths of the Lake of the Mountains,
And the lofty cliff evermore tells to the years as they pass her sad story.[48]
In the silence of sorrow the night o'er the earth spread her wide, sable pinions;
And the stars hid their faces; and light on the lake fell the tears of the spirits.
As her sad sisters watched on the shore for her spirit to rise from the waters,
They heard the swift dip of an oar, and a boat they beheld like a shadow,
Gliding down through the night in the gray, gloaming mists on the face of the waters.
'Twas the bark of DuLuth on his way from the Falls to the Games at Keóza.

[Pg 175]

The Legend of the Moccasin Flower.

Minneopa was a maiden
Fleet of foot and fond of sport,
She, her mother's only daughter,
Cared not for the harsh report
That she left the woman's labor
To her only parent, while
With the hunt and ramble busied,
Oft she wandered many a mile.
Scarce her cousins could excel her
In the bending of the bow,
Though they were so tall and manly,
With them hunting she would go.
She had shot the timid rabbit,
With her arrows swift and keen,
Now she wished to slay the red-deer
As the hunters she had seen.
Beautiful she was, and graceful,
Like the young fawn she pursued,
Gayly decked with beads and wampum,
For her mother fond endured[Pg 176]
With great worth this only daughter;
As her sire a chief had been,
E'en the boyish pranks and pastime
For her no reproof could win.
Tiny moccasins, so dainty,
Well her little feet encased,
And her long braids streamed behind her
As down woodland paths she raced.
"I will go alone and find them,
Then the red-deer I will kill."
So she went, for all she minded
Was her own caprice and will.
Warm and smoky Indian summer
Lent the earth a russet glow,
And the hazel nuts dropped softly
'Mong the rustling leaves below.
Far she wandered, but no creature
Caught her ear or crossed her path,
Save the blue-jay in the treetop
Screaming oft in seeming wrath.
Suddenly she heard a roaring,
Crackling sound. In sickening dread
Looked and saw the forest burning
With a lurid flame and red.
Fast she flew; the flames spread faster,
Caught her in their fierce embrace;
Minneopa, never, never,
Will you now the wild deer chase.
Ashes gray and failing cinders
Made for her a lonely grave.[Pg 177]
But with springtime came the verdure,
And the kindly grasses waved;
Peeping up came gorgeous blossoms,
Never seen on earth before,
Shaped and colored like the moccasins
That the Indian maiden wore.
Some there were of heavenly coloring,
Such as clouds at sunset wear,
White and rosy; they were emblems
Of the new ones waiting where
In the spirit land she wanders
With her father strong and brave;
And the mother, when she saw them,
Knew they marked her daughter's grave.



[Pg 179]



[1] The name given by the Dakotas to the first-born, if a female.

[2] Tipi, skin tent.

[3] An edible root found on the prairies.

[4] The Crow Indians, hereditary foes of the Dakotas, call themselves Absaraka, which means crow in their language.

[5] Each Indian guest at a banquet carries with him his own wooden bowl and spoon.

[6] Many Indians believe in the transmigration of souls, and some of them profess to remember previous states of existence.

[7] A renowned chief, formerly living on Lake Pepin.

[8] A supernatural monster inhabiting the larger rivers and lakes, and hereditary foe of the Thunder Bird.

[9] The Falls of St. Anthony.

[10] The name given to a first-born, if a male. Upon becoming a warrior or performing some feat of arms, the youth is permitted to select another name.

[11] Hereditary foe of the Dakotas.

[12] The Dakotas formerly disposed of their dead by fastening them to the branches of trees or to rude platforms. This is still practiced to some extent.

[13] The Indians paint and adorn a body before sepulture.


[14] "On the mountains of the prairie." (Mt. Catlin, etc.) Located near the boundary between Minnesota and Dakota, near the head waters of the Mississippi.

[15] This quarry, located near the hills or mountains, was very famous among the Indians, who by common consent had[Pg 180] made the adjacent territory neutral ground. Here they came and provided themselves with pipes, very necessary to the Indian's happiness. To apply the stone to any other use than that of pipe-making would have been sacrilege in the native's mind. From similarity in color, they even fancied it to have been made, at the great deluge, from the flesh of the perishing Indian.

[16] In Northern Pennsylvania, on the Susquehanna River, the scene of a terrible massacre by the Indians and Tories in 1778. Campbell wrote Gertrude of Wyoming on the incidents of that July 5th.

[17] A section of Alabama, taking its name from the chief defeated by De Soto in 1540.

"The Falls of Minnehaha." (The Scenery about Fort Snelling, etc.)


This legend is related by Kah-ge-ga-gah-bawh, chief of the Ojibway Nation, or Chippewas, in his "Traditional History of the Ojibway Nation" purporting to be the first volume of Indian history written by an Indian. In common with his forest brethren, he "was brought up in the woods." Twenty months passed in a school in Illinois constituted the sum-total of his schooling. But he had learned the traditions of his people, as was customary, from the lips of the chief, his father.

Through the stilted language of this somewhat unlettered Indian we catch faint glimpses of the poetic beauty with which the tradition glowed when actually related at the wigwam door. An attempt has been made to retain and crystallize this poetic beauty in the preceding metrical version of the Indian legend.


A new version of the beautiful and popular legend of the first spring flower, making the visitant to the old man's lodge a maiden, and identifying the blossom as the trailing arbutus, was told by Hon. C. L. Belknap of Michigan before the Folk-Lore Society in Washington, Dec., 1891.


[18] Kay-óshk is the Ojibway name for the sea-gull.

[19] Gitchee—great,—Gúmee—sea or lake,—Lake Superior[Pg 181] also often called Ochipwè Gitchee Gúmee, Great Lake (or sea) of the Ojibways.

[20] Né-mè-Shómis—my grandfather. "In the days of my grandfather" is the Ojibway's preface to all his traditions and legends.

[21] Waub—white—O-jeeg—fisher (a furred animal). White Fisher was the name of a noted Ojibway chief who lived on the south shore of Lake Superior many years ago. Schoolcraft married one of his descendants.

[22] Ma-kwa or mush-kwa—the bear.

[23] The Te-ke-nâh-gun is a board upon one side of which a sort of basket is fastened or woven with thongs of skin or strips of cloth. In this the babe is placed and the mother carries it on her back. In the wigwam the tekenâgun is often suspended by a cord to the lodge-poles and the mother swings her babe in it.

[24] Wabóse (or Wabos)—the rabbit. Penáy, the pheasant. At certain seasons the pheasant drums with his wings.

[25] Kaug, the porcupine. Kenéw, the war-eagle.

[26] Ka-be-bon-ik-ka is the god of storms, thunder, lightning, etc. His home is on Thunder-Cap at Thunder-Bay, Lake Superior. By his magic the giant that lies on the mountain was turned to stone. He always sends warnings before he finally sends the severe cold of winter, in order to give all creatures time to prepare for it.

[27] Kewâydin, or Kewâytin, is the North wind or Northwest wind.

[28] Algónkin is the general name applied to all tribes that speak the Ojibway language or dialects of it.

[29] This is the favorite "love-broth" of the Ojibway squaws. The warrior who drinks it immediately falls desperately in love with the woman who gives it to him. Various tricks are devised to conceal the nature of the "medicine" and to induce the warrior to drink it; but when it is mixed with a liberal quantity of "fire-water" it is considered irresistible.


Translation: Woe-is-me! Woe-is-me!
Great Spirit, behold me!
Look, Father; have pity upon me!
Woe-is-me! Woe-is-me!

[31] Snow-storms from the Northwest.[Pg 182]

[32] The Ojibways, like the Dakotas, call the Via Lactea (Milky Way) the Pathway of the Spirits.

[33] Shinge-bis, the diver, is the only water-fowl that remains about Lake Superior all winter.

[34] Waub-ésè—the white swan.

[35] Pé-boân, Winter, is represented as an old man with long white hair and beard.

[36] Según is Spring (or Summer). This beautiful allegory has been "done into verse" by Longfellow in Hiawatha. Longfellow evidently took his version from Schoolcraft. I took mine originally from the lips of Pah-go-nay-gie-shiek—"Hole-in-the-day,"—(the elder), in his day head-chief of the Ojibways. I afterward submitted it to Gitche Shabâsh-Konk, head-chief of the Misse-sah-ga-é-gun—(Mille Lac's band of Ojibways), who pronounced it correct.

"Hole-in-the-day," although sanctioned by years of unchallenged use, is a bad translation of Pah-go-nay-gie-shiek, which means a clear spot in the sky.

He was a very intelligent man; had been in Washington several times on business connected with his people, and was always shrewd enough to look out for himself in all his treaties and transactions with the Government. He stood six feet two inches in his moccasins, was well-proportioned, and had a remarkably fine face. He had a nickname—Que-we-zánc (Little Boy)—by which he was familiarly called by his people.

The Pillagers—Nah-kánd-tway-we-nin-ni-wak—who live about Leech Lake (Kah-sah-gah-squah-g-me-cock) were opposed to Pa-go-nay-gie-shiek, but he compelled them through fear to recognize him as Head-Chief. At the time of the "Sioux outbreak" in 1862 "Hole-in-the-day" for a time apparently meditated an alliance with the Po-áh-nuck (Dakotas) and war upon the whites. The Pillagers and some other bands urged him strongly to this course, and his supremacy as head-chief was threatened unless he complied. Messengers from the Dakotas were undoubtedly received by him, and he, for a time at least, led the Dakotas to believe that their hereditary enemies, the Ojibways, would bury the hatchet and join them in a war of extermination against the whites. "Hole-in-the-day," with a band of his warriors, appeared opposite Fort Ripley (situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River between Little Falls and Crow Wing), and assumed a threatening attitude toward the fort, then garrisoned by volunteer[Pg 183] troops. The soldiers were drawn up on the right bank and "Hole-in-the-day" and his warriors on the left. A little speech-making settled the matter for the time being and very soon thereafter a new treaty was made with "Hole-in-the-day" and his head men, by which their friendship and allegiance were secured to the whites. It was claimed by the Pillagers that "Hole-in-the-day" seized the occasion to profit personally in his negotiations with the agents of the Government.

In 1867 "Hole-in-the-day" took "another wife." He married Helen McCarty, a white woman, in Washington, D. C., and took her to his home at Gull Lake (Ka-ga-ya-skúnc-cock) literally, plenty of little gulls.

She bore him a son who is known as Joseph H. Woodbury, and now (1891) resides in the city of Minneapolis. His marriage with a white woman increased the hatred of the Pillagers, and they shot him from ambush and killed him near Ninge-tá-we-de-guá-yonk—Crow Wing—on the 27th day of June, 1868.

At the time of his death, "Hole-in-the-day" was only thirty-seven years old, but had been recognized as Head-Chief for a long time. He could speak some English, and was far above the average of white men in native shrewdness and intelligence. He was thoroughly posted in the traditions and legends of his people.

The Ojibways have for many years been cursed by contact with the worst elements of the whites, and seem to have adopted the vices rather than the virtues of civilization. I once spoke of this to "Hole-in-the-day." His reply was terse and truthful—"Mádgè tche-mó-ko-mon, mádgè a-nische-nábé: menógé tche-mó-ko-mon, menó a-nischè-nábè.—Bad white men, bad Indians: good white men, good Indians."

[37] Nah—look, see. Nashké—behold.

[38] Kee-zis—the sun,—the father of life. Waubúnong—or Waub-ó-nong—is the White Land or Land of Light,—the Sunrise, the East.

[39] The Bridge of Stars spans the vast sea of the skies, and the sun and moon walk over on it.

[40] The Miscodeed is a small white flower with a pink border. It is the earliest blooming wild flower on the shores of Lake Superior, and belongs to the crocus family.

[41] The Ne-be-naw-baigs, are Water-spirits; they dwell in caverns in the depths of the lake, and in some respects resemble the Unktéhee of the Dakotas.[Pg 184]

[42] Ogema, Chief,—Oge-má-kwá—female Chief. Among the Algónkin tribes women are sometimes made chiefs. Net-nó-kwa, who adopted Tanner as her son, was Oge-mâ-kwá of a band of Ottawas. See John Tanner's Narrative, p. 36.

[43] The "Bridge of Souls" leads from the earth over dark and stormy waters to the spirit-land. The "Dark River" seems to have been a part of the superstitions of all nations.

[44] The Jossakeeds of the Ojibways are soothsayers who are able, by the aid of spirits, to read the past as well as the future.


Mr. Gordon has taken for his theme the love of the beautiful maiden Winona for Du Luth the explorer. He leaves her to continue his travels, and she, driven to desperation at the thought of marriage with Tauedoka, whom she loathes, takes her life.

[45] The Dakota name for the Mississippi.

[46] Wild geese.

[47] Lake Pepin: by Hennepin called the Lake of Tears.—Called by the Dakotas Pem-uee-chah-mday—Lake of the Mountain.

[48] The rock from which Winona leaped was formerly perpendicular to the water's edge and she leaped into the lake. The rock to-day is crumbled and the waters have receded to some distance from the rock. Winona's spirit is said to still haunt the lake.

Transcriber's Notes

Original variations in spelling, grammar, punctuation, diacritical marks, and hyphenation have been retained, except for the following changes:

Page 5: CONTENTS: Changed some titles slightly to match the poem titles.

Page 48: relf-reliant changed to self-reliant
(Fearless and relf-reliant, she could go)

Page 91: Period changed to comma after warriors
(Ah, no more such noble warriors.
Could be found on earth as they were!)

Page 130: Illustration caption changed from LIMPED to LIMPID

Page 149: whie changed to white
(Like the whie down of Waubésè)

Page 171: No footnote reference for pahin, so footnote anchor removed.
(There the fleet hunters followed the deer, and the thorny pahin
for the women.)

Pages 179-184: Notes renumbered sequentially.

Page 182: "Hold-in-the-day" changed to "Hole-in-the-day"
("Sioux outbreak" in 1862 "Hold-in-the-day" for a time)

Page 184: WINONA changed to DEATH OF WINONA to match poem title.

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