The Song of Hiawatha [excerpt]

- 1807-1882
The Death of Minnehaha
All day long roved Hiawatha  
In that melancholy forest,  
Through the shadow of whose thickets,  
In the pleasant days of Summer,  
Of that ne’er forgotten Summer,           
He had brought his young wife homeward  
From the land of the Dacotahs;  
When the birds sang in the thickets,  
And the streamlets laughed and glistened,  
And the air was full of fragrance,            
And the lovely Laughing Water  
Said with voice that did not tremble,  
"I will follow you, my husband!"  
  In the wigwam with Nokomis,  
With those gloomy guests that watched her,            
With the Famine and the Fever,  
She was lying, the Beloved,  
She, the dying Minnehaha.  
  "Hark!" she said; "I hear a rushing,  
Hear a roaring and a rushing,            
Hear the Falls of Minnehaha  
Calling to me from a distance!"  
"No, my child!" said old Nokomis,  
"’T is the night-wind in the pine-trees!"  
  "Look!" she said; "I see my father            
Standing lonely at his doorway,  
Beckoning to me from his wigwam  
In the land of the Dacotahs!"  
"No, my child!" said old Nokomis,  
"’T is the smoke, that waves and beckons!"            
  "Ah!" said she, "the eyes of Pauguk  
Glare upon me in the darkness,  
I can feel his icy fingers  
Clasping mine amid the darkness!  
Hiawatha! Hiawatha!"            
  And the desolate Hiawatha,  
Far away amid the forest,  
Miles away among the mountains,  
Heard that sudden cry of anguish,  
Heard the voice of Minnehaha            
Calling to him in the darkness,  
"Hiawatha! Hiawatha!"  
  Over snow-fields waste and pathless,  
Under snow-encumbered branches,  
Homeward hurried Hiawatha,            
Empty-handed, heavy-hearted,  
Heard Nokomis moaning, wailing:  
"Wahonowin! Wahonowin!  
Would that I had perished for you,  
Would that I were dead as you are!            
Wahonowin! Wahonowin!"  
  And he rushed into the wigwam,  
Saw the old Nokomis slowly  
Rocking to and fro and moaning,  
Saw his lovely Minnehaha            
Lying dead and cold before him,  
And his bursting heart within him  
Uttered such a cry of anguish,  
That the forest moaned and shuddered,  
That the very stars in heaven            
Shook and trembled with his anguish  
  Then he sat down, still and speechless,  
On the bed of Minnehaha,  
At the feet of Laughing Water,  
At those willing feet, that never            
More would lightly run to meet him,  
Never more would lightly follow.  
  With both hands his face he covered,  
Seven long days and nights he sat there,  
As if in a swoon he sat there,            
Speechless, motionless, unconscious  
Of the daylight or the darkness.  
  Then they buried Minnehaha;  
In the snow a grave they made her,  
In the forest deep and darksome,            
Underneath the moaning hemlocks;  
Clothed her in her richest garments,  
Wrapped her in her robes of ermine,  
Covered her with snow, like ermine;  
Thus they buried Minnehaha.            
  And at night a fire was lighted,  
On her grave four times was kindled,  
For her soul upon its journey  
To the Islands of the Blessed.  
From his doorway Hiawatha            
Saw it burning in the forest,  
Lighting up the gloomy hemlocks;  
From his sleepless bed uprising,  
From the bed of Minnehaha,  
Stood and watched it at the doorway,            
That it might not be extinguished,  
Might not leave her in the darkness.  
  "Farewell!" said he, "Minnehaha!  
Farewell, O my Laughing Water!  
All my heart is buried with you,            
All my thoughts go onward with you!  
Come not back again to labor,  
Come not back again to suffer,  
Where the Famine and the Fever  
Wear the heart and waste the body.             
Soon my task will be completed,  
Soon your footsteps I shall follow  
To the Islands of the Blessed,  
To the Kingdom of Ponemah,  
To the Land of the Hereafter!"

The Children's Hour

Between the dark and the daylight,
   When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
   That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
   The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
   And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
   Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
   And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
   Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
   To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
   A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
   They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
   O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
   They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
   Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
   In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
   Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
   Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
   And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
   In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
   Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
   And moulder in dust away!


Out of the bosom of the Air,
    Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
    Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
      Silent, and soft, and slow
      Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
    Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
      The troubled sky reveals
      The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
    Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
    Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
      Now whispered and revealed
      To wood and field.

The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
    And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
    And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
    And the tide rises, the tide falls.