'Hiawatha'

Story Time

May 27, 1998|By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Editor's note: Longfellow's epic poem, originally titled "The Song of Hiawatha," was first published in 1855. It weaves together several traditions of Native American culture.

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!"

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!"

Many things Nokomis taught him

Of the stars that shine in heaven;

Showed him Ishkoodah, the comet,

Ishkoodah with fiery tresses;

Showed the Death-Dance of the spirits,

Warriors with their plumes and war-clubs,

Flaring far away to northward

In the frosty nights of Winter;

Showed the broad white road in heaven,

Pathway of the ghosts, the

shadows,

Running straight across the

heavens,

Crowded with the ghosts, the

shadows.

At the door on summer evenings

Sat the little Hiawatha;

Heard the whispering of the

pine-trees,

Heard the lapping of the waters,

Sounds of music, words of wonder;

"Minne-wawa!" said the pine-trees,

"Mudway-aushka!" said the water.

Saw the fire-fly, Wah-wah-taysee,

Flitting through the dusk of evening,

With the twinkle of its candle

Lighting up the brakes and bushes,

and he sang the song of children,

Sang the song Nokomis taught him:

"Wah-wah-taysee, little fire-fly,

Little, flitting, white-fire insect,

Little, dancing, white-fire creature,

Light me with your little candle,

Ere upon my bed I lay me,

Ere in sleep I close my eyelids!"

Saw the moon rise from the water,

Rippling, rounding from the water,

Saw the flecks and shadows on it,

Whispered, "What is that,

Nokomis?"

And the good Nokomis answered:

"Once a warrior, very angry,

Seized his grandmother, and threw her

Up into the sky at midnight;

Right against the moon he threw her;

'T is her body that you see there."

Saw the rainbow in the heaven,

In the eastern sky, the rainbow,

Whispered, "What is that, Nokomis?"

And the good Nokomis answered:

" 'T is the heaven of flowers you see there;

All the wild-flowers of the forest,

All the lilies of the prairie,

When on earth they fade and perish

Blossom in that heaven above us."

When he heard the owls at midnight,

Hooting, laughing in the forest,

"What is that?" he cried in terror,

"What is that?" he said, "Nokomis?"

And the good Nokomis answered:

"That is but the owl and owlet,

Talking in their

native language,

Talking, scolding at each other."

Then the little

Hiawatha

Learned of every bird its language,

Learned their names and all their secrets,

How they built their nests in Summer,

Where they hid themselves in

Winter,

Talked with them whene'er he met them,

Called them "Hiawatha's

Chickens."

Of all beasts he learned the

language,

Learned their names and all their secrets,

How the beavers built their lodges,

Where the squirrels hid their acorns,

How the reindeer ran so swiftly,

Why the rabbit was so timid,

Talked with them whene'er he met them,

Called them "Hiawatha's

Brothers."

Ye who love a nation's legends,

Love the ballads of a people,

That the voices from afar off

Call to us to pause and listen,

Speak in tones so plain and

childlike,

Scarcely can the ear distinguish

Whether they are sung or spoken;

Listen to this Indian Legend,

To this Song of Hiawatha!

From HIAWATHA by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by Susan Jeffers. Copyright ) Susan Jeffers, 1983. Reprinted by arrangement with Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.

Pub Date: 5/27/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.