The Song of Hiawatha, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

X.

Hiawatha’s Wooing.

“As unto the bow the cord is,

So unto the man is woman,

Though she bends him, she obeys him,

Though she draws him, yet she follows,

Useless each without the other!”

Thus the youthful Hiawatha

Said within himself and pondered,

Much perplexed by various feelings,

Listless, longing, hoping, fearing,

Dreaming still of Minnehaha,

Of the lovely Laughing Water,

In the land of the Dacotahs.

“Wed a maiden of your people,”

Warning said the old Nokomis;

“Go not eastward, go not westward,

For a stranger, whom we know not!

Like a fire upon the hearth-stone

Is a neighbor’s homely daughter,

Like the starlight or the moonlight

Is the handsomest of strangers!”

Thus dissuading spake Nokomis,

And my Hiawatha answered

Only this: “Dear old Nokomis,

Very pleasant is the firelight,

But I like the starlight better,

Better do I like the moonlight!”

Gravely then said old Nokomis:

“Bring not here an idle maiden,

Bring not here a useless woman,

Hands unskilful, feet unwilling;

Bring a wife with nimble fingers,

Heart and hand that move together,

Feet that run on willing errands!”

Smiling answered Hiawatha:

“In the land of the Dacotahs

Lives the Arrow-maker’s daughter,

Minnehaha, Laughing Water,

Handsomest of all the women.

I will bring her to your wigwam,

She shall run upon your errands,

Be your starlight, moonlight, firelight,

Be the sunlight of my people!”

Still dissuading said Nokomis:

“Bring not to my lodge a stranger

From the land of the Dacotahs!

Very fierce are the Dacotahs,

Often is there war between us,

There are feuds yet unforgotten,

Wounds that ache and still may open!”

Laughing answered Hiawatha:

“For that reason, if no other,

Would I wed the fair Dacotah,

That our tribes might be united,

That old feuds might be forgotten,

And old wounds be healed forever!”

Three canoes.

Thus departed Hiawatha

To the land of the Dacotahs,

To the land of handsome women;

Striding over moor and meadow,

Through interminable forests,

Through uninterrupted silence.

With his moccasins of magic,

At each stride a mile he measured;

Yet the way seemed long before him,

And his heart outrun his footsteps;

And he journeyed without resting,

Till he heard the cataract’s thunder,

Heard the Falls of Minnehaha

Calling to him through the silence.

“Pleasant is the sound!” he murmured,

“Pleasant is the voice that calls me!”

On the outskirts of the forest,

‘Twixt the shadow and the sunshine,

Herds of fallow deer were feeding,

But they saw not Hiawatha;

To his bow he whispered, “Fail not!”

To his arrow whispered, “Swerve not!”

Sent it singing on its errand,

To the red heart of the roebuck;

Threw the deer across his shoulder,

And sped forward without pausing.

Sat his daughter Laughing Water.

At the doorway of his wigwam

Sat the ancient Arrow-maker,

In the land of the Dacotahs,

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,

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,

“You are welcome, Hiawatha!”

Very spacious was the wigwam,

Made of deer-skin dressed and whitened,

With the Gods of the Dacotahs

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

And the tribe of the Dacotahs.”

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 Dacotah 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 Dacotahs!

From the wigwam he departed,

Leading with him Laughing Water;

Hand in hand they went together,

Through the woodland and the meadow,

Left the old man standing lonely

At the doorway of his wigwam,

Heard the Falls of Minnehaha

Calling to them from the distance,

Crying to them from afar off,

“Fare thee well, O Minnehaha!”

And the ancient Arrow-maker

Turned again unto his labor,

Sat down by his sunny doorway,

Murmuring to himself, and saying:

“Thus it is our daughters leave us,

Those we love, and those who love us!

Just when they have learned to help us,

When we are old and lean upon them,

Comes a youth with flaunting feathers,

With his flute of reeds, a stranger

Wanders piping through the village,

Beckons to the fairest maiden,

And she follows where he leads her,

Leaving all things for the stranger!”

Three canoes.

Pleasant was the journey homeward,

Through interminable forests,

Over meadow, over mountain,

Over river, hill, and hollow.

Short it seemed to Hiawatha,

Though they journeyed very slowly,

Though his pace he checked and slackened

To the steps of Laughing Water.

Who stands on that cliff,

Over wide and rushing rivers

In his arms he bore the maiden;

Light he thought her as a feather,

As the plume upon his head-gear;

Cleared the tangled pathway for her,

Bent aside the swaying branches,

Made at night a lodge of branches,

And a bed with boughs of hemlock,

And a fire before the doorway

With the dry cones of the pine-tree.

All the travelling winds went with them,

O’er the meadow, through the forest;

All the stars of night looked at them,

Watched with sleepless eyes their slumber;

From his ambush in the oak-tree

Peeped the squirrel, Adjidaumo,

Watched with eager eyes the lovers;

And the rabbit, the Wabasso,

Scampered from the path before them,

Peering, peeping from his burrow,

Sat erect upon his haunches,

Watched with curious eyes the lovers.

Pleasant was the journey homeward!

All the birds sang loud and sweetly

Songs of happiness and heart’s -ease;

Sang the bluebird, the Owaissa,

“Happy are you, Hiawatha,

Having such a wife to love you!”

Sang the Opechee, the robin,

“Happy are you, Laughing Water,

Having such a noble husband!”

From the sky the sun benignant

Looked upon them through the branches,

Saying to them, “O my children,

Love is sunshine, hate is shadow,

Life is checkered shade and sunshine,

Rule by love, O Hiawatha!”

From the sky the moon looked at them,

Filled the lodge with mystic splendors,

Whispered to them, “O my children,

Day is restless, night is quiet,

Man imperious, woman feeble;

Half is mine, although I follow;

Rule by patience, Laughing Water!”

Thus it was they journeyed homeward;

Thus it was that Hiawatha

To the lodge of old Nokomis

Brought the moonlight, starlight, firelight,

Brought the sunshine of his people,

Minnehaha, Laughing Water,

Handsomest of all the women

In the land of the Dacotahs,

In the land of handsome women.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:49