Legends of the Northwest by Hanford Lennox Gordon

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I have for several years devoted many of my leisure hours to the study of the language, history, traditions, customs and superstitions of the Dakotas. These Indians are now commonly called the “Sioux”–a name given them by the early French traders and _voyageurs_. “Dakota” signifies _alliance_ or _confederation_. Many separate bands, all having a common origin and speaking a common tongue, were united under this name. See “_Tah-Koo Wah-Kan_,” or “_The Gospel Among the Dakotas_,” by Stephen R. Riggs, pp. 1 to 6 inc.

They were, but yesterday, the occupants and owners of the fair forests and fertile prairies of Minnesota–a brave, hospitable and generous people,–barbarians, indeed, but noble in their barbarism. They may be fitly called the Iroquois of the West. In form and features, in language and traditions, they are distinct from all other Indian tribes. When first visited by white men, and for many years afterwards, the Falls of St. Anthony (by them called the Ha-Ha) was the center of their country. They cultivated tobacco, and hunted the elk, the beaver and the bison. They were open-hearted, truthful and brave. In their wars with other tribes they seldom slew women or children, and rarely sacrificed the lives of their prisoners.

For many years their chiefs and head men successfully resisted the attempts to introduce spirituous liquors among them. More than a century ago an English trader was killed at Mendota, because he persisted, after repeated warnings by the chiefs, in dealing out _mini-wakan_ (Devil-water) to the Dakota braves.

With open arms and generous hospitality they welcomed the first white men to their land; and were ever faithful in their friendship, till years of wrong and robbery, and want and insult, drove them to desperation and to war. They were barbarians, and their warfare was barbarous, but not more barbarous than the warfare of our Saxon and Celtic ancestors. They were ignorant and superstitious, but their condition closely resembled the condition of our British forefathers at the beginning of the Christian era. Macaulay says of Britain, “Her inhabitants, when first they became known to the Tyrian mariners, were little superior to the natives of the Sandwich Islands.” And again, “While the German princes who reigned at Paris, Toledo, Arles and Ravenna listened with reverence to the instructions of Bishops, adored the relics of martyrs, and took part eagerly in disputes touching the Nicene theology, the rulers of Wessex and Mercia were still performing savage rites in the temples of Thor and Woden.”

The day of the Dakotas is done. The degenerate remnants of that once powerful and warlike people still linger around the forts and agencies of the Northwest, or chase the caribou and the bison on the banks of the Sascatchewan, but the Dakotas of old are no more. The brilliant defeat of Custer, by Sitting Bull and his braves, was their last grand rally against the resistless march of the sons of the Saxons and the Celts. The plow-shares of a superior race are fast leveling the sacred mounds of their dead. But yesterday, the shores of our lakes, and our rivers, were dotted with their tepees. Their light canoes glided over our waters, and their hunters chased the deer and the buffalo on the sites of our cities. To-day, they are not. Let us do justice to their memory, for there was much that was noble in their natures. In the following Dakota Legends I have endeavored to faithfully represent many of the customs and superstitions, and some of the traditions, of that people. I have taken very little “poetic license” with their traditions; none, whatever, with their customs and superstitions. In my studies for these Legends I have been greatly aided by Rev. S. R. Riggs, author of the Grammar and Dictionary of the Dakota language, “Tah-Koo Wah-Kan,” &c., and for many years a missionary among the Dakotas. He has patiently answered my numerous inquiries and given me valuable information. I am also indebted to Gen. H. H. Sibley, one of the earliest American traders among them, and to Rev. S. W. Pond, of Shakopee, one of the first Protestant missionaries to these people, and himself the author of poetical versions of some of their principal legends; to Mrs. Eastman’s “Dacotah.” and last, but not least, to the Rev. E. D. Neill, whose admirable “History of Minnesota” so fully and faithfully presents almost all that is known of the history, traditions, customs, manners and superstitions of the Dakotas. In _Winona_ I have “tried my hand” on Hexameter verse. With what success, I leave to those who are better able to judge than I. If I have failed, I have but added another failure to the numerous vain attempts to naturalize Hexameter verse in the English language.

The Earl of Derby, in the preface to his translation of the Iliad, calls it “That pestilent heresy of the so-called English Hexameter; a metre wholly repugnant to the genius of our language; which can only be pressed into the service by a violation of every rule of prosody.” Lord Kames, in his “Elements of Criticism.” says, “Many attempts have been made to introduce Hexameter verse into the living languages, but without success. The English language, I am inclined to think, is not susceptible of this melody, and my reasons are these: First, the polysyllables in Latin and Greek are finely diversified by long and short syllables, a circumstance that qualifies them for the melody of Hexameter verse: ours are extremely ill qualified for that service, because they super-abound in short syllables. Secondly, the bulk of our monosyllables are arbitrary with regard to length, which is an unlucky circumstance in Hexameter. * * * In Latin and Greek Hexameter invariable sounds direct and ascertain the melody. English Hexameter would be destitute of melody, unless by artful pronunciation; because of necessity the bulk of its sounds must be arbitrary. The pronunciation is easy in a simple movement of alternate long and short syllables; but would be perplexing and unpleasant in the diversified movement of Hexameter verse.”

Beautiful as is the _Evangeline_ of Longfellow, his Hexameter lines are sometimes hard to scan, and often grate harshly on the ear. He is frequently forced to divide a word by the central or pivotal pause of the line, and sometimes to make a pause in the sense where the rhythm forbids it. Take for example some of the opening lines of _Evangeline_:

“This is the forest prime|val. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in gar|ments green, indistinct in the twilight. Loud from its rocky cav|erns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean Speaks, and in accents discon|solate answers the wail of the forest. Lay in the fruitful val|ley. Vast meadows stretched to the eastward.”

Again, in order to comply with the Greek and Latin rule of beginning each line with a _long_ syllable, he is compelled to emphasize words contrary to the sense. Examples:

_In_ the Acadian land, on the shores of the Basin of Minas _Some_what apart from the vil|lage, and nearer the Basin of Minas. _But_ a celestial bright|ness–a more etherial beauty. _And_ the retreating sun the sign of the scorpion enters. _In_-doors, warmed by the wide-|mouthed fireplace idly the farmer, _Four_ times the sun had ris|en and set; and now on the fifth day,

“Greek and Latin Hexameter lines, as to time, are all of the same length, being equivalent to the time taken in pronouncing twelve long syllables, or twenty-four short ones. An Hexameter line may consist of seventeen syllables, and when regular and not Spondiac, it never has fewer than thirteen: whence it follows that where the syllables are many, the plurality must be short; where few, the plurality must be long. This line is susceptible of much variety as to the succession of long and short syllables. It is however subject to laws that confine its variety within certain limits. * * *

1st. The line must always commence with a _long_ syllable, and close with two long preceded by two short.

2d. More than two short syllables can never be found together, nor _fewer_ than two.

3d. Two long syllables which have been preceded by two short can not also be followed by two short.

These few rules fulfill all the conditions of an Hexameter line with relation to order of arrangement.”–_Lord Kames, “Elements of Criticism.”_ One who attempts to write English Hexameter, under the Greek and Latin rules, will speedily be made aware that the English language “super-abounds in short syllables.” Why then should we rigidly adhere to rules repugnant to the genius of our language, if they can be modified so as to adapt the sonorous Hexameter to the structure of our mother-tongue? Can they be so modified? I have attempted it. I venture to change them as follows:

1st. By beginning each line with a _short_ syllable instead of a long one. And it will be seen that I often begin a line with two short syllables.

2d. By often using one short syllable unaccompanied by another.

3d. I have increased the average number of syllables in the line to better adapt it to our super-abundance of short syllables.

4th. In _Winona_ I have introduced a rhyme at the pivotal pause of the line, not because my Hexameter requires it, but because I think it increases the melody, and more emphatically marks the central pause.

I am not quite sure that, in a long poem, the rhyme is not detrimental. That depends greatly, however, upon the skill with which it is handled. Surely the same Hexameter can be written as smoothly and more vigorously without rhyme. Rhyme adds greatly to the labor of composition; it rarely assists, but often hinders, the expression of the sense which the author would convey. At times I have been on the point of abandoning it in despair, but after having been under the hammer and the file, at intervals for the last four years, _Winona_ is at last _done_, if not finished.

It will be observed that I have slightly changed the length and the rhythm of the old Hexameter line, but it is still Hexameter, and, I think, improved. I am not afraid of intelligent criticism. I invoke it, and will endeavor to profit by it in the future as in the past.

The reception of my _Pauline_ at home and abroad has been so flattering that I have been encouraged to attempt something better. That was my first real effort and full of crudities but if the Legends are received by our best critics as well as _Pauline_ was received I shall be well pleased with my efforts.

After much thought I have decided to publish the first edition of my _Legends_ here at home:

1st Because they pertain particularly to the lakes and rivers to the fair forests and fertile fields of our own Minnesota and ought to be appreciated here if anywhere.

2d Because many of our people are competent to judge whether my representations of Dakota customs, life, traditions, and superstitions are correct or not and at the same time the reading public of the North west is as intelligent and discriminating as that of any other portion of our country. If these _Legends_ be appreciated and approved by our own people who are familiar with the scenery described and more or less, with the customs, traditions and superstitions of the Dakotas, and if beyond that these poems shall stand the test of candid criticism I may give them a wider publication.


MINNEAPOLIS. June 1, 1881.




Onward rolls the Royal River, proudly sweeping to the sea, Dark and deep and grand, forever wrapt in myth and mystery. Lo he laughs along the highlands, leaping o’er the granite walls: Lo he sleeps among the islands, where the loon her lover calls. Still like some huge monster winding downward through the prairie plains,
Seeking rest but never finding, till the tropic gulf he gains. In his mighty arms he claspeth now an empire broad and grand; In his left hand lo he graspeth leagues of fen and forest land; In his right the mighty mountains, hoary with eternal snow. Where a thousand foaming fountains singing seek the plains below. Fields of corn and feet of cities lo the mighty river laves, Where the Saxon sings his ditties o’er the swarthy warriors’ graves. Aye, before the birth, of Moses–ere the Pyramids were piled– All his banks were red with roses from the sea to nor’lands wild, And from forest, fen and meadows, in the deserts of the north, Elk and bison stalked like shadows, and the tawny tribes came forth; Deeds of death and deeds of daring on his leafy banks were done– Women loved and men went warring–ere the siege of Troy begun. Where his wayward waters thundered, roaring o’er the rocky walls, Dusky hunters sat and wondered, listening to the spirits’ calls. “Ha-ha!” [76] cried the warrior greeting from afar the cataract’s roar; “Ha-ha!” rolled the answer,
beating down the rock-ribbed leagues of shore. Now, alas, the bow and quiver and the dusky braves have fled, And the sullen, shackled river drives the droning mills instead.

Where the war whoop rose, and, after, women wailed their warriors slain, List the Saxon’s silvery laughter, and his humming hives of gain. Swiftly sped the tawny runner o’er the pathless prairies then, Now the iron-reindeer sooner carries weal or woe to men. On thy bosom, Royal River, silent sped the birch canoe, Bearing brave with bow and quiver, on his way to war or woo; Now with flaunting flags and streamers–mighty monsters of the deep– Lo the puffing, panting steamers, through thy foaming waters sweep; And behold the grain-fields golden, where the bison grazed of eld; See the fanes of forests olden by the ruthless Saxon felled,– Plumed pines that spread their shadows ere Columbus spread his sails. Firs that fringed the mossy meadows ere the Mayflower braved the gales, Iron oaks that nourished bruin while the Vikings roamed the main, Crashing fall in broken ruin for the greedy marts of gain.

Still forever and forever rolls the restless river on, Slumbering oft but ceasing never, while the circling centuries run. In his palm the lakelet lingers, in his hair the brooklets hide, Grasped within his thousand fingers lies a continent fair and wide,– Yea, a mighty empire swarming with its millions like the bees, Delving, drudging, striving, storming, all their lives, for golden ease.

Still, methinks, the dusky shadows of the days that are no more Stalk around the lakes and meadows, haunting oft the wonted shore,– Hunters from the land of spirits seek the bison and the deer, Where the Saxon now inherits golden field and silver mere; And beside the mound where burried lies the dark-eyed maid he loves, Some tall warrior, wan and wearied, in the misty moonlight moves. See–he stands erect and lingers–stoic still, but loth to go– Clutching in his tawny fingers feathered shaft and polished bow. Never wail or moan he utters and no tear is on his face, But a warrior’s curse he mutters on the crafty Saxon race.

O thou dark, mysterious River, speak and tell thy tales to me; Seal not up thy lips forever–veiled in mist and mystery. I will sit and lowly listen at the phantom-haunted falls, Where thy waters foam and glisten o’er the rugged, rocky walls. Till some spirit of the olden, mystic, weird, romantic days Shall emerge and pour her golden tales and legends through my lays. Then again the elk and bison on thy grassy banks shall feed, And along the low horizon shall the plumed hunter speed; Then again on lake and river shall the silent birch canoe Bear the brave with bow and quiver on his way to war or woo: Then the beaver on the meadow shall rebuild his broken wall, And the wolf shall chase his shadow and his mate the panther call. From the prairies and the regions where the pine-plumed forest grows Shall arise the tawny legions with their lances and their bows; And again the shouts of battle shall resound along the plain, Bows shall twang and quivers rattle, women wail their warriors slain.



(In pronouncing Dakota words give “a” the sound of “ah”–“e” the sound of “a”–“i” the sound of “e” and “u” the sound of “oo,” sound “ee” as in English. The numerals, 1, 2, etc. refer to explanatory notes in the appendix.)


Clear was the sky as a silver shield; The bright sun blazed on the frozen field. On icebound river and white robed prairie The diamonds gleamed in the flame of noon; But cold and keen were the breezes airy
Wa-zi-ya [3] blew from his icy throne.

On the solid ice of the silent river
The bounds are marked, and a splendid prize, A robe of black fox lined with beaver–
Is hung in view of the eager eyes;
And fifty merry Dakota maidens,
The fairest moulded of woman kind,
Are gathered in groups on the level ice. They look on the robe and its beauty gladdens, And maddens their hearts for the splendid prize. Lo the rounded ankles and raven hair
That floats at will on the wanton wind, And the round brown arms to the breezes bare, And breasts like the mounds where the waters meet, [4] And feet as fleet as the red deer’s feet, And faces that glow like the full, round moon When she laughs in the luminous skies of June.

The leaders are chosen and swiftly divide The opposing parties on either side.
Wiwaste [5] is chief of a nimble band. The star-eyed daughter of Little Crow; [6] And the leader chosen to hold command
Of the band adverse is a haughty foe– The dusky, impetuous Harpstina, [7]
The queenly cousin of Wapasa. [8]
Kapoza’s chief and his tawny hunters Are gathered to witness the queenly game. The ball is thrown and a bat encounters, And away it flies with a loud acclaim.
Swift are the maidens that follow after, And swiftly it flies for the farther bound: And long and loud are the peals of laughter, As some fair runner is flung to ground;
While backward and forward, and to and fro, The maidens contend on the trampled snow. With loud “Iho!–Ito!–Iho!” [9]
And waving the beautiful prize anon, The dusky warriors cheer them on.
And often the limits are almost passed, As the swift ball flies and returns. At last It leaps the line at a single bound
From the fair Wiwaste’s sturdy stroke, Like a fawn that flies from the baying hound. Wild were the shouts, and they rolled and broke On the beetling bluffs and the hills profound, An echoing, jubilant sea of sound.
Wakawa, the chief, and the loud acclaim Announced the end of the well-fought game, And the fair Wiwaste was victor crowned.

Dark was the visage of Harpstina
When the robe was laid at her rival’s feet, And merry maidens and warriors saw
Her flashing eyes and her look of hate, As she turned to Wakawa, the chief, and said:– “The game was mine were it fairly played. I was stunned by a blow on my bended head, As I snatched the ball from slippery ground Not half a fling from Wiwaste’s bound.
And the cheat–behold her! for there she stands With the prize that is mine in her treacherous hands. The fawn may fly, but the wolf is fleet; The fox creeps sly on Maga’s [10] retreat; And a woman’s revenge–it is swift and sweet.” She turned to her lodge, but a roar of laughter And merry mockery followed after.
Little they heeded the words she said, Little they cared for her haughty tread, For maidens and warriors and chieftain knew That her lips were false and her charge untrue.

Wiwaste, the fairest Dakota maiden,
The sweet-faced daughter of Little Crow, To her teepee [11] turned with her trophy laden– The black robe trailing the virgin snow. Beloved was she by her princely father,
Beloved was she by the young and old, By merry maidens and many a mother,
And many a warrior bronzed and bold. For her face was as fair as a beautiful dream, And her voice like the song of the mountain stream; And her eyes like the stars when they glow and gleam. Through the somber pines of the nor’land wold, When the winds of winter are keen and cold.

Mah-pi-ya Du-ta [12] the tall Red Cloud, A hunter swift and a warrior proud,
With many a scar and many a feather, Was a suitor bold and a lover fond.
Long had he courted Wiwaste’s father, Long had he sued for the maiden’s hand.
Aye, brave and proud was the tall Red Cloud, A peerless son of a giant race,
And the eyes of the panther were set in his face. He strode like a stag, and he stood like a pine: Ten feathers he wore of the great Wanmdee; [13] With crimsoned quills of the porcupine
His leggins were worked to his brawny knee. The bow he bent was a giant’s bow;
The swift red elk could he overtake, And the necklace that girdled his brawny neck Was the polished claws of the great Mato [14] He grappled and slew in the northern snow.

Wiwaste looked on the warrior tall;
She saw he was brawny and brave and great, But the eyes of the panther she could but hate, And a brave Hohe [15] loved she better than all. Loved was Mahpiya by Harpstina,
But the warrior she never could charm or draw; And bitter indeed was her secret hate
For the maiden she reckoned so fortunate.


The night-sun [17] sails in his gold canoe, The spirits [18] walk in the realms of air With their glowing faces and flaming hair, And the shrill, chill winds o’er the prairies blow. In the Tee [19] of the Council the Virgins light The Virgin-fire [20] for the feast to-night; For the Sons of Heyoka will celebrate
The sacred dance to the giant great. The kettle boils on the blazing fire,
And the flesh is done to the chief’s desire. With his stoic face to sacred East, [21] He takes his seat at the Giant’s Feast.

For the feast of Heyoka [22] the braves are dressed With crowns from the bark of the white-birch trees, And new skin leggins that reach the knees; With robes of the bison and swarthy bear, And eagle-plumes in their coal-black hair, And marvelous rings in their tawny ears, Which were pierced with the points of their shining spears. To honor Heyoka, Wakawa lifts
His fuming pipe from the Red-stone Quarry. [23] The warriors follow. The white cloud drifts From the Council-lodge to the welkin starry, Like a fog at morn on the fir-clad hill, When the meadows are damp and the winds are still.

They dance to the tune of their wild “Ha-ha!” A warrior’s shout and a raven’s caw–
Circling the pot and the blaming fire To the tom-tom’s bray and the rude bassoon; Round and round to their heart’s desire, And ever the same wild chant and tune–
A warrior’s shout and a raven’s caw– “Ha-ha,–ha-ha,–ha-ha,–ha!”
They crouch, they leap, and their burning eyes Flash fierce in the light of the flaming fire, As fiercer and fiercer and higher and higher The rude, wild notes of their chant arise. They cease, they sit, and the curling smoke Ascends again from their polished pipes, And upward curls from their swarthy lips To the God whose favor their hearts invoke.

Then tall Wakawa arose and said:
“Brave warriors, listen, and give due heed. Great is Heyoka, the magical god;
He can walk on the air; he can float on the flood. He’s a worker of magic and wonderful wise; He cries when he laughs and he laughs when he cries; He sweats when he’s cold, and he shivers when hot, And the water is cold in his boiling pot. He hides in the earth and he walks in disguise, But he loves the brave and their sacrifice. We are sons of Heyoka. The Giant commands In the boiling water to thrust our hands; And the warrior that scorneth the foe and fire Heyoka will crown with his hearts desire.”

They thrust their hands in the boiling pot; They swallow the bison meat steaming hot, Not a wince on their stoical faces bold. For the meat and the water, they say, are cold, And great is Heyoka and wonderful wise;
He floats on the flood and he walks in the skies, And ever appears in a strange disguise;
But he loves the brave and their sacrifice; And the warrior that scorneth the foe and fire Heyoka will crown with his heart’s desire.

Proud was the chief of his warriors proud, The sinewy sons of the Giant’s race;
But the bravest of all was the tall Red Cloud; The eyes of the panther were set in his face; He strode like a stag and he stood like a pine; Ten feathers he wore at the great Wanmdee; [13] With crimsoned quills of the porcupine
His leggins were worked to his brawny knee. Blood-red were the stripes on his swarthy cheek, And the necklace that girdled his brawny neck Was the polished claws of the great Mato [14] He grappled and slew in the northern snow.

Proud Red Cloud turned to the braves and said, As he shook the plumes on his haughty head:

“Ho! the warrior that scorneth the foe and fire Heyoka will crown with his heart’s desire!” He snatched from the embers a red-hot brand, And held it aloft in his naked hand.
He stood like a statue in bronze or stone,– Not a muscle moved, and the braves looked on. He turned to the chieftain,–“I scorn the fire,– Ten feathers I wear of the great Wanmdee; Then grant me, Wakawa, my heart’s desire; Let the sunlight shine in my lonely tee. [19] I laugh at red death and I laugh at red fire; Brave Red Cloud is only afraid of fear;
But Wiwaste is fair to his heart and dear; Then grant him, Wakawa, his heart’s desire.”

The warriors applauded with loud “Ho! Ho!” [24] And he flung the brand to the drifting snow. Three times Wakawa puffed forth the smoke From his silent lips; then he slowly spoke: “Mahpiya is strong as the stout-armed oak That stands on the bluff by the windy plain, And laughs at the roar of the hurricane. He has slain the foe and the great Mato
With his hissing arrow and deadly stroke. My heart is swift but my tongue is slow. Let the warrior come to my lodge and smoke; He may bring the gifts; [25] but the timid doe May fly from the hunter and say him no.”

Wiwaste sat late in the lodge alone,
Her dark eyes bent on the glowing fire. She heard not the wild winds shrill and moan; She heard not the tall elms toss and groan; Her face was lit like the harvest moon;
For her thoughts flew far to her heart’s desire. Far away in the land of the Hohe [15] dwelt The warrior she held in her secret heart; But little he dreamed of the pain she felt, For she hid her love with a maiden’s art. Not a tear she shed, not a word she said, When the fair young chief from the lodge departed; But she sat on the mound when the day was dead, And gazed at the full moon mellow hearted. Fair was the chief as the morning-star;
His eyes were mild and his words were low, But his heart was stouter than lance or bow; And her young heart flew to her love afar O’er his trail long covered with drifted snow. But she heard a warrior’s stealthy tread, And the tall Wakawa appeared, and said– “Is Wiwaste afraid of the spirit dread
That fires the sky in the fatal north? [26] Behold the mysterious lights. Come forth Some evil threatens,–some danger nears, For the skies are pierced with the burning spears.”

The warriors rally beneath the moon;
They shoot their shafts at the evil spirit. The spirit is slain and the flame is gone, And his blood lies red on the snow fields near it. But again from the dead will the spirit rise, And flash his spears in the northern skies.

Then the chief and the queenly Wiwaste stood Alone in the moon-lit solitude,
And she was silent and he was grave. “And fears not my daughter the evil spirit? The strongest warriors and bravest fear it The burning spears are an evil omen;
They threaten the wrath of a wicked woman, Or a treacherous foe; but my warriors brave, When danger nears, or the foe appears,
Are a cloud of arrows,–a grove of spears.”

“My Father,” she said, and her words were low, “Why should I fear? for I soon will go
To the broad, blue lodge in the Spirit land, Where my dark eyed mother went long ago, And my dear twin sisters walk hand in hand. My Father, listen,–my words are true,”
And sad was her voice as the whippowil When she mourns her mate by the moon-lit rill, “Wiwaste lingers alone with you,
The rest are sleeping on yonder hill,– Save one–and he an undutiful son,–
And you, my Father, will sit alone
When Sisoka [27] sings and the snow is gone. I sat, when the maple leaves were red,
By the foaming falls of the haunted river; The night sun was walking above my head, And the arrows shone in his burnished quiver; And the winds were hushed and the hour was dread With the walking ghosts of the silent dead. I heard the voice of the Water-Fairy; [28] I saw her form in the moon-lit mist,
As she sat on a stone with her burden weary, By the foaming eddies of amethyst.
And robed in her mantle of mist the sprite Her low wail poured on the silent night. Then the spirit spake, and the floods were still– They hushed and listened to what she said, And hushed was the plaint of the whippowil In the silver-birches above her head:
‘Wiwaste,–the prairies are green and fair, When the robin sings and the whippowil;
But the land of the Spirits is fairer still, For the winds of winter blow never there; And forever the songs of the whippowils
And the robins are heard on the leafy hills. Thy mother looks from her lodge above,– Her fair face shines in the sky afar,
And the eyes of thy sisters are bright with love, As they peep from the tee of the mother-star. To her happy lodge in the spirit-land
She beckons Wiwaste with shining hand.’

“My Father,–my Father, her words were true; And the death of Wiwaste will rest on you. You have pledged me as wife to the tall Red Cloud; You will take the gifts of the warrior proud; But I, Wakawa,–I answer–never!
I will stain your knife in my heart’s red blood, I will plunge and sink in the sullen river, Ere I will be wife to the fierce Red Cloud!”

“Wiwaste,” he said, and his voice was low, “Let it be as you will, for Wakawa’s tongue Has spoken no promise;–his lips are slow, And the love of a father is deep and strong. Be happy, Micunksee [29], the flames are gone,– They flash no more in the Northern sky.
See the smile on the face of the watching moon; No more will the fatal red arrows fly;
For the singing shafts of my warriors sped To the bad spirit’s bosom and laid him dead, And his blood on the snow of the North lies red. Go,–sleep in the robe that you won to-day, And dream of your hunter–the brave Chaske.”

Light was her heart as she turned away; It sang like the lark in the skies of May. The round moon laughed, but a lone red star, [30] As she turned to the teepee and entered in, Fell flashing and swift in the sky afar, Like the polished point of a javelin.
Nor chief nor daughter the shadow saw Of the crouching listener–Harpstina.

Wiwaste, wrapped in her robe and sleep Heard not the storm-sprites wail and weep, As they rode on the winds in the frosty air; But she heard the voice of her hunter fair; For a shadowy spirit with fairy fingers
The curtains drew from the land of dreams; And lo in her teepee her lover lingers;
The light of love in his dark eye beams, And his voice is the music of mountain streams.

And then with her round, brown arms she pressed His phantom form to her throbbing breast, And whispered the name, in her happy sleep, Of her Hohe hunter so fair and far.
And then she saw in her dreams the deep Where the spirit wailed, and a falling star; Then stealthily crouching under the trees, By the light of the moon, the Kan-o-ti-dan, [31] The little, wizened, mysterious man,
With his long locks tossed by the moaning breeze. Then a flap of wings, like a thunder-bird, [32] And a wailing spirit the sleeper heard;
And lo, through the mists of the moon, she saw The hateful visage of Harpstina.

But waking she murmured–“And what are these– The flap of wings and the falling star,
The wailing spirit that’s never at ease, The little man crouching under the trees, And the hateful visage of Harpstina?
My dreams are like feathers that float on the breeze, And none can tell what the omens are–
Save the beautiful dream of my love afar In the happy land of the tall Hohe [15]– My beautiful hunter–my brave Chaske.”

“Ta-tanka! Ta-tanka!” [33] the hunters cried, With a joyous shout at the break of dawn; And darkly lined on the white hill-side, A herd of bison went marching on
Through the drifted snow like a caravan. Swift to their ponies the hunters sped,
And dashed away on the hurried chase. The wild steeds scented the game ahead,
And sprang like hounds to the eager race. But the brawny bulls in the swarthy van
Turned their polished horns to the charging foes, And reckless rider and fleet foot-man
Were held at bay in the drifted snows, While the bellowing herd o’er the hill-tops ran, Like the frightened beasts of a caravan
On the Sahara’s sands when the simoon blows. Sharp were the twangs of the hunters’ bows, And swift and humming the arrows sped,
Till ten huge bulls on the bloody snows Lay pierced with arrows and dumb and dead. But the chief with the flankers had gained the rear, And flew on the trail of the flying herd. The shouts of the riders rang loud and clear, As their frothing steeds to the chase they spurred. And now like the roar of an avalanche
Rolls the sullen wrath of the maddened bulls. They charge on the riders and runners stanch, And a dying steed in the snow-drift rolls, While the rider, flung to the frozen ground Escapes the horns by a panther’s bound.
But the raging monsters are held at bay, While the flankers dash on the swarthy rout. With lance and arrow they slay and slay; And the welkin rings to the gladsome shout– To the loud Inas and the wild Ihos, [34]– And dark and dead, on the bloody snows,
Lie the swarthy heaps of the buffaloes.

All snug in the teepee Wiwaste lay,
All wrapped in her robe, at the dawn of day,– All snug and warm from the wind and snow, While the hunters followed the buffalo.
Her dreams and her slumber their wild shouts broke; The chase was afoot when the maid awoke; She heard the twangs of the hunter’s bows, And the bellowing bulls and the loud Ihos, And she murmured–“My hunter is far away In the happy land of the tall Hohe–
My beautiful hunter, my brave Chaske; But the robins will come and my warrior too, And Wiwaste will find her a way to woo.”

And long she lay in a reverie,
And dreamed, wide-awake, of her brave Chaske, Till a trampling of feet on the crispy snow She heard, and the murmur of voices low;– Then the hunters’ greeting–Iho! Iho!
And behold, in the blaze of the risen day, With the hunters that followed the buffalo,– Came her beautiful hunter–her brave Chaske. Far south has he followed the bison-trail With his band of warriors so brave and true. Right glad is Wakawa his friend to hail, And Wiwaste will find her a way to woo.

Tall and straight as the larch tree stood The manly form of the brave young chief, And fair as the larch in its vernal leaf, When the red fawn bleats in the feathering wood. Mild was his face as the morning skies,
And friendship shone in his laughing eyes; But swift were his feet o’er the drifted snow On the trail of the elk or the buffalo;
And his heart was stouter than lance or bow, When he heard the whoop of his enemies.
Five feathers he wore of the great Wanmdee, And each for the scalp of a warrior slain, When down on his camp from the northern plain, With their murder cries rode the bloody Cree. [35] But never the stain of an infant slain,
Or the blood of a mother that plead in vain, Soiled the honored plumes of the brave Hohe. A mountain bear to his enemies,
To his friends like the red fawn’s dappled form; In peace, like the breeze from the summer seas; In war, like the roar of the mountain storm. His fame in the voice of the winds went forth From his hunting grounds in the happy north, And far as the shores of the Great Mede [36] The nations spoke of the brave Chaske.

Dark was the visage of grim Red Cloud, Fierce were the eyes of the warrior proud, When the chief to his lodge led the brave Chaske, And Wiwaste smiled on the tall Hohe.
Away he strode with a sullen frown, And alone in his teepee he sat him down. From the gladsome greeting of braves he stole, And wrapped himself in his gloomy soul.
But the eagle eyes of the Harpstina The clouded face of the warrior saw.
Softly she spoke to the sullen brave: “Mah-pi-ya Duta,–his face is sad.
And why is the warrior so glum and grave? For the fair Wiwaste is gay and glad.
She will sit in the teepee the live-long day, And laugh with her lover–the brave Hohe. Does the tall Red Cloud for the false one sigh? There are fairer maidens than she, and proud Were their hearts to be loved by the brave Red Cloud. And trust not the chief with the smiling eyes; His tongue is swift, but his words are lies; And the proud Mah-pi-ya will surely find That Wakawa’s promise is hollow wind.
Last night I stood by his lodge, and lo I heard the voice of the Little Crow;
But the fox is sly and his words were low. But I heard her answer her father–“Never! I will stain your knife in my heart’s red blood, I will plunge and sink in the sullen river, Ere I will be wife to the fierce Red Cloud!” Then he spake again, and his voice was low, But I heard the answer of Little Crow:
“Let it be as you will, for Wakawa’s tongue Has spoken no promise,–his lips are slow, And the love of a father is deep and strong.”

Mah-pi-ya Duta, they scorn your love, But the false chief covets the warrior’s gifts. False to his promise the fox will prove, And fickle as snow in Wo-ka-da-wee, [37] That slips into brooks when the gray cloud lifts, Or the red sun looks through the ragged rifts. Mah-pi-ya Duta will listen to me
There are fairer birds in the bush than she, And the fairest would gladly be Red Cloud’s wife. Will the warrior sit like a girl bereft, When fairer and truer than she are left
That love Red Cloud as they love their life? Mah-pi-ya Duta will listen to me
I love him well,–I have loved him long: A woman is weak, but a warrior is strong, And a lovelorn brave is a scorn to see.

Mah-pi-ya Duta, O listen to me!
Revenge is swift and revenge is strong, And sweet as the hive in the hollow tree. The proud Red Cloud will revenge his wrong Let the brave be patient, it is not long Till the leaves be green on the maple tree, And the Feast of the Virgins is then to be;– The Feast of the Virgins is then to be!”

Proudly she turned from the silent brave, And went her way; but the warrior’s eyes– They flashed with the flame of a sudden fire, Like the lights that gleam in the Sacred Cave, [38] When the black night covers the autumn skies, And the stars from their welkin watch retire.

Three nights he tarried–the brave Chaske; Winged were the hours and they flitted away; On the wings of Wakandee [39] they silently flew, For Wiwaste had found her a way to woo.
Ah, little he cared for the bison-chase; For the red lilies bloomed on the fair maid’s face; Ah, little he cared for the winds that blew, For Wiwaste had found her a way to woo.
Brown-bosomed she sat on her fox-robe dark, Her ear to the tales of the brave inclined, Or tripped from the tee like the song of a lark, And gathered her hair from the wanton wind. Ah, little he thought of the leagues of snow He trode on the trail of the buffalo;
And little he recked of the hurricanes That swept the snow from the frozen plains And piled the banks of the Bloody River. [40] His bow unstrung and forgotten hung
With his beaver hood and his otter quiver; He sat spell-bound by the artless grace
Of her star-lit eyes and her moon-lit face. Ah, little he cared for the storms that blew, For Wiwaste had found her a way to woo.
When he spoke with Wakawa her sidelong eyes Sought the handsome chief in his hunter-guise. Wakawa marked, and the lilies fair
On her round cheeks spread to her raven hair. They feasted on rib of the bison fat,
On the tongue of the Ta [41] that the hunters prize, On the savory flesh of the red Hogan, [42] On sweet tipsanna [43] and pemmican,
And the dun-brown cakes of the golden maize; And hour after hour the young chief sat, And feasted his soul on the maiden’s eyes.

The sweeter the moments the swifter they fly; Love takes no account of the fleeting hours; He walks in a dream mid the blooming of flowers, And never awakes till the blossoms die.
Ah, lovers are lovers the wide world over– In the hunter’s lodge and the royal palace. Sweet are the lips of his love to the lover,– Sweet as new wine in a golden chalice,
From the Tajo’s [44] slopes or the hills beyond; And blindly he sips from his loved one’s lips, In lodge or palace the wide world over,
The maddening honey of Trebizond. [45]

O, what are leagues to the loving hunter, Or the blinding drift of the hurricane,
When it raves and roars o’er the frozen plain! He would face the storm,–he would death encounter The darling prize of his heart to gain.
But his hunters chafed at the long delay, For the swarthy bison were far away,
And the brave young chief from the lodge departed. He promised to come with the robin in May, With the bridal gifts for the bridal day; And the fair Wiwaste was happy-hearted,
For Wakawa promised the brave Chaske.

Birds of a feather will flock together. The robin sings to his ruddy mate,
And the chattering jays, in the winter weather, To prate and gossip will congregate;
And the cawing crows on the autumn heather, Like evil omens, will flock together,
In extra-session, for high debate;
And the lass will slip from a doting mother To hang with her lad on the garden gate. Birds of a feather will flock together,– ‘Tis an adage old,–it is nature’s law,
And sure as the pole will the needle draw, The fierce Red Cloud with the flaunting feather, Will follow the finger of Harpstina.

The winter wanes and the south-wind blows From the Summer Islands legendary.
The skeskas [46] fly and the melted snows In lakelets lie on the dimpled prairie.
The frost-flowers [47] peep from their winter sleep Under the snow-drifts cold and deep.

To the April sun and the April showers, In field and forest, the baby flowers
Lift their golden faces and azure eyes; And wet with the tears of the winter-fairies, Soon bloom and blossom the emerald prairies, Like the fabled Garden of Paradise.

The plum-trees, white with their bloom in May, Their sweet perfume on the vernal breeze Wide strew like the isles of the tropic seas, Where the paroquet chatters the livelong day. But the May-days pass and the brave Chaske– O, why does the lover so long delay?
Wiwaste waits in the lonely tee,
Has her fair face fled from his memory? For the robin cherups his mate to please, The blue bird pipes in the poplar trees, The meadow lark warbles his jubilees,
Shrilling his song in the azure seas, Till the welkin throbs to his melodies;
And low is the hum of the humble bees, And the Feast of the Virgins is now to be.


The sun sails high in his azure realms; Beneath the arch of the breezy elms
The feast is spread by the murmuring river. With his battle spear and his bow and quiver, And eagle plumes in his ebon hair,
The chief Wakawa himself is there;
And round the feast in the Sacred Ring, [48] Sit his weaponed warriors witnessing.
Not a morsel of food have the Virgins tasted For three long days ere the holy feast;
They sat in their teepee alone and fasted, Their faces turned to the Sacred East. [21] In the polished bowls lies the golden maize And the flesh of fawn on the polished trays. For the Virgins the bloom of the prairies wide– The blushing pink and the meek blue-bell, The purple plumes of the prairie’s pride, [49] The wild, uncultured asphodel,
And the beautiful, blue-eyed violet That the Virgins call “Let-me-not-forget,” In gay festoons and garlands twine
With the cedar sprigs [50] and the wildwood vine. So gaily the Virgins are decked and dressed, And none but a virgin may enter there;
And clad is each in a scarlet vest, And a fawn skin frock to the brown calves bare. Wild rosebuds peep from their flowing hair, And a rose half-blown on the budding breast; And bright with the quills of the porcupine The moccasined feet of the maidens shine.

Hand in hand round the feast they dance, And sing to the notes of a rude bassoon, And never a pause or a dissonance
In the merry dance or the merry tune. Brown-bosomed and fair as the rising moon, When she peeps o’er the hills of the dewy east, Wiwaste sings at the Virgins Feast;
And bright is the light in her luminous eyes; They glow like the stars in the winter skies; And the lilies that bloom in her virgin heart Their golden blush to her cheeks impart– Her cheeks half hid in her midnight hair. Fair is her form–as the red fawn’s fair, And long is the flow of her raven hair;
It falls to her knees, and it streams on the breeze Like the path of a storm on the swelling seas.

Proud of their rites are the Virgins fair, For none but a Virgin may enter there.
‘Tis a custom of old and a sacred thing; Nor rank nor beauty the warriors spare,
If a tarnished maiden should enter there. And her that enters the Sacred Ring
With a blot that is known or a secret stain The warrior who knows is bound to expose, And lead her forth from the ring again.
And the word of the warrior is a sacred by law; For the Virgins’ Feast is a sacred thing. Aside with the mothers sat Harpstina:
She durst not enter the virgins’ ring.

Round and round to the merry song
The maidens dance in their gay attire. While the loud “Ho-Ho’s” of the tawny throng Their flying feet and their song inspire. They have finished the song and the sacred dance, And hand in hand to the feast advance–
To the polished bowls of the golden maize, And the sweet fawn meat in the polished trays.

Then up from his seat in the silent crowd Rose the frowning, fierce-eyed, tall Red Cloud; Swift was his stride as the panther’s spring, When he leaps on the fawn from his cavern lair; Wiwaste he caught by her flowing hair,
And dragged her forth from the Sacred Ring. She turned on the warrior. Her eyes flashed fire; Her proud lips quivered with queenly ire; Her hand to the Spirits she raised and said, And her sun browned cheeks were aflame with red: “I am pure!–I am pure as falling snow!
Great Taku-Skan-Skan [51] will testify! And dares the tall coward to say me no?” But the sullen warrior made no reply.
She turned to the chief with her frantic cries: “Wakawa–my Father; he lies!–he lies!
Wiwaste is pure as the faun unborn; Lead me back to the feast, or Wiwaste dies!” But the warriors uttered a cry of scorn, And he turned his face from her pleading eyes.

Then the sullen warrior, the tall Red Cloud, Looked up and spoke and his voice was loud; But he held his wrath and spoke with care: “Wiwaste is young, she is proud and fair, But she may not boast of the virgin snows. The Virgins Feast is a Sacred thing:
How durst she enter the Virgins ring? The warrior would fain, but he dares not spare; She is tarnished and only the Red Cloud knows.”

She clutched her hair in her clenched hand: She stood like statue bronzed and grand: Wakan-dee [39] flashed in her fiery eyes; Then, swift as the meteor cleaves the skies– Nay, swift as the fiery Wakinyan’s dart, [32] She snatch the knife from the warriors belt, And plunged it clean to the polished hilt– With deadly cry–in the villain’s heart. Staggering he clutched the air and fell; His life-blood smoked on the trampled sand, And dripped from the knife in the virgin’s hand. Then rose his kinsmen’s savage yell.
Swift as the doe’s Wiwaste’s feet
Fled away to the forest. The hunters fleet In vain pursue, and in vain they prowl,
And lurk in the forest till dawn of day. They hear the hoot of the mottled owl;
They hear the were-wolf’s [52] winding howl; But the swift Wiwaste is far away.
They found no trace in the forest land, They found no trail in the dew-damp grass, They found no track in the river sand,
Where they thought Wiwaste would surely pass.

The braves returned to the troubled chief; In his lodge he sat in his silent grief. “Surely,” they said, “she has turned a spirit. No trail she left with her flying feet;
No pathway leads to her far retreat. She flew in the air, and her wail–we could hear it, As she upward rose to the shining stars; And we heard on the river, as we stood near it, The falling drops of Wiwaste’s tears.”

Wakawa thought of his daughter’s words Ere the south-wind came and the piping birds– “My Father, listen,–my words are true,” And sad was her voice as the whippowil
When she mourns her mate by the moon-lit rill, “Wiwaste lingers alone with you;
The rest are sleeping on yonder hill– Save one–and he an undutiful son,–
And you, my Father, will sit alone
When Sisoka [53] sings and the snow is gone.” His broad breast heaved on his troubled soul, The shadow of grief o’er his visage stole Like a cloud on the face of the setting sun.

“She has followed the years that are gone,” he said; “The spirits the words of the witch fulfill; For I saw the ghost of my father dead,
By the moon’s dim light on the misty hill. He shook the plumes on his withered head, And the wind through his pale form whistled shrill. And a low, sad voice on the hill I heard. Like the mournful wail of a widowed bird.” Then lo, as he looked from his lodge afar, He saw the glow of the Evening-star;
“And yonder,” he said, “is Wiwaste’s face; She looks from her lodge on our fading race. Devoured by famine, and fraud, and war,
And chased and hounded from woe to woe, As the white wolves follow the buffalo.” And he named the planet the _Virgin Star_. [54]

“Wakawa,” he muttered, “the guilt is thine! She was pure,–she was pure as the fawn unborn. O, why did I hark to the cry of scorn,
Or the words of the lying libertine? Wakawa, Wakawa, the guilt is thine!
The springs will return with the voice of birds, But the voice of my daughter will come no more.

She wakened the woods with her musical words, And the sky-lark, ashamed of his voice, forbore. She called back the years that had passed, and long I heard their voice in her happy song.
Her heart was the home of the sunbeam. Bright Poured the stream of her song on the starry night. O, why did the chief of the tall Hohe
His feet from Kapoza [6] so long delay? For his father sat at my father’s feast, And he at Wakawa’s–an honored guest.
He is dead!–he is slain on the Bloody Plain, By the hand of the treacherous Chippeway; And the face shall I never behold again
Of my brave young brother–the chief Chaske. Death walks like a shadow among my kin;
And swift are the feet of the flying years That cover Wakawa with frost and tears,
And leave their tracks on his wrinkled skin. Wakawa, the voice of the years that are gone Will follow thy feet like the shadow of death, Till the paths of the forest and desert lone Shall forget thy footsteps. O living breath, Whence art thou, and whither so soon to fly? And whence are the years? Shall I overtake Their flying feet in the star-lit sky?
From his last long sleep will the warrior wake? Will the morning break in Wakawa’s tomb, As it breaks and glows in the eastern skies? Is it true?–will the spirits of kinsmen come And bid the bones of the brave arise?”

“Wakawa, Wakawa, for thee the years
Are red with blood and bitter with tears. Gone,–brothers, and daughters, and wife,–all gone That are kin to Wakawa,–but one–but one– Wakinyan Tanka–undutiful son!
And he estranged from his fathers tee, Will never return till the chief shall die. And what cares he for his father’s grief? He will smile at my death,–it will make him chief. Woe burns in my bosom. Ho, Warriors,–Ho! Raise the song of red war; for your chief must go To drown his grief in the blood of the foe! I shall fall. Raise my mound on the sacred hill. Let my warriors the wish of their chief fulfill; For my fathers sleep in the sacred ground. The Autumn blasts o’er Wakawa’s mound
Shall chase the hair of the thistle’s head, And the bare armed oak o’er the silent dead. When the whirling snows from the north descend, Shall wail and moan in the midnight wind. In the famine of winter the wolf shall prowl, And scratch the snow from the heap of stones, And sit in the gathering storm and howl, On the frozen mound, for Wakawa’s bones. But the years that are gone shall return again. As the robin returns and the whippowil
When my warriors stand on the sacred hill And remember the deeds of their brave chief slain.”

Beneath the glow of the Virgin Star
They raised the song of the red war dance. At the break of dawn with the bow and lance They followed the chief on the path of war. To the north–to the forests of fir and pine– Led their stealthy steps on the winding trail, Till they saw the Lake of the Spirit [55] shine Through somber pines of the dusky dale.

Then they heard the hoot of the mottled owl; [56] They heard the gray wolf’s dismal howl;
Then shrill and sudden the war whoop rose From an hundred throats of their swarthy foes, In ambush crouched in the tangled wood.
Death shrieked in the twang of their deadly bows, And their hissing arrows drank brave men’s blood. From rock, and thicket, and brush, and brakes, Gleamed the burning eyes of the forest snakes. [57] From brake, and thicket, and brush, and stone, The bow string hummed and the arrow hissed, And the lance of a crouching Ojibway shone, Or the scalp-knife gleamed in a swarthy fist. Undaunted the braves of Wakawa’s band
Jumped into the thicket with lance and knife, And grappled the Chippewas hand to hand; And foe with foe, in the deadly strife,
Lay clutching the scalp of his foe and dead, With a tomahawk sunk in his ghastly head, Or his still heart sheathing a bloody blade. Like a bear in the battle Wakawa raves,
And cheers the hearts of his falling braves. But a panther crouches along his track,– He springs with a yell on Wakawa’s back!

The tall Chief, stabbed to the heart, lies low; But his left hand clutches his deadly foe, And his red right clenches the bloody hilt Of his knife in the heart of the slayer dyed. And thus was the life of Wakawa spilt,
And slain and slayer lay side by side. The unscalped corpse of their honored chief His warriors snatched from the yelling pack, And homeward fled on their forest track
With their bloody burden and load of grief.

The spirits the words of the brave fulfill,– Wakawa sleeps on the sacred hill,
And Wakinyan Tanka, his son, is chief. Ah, soon shall the lips of men forget
Wakawa’s name, and the mound of stone Will speak of the dead to the winds alone, And the winds will whistle their mock-regret.

The speckled cones of the scarlet berries [58] Lie red and ripe in the prairie grass.
The Si-yo [59] clucks on the emerald prairies To her infant brood. From the wild morass, On the sapphire lakelet set within it,
Maga [60] sails forth with her wee ones daily. They ride on the dimpling waters gaily,
Like a fleet of yachts and a man of war. The piping plover, the laughing linnet,
And the swallow sail in the sunset skies. The whippowil from her cover hies,
And trills her song on the amber air.

Anon, to her loitering mate she cries “Flip, O Will!–trip, O Will!–skip, O Will!” And her merry mate from afar replies:
“Flip I will,–skip I will,–trip I will;” And away on the wings of the wind he flies. And bright from her lodge in the skies afar Peeps the glowing face of the Virgin Star. The fox pups [60] creep from the mother’s lair And leap in the light of the rising moon; And loud on the luminous moonlit lake
Shrill the bugle notes of the lover loon; And woods and waters and welkin break
Into jubilant song,–it is joyful June.

But where is Wiwaste? O where is she– The Virgin avenged–the queenly queen–
The womanly woman–the heroine?
Has she gone to the spirits and can it be That her beautiful face is the Virgin Star Peeping out from the door of her lodge afar, Or upward sailing the silver sea.
Star-beaconed and lit like an avenue, In the shining stern of her gold canoe?
No tidings came–nor the brave Chaske: O, why did the lover so long delay?
He promised to come with the robins in May, With the bridal gifts for the bridal day; But the fair May mornings have slipped away, And where is the lover–the brave Chaske?

But what of the venomous Harpstina–
The serpent that tempted the proud Red Cloud, And kindled revenge in his savage soul?
He paid for his crime with his false heart’s blood, But his angry spirit has brought her dole; [61] It has entered her breast and her burning head, And she raves and burns on her fevered bed. “He is dead! He is dead!” is her wailing cry. “And the blame is mine,–it was I,–it was I! I hated Wiwaste, for she was fair,
And my brave was caught in her net of hair. I turned his love to a bitter hate;
I nourished revenge, and I pricked his pride; Till the Feast of the Virgins I bade him wait. He had his revenge, but he died,–he died! And the blame is mine,–it was I,–it was I! And his spirit burns me, I die,–I die!” Thus, alone in her lodge and her agonies, She wails to the winds of the night, and dies.

But where is Wiwaste? Her swift feet flew To the somber shades of the tangled thicket. She hid in the copse like a wary cricket, And the fleetest hunters in vain pursue. Seeing unseen from her hiding place,
She sees them fly on the hurried chase; She sees their fierce eyes glance and dart, As they pass and peer for a track or trace, And she trembles with fear in the copse apart. Lest her nest be betrayed by her throbbing heart.


Weary the hours; but the sun at last
Went down to his lodge in the west, and fast The wings of the spirits of night were spread O’er the darkling woods and Wiwaste’s head. Then, slyly she slipped from her snug retreat, And guiding her course by Waziya’s star, [62] That shone through the shadowy forms afar, She northward hurried with silent feet;
And long ere the sky was aflame in the east, She was leagues from the place of the fatal feast. ‘Twas the hoot of the owl that the hunters heard, And the scattering drops of the threat’ning shower, And the far wolf’s cry to the moon preferred. Their ears were their fancies,–the scene was weird, And the witches [63] dance at the midnight hour. She leaped the brook and she swam the river; Her course through the forest Wiwaste wist By the star that gleamed through the glimmering mist That fell from the dim moon’s downy quiver. In her heart she spoke to her spirit-mother: “Look down from your teepee, O starry spirit. The cry of Wiwaste, O mother, hear it;
And touch the heart of my cruel father. He hearkened not to a virgin’s words;
He listened not to a daughter’s wail. O give me the wings of the thunder-birds, For his were-wolves [52] follow Wiwaste’s trail; O, guide my flight to the far Hohe–
The sheltering lodge of my brave Chaske.”

The shadows paled in the hazy east,
And the light of the kindling morn increased. The pale-faced stars fled one by one,
And hid in the vast from the rising sun. From woods and waters and welkin soon
Fled the hovering mists of the vanished moon. The young robins chirped in their feathery beds, The loon’s song shrilled like a winding horn, And the green hills lifted their dewy heads To greet the god of the rising morn.

She reached the rim of the rolling prairie– The boundless ocean of solitude;
She hid in the feathery hazel wood, For her heart was sick and her feet were weary; She fain would rest, and she needed food. Alone by the billowy, boundless prairies, She plucked the cones of the scarlet berries; In feathering copse and the grassy field She found the bulbs of the young Tipsanna, [43] And the sweet medo [64] that the meadows yield. With the precious gift of his priceless manna God fed his fainting and famished child.

At night again to the northward far
She followed the torch of Waziya’s star. For leagues away o’er the prairies green, On the billowy vast, may a man be seen,
When the sun is high and the stars are low; And the sable breast of the strutting crow Looms up like the form of the buffalo.
The Bloody River [40] she reached at last, And boldly walked in the light of day,
On the level plain of the valley vast; Nor thought of the terrible Chippeway.
She was safe from the wolves of her father’s band, But she trode on the treacherous “Bloody Land.” And lo–from afar o’er the level plain– As far as the sails of a ship at sea
May be seen as they lift from the rolling main– A band of warriors rode rapidly.
She shadowed her eyes with her sun browned hand; All backward streamed on the wind her hair, And terror spread o’er her visage fair,
As she bent her brow to the far off band. For she thought of the terrible Chippeway– The fiends that the babe and the mother slay; And yonder they came in their war-array! She hid like a grouse in the meadow-grass, And moaned–“I am lost!–I am lost! alas; And why did I fly my native land
To die by the cruel Ojibway’s hand?” And on rode the braves. She could hear the steeds Come galloping on o’er the level meads;
And lowly she crouched in the waving grass, And hoped against hope that the braves would pass.

They have passed, she is safe,–she is safe! Ah, no, They have struck her trail and the hunters halt. Like wolves on the track of the bleeding doe, That grappled breaks from the dread assault, Dash the warriors wild on Wiwaste’s trail. She flies,–but what can her flight avail? Her feet are fleet, but the flying feet
Of the steeds of the prairie are fleeter still; And where can she fly for a safe retreat?

But hark to the shouting:–“Iho!–Iho!” [9] Rings over the wide plain sharp and shrill. She halts, and the hunters come riding on; But the horrible fear from her heart is gone, For it is not the shout of the dreaded foe; ‘Tis the welcome shout of her native land!

Up galloped the chief of the band, and lo– The clutched knife dropped from her trembling hand; She uttered a cry and she swooned away;
For there; on his steed in the blaze of day, On the boundless prairie, so far away,
With his burnished lance and his feathers gay, Sat the manly form of her own Chaske!

There’s a mote in my eye or a blot on the page, And I cannot tell of the joyful greeting; You may take it for granted and I will engage, There were kisses and tears at the strange, glad meeting; For aye since the birth of the swift-winged years, In the desert drear, in the field of clover, In the cot, and the palace, and all the world over,– Yea, away on the stars to the ultimate spheres, The language of love to the long sought lover,– Is tears and kisses and kisses and tears.

But why did the lover so long delay?
And whitherward rideth the chief to-day? As he followed the trail of the buffalo, From the tees of Kapoza a maiden, lo,
Came running in haste o’er the drifted snow. She spoke to the chief of the tall Hohe: “Wiwaste requests that the brave Chaske
Will abide with his band and his coming delay ‘Till the moon when the strawberries are ripe and red, And then will the chief and Wiwaste wed– When the Feast of the Virgins is past,” she said. Wiwaste’s wish was her lover’s law;
And so his coming the chief delayed Till the mid-May blossoms should bloom and fade,– But the lying runner was Harpstina.
And now with the gifts for the bridal day And his chosen warriors he took his way, And followed his heart to his moon-faced maid, And thus was the lover so long delayed;
And so as he rode with his warriors gay, On that bright and beautiful summer day, His bride he met on the trail mid-way,
By the haunts of the treacherous Chippeway.

God arms the innocent. He is there–
In the desert vast, in the wilderness, On the bellowing sea, in the lion’s lair, In the midst of battle, and everywhere.
In his hand he holds with a father’s care The tender hearts of the motherless;
The maid and the mother in sore distress He shields with his love and his tenderness; He comforts the widowed–the comfortless, And sweetens her chalice of bitterness;
He clothes the naked–the numberless,– His charity covers their nakedness,–
And he feeds the famished and fatherless With the hand that feedeth the birds of air. Let the myriad tongues of the earth confess His infinite love and his holiness;
For his pity pities the pitiless,
His wayward children his bounties bless, And his mercy flows to the merciless;
And the countless worlds in the realms above, Revolve in the light of his boundless love.

And what of the lovers? you ask, I trow. She told him all ere the sun was low,–
Why she fled from the Feast to a safe retreat. She laid her heart at her lover’s feet,
And her words were tears and her lips were slow. As she sadly related the bitter tale
His face was aflame and anon grew pale, And his dark eyes flashed with a brave desire, Like the midnight gleam of the sacred fire. [65] “Mitawin,” [66] he said, and his voice was low, “Thy father no more is the false Little Crow; But the fairest plume shall Wiwaste wear Of the great Wanmdee [13] in her midnight hair. In my lodge, in the land of the tall Hohe, The robins will sing all the long summer day To the beautiful bride of the brave Chaske.”

Aye, love is tested by stress and trial Since the finger of time on the endless dial Began its rounds, and the orbs to move
In the boundless vast, and the sunbeams clove The chaos; but only by fate’s denial
Are fathomed the fathomless depths of love. Man is the rugged and wrinkled oak,
And woman the trusting and tender vine– That clasps and climbs till its arms entwine The brawny arms of the sturdy stoke. [67] The dimpled babes are the flowers divine That the blessing of God on the vine and oak With their cooing and blossoming lips invoke.

To the pleasant land of the brave Hohe Wiwaste rode with her proud Chaske.
She ruled like a queen in his bountiful tee, And the life of the twain was a jubilee. Their wee ones climbed on the father’s knee, And played with his plumes of the great Wanmdee. The silken threads of the happy years
They wove into beautiful robes of love That the spirits wear in the lodge above; And time from the reel of the rolling spheres His silver threads with the raven wove;
But never the stain of a mother’s tears Soiled the shining web of their happy years.

When the wrinkled mask of the years they wore, And the raven hair of their youth was gray, Their love grew deeper, and more and more; For he was a lover for aye and aye,
And ever her beautiful, brave Chaske. Through the wrinkled mask of the hoary years To the loving eyes of the lover aye
The blossom of beautiful youth appears.

At last, when their locks were as white as snow, Beloved and honored by all the band,
They silently slipped from their lodge below, And walked together, and hand in hand,
O’er the Shining Path [68] to the Spirit-land; Where the hills and the meadows for aye and aye Are clad with the verdure and flowers of May, And the unsown prairies of Paradise
Yield the golden maize and the sweet wild rice. There ever ripe in the groves and prairies Hang the purple plums and the luscious berries. And the swarthy herds of bison feed
On the sun-lit slope and the waving mead; The dappled fawns from their coverts peep, And countless flocks on the waters sleep; And the silent years with their fingers trace No furrows for aye on the hunter’s face.


* * * * *


* * * * *

[Illustration: FALLS OF ST. ANTHONY.


_When the meadow-lark trilled o’er the leas and the oriole piped in the maples, From my hammock, all under the trees,
by the sweet scented field of red-clover, I harked to the hum of the bees,
as they gathered the mead of the blossoms, And caught from their low melodies
the rhythm of the song of Winona_.

(In pronouncing Dakota words give “a” the sound of “ah,”–“e” the sound of “a,”–“i” the sound of “e” and “u” the sound of “oo.” Sound “ee” the same as in English. The numerals 1-2 etc. refer to notes in the appendix).

Two hundred white Winters and more
have fled from the face of the Summer, Since here on the oak shaded shore
of the dark winding swift Mississippi, Where his foaming floods tumble and roar, on the falls and white rolling rapids, In the fair, fabled center of Earth,
sat the Indian town of Ka-tha-ga. [86] Far rolling away to the north, and the south, lay the emerald prairies,
Alternate with woodlands and lakes, and above them the blue vast of ether. And here where the dark river breaks into spray and the roar of the Ha-Ha, [76]
Were gathered the bison-skin tees
of the chief tawny tribe of Dakotas; For here, in the blast and the breeze,
flew the flag of the chief of Isantees, [86] Up-raised on the stem of a lance
–the feathery flag of the eagle. And here to the feast and the dance,
from the prairies remote and the forests, Oft gathered the out-lying bands,
and honored the gods of the nation. On the islands and murmuring strands
they danced to the god of the waters, Unktehee, [69] who dwelt in the caves
deep under the flood of the Ha-Ha; [76] And high o’er the eddies and waves
hung their offerings of fur and tobacco. [a] And here to the Master of life
–Anpe-tu-wee, [70] god of the heavens, Chief, warrior, and maiden, and wife,
burned the sacred green sprigs of the cedar. And here to the Searcher-of-hearts
–fierce Ta-ku Skan-skan, [51] the avenger, Who dwells in the uttermost parts
–in the earth and the blue, starry ether, Ever watching, with all-seeing eyes,
the deeds of the wives and the warriors, As an osprey afar in the skies,
sees the fish as they swim in the waters, Oft spread they the bison-tongue feast,
and singing preferred their petitions, Till the Day-Spirit [70] rose in the East –in the red, rosy robes of the morning, To sail o’er the sea of the skies,
to his lodge in the land of the shadows, Where the black winged tornadoes [b] arise –rushing loud from the mouths of their caverns. And here with a shudder they heard,
flying far from his tee in the mountains, Wa-kin-yan, [32] the huge Thunder-Bird,
–with the arrows of fire in his talons.

[a] See Hennepin’s Description of Louisiana by Shea pp 243 and 256. Parkman’s Discovery p. 246–and Carver’s Travels, p. 67 [b] The Dakotas like the ancient Romans and Greeks think the home of the winds is in the caverns of the mountains, and their great Thunder bird resembles in many respects the Jupiter of the Romans and the Zeus of the Greeks. The resemblance of the Dakota mythology to that of the older Greeks and Romans is striking.

Two hundred white Winters and more
have fled from the face of the Summer, Since here by the cataract’s roar,
in the moon of the red blooming lilies, [71] In the tee of Ta-te-psin [a] was born Winona –wild-rose of the prairies.
Like the summer sun peeping, at morn, o’er the hills was the face of Winona; And here she grew up like a queen
–a romping and lily-lipped laughter, And danced on the undulant green,
and played in the frolicsome waters, Where the foaming tide tumbles and twirls o’er the murmuring rocks in the rapids; And whiter than foam were the pearls
that gleamed in the midst of her laughter. Long and dark was her flowing hair flung, like the robe of the night to the breezes; And gay as the robin she sung,
or the gold-breasted lark of the meadows. Like the wings of the wind were her feet, and as sure as the feet of Ta-to-ka; [b] And oft like an antelope fleet
o’er the hills and the prairies she bounded, Lightly laughing in sport as she ran,
and looking back over her shoulder, At the fleet footed maiden or man,
that vainly her flying steps followed. The belle of the village was she,
and the pride of the aged Ta-te-psin, Like a sunbeam she lighted his tee,
and gladdened the heart of her father.

[a] Ta te–Wind, Psin–Wild Rice,–wild rice wind. [b] The Mountain Antelope.

In the golden hued Wazu-pe-wee
–the moon when the wild rice is gathered; When the leaves on the tall sugar-tree
are as red as the breast of the robin, And the red-oaks that border the lea
are aflame with the fire of the sunset, From the wide waving fields of wild-rice –from the meadows of Psin-ta-wak-pa-dan, [a] Where the geese and the mallards rejoice, and grow fat on the bountiful harvest, Came the hunters with saddles of moose
and the flesh of the bear and the bison, And the women in birchen canoes
well laden with rice from the meadows, With the tall, dusky hunters, behold,
came a marvelous man or a spirit, White-faced and so wrinkled and old,
and clad in the robe of the raven. Unsteady his steps were and slow,
and he walked with a staff in his right hand, And white as the first-falling snow
were the thin locks that lay on his shoulders. Like rime-covered moss hung his beard,
flowing down from his face to his girdle; And wan was his aspect and weird;
and often he chanted and mumbled In a strange and mysterious tongue,
as he bent o’er his book in devotion. Or lifted his dim eyes and sung,
in a low voice, the solemn “_Te Deum_.” Or Latin, or Hebrew, or Greek
–all the same were his words to the warriors,– All the same to the maids
and the meek, wide-wondering-eyed, hazel-brown children.

[a] Little Rice River. It bears the name of Rice Creek to-day and empties into the Mississippi from the east, a few miles above Minneapolis.

Father Rene Menard [a]–it was he,
long lost to his Jesuit brothers, Sent forth by an holy decree
to carry the Cross to the heathen. In his old age abandoned to die,
in the swamps, by his timid companions, He prayed to the Virgin on high,
and she led him forth from the forest; For angels she sent him as men
–in the forms of the tawny Dakotas, And they led his feet from the fen,
–from the slough of despond and the desert. Half-dead in a dismal morass,
as they followed the red-deer they found him, In the midst of the mire and the grass,
and mumbling “_Te Deum laudamus_.” “Unktomee [72]–Ho!” muttered the braves, for they deemed him the black Spider-Spirit That dwells in the drearisome caves,
and walks on the marshes at midnight, With a flickering torch in his hand,
to decoy to his den the unwary. His tongue could they not understand,
but his torn hands all shriveled with famine, He stretched to the hunters and said:
“He feedeth his chosen with manna; And ye are the angels of God,
sent to save me from death in the desert.” His famished and woe-begone face,
and his tones touched the hearts of the hunters; They fed the poor father apace,
and they led him away to Ka-tha-ga.

[a] See the account of Father Menard, his mission and disappearance in the wilderness, etc. Neill’s Hist. Minnesota, pp 104 to 107 inc.

There little by little he learned
the tongue of the tawny Dakotas; And the heart of the good father yearned to lead them away from their idols– Their giants [16] and dread Thunder-birds –their worship of stones [73] and the devil. “Wakan-de!” [a] they answered his words, for he read from his book in the Latin, Lest the Nazarene’s holy commands
by his tongue should be marred in translation; And oft with his beads in his hands,
or the cross and the crucified Jesus, He knelt by himself on the sands,
and his dim eyes uplifted to heaven. But the braves bade him look to the East –to the silvery lodge of Han-nan-na; [b] And to dance with the chiefs at the feast –at the feast of the Giant Heyo-ka. [16] They frowned when the good father
spurned the flesh of the dog in the kettle, And laughed when his fingers were burned in the hot, boiling pot of the giant. “The Blackrobe” they called the poor priest, from the hue of his robe and his girdle; And never a game or a feast
but the father must grace with his presence. His prayer book the hunters revered,
–they deemed it a marvelous spirit; It spoke and the white father heard,
–it interpreted visions and omens. And often they bade him
to pray this marvelous spirit to answer, And tell where the sly Chippeway might be ambushed and slain in his forests.
For Menard was the first in the land, proclaiming, like John in the desert– “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand;
repent ye, and turn from your idols.”– The first of the brave brotherhood that, threading the fens and the forest,
Stood afar by the turbulent flood
at the falls of the Father of Waters.

[a] It is wonderful.
[b] The morning.

In the lodge of the Stranger [a]
he sat awaiting the crown of a martyr; His sad face compassion begat
in the heart of the dark eyed Winona. Oft she came to the teepee and spoke;
she brought him the tongue of the bison, Sweet nuts from the hazel and oak,
and flesh of the fawn and the mallard. Soft hanpa [b] she made for his feet
and leggins of velvety fawn-skin,– A blanket of beaver complete,
and a hood of the hide of the otter. And oft at his feet on the mat,
deftly braiding the flags and the rushes, Till the sun sought his teepee she sat,
enchanted with what he related
Of the white winged ships on the sea and the teepees far over the ocean,
Of the love and the sweet charity of the Christ and the beautiful Virgin.

[a] A lodge set apart for guests of the village. [b] Moccasins.

She listened like one in a trance
when he spoke of the brave, bearded Frenchmen, From the green sun-lit valleys of France to the wild Hochelaga [a] transplanted, Oft trailing the deserts of snow
in the heart of the dense Huron forests, Or steering the dauntless canoe
through the waves of the fresh water ocean. “Yea, stronger and braver are they,”
said the aged Menard to Winona, “Than the head-chief, tall Wazi-kute, [74] but their words are as soft as a maiden’s; Their eyes are the eyes of the swan,
but their hearts are the hearts of the eagles; And the terrible Maza Wakan [b] ever walks, by their side like a spirit.
Like a Thunder-bird, roaring in wrath, flinging fire from his terrible talons, It sends to their enemies death,
in the flash of the fatal Wakandee.” [c]

[a] The Ottawa name for the region of the St. Lawrence River. [b] “Mysterious metal”–or metal having a spirit in it. This is the common name applied by the Dakotas to all fire arms. [c] Lightning.

The Autumn was past and the snow
lay drifted and deep on the prairies; From his teepee of ice came the foe
–came the storm-breathing god of the winter. Then roared in the groves,–on the plains, –on the ice-covered lakes and the river– The blasts of the fierce hurricanes
blown abroad from the breast of Waziya. [3] The bear cuddled down in his den,
and the elk fled away to the forest; The pheasant and gray prairie-hen
made their beds in the heart of the snow-drift; The bison-herds huddled and stood
in the hollows and under the hill-sides; Or rooted the snow for their food
in the lee of the bluffs and the timber; And the mad winds that howled from the north, from the ice-covered seas of Waziya, Chased the gray wolf and red fox and swarth to their dens in the hills of the forest.

Poor Father Menard,–he was ill;
in his breast burned the fire of the fever; All in vain was the magical skill
of Wicasta Wakan [61] with his rattle; Into soft child-like slumber he fell,
and awoke in the land of the blessed– To the holy applause of “Well done!”
and the harps in the hands of the angels. Long he carried the cross,
and he won the coveted crown of a martyr.

In the land of the heathen he died,
meekly following the voice of his Master, One mourner alone by his side
–Ta-te-psin’s compassionate daughter. She wailed the dead father with tears,
and his bones by her kindred she buried. Then winter followed winter.
The years sprinkled frost on the head of her father; And three weary winters she dreamed
of the fearless and fair-bearded Frenchmen; In her sweet sleep their swift paddles gleamed on the breast of the broad Mississippi, And the eyes of the brave strangers beamed on the maid in the midst of her slumber.

She lacked not admirers;
the light of the lover oft burned in her teepee– At her couch in the midst of the night,
–but she never extinguished the flambeau. The son of Chief Wazi-kute
–a fearless and eagle plumed warrior– Long sighed for Winona, and he
–was the pride of the band of Isantees. Three times, in the night, at her bed,
had the brave held the torch of the lover, [75]And thrice had she covered her head
and rejected the handsome Tamdoka. [a]

[a] Tah-mdo-kah–literally the buck deer.

‘Twas Summer. The merry voiced birds
trilled and warbled in woodland and meadow; And abroad on the prairies the herds
cropped the grass in the land of the lilies,– And sweet was the odor of rose
wide-wafted from hillside and heather; In the leaf-shaded lap of repose
lay the bright, blue eyed babes of the summer; And low was the murmur of brooks
and low was the laugh of the Ha-Ha; [76] And asleep in the eddies and nooks
lay the broods of maga [60] and the mallard. ‘Twas the moon of Wasunpa. [71]
The band lay at rest in the tees at Ka-tha-ga, And abroad o’er the beautiful land
walked the spirits of Peace and of Plenty– Twin sisters, with bountiful hand,
wide scatt’ring wild rice and the lilies. An-pe-tu-wee [70] walked in the west
–to his lodge in the midst of the mountains, And the war eagle flew to her nest
in the oak on the Isle of the Spirit. [a]