A Poem for Tuesday

We are off visiting the Minnesota North Shore. If you want to come and steal my TV, you’ll have a difficult time getting around Chief Babysitter Andy who is here painting while we’re gone. You don’t want my TV anyway. It’s old and we can’t watch anything broadcast in HD without the sides getting cut off.

Anyway . . . I thought I’d dig out this classic about Lake Superior or Gitchigumee, which means “Big Water.” Click on the Longfellow link if you’d like to read the whole thing. Also, this poem will be a lot more fun if you read it aloud with respect to Longfellow and our Native American fore bearers.

Song of Hiawatha
Part IX: Hiawatha and the Pearl-Feather
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

On the shores of Gitche Gumee,
Of the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood Nokomis, the old woman,
Pointing with her finger westward,
O’er the water pointing westward,
To the purple clouds of sunset.

Fiercely the red sun descending
Burned his way along the heavens,
Set the sky on fire behind him,
As war-parties, when retreating,
Burn the prairies on their war-trail;
And the moon, the Night-sun, eastward,
Suddenly starting from his ambush,
Followed fast those bloody footprints,
Followed in that fiery war-trail,
With its glare upon his features.

And Nokomis, the old woman,
Pointing with her finger westward,
Spake these words to Hiawatha:
“Yonder dwells the great Pearl-Feather,
Megissogwon, the Magician,
Manito of Wealth and Wampum,
Guarded by his fiery serpents,
Guarded by the black pitch-water.
You can see his fiery serpents,
The Kenabeek, the great serpents,
Coiling, playing in the water;
You can see the black pitch-water
Stretching far away beyond them,
To the purple clouds of sunset!

“He it was who slew my father,
By his wicked wiles and cunning,
When he from the moon descended,
When he came on earth to seek me.
He, the mightiest of Magicians,
Sends the fever from the marshes,
Sends the pestilential vapors,
Sends the poisonous exhalations,
Sends the white fog from the fen-lands,
Sends disease and death among us!

“Take your bow, O Hiawatha,
Take your arrows, jasper-headed,
Take your war-club, Puggawaugun,
And your mittens, Minjekahwun,
And your birch-canoe for sailing,
And the oil of Mishe-Nahma,
So to smear its sides, that swiftly
You may pass the black pitch-water;

Slay this merciless magician,
Save the people from the fever
That he breathes across the fen-lands,
And avenge my father’s murder!”

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