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Henry longfellow

Henry W. Longfellow

POEMS
FOLLOWERS
7

Othere, the old sea—captain,
Who dwelt in Helgoland,
To King Alfred, the Lover of Truth,
Brought a snow—white walrus—tooth,
Which he held in his brown right hand.

His figure was tall and stately,
Like a boy’s his eye appeared;
His hair was yellow as hay,
But threads of a silvery gray
Gleamed in his tawny beard.

Hearty and hale was Othere,
His cheek had the color of oak;
With a kind of laugh in his speech,
Like the sea—tide on a beach,
As unto the King he spoke.

And Alfred, King of the Saxons,
Had a book upon his knees,
And wrote down the wondrous tale
Of him who was first to sail
Into the Arctic seas.

‘So far I live to the northward,
No man lives north of me;
To the east are wild mountain—chains;
And beyond them meres and plains;
To the westward all is sea.

’So far I live to the northward,
From the harbor of Skeringes—hale,
If you only sailed by day,
With a fair wind all the way,
More than a month would you sail.

‘I own six hundred reindeer,
With sheep and swine beside;
I have tribute from the Finns,
Whalebone and reindeer—skins,
And ropes of walrus—hide.

’I ploughed the land with horses,
But my heart was ill at ease,
For the old seafaring men
Came to me now and then,
With their sagas of the seas;—

‘Of Iceland and of Greenland,
And the stormy Hebrides,
And the undiscovered deep;—
Oh I could not eat nor sleep
For thinking of those seas.

’To the northward stretched the desert,
How far I fain would know;
So at last I sallied forth,
And three days sailed due north,
As far as the whale—ships go.

‘To the west of me was the ocean,
To the right the desolate shore,
But I did not slacken sail
For the walrus or the whale,
Till after three days more.

’The days grew longer and longer,
Till they became as one,
And northward through the haze
I saw the sullen blaze
Of the red midnight sun.

'And then uprose before me,
Upon the water’s edge,
The huge and haggard shape
Of that unknown North Cape,
Whose form is like a wedge.

‘The sea was rough and stormy,
The tempest howled and wailed,
And the sea—fog, like a ghost,
Haunted that dreary coast,
But onward still I sailed.

’Four days I steered to eastward,
Four days without a night:
Round in a fiery ring
Went the great sun, O King,
With red and lurid light.'

Here Alfred, King of the Saxons,
Ceased writing for a while;
And raised his eyes from his book,
With a strange and puzzled look,
And an incredulous smile.

But Othere, the old sea—captain,
He neither paused nor stirred,
Till the King listened, and then
Once more took up his pen,
And wrote down every word.

‘And now the land,’ said Othere,
‘Bent southward suddenly,
And I followed the curving shore
And ever southward bore
Into a nameless sea.

’And there we hunted the walrus,
The narwhale, and the seal;
Ha! 't was a noble game!
And like the lightning’s flame
Flew our harpoons of steel.

‘There were six of us all together,
Norsemen of Helgoland;
In two days and no more
We killed of them threescore,
And dragged them to the strand!’

Here Alfred the Truth—Teller
Suddenly closed his book,
And lifted his blue eyes,
With doubt and strange surmise
Depicted in their look.

And Othere the old sea—captain
Stared at him wild and weird,
Then smiled, till his shining teeth
Gleamed white from underneath
His tawny, quivering beard.

And to the King of the Saxons,
In witness of the truth,
Raising his noble head,
He stretched his brown hand, and said,
‘Behold this walrus—tooth!’

Often I think of the beautiful town
      That is seated by the sea;
Often in thought go up and down
The pleasant streets of that dear old town,
      And my youth comes back to me.
            And a verse of a Lapland song
            Is haunting my memory still:
      “A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I can see the shadowy lines of its trees,
      And catch, in sudden gleams,
The sheen of the far—surrounding seas,
And islands that were the Hesperides
      Of all my boyish dreams.
            And the burden of that old song,
            It murmurs and whispers still:
      “A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I remember the black wharves and the slips,
      And the sea—tides tossing free;
And Spanish sailors with bearded lips,
And the beauty and mystery of the ships,
      And the magic of the sea.
            And the voice of that wayward song
            Is singing and saying still:
      “A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I remember the bulwarks by the shore,
      And the fort upon the hill;
The sunrise gun, with its hollow roar,
The drum—beat repeated o’er and o’er,
      And the bugle wild and shrill.
            And the music of that old song
            Throbs in my memory still:
      “A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I remember the sea—fight far away,
      How it thundered o’er the tide!
And the dead captains, as they lay
In their graves, o’erlooking the tranquil bay,
      Where they in battle died.
            And the sound of that mournful song
            Goes through me with a thrill:
      “A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I can see the breezy dome of groves,
      The shadows of Deering’s Woods;
And the friendships old and the early loves
Come back with a Sabbath sound, as of doves
      In quiet neighborhoods.
            And the verse of that sweet old song,
            It flutters and murmurs still:
      “A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I remember the gleams and glooms that dart
      Across the school—boy’s brain;
The song and the silence in the heart,
That in part are prophecies, and in part
      Are longings wild and vain.
            And the voice of that fitful song
            Sings on, and is never still:
      “A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

There are things of which I may not speak;
      There are dreams that cannot die;
There are thoughts that make the strong heart weak,
And bring a pallor into the cheek,
      And a mist before the eye.
            And the words of that fatal song
            Come over me like a chill:
      “A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

Strange to me now are the forms I meet
      When I visit the dear old town;
But the native air is pure and sweet,
And the trees that o’ershadow each well—known street,
      As they balance up and down,
            Are singing the beautiful song,
            Are sighing and whispering still:
      “A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

And Deering’s Woods are fresh and fair,
      And with joy that is almost pain
My heart goes back to wander there,
And among the dreams of the days that were,
      I find my lost youth again.
            And the strange and beautiful song,
            The groves are repeating it still:
      “A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

1

By yon still river, where the wave
Is winding slow at evening’s close,
The beech, upon a nameless grave,
Its sadly—moving shadow throws.

O’er the fair woods the sun looks down
Upon the many—twinkling leaves,
And twilight’s mellow shades are brown,
Where darkly the green turf upheaves.

The river glides in silence there,
And hardly waves the sapling tree:
Sweet flowers are springing, and the air
Is full of balm,—but where is she!

They bade her wed a son of pride,
And leave the hope she cherished long:
She loved but one,—and would not hide
A love which knew no wrong.

And months went sadly on,—and years:—
And she was wasting day by day:
At length she died, —and many tears
Were shed, that she should pass away.

Then came a gray old man, and knelt
With bitter weeping by her tomb:—
And others mourned for him, who felt
That he had sealed a daughter’s doom.

The funeral train has long past on,
And time wiped dry the father’s tear!
Farewell —lost maiden! —there is one
That mourns thee yet —and he is here.

The Archbishop, whom God loved in high degree,
Beheld his wounds all bleeding fresh and free;
And then his cheek more ghastly grew and wan,
And a faint shudder through his members ran.
Upon the battle—field his knee was bent;
Brave Roland saw, and to his succor went,
Straightway his helmet from his brow unlaced,
And tore the shining hauberk from his breast.
Then raising in his arms the man of God,
Gently he laid him on the verdant sod.
Rest, Sire,' he cried,—'for rest thy suffering needs.'
The priest replied, ‘Think but of warlike deeds!
The field is ours; well may we boast this strife!
But death steals on,—there is no hope of life;
In paradise, where Almoners live again,
There are our couches spread, there shall we rest from pain.

Sore Roland grieved; nor marvel I, alas!
That thrice he swooned upon the thick green grass.
When he revived, with a loud voice cried he,
’O Heavenly Father! Holy Saint Marie!
Why lingers death to lay me in my grave!
Beloved France! how have the good and brave
Been torn from thee, and left thee weak and poor!'
Then thoughts of Aude, his lady—love, came o’er
His spirit, and he whispered soft and slow,
'My gentle friend!—what parting full of woe!
Never so true a liegeman shalt thou see;—
Whate’er my fate, Christ’s benison on thee!
Christ, who did save from realms of woe beneath,
The Hebrew Prophets from the second death.'
Then to the Paladins, whom well he knew,
He went, and one by one unaided drew
To Turpin’s side, well skilled in ghostly lore;—
No heart had he to smile, but, weeping sore,
He blessed them in God’s name, with faith that He
Would soon vouchsafe to them a glad eternity.

The Archbishop, then, on whom God’s benison rest,
Exhausted, bowed his head upon his breast;—
His mouth was full of dust and clotted gore,
And many a wound his swollen visage bore.
Slow beats his heart, his panting bosom heaves,
Death comes apace,—no hope of cure relieves.
Towards heaven he raised his dying hands and prayed
That God, who for our sins was mortal made,
Born of the Virgin, scorned and crucified,
In paradise would place him by His side.

Then Turpin died in service of Charlon,
In battle great and eke great orison;—
'Gainst Pagan host alway strong champion;
God grant to him His holy benison.

Gentle Spring! in sunshine clad,
Well dost thou thy power display!
For Winter maketh the light heart sad,
And thou, thou makest the sad heart gay,
He sees thee, and calls to his gloomy train,
The sleet, and the snow, and the wind, and the rain;
And they shrink away, and they flee in fear,
When thy merry step draws near.

Winter giveth the fields and the trees, so old,
Their beards of icicles and snow;
And the rain, it raineth so fast and cold,
We must cower over the embers low;
And, snugly housed from the wind and weather,
Mope like birds that are changing feather.
But the storm retires, and the sky grows clear,
When thy merry step draws near.

Winter maketh the sun in the gloomy sky
Wrap him round with a mantle of cloud;
But, Heaven be praised, thy step is nigh;
Thou tearest away the mournful shroud,
And the earth looks bright, and Winter surly,
Who has toiled for nought both late and early,
Is banished afar by the new-born year,
When thy merry step draws near.

As one who long hath fled with panting breath
Before his foe, bleeding and near to fall,
I turn and set my back against the wall,
And look thee in the face, triumphant Death,
I call for aid, and no one answereth;
I am alone with thee, who conquerest all;
Yet me thy threatening form doth not appall,
For thou art but a phantom and a wraith.
Wounded and weak, sword broken at the hilt,
With armor shattered, and without a shield,
I stand unmoved; do with me what thou wilt;
I can resist no more, but will not yield.
This is no tournament where cowards tilt;
The vanquished here is victor of the field.

Sweet chimes! that in the loneliness of night
Salute the passing hour, and in the dark
And silent chambers of the household mark
The movements of the myriad orbs of light!
Through my closed eyelids, by the inner sight,
I see the constellations in the arc
Of their great circles moving on, and hark!
I almost hear them singing in their flight.
Better than sleep it is to lie awake,
O’er-canopied by the vast starry dome
Of the immeasurable sky; to feel
The slumbering world sink under us, and make
Hardly an eddy,—a mere rush of foam
On the great sea beneath a sinking keel.

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the doorway, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table, than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapors dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star,
An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,—

So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.

EVEN as the Blessed, at the final summons,
  Shall rise up quickened, each one from his grave,
  Wearing again the garments of the flesh,
So, upon that celestial chariot,
  A hundred rose ad vocem tanti senis,           5
  Ministers and messengers of life eternal.
They all were saying, “Benedictus quivenis,”
  And scattering flowers above and round about,
  “Manibus o date lilia plenis.”  
Oft have I seen, at the approach of day,           10
  The orient sky all stained with roseate hues,
  And the other heaven with light serene adorned,
And the sun’s face uprising, overshadowed,
  So that, by temperate influence of vapors,
  The eye sustained his aspect for long while;           15
Thus in the bosom of a cloud of flowers,
  Which from those hands angelic were thrown up,
  And down descended inside and without,
With crown of olive o’er a snow-white veil,
  Appeared a lady, under a green mantle,           20
  Vested in colors of the living flame.
•        *        *        *        *
Even as the snow, among the living rafters
  Upon the back of Italy, congeals,
  Blown on and beaten by Sclavonian winds,
And then, dissolving, filters through itself,           25
  Whene’er the land, that loses shadow, breathes,
  Like as a taper melts before a fire,
Even such I was, without a sigh or tear,
  Before the song of those who chime forever
  After the chiming of the eternal spheres;           30
But, when I heard in those sweet melodies
  Compassion for me, more than had they said,
  “Oh wherefore, lady, dost thou thus consume him?”
The ice, that was about my heart congealed,
  To air and water changed, and, in my anguish,           35
  Through lips and eyes came gushing from my breast.
•        *        *        *        *
Confusion and dismay, together mingled,
  Forced such a feeble “Yes!” out of my mouth,
  To understand it one had need of sight.
Even as a cross-bow breaks, when’t is discharged,           40
  Too tensely drawn the bow-string and the bow,
  And with less force the arrow hits the mark;
So I gave way beneath this heavy burden,
  Gushing forth into bitter tears and sighs,
  And the voice, fainting, flagged upon its passage.           45

Mr. Finney had a turnip,
And it grew, and it grew,
And it grew behind the barn,
And the turnip did no harm.

And it grew, and it grew,
Till it could grow no taller;
Then Mr. Finney took it up
And put it in the cellar.

There it lay, there it lay,
Till it began to rot ;
When his daughter Susie washed it
And put it in the pot.

Then she boiled it and boiled it,
As long as she was able;
Then his daughter Susie took it
And put it on the table.

Mr. Finney and his wife
Both sat down to sup;
And they ate, and they ate,
Until they ate the turnip up.

Loke sat and thought, till his dark eyes gleam
With joy at the deed he’d done;
When Sif looked into the crystal stream,
Her courage was wellnigh gone.

For never again her soft amber hair
Shall she braid with her hands of snow;
From the hateful image she turned in despair,
And hot tears began to flow.

In a cavern’s mouth, like a crafty fox,
Loke sat 'neath the tall pine’s shade,
When sudden a thundering was heard in the rocks,
And fearfully trembled the glade.

Then he knew that the noise good boded him naught,
He knew that 't was Thor who was coming;
He changed himself straight to a salmon trout,
And leaped in a fright in the Glommen.

But Thor changed too, to a huge seagull,
And the salmon trout seized in his beak;
He cried: Thou, traitor, I know thee well,
And dear shalt thou pay thy freak!

Thy caitiff’s bones to a meal I’ll pound,
As a millstone crusheth the grain.
When Loke that naught booted his magic found,
He took straight his own form again.

And what if thou scatter’st my limbs in air?
He spake, will it mend thy case?
Will it gain back for Sif a single hair?
Thou ‘lt still a bald spouse embrace.

But if now thou ’lt pardon my heedless joke,—
For malice sure meant I none,—
I swear to thee here, by root, billow and rock,
By the moss on the Beata-stone,

By Mimer’s well, and by Odin’s eye,
And by Mjolmer, greatest of all,
That straight to the secret caves I’ll hie,
To the dwarfs, my kinsmen small;

And thence for Sif new tresses I’ll bring
Of gold ere the daylight’s gone,
So that she will liken a field in spring,
With its yellow-flowered garment on.

 * * * * * * * * * * *

Loke promised so well with his glozing tongue
That the Asas at length let him go,
And he sank in the earth, the dark rocks among,
Near the cold-fountain, far below.

He crept on his belly, as supple as eel,
The cracks in the hard granite through,
Till he came where the dwarfs stood hammering steel,
By the light of a furnace blue.

I trow 't was a goodly sight to see
The dwarfs, with their aprons on,
A-hammering and smelting so busily
Pure gold from the rough brown stone.

Rock crystals from sand and hard flint they made,
Which, tinged with the rosebud’s dye,
They cast into rubies and carbuncles red,
And hid them in cracks hard by.

They took them fresh violets all dripping with dew,
Dwarf women had plucked them, the morn,—
And stained with their juice the clear sapphires blue,
King Dan in his crown since hath worn.

Then for emeralds they searched out the brightest green
Which the young spring meadow wears,
And dropped round pearls, without flaw or stain,
From widows’ and maidens’ tears.

 * * * * * * * * * * *

When Loke to the dwarfs had his errand made known,
In a trice for the work they were ready;
Quoth Dvalin: O Lopter, it now shall be shown
That dwarfs in their friendship are steady.

We both trace our line from the selfsame stock;
What you ask shall be furnished with speed,
For it ne’er shall be said that the sons of the rock
Turned their backs on a kinsman in need.

They took them the skin of a large wild-boar,
The largest that they could find,
And the bellows they blew till the furnace 'gan roar,
And the fire flamed on high for the wind.

And they struck with their sledge-hammers stroke on stroke,
That the sparks from the skin flew on high,
But never a word good or bad spoke Loke,
Though foul malice lurked in his eye.

The thunderer far distant, with sorrow he thought
On all he’d engaged to obtain,
And, as summer-breeze fickle, now anxiously sought
To render the dwarf’s labour vain.

Whilst the bellows plied Brok, and Sindre the hammer,
And Thor, that the sparks flew on high,
And the slides of the vaulted cave rang with the clamour,
Loke changed to a huge forest-fly.

And he sat him all swelling with venom and spite,
On Brok, the wrist just below;
But the dwarf’s skin was thick, and he recked not the bite,
Nor once ceased the bellows to blow.

And now, strange to say, from the roaring fire
Came the golden-haired Gullinburste,
To serve as a charger the sun-god Frey,
Sure, of all wild-boars this the first.

They took them pure gold from their secret store.
The piece ‘t was but small in size,
But ere ’t had been long n the furnace roar,
‘T was a jewel beyond all prize.

A broad red ring all of wroughten gold,
As a snake with its tail in its head,
And a garland of gems did the rim enfold,
Together with rare art laid.

’T was solid and heavy, and wrought with care,
Thrice it passed through the white flames’ glow;
A ring to produce, fit for Odin to wear,
No labour they spared, I trow.

They worked it and turned it with wondrous skill,
Till they gave it the virtue rare,
That each thrice third night from its rim there fell
Eight rings, as their parent fair.

 * * * * * * * * * * *

Next they laid on the anvil a steel-bar cold,
They needed nor fire nor file;
But their sledge-hammers, following, like thunder rolled,
And Sindre sang runes the while.

When Loke now marked how the steel gat power,
And how warily out ‘t was beat
—’T was to make a new hammer for Ake-Thor,—
He’d recourse once more to deceit.

In a trice, of a hornet the semblance he took,
Whilst in cadence fell blow on blow,
In the leading dwarf’s forehead his barbed sting he stuck,
That the blood in a stream down did flow.

Then the dwarf raised his hand to his brow for the smart,
Ere the iron well out was beat,
And they found that the haft by an inch was too short,
But to alter it then 't was too late.

 * * * * * * * * * * *

His object attained, Loke no longer remained
'Neath the earth, but straight hied him to Thor,
Who owned than the hair ne’er, sure, aught more fair
His eyes had e’er looked on before.

The boar Frey bestrode, and away proudly rode,
And Thor took the ringlets and hammer;
To Valhal they hied, where the Asas reside,
'Mid of tilting and wassail the clamour.

At a full solemn ting, Thor gave Odin the ring,
And Loke his foul treachery pardoned;
But the pardon was vain, for his crimes soon again
Must do penance the arch-sinner hardened.

Never stoops the soaring vulture
On his quarry in the desert,
On the sick or wounded bison,
But another vulture, watching
From his high aerial look-out,
Sees the downward plunge, and follows;
And a third pursues the second,
Coming from the invisible ether,
First a speck, and then a vulture,
Till the air is dark with pinions.
    So disasters come not singly;
But as if they watched and waited,
Scanning one another’s motions,
When the first descends, the others
Follow, follow, gathering flock-wise
Round their victim, sick and wounded,
First a shadow, then a sorrow,
Till the air is dark with anguish.
    Now, o’er all the dreary North-land,
Mighty Peboan, the Winter,
Breathing on the lakes and rivers,
Into stone had changed their waters.
From his hair he shook the snow-flakes,
Till the plains were strewn with whiteness,
One uninterrupted level,
As if, stooping, the Creator
With his hand had smoothed them over.
Through the forest, wide and wailing,
Roamed the hunter on his snow-shoes;
In the village worked the women,
Pounded maize, or dressed the deer-skin;
And the young men played together
On the ice the noisy ball-play,
On the plain the dance of snow-shoes.
    One dark evening, after sundown,
In her wigwam Laughing Water
Sat with old Nokomis, waiting
For the steps of Hiawatha
Homeward from the hunt returning.
    On their faces gleamed the firelight,
Painting them with streaks of crimson,
In the eyes of old Nokomis
Glimmered like the watery moonlight,
In the eyes of Laughing Water
Glistened like the sun in water;
And behind them crouched their shadows
In the corners of the wigwam,
And the smoke In wreaths above them
Climbed and crowded through the smoke-flue.
    Then the curtain of the doorway
From without was slowly lifted;
Brighter glowed the fire a moment,
And a moment swerved the smoke-wreath,
As two women entered softly,
Passed the doorway uninvited,
Without word of salutation,
Without sign of recognition,
Sat down in the farthest corner,
Crouching low among the shadows.
    From their aspect and their garments,
Strangers seemed they in the village;
Very pale and haggard were they,
As they sat there sad and silent,
Trembling, cowering with the shadows.
    Was it the wind above the smoke-flue,
Muttering down into the wigwam?
Was it the owl, the Koko-koho,
Hooting from the dismal forest?
Sure a voice said in the silence:
“These are corpses clad in garments,
These are ghosts that come to haunt you,
From the kingdom of Ponemah,
From the land of the Hereafter!”
    Homeward now came Hiawatha
From his hunting in the forest,
With the snow upon his tresses,
And the red deer on his shoulders.
At the feet of Laughing Water
Down he threw his lifeless burden;
Nobler, handsomer she thought him,
Than when first he came to woo her,
First threw down the deer before her,
As a token of his wishes,
As a promise of the future.
    Then he turned and saw the strangers,
Cowering, crouching with the shadows;
Said within himself, “Who are they?
What strange guests has Minnehaha?”
But he questioned not the strangers,
Only spake to bid them welcome
To his lodge, his food, his fireside.
    When the evening meal was ready,
And the deer had been divided,
Both the pallid guests, the strangers,
Springing from among the shadows,
Seized upon the choicest portions,
Seized the white fat of the roebuck,
Set apart for Laughing Water,
For the wife of Hiawatha;
Without asking, without thanking,
Eagerly devoured the morsels,
Flitted back among the shadows
In the corner of the wigwam.
    Not a word spake Hiawatha,
Not a motion made Nokomis,
Not a gesture Laughing Water;
Not a change came o’er their features;
Only Minnehaha softly
Whispered, saying, “They are famished;
Let them do what best delights them;
Let them eat, for they are famished.”
    Many a daylight dawned and darkened,
Many a night shook off the daylight
As the pine shakes off the snow-flakes
From the midnight of its branches;
Day by day the guests unmoving
Sat there silent in the wigwam;
But by night, in storm or starlight,
Forth they went into the forest,
Bringing fire-wood to the wigwam,
Bringing pine-cones for the burning,
Always sad and always silent.
    And whenever Hiawatha
Came from fishing or from hunting,
When the evening meal was ready,
And the food had been divided,
Gliding from their darksome corner,
Came the pallid guests, the strangers,
Seized upon the choicest portions
Set aside for Laughing Water,
And without rebuke or question
Flitted back among the shadows.
    Never once had Hiawatha
By a word or look reproved them;
Never once had old Nokomis
Made a gesture of impatience;
Never once had Laughing Water
Shown resentment at the outrage.
All had they endured in silence,
That the rights of guest and stranger,
That the virtue of free-giving,
By a look might not be lessened,
By a word might not be broken.
    Once at midnight Hiawatha,
Ever wakeful, ever watchful,
In the wigwam, dimly lighted
By the brands that still were burning,
By the glimmering, flickering firelight
Heard a sighing, oft repeated,
    From his couch rose Hiawatha,
From his shaggy hides of bison,
Pushed aside the deer-skin curtain,
Saw the pallid guests, the shadows,
Sitting upright on their couches,
Weeping in the silent midnight.
    And he said: “O guests! why is it
That your hearts are so afflicted,
That you sob so in the midnight?
Has perchance the old Nokomis,
Has my wife, my Minnehaha,
Wronged or grieved you by unkindness,
Failed in hospitable duties?”
    Then the shadows ceased from weeping,
Ceased from sobbing and lamenting,
And they said, with gentle voices:
“We are ghosts of the departed,
Souls of those who once were with you.
From the realms of Chibiabos
Hither have we come to try you,
Hither have we come to warn you.
    ”Cries of grief and lamentation
Reach us in the Blessed Islands;
Cries of anguish from the living,
Calling back their friends departed,
Sadden us with useless sorrow.
Therefore have we come to try you;
No one knows us, no one heeds us.
We are but a burden to you,
And we see that the departed
Have no place among the living.
  “Think of this, O Hiawatha!
Speak of it to all the people,
That henceforward and forever
They no more with lamentations
Sadden the souls of the departed
In the Islands of the Blessed.
  ”Do not lay such heavy burdens
In the graves of those you bury,
Not such weight of furs and wampum,
Not such weight of pots and kettles,
For the spirits faint beneath them.
Only give them food to carry,
Only give them fire to light them.
    “Four days is the spirit’s journey
To the land of ghosts and shadows,
Four its lonely night encampments;
Four times must their fires be lighted.
Therefore, when the dead are buried,
Let a fire, as night approaches,
Four times on the grave be kindled,
That the soul upon its journey
May not lack the cheerful firelight,
May not grope about in darkness.
    ”Farewell, noble Hiawatha!
We have put you to the trial,
To the proof have put your patience,
By the insult of our presence,
By the outrage of our actions.
We have found you great and noble.
Fail not in the greater trial,
Faint not In the harder struggle."
    When they ceased, a sudden darkness
Fell and filled the silent wigwam.
Hiawatha heard a rustle
As of garments trailing by him,
Heard the curtain of the doorway
Lifted by a hand he saw not,
Felt the cold breath of the night air,
For a moment saw the starlight;
But he saw the ghosts no longer,
Saw no more the wandering spirits
From the kingdom of Ponemah,
From the land of the Hereafter.