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And lift and drist, with terrible force,
The will from its moorings and its course.
Therefore he spake, and thus said he:
“ Like unto ships far off at sea,
Outward or homeward bound, are we.
Before, behind, and all around,
Floats and swings the horizon's bound;
Seems at its distant rim to rise
And climb the crystal wall of the skies,
And then again to turn and sink,
As if we could slide from its outer brink.
Ah! it is not the sea,
It is not the sea, that sinks and shelves,
That rock and rise
With endless and uneasy motion, –
Now touching the very skies,
Now sinking into the depths of ocean.
Ah! if our souls but poise and swing
Like the compass in its brazen ring,
Ever level and ever true
To the toil and the task we have to do,
We shall sail securely, and safely reach
The Fortunate Isles, on whose shining beach
The sights we see and the sounds we hear
Will be those of joy, and not of fear."
Then the master,
With a gesture of command,
Waved his hand;
And, at the word,
Loud and sudden there was heard,
All around them and below,
The sound of hammers, blow on blow,
Knocking away the shores and spurs.
And seel she stirs !
She starts! she moves! she seems to feel
The thrill of life along her keel!
And, spurning with her foot the ground,
With one exulting, joyous bound
She leaps into the ocean's arms !
And, lo! from the assembled crowd
There rose a shout prolonged and loud,
That to the ocean seemed to say,
“ Take her, O bridegroom old and gray,
Take her to thy protecting arms,
With all her youth and all her charms !”
How beautiful she is ! How fair
She lies within those arms that press
Her form with many a soft caress
Of tenderness and watchful care!
Sail forth into the sea, O ship! Through wind and wave right onward steer ! The moistened eye, the trembling lip, Are not the signs of doubt or fear. Sail forth into the sea of life, O gentle, loving, trusting wife! And safe from all adversity Upon the bosom of that sea Thy comings and thy goings be! For gentleness and love and trust Prevail o'er angry wave and gust; And in the wreck of noble lives Something immortal still survives. Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State! Sail on, O Union strong and great! Humanity with all its fears, With all the hopes of future years, Is hanging breathless on thy fate. We know what master laid thy keel ; What workmen wrought thy ribs of steel ; Who made each mast and sail and rope; What anvils rang, what hammers beat; In what a forge and what a heat Were shaped the anchors of thy hope. Fear not each sudden sound and shock: 'Tis of the wave, and not the rock ; 'Tis but the flapping of the sail, And not a rent made by the gale. In spite of rock, and tempest's roar, In spite of false lights on the shore, Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea : Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee; Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears, Our faith triumphant o'er our fears, Are all with thee, are all with thee!
“ As unto the bow the cord is,
So unto the man is woinan :
Though she bends him, she obeys him;
Though she draws him, yet she follows:
Useless each without the other.”
Thus the youthful Hiawatha
Said within himself, and pondered,
Much perplexed by various feelings;
Listless, longing, hoping, fearing,
Dreaming still of Minnehaha,
Of the lovely Laughing Water,
In the land of the Dakotahs.
“ Wed a maiden of your people,”
Warning said the old Nokomis:
“ Go not eastward, go not westward,
For a stranger whom we know not.
Like a fire upon the hearth-stone
Is a neighbor's homely daughter ;
Like the starlight or the moonlight
Is the handsomest of strangers.”
Thus dissuading spake Nokomis;
And my Hiawatha answered
“ Dear old Nokomis,
Very pleasant is the firelight;
But I like the starlight better,
Better do I like the moonlight."
Gravely then said old Nokomis,
“Bring not here an idle maiden,
Bring not here a useless woman,
Hands unskillful, feet unwilling :
Bring a wife with nimble fingers,
Heart and hand that move together,
Feet that run on willing errands."
Smiling answered Hiawatha,
“ In the land of the Dakotahs
Lives the arrow-maker's daughter,
Minnehaha, Laughing Water,
Handsomest of all the women.
I will bring her to your wigwam:
She shall run upon your errands,
Be your starlight, moonlight, firelight,
Be the sunlight of my people.”
Still dissuading said Nokomis,
“ Bring not to my lodge a stranger
From the land of the Dacotahs.
Very fierce are the Dacotahs;
Often is there war between us :
There are feuds yet unforgotten, -
Wounds that ache, and still may open.”
Laughing answered Hiawatha,
“For that reason, if no other,
Would I wed the fair Dacotah
That our tribes might be united,
That old feuds might be forgotten,
And old wounds be healed for ever.”
Thus departed Hiawatha
To the land of the Dacotahs,
To the land of handsome women;
Striding over moor and meadow,
Through interminable forests,
Through uninterrupted silence.
With his moccasins of magic,
At each stroke a mile he measured:
Yet the way seemed long before him,
And his heart outran his footsteps;
And he journeyed without resting,
Till he heard the cataract's laughter,
Heard the Falls of Minnehaha
Calling to him through the silence.
" Pleasant is the sound,” he murmured;
* Pleasant is the voice that calls me.”
On the outskirts of the forest,
'Twixt the shadow and the sunshine,
Herds of fallow-deer were feeding;
But they saw not Hiawatha.
To his bow he whispered, “ Fail not!"
To his arrow whispered, “ Swerve not !”
Sent it singing on its errand
To the red heart of the roebuck;
Threw the deer across his shoulder,
And sped forward without pausing.
At the doorway of his wigwam
Sat the ancient arrow-maker,
In the land of the Dacotahs,
Making arrow-heads of jasper,
Arrow-heads of chalcedony.
At his side, in all her beauty,
Sat the lovely Minnehaha,
Sat his daughter, Laughing Water,
Plaiting mats of flags and rushes :
Of the past the old man's thoughts were;
And the maiden's, of the future.
He was thinking, as he sat there,
Of the days when with such arrows
He had struck the deer and bison
On the Muskoday, the meadow;
Shot the wild-goose flying southward,
On the wing, the clamorous Wawa;
Thinking of the great war-parties,
How they came to buy his arrows,
Could not fight without his arrows.
Ah! no more such noble warriors
Could be found on earth as they were :
Now the men were all like women,
Only used their tongues for weapons !
She was thinking of a hunter
From another tribe and country,
Young and tall and very handsome,
Who one morning, in the springtime,
Came to buy her father's arrows,
Sat and rested in the wigwam,
Lingered long about the doorway,
Looking back as he departed.
She had heard her father praise him,
Praise his courage and his wisdom:
Would he come again for arrows
To the falls of Minnehaha ?
On the mat her hands lay idle,
And her eyes were very dreamy.
Through their thoughts they heard a footstep,
Heard a rustling in the branches;
And with glowing cheek and forehead,
With the deer across his shoulders,
Suddenly from out the woodlands
Hiawatha stood before them.
Straight the ancient arrow-maker
Looked up gravely from his labor,
Laid aside the unfinished arrow,
Bade him enter at the doorway;
Saying, as he rose to meet him,
Hiawatha, you are welcome ! ”
At the feet of Laughing Water
Hiawatha laid his burden,
Threw the red deer from his shoulders ;
And the maiden looked up at him,
Looked up from her mat of rushes,
Said with gentle look and accent,
“ You are welcome, Hiawatha!”
Very spacious was the wigwam,
Made of deer-skin dressed and whitened,
With the gods of the Dacotahs
Drawn and painted on its curtains ;
And so tall the doorway, hardly
Hiawatha stooped to enter,
Hardly touched his eagle feathers
As he entered at the doorway.
Then uprose the Laughing Water,
From the ground fair Minnehaha,
Laid aside her mat unfinished,
Brought forth food and set before them,
Water brought them from the brooklet,
Gave them food in earthen vessels,
Gave them drink in bowls of bass-wood,
Listened while the guest was speaking,
Listened while her father answered;
But not once her lips she opened,
Not a single word she uttered.
Yes, as in a dream she listened
To the words of Hiawatha,
As he talked of old Nokomis,
Who had nursed him in his childhood,
As he told of his companions,
Chibiabos the musician,
And the very strong man, Kwasind, -
And of happiness and plenty
In the land of the Ojibways,
In the pleasant land and peaceful.