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MIANTOWONA

BY THOMAS BAILEY ALDRICH

LONG ere the Pale Face
Crossed the Great Water,
Miantowona
Passed, with her beauty,
Into a legend,
Pure as a wild-flower
Found in a broken
Ledge by the sea-side.

Let us revere them -
These wildwood legends,
Born of the camp-fire!
Let them be handed
Down to our children
Richest of heirlooms!
No land may claim them:
They are ours only,
Like our grand rivers,
Like our vast prairies,
Like our dead heroes!

In the pine-forest,
Guarded by shadows,
Lieth the haunted
Pond of the Red Men.
Ringed by the emerald
Mountains, it lies there,

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Like an untarnished
Buckler of silver,
Dropped in that valley
By the Great Spirit!
Weird are the figures
Traced on its margins
Vine-work and leaf-work,
Knots of sword-grasses,
Moonlight and starlight,
Clouds scudding northward!
Sometimes an eagle
Flutters across it;
Sometimes a single
Star on its bosom
Nestles till morning.

Far in the ages,
Miantowona,
Rose of the Hurons,
Came to these waters.
Where the dank greensward
Slopes to the pebbles,
Miantowona
Sat in her anguish.
Ice to her maidens,
Ice to the chieftains,
Fire to her lover!
Here he had won her,
Here they had parted,
Here could her tears flow.

With unwet eyelash,
Miantowona
Nursed her old father,
Oldest of Hurons,

Soothed his complainings,
Smiled when he chid her
Vaguely for nothing -
He was so weak now,
Like a shrunk cedar
White with the hoar-frost.
Sometimes she gently
Linked arms with maidens,
Joined in their dances,
Not with her people,
Not in the wigwam,
Wept for her lover.

Ah! who was like him?
Fleet as an arrow,
Strong as a bison,
Lithe as a panther,
Soft as the south-wind,
Who was like Wawah?
There is one other
Stronger and fleeter,
Bearing no wampum,
Wearing no war-paint,
Ruler of councils,
Chief of the war-path-
Who can gainsay him,
Who can defy him?
His is the lightning,
His is the whirlwind.
Let us be humble,
We are but ashes -
"T is the Great Spirit!

Ever at nightfall
Miantowona

Strayed from the lodges,
Passed through the shadows
Into the forest;
There by the pond-side
Spread her black tresses
Over her forehead.
Sad is the loon's cry
Heard in the twilight;
Sad is the night-wind,
Moaning and moaning;
Sadder the stifled
Sob of a widow!

Low on the pebbles
Murmured the water:
Often she fancied.
It was young Wawah
Playing the reed-flute.
Sometimes a dry branch
Snapped in the forest:
Then she rose, startled,
Ruddy as sunrise,
Warm for his coming!
But when he came not,
Back through the darkness,
Half broken-hearted,
Miantowona
Went to her people.

When an old oak dies,
First 't is the tree-tops,
Then the low branches,
Then the gaunt stem goes,
So fell Tawanda,
Oldest of Hurons,
Chief of the chieftains.

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