Hiawatha's Friends (VI)

 

Two good friends had Hiawatha,

Singled out from all the others,

Bound to him in closest union,

And to whom he gave the right hand

5Of his heart, in joy and sorrow;

Chibiabos, the musician,

And the very strong man, Kwasind.

    Straight between them ran the pathway,

Never grew the grass upon it;

10Singing birds, that utter falsehoods,

Story-tellers, mischief-makers,

Found no eager ear to listen,

Could not breed ill-will between them,

For they kept each other's counsel,

15Spake with naked hearts together,

Pondering much and much contriving

How the tribes of men might prosper.

    Most beloved by Hiawatha

Was the gentle Chibiabos,

20He the best of all musicians,

He the sweetest of all singers.

Beautiful and childlike was he,

Brave as man is, soft as woman,

Pliant as a wand of willow,

25Stately as a deer with antlers.

    When he sang, the village listened;

All the warriors gathered round him,

All the women came to hear him;

Now he stirred their souls to passion,

30Now he melted them to pity.

    From the hollow reeds he fashioned

Flutes so musical and mellow,

That the brook, the Sebowisha,

Ceased to murmur in the woodland,

35That the wood-birds ceased from singing,

And the squirrel, Adjidaumo,

Ceased his chatter in the oak-tree,

And the rabbit, the Wabasso,

Sat upright to look and listen.

40    Yes, the brook, the Sebowisha,

Pausing, said, "O Chibiabos,

Teach my waves to flow in music,

Softly as your words in singing!"

    Yes, the bluebird, the Owaissa,

45Envious, said, "O Chibiabos,

Teach me tones as wild and wayward,

Teach me songs as full of frenzy!"

    Yes, the robin, the Opechee,

Joyous, said, "O Chibiabos,

50Teach me tones as sweet and tender,

Teach me songs as full of gladness!"

    And the whippoorwill, Wawonaissa,

Sobbing, said, "O Chibiabos,

Teach me tones as melancholy,

55Teach me songs as full of sadness!"

    All the many sounds of nature

Borrowed sweetness from his singing;

All the hearts of men were softened

By the pathos of his music;

60For he sang of peace and freedom,

Sang of beauty, love, and longing;

Sang of death, and life undying

In the Islands of the Blessed,

In the kingdom of Ponemah,

65In the land of the Hereafter.

    Very dear to Hiawatha

Was the gentle Chibiabos,

He the best of all musicians,

He the sweetest of all singers;

70For his gentleness he loved him,

And the magic of his singing.

    Dear, too, unto Hiawatha

Was the very strong man, Kwasind,

He the strongest of all mortals,

75He the mightiest among many;

For his very strength he loved him,

For his strength allied to goodness.

    Idle in his youth was Kwasind,

Very listless, dull, and dreamy,

80Never played with other children,

Never fished and never hunted,

Not like other children was he;

But they saw that much he fasted,

Much his Manito entreated,

85Much besought his Guardian Spirit.

    "Lazy Kwasind!" said his mother,

"In my work you never help me!

In the Summer you are roaming

Idly in the fields and forests;

90In the Winter you are cowering

O'er the firebrands in the wigwam!

In the coldest days of Winter

I must break the ice for fishing;

With my nets you never help me!

95At the door my nets are hanging,

Dripping, freezing with the water;

Go and wring them, Yenadizze!

Go and dry them in the sunshine!"

    Slowly, from the ashes, Kwasind

100Rose, but made no angry answer;

From the lodge went forth in silence,

Took the nets, that hung together,

Dripping, freezing at the doorway;

Like a wisp of straw he wrung them,

105Like a wisp of straw he broke them,

Could not wring them without breaking,

Such the strength was in his fingers.

    "Lazy Kwasind!" said his father,

"In the hunt you never help me;

110Every bow you touch is broken,

Snapped asunder every arrow;

Yet come with me to the forest,

You shall bring the hunting homeward."

    Down a narrow pass they wandered,

115Where a brooklet led them onward,

Where the trail of deer and bison

Marked the soft mud on the margin,

Till they found all further passage

Shut against them, barred securely

120By the trunks of trees uprooted,

Lying lengthwise, lying crosswise,

And forbidding further passage.

    "We must go back," said the old man,

"O'er these logs we cannot clamber;

125Not a woodchuck could get through them,

Not a squirrel clamber o'er them!"

And straightway his pipe he lighted,

And sat down to smoke and ponder.

But before his pipe was finished,

130Lo! the path was cleared before him;

All the trunks had Kwasind lifted,

To the right hand, to the left hand,

Shot the pine-trees swift as arrows,

Hurled the cedars light as lances.

135    "Lazy Kwasind!" said the young men,

As they sported in the meadow:

"Why stand idly looking at us,

Leaning on the rock behind you?

Come and wrestle with the others,

140Let us pitch the quoit together!"

    Lazy Kwasind made no answer,

To their challenge made no answer,

Only rose, and slowly turning,

Seized the huge rock in his fingers,

145Tore it from its deep foundation,

Poised it in the air a moment,

Pitched it sheer into the river,

Sheer into the swift Pauwating,

Where it still is seen in Summer.

150    Once as down that foaming river,

Down the rapids of Pauwating,

Kwasind sailed with his companions,

In the stream he saw a beaver,

Saw Ahmeek, the King of Beavers,

155Struggling with the rushing currents,

Rising, sinking in the water.

    Without speaking, without pausing,

Kwasind leaped into the river,

Plunged beneath the bubbling surface,

160Through the whirlpools chased the beaver,

Followed him among the islands,

Stayed so long beneath the water,

That his terrified companions

Cried, "Alas! good-by to Kwasind!

165We shall never more see Kwasind!"

But he reappeared triumphant,

And upon his shining shoulders

Brought the beaver, dead and dripping,

Brought the King of all the Beavers.

170    And these two, as I have told you,

Were the friends of Hiawatha,

Chibiabos, the musician,

And the very strong man, Kwasind.

Long they lived in peace together,

175Spake with naked hearts together,

Pondering much and much contriving

How the tribes of men might prosper.