Hiawatha's Lamentation (XV)

 

In those days the Evil Spirits,

All the Manitos of mischief,

Fearing Hiawatha's wisdom,

And his love for Chibiabos,

5Jealous of their faithful friendship,

And their noble words and actions,

Made at length a league against them,

To molest them and destroy them.

    Hiawatha, wise and wary,

10Often said to Chibiabos,

"O my brother! do not leave me,

Lest the Evil Spirits harm you!"

Chibiabos, young and heedless,

Laughing shook his coal-black tresses,

15Answered ever sweet and childlike,

"Do not fear for me, O brother!

Harm and evil come not near me!"

    Once when Peboan, the Winter,

Roofed with ice the Big-Sea-Water,

20When the snow-flakes, whirling downward,

Hissed among the withered oak-leaves,

Changed the pine-trees into wigwams,

Covered all the earth with silence,

Armed with arrows, shod with snow-shoes,

25Heeding not his brother's warning,

Fearing not the Evil Spirits,

Forth to hunt the deer with antlers

All alone went Chibiabos.

    Right across the Big-Sea-Water

30Sprang with speed the deer before him.

With the wind and snow he followed,

O'er the treacherous ice he followed,

Wild with all the fierce commotion

And the rapture of the hunting.

35    But beneath, the Evil Spirits

Lay in ambush, waiting for him,

Broke the treacherous ice beneath him,

Dragged him downward to the bottom,

Buried in the sand his body.

40Unktahee, the god of water,

He the god of the Dacotahs,

Drowned him in the deep abysses

Of the lake of Gitche Gumee.

    From the headlands Hiawatha

45Sent forth such a wail of anguish,

Such a fearful lamentation,

That the bison paused to listen,

And the wolves howled from the prairies,

And the thunder in the distance

50Starting answered "Baim-wawa!"

    Then his face with black he painted,

With his robe his head he covered,

In his wigwam sat lamenting,

Seven long weeks he sat lamenting,

55Uttering still this moan of sorrow:

    "He is dead, the sweet musician!

He the sweetest of all singers!

He has gone from us forever,

He has moved a little nearer

60To the Master of all music,

To the Master of all singing!

O my brother, Chibiabos!"

    And the melancholy fir-trees

Waved their dark green fans above him,

65Waved their purple cones above him,

Sighing with him to console him,

Mingling with his lamentation

Their complaining, their lamenting.

    Came the Spring, and all the forest

70Looked in vain for Chibiabos;

Sighed the rivulet, Sebowisha,

Sighed the rushes in the meadow.

    From the tree-tops sang the bluebird,

Sang the bluebird, the Owaissa,

75"Chibiabos! Chibiabos!

He is dead, the sweet musician!"

    From the wigwam sang the robin,

Sang the robin, the Opechee,

"Chibiabos! Chibiabos!

80He is dead, the sweetest singer!"

    And at night through all the forest

Went the whippoorwill complaining,

Wailing went the Wawonaissa,

"Chibiabos! Chibiabos!

85He is dead, the sweet musician!

He the sweetest of all singers!"

    Then the Medicine-men, the Medas,

The magicians, the Wabenos,

And the Jossakeeds, the Prophets,

90Came to visit Hiawatha;

Built a Sacred Lodge beside him,

To appease him, to console him,

Walked in silent, grave procession,

Bearing each a pouch of healing,

95Skin of beaver, lynx, or otter,

Filled with magic roots and simples,

Filled with very potent medicines.

    When he heard their steps approaching~,

Hiawatha ceased lamenting,

100Called no more on Chibiabos;

Naught he questioned, naught he answered,

But his mournful head uncovered,

From his face the mourning colors

Washed he slowly and in silence,

105Slowly and in silence followed

Onward to the Sacred Wigwam.

    There a magic drink they gave him,

Made of Nahma-wusk, the spearmint,

And Wabeno-wusk, the yarrow,

110Roots of power, and herbs of healing;

Beat their drums, and shook their rattles;

Chanted singly and in chorus,

Mystic songs like these, they chanted.

    "I myself, myself! behold me!

115`T Is the great Gray Eagle talking;

Come, ye white crows, come and hear him!

The loud-speaking thunder helps me;

All the unseen spirits help me;

I can hear their voices calling,

120All around the sky I hear them!

I can blow you strong, my brother,

I can heal you, Hiawatha!"

    "Hi-au-ha!" replied the chorus,

"Wayha-way!" the mystic chorus.

125    Friends of mine are all the serpents!

Hear me shake my skin of hen-hawk!

Mahng, the white loon, I can kill him;

I can shoot your heart and kill it!

I can blow you strong, my brother,

130I can heal you, Hiawatha !"

    "Hi-au-ha!" replied the chorus,

"Wayhaway!" the mystic chorus.

    "I myself, myself! the prophet!

When I speak the wigwam trembles,

135Shakes the Sacred Lodge with terror,

Hands unseen begin to shake it!

When I walk, the sky I tread on

Bends and makes a noise beneath me!

I can blow you strong, my brother!

140Rise and speak, O Hiawatha!"

    "Hi-au-ha!" replied the chorus,

"Way-ha-way!" the mystic chorus.

    Then they shook their medicine-pouches

O'er the head of Hiawatha,

145Danced their medicine-dance around him;

And upstarting wild and haggard,

Like a man from dreams awakened,

He was healed of all his madness.

As the clouds are swept from heaven,

150Straightway from his brain departed

All his moody melancholy;

As the ice is swept from rivers,

Straightway from his heart departed

All his sorrow and affliction.

155    Then they summoned Chibiabos

From his grave beneath the waters,

From the sands of Gitche Gumee

Summoned Hiawatha's brother.

And so mighty was the magic

160Of that cry and invocation,

That he heard it as he lay there

Underneath the Big-Sea-Water;

From the sand he rose and listened,

Heard the music and the singing,

165Came, obedient to the summons,

To the doorway of the wigwam,

But to enter they forbade him.

    Through a chink a coal they gave him,

Through the door a burning fire-brand;

170Ruler in the Land of Spirits,

Ruler o'er the dead, they made him,

Telling him a fire to kindle

For all those that died thereafter,

Camp-fires for their night encampments

175On their solitary journey

To the kingdom of Ponemah,

To the land of the Hereafter.

    From the village of his childhood,

From the homes of those who knew him,

180Passing silent through the forest,

Like a smoke-wreath wafted sideways,

Slowly vanished Chibiabos!

Where he passed, the branches moved not,

Where he trod, the grasses bent not,

185And the fallen leaves of last year

Made no sound beneath his footstep.

    Four whole days he journeyed onward

Down the pathway of the dead men;

On the dead-man's strawberry feasted,

190Crossed the melancholy river,

On the swinging log he crossed it,

Came unto the Lake of Silver,

In the Stone Canoe was carried

To the Islands of the Blessed,

195To the land of ghosts and shadows.

    On that journey, moving slowly,

Many weary spirits saw he,

Panting under heavy burdens,

Laden with war-clubs, bows and arrows,

200Robes of fur, and pots and kettles,

And with food that friends had given

For that solitary journey.

    "Ay! why do the living," said they,

"Lay such heavy burdens on us!

205Better were it to go naked,

Better were it to go fasting,

Than to bear such heavy burdens

On our long and weary journey!"

Forth then issued Hiawatha,

210Wandered eastward, wandered westward,

Teaching men the use of simples

And the antidotes for poisons,

And the cure of all diseases.

Thus was first made known to mortals

215All the mystery of Medamin,

All the sacred art of healing.