Duluth's Departure

A poem by Hanford Lennox Gordon

To bid the brave White Chief adieu,
on the shady shore gathered the warriors;
His glad boatmen manned the canoe,
and the oars in their hands were impatient.
Spake the Chief of Isántees:
"A feast will await the return of my brother.
In peace rose the sun in the East,
in peace in the West he descended.
May the feet of my brother be swift
till they bring him again to our teepees,
The red pipe he takes as a gift,
may he smoke that red pipe many winters.
At my lodge-fire his pipe shall be lit,
when the White Chief returns to Kathága;
On the robes of my tee shall he sit;
he shall smoke with the chiefs of my people.
The brave love the brave, and his son
sends the Chief as a guide for his brother,
By the way of the Wákpa Wakán[AR]
to the Chief at the Lake of the Spirits.
As light as the foot-steps of dawn
are the feet of the stealthy Tamdóka;
He fears not the Máza Wakán;[AS]
he is sly as the fox of the forest.
When he dances the dance of red war
howl the wolves by the broad Mini-ya-ta,[AT]
For they scent on the south-wind afar
their feast on the bones of Ojibways."
Thrice the Chief puffed the red pipe of peace,
ere it passed to the lips of the Frenchman.
Spake DuLuth: "May the Great Spirit bless
with abundance the Chief and his people;
May their sons and their daughters increase,
and the fire ever burn in their teepees."
Then he waved with a flag his adieu
to the Chief and the warriors assembled;
And away shot Tamdóka's canoe
to the strokes of ten sinewy hunters;
And a white path he clove up the blue,
bubbling stream of the swift Mississippi;
And away on his foaming trail flew,
like a sea-gull, the bark of the Frenchman.

* * * * *

AH, LITTLE HE DREAMED THEN, FORSOOTH, THAT A CITY WOULD STAND ON THAT HILL SIDE

Then merrily rose the blithe song
of the voyageurs homeward returning,
And thus, as they glided along,
sang the bugle-voiced boatmen in chorus:

SONG.

Home again! home again! bend to the oar!
Merry is the life of the gay voyageur.
He rides on the river with his paddle in his hand,
And his boat is his shelter on the water and the land.
The clam has his shell and the water-turtle too,
But the brave boatman's shell is his birch-bark canoe.
So pull away, boatmen; bend to the oar;
Merry is the life of the gay voyageur.

Home again! home again! bend to the oar!
Merry is the life of the gay voyageur,
His couch is as downy as a couch can be,
For he sleeps on the feathers of the green fir-tree.
He dines on the fat of the pemmican-sack,
And his eau de vie is the eau de lac.
So pull away, boatmen; bend to the oar;
Merry is the life of the gay voyageur.

Home again! home again! bend to the oar!
Merry is the life of the gay voyageur.
The brave, jolly boatman, he never is afraid
When he meets at the portage a red, forest maid,
A Huron, or a Cree, or a blooming Chippeway;
And he marks his trail with the bois brulés[AU]
So pull away, boatmen; bend to the oar;
Merry is the life of the gay voyageur.
Home again! home again! bend to the oar!
Merry is the life of the gay voyageur.

In the reeds of the meadow the stag
lifts his branchy head stately and listens,
And the bobolink, perched on the flag,
her ear sidelong bends to the chorus.
From the brow of the Beautiful Isle,[AV]
half hid in the midst of the maples,
The sad-faced Winona, the while,
watched the boat growing less in the distance,
Till away in the bend of the stream,
where it turned and was lost in the lindens,
She saw the last dip and the gleam
of the oars ere they vanished forever.


Still afar on the waters the song,
like bridal bells distantly chiming,
The stout, jolly boatmen prolong,
beating time with the stroke of their paddles;
And Winona's ear, turned to the breeze,
lists the air falling fainter and fainter,
Till it dies like the murmur of bees
when the sun is aslant on the meadows.
Blow, breezes, blow softly and sing
in the dark, flowing hair of the maiden;
But never again shall you bring
the voice that she loves to Winona.

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