The Sea-Gull.

A poem by Hanford Lennox Gordon

THE LEGEND OF THE PICTURED ROCKS OF LAKE SUPERIOR. OJIBWAY


In the measure of Hiawatha.

[The numerals refer to Notes to The Sea-Gull, in Appendix.]


On the shore of Gitchee Gumee[2]
Deep, mysterious, mighty waters
Where the mânitoes the spirits
Ride the storms and speak in thunder,
In the days of Némè-Shómis,[3]
In the days that are forgotten,
Dwelt a tall and tawny hunter
Gitchee Péz-ze-u the Panther,
Son of Waub-Ojeeg,[4] the warrior,
Famous Waub-Ojeeg, the warrior.
Strong was he and fleet as roebuck,
Brave was he and very stealthy;
On the deer crept like a panther;
Grappled with Makwâ,[5] the monster,
Grappled with the bear and conquered;
Took his black claws for a necklet,
Took his black hide for a blanket.

When the Panther wed the Sea-Gull,
Young was he and very gladsome;
Fair was she and full of laughter;
Like the robin in the spring-time,
Sang from sunrise till the sunset;
For she loved the handsome hunter.
Deep as Gitchee Gumee's waters
Was her love as broad and boundless;
And the wedded twain were happy
Happy as the mated robins.
When their first-born saw the sunlight
Joyful was the heart of Panther,
Proud and joyful was the mother.
All the days were full of sunshine,
All the nights were full of starlight.
Nightly from the land of spirits
On them smiled the starry faces
Faces of their friends departed.
Little moccasins she made him,
Feathered cap and belt of wampum;
From the hide of fawn a blanket,
Fringed with feathers, soft as sable;
Singing at her pleasant labor,
By her side the tekenâgun, [6]
And the little hunter in it,
Oft the Panther smiled and fondled,
Smiled upon the babe and mother,
Frolicked with the boy and fondled,
Tall he grew and like his father,
And they called the boy the Raven
Called him Kâk-kâh-gè the Raven.
Happy hunter was the Panther.
From the woods he brought the pheasant,
Brought the red deer and the rabbit,
Brought the trout from Gitchee Gumee
Brought the mallard from the marshes
Royal feast for boy and mother:
Brought the hides of fox and beaver,
Brought the skins of mink and otter,
Lured the loon and took his blanket,
Took his blanket for the Raven.
Winter swiftly followed winter,
And again the tekenâgun
Held a babe a tawny daughter,
Held a dark-eyed, dimpled daughter;
And they called her Waub-omeé-meé
Thus they named her the White-Pigeon.
But as winter followed winter
Cold and sullen grew the Panther;
Sat and smoked his pipe in silence;
When he spoke he spoke in anger;
In the forest often tarried
Many days, and homeward turning,
Brought no game unto his wigwam;
Only brought his empty quiver,
Brought his dark and sullen visage.

Sad at heart and very lonely
Sat the Sea-Gull in the wigwam;
Sat and swung the tekenâgun
Sat and sang to Waub-omeé-meé:
Thus she sang to Waub-omeé-meé,
Thus the lullaby she chanted:

Wâ-wa, wâ-wa, wâ-we-yeà;
Kah-wéen, nee-zhéka kè-diaus-âi,
Ke-gáh nau-wâi, ne-mé-go s'wéen,
Ne-bâun, ne-bâun, ne-dâun-is âis,
Wâ-wa, wâ-wa, wâ-we-yeà;
Ne-bâun, ne-bâun, ne-dâun-is-âis,
E-we wâ-wa, wâ-we-yeà,
E-we wâ-wa, wâ-we-yeà.

TRANSLATION

Swing, swing, little one, lullaby;
Thou'rt not left alone to weep;
Mother cares for you she is nigh;
Sleep, my little one, sweetly sleep;
Swing, swing, little one, lullaby;
Mother watches you she is nigh;
Gently, gently, wee one, swing;
Gently, gently, while I sing
E-we wâ-wa lullaby,
E-we wâ-wa lullaby.

Homeward to his lodge returning
Kindly greeting found the hunter,
Fire to warm and food to nourish,
Golden trout from Gitchee Gumee,
Caught by Kâh-kâh-gè the Raven.
With a snare he caught the rabbit
Caught Wabóse,[7] the furry-footed,
Caught Penây,[7] the forest-drummer;
Sometimes with his bow and arrows,
Shot the red deer in the forest,
Shot the squirrel in the pine-top,
Shot Ne-kâ, the wild-goose, flying.
Proud as Waub-Ojeeg, the warrior,
To the lodge he bore his trophies.
So when homeward turned the Panther,
Ever found he food provided,
Found the lodge-fire brightly burning,
Found the faithful Sea-Gull waiting.
"You are cold," she said, "and famished;
Here are fire and food, my husband."
Not by word or look he answered;
Only ate the food provided,
Filled his pipe and pensive puffed it,
Sat and smoked in sullen silence.
Once her dark eyes full of hunger
Thus she spoke and thus besought him:
"Tell me, O my silent Panther,
Tell me, O beloved husband,
What has made you sad and sullen?
Have you met some evil spirit
Met some goblin in the forest?
Has he put a spell upon you
Filled your heart with bitter waters,
That you sit so sad and sullen,
Sit and smoke, but never answer,
Only when the storm is on you?"

Gruffly then the Panther answered:
"Brave among the brave is Panther
Son of Waub-Ojeeg, the warrior,
And the brave are ever silent;
But a whining dog is woman,
Whining ever like a coward."
Forth into the tangled forest,
Threading through the thorny thickets,
Treading trails on marsh and meadow,
Sullen strode the moody hunter.
Saw he not the bear or beaver,
Saw he not the elk or roebuck;
From his path the red fawn scampered,
But no arrow followed after;
From his den the sly wolf listened,
But no twang of bow-string heard he.
Like one walking in his slumber,
Listless, dreaming, walked the Panther;
Surely had some witch bewitched him,
Some bad spirit of the forest.

When the Sea-Gull wed the Panther,
Fair was she and full of laughter;
Like the robin in the spring-time,
Sang from sunrise till the sunset;
But the storms of many winters
Sifted frost upon her tresses,
Seamed her tawny face with wrinkles.
Not alone the storms of winters
Seamed her tawny face with wrinkles.
Twenty winters for the Panther
Had she ruled the humble wigwam;
For her haughty lord and master
Borne the burdens on the journey,
Gathered fagots for the lodge-fire,
Tanned the skins of bear and beaver,
Tanned the hides of moose and red-deer;
Made him moccasins and leggins,
Decked his hood with quills and feathers
Colored quills of Kaug,[8] the thorny,
Feathers from Kenéw,[8] the eagle.
For a warrior brave was Panther;
Often had he met the foemen,
Met the bold and fierce Dakotas,
Westward on the war-path met them;
And the scalps he won were numbered,
Numbered seven by Kenéw-feathers.
Sad at heart was Sea-Gull waiting,
Watching, waiting in the wigwam;
Not alone the storms of winters
Sifted frost upon her tresses.

Ka-be-bón-ík-ka, the mighty,[9]
He that sends the cruel winter,
He that turned to stone the Giant,
From the distant Thunder-mountain,
Far across broad Gitchee Gumee,
Sent his warning of the winter,
Sent the white frost and Kewâydin,[10]
Sent the swift and hungry North-wind.
Homeward to the South the Summer
Turned and fled the naked forests.
With the Summer flew the robin,
Flew the bobolink and blue-bird.
Flock-wise following chosen leaders,
Like the shaftless heads of arrows
Southward cleaving through the ether,
Soon the wild-geese followed after.
One long moon the Sea-Gull waited,
Watched and waited for her husband,
Till at last she heard his footsteps,
Heard him coming through the thicket.
Forth she went to met her husband,
Joyful went to greet her husband.
Lo behind the haughty hunter,
Closely following in his footsteps,
Walked a young and handsome woman,
Walked the Red Fox from the island
Gitchee Ménis the Grand Island
Followed him into the wigwam,
Proudly took her seat beside him.
On the Red Fox smiled the hunter,
On the hunter smiled the woman.

Old and wrinkled was the Sea-Gull,
Good and true, but old and wrinkled.
Twenty winters for the Panther
Had she ruled the humble wigwam,
Borne the burdens on the journey,
Gathered fagots for the lodge-fire,
Tanned the skins of bear and beaver,
Tanned the hides of moose and red-deer,
Made him moccasins and leggins,
Decked his hood with quills and feathers,
Colored quills of Kaug, the thorny,
Feathers from the great war-eagle;
Ever diligent and faithful,
Ever patient, ne'er complaining.
But like all brave men the Panther
Loved a young and handsome woman;
So he dallied with the danger,
Dallied with the fair Algónkin,[11]
Till a magic mead she gave him,
Brewed of buds of birch and cedar.[12]
Madly then he loved the woman;
Then she ruled him, then she held him
Tangled in her raven tresses,
Tied and tangled in her tresses.

Ah, the tall and tawny Panther!
Ah, the brave and brawny Panther!
Son of Waub-Ojeeg, the warrior!
With a slender hair she led him,
With a slender hair she drew him,
Drew him often to her wigwam;
There she bound him, there she held him
Tangled in her raven tresses,
Tied and tangled in her tresses.
Ah, the best of men are tangled
Sometimes tangled in the tresses
Of a fair and crafty woman.

So the Panther wed the Red Fox,
And she followed to his wigwam.
Young again he seemed and gladsome,
Glad as Raven when the father
Made his first bow from the elm-tree,
From the ash-tree made his arrows,
Taught him how to aim his arrows,
How to shoot Wabóse the rabbit.
Then again the brawny hunter
Brought the black bear and the beaver,
Brought the haunch of elk and red-deer,
Brought the rabbit and the pheasant
Choicest bits of all for Red Fox.
For her robes he brought the sable,
Brought the otter and the ermine,
Brought the black-fox tipped with silver.

But the Sea-Gull murmured never,
Not a word she spoke in anger,
Went about her work as ever,
Tanned the skins of bear and beaver,
Tanned the hides of moose and red-deer,
Gathered fagots for the lodge-fire,
Gathered rushes from the marshes;
Deftly into mats she wove them;
Kept the lodge as bright as ever.
Only to herself she murmured,
All alone with Waub-omeé-meé,
On the tall and toppling highland,
O'er the wilderness of waters;
Murmured to the murmuring waters,
Murmured to the Nébe-nâw-baigs
To the spirits of the waters;
On the wild waves poured her sorrow.
Save the infant on her bosom
With her dark eyes wide with wonder,
None to hear her but the spirits,
And the murmuring pines above her.
Thus she cast away her burdens,
Cast her burdens on the waters;
Thus unto the good Great Spirit,
Made her lowly lamentation:
"Wahonówin! showiness![13]
Gitchee Mânito, benâ-nin!
Nah, Ba-bâ, showâin neméshin!
Wahonówin! Wahonówin!"

Ka-be-bón-ík-ka,[9] the mighty,
He that sends the cruel winter,
From the distant Thunder-mountain
On the shore of Gitchee Gumee,
On the rugged northern border,
Sent his solemn, final warning,
Sent the white wolves of the Nor'land.[14]
Like the dust of stars in ether
In the Pathway of the Spirits,[15]
Like the sparkling dust of diamonds,
Fell the frost upon the forest,
On the mountains and the meadows,
On the wilderness of woodland,
On the wilderness of waters.
All the lingering fowls departed
All that seek the South in winter,
All but Shingebís, the diver;[16]
He defies the Winter-maker,
Sits and laughs at Winter-maker.

Ka-be-bón-ík-ka, the mighty,
From his wigwam called Kewâydin
From his home among the icebergs,
From the sea of frozen waters,
Called the swift and hungry North-wind.
Then he spread his mighty pinions
Over all the land and shook them.
Like the white down of Waubésè[17]
Fell the feathery snow and covered
All the marshes and the meadows,
All the hill-tops and the highlands.
Then old Péböán[18] the winter
Laughed along the stormy waters,
Danced upon the windy headlands,
On the storm his white hair streaming,
And his steaming breath, ascending,
On the pine-tops and the cedars
Fell in frosty mists of silver,
Sprinkling spruce and fir with silver,
Sprinkling all the woods with silver.

By the lodge-fire all the winter
Sat the Sea-Gull and the Red Fox,
Sat and kindly spoke and chatted,
Till the twain seemed friends together.
Friends they seemed in word and action,
But within the breast of either
Smoldered still the baneful embers
Fires of jealousy and hatred
Like a camp-fire in the forest
Left by hunters and deserted;
Only seems a bed of ashes,
But the East wind, Wâbun-noódin,
Scatters through the woods the ashes,
Fans to flame the sleeping embers,
And the wild-fire roars and rages,
Roars and rages through the forest.
So the baneful embers smoldered,
Smoldered in the breast of either.
From the far-off Sunny Islands,
From the pleasant land of Summer,
Where the spirits of the blessed
Feel no more the fangs of hunger,
Or the cold breath of Kewâydin,
Came a stately youth and handsome,
Came Según,[19] the foe of Winter.
Like the rising sun his face was,
Like the shining stars his eyes were,
Light his footsteps as the Morning's,
In his hand were buds and blossoms,
On his brow a blooming garland.
Straightway to the icy wigwam
Of old Péböán, the Winter,
Strode Según and quickly entered.
There old Péböán sat and shivered,
Shivered o'er his dying lodge-fire.

"Ah, my son, I bid you welcome;
Sit and tell me your adventures;
I will tell you of my power;
We will pass the night together."
Thus spake Péböán the Winter;
Then he filled his pipe and lighted;
Then by sacred custom raised it
To the spirits in the ether;
To the spirits in the caverns
Of the hollow earth he lowered it.
Thus he passed it to the spirits,
And the unseen spirits puffed it.
Next himself old Péböán honored;
Thrice he puffed his pipe and passed it,
Passed it to the handsome stranger.

"Lo I blow my breath," said Winter,
"And the laughing brooks are silent.
Hard as flint become the waters,
And the rabbit runs upon them."

Then Según, the fair youth, answered:
"Lo I breathe upon the hillsides,
On the valleys and the meadows,
And behold as if by magic
By the magic of the spirits,
Spring the flowers and tender grasses."

Then old Péböán replying:
"Nah![20] I breathe upon the forests,
And the leaves fall sere and yellow;
Then I shake my locks and snow falls,
Covering all the naked landscape."

Then Según arose and answered:
"Nashké![20] see! I shake my ringlets;
On the earth the warm rain falleth,
And the flowers look up like children
Glad-eyed from their mother's bosom.
Lo my voice recalls the robin,
Brings the bobolink and bluebird,
And the woods are full of music.
With my breath I melt their fetters,
And the brooks leap laughing onward."

Then old Péböán looked upon him,
Looked and knew Según, the Summer.
From his eyes the big tears started
And his boastful tongue was silent.
Now Keezís the great life-giver,
From his wigwam in Waubú-nong[21]
Rose and wrapped his shining blanket
Round his giant form and started,
Westward started on his journey,
Striding on from hill to hill-top.
Upward then he climbed the ether
On the Bridge of Stars[22] he traveled,
Westward traveled on his journey
To the far-off Sunset Mountains
To the gloomy land of shadows.

On the lodge-poles sang the robin
And the brooks began to murmur.
On the South-wind floated fragrance
Of the early buds and blossoms.
From old Péböán's eyes the tear-drops
Down his pale face ran in streamlets;
Less and less he grew in stature
Till he melted down to nothing;
And behold, from out the ashes,
From the ashes of his lodge-fire,
Sprang the Miscodeed[23] and, blushing,
Welcomed Según to the North-land.

So from Sunny Isles returning,
From the Summer-Land of spirits,
On the poles of Panther's wigwam
Sang Opeé-chee sang the robin.
In the maples cooed the pigeons
Cooed and wooed like silly lovers.
"Hah! hah!" laughed the crow derisive,
In the pine-top, at their folly
Laughed and jeered the silly lovers.
Blind with love were they, and saw not;
Deaf to all but love, and heard not;
So they cooed and wooed unheeding,
Till the gray hawk pounced upon them,
And the old crow shook with laughter.

On the tall cliff by the sea-shore
Red Fox made a swing. She fastened
Thongs of moose-hide to the pine-tree,
To the strong arm of the pine-tree.
Like a hawk, above the waters,
There she swung herself and fluttered,
Laughing at the thought of danger,
Swung and fluttered o'er the waters.
Then she bantered Sea-Gull, saying,
"See! I swing above the billows!
Dare you swing above the billows
Swing like me above the billows?"

To herself said Sea-Gull "Surely
I will dare whatever danger
Dares the Red Fox dares my rival;
She shall never call me coward."
So she swung above the waters
Dizzy height above the waters,
Pushed and aided by her rival,
To and fro with reckless daring,
Till the strong tree rocked and trembled,
Rocked and trembled with its burden.
As above the yawning billows
Flew the Sea-Gull like a whirlwind,
Red Fox, swifter than red lightning,
Cut the thongs, and headlong downward,
Like an osprey from the ether,
Like a wild-goose pierced with arrows,
Fluttering fell the frantic woman,
Fluttering fell into the waters
Plunged and sunk beneath the waters!
Hark! the wailing of the West-wind!
Hark! the wailing of the waters,
And the beating of the billows!
But no more the voice of Sea-Gull.

In the wigwam sat the Red Fox,
Hushed the wail of Waub-omeé-meé,
Weeping for her absent mother.
With the twinkling stars the hunter
From the forest came and Raven.
"Sea-Gull wanders late," said Red Fox,
"Late she wanders by the sea-shore,
And some evil may befall her."
In the misty morning twilight
Forth went Panther and the Raven,
Searched the forest and the marshes,
Searched for leagues along the lake-shore,
Searched the islands and the highlands;
But they found no trace or tidings,
Found no track in marsh or meadow,
Found no trail in fen or forest,
On the shore-sand found no footprints.
Many days they sought and found not.
Then to Panther spoke the Raven:
"She is in the Land of Spirits
Surely in the Land of Spirits.
High at midnight I beheld her
Like a flying star beheld her
To the waves of Gitchee Gumee
Downward flashing through the ether.
Thus she flashed that I might see her,
See and know my mother's spirit;
Thus she pointed to the waters,
And beneath them lies her body,
In the wigwam of the spirits
In the lodge of Nebe-nâw-baigs."[24]

Then spoke Panther to the Raven:
"On the tall cliff by the waters
Wait and watch with Waub-omeé-meé.
If the Sea-Gull hear the wailing
Of her infant she will answer."

On the tall cliff by the waters
So the Raven watched and waited;
All the day he watched and waited,
But the hungry infant slumbered,
Slumbered by the side of Raven,
Till the pines' gigantic shadows
Stretched and pointed to Waubú-nong[21]
To the far-off land of Sunrise;
Then the wee one woke and, famished,
Made a long and piteous wailing.

From afar where sky and waters
Meet in misty haze and mingle,
Straight toward the rocky highland,
Straight as flies the feathered arrow,
Straight to Raven and the infant,
Swiftly flew a snow-white sea-gull
Flew and touched the earth a woman.
And behold, the long-lost mother
Caught her wailing child and nursed her,
Sang a lullaby and nursed her.

Thrice was wound a chain of silver
Round her waist and strongly fastened.
Far away into the waters
To the wigwam of the spirits
To the lodge of Nebe-nâw-baigs
Stretched the magic chain of silver.
Spoke the mother to the Raven:
"O my son my brave young hunter,
Feed my tender little orphan;
Be a father to my orphan;
Be a mother to my orphan
For the crafty Red Fox robbed us
Robbed the Sea-Gull of her husband,
Robbed the infant of her mother.
From this cliff the treacherous woman
Headlong into Gitchee Gumee
Plunged the mother of my orphan.
Then a Nebe-nâw-baig caught me
Chief of all the Nebe-nâw-baigs
Took me to his shining wigwam,
In the cavern of the waters,
Deep beneath the mighty waters.
All below is burnished copper,
All above is burnished silver
Gemmed with amethyst and agates.
As his wife the Spirit holds me;
By this silver chain he holds me.

"When my little one is famished,
When with long and piteous wailing
Cries the orphan for her mother,
Hither bring her, O my Raven;
I will hear her I will answer.
Now the Nebe-nâw-baig calls me
Pulls the chain I must obey him."
Thus she spoke, and in the twinkling
Of a star the spirit-woman
Changed into a snow-white sea-gull,
Spread her wings and o'er the waters
Swiftly flew and swiftly vanished.
Then in secret to the Panther
Raven told his tale of wonder.
Sad and sullen was the hunter;
Sorrow gnawed his heart like hunger;
All the old love came upon him,
And the new love was a hatred.
Hateful to his heart was Red Fox,
But he kept from her the secret
Kept his knowledge of the murder.
Vain was she and very haughty
Oge-mâ-kwa[25] of the wigwam.
All in vain her fond caresses
On the Panther now she lavished;
When she smiled his face was sullen,
When she laughed he frowned upon her;
In her net of raven tresses
Now no more she held him tangled.
Now through all her fair disguises
Panther saw an evil spirit,
Saw the false heart of the woman.

On the tall cliff o'er the waters
Raven sat with Waub-omeé-meé,
Sat and watched again and waited,
Till the wee one, faint and famished,
Made a long and piteous wailing.
Then again the snow-white Sea-Gull,
From afar where sky and waters
Meet in misty haze and mingle,
Straight toward the rocky highland,
Straight as flies the feathered arrow,
Straight to Raven and the infant,
With the silver chain around her,
Flew and touched the earth a woman.
In her arms she caught her infant
Caught the wailing Waub-omeé-meé,
Sang a lullaby and nursed her.
Sprang the Panther from the thicket
Sprang and broke the chain of silver!
With his tomahawk he broke it.
Thus he freed the willing Sea-Gull
From the Water-Spirit freed her,
From the Chief of Nebe-nâw-baigs.

Very angry was the Spirit;
When he drew the chain of silver,
Drew and found that it was broken,
Found that he had lost the woman,
Very angry was the Spirit.
Then he raged beneath the waters,
Raged and smote the mighty waters,
Till the big sea boiled and bubbled,
Till the white-haired, bounding billows
Roared around the rocky headlands,
Rolled and roared upon the shingle.

To the wigwam happy Panther,
As when first he wooed and won her
Led his wife as young and handsome.
For the waves of Gitchee Gumee
Washed away the frost and wrinkles,
And the spirits by their magic
Made her young and fair forever.

In the wigwam sat the Red Fox,
Sat and sang a song of triumph,
For she little dreamed of danger,
Till the haughty hunter entered,
Followed by the happy mother,
Holding in her arms her infant.
When the Red Fox saw the Sea-Gull
Saw the dead a living woman,
One wild cry she gave despairing,
One wild cry as of a demon.
Up she sprang and from the wigwam
To the tall cliff flew in terror;
Frantic sprang upon the margin,
Frantic plunged into the waters,
Headlong plunged into the waters.

Dead she tossed upon the billows;
For the Nebe-nâw-baigs knew her,
Knew the crafty, wicked woman,
And they cast her from the waters,
Spurned her from their shining wigwams;
Far away upon the shingle
With the roaring waves they cast her.
There upon her bloated body
Fed the cawing crows and ravens,
Fed the hungry wolves and foxes.

On the shore of Gitchee Gumee,
Ever young and ever handsome,
Long and happy lived the Sea-Gull,
Long and happy with the Panther.
Evermore the happy hunter
Loved the mother of his children.
Like a red star many winters
Blazed their lodge-fire on the sea-shore.
O'er the Bridge of Souls[26] together
Walked the Sea-Gull and the Panther.
To the far-off Sunny Islands
To the Summer-Land of Spirits,
Sea-Gull journeyed with her husband
Where no more the happy hunter
Feels the fangs of frost or famine,
Or the keen blasts of Kewâydin,
Where no pain or sorrow enters,
And no crafty, wicked woman.
There she rules his lodge forever,
And the twain are very happy,
On the far-off Sunny Islands,
In the Summer-Land of Spirits.
On the rocks of Gitchee Gumee
On the Pictured Rocks the legend
Long ago was traced and written,
Pictured by the Water-Spirits;
But the storms of many winters
Have bedimmed the pictured story,
So that none can read the legend
But the Jossakeeds,[27] the prophets.

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