The Canoe Race.

A poem by Hanford Lennox Gordon

Now a light rustling wind from the South
shakes his wings o'er the wide, wimpling waters:
Up the dark-winding river DuLuth
follows fast in the wake of Tamdóka.
On the slopes of the emerald shores
leafy woodlands and prairies alternate;
On the vine-tangled islands the flowers
peep timidly out at the white men;
In the dark-winding eddy the loon
sits warily watching and voiceless,
And the wild-goose, in reedy lagoon,
stills the prattle and play of her children.
The does and their sleek, dappled fawns
prick their ears and peer out from the thickets,
And the bison-calves play on the lawns,
and gambol like colts in the clover.
Up the still-flowing Wákpa Wakán's
winding path through the groves and the meadows,
Now DuLuth's brawny boatmen pursue
the swift-gliding bark of Tamdóka;
And hardly the red braves out-do
the stout, steady oars of the white men.

Now they bend to their oars in the race
the ten tawny braves of Tamdóka;
And hard on their heels in the chase
ply the six stalwart oars of the Frenchmen.
In the stern of his boat sits DuLuth;
in the stern of his boat sits Tamdóka,
And warily, cheerily, both urge
the oars of their men to the utmost.
Far-stretching away to the eyes,
winding blue in the midst of the meadows,
As a necklet of sapphires that lies
unclaspt in the lap of a virgin,
Here asleep in the lap of the plain
lies the reed-bordered, beautiful river.
Like two flying coursers that strain,
on the track, neck and neck on the home-stretch,
With nostrils distended and mane froth-flecked,
and the neck and the shoulders,
Each urged to his best by the cry
and the whip and the rein of his rider,
Now they skim o'er the waters and fly,
side by side, neck and neck, through the meadows,
The blue heron flaps from the reeds,
and away wings her course up the river:
Straight and swift is her flight o'er the meads,
but she hardly outstrips the canoemen.
See! the voyageurs bend to their oars
till the blue veins swell out on their foreheads;
And the sweat from their brawny breasts pours;
but in vain their Herculean labor;
For the oars of Tamdóka are ten,
and but six are the oars of the Frenchman,
And the red warriors' burden of men
is matched by the voyageurs' luggage.
Side by side, neck and neck, for a mile,
still they strain their strong arms to the utmost,
Till rounding a willowy isle,
now ahead creeps the boat of Tamdóka,
And the neighboring forests profound,
and the far-stretching plain of the meadows
To the whoop of the victors resound,
while the panting French rest on their paddles.

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