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And the Fir-Tree, tall and sombre, Sobbed through all its robes of darkness, Rattled like a shore with pebbles, Answered wailing, answered weeping, “Take my balm, O Hiawatha!”
And he took the tears of balsam, Took the resin of the Fir-Tree, Smeared therewith each seam and fissure, Made each crevice safe from water.
“Give me of your quills, O Hedgehog! All your quills, Kagh, the Hedgehog! I will make a necklace of them, Make a girdle for my beauty, And two stars to deck her bosom!”
From a hollow tree the Hedgehog With his sleepy eyes looked at him, Shot his shining quills, like arrows, Saying, with a drowsy murmur, Through the tangle of his whiskers, “Take my quills, O Hiawatha!”
From the ground the quills he gathered,
All the little shining arrows,
Stained them red and blue and yellow,
With the juice of roots and berries;
Into his canoe he wrought them,
Round its waist a shining girdle,
Round its bows a gleaming necklace,
On its breast two stars resplendent.
Thus the Birch Canoe was builded
In the valley, by the river,
In the bosom of the forest;
And the forest's life was in it,
All its mystery and its magic,
All the lightness of the birch-tree,
All the toughness of the cedar,
All the larch's supple sinews;
And it floated on the river
Like a yellow leaf in Autumn,
Like a yellow water-lily.
Paddles none had Hiawatha,
Paddles none he had or needed,
For his thoughts as paddles served him,
And his wishes served to guide him;
Swift or slow at will he glided,
Veered to right or left at pleasure.
Then he called aloud to Kwasind,
To his friend, the strong man, Kwasind,
Saying, “Help me clear this river
Of its sunken logs and sand-bars.”
Straight into the river Kwasind
Plunged as if he were an otter,
Dove as if he were a beaver,
Stood up to his waist in water,
To his arm-pits in the river,
Swam and shouted in the river,
Tugged at sunken logs and branches,
With his hands he scooped the sand-bars,
With his feet the ooze and tangle.
And thus sailed my Hiawatha
Down the rushing Taquamenaw,
Sailed through all its bends and windings,
Sailed through all its deeps and shallows,
While his friend, the strong man, Kwasind,
Swam the deeps, the shallows waded.
Up and down the river went they,
In and out among its islands,
Cleared its bed of root and sand-bar,
Dragged the dead trees from its channel,
Made its passage safe and certain,
Made a pathway for the people,
From its springs among the mountains,
To the waters of Pauwating,
To the bay of Taquamenaw.
Forth upon the Gitche Gumee,
On the shining Big-Sea-Water,
With his fishing-line of cedar,
Of the twisted bark of cedar,
Forth to catch the sturgeon Nahma,
Mishe-Nahma, King of Fishes,
In his birch canoe exulting
All alone went Hiawatha.
Through the clear, transparent water
He could see the fishes swimming
Far down in the depths below him;
See the yellow perch the Sahwa,
Like a sunbeam in the water,
See the Shawgashee, the craw-fish,
Like a spider on the bottom,
On the white and sandy bottom.
At the stern sat Hiawatha,
With his fishing-line of cedar;
In his plumes the breeze of morning
Played as in the hemlock branches;
On the bows, with tail erected,
Sat the Squirrel, Adjidaumo;
In his fur the breeze of morning
Played as in the prairie grasses.
On the white sand of the bottom
Lay the monster Mishe-Nahma,
Lay the sturgeon, King of Fishes;
Through his gills he breathed the water,
With his fins he fanned and winnowed,
With his tail he swept the sand-floor.
There he lay in all his armor; On each side a shield to guard him, Plates of bone upon his forehead, Down his sides and back and shoulders Plates of bone with spines projecting! Painted was he with his war-paints, Stripes of yellow, red, and azure, Spots of brown and spots of sable; And he lay there on the bottom, Fanning with his fins of purple, As above him Hiawatha In his birch canoe came sailing, With his fishing line of cedar.
“Take my bait!” cried Hiawatha, Down into the depths beneath him, “Take my bait, О Sturgeon, Nahma! Come up from below the water, Let us see which is the stronger!” And he dropped his line of cedar Through the clear, transparent water, Waited vainly for an answer, Long sat waiting for an answer, And repeating loud and louder, “Take my bait, O King of Fishes!”
Quiet lay the sturgeon, Nahma,
Fanning slowly in the water,
Looking up at Hiawatha,
Listening to his call and clamor,
His unnecessary tumult,
Till he wearied of the shouting;
And he said to the Kenozha,
To the pike, the Maskenozha,
“ Take the bait of this rude fellow,
Break the line of Hiawatha!”.
In his fingers Hiawatha
Felt the loose line jerk and tighten;
As he drew it in, it tugged so
· That the birch canoe stood endwise,
Like a birch log in the water,
With the squirrel, Adjidaumo,
Perched and frisking on the summit.
Full of scorn was Hiawatha
When he saw the fish rise upward,
Saw the pike, the Maskenozha,
Coming nearer, nearer to him,
And he shouted through the water,
“Esa! esa! Shame upon you!
You are but the pike, Kenozha,
You are not the fish I wanted,
You are not the King of Fishes!”
Reeling downward to the bottom
Sank the pike in great confusion,
And the mighty sturgeon, Nahma,
Said to Ugudwash, the sun-fish,
“Take the bait of this great boaster,
Break the line of Hiawatha!”
Slowly upward, wavering, gleaming
Like a white moon in the water,
Rose the Ugudwash, the sun-fish,
Seized the line of Hiawatha,
Swung with all his weight upon it,
Made a whirlpool in the water,
Whirled the birch canoe in circles,
Round and round in gurgling eddies,
Till the circles in the water
Reached the far-off sandy beaches,
Till the water-flags and rushes
Nodded on the distant margins.
But when Hiawatha saw him
Slowly rising through the water,
Lifting his great disc of whiteness,
Loud he shouted in derision,
“Esal esa! shame upon you!
You are Ugudwash, the sun-fish,