By the shores of Gitche Gumee

By the shores of Gitchee Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.

There the wrinkled old Nokomis
Nursed the little Hiawatha,
Rocked him in his linden cradle,
Bedded soft in moss and rushes,
Safely bound with reindeer sinews;
Stilled his fretful wail by saying,
" Hush! the Naked Bear will hear thee! "
Lulled him into slumber, singing,
" Ewa-yea! my little owlet!
Who is this that lights the wigwam?
With his great eyes lights the wigwam?
Ewa-yea! my little owlet! "

Many things Nokomis taught him
Of the stars that shine in heaven;
Showed him Ishkoodah, the comet,
Ishkoodah, with fiery tresses;
Showed the Death-Dance of the spirits,
Warriors with their plumes and war-clubs,
Flaring far away to Northward
In the frosty nights of Winter;
Showed the broad white road in heaven,
Pathway of the ghosts, the shadows,
Running straight across the heavens,
Crowded with the ghosts, the shadows.

At the door on Summer evenings
Sat the little Hiawatha;
Heard the whispering of the pine trees,
Heard the lapping of the waters.
Sounds of music, words of wonder;
" Minne-wawa! " said the pine trees,
" Mudway-aushka! " said the water.

Saw the firefly, Wah-wah-taysee,
Flitting through the dusk of evening,
With the twinkle of its candle
Lighting up the brakes and bushes,
And he sang the song of children,
Sang the song Nokomis taught him:
" Wah-wah-taysee, little firefly,
Little, flitting, white-fire insect,
Little, dancing, white-fire creature,
Light me with your little candle,
Ere upon my bed I lay me,
Ere in sleep I close my eyelids! "

Saw the moon rise from the water
Rippling, rounding from the water,
Saw the flecks and shadows on it,
Whispered, " What is that, Nokomis? "
And the good Nokomis answered:
" Once a warrior, very angry,
Seized his grandmother, and threw her
Up into the sky at midnight;
Right against the moon he threw her;
'Tis her body that you see there. "

Saw the rainbow in the heaven,
In the eastern sky, the rainbow,
Whispered, " What is that, Nokomis? "
And the good Nokomis answered:
" 'Tis the heaven of flowers you see there;
All the wild flowers of the forest,
All the lilies of the prairie,
When on earth they fade and perish
Blossom in that heaven above us. "

When he heard the owls at midnight,
Hooting, laughing in the forest,
" What is that? " he cried in terror.
" What is that, " he said, " Nokomis? "
And the good Nokomis answered:
" That is but the owl and owlet,
Talking in their native language,
Talking, scolding at each other. "

Then the little Hiawatha
Learned of every bird its language,
Learned their names and all their secrets,
How they built their nests in Summer,
Where they hid themselves in Winter,
Talked with them whene'er he met them,
Called them " Hiawatha's Chickens. "

Of all beasts he learned the language,
Learned their names and all their secrets,
How the beavers built their lodges,
Where the squirrels hid their acorns,
How the reindeer ran so swiftly,
Why the rabbit was so timid,
Talked with them whene'er he met them,
Called them " Hiawatha's Brothers. "
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Hnnhbiie30's picture

"By the Shores of Gitche Gumee" - A Magical Journey with Hiawatha**

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "By the Shores of Gitche Gumee," is a mesmerizing adventure that takes readers on a magical journey through the vivid world of Hiawatha and his wise caretaker, Nokomis. In this enchanting narrative, Longfellow weaves together elements of nature, mythology, and the curious spirit of a young boy, creating a tapestry of wonder that captivates readers of all ages.

The poem begins with a vivid scene set by the shores of Gitche Gumee, the Big Sea Water, where Nokomis, the Daughter of the Moon, resides. Longfellow's descriptive language paints a picturesque image of the surroundings, with dark pine trees rising behind the wigwam and the clear water beating brightly before it. The rhythmic flow of the verses enhances the immersive experience, allowing readers to feel the pulsating energy of the landscape.

Nokomis, the wise grandmotherly figure, is introduced as the caregiver of Hiawatha, rocking him in his linden cradle. Longfellow skillfully captures the tenderness of this relationship, portraying Nokomis as a nurturing presence who imparts both practical and mystical knowledge to the young Hiawatha. The imagery of Hiawatha being bedded in moss and rushes, bound with reindeer sinews, adds a touch of nature's embrace to the poem.

The poet masterfully integrates elements of Native American mythology into the narrative. Nokomis teaches Hiawatha about the stars, the comet Ishkoodah, and the Death Dance of the spirits. Longfellow's portrayal of these celestial wonders adds a sense of awe and mystery, inviting readers to gaze upon the same heavens that fascinated Hiawatha.

As the poem progresses, the reader witnesses Hiawatha sitting by the door on Summer evenings, absorbing the sounds and sights around him. Longfellow artfully incorporates the voices of nature — the whispering pine trees, the lapping waters, and the messages of Minne-wawa (pine trees) and Mudway-Anushka (water). This connection to the environment enriches the narrative, making it a sensory experience for the reader.

The inclusion of Hiawatha's interactions with fireflies, the moon, and rainbows further elevates the poem's charm. Longfellow seamlessly integrates these natural phenomena into the storyline, turning them into teachers for the inquisitive Hiawatha. The explanation of the moon being a warrior's angry grandmother or the rainbow as the heaven of flowers adds a layer of cultural richness to the narrative.

In the latter part of the poem, Hiawatha expands his understanding to include birds and animals, learning their languages and secrets. The poet brings to life the vibrancy of the natural world, making it a classroom where Hiawatha discovers the unique characteristics and behaviors of each creature.

"By the Shores of Gitche Gumee" is a testament to Longfellow's ability to blend storytelling with rich cultural elements, creating a poem that resonates with readers young and old. The vivid imagery, rhythmic verses, and the exploration of nature's wonders make this poem a timeless piece that continues to captivate the imaginations of those who embark on this enchanting journey with Hiawatha and Nokomis.

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