Hanford Lennox Gordon Poems >>
The Feast Of The Virgins - The Game Of Ball

Clear was the sky as a silver shield;
The bright sun blazed on the frozen field.
On ice-bound river and white-robed prairie
The diamonds gleamed in the flame of noon;
But cold and keen were the breezes airy
_Wa-zi-ya_ blew from his icy throne.

On the solid ice of the silent river
The bounds are marked, and a splendid prize,
A robe of black-fox lined with beaver,
Is hung in view of the eager eyes;
And fifty merry Dakota maidens,
The fairest-molded of womankind
Are gathered in groups on the level ice.
They look on the robe and its beauty gladdens
And maddens their hearts for the splendid prize.
Lo the rounded ankles and raven hair
That floats at will on the wanton wind,
And the round, brown arms to the breezes bare,
And breasts like the mounds where the waters meet,
And feet as fleet as the red deer's feet,
And faces that glow like the full, round moon
When she laughs in the luminous skies of June.

The leaders are chosen and swiftly divide
The opposing parties on either side.
Wiwaste is chief of a nimble band,
The star-eyed daughter of Little Crow;
And the leader chosen to hold command
Of the band adverse is a haughty foe--
The dusky, impetuous Harpstina,
The queenly cousin of Wapasa.

_Kapoza's_ chief and his tawny hunters
Are gathered to witness the queenly game.
The ball is thrown and a net encounters,
And away it flies with a loud acclaim.
Swift are the maidens that follow after,
And swiftly it flies for the farther bound;
And long and loud are the peals of laughter,
As some fair runner is flung to ground;
While backward and forward, and to and fro,
The maidens contend on the trampled snow.
With loud "_Iho!--Ito!--Iho_!"
And waving the beautiful prize anon,
The dusky warriors cheer them on.
And often the limits are almost passed,
As the swift ball flies and returns. At last
It leaps the line at a single bound
From the fair Wiwaste's sturdy arm
Like a fawn that flies from the baying hound.
The wild cheers broke like a thunder storm
On the beetling bluffs and the hills profound,
An echoing, jubilant sea of sound.
Wakawa, the chief, and the loud acclaim
Announced the end of the hard-won game,
And the fair Wiwaste was victor crowned.

Dark was the visage of Harpstina
When the robe was laid at her rival's feet,
And merry maidens and warriors saw
Her flashing eyes and her look of hate,
As she turned to Wakawa, the chief, and said:
"The game was mine were it fairly played.
I was stunned by a blow on my bended head,
As I snatched the ball from slippery ground
Not half a fling from Wiwaste's bound.
The cheat--behold her! for there she stands
With the prize that is mine in her treacherous hands.
The fawn may fly, but the wolf is fleet;
The fox creeps sly on _Maga's_ retreat,
And a woman's revenge--it is swift and sweet."

She turned to her lodge, but a roar of laughter
And merry mockery followed after.
Little they heeded the words she said,
Little they cared for her haughty tread,
For maidens and warriors and chieftain knew
That her lips were false and her charge untrue.

Wiwaste, the fairest Dakota maiden,
The sweet-faced daughter of Little Crow,
To her _teepee_ turned with her trophy laden,
The black robe trailing the virgin snow.
Beloved was she by her princely father,
Beloved was she by the young and old,
By merry maidens and many a mother,
And many a warrior bronzed and bold.
For her face was as fair as a beautiful dream,
And her voice like the song of the mountain stream;
And her eyes like the stars when they glow and gleam
Through the somber pines of the nor'land wold,
When the winds of winter are keen and cold.

Mah-pi-ya Du-ta, the tall Red Cloud,
A hunter swift and a warrior proud,
With many a scar and many a feather,
Was a suitor bold and a lover fond.
Long had he courted Wiwaste's father,
Long had he sued for the maiden's hand.
Aye, brave and proud was the tall Red Cloud,
A peerless son of a giant race,
And the eyes of the panther were set in his face:
He strode like a stag, and he stood like a pine;
Ten feathers he wore of the great _Wanmdee_;
With crimsoned quills of the porcupine
His leggins were worked to his brawny knee.
The bow he bent was a giant's bow;
The swift, red elk could he overtake,
And the necklace that girdled his brawny neck
Was the polished claws of the great _Mato_
He grappled and slew in the northern snow.
Wiwaste looked on the warrior tall;
She saw he was brawny and brave and great,
But the eyes of the panther she could but hate,
And a brave _Hohe_ loved she better than all.
Loved was Mahpiya by Harpstina
But the warrior she never could charm or draw;
And bitter indeed was her secret hate
For the maiden she reckoned so fortunate.