Hanford Lennox Gordon Poems >>
The Feast Of The Virgins - The Giant's Dance

The night-sun sails in his gold canoe,
The spirits walk in the realms of air
With their glowing faces and flaming hair,
And the shrill, chill winds o'er the prairies blow.
In the _Tee of the Council_ the Virgins light
The Virgin-fire for the feast to-night;
For the _Sons of Heyoka_ will celebrate
The sacred dance to the giant great.
The kettle boils on the blazing fire,
And the flesh is done to the chief's desire.
With his stoic face to the sacred East,
He takes his seat at the Giant's Feast.

For the feast of _Heyoka_ the braves are dressed
With crowns from the bark of the white-birch trees,
And new skin leggins that reach the knees;
With robes of the bison and swarthy bear,
And eagle-plumes in their coal-black hair,
And marvelous rings in their tawny ears
That were pierced with the points of their shining spears.
To honor _Heyoka_ Wakawa lifts
His fuming pipe from the Red-stone Quarry.
The warriors follow. The white cloud drifts
From the Council-lodge to the welkin starry,
Like a fog at morn on the fir-clad hill,
When the meadows are damp and the winds are still.

They dance to the tune of their wild "_Ha-ha_"
A warrior's shout and a raven's caw--
Circling the pot and the blazing fire
To the tom-tom's bray and the rude bassoon;
Round and round to their heart's desire,
And ever the same wild chant and tune--
A warrior's shout and a raven's caw--
"_Ha-ha,--ha-ha,--ha-ha,--ha!_"
They crouch, they leap, and their burning eyes
Flash fierce in the light of the flaming fire,
As fiercer and fiercer and higher and higher
The rude, wild notes of their chant arise.
They cease, they sit, and the curling smoke
Ascends again from their polished pipes,
And upward curls from their swarthy lips
To the god whose favor their hearts invoke.

Then tall Wakawa arose and said:
"Brave warriors, listen, and give due heed.
Great is _Heyoka_, the magical god;
He can walk on the air; he can float on the flood.
He's a worker of magic and wonderful wise;
He cries when he laughs and he laughs when he cries;
He sweats when he's cold, and he shivers when hot,
And the water is cold in his boiling pot.
He hides in the earth and he walks in disguise,
But he loves the brave and their sacrifice.
We are sons of _Heyoka_. The Giant commands
In the boiling water to thrust our hands;
And the warrior that scorneth the foe and fire
_Heyoka_ will crown with his heart's desire."

They thrust their hands in the boiling pot;
They swallow the bison-meat steaming hot;
Not a wince on their stoical faces bold,
For the meat and the water, they say, are cold:
And great is _Heyoka_ and wonderful wise;
He floats on the flood and he walks on the skies,
And ever appears in a strange disguise;
But he loves the brave and their sacrifice,
And the warrior that scorneth the foe and fire
Heyoka will crown with his heart's desire.

Proud was the chief of his warriors proud,
The sinewy sons of the Giant's race;
But the bravest of all was the tall Red Cloud;
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.
Blood-red were the stripes on his swarthy cheek,
And the necklace that girdled his brawny neck
Was the polished claws of the great Mato
He grappled and slew in the northern snow.
Proud Red Cloud turned to the braves and said,
As he shook the plumes on his haughty head:
"Ho! the warrior that scorneth the foe and fire
_Heyoka_ will crown with his heart's desire!"
He snatched from the embers a red-hot brand,
And held it aloft in his naked hand.
He stood like a statue in bronze or stone--
Not a muscle moved, and the braves looked on.
He turned to the chieftain--"I scorn the fire--
Ten feathers I wear of the great _Wanmdee_;
Then grant me, Wakawa, my heart's desire;
Let the sunlight shine in my lonely tee.
I laugh at red death and I laugh at red fire;
Brave Red Cloud is only afraid of fear;
But Wiwaste is fair to his heart and dear;
Then grant him, Wakawa, his heart's desire."
The warriors applauded with loud "_Ho! Ho!_"
And he flung the brand to the drifting snow.
Three times Wakawa puffed forth the smoke
From his silent lips; then he slowly spoke:
"Mahpiya is strong as the stout-armed oak
That stands on the bluff by the windy plain,
And laughs at the roar of the hurricane.
He has slain the foe and the great _Mato_
With his hissing arrow and deadly stroke
My heart is swift but my tongue is slow.
Let the warrior come to my lodge and smoke;
He may bring the gifts; but the timid doe
May fly from the hunter and say him no."

Wiwaste sat late in the lodge alone,
Her dark eyes bent on the glowing fire:
She heard not the wild winds shrill and moan;
She heard not the tall elms toss and groan;
Her face was lit like the harvest moon;
For her thoughts flew far to her heart's desire.
Far away in the land of the _Hohe_ dwelt
The warrior she held in her secret heart;
But little he dreamed of the pain she felt,
For she hid her love with a maiden's art.
Not a tear she shed, not a word she said,
When the brave young chief from the lodge departed;
But she sat on the mound when the day was dead,
And gazed at the full moon mellow-hearted.
Fair was the chief as the morning-star;
His eyes were mild and his words were low,
But his heart was stouter than lance or bow;
And her young heart flew to her love afar
O'er his trail long covered with drifted snow.
She heard a warrior's stealthy tread,
And the tall Wakawa appeared, and said:
"Is Wiwaste afraid of the spirit dread
That fires the sky in the fatal north?
Behold the mysterious lights. Come forth:
Some evil threatens, some danger nears,
For the skies are pierced by the burning spears."

The warriors rally beneath the moon;
They shoot their shafts at the evil spirit.
The spirit is slain and the flame is gone,
But his blood lies red on the snow-fields near it;
And again from the dead will the spirit rise,
And flash his spears in the northern skies.

Then the chief and the queenly Wiwaste stood
Alone in the moon-lit solitude,
And she was silent and he was grave.
"And fears not my daughter the evil spirit?
The strongest warriors and bravest fear it.
The burning spears are an evil omen;
They threaten the wrath of a wicked woman,
Or a treacherous foe; but my warriors brave,
When danger nears, or the foe appears,
Are a cloud of arrows--a grove of spears."

"My Father," she said, and her words were low,
"Why should I fear? for I soon will go
To the broad, blue lodge in the Spirit-land,
Where my fond-eyed mother went long ago,
And my dear twin-sisters walk hand in hand.
My Father, listen--my words are true,"
And sad was her voice as the whippowil
When she mourns her mate by the moon-lit rill,
"Wiwaste lingers alone with you;
The rest are sleeping on yonder hill--
Save one--and he an undutiful son--
And you, my Father, will sit alone
When _Sisoka_ sings and the snow is gone.
I sat, when the maple leaves were red,
By the foaming falls of the haunted river;
The night-sun was walking above my head,
And the arrows shone in his burnished quiver;
And the winds were hushed and the hour was dread
With the walking ghosts of the silent dead.
I heard the voice of the Water-Fairy;
I saw her form in the moon-lit mist,
As she sat on a stone with her burden weary,
By the foaming eddies of amethyst.
And robed in her mantle of mist the sprite
Her low wail poured on the silent night.
Then the spirit spake, and the floods were still--
They hushed and listened to what she said,
And hushed was the plaint of the whippowil
In the silver-birches above her head:
'Wiwaste, the prairies are green and fair
When the robin sings and the whippowil;
But the land of the Spirits is fairer still,
For the winds of winter blow never there;
And forever the songs of the whippowils
And the robins are heard on the leafy hills.
Thy mother looks from her lodge above--
Her fair face shines in the sky afar,
And the eyes of thy sisters are bright with love,
As they peep from the _tee_ of the mother-star.
To her happy lodge in the Spirit land
She beckons Wiwaste with shining hand.'

"My Father--my Father, her words were true;
And the death of Wiwaste will rest on you.
You have pledged me as wife to the tall Red Cloud;
You will take the gifts of the warrior proud;
But I, Wakawa,--I answer--never!
I will stain your knife in my heart's red blood,
I will plunge and sink in the sullen river
Ere I will be wife to the dark Red Cloud!"

"Wiwaste," he said, and his voice was low,
"Let it be as you will, for Wakawa's tongue
Has spoken no promise;--his lips are slow,
And the love of a father is deep and strong.
Be happy, Micunksee; the flames are gone--
They flash no more in the northern sky.
See the smile on the face of the watching moon;
No more will the fatal, red arrows fly;
For the singing shafts of my warriors sped
To the bad spirit's bosom and laid him dead,
And his blood on the snow of the North lies red.
Go--sleep in the robe that you won to-day,
And dream of your hunter--the brave Chaske."

Light was her heart as she turned away;
It sang like the lark in the skies of May.
The round moon laughed, but a lone, red star,
As she turned to the _teepee_ and entered in,
Fell flashing and swift in the sky afar,
Like the polished point of a javelin.
Nor chief nor daughter the shadow saw
Of the crouching listener, Harpstina.

Wiwaste, wrapped in her robe and sleep,
Heard not the storm-sprites wail and weep,
As they rode on the winds in the frosty air;
But she heard the voice of her hunter fair;
For a fairy spirit with silent fingers
The curtains drew from the land of dreams;
And lo in her _teepee_ her lover lingers;
In his tender eyes all the love-light beams,
And his voice is the music of mountain streams.

And then with her round, brown arms she pressed
His phantom form to her throbbing breast,
And whispered the name, in her happy sleep,
Of her _Hohe_ hunter so fair and far:
And then she saw in her dreams the deep
Where the spirit wailed, and a falling star;
Then stealthily crouching under the trees,
By the light of the moon, the _Kan-e-ti-dan_,
The little, wizened, mysterious man,
With his long locks tossed by the moaning breeze.
Then a flap of wings, like a thunder-bird,
And a wailing spirit the sleeper heard;
And lo, through the mists of the moon, she saw
The hateful visage of Harpstina.

But waking she murmured--"And what are these----
The flap of wings and the falling star,
The wailing spirit that's never at ease,
The little man crouching under the trees,
And the hateful visage of Harpstina?
My dreams are like feathers that float on the breeze,
And none can tell what the omens are----
Save the beautiful dream of my love afar
In the happy land of the tall _Hohe_----
My handsome hunter--my brave Chaske."

_"Ta-tanka! Ta-tanka!"_ the hunters cried,
With a joyous shout at the break of dawn
And darkly lined on the white hill-side,
A herd of bison went marching on
Through the drifted snow like a caravan.
Swift to their ponies the hunters sped,
And dashed away on the hurried chase.
The wild steeds scented the game ahead,
And sprang like hounds to the eager race.
But the brawny bulls in the swarthy van
Turned their polished horns on the charging foes
And reckless rider and fleet footman
Were held at bay in the drifted snows,
While the bellowing herd o'er the hilltops ran,
Like the frightened beasts of a caravan
On Sahara's sands when the simoon blows.
Sharp were the twangs of the hunters' bows,
And swift and humming the arrows sped,
Till ten huge bulls on the bloody snows
Lay pierced with arrows and dumb and dead.
But the chief with the flankers had gained the rear,
And flew on the trail of the flying herd.
The shouts of the riders rang loud and clear,
As their foaming steeds to the chase they spurred.
And now like the roar of an avalanche
Rolls the bellowing wrath of the maddened bulls
They charge on the riders and runners stanch,
And a dying steed in the snow drift rolls,
While the rider, flung to the frozen ground,
Escapes the horns by a panther's bound.
But the raging monsters are held at bay,
While the flankers dash on the swarthy rout:
With lance and arrow they slay and slay;
And the welkin rings to the gladsome shout----
To the loud _Ina's_ and the wild _Iho's_,
And dark and dead, on the bloody snows,
Lie the swarthy heaps of the buffaloes.
All snug in the _teepee_ Wiwaste lay,
All wrapped in her robe, at the dawn of day,
All snug and warm from the wind and snow,
While the hunters followed the buffalo.
Her dreams and her slumber their wild shouts broke;
The chase was afoot when the maid awoke;
She heard the twangs of the hunters' bows,
And the bellowing bulls and the loud _Iho_'s,
And she murmured--"My hunter is far away
In the happy land of the tall _Hohe_----
My handsome hunter, my brave Chaske;
But the robins will come and my warrior too,
And Wiwaste will find her a way to woo."

And long she lay in a reverie,
And dreamed, wide-awake, of the brave Chaske,
Till a trampling of feet on the crispy snow
She heard, and the murmur of voices low:----
Then the warriors' greeting--_Iho! Iho!_
And behold, in the blaze of the risen day,
With the hunters that followed the buffalo----
Came her tall, young hunter--her brave Chaske.
Far south has he followed the bison-trail
With his band of warriors so brave and true.
Right glad is Wakawa his friend to hail,
And Wiwaste will find her a way to woo.

Tall and straight as the larch-tree stood
The manly form of the brave young chief,
And fair as the larch in its vernal leaf,
When the red fawn bleats in the feathering wood.
Mild was his face as the morning skies,
And friendship shone in his laughing eyes;
But swift were his feet o'er the drifted snow
On the trail of the elk or the buffalo,
And his heart was stouter than lance or bow,
When he heard the whoop of his enemies.
Five feathers he wore of the great Wanmdee
And each for the scalp of a warrior slain,
When down on his camp from the northern plain,
With their murder-cries rode the bloody _Cree_.
But never the stain of an infant slain,
Or the blood of a mother that plead in vain,
Soiled the honored plumes of the brave _Hohe_.
A mountain bear to his enemies,
To his friends like the red fawn's dappled form;
In peace, like the breeze from the summer seas----
In war, like the roar of the mountain storm.
His fame in the voice of the winds went forth
From his hunting grounds in the happy North,
And far as the shores of the _Great Mede_
The nations spoke of the brave Chaske.

Dark was the visage of grim Red Cloud,
Fierce were the eyes of the warrior proud,
When the chief to his lodge led the brave _Hohe_,
And Wiwaste smiled on the tall Chaske.
Away he strode with a sullen frown,
And alone in his _teepee_ he sat him down.
From the gladsome greeting of braves he stole,
And wrapped himself in his gloomy soul.
But the eagle eyes of the Harpstina
The clouded face of the warrior saw.
Softly she spoke to the sullen brave:
"Mah-pi-ya Duta--his face is sad;
And why is the warrior so glum and grave?
For the fair Wiwaste is gay and glad;
She will sit in the _teepee_ the live-long day,
And laugh with her lover--the brave _Hohe_
Does the tall Red Cloud for the false one sigh?
There are fairer maidens than she, and proud
Were their hearts to be loved by the brave Red Cloud.
And trust not the chief with the smiling eyes;
His tongue is swift, but his words are lies;
And the proud Mah-pi-ya will surely find
That Wakawa's promise is hollow wind.
Last night I stood by his lodge, and lo
I heard the voice of the Little Crow;
But the fox is sly and his words were low.
But I heard her answer her father--'Never!
I will stain your knife in my heart's red blood,
I will plunge and sink in the sullen river,
Ere I will be wife to the dark Red Cloud!'
Then he spake again, and his voice was low,
But I heard the answer of Little Crow:
'Let it be as you will, for Wakawa's tongue
Has spoken no promise--his lips are slow,
And the love of a father is deep and strong.'

"Mah-pi-ya Duta, they scorn your love,
But the false chief covets the warrior's gifts.
False to his promise the fox will prove,
And fickle as snow in _Wo-ka-da-wee_,
That slips into brooks when the gray cloud lifts,
Or the red sun looks through the ragged rifts.
Mah-pi-ya Duta will listen to me.
There are fairer birds in the bush than she,
And the fairest would gladly be Red Cloud's wife.
Will the warrior sit like a girl bereft,
When fairer and truer than she are left,
That love Red Cloud as they love their life?
Mah-pi-ya Duta will listen to me.
I love him well--I have loved him long:
A woman is weak, but a warrior is strong,
And a love-lorn brave is a scorn to see.

"Mah-pi-ya Duta, O listen to me!
Revenge is swift and revenge is strong,
And sweet as the hive in the hollow tree;
The proud Red Cloud will avenge his wrong.
Let the brave be patient, it is not long
Till the leaves be green on the maple tree,
And the Feast of the Virgins is then to be--
The Feast of the Virgins is then to be!"

Proudly she turned from the silent brave,
And went her way; but the warrior's eyes--
They flashed with the flame of a sudden fire,
Like the lights that gleam in the Sacred Cave,
When the black night covers the autumn skies,
And the stars from their welkin watch retire.

Three nights he tarried--the brave Chaske;
Winged were the hours and they flitted away;
On the wings of _Wakandee_ they silently flew,
For Wiwaste had found her a way to woo.
Ah little he cared for the bison-chase,
For the red lilies bloomed on the fair maid's face;
Ah little he cared for the winds that blew,
For Wiwaste had found her a way to woo.
Brown-bosomed she sat on her fox-robe dark,
Her ear to the tales of the brave inclined,
Or tripped from the _tee_ like the song of a lark,
And gathered her hair from the wanton wind.
Ah little he thought of the leagues of snow
He trod on the trail of the buffalo;
And little he recked of the hurricanes
That swept the snow from the frozen plains
And piled the banks of the Bloody River.
His bow unstrung and forgotten hung
With his beaver hood and his otter quiver;
He sat spell-bound by the artless grace
Of her star-lit eyes and her moon-lit face.
Ah little he cared for the storms that blew,
For Wiwaste had found her a way to woo.
When he spoke with Wakawa her sidelong eyes
Sought the handsome chief in his hunter-guise.
Wakawa marked, and the lilies fair
On her round cheeks spread to her raven hair.
They feasted on rib of the bison fat,
On the tongue of the _Ta_ that the hunters prize,
On the savory flesh of the red _Hogan_,
On sweet _tipsanna_ and pemmican
And the dun-brown cakes of the golden maize;
And hour after hour the young chief sat,
And feasted his soul on her love-lit eyes.

The sweeter the moments the swifter they fly;
Love takes no account of the fleeting hours;
He walks in a dream 'mid the blooming of flowers,
And never awakes till the blossoms die.
Ah lovers are lovers the wide world over--
In the hunter's lodge and the royal palace.
Sweet are the lips of his love to the lover--
Sweet as new wine in a golden chalice
From the Tajo's slope or the hills beyond;
And blindly he sips from his loved one's lips,
In lodge or palace the wide world over,
The maddening honey of Trebizond.

O what are leagues to the loving hunter,
Or the blinding drift of the hurricane,
When it raves and roars o'er the frozen plain!
He would face the storm--he would death encounter
The darling prize of his heart to gain.
But his hunters chafed at the long delay,
For the swarthy bison were far away,
And the brave young chief from the lodge departed.
He promised to come with the robins in May
With the bridal gifts for the bridal day;
And the fair Wiwaste was happy-hearted,
For Wakawa promised the brave Chaske.
Birds of a feather will flock together.
The robin sings to his ruddy mate,
And the chattering jays, in the winter weather,
To prate and gossip will congregate;
And the cawing crows on the autumn heather,
Like evil omens, will flock together,
In common council for high debate;
And the lass will slip from a doting mother
To hang with her lad on the garden gate.
Birds of a feather will flock together--
'Tis an adage old--it is nature's law,
And sure as the pole will the needle draw,
The fierce Red Cloud with the flaunting feather,
Will follow the finger of Harpstina.

The winter wanes and the south-wind blows
From the Summer Islands legendary;
The _skeskas_ fly and the melted snows
In lakelets lie on the dimpled prairie.
The frost-flowers peep from their winter sleep
Under the snow-drifts cold and deep.
To the April sun and the April showers,
In field and forest, the baby flowers
Lift their blushing faces and dewy eyes;
And wet with the tears of the winter-fairies,
Soon bloom and blossom the emerald prairies,
Like the fabled Garden of Paradise.

The plum-trees, white with their bloom in May,
Their sweet perfume on the vernal breeze
Wide strew like the isles of the tropic seas
Where the paroquet chatters the livelong day.
But the May-days pass and the brave Chaske
O why does the lover so long delay?
Wiwaste waits in the lonely _tee_.
Has her fair face fled from his memory?
For the robin cherups his mate to please,
The blue-bird pipes in the poplar-trees,
The meadow lark warbles his jubilees,
Shrilling his song in the azure seas
Till the welkin throbs to his melodies,
And low is the hum of the humble-bees,
And the Feast of the Virgins is now to be.