Hanford Lennox Gordon Poems >>
Winona - Winona's Warning

'Twas sunrise; the spirits of mist
     trailed their white robes on dewy savannas,
And the flowers raised their heads to be kissed
     by the first golden beams of the morning.
The breeze was abroad with the breath
     of the rose of the Isles of the Summer,
And the humming-bird hummed on the heath
     from his home in the land of the rainbow.
'Twas the morn of departure. DuLuth
     stood alone by the roar of the _Ha-ha_;
Tall and fair in the strength of his youth
     stood the blue-eyed and fair-bearded Frenchman.
A rustle of robes on the grass broke his dream
     as he mused by the waters,
And, turning, he looked on the face of Winona,
     wild-rose of the prairies,
Half hid in her dark, flowing hair,
     like the round, golden moon in the pine-tops.
Admiring he gazed--she was fair
     as his own blooming Flore in her orchards,
With her golden locks loose on the air,
     like the gleam of the sun through the olives,
Far away on the vine-covered shore,
     in the sun-favored land of his fathers.
"Lists the chief to the cataract's roar
     for the mournful lament of the Spirit?"
Said Winona,--"The wail of the sprite
     for her babe and its father unfaithful,
Is heard in the midst of the night,
     when the moon wanders dim in the heavens."

"Wild-Rose of the Prairies," he said,
     "DuLuth listens not to the _Ha-ha_,
For the wail of the ghost of the dead
     for her babe and its father unfaithful;
But he lists to a voice in his heart
     that is heard by the ear of no other,
And to-day will the White Chief depart;
     he returns to the land of the sunrise."
"Let Winona depart with the chief,--
     she will kindle the fire in his _teepee_;
For long are the days of her grief,
     if she stay in the _tee_ of Ta-te-psin,"
She replied, and her cheeks were aflame
     with the bloom of the wild prairie lilies.
"_Tanke_, is the White Chief to blame?"
     said DuLuth to the blushing Winona.
"The White Chief is blameless," she said,
     "but the heart of Winona will follow
Wherever thy footsteps may lead,
     O blue-eyed, brave Chief of the white men.
For her mother sleeps long in the mound,
     and a step-mother rules in the _teepee_,
And her father, once strong and renowned,
     is bent with the weight of his winters.
No longer he handles the spear,--
     no longer his swift, humming arrows
Overtake the fleet feet of the deer,
     or the bear of the woods, or the bison;
But he bends as he walks, and the wind
     shakes his white hair and hinders his footsteps;
And soon will he leave me behind,
     without brother or sister or kindred.
The doe scents the wolf in the wind,
     and a wolf walks the path of Winona.
Three times have the gifts for the bride
     to the lodge of Ta-te-psin been carried,
But the voice of Winona replied
     that she liked not the haughty Tamdoka.
And thrice were the gifts sent away,
     but the tongue of the mother protested,
And the were-wolf still follows his prey,
     and abides but the death of my father."

"I pity Winona," he said,
     "but my path is a pathway of danger,
And long is the trail for the maid
     to the far-away land of the sunrise;
And few are the braves of my band,
     and the braves of Tamdoka are many;
But soon I return to the land,
     and a cloud of my hunters will follow.
When the cold winds of winter return
     and toss the white robes of the prairies,
The fire of the White Chief will burn
     in his lodge at the Meeting-of-Waters;
And when from the Sunrise again
     comes the chief of the sons of the Morning,
Many moons will his hunters remain
     in the land of the friendly Dakotas.
The son of Chief Wazi-Kute guides
     the White Chief afar on his journey;
Nor long on the _Tanka Mede_--
     on the breast of the blue, bounding billows--
Shall the bark of the Frenchman delay,
     but his pathway shall kindle behind him."

She was pale, and her hurried voice
     swelled with alarm as she questioned replying--
"Tamdoka thy guide?--I beheld
     thy death in his face at the races.
He covers his heart with a smile,
     but revenge never sleeps in his bosom;
His tongue--it is soft to beguile;
     but beware of the pur of the panther!
For death, like a shadow, will walk
     by thy side in the midst of the forest,
Or follow thy path like a hawk
     on the trail of a wounded _Mastinca_.
A son of _Unktehee_ is he,--
     the Chief of the crafty magicians;
They have plotted thy death;
     I can see thy trail--it is red in the forest;
Beware of Tamdoka,--beware.
     Slumber not like the grouse of the woodlands,
With head under wing, for the glare
     of the eyes that sleep not are upon thee."

"Winona, fear not," said DuLuth,
     "for I carry the fire of _Wakinyan_
And strong is the arm of my youth,
     and stout are the hearts of my warriors;
But Winona has spoken the truth,
     and the heart of the White Chief is thankful.
Hide this in thy bosom, dear maid,--
     'tis the crucified Christ of the white men.
Lift thy voice to his spirit in need,
     and his spirit will hear thee and answer;
For often he comes to my aid;
     he is stronger than all the Dakotas;
And the Spirits of evil, afraid,
     hide away when he looks from the heavens."
In her swelling, brown bosom she hid
     the crucified Jesus in silver;
"_Niwaste_," she sadly replied;
     in her low voice the rising tears trembled;
Her dewy eyes turned she aside,
     and she slowly returned to the _teepees_.
But still on the swift river's strand,
     admiring the graceful Winona,
As she gathered, with brown, dimpled hand,
     her hair from the wind, stood the Frenchman.