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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Western States: Superior, the Lake

Hiawatha’s Departure

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

(From The Song of Hiawatha)

BY the shore of Gitche Gumee,

By the shining Big-Sea-Water,

At the doorway of his wigwam,

In the pleasant summer morning,

Hiawatha stood and waited.

All the air was full of freshness,

All the earth was bright and joyous,

And before him, through the sunshine,

Westward through the neighboring forest

Passed in golden swarms the Ahmo,

Passed the bees, the honey-makers,

Burning, singing in the sunshine.

Bright above him shone the heavens,

Level spread the lake before him;

From its bosom leaped the sturgeon,

Sparkling, flashing in the sunshine;

On its margin the great forest

Stood reflected in the water,

Every tree-top had its shadow,

Motionless beneath the water.

From the brow of Hiawatha

Gone was every trace of sorrow,

As the fog from off the water,

As the mist from off the meadow.

With a smile of joy and triumph,

With a look of exultation,

As of one who in a vision

Sees what is to be, but is not,

Stood and waited Hiawatha.

Toward the sun his hands were lifted,

Both the palms spread out against it,

And between the parted fingers

Fell the sunshine on his features,

Flecked with light his naked shoulders,

As it falls and flecks an oak-tree

Through the rifted leaves and branches.

O’er the water floating, flying,

Something in the hazy distance,

Something in the mists of morning,

Loomed and lifted from the water,

Now seemed floating, now seemed flying,

Coming nearer, nearer, nearer.

Was it Shingebis the diver?

Or the pelican, the Shada?

Or the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah?

Or the white goose, Wah-be-wawa,

With the water dripping, flashing,

From its glossy neck and feathers?

It was neither goose nor diver,

Neither pelican nor heron,

O’er the water floating, flying,

Through the shining mist of morning

But a birch canoe with paddles,

Rising, sinking on the water,

Dripping, flashing in the sunshine;

And within it came a people

From the distant land of Wabun,

From the farthest realms of morning,

Came the Black-Robe chief, the Prophet,

He the Priest of Prayer, the Pale-face,

With his guides and his companions.

And the noble Hiawatha

With his hands aloft extended,

Held aloft in sign of welcome,

Waited, full of exultation,

Till the birch canoe with paddles

Grated on the shining pebbles,

Stranded on the sandy margin,

Till the Black-Robe chief, the Pale-face,

With the cross upon his bosom,

Landed on the sandy margin.

Then the joyous Hiawatha,

Cried aloud and spake in this wise:

“Beautiful is the sun, O strangers,

When you come so far to see us!

All our town in peace awaits you,

All our doors stand open for you;

You shall enter all our wigwams,

For the heart’s right hand we give you.

“Never bloomed the earth so gayly,

Never shone the sun so brightly,

As to-day they shine and blossom

When you come so far to see us!

Never was our lake so tranquil,

Nor so free from rocks and sand-bars;

For your birch canoe in passing

Has removed both rock and sand-bar.

“Never before had our tobacco

Such a sweet and pleasant flavor,

Never the broad leaves of our cornfields

Were so beautiful to look on,

As they seem to us this morning,

When you come so far to see us!”

And the Black-Robe chief made answer,

Stammered in his speech a little,

Speaking words yet unfamiliar:

“Peace be with you, Hiawatha,

Peace be with you and your people,

Peace of prayer, and peace of pardon,

Peace of Christ, and joy of Mary!”


Slowly o’er the simmering landscape

Fell the evening’s dusk and coolness,

And the long and level sunbeams

Shot their spears into the forest,

Breaking through its shields of shadow,

Rushed into each secret ambush,

Searched each thicket, dingle, hollow;

Still the guests of Hiawatha

Slumbered in the silent wigwam.

From his place rose Hiawatha,

Bade farewell to old Nokomis,

Spake in whispers, spake in this wise,

Did not wake the guests, that slumbered:

“I am going, O Nokomis,

On a long and distant journey,

To the portals of the Sunset,

To the regions of the home-wind,

Of the Northwest wind, Keewaydin.

But these guests I leave behind me,

In your watch and ward I leave them;

See that never harm comes near them,

See that never fear molests them,

Never danger nor suspicion,

Never want of food or shelter,

In the lodge of Hiawatha!”

Forth into the village went he,

Bade farewell to all the warriors,

Bade farewell to all the young men,

Spake persuading, spake in this wise:

“I am going, O my people,

On a long and distant journey;

Many moons and many winters

Will have come, and will have vanished,

Ere I come again to see you.

But my guests I leave behind me;

Listen to their words of wisdom,

Listen to the truth they tell you,

For the Master of Life has sent them

From the land of light and morning!”

On the shore stood Hiawatha,

Turned and waved his hand at parting;

On the clear and luminous water

Launched his birch canoe for sailing,

From the pebbles of the margin

Shoved it forth into the water;

Whispered to it, “Westward! westward!”

And with speed it darted forward.

And the evening sun descending

Set the clouds on fire with redness,

Burned the broad sky, like a prairie,

Left upon the level water,

One long track and trail of splendor,

Down whose stream, as down a river,

Westward, westward Hiawatha

Sailed into the fiery sunset,

Sailed into the purple vapors,

Sailed into the dusk of evening.

And the people from the margin

Watched him floating, rising, sinking,

Till the birch canoe seemed lifted

High into that sea of splendor,

Till it sank into the vapors

Like the new moon slowly, slowly

Sinking in the purple distance.

And they said, “Farewell forever!”

Said, “Farewell, O Hiawatha!”

And the forests, dark and lonely,

Moved through all their depths of darkness,

Sighed, “Farewell, O Hiawatha!”

And the waves upon the margin

Rising, rippling on the pebbles,

Sobbed, “Farewell, O Hiawatha!”

And the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,

From her haunts among the fen-lands,

Screamed, “Farewell, O Hiawatha!”

Thus departed Hiawatha,

Hiawatha the Beloved,

In the glory of the sunset,

In the purple mists of evening,

To the regions of the home-wind,

Of the Northwest wind Keewaydin,

To the Islands of the Blessed,

To the kingdom of Ponemah,

To the land of the Hereafter!