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

Introductory to Western States


By Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793–1864)

Geehale: An Indian Lament

THE BLACKBIRD is singing on Michigan’s shore

As sweetly and gayly as ever before;

For he knows to his mate he at pleasure can hie,

And the dear little brood she is teaching to fly.

The sun looks as ruddy, and rises as bright,

And reflects o’er the mountains as beamy a light

As it ever reflected, or ever expressed,

When my skies were the bluest, my dreams were the best.

The fox and the panther, both beasts of the night,

Retire to their dens on the gleaming of light,

And they spring with a free and a sorrowless track,

For they know that their mates are expecting them back.

Each bird and each beast, it is blessed in degree:

All nature is cheerful, all happy, but me.

I will go to my tent, and lie down in despair;

I will paint me with black, and will sever my hair;

I will sit on the shore, where the hurricane blows,

And reveal to the god of the tempest my woes;

I will weep for a season, on bitterness fed,

For my kindred are gone to the hills of the dead;

But they died not by hunger or lingering decay;

The steel of the white man hath swept them away.

This snake-skin, that once I so sacredly wore,

I will toss, with disdain, to the storm-beaten shore:

Its charms I no longer obey or invoke,

Its spirit hath left me, its spell is now broke.

I will raise up my voice to the source of the light;

I will dream on the wings of the bluebird at night;

I will speak to the spirits that whisper in leaves,

And that minister balm to the bosom that grieves;

And will take a new Manito,—such as shall seem

To be kind and propitious in every dream.

Oh, then I shall banish these cankering sighs,

And tears shall no longer gush salt from my eyes;

I shall wash from my face every cloud-colored stain;

Red—red shall alone on my visage remain!

I will dig up my hatchet, and bend my oak bow;

By night and by day I will follow the foe;

Nor lakes shall impede me, nor mountains, nor snows;

His blood can, alone, give my spirit repose.

They came to my cabin when heaven was black:

I heard not their coming, I knew not their track;

But I saw, by the light of their blazing fusees,

They were people engendered beyond the big seas:

My wife and my children,—oh, spare me the tale!—

For who is there left that is kin to Geehale?