The Song Of Hiawatha – Introduction

By Sacks Roamer


Well our boss, Penelope Dreadful, informs us that our parody website, Flowers For Socrates, is attempting to step up their game after the loss of their two most prolific humorists. They are planning on adding new authors, more graphics, more poetry, and more esoteric bullshit in an attempt to catch up with Pansies For Plato. She has asked all us authors here to step up our game, too.

Sooo, I am going to start a series that presents the classic American poem, The Song of Hiawatha. Most people only know the one part, the “By the shores of Gitchee Goome, By the shining big sea waters” sequence. But that was just one chapter of the book long poem. I intend to post the entire poem here, one chapter at a time. Each day, I will add some new fact about the poem, or Native American lore, that only a pedantic egghead would know, or care about. That way you, the reader, can hold your head up high in the knowledge that you are a follower of a really high class website!

Sooo, without further ado, I present the Introduction to The Song of Hiawatha!

The Song of Hiawatha
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Should you ask me, whence these stories?
Whence these legends and traditions,
With the odors of the forest
With the dew and damp of meadows,
With the curling smoke of wigwams,
With the rushing of great rivers,
With their frequent repetitions,
And their wild reverberations
As of thunder in the mountains?

I should answer, I should tell you,
“From the forests and the prairies,
From the great lakes of the Northland,
From the land of the Ojibways,
From the land of the Dacotahs,
From the mountains, moors, and fen-lands
Where the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
Feeds among the reeds and rushes.
I repeat them as I heard them
From the lips of Nawadaha,
The musician, the sweet singer.”

Should you ask where Nawadaha
Found these songs so wild and wayward,
Found these legends and traditions,
I should answer, I should tell you,
“In the bird’s-nests of the forest,
In the lodges of the beaver,
In the hoof-prints of the bison,
In the eyry of the eagle!

“All the wild-fowl sang them to him,
In the moorlands and the fen-lands,
In the melancholy marshes;
Chetowaik, the plover, sang them,
Mahng, the loon, the wild-goose, Wawa,
The blue heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
And the grouse, the Mushkodasa!”

If still further you should ask me,
Saying, “Who was Nawadaha?
Tell us of this Nawadaha,”
I should answer your inquiries
Straightway in such words as follow.

“In the vale of Tawasentha,
In the green and silent valley,
By the pleasant water-courses,
Dwelt the singer Nawadaha.
Round about the Indian village
Spread the meadows and the corn-fields,
And beyond them stood the forest,
Stood the groves of singing pine-trees,
Green in Summer, white in Winter,
Ever sighing, ever singing.

“And the pleasant water-courses,
You could trace them through the valley,
By the rushing in the Spring-time,
By the alders in the Summer,
By the white fog in the Autumn,
By the black line in the Winter;
And beside them dwelt the singer,
In the vale of Tawasentha,
In the green and silent valley.

“There he sang of Hiawatha,
Sang the Song of Hiawatha,
Sang his wondrous birth and being,
How he prayed and how be fasted,
How he lived, and toiled, and suffered,
That the tribes of men might prosper,
That he might advance his people!”

Ye who love the haunts of Nature,
Love the sunshine of the meadow,
Love the shadow of the forest,
Love the wind among the branches,
And the rain-shower and the snow-storm,
And the rushing of great rivers
Through their palisades of pine-trees,
And the thunder in the mountains,
Whose innumerable echoes
Flap like eagles in their eyries;–
Listen to these wild traditions,
To this Song of Hiawatha!

Ye who love a nation’s legends,
Love the ballads of a people,
That like voices from afar off
Call to us to pause and listen,
Speak in tones so plain and childlike,
Scarcely can the ear distinguish
Whether they are sung or spoken;–
Listen to this Indian Legend,
To this Song of Hiawatha!

Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple,
Who have faith in God and Nature,
Who believe that in all ages
Every human heart is human,
That in even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings
For the good they comprehend not,
That the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God’s right hand in that darkness
And are lifted up and strengthened;–
Listen to this simple story,
To this Song of Hiawatha!

Ye, who sometimes, in your rambles
Through the green lanes of the country,
Where the tangled barberry-bushes
Hang their tufts of crimson berries
Over stone walls gray with mosses,
Pause by some neglected graveyard,
For a while to muse, and ponder
On a half-effaced inscription,
Written with little skill of song-craft,
Homely phrases, but each letter
Full of hope and yet of heart-break,
Full of all the tender pathos
Of the Here and the Hereafter;–
Stay and read this rude inscription,
Read this Song of Hiawatha!

I hope that you all enjoy this change of pace!

Sacks Roamer
The Unknown Blogger

Footnote: The Image is from this Springmaid Sheet ad, that ran in 1949. You can click on the image to make it larger, and more easily readable:


Here is a little history on the ad, from Snopes:

But it was the 1949 “Buck well spent” ad that raised the most eyebrows. The layout shows a sleeping native American man sprawled in an attitude of complete exhaustion in a sheet (which cost about a dollar back then) stretched hammock-style between birch trees. A comely young woman flashing a wide grin is getting up from the hammock, one leg still caught in its confines. Its caption reads “A buck well spent on Springmaid Sheet.”

The now-infamous line was coined by Colonel Elliot White Springs, third president of Springs Cotton Mills. His ads gave Springmaid one of the highest brand recall ratings of that era, and sales of his company’s product sloped up without interruption until his death in 1959.

Springs Cotton Mills has since become Springs Industries. Its corporate headquarters are in Fort Mill, South Carolina, and it continues to use the Springmaid label. In 1998 it linked up with its past by once again producing risqué ads. In one, three colorful Springmaid towels hang on a wall; the caption below reads “Snap butt with style.” Others show pillows and ask the question, “Why drool on something dull?”

The “buck well spent” ad wouldn’t make it today, but not due to its frisky wordplay (although some would certainly object on that basis): “buck” is no longer a term considered suitable for use in connection with native Americans.

About Penelope Dreadful

An attorney, with a rye sense of humor.
This entry was posted in Poetry, Sacks Roamer Posts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Song Of Hiawatha – Introduction

  1. I actually like this article. Most of what goes on here is totally obscene, but I like this one.


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