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  July 25, 2014
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Native American Poems for Kids - Childrens Indian Poetry

Native American Poems

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Children's Native American Poems
Indian Poetry and Recitals for Teachers

 
 

Home > Social Studies > Native American > Poems, Rhymes and Recitals > The Song of Hiawatha

Native American poetry for kids - Children's Indian Poems - The Song of HiawathaThe Song of Hiawatha

by Henry W. 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 fenlands,
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 birds'-nests of the forests,
In the lodges of the beaver,
In the hoof-prints of the bison,
In the aerie of the eagle!"
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 cornfields,
And beyond them stood the forest,
Stood the groves of singing pine-trees,
Green in summer, white in winter,
Ever sighing, ever singing.

"There he sang of Hiawatha,
Sang the Song of Hiawatha,
Sang his wondrous birth and being,
How he prayed and how he 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 snowstorm,
And the rushing of great rivers
Through their palisades of pine-trees,
And the thunder in the mountains,
Listen to this Indian Legend,
To this Song of Hiawatha!
Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple,
Who have faith in God and Nature,

Listen to this simple story,
To this Song of Hiawatha!

Notes and Questions

You have now begun to read parts of a long poem about Native American life and tradition. The Indians, like all other races of men, have such songs. Longfellow studied the Indian legends and put them into English verse so that all of us may enjoy them. Such a poem, which is really a collection of ballads or songs about heroes and about the beliefs and superstitions of a race, is often called an epic. Notice that the poet tells you that these stories in verse have the odors of the forest, the curling smoke of wigwams; the rushing of great rivers, and the roar of mountain thunder. This means that such stories are very closely connected with the simple life of a simple people--there is much of their thought about Nature, much of their love of the land where they live. Next, notice that he got his knowledge of these songs from a "sweet singer," a minstrel. All simple tribes have had such singers, who went about from place to place telling in verse what the people wanted to hear. There were no books, both boys and girls learned their stories from older people, or from wandering singers. Next, you observe that the theme of the stories is the life of Hiawatha, their great hero. So the Greeks had stories about their hero Ulysses, the early English about Beowulf and King Arthur, the French about Roland. Every great race honors the memory of a hero who lived when the race was young. Many stories cluster about the name of this hero, and poets and minstrels love to sing, and the people to hear, about these great characters. Finally, notice at the end of the poet's Introduction, two things: First, Hiawatha lived and toiled and suffered that the tribes might prosper, that he might advance his people-thus an epic poem deals with the founding of a people or race. Second, you notice that there is much about God and Nature in the poem-the simple religious faith of the people. The hero, his deeds that helped his people, the religion of the tribes-these are the subjects. Find illustrations of these things as you read.

Discussion.

  1. Where did these stories come from? Read lines which tell.
  2. Name the Great Lakes.
  3. Who was Nawadaha?
  4. What word tells the sound of the pine-trees?
  5. Read five lines that tell what the singer sang of Hiawatha.
  6. Find in the Glossary the meaning of: reverberations.
  7. Pronounce: legends; wigwams; aerie.

Phrases for Study

singing pine-trees, advance his people, wondrous birth and being, haunts of Nature, tribes of men might prosper, palisades of pine-trees.

 

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