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Poem by Emily Pauline Johnson


The Pilot of the Plains


    "False," they said, "thy Pale-face lover, from the land of waking morn;
    Rise and wed thy Redskin wooer, nobler warrior ne'er was born;
    Cease thy watching, cease thy dreaming,
            Show the white thine Indian scorn."

    Thus they taunted her, declaring, "He remembers naught of thee:
    Likely some white maid he wooeth, far beyond the inland sea."
    But she answered ever kindly,
            "He will come again to me,"

    Till the dusk of Indian summer crept athwart the western skies;
    But a deeper dusk was burning in her dark and dreaming eyes,
    As she scanned the rolling prairie,
            Where the foothills fall, and rise.

    Till the autumn came and vanished, till the season of the rains,
    Till the western world lay fettered in midwinter's crystal chains,
    Still she listened for his coming,
            Still she watched the distant plains.

    Then a night with nor'land tempest, nor'land snows a-swirling fast,
    Out upon the pathless prairie came the Pale-face through the blast,
    Calling, calling, "Yakonwita,
            I am coming, love, at last."

    Hovered night above, about him, dark its wings and cold and dread;
    Never unto trail or tepee were his straying footsteps led;
    Till benumbed, he sank, and pillowed
            On the drifting snows his head,

    Saying, "O! my Yakonwita call me, call me, be my guide
    To the lodge beyond the prairie - for I vowed ere winter died
    I would come again, beloved;
            I would claim my Indian bride."

    "Yakonwita, Yakonwita!" Oh, the dreariness that strains
    Through the voice that calling, quivers, till a whisper but remains,
    "Yakonwita, Yakonwita,
            I am lost upon the plains."

    But the Silent Spirit hushed him, lulled him as he cried anew,
    "Save me, save me! O! beloved, I am Pale but I am true.
    Yakonwita, Yakonwita,
            I am dying, love, for you."

    Leagues afar, across the prairie, she had risen from her bed,
    Roused her kinsmen from their slumber: "He has come to-night," she said.
    "I can hear him calling, calling;
            But his voice is as the dead.

    "Listen!" and they sate all silent, while the tempest louder grew,
    And a spirit-voice called faintly, "I am dying, love, for you."
    Then they wailed, "O! Yakonwita.
            He was Pale, but he was true."

    Wrapped she then her ermine round her, stepped without the tepee door,
    Saying, "I must follow, follow, though he call for evermore,
    Yakonwita, Yakonwita;"
            And they never saw her more.

    Late at night, say Indian hunters, when the starlight clouds or wanes,
    Far away they see a maiden, misty as the autumn rains,
    Guiding with her lamp of moonlight
            Hunters lost upon the plains.



Emily Pauline Johnson


Emily Pauline Johnson's other poems:
  1. Golden - of the Selkirks
  2. Wolverine
  3. The Art of Alma-Tadema
  4. Wave-Won
  5. The Train Dogs


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