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The Song My Paddle Sings
E. Pauline Johnson

West wind, blow from your prairie nest,
Blow from the mountains, blow from the west
The sail is idle, the sailor too ;
O! wind of the west, we wait for you.
Blow, blow!
I have wooed you so,
But never a favour you bestow.
You rock your cradle the hills between,
But scorn to notice my white lateen.
I stow the sail, unship the mast :
I wooed you long but my wooing’s past ;
My paddle will lull you into rest.
O! drowsy wind of the drowsy west,
Sleep, sleep,
By your mountain steep,
Or down where the prairie grasses sweep!
Now fold in slumber your laggard wings,
For soft is the song my paddle sings.
August is laughing across the sky,
Laughing while paddle, canoe and I,
Drift, drift,
Where the hills uplift
On either side of the current swift.
The river rolls in its rocky bed ;
My paddle is plying its way ahead ;
Dip, dip,
While the waters flip
In foam as over their breast we slip.
And oh, the river runs swifter now ;
The eddies circle about my bow.
Swirl, swirl!
How the ripples curl
In many a dangerous pool awhirl!
And forward far the rapids roar,
Fretting their margin for evermore.
Dash, dash,
With a mighty crash,
They seethe, and boil, and bound, and splash.
Be strong, O paddle! be brave, canoe!
The reckless waves you must plunge into.
Reel, reel.
On your trembling keel,
But never a fear my craft will feel.
We’ve raced the rapid, we’re far ahead!
The river slips through its silent bed.
Sway, sway,
As the bubbles spray
And fall in tinkling tunes away.
And up on the hills against the sky,
A fir tree rocking its lullaby,
Swings, swings,
Its emerald wings,
Swelling the song that my paddle sings.
From Flint and Feather: The Complete Poems, by J. R. Seavey, 7th edition
(Toronto and London: The Musson Book Co., Ltd., 1921)



E. Pauline Johnson (1861 - 1913) was one of Canada’s most popular and successful entertainers at the turn of the 20th century. The daughter of a Mohawk Native-Canadian father and an English mother, Pauline Johnson--at the age of 31--when her society expected her to marry and have children, adopted the name "Tekahionwake," created a Mohawk costume, and began touring Canada giving popular recitals of her poetry, comedy routines and plays. She was the first Native poet to have her work published in Canada, and was one of the few female writers at the time who could make an independent living from what she wrote and performed.



Post New Comment:
Quite simple yet delicate and refined. I'd like to read more of her poems and perhaps a biography--a fascinating person.
Posted 08/16/2014 03:13 PM
Larry Schug:
Are you sure this wasn't written yesterday? Wow! Come on kids, let's get outside and play.
Posted 08/16/2014 07:56 AM
Flint and feather is a wonderful title for this book. Thanks for introducing me to EPJ's work. The poem ends with strength: And up on the hills against the sky, / A fir tree rocking its lullaby, / Swings, swings, / Its emerald wings, / Swelling the song that my paddle sings.
Posted 08/16/2014 07:20 AM

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