Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE INDIAN, by ARTHUR STANLEY BOURINOT



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THE INDIAN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Standing by the shore of the great bitter water
Last Line: Are empty.
Subject(s): Native Americans; Indians Of America; American Indians; Indians Of South America


Standing by the shore of the great bitter water
When the Sun god rose from his rest
In the dark tepees of the east,
I looked out over the great lake of bitter water
White with the manes of galloping stallions
And farther than arrows can reach
Over the bitter water
Swam great white birds
Arching white feathered necks
Shaking their plumage,
Swimming, swimming towards me.
Nearer and nearer they came,
And soon,
Canoes were the birds,
Burdened like squaws,
Carrying huge blankets of white.
And the wind was their friend
Blowing them close to the shore,
Blowing them close. Then they stopped
And a great noise came over the bitter water,
Louder than the noise of the thunder bird
When he flaps his great black wings,
Shadowing the land,
And the mountains tremble
And the Great Turtle moves in his sleep
And the earth shakes.
And fire I saw
Like the lightning,
And I covered my eyes
Lest blindness should come
As it comes from the fire and smoke in the tepee.
And shouting I ran to the trees
And sheltered myself
Calling my brothers to come.
And quickly they ran
And gathered about me
And we lay on our old mother earth,
Trembling, looked out on the broad bitter water.

Braves we saw
With pale white faces,
Eyes as blue as the skies
When the snows are here
And hair like the veins
That run through the rocks
On the shore of the great inland water.
And they carried the thunder in their hands
And silver they wore on their heads
And their voices were soft,
Soft were their words when they called to us.
And slowly we walked to the shore
Our bows in our hands,
Our quivers of arrows ready for use.
But soft were their words
And they came bringing gifts,
Trinkets and beads for our squaws
And shiny things for the children,
Hatchets and hoes for the boys and the braves.
And our hearts were great with happiness
And brothers we called them
And passed the pipe of peace.
The pale faces from over the bitter water
Laughed at us and wondered
As we sat and smoked our pipes of stone
Contented and happy.

Many suns they were with us
And happy we were.
Came the time when the pumpkins were yellow,
Red corn in the clearing was tasselled
And sweet.
They hoisted their sails on their mighty canoes,
Sailed away to the east,
Vanished from sight,
Were lost on the bitter water.
And two of our brothers went with them
And now they are gone
Sad are our hearts
And empty our days;
And often we go to the shore
But nothing we see,
No sail on the water
To gladden our sight,
No sound of the thunder;
Only the great lake of the bitter water
And the white gulls wheeling
And crying.
And sad and bitter are our hearts
As the bitter water.
Will they come again,
The great spirits,
Bringing us gifts
As they promised,
Bringing our brothers
With tales to tell
Of the great white father
Who dwells in his wigwam
Beyond the bitter water?
We are lonely for our brothers,
We are waiting to hear
The tales they'll tell us
When they return
With the pale faces
From over the bitter water.
Oh hasten, little brothers,
We are waiting,
We are waiting,
We are lonely
And our pipes
Are empty.





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