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Indian Legends of Minnesota

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The Lone War-Path. A STORY OF SIOUX AND BLACKFOOT. O'er a vast prairie stoops the sultry night;The moon in her broad kingdom wanders white;High hung in space, she swims the murky blue.Low lies yon village of the roaming Sioux—Its smoke-stained lodges, moving toward the west,By conquering Sleep invaded and possessed. All there, save one, own his benign command;Their chief has lately left this little band,And up the glittering path of spirits fled;Thus his young widow, not a twelvemonth wed,In yonder solitary tent concealsThe aching hope, the trembling pangs she feels. How breathless is the night! None saw it rise—That black cloud stealing up the glassy skies—Till threatening murmurs, loud and louder grown,Burst from its swelling bosom, and the moonSlips into brief oblivion, while a glareAs of far, flickering torches, seems to bearThe challenge of the gods. Awake, awake!Make ready for the tempest, ere it break!Drive tent-pins deeper, stretch the covering tight—Hobble the ponies, scattering in affrightBefore the thunder-peals. When all is fast,Keep vigil, then, till the gods' wrath be past! A sudden fury sweeps the somber plain,In dizzy slant descends the sheeted rain;Sharp lightnings rend in twain the sable gloom,While, cannon-like, the unchained thunders boom!On this wild tumult of the angry skiesNo ear discerns a woman's thrilling cries;Yet, ere its sullen echoes die awayIn caverns where the mocking spirits play,Faint, but rejoicing, on a couch of skins,A new-made mother lays her lusty twins! The wise men of the tribe strange signs relate—This stormy birth portends a stormy fate—And since the warring heavens, that should affright,Called forth these daring boys on such a night,Their names must own the event that marked their birth—The elder, "As-he-walks-he-shakes-the-earth,"The younger twin, "Coming-his-voice-is-heard"—Thus saith the oracle. This mighty wordDarkens the mother's heart with nameless dread,But casts no shadow on the unconscious headOf either sturdy twin. Their mutual playWith joyous echoes fills the livelong day!From helpless infancy to boyhood grown,One brother never had been seen alone,Till sudden sorrow bowed the mother's pride—The elder sickened and untimely died. The gossips point to him that's left alone—"He, too, will die, for half himself is gone!"At first, distraught he seemed—unlike a child;He ate not, slept not, neither spoke nor smiled.Then sought the forest—wandered there aloneFor days—his tender mother frantic grown—Till he returned to her, and smiling, said,"My spirit meets and talks with him that's dead!"Thenceforth he seemed as one who, hand-in-hand,Walks with a brother in the spirit land. Among the Sioux, in those heroic days,When certain valor gained the meed of praise,The seasoned warrior, old and full of scars,Counted the hero of a hundred wars,Yet craving higher honor, went alone,On foot, to meet the enemy, and won(If he returned victorious), on that dayA proud distinction....