Flint and Feather
E. Pauline Johnson

Part 3 out of 3

An echo to my heart that sobbing calls for you alone.

The night is gone, beloved, and another day set free,
Another day of hunger for the one I may not see.
What care I for the perfect dawn? the blue and empty skies?
The night is always mine without the morning of your eyes.



Stripped to the waist, his copper-coloured skin
Red from the smouldering heat of hate within,
Lean as a wolf in winter, fierce of mood--
As all wild things that hunt for foes, or food--
War paint adorning breast and thigh and face,
Armed with the ancient weapons of his race,
A slender ashen bow, deer sinew strung,
And flint-tipped arrow each with poisoned tongue,--
Thus does the Red man stalk to death his foe,
And sighting him strings silently his bow,
Takes his unerring aim, and straight and true
The arrow cuts in flight the forest through,
A flint which never made for mark and missed,
And finds the heart of his antagonist.
Thus has he warred and won since time began,
Thus does the Indian bring to earth his man.


Ungarmented, save for a web that lies
In fleecy folds across his impish eyes,
A tiny archer takes his way intent
On mischief, which is his especial bent.
Across his shoulder lies a quiver, filled
With arrows dipped in honey, thrice distilled
From all the roses brides have ever worn
Since that first wedding out of Eden born.
Beneath a cherub face and dimpled smile
This youthful hunter hides a heart of guile;
His arrows aimed at random fly in quest
Of lodging-place within some blameless breast.
But those he wounds die happily, and so
Blame not young Cupid with his dart and bow:
Thus has he warred and won since time began,
Transporting into Heaven both maid and man.


Like a grey shadow lurking in the light,
He ventures forth along the edge of night;
With silent foot he scouts the coulie's rim
And scents the carrion awaiting him.
His savage eyeballs lurid with a flare
Seen but in unfed beasts which leave their lair
To wrangle with their fellows for a meal
Of bones ill-covered. Sets he forth to steal,
To search and snarl and forage hungrily;
A worthless prairie vagabond is he.
Luckless the settler's heifer which astray
Falls to his fangs and violence a prey;
Useless her blatant calling when his teeth
Are fast upon her quivering flank--beneath
His fell voracity she falls and dies
With inarticulate and piteous cries,
Unheard, unheeded in the barren waste,
To be devoured with savage greed and haste.
Up the horizon once again he prowls
And far across its desolation howls;
Sneaking and satisfied his lair he gains
And leaves her bones to bleach upon the plains.



There's a brave little berry-brown man
At the opposite side of the earth;
Of the White, and the Black, and the Tan,
He's the smallest in compass and girth.
O! he's little, and lively, and Tan,
And he's showing the world what he's worth.
For his nation is born, and its birth
Is for hardihood, courage, and sand,
So you take off your cap
To the brave little Jap
Who fights for Chrysanthemum Land.

Near the house that the little man keeps,
There's a Bug-a-boo building its lair;
It prowls, and it growls, and it sleeps
At the foot of his tiny back stair.
But the little brown man never sleeps,
For the Brownie will battle the Bear--
He has soldiers and ships to command;
So take off you cap
To the brave little Jap
Who fights for Chrysanthemum Land.

Uncle Sam stands a-watching near by,
With his finger aside of his nose--
John Bull with a wink in his eye,
Looks round to see how the wind blows--
O! jolly old John, with his eye
Ever set on the East and its woes.
More than hoeing their own little rows
These wary old wags understand,
But they take off their caps
To the brave little Japs
Who fight for Chrysanthemum Land.

Now he's given us Geishas, and themes
For operas, stories, and plays,
His silks and his chinas are dreams,
And we copy his quaint little ways;
O! we look on his land in our dreams,
But his value we failed to appraise,
For he'll gather his laurels and bays--
His Cruisers and Columns are manned,
And we take off our caps
To the brave little Japs
Who fight for Chrysanthemum Land.


Not of the seething cities with their swarming human hives,
Their fetid airs, their reeking streets, their dwarfed and poisoned lives,
Not of the buried yesterdays, but of the days to be,
The glory and the gateway of the yellow West is she.

The Northern Lights dance down her plains with soft and silvery feet,
The sunrise gilds her prairies when the dawn and daylight meet;
Along her level lands the fitful southern breezes sweep,
And beyond her western windows the sublime old mountains sleep.

The Redman haunts her portals, and the Paleface treads her streets,
The Indian's stealthy footstep with the course of commerce meets,
And hunters whisper vaguely of the half forgotten tales
Of phantom herds of bison lurking on her midnight trails.

Not hers the lore of olden lands, their laurels and their bays;
But what are these, compared to one of all her perfect days?
For naught can buy the jewel that upon her forehead lies--
The cloudless sapphire Heaven of her territorial skies.



There are fires on Lulu Island, and the sky is opalescent
With the pearl and purple tinting from the smouldering of peat.
And the Dream Hills lift their summits in a sweeping, hazy crescent,
With the Capilano canyon at their feet.

There are fires on Lulu Island, and the smoke, uplifting, lingers
In a faded scarf of fragrance as it creeps across the day,
And the Inlet and the Narrows blur beneath its silent fingers,
And the canyon is enfolded in its grey.

But the sun its face is veiling like a cloistered nun at vespers;
As towards the alter candles of the night a censer swings,
And the echo of tradition wakes from slumbering and whispers,
Where the Capilano river sobs and sings.

It was Yaada, lovely Yaada, who first taught the stream its sighing,
For 'twas silent till her coming, and 'twas voiceless as the shore;
But throughout the great forever it will sing the song undying
That the lips of lovers sing for evermore.

He was chief of all the Squamish, and he ruled the coastal waters--
And he warred upon her people in the distant Charlotte Isles;
She, a winsome basket weaver, daintiest of Haida daughters,
Made him captive to her singing and her smiles.

Till his hands forgot to havoc and his weapons lost their lusting,
Till his stormy eyes allured her from the land of Totem Poles,
Till she followed where he called her, followed with a woman's trusting,
To the canyon where the Capilano rolls.

And the women of the Haidas plied in vain their magic power,
Wailed for many moons her absence, wailed for many moons their prayer,
"Bring her back, O Squamish foeman, bring to us our Yaada flower!"
But the silence only answered their despair.

But the men were swift to battle, swift to cross the coastal water,
Swift to war and swift of weapon, swift to paddle trackless miles,
Crept with stealth along the canyon, stole her from her love and brought her
Once again unto the distant Charlotte Isles.

But she faded, ever faded, and her eyes were ever turning
Southward toward the Capilano, while her voice had hushed its song,
And her riven heart repeated words that on her lips were burning:
"Not to friend--but unto foeman I belong.

"Give me back my Squamish lover--though you hate, I still must love him.
"Give me back the rugged canyon where my heart must ever be--
Where his lodge awaits my coming, and the Dream Hills lift above him,
And the Capilano learned its song from me."

But through long-forgotten seasons, moons too many to be numbered,
He yet waited by the canyon--she called across the years,
And the soul within the river, though centuries had slumbered,
Woke to sob a song of womanly tears.

For her little, lonely spirit sought the Capilano canyon,
When she died among the Haidas in the land of Totem Poles,
And you yet may hear her singing to her lover-like companion,
If you listen to the river as it rolls.

But 'tis only when the pearl and purple smoke is idly swinging
From the fires on Lulu Island to the hazy mountain crest,
That the undertone of sobbing echoes through the river's singing,
In the Capilano canyon of the West.

[5] "The Ballad of Yaada" is the last complete poem written by the
author. It was placed for publication with the "Saturday Night" of
Toronto, and did not appear in print until several months after
Miss Johnson's death.



Time and its ally, Dark Disarmament,
Have compassed me about,
Have massed their armies, and on battle bent
My forces put to rout;
But though I fight alone, and fall, and die,
Talk terms of Peace? Not I.

They war upon my fortress, and their guns
Are shattering its walls;
My army plays the cowards' part, and runs,
Pierced by a thousand balls;
They call for my surrender. I reply,
"Give quarter now? Not I."

They've shot my flag to ribbons, but in rents
It floats above the height;
Their ensign shall not crown my battlements
While I can stand and fight.
I fling defiance at them as I cry,
"Capitulate? Not I."

[6] E. Pauline Johnson died March 7th, 1913. Shortly after the
doctors told her that her illness would be her final one, she
wrote the above poem, taking a line from Tennyson as her theme.


Back to Full Books