American Indian Myth Poems
By Hartley Alexander
Note: THE poetic spirit of the American Indian is a thing to be retrieved
fragmentarily, partly through the echoes of old songs, partly through the dim
rememberings of ancient beliefs. The native expression is seldom articulate after
the manner of white men; it is too simply a communion with nature to need formal
articulation. But it falls easily into the cadences of unaffected speech, interpreted
but not misportrayed.
The story of the never-ending strife of the Daughter of the South, Mother of Life,
with the Wolf-Chieftain of the North; the naïve faith that to bathe the bare feet in
the morning dews will bring youthful power; belief in Spirit-Men of the Mirage; old
myths of birds or animals who have wished death into the world, -- of such
fragments as these are the inspirations for what is here given, tradition from the
Indian, heritage for ourselves.
Scribner's Magazine, Vol. 71
Charles Scribner's Sons
THE CITIES OF WHITE MEN
THOSE men build many houses:
They dig the earth, and they build;
They cut down the trees, and they build;
They work always -- building.
From the elevation of the mountainside
I behold the clouds:
The clouds build many beautiful houses in the sky:
They build, and they tear down;
They build, and they dissolve…
The cities of white men,
They are not beautiful like the cloud cities;
They are not vast, like the cloud cities…
A wind-swept teepee
Is all the house I own…
WHIPPED onwards by the North Wind
The air is filled with the dust of driven snow:
The earth is hidden,
The sky is hidden,
All things are hidden,
The air is filled with stinging,
Before, behind, above, below,
Who can turn his face from it?
All the animals drift mourning, mourning…
Only the Gray Wolf laughs.
Who are ye who wallow in the winds?
Who are ye who strike with stinging blows?
Man-beings out of the Nor