LibriVox volunteers bring you 13 recordings of A Cry From an Indian Wife by E. Pauline Johnson (1861-1913).
This was the Fortnightly Poetry project for January 29th to February 12th, 2012.
In 1892 the opportunity of a lifetime came to this young versifier, when Frank Yeigh, the president of the Young Liberals’ Club, of Toronto, conceived the idea of having an evening of Canadian literature, at which all available Canadian authors should be guests and read from their own works.
Among the authors present on this occasion was Pauline Johnson, who contributed to the programme one of her compositions, entitled “A Cry from an Indian Wife”; and when she recited without text this much-discussed poem, which shows the Indian’s side of the North-West Rebellion, she was greeted with tremendous applause from an audience which represented the best of Toronto’s art, literature and culture. She was the only one on the programme who received an encore, and to this she replied with one of her favourite canoeing poems.
The following morning the entire press of Toronto asked why this young writer was not on the platform as a professional reader; while two of the dailies even contained editorials on the subject, inquiring why she had never published a volume of her poems, and insisted so strongly that the public should hear more of her, that Mr. Frank Yeigh arranged for her to give an entire evening in Association Hall within two weeks from the date of her first appearance. It was for this first recital that she wrote the poem by which she is best known, “The Song my Paddle Sings.”
( Summary from the Biographical Sketch included in Flint And Feather, collected verse by E. Pauline Johnson )
http://www.archive.org/download/cry_indianwife_1202_librivox/cryfromanindianwife_johnson_rn_64kb.mp3″Running time=4m 31s (mp3@64kb)
Download locations: mp3 128kb : mp3 64kb : ogg vorbis.
Catalogue pages: LibriVox, Internet Archive.
Zip of the entire book (25.5MB@64kb), featuring all 13 readers of this poem, with a total running time of 53m 13s.
In addition to the readers, this audio book was produced by:
Book Coordinator: David Lawrence
Meta-Coordinator/Cataloging: David Lawrence
A Cry From an Indian Wife
My forest brave, my Red-skin love, farewell;
We may not meet to-morrow; who can tell
What mighty ills befall our little band,
Or what you’ll suffer from the white man’s hand?
Here is your knife! I thought ’twas sheathed for aye.
No roaming bison calls for it to-day;
No hide of prairie cattle will it maim;
The plains are bare, it seeks a nobler game:
‘Twill drink the life-blood of a soldier host.
Go; rise and strike, no matter what the cost.
Yet stay. Revolt not at the Union Jack,
Nor raise Thy hand against this stripling pack
Of white-faced warriors, marching West to quell
Our fallen tribe that rises to rebel.
They all are young and beautiful and good;
Curse to the war that drinks their harmless blood.
Curse to the fate that brought them from the East
To be our chiefs—to make our nation least
That breathes the air of this vast continent.
Still their new rule and council is well meant.
They but forget we Indians owned the land
From ocean unto ocean; that they stand
Upon a soil that centuries agone
Was our sole kingdom and our right alone.
They never think how they would feel to-day,
If some great nation came from far away,
Wresting their country from their hapless braves,
Giving what they gave us—but wars and graves.
Then go and strike for liberty and life,
And bring back honour to your Indian wife.
Your wife? Ah, what of that, who cares for me?
Who pities my poor love and agony?
What white-robed priest prays for your safety here,
As prayer is said for every volunteer
That swells the ranks that Canada sends out?
Who prays for vict’ry for the Indian scout?
Who prays for our poor nation lying low?
None—therefore take your tomahawk and go.
My heart may break and burn into its core,
But I am strong to bid you go to war.
Yet stay, my heart is not the only one
That grieves the loss of husband and of son;
Think of the mothers o’er the inland seas;
Think of the pale-faced maiden on her knees;
One pleads her God to guard some sweet-faced child
That marches on toward the North-West wild.
The other prays to shield her love from harm,
To strengthen his young, proud uplifted arm.
Ah, how her white face quivers thus to think,
Your tomahawk his life’s best blood will drink.
She never thinks of my wild aching breast,
Nor prays for your dark face and eagle crest
Endangered by a thousand rifle balls,
My heart the target if my warrior falls.
O! coward self I hesitate no more;
Go forth, and win the glories of the war.
Go forth, nor bend to greed of white men’s hands,
By right, by birth we Indians own these lands,
Though starved, crushed, plundered, lies our nation low…
Perhaps the white man’s God has willed it so.
This fortnight’s poem can be found here.