'Son Of The Evening Star, The' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Can it be the sun descending
O'er the level plain of water?
Or the Red Swan floating, flying,
Wounded by the magic arrow,
Staining all the waves with crimson,
With the crimson of its life-blood,
Filling all the air with splendor,
With the splendor of its plumage?
Yes; it is the sun descending,
Sinking down into the water;
All the sky is stained with purple,
All the water flushed with crimson!
No; it is the Red Swan floating,
Diving down beneath the water;
To the sky its wings are lifted,
With its blood the waves are reddened!
Over it the Star of Evening
Melts and trembles through the purple,
Hangs suspended in the twilight.
No; it is a bead of wampum
On the robes of the Great Spirit
As he passes through the twilight,
Walks in silence through the heavens.
This with joy beheld Iagoo
And he said in haste: "Behold it!
See the sacred Star of Evening!
You shall hear a tale of wonder,
Hear the story of Osseo,
Son of the Evening Star, Osseo!
"Once, in days no more remembered,
Ages nearer the beginning,
When the heavens were closer to us,
And the Gods were more familiar,
In the North-land lived a hunter,
With ten young and comely daughters,
Tall and lithe as wands of willow;
Only Oweenee, the youngest,
She the wilful and the wayward,
She the silent, dreamy maiden,
Was the fairest of the sisters.
"All these women married warriors,
Married brave and haughty husbands;
Only Oweenee, the youngest,
Laughed and flouted all her lovers,
All her young and handsome suitors,
And then married old Osseo,
Old Osseo, poor and ugly,
Broken with age and weak with coughing,
Always coughing like a squirrel.
"Ah, but beautiful within him
Was the spirit of Osseo,
From the Evening Star descended,
Star of Evening, Star of Woman,
Star of tenderness and passion!
All its fire was in his bosom,
All its beauty in his spirit,
All its mystery in his being,
All its splendor in his language!
"And her lovers, the rejected,
Handsome men with belts of wampum,
Handsome men with paint and feathers.
Pointed at her in derision,
Followed her with jest and laughter.
But she said: 'I care not for you,
Care not for your belts of wampum,
Care not for your paint and feathers,
Care not for your jests and laughter;
I am happy with Osseo!'
'Once to some great feast invited,
Through the damp and dusk of evening,
Walked together the ten sisters,
Walked together with their husbands;
Slowly followed old Osseo,
With fair Oweenee beside him;
All the others chatted gayly,
These two only walked in silence.
"At the western sky Osseo
Gazed intent, as if imploring,
Often stopped and gazed imploring
At the trembling Star of Evening,
At the tender Star of Woman;
And they heard him murmur softly,
'Ah, showain nemeshin, Nosa!
Pity, pity me, my father!'
'Listen!' said the eldest sister,
'He is praying to his father!
What a pity that the old man
Does not stumble in the pathway,
Does not break his neck by falling!'
And they laughed till all the forest
Rang with their unseemly laughter.
"On their pathway through the woodlands
Lay an oak, by storms uprooted,
Lay the great trunk of an oak-tree,
Buried half in leaves and mosses,
Mouldering, crumbling, huge and hollow.
And Osseo, when he saw it,
Gave a shout, a cry of anguish,
Leaped into its yawning cavern,
At one end went in an old man,
Wasted, wrinkled, old, and ugly;
From the other came a young man,
Tall and straight and strong and handsome.
"Thus Osseo was transfigured,
Thus restored to youth and beauty;
But, alas for good Osseo,
And for Oweenee, the faithful!
Strangely, too, was she transfigured.
Changed into a weak old woman,
With a staff she tottered onward,
Wasted, wrinkled, old, and ugly!
And the sisters and their husbands
Laughed until the echoing forest
Rang with their unseemly laughter.
"But Osseo turned not from her,
Walked with slower step beside her,
Took her hand, as brown and withered
As an oak-leaf is in Winter,
Called her sweetheart, Nenemoosha,
Soothed her with soft words of kindness,
Till they reached the lodge of feasting,
Till they sat down in the wigwam,
Sacred to the Star of Evening,
To the tender Star of Woman.
"Wrapt in visions, lost in dreaming,
At the banquet sat Osseo;
All were merry, all were happy,
All were joyous but Osseo.
Neither food nor drink he tasted,
Neither did he speak nor listen;
But as one bewildered sat he,
Looking dreamily and sadly,
First at Oweenee, then upward
At the gleaming sky above them.
"Then a voice was heard, a whisper,
Coming from the starry distance,
Coming from the empty vastness,
Low, and musical, and tender;
And the voice said: 'O Osseo!
O my son, my best beloved!
Broken are the spells that bound you,
All the charms of the magicians,
All the magic powers of evil;
Come to me; ascend, Osseo!
"'Taste the food that stands before you:
It is blessed and enchanted,
It has magic virtues in it,
It will change you to a spirit.
All your bowls and all your kettles
Shall be wood and clay no longer;
But the bowls be changed to wampum,
And the kettles shall be silver;
They shall shine like shells of scarlet,
Like the fire shall gleam and glimmer.
"'And the women shall no longer
Bear the dreary doom of labor,
But be changed to birds, and glisten
With the beauty of the starlight,
Painted with the dusky splendors
Of the skies and clouds of evening!'
"What Osseo heard as whispers,
What as words he comprehended,
Was but music to the others,
Music as of birds afar off,
Of the whippoorwill afar off,
Of the lonely Wawonaissa
Singing in the darksome forest.
"Then the lodge began to tremble,
Straight began to shake and tremble,
And they felt it rising, rising,
Slowly through the air ascending,
From the darkness of the tree-tops
Forth into the dewy starlight,
Till it passed the topmost branches;
And behold! the wooden dishes
All were changed to shells of scarlet!
And behold! the earthen kettles
All were changed to bowls of silver!
And the roof-poles of the wigwam
Were as glittering rods of silver,
And the roof of bark upon them
As the shining shards of beetles.
"Then Osseo gazed around him,
And he saw the nine fair sisters,
All the sisters and their husbands,
Changed to birds of various plumage.
Some were jays and some were magpies,
Others thrushes, others blackbirds;
And they hopped, and sang, and twittered,
Perked and fluttered all their feathers,
Strutted in their shining plumage,
And their tails like fans unfolded.
"Only Oweenee, the youngest,
Was not changed, but sat in silence,
Wasted, wrinkled, old, and ugly,
Looking sadly at the others;
Till Osseo, gazing upward,
Gave another cry of anguish,
Such a cry as he had uttered
By the oak-tree in the forest.
"Then returned her youth and beauty,
And her soiled and tattered garments
Were transformed to robes of ermine,
And her staff became a feather,
Yes, a shining silver feather!
"And again the wigwam trembled,
Swayed and rushed through airy currents,
Through transparent cloud and vapor,
And amid celestial splendors
On the Evening Star alighted,
As a snow-flake falls on snow-flake,
As a leaf drops on a river,
As the thistledown on water.
"Forth with cheerful words of welcome
Came the father of Osseo,
He with radiant locks of silver,
He with eyes serene and tender.
And he said: `My son, Osseo,
Hang the cage of birds you bring there,
Hang the cage with rods of silver,
And the birds with glistening feathers,
At the doorway of my wigwam.'
"At the door he hung the bird-cage,
And they entered in and gladly
Listened to Osseo's father,
Ruler of the Star of Evening,
As he said: `O my Osseo!
I have had compassion on you,
Given you back your youth and beauty,
Into birds of various plumage
Changed your sisters and their husbands;
Changed them thus because they mocked you
In the figure of the old man,
In that aspect sad and wrinkled,
Could not see your heart of passion,
Could not see your youth immortal;
Only Oweenee, the faithful,
Saw your naked heart and loved you.
"`In the lodge that glimmers yonder,
In the little star that twinkles
Through the vapors, on the left hand,
Lives the envious Evil Spirit,
The Wabeno, the magician,
Who transformed you to an old man.
Take heed lest his beams fall on you,
For the rays he darts around him
Are the power of his enchantment,
Are the arrows that he uses.'
"Many years, in peace and quiet,
On the peaceful Star of Evening
Dwelt Osseo with his father;
Many years, in song and flutter,
At the doorway of the wigwam,
Hung the cage with rods of silver,
And fair Oweenee, the faithful,
Bore a son unto Osseo,
With the beauty of his mother,
With the courage of his father.
"And the boy grew up and prospered,
And Osseo, to delight him,
Made him little bows and arrows,
Opened the great cage of silver,
And let loose his aunts and uncles,
All those birds with glossy feathers,
For his little son to shoot at.
"Round and round they wheeled and darted,
Filled the Evening Star with music,
With their songs of joy and freedom
Filled the Evening Star with splendor,
With the fluttering of their plumage;
Till the boy, the little hunter,
Bent his bow and shot an arrow,
Shot a swift and fatal arrow,
And a bird, with shining feathers,
At his feet fell wounded sorely.
"But, O wondrous transformation!
`T was no bird he saw before him,
`T was a beautiful young woman,
With the arrow in her bosom!
"When her blood fell on the planet,
On the sacred Star of Evening,
Broken was the spell of magic,
Powerless was the strange enchantment,
And the youth, the fearless bowman,
Suddenly felt himself descending,
Held by unseen hands, but sinking
Downward through the empty spaces,
Downward through the clouds and vapors,
Till he rested on an island,
On an island, green and grassy,
Yonder in the Big-Sea-Water.
"After him he saw descending
All the birds with shining feathers,
Fluttering, falling, wafted downward,
Like the painted leaves of Autumn;
And the lodge with poles of silver,
With its roof like wings of beetles,
Like the shining shards of beetles,
By the winds of heaven uplifted,
Slowly sank upon the island,
Bringing back the good Osseo,
Bringing Oweenee, the faithful.
"Then the birds, again transfigured,
Reassumed the shape of mortals,
Took their shape, but not their stature;
They remained as Little People,
Like the pygmies, the Puk-Wudjies,
And on pleasant nights of Summer,
When the Evening Star was shining,
Hand in hand they danced together
On the island's craggy headlands,
On the sand-beach low and level.
"Still their glittering lodge is seen there,
On the tranquil Summer evenings,
And upon the shore the fisher
Sometimes hears their happy voices,
Sees them dancing in the starlight !"
When the story was completed,
When the wondrous tale was ended,
Looking round upon his listeners,
Solemnly Iagoo added:
"There are great men, I have known such,
Whom their people understand not,
Whom they even make a jest of,
Scoff and jeer at in derision.
From the story of Osseo
Let us learn the fate of jesters!"
All the wedding guests delighted
Listened to the marvellous story,
Listened laughing and applauding,
And they whispered to each other:
"Does he mean himself, I wonder?
And are we the aunts and uncles?"
Then again sang Chibiabos,
Sang a song of love and longing,
In those accents sweet and tender,
In those tones of pensive sadness,
Sang a maiden's lamentation
For her lover, her Algonquin.
"When I think of my beloved,
Ah me! think of my beloved,
When my heart is thinking of him,
O my sweetheart, my Algonquin!
"Ah me! when I parted from him,
Round my neck he hung the wampum,
As a pledge, the snow-white wampum,
O my sweetheart, my Algonquin!
"`I will go with you, he whispered,
Ah me! to your native country;
Let me go with you, he whispered,
O my sweetheart, my Algonquin!
"Far away, away, I answered,
Very far away, I answered,
Ah me! is my native country,
O my sweetheart, my Algonquin!
"When I looked back to behold him,
Where we parted, to behold him,
After me he still was gazing,
O my sweetheart, my Algonquin!
"By the tree he still was standing,
By the fallen tree was standing,
That had dropped into the water,
O my sweetheart, my Algonquin!
"When I think of my beloved,
Ah me! think of my beloved,
When my heart is thinking of him,
O my sweetheart, my Algonquin!"
Such was Hiawatha's Wedding,
Such the dance of Pau-Puk-Keewis,
Such the story of Iagoo,
Such the songs of Chibiabos;
Thus the wedding banquet ended,
And the wedding guests departed,
Leaving Hiawatha happy
With the night and Minnehaha.

Editor 1 Interpretation


Wow, where do I even begin with this poem? Son of the Evening Star by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is truly a beautiful and captivating piece of literature. Written in the mid-1800s, this poem tells the story of the Native American hero, Hiawatha, and his love for the beautiful maiden, Minnehaha. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, language, and symbolism used in this poem, as well as the historical context in which it was written.

Historical Context

Now, let's start by diving into the historical context of this poem. Longfellow wrote Son of the Evening Star in the mid-1800s, a time when Native Americans were being forced off their land and onto reservations by the United States government. This period of time is known as the Indian Removal Act, and it was a dark time in American history. Longfellow, who was known for his empathy towards marginalized groups, wrote this poem as a way to honor and celebrate Native American culture.


One of the key themes in this poem is the beauty of nature. Longfellow uses vivid imagery to describe the landscape of the Great Lakes region, where the story is set. For example, he writes:

"Silvery the shining waters Lay like lakes of liquid light"

Here, Longfellow describes the calm and serene waters of the lake, painting a picture of tranquility and beauty. Nature is also personified in this poem, as Hiawatha speaks to the trees and animals around him. This theme of nature as a powerful and spiritual force is common in Native American literature and is a testament to Longfellow's admiration for the culture.

Another theme in this poem is the importance of community and love. Hiawatha and Minnehaha are deeply in love, and their relationship is a symbol of the love and harmony that should exist between all members of a community. The poem also emphasizes the importance of forgiveness and unity, through the story of Hiawatha's journey to unite the tribes and establish peace.


Longfellow uses various symbols throughout the poem to convey deeper meanings. One of the most prominent symbols is the evening star, which is a symbol of hope and love. Hiawatha is referred to as the "son of the evening star," indicating that he is a symbol of hope and light in a time of darkness. The star is also a symbol of Minnehaha's love for Hiawatha, as she is described as being "as loving as the star is bright."

Another symbol in this poem is the canoe, which represents the journey of life. Hiawatha and Minnehaha's journey in the canoe represents their journey together in life, facing challenges and overcoming obstacles. The canoe is also a symbol of unity, as it requires two people to work together in order to move forward.


The language used in Son of the Evening Star is both beautiful and powerful. Longfellow's use of repetition, alliteration, and onomatopoeia create a rhythm and musical quality to the poem. For example, the repeated phrase "By the shores of Gitche Gumee" creates a sense of familiarity and comfort, while also emphasizing the importance of the location in the story. Longfellow also uses onomatopoeia in lines such as "Whispering, rustling, waving" to create a sense of movement and life in the natural world.


In conclusion, Son of the Evening Star by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a beautiful and powerful poem that celebrates the beauty of nature, love, and unity. Through his use of vivid imagery, symbolism, and language, Longfellow creates a world that is both magical and grounded in reality. The historical context of the poem adds an additional layer of complexity, as it stands as a tribute to Native American culture during a time of great upheaval. This poem is a testament to Longfellow's talent as a poet and his empathy for marginalized groups, and it continues to be a beloved piece of literature to this day.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Son of the Evening Star: A Poetic Masterpiece by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the most celebrated poets of the 19th century, is known for his lyrical and narrative poetry that captures the essence of American life and culture. His poem, Son of the Evening Star, is a masterpiece that explores the themes of love, loss, and the transience of life. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of this classic poem and analyze its meaning and significance.

The poem begins with a description of the evening star, which is personified as a goddess who watches over the earth. Longfellow writes, "O Star of Evening, / Son of the purple light, / Descending, thou dost fill the sky / With beauty and with light!" The evening star is portrayed as a divine being who brings light and beauty to the world, and her descent is a symbol of the passing of time.

The next stanza introduces the main character of the poem, a young man who is in love with a woman named Minnehaha. Longfellow writes, "And the man who was a hunter / Saw her beauty in the moonlight, / Was bewitched, and could not utter / One poor word of all he planned." The hunter is struck by Minnehaha's beauty and is unable to express his feelings to her. This theme of unrequited love is a common motif in Longfellow's poetry and reflects the romantic ideals of the era.

The third stanza introduces a new character, the god of the north wind, who is jealous of the hunter's love for Minnehaha. Longfellow writes, "Then the god of winds, / The great Ha-wen-ne-yu, / Called the tribes of birds together, / From the red-branched, hollow oak-tree." The god of the north wind is portrayed as a powerful and vengeful deity who seeks to destroy the hunter's happiness.

The fourth stanza describes the birds' response to the god's call. Longfellow writes, "From the branches sang the bluebird, / Sang the bluebird, the Owaissa, / 'Do not shoot us, Hiawatha! / Waken not the wrath of Kwasind!'" The bluebird warns the hunter not to anger the god of the north wind, who is known for his destructive power.

The fifth stanza introduces the character of Kwasind, a powerful warrior who is immune to the north wind's wrath. Longfellow writes, "Then uprose the mighty Kwasind, / And he seized the ponderous war-club, / And with one blow smote asunder / All the hollow bones of Hiawatha." Kwasind's strength is contrasted with the hunter's vulnerability, and his ability to withstand the north wind's power is a symbol of his resilience and endurance.

The sixth stanza describes the aftermath of the hunter's death. Longfellow writes, "Downward through the evening twilight, / In the days that are forgotten, / In the unremembered ages, / From the full moon fell Nokomis." Nokomis, the grandmother of Hiawatha, mourns the hunter's death and laments the transience of life.

The final stanza of the poem is a reflection on the fleeting nature of human existence. Longfellow writes, "Thus the melancholy legend / Haunts the forest and the river, / Haunts the maize-field and the meadow, / Haunts the memory of the nation." The legend of the hunter's death is a reminder of the impermanence of life and the inevitability of death.

In conclusion, Son of the Evening Star is a poetic masterpiece that explores the themes of love, loss, and the transience of life. Longfellow's use of personification, symbolism, and imagery creates a vivid and haunting portrait of a world where beauty and tragedy are intertwined. The poem's message is timeless and universal, reminding us of the fragility of life and the importance of cherishing the moments we have.

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