'Hiawatha 's Wedding-Feast' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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You shall hear how Pau-Puk-Keewis,
How the handsome Yenadizze
Danced at Hiawatha's wedding;
How the gentle Chibiabos,
He the sweetest of musicians,
Sang his songs of love and longing;
How Iagoo, the great boaster,
He the marvellous story-teller,
Told his tales of strange adventure,
That the feast might be more joyous,
That the time might pass more gayly,
And the guests be more contented.
Sumptuous was the feast Nokomis
Made at Hiawatha's wedding;
All the bowls were made of bass-wood,
White and polished very smoothly,
All the spoons of horn of bison,
Black and polished very smoothly.
She had sent through all the village
Messengers with wands of willow,
As a sign of invitation,
As a token of the feasting;
And the wedding guests assembled,
Clad in all their richest raiment,
Robes of fur and belts of wampum,
Splendid with their paint and plumage,
Beautiful with beads and tassels.
First they ate the sturgeon, Nahma,
And the pike, the Maskenozha,
Caught and cooked by old Nokomis;
Then on pemican they feasted,
Pemican and buffalo marrow,
Haunch of deer and hump of bison,
Yellow cakes of the Mondamin,
And the wild rice of the river.
But the gracious Hiawatha,
And the lovely Laughing Water,
And the careful old Nokomis,
Tasted not the food before them,
Only waited on the others
Only served their guests in silence.
And when all the guests had finished,
Old Nokomis, brisk and busy,
From an ample pouch of otter,
Filled the red-stone pipes for smoking
With tobacco from the South-land,
Mixed with bark of the red willow,
And with herbs and leaves of fragrance.
Then she said, "O Pau-Puk-Keewis,
Dance for us your merry dances,
Dance the Beggar's Dance to please us,
That the feast may be more joyous,
That the time may pass more gayly,
And our guests be more contented!"
Then the handsome Pau-Puk-Keewis,
He the idle Yenadizze,
He the merry mischief-maker,
Whom the people called the Storm-Fool,
Rose among the guests assembled.
Skilled was he in sports and pastimes,
In the merry dance of snow-shoes,
In the play of quoits and ball-play;
Skilled was he in games of hazard,
In all games of skill and hazard,
Pugasaing, the Bowl and Counters,
Kuntassoo, the Game of Plum-stones.
Though the warriors called him Faint-Heart,
Called him coward, Shaugodaya,
Idler, gambler, Yenadizze,
Little heeded he their jesting,
Little cared he for their insults,
For the women and the maidens
Loved the handsome Pau-Puk-Keewis.
He was dressed in shirt of doeskin,
White and soft, and fringed with ermine,
All inwrought with beads of wampum;
He was dressed in deer-skin leggings,
Fringed with hedgehog quills and ermine,
And in moccasins of buck-skin,
Thick with quills and beads embroidered.
On his head were plumes of swan's down,
On his heels were tails of foxes,
In one hand a fan of feathers,
And a pipe was in the other.
Barred with streaks of red and yellow,
Streaks of blue and bright vermilion,
Shone the face of Pau-Puk-Keewis.
From his forehead fell his tresses,
Smooth, and parted like a woman's,
Shining bright with oil, and plaited,
Hung with braids of scented grasses,
As among the guests assembled,
To the sound of flutes and singing,
To the sound of drums and voices,
Rose the handsome Pau-Puk-Keewis,
And began his mystic dances.
First he danced a solemn measure,
Very slow in step and gesture,
In and out among the pine-trees,
Through the shadows and the sunshine,
Treading softly like a panther.
Then more swiftly and still swifter,
Whirling, spinning round in circles,
Leaping o'er the guests assembled,
Eddying round and round the wigwam,
Till the leaves went whirling with him,
Till the dust and wind together
Swept in eddies round about him.
Then along the sandy margin
Of the lake, the Big-Sea-Water,
On he sped with frenzied gestures,
Stamped upon the sand, and tossed it
Wildly in the air around him;
Till the wind became a whirlwind,
Till the sand was blown and sifted
Like great snowdrifts o'er the landscape,
Heaping all the shores with Sand Dunes,
Sand Hills of the Nagow Wudjoo!
Thus the merry Pau-Puk-Keewis
Danced his Beggar's Dance to please them,
And, returning, sat down laughing
There among the guests assembled,
Sat and fanned himself serenely
With his fan of turkey-feathers.
Then they said to Chibiabos,
To the friend of Hiawatha,
To the sweetest of all singers,
To the best of all musicians,
"Sing to us, O Chibiabos!
Songs of love and songs of longing,
That the feast may be more joyous,
That the time may pass more gayly,
And our guests be more contented!"
And the gentle Chibiabos
Sang in accents sweet and tender,
Sang in tones of deep emotion,
Songs of love and songs of longing;
Looking still at Hiawatha,
Looking at fair Laughing Water,
Sang he softly, sang in this wise:
"Onaway! Awake, beloved!
Thou the wild-flower of the forest!
Thou the wild-bird of the prairie!
Thou with eyes so soft and fawn-like!
"If thou only lookest at me,
I am happy, I am happy,
As the lilies of the prairie,
When they feel the dew upon them!
"Sweet thy breath is as the fragrance
Of the wild-flowers in the morning,
As their fragrance is at evening,
In the Moon when leaves are falling.
"Does not all the blood within me
Leap to meet thee, leap to meet thee,
As the springs to meet the sunshine,
In the Moon when nights are brightest?
"Onaway! my heart sings to thee,
Sings with joy when thou art near me,
As the sighing, singing branches
In the pleasant Moon of Strawberries!
"When thou art not pleased, beloved,
Then my heart is sad and darkened,
As the shining river darkens
When the clouds drop shadows on it!
"When thou smilest, my beloved,
Then my troubled heart is brightened,
As in sunshine gleam the ripples
That the cold wind makes in rivers.
"Smiles the earth, and smile the waters,
Smile the cloudless skies above us,
But I lose the way of smiling
When thou art no longer near me!
"I myself, myself! behold me!
Blood of my beating heart, behold me!
Oh awake, awake, beloved!
Onaway! awake, beloved!"
Thus the gentle Chibiabos
Sang his song of love and longing;
And Iagoo, the great boaster,
He the marvellous story-teller,
He the friend of old Nokomis,
Jealous of the sweet musician,
Jealous of the applause they gave him,
Saw in all the eyes around him,
Saw in all their looks and gestures,
That the wedding guests assembled
Longed to hear his pleasant stories,
His immeasurable falsehoods.
Very boastful was Iagoo;
Never heard he an adventure
But himself had met a greater;
Never any deed of daring
But himself had done a bolder;
Never any marvellous story
But himself could tell a stranger.
Would you listen to his boasting,
Would you only give him credence,
No one ever shot an arrow
Half so far and high as he had;
Ever caught so many fishes,
Ever killed so many reindeer,
Ever trapped so many beaver!
None could run so fast as he could,
None could dive so deep as he could,
None could swim so far as he could;
None had made so many journeys,
None had seen so many wonders,
As this wonderful Iagoo,
As this marvellous story-teller!
Thus his name became a by-word
And a jest among the people;
And whene'er a boastful hunter
Praised his own address too highly,
Or a warrior, home returning,
Talked too much of his achievements,
All his hearers cried, "Iagoo!
Here's Iagoo come among us!"
He it was who carved the cradle
Of the little Hiawatha,
Carved its framework out of linden,
Bound it strong with reindeer sinews;
He it was who taught him later
How to make his bows and arrows,
How to make the bows of ash-tree,
And the arrows of the oak-tree.
So among the guests assembled
At my Hiawatha's wedding
Sat Iagoo, old and ugly,
Sat the marvellous story-teller.
And they said, "O good Iagoo,
Tell us now a tale of wonder,
Tell us of some strange adventure,
That the feast may be more joyous,
That the time may pass more gayly,
And our guests be more contented!"
And Iagoo answered straightway,
"You shall hear a tale of wonder,
You shall hear the strange adventures
Of Osseo, the Magician,
From the Evening Star descending."

Editor 1 Interpretation

Hiawatha's Wedding-Feast: A Celebration of Native American Culture

As one of the most famous poems written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Hiawatha's Wedding-Feast" is a masterpiece of American literature. The poem was published in 1855 as part of Longfellow's epic "The Song of Hiawatha," which tells the story of a Native American hero and his people. In this particular poem, the focus is on Hiawatha's marriage to a beautiful maiden named Minnehaha, and the celebration that follows.

Historical Context

To fully appreciate the significance of "Hiawatha's Wedding-Feast," it's important to understand the historical context in which it was written. Longfellow was a white American poet living in the mid-19th century, at a time when relations between Native Americans and white settlers were fraught with tension and violence. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 had forced thousands of Native Americans to leave their ancestral lands and move westward to unfamiliar territory. Longfellow himself was aware of the injustices committed against Native Americans, and he sought to create a portrait of their culture that was respectful and accurate.

Cultural Significance

"Hiawatha's Wedding-Feast" is significant because it offers a glimpse into the traditional lifestyle and customs of Native Americans, particularly in the Great Lakes region. Longfellow drew on a variety of sources to create his portrait of Native American life, including the work of ethnographers and travelers who had documented their experiences with various tribes. The poem is filled with descriptions of the natural world, traditional dances and songs, and the importance of community and family.


Longfellow's poem is structured as a series of vignettes, each one describing a different aspect of the wedding feast. The first section focuses on the arrival of Hiawatha's guests, who come from all over the region to celebrate the marriage. Longfellow's descriptions of the guests are vivid and detailed, suggesting that he had a deep appreciation for the diversity and complexity of Native American culture. He writes:

From his lodge went Hiawatha, Dressed for travel, armed for hunting; Dressed in deer-skin shirt and leggings, Richly wrought with quills and wampum; On his head his eagle-feathers, Round his waist his belt of wampum, In his hand his bow of ash-wood, Strung with sinew of the reindeer.

These lines convey a sense of the richness and diversity of Native American clothing and adornment. The use of quills and wampum, for example, suggests a deep connection to the natural world and a respect for its resources. The eagle-feathers on Hiawatha's head are a symbol of strength and power, while the sinew string on his bow represents the importance of skill and craftsmanship.

The second section of the poem describes the feast itself, which is rich with traditional foods and drinks. Longfellow's descriptions of the various dishes are mouth-watering, and they give the reader a sense of the abundance and generosity of Native American hospitality. He writes:

Round the fire in a ring were seated Hiawatha's wife and daughter, In a circle round the doorway Sat the old men and the women, In the wigwam sat the warriors, Watching all their guests intently, Who were feasting at their bounty, And were drinking deer-wood liquor, And were eating from the kettles Fried and boiled and roasted fishes, And the pleasant Indian maize-cake, Flavored with wild honey from the hollows Of the rocks beside the water.

The use of specific details, such as the wild honey and the fried and boiled fish, help to create a sense of realism and authenticity. Longfellow's descriptions of the people themselves also feel grounded in reality, with their various expressions and gestures conveying a sense of individuality and personality.

The third section of the poem focuses on the traditional dances and songs that accompany the feast. Longfellow's descriptions of these rituals are particularly vivid, and they convey a sense of the importance of music and dance in Native American culture. He writes:

And the young men and the women Round the fire in a circle, Sang and chanted to their tambours, Sang and danced the Beggar's Dance, Sang the Jubilee of Owls, Sang the Onondaga Victory, Songs of Hiawatha's Weddings, Songs of Iagoo's Travels, All the great songs of the singers.

The use of specific names and references to traditional songs and dances adds to the sense of authenticity and cultural richness. Longfellow's descriptions of the music and dance are also quite poetic, with his use of repetition and rhythm adding to the overall sense of celebration and joy.


"Hiawatha's Wedding-Feast" is a remarkable poem, both for its cultural significance and its literary merit. Longfellow's careful attention to detail and his deep respect for Native American culture make this poem a valuable contribution to American literature. The poem also serves as a reminder of the rich and complex history of Native American culture, and of the ongoing struggles faced by Native Americans in the 21st century.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Hiawatha's Wedding-Feast" is a classic poem that tells the story of a Native American wedding between Hiawatha and his bride, Minnehaha. The poem is a part of Longfellow's epic poem, "The Song of Hiawatha," which is based on the legends and folklore of the Ojibwe and other Native American tribes.

The poem begins with a description of the wedding feast, which is being held in a large wigwam. The guests are all dressed in their finest clothes, and the air is filled with the sounds of singing and dancing. The bride and groom are seated at the head of the feast, and they are surrounded by their families and friends.

As the feast begins, Hiawatha's father, Mudjekeewis, stands up to give a speech. He praises his son and his new bride, and he tells the story of how they met. He also speaks of the importance of family and community, and he encourages everyone to come together to celebrate the wedding.

After Mudjekeewis finishes his speech, the feast continues with more singing and dancing. The guests enjoy a variety of foods, including fish, venison, and wild rice. They also drink a special beverage made from maple sap and water, which is called "miskodeed."

As the night wears on, Hiawatha and Minnehaha are presented with gifts from their guests. These gifts include blankets, baskets, and other handmade items. The couple is also given a special gift from the spirits of the forest: a birch canoe, which they can use to travel on the nearby lakes and rivers.

As the feast comes to an end, Hiawatha and Minnehaha are blessed by the village shaman, who prays for their happiness and prosperity. The guests then begin to leave, and the couple is left alone in their wigwam.

Overall, "Hiawatha's Wedding-Feast" is a beautiful and moving poem that celebrates the joy and beauty of love and community. Longfellow's use of vivid imagery and descriptive language brings the wedding feast to life, and his portrayal of Native American culture is respectful and authentic.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its focus on community and family. Throughout the feast, the guests come together to celebrate the wedding and to support the newlyweds. This sense of community is also reflected in the gifts that are given to Hiawatha and Minnehaha, which are all handmade and reflect the skills and talents of the village members.

Another important theme in the poem is the connection between humans and nature. The gift of the birch canoe from the spirits of the forest is a powerful symbol of this connection, as it represents the idea that humans and nature are intertwined and dependent on each other. This theme is also reflected in the use of natural materials in the gifts that are given to the couple, such as the blankets made from animal hides and the baskets made from woven grasses.

Finally, the poem is notable for its portrayal of Native American culture. Longfellow's use of Ojibwe and other Native American legends and folklore is respectful and authentic, and his descriptions of the wedding feast and the customs and traditions of the village are detailed and vivid. The poem offers a glimpse into a rich and complex culture that is often overlooked or misrepresented in mainstream media.

In conclusion, "Hiawatha's Wedding-Feast" is a beautiful and moving poem that celebrates the joy and beauty of love, community, and nature. Longfellow's use of vivid imagery and descriptive language brings the wedding feast to life, and his portrayal of Native American culture is respectful and authentic. The poem is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the essence of human experience and to connect us to the world around us.

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