The Pilot of the Plains

Original Text: 
E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake), Flint and Feather: The Complete Poems, with Introduction by Theodore Watts-Dunton and a Biographical Sketch of the Author, Illustrated by J. R. Seavey, 7th edn. (1912: Toronto and London: The Musson Book Co., Ltd., 1921): 9-11. PS 8469 O3F5 1921 Robarts Library.
1"False," they said, "thy Pale-face lover, from the land of waking morn ;
2Rise and wed thy Redskin wooer, nobler warrior ne'er was born ;
3Cease thy watching, cease thy dreaming,
4     Show the white thine Indian scorn."
5Thus they taunted her, declaring, "He remembers naught of thee :
6Likely some white maid he wooeth, far beyond the inland sea."
7But she answered ever kindly,
8     "He will come again to me,"
9Till the dusk of Indian summer crept athwart the western skies ;
10But a deeper dusk was burning in her dark and dreaming eyes,
11As she scanned the rolling prairie,
12     Where the foothills fall, and rise.
13Till the autumn came and vanished, till the season of the rains,
14Till the western world lay fettered in midwinter's crystal chains,
15Still she listened for his coming,
16     Still she watched the distant plains.
17Then a night with nor'land tempest, nor'land snows a-swirling fast,
18Out upon the pathless prairie came the Pale-face through the blast,
19Calling, calling, "Yakonwita,
20     I am coming, love, at last."
21Hovered night above, about him, dark its wings and cold and dread ;
22Never unto trail or tepee were his straying footsteps led ;
23Till benumbed, he sank, and pillowed
24     On the drifting snows his head,
25Saying, "O! my Yakonwita call me, call me, be my guide
26To the lodge beyond the prairie--for I vowed ere winter died
27I would come again, belovèd ;
28     I would claim my Indian bride."
29"Yakonwita, Yakonwita! " Oh, the dreariness that strains
30Through the voice that calling, quivers, till a whisper but remains,
31"Yakonwita, Yakonwita,
32     I am lost upon the plains."
33But the Silent Spirit hushed him, lulled him as he cried anew,
34"Save me, save me! O! beloved, I am Pale but I am true.
35Yakonwita, Yakonwita
36     I am dying, love, for you."
37Leagues afar, across the prairie, she had risen from her bed,
38Roused her kinsmen from their slumber : "He has come to-night," she said.
39"I can hear him calling, calling ;
40     But his voice is as the dead.
41"Listen! " and they sate all silent, while the tempest louder grew,
42And a spirit-voice called faintly, "I am dying, love, for you."
43Then they wailed, "O! Yakonwita.
44     He was Pale, but he was true."
45Wrapped she then her ermine round her, stepped without the tepee door,
46Saying, "I must follow, follow, though he call for evermore,
47Yakonwita, Yakonwita ; "
48     And they never saw her more.
49Late at night, say Indian hunters, when the starlight clouds or wanes,
50Far away they see a maiden, misty as the autumn rains,
51Guiding with her lamp of moonlight
52     Hunters lost upon the plains.
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1997-2000.