Legend of Niagara
Maid of the Mist
These verse are humbly dedicated to my dear and highly esteemed friends-- Dr. A. Leon Hatzen and his most charming wife, Ada Beatrice, in deep appreciation for the inspiration gained from Dr. Hatzen's "Legendary Tradition of the Maid of the Mist and the Formation of the Horseshoe Falls."
Fair Place of Rushing Waters wild
By the redman, blest Nature's child
Who first it's wonders saw.
Long ere the whiteman ever gazed
Upon the awesome sight,
Of mighty cataracts dream hazed
Winged in eternal flight.
Where beauty unsurpassed is met
Enchanting garbed in light,
The mecca of the millions yet
Who view it with delight.
Where Yamha Weah, mystic Maid
Of Summer Mist, allures,
Immortalized to guard, 'tis said,
Niagara's rare shores.
In myth and song of story old
Among the Amerind
Strange legendary tales were told
Of gods and serpents winged.
How once by cruel artifice
The chiefs had passed a law,
To offer human sacrifice
There dwelt in the caves behind the Falls
Hinum, the Thunder god, whose calls
Filled all the tribes with awe.
His sons, two handsome youths with him
O'er -ruled the great cascade,
Whose anger hurled the waters grim
'Gainst Nature's palisade.
The sages tell, how once there rang
'Long Niagara's shores,
The water-demons sensuous twang
Of death song that allures.
When braves and maidens all entranced
With cried of joy leapt down
The mighty precipice where pranced
The winged steeds of renown.
How their loved sires ever brave
Leapt to the rescue wild
And one by one found but a grave
By Hinum all beguiled.
Each year in laden gift canoe
That somehow failed to win
The favor of this spirit foe
That spared not kith nor kin.
The tribes sought to appease the wrath
Of this fierce Thunder god,
By sending down the cataract
The first fruits of the sod.
Although full tribute thus was paid
Yet sadly doomed to fail,
Strange death to Hinum's door were laid
That savage hearts did quail.
By night their dead from graves were torn
And left partly devoured,
The guards found senseless lay at morn
All strangely overpowered.
The Okis and witch doctors brewed
Their magic potions strong
And with weird incantations shrewd
Professed to right the wrong.
In vain they bade the god disburse
His legions mighty tread
From waters whence the unseen curse
Arose from waters dread.
At last the chiefs to council call
The chief of the magicians all
That guard the tribes of old.
Who sought to free them of this curse
By edict most unwise,
Which led to evils deemed much worse
A living sacrifice.
"The gods are yet displeased." he said,
"At your trite offering.
Give pray a maiden fair instead
And end your suffering."
Each Spring with holy hearts aflame
Like faithful Pharisees,
To Tawahsentha's valley came
To choose the fairest maiden there
From out of the tribal fold,
To be an offering most rare
For Hinum's favor bold.
From death in a watery grave
Her kinsmen dear to save,
And bounty from her lord to crave
From out the restless wave.
The faithful lot fell thus, each year
To the choicest maiden,
Regardless of her loved ones dear
By sorrows beladen.
Until the fearful choice of doom
Fell to a princess dear
The idol of her sire, Oot Goum,
A leading Chief and Seer.
The Princess Yamha Weoh, Maid
Of summer Mist , so mild,
Gentle as falling mist, 'twas said,
Of the Chief's only child.
Her friends around her despairing prest
To bid her last farewell,
As she weeps upon her father's breast
His anguish none can tell.
Ere leave she with her maidens ten
To fast for certain days,
In the lap of the forest's glen
To forego earthly ways.
From thence in ermine robes to come
Without a sign of grief,
With regal grace as must become
The daughter of a Chief.
Pledged to the god of the waters
The Maiden of the Mist,
Fairest of Indian daughters
Softly by dew winds kist.
Midst beat of tum-tums solemn dirge
She boards the barque of woe,
That through O'nighiagrla's surge
To wreakage doomed must go.
With strength inborn of Kings she rides
The waters to the Falls,
The sweetest of the Hinum brides
Deaf to her maidens' calls.
In depths of overwhelming woe
Her aged father leaps,
And swims on board the death canoe,
Safe to his bosom sweeps
His child, in vain from death to wrest
As o'er the Falls they crash
At foot of Tawahsentha's crest
Where angry waters thrash
The reefs in fierce unruly swells
The churn the edges white,
And still with awe tradition tells
Of the great Chieftain's flight.
From out the waters deadly throe
Whilst bravest kinsmen quailed,
His spirit borne in winged canoe
Into the sunset sailed.
The tribes in superstitious fear
Into the forests fled,
For their loved Chief and Princess dear
Their hearts in sorrow bled.
The maid fell into waiting arms,
Of Hinum's sturdy sons
Who took her, sweet in all her charms
To caves of mossy runs.
The Chiefs with sad remorseful hearts
This visitation note,
And vowed that Hinum's wily arts
By other means must rout.
The seers of old with wondrous awe
Tell of grand council meet
Where tribesmen ruled this cruel law
Once more the Moons had cycled round
Spring's heraldry of gloom
When Hinum's frenzied cohorts sound
The battle cry of doom.
The glowing campfires lay bright
Along the moon-lit shores
When the Great Spirit in His might
His boundless Love assures.
By raising up an hopeful sign
Among the troubled tribes,
Full low above water-line
As told by the faithful scribes.
The maid in spirit form appears
To bid them quickly arm
With tomahawks and poisoned spears
At sound of death's alarm.
She told the of a certain night
When a huge water-snake
At Hinum's bidding winged in might
Shoreward its way would make,
And bad them be of goodly cheer
Her love had found the cure,
If they fought bravely without fear
Deliverance was sure.
How both of Hinum's sons, in vain
Had sought her love to win,
Until the younger did obtain
This secret for her kin.
How a great serpent lay
Upon the river floor,
That each year came to rob and slay
On visits to the shore.
The grandmother, a stern old witch,
Afraid to cast a spell,
Upon her grandson, who did snitch
This secret guarded well.
Had changed her form like unto bear
Fierce in it's bloody lust,
Eager with claws to rend and tear
For breach of Hinum's trust.
She watched him take his lonely route.
To meet the thunder clans,
And sprang without a warning hoot
Sure of her evil plans.
With insane clutch she clawing tore
His fish-scale armour tight
Bespattered with their mingled gore
In fierce unequal fight.
Too late, she turned to glimpse white-lipped
Her elder grandson aim
His charmed bow-arrows silver-tipped
Ere death her life did claim.
Full well the wrath of Hinum fell
Upon the lovers heads,
That sounds alike to parting knell
To hearts where sorrow treads.
In vain the lovers sought reprieve
From Hinum's punishment
That parted them, to ever grieve
In lonely banishment.
Disowned for aye the lover paid ---
His lot among the slaves,
And Yamha Weoh, gentle Maid
Was banished from the caves.
At last the monstrous water-snake
Strong in its evil thralls,
Thrashes to shoreward in the wake
Of Hinum's wrathful calls.
The warriors with spirits light
Armed in the darkness lay,
Eager to vanquish evil's might
And serpent foe to slay.
Fierce was the fray though haply short
That dyed the waters red,
As with one last defying snort
The dying serpent sped.
With waning strength up rocky crest
To fasten its huge head
On ragged ledge by death pangs prest
A writhing mass of dread.
Next morn the tribesman did behold
A massive serpent gray,
At brink of Falls in horseshoe mould
Remaining to this day.
The gods had so arranged this sign
That all the tribes may know
Protection is their right define
So long as the waters flow.
And yet when Summer sunset burns
Chaste maiden spirits rise
O'er Tawahsentha's mystic urns
To greet the dusky skies.
Where true lovers' vows long pledged
The dear Maid of the Mist
Still hovers like a bird new fledged
Ethereal in Mist.
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