18+ Best Emily Pauline Johnson Poems

Emily Pauline Johnson, also known by her Mohawk stage name Tekahionwake, was a Canadian poet, author and performer who was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

If you’re searching for famous poems ever that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of best known Wystan Hugh Auden poems, most famous Ernest Hemingway poems and selected Erica Jong poems.

Famous Pauline Johnson Poems

The Firs

There is a lonely minor chord that sings
Faintly and far along the forest ways,
When the firs finger faintly on the strings
Of that rare violin the night wind plays,
Just as it whispered once to you and me
Beneath the English pines beyond the sea.

Wolverine

‘Yes, sir, it’s quite a story, though you won’t believe it’s true,
But such things happened often when I lived beyond the Soo.’
And the trapper tilted back his chair and filled his pipe anew.

‘I ain’t thought of it neither fer this many ‘n many a day,
Although it used to haunt me in the years that’s slid away,
The years I spent a-trappin’ for the good old Hudson’s Bay.

‘Wild? You bet, ’twas wild then, an’ few an’ far between
The squatters’ shacks, for whites was scarce as furs when things is green,
An’ only reds an’ ‘Hudson’s’ men was all the folk I seen.

‘No. Them old Indyans ain’t so bad, not if you treat ’em square.
Why, I lived in amongst ’em all the winters I was there,
An’ I never lost a copper, an’ I never lost a hair.

‘But I’d have lost my life the time that you’ve heard tell about;
I don’t think I’d be settin’ here, but dead beyond a doubt,
If that there Indyan ‘Wolverine’ jest hadn’t helped me out.

”Twas freshet time, ‘way back, as long as sixty-six or eight,
An’ I was comin’ to the Post that year a kind of late,
For beaver had been plentiful, and trappin’ had been great.

‘One day I had been settin’ traps along a bit of wood,
An’ night was catchin’ up to me jest faster ‘an it should,
When all at once I heard a sound that curdled up my blood.

‘It was the howl of famished wolves-I didn’t stop to think
But jest lit out across for home as quick as you could wink,
But when I reached the river’s edge I brought up at the brink.

‘That mornin’ I had crossed the stream straight on a sheet of ice
An’ now, God help me! There it was, churned up an’ cracked to dice,
The flood went boiling past-I stood like one shut in a vice.

‘No way ahead, no path aback, trapped like a rat ashore,
With naught but death to follow, and with naught but death afore;
The howl of hungry wolves aback-ahead, the torrent’s roar.

‘An’ then-a voice, an Indyan voice, that called out clear and clean,
‘Take Indyan’s horse, I run like deer, wolf can’t catch Wolverine.’
I says, ‘Thank Heaven.’ There stood the chief I’d nicknamed Wolverine.

‘I leapt on that there horse, an’ then jest like a coward fled,
An’ left that Indyan standin’ there alone, as good as dead,
With the wolves a-howlin’ at his back, the swollen stream ahead.

‘I don’t know how them Indyans dodge from death the way they do,
You won’t believe it, sir, but what I’m tellin’ you is true,
But that there chap was ’round next day as sound as me or you.

‘He came to get his horse, but not a cent he’d take from me.
Yes, sir, you’re right, the Indyans now ain’t like they used to be;
We’ve got ’em sharpened up a bit an’
now
they’ll take a fee.

‘No, sir, you’re wrong, they ain’t no ‘dogs.’ I’m not through tellin’ yet;
You’ll take that name right back again, or else jest out you get!
You’ll take that name right back when you hear all this yarn, I bet.

‘It happened that same autumn, when some Whites was comin’ in,
I heard the old Red River carts a-kickin’ up a din,
So I went over to their camp to see an English skin.

‘They said, ‘They’d had an awful scare from Injuns,’ an’ they swore
That savages had come around the very night before
A-brandishing their tomahawks an’ painted up for war.

‘But when their plucky Englishmen had put a bit of lead
Right through the heart of one of them, an’ rolled him over, dead,
The other cowards said that they had come on peace instead.

”That they (the Whites) had lost some stores, from off their little pack,
An’ that the Red they peppered dead had followed up their track,
Because he’d found the packages an’ came
to give them back
.’

”Oh!’ they said, ‘they were quite sorry, but it wasn’t like as if
They had killed a decent Whiteman by mistake or in a tiff,
It was only some old Injun dog that lay there stark an’ stiff.’

‘I said, ‘You are the meanest dogs that ever yet I seen,’
Then I rolled the body over as it lay out on the green;
I peered into the face-My God! ’twas poor old Wolverine.’

Your Mirror Frame

Methinks I see your mirror frame,
Ornate with photographs of them.
Place mine therein, for, all the same,
I’ll have my little laughs at them.

For girls may come, and girls may go,
I think I have the best of them;
And yet this photograph I know
You’ll toss among the rest of them.

I cannot even hope that you
Will put me in your locket, dear;
Nor costly frame will I look through,
Nor bide in your breast pocket, dear.

For none your heart monopolize,
You favour such a nest of them.
So I but hope your roving eyes
Seek mine among the rest of them.

For saucy sprite, and noble dame,
And many a dainty maid of them
Will greet me in your mirror frame,
And share your kisses laid on them.

And yet, sometimes I fancy, dear,
You hold me as the best of them.
So I’m content if I appear
To-night with all the rest of them.

Dawendine

There’s a spirit on the river, there’s a ghost upon the shore,
They are chanting, they are singing through the starlight evermore,
As they steal amid the silence,
And the shadows of the shore.

You can hear them when the Northern candles light the Northern sky,
Those pale, uncertain candle flames, that shiver, dart and die,
Those dead men’s icy finger tips,
Athwart the Northern sky.

You can hear the ringing war-cry of a long-forgotten brave
Echo through the midnight forest, echo o’er the midnight wave,
And the Northern lanterns tremble
At the war-cry of that brave.

And you hear a voice responding, but in soft and tender song;
It is Dawendine’s spirit singing, singing all night long;
And the whisper of the night wind
Bears afar her Spirit song.

And the wailing pine trees murmur with their voice attuned to hers,
Murmur when they ‘rouse from slumber as the night wind through them stirs;
And you listen to their legend,
And their voices blend with hers.

There was feud and there was bloodshed near the river by the hill;
And Dawendine listened, while her very heart stood still:
Would her kinsman or her lover
Be the victim by the hill?

Who would be the great unconquered? who come boasting how he dealt
Death? and show his rival’s scalplock fresh and bleeding at his belt.
Who would say, “O Dawendine!
Look upon the death I dealt?”

And she listens, listens, listens–till a war-cry rends the night,
Cry of her victorious lover, monarch he of all the height;
And his triumph wakes the horrors,
Kills the silence of the night.

Heart of her! it throbs so madly, then lies freezing in her breast,
For the icy hand of death has chilled the brother she loved best;
And her lover dealt the death-blow;
And her heart dies in her breast.

And she hears her mother saying, “Take thy belt of wampum white;
Go unto yon evil savage while he glories on the height;
Sing and sue for peace between us:
At his feet lay wampum white.

“Lest thy kinsmen all may perish, all thy brothers and thy sire
Fall before his mighty hatred as the forest falls to fire;
Take thy wampum pale and peaceful,
Save thy brothers, save thy sire.”

And the girl arises softly, softly slips toward the shore;
Loves she well the murdered brother, loves his hated foeman more,
Loves, and longs to give the wampum;
And she meets him on the shore.

“Peace,” she sings, “O mighty victor, Peace! I bring thee wampum white.
Sheathe thy knife whose blade has tasted my young kinsman’s blood to-night
Ere it drink to slake its thirsting,
I have brought thee wampum white.”

Answers he, “O Dawendine! I will let thy kinsmen be,
I accept thy belt of wampum; but my hate demands for me
That they give their fairest treasure,
Ere I let thy kinsmen be.

“Dawendine, for thy singing, for thy suing, war shall cease;
For thy name, which speaks of dawning, Thou shalt be the dawn of peace;
For thine eyes whose purple shadows tell of dawn,
My hate shall cease.

“Dawendine, Child of Dawning, hateful are thy kin to me;
Red my fingers with their heart blood, but my heart is red for thee:
Dawendine, Child of Dawning,
Wilt thou fail or follow me?”

And her kinsmen still are waiting her returning from the night,
Waiting, waiting for her coming with her belt of wampum white;
But forgetting all, she follows,
Where he leads through day or night.

There’s a spirit on the river, there’s a ghost upon the shore,
And they sing of love and loving through the starlight evermore,
As they steal amid the silence,
And the shadows of the shore.

Easter

Lent gathers up her cloak of sombre shading
In her reluctant hands.
Her beauty heightens, fairest in its fading,
As pensively she stands
Awaiting Easter’s benediction falling,
Like silver stars at night,
Before she can obey the summons calling
Her to her upward flight,
Awaiting Easter’s wings that she must borrow
Ere she can hope to fly–
Those glorious wings that we shall see to-morrow
Against the far, blue sky.
Has not the purple of her vesture’s lining
Brought calm and rest to all?
Has her dark robe had naught of golden shining
Been naught but pleasure’s pall?
Who knows? Perhaps when to the world returning
In youth’s light joyousness,
We’ll wear some rarer jewels we found burning
In Lent’s black-bordered dress.
So hand in hand with fitful March she lingers
To beg the crowning grace
Of lifting with her pure and holy fingers
The veil from April’s face.
Sweet, rosy April–laughing, sighing, waiting
Until the gateway swings,
And she and Lent can kiss between the grating
Of Easter’s tissue wings.
Too brief the bliss–the parting comes with sorrow.
Good-bye dear Lent, good-bye!
We’ll watch your fading wings outlined to-morrow
Against the far blue sky.

The Vine

The wild grape mantling the trail and tree,
Festoons in graceful veils its drapery,
Its tendrils cling, as clings the memory stirred
By some evasive haunting tune, twice heard.

Low Tide At St. Andrews

(NEW BRUNSWICK)

The long red flats stretch open to the sky,
Breathing their moisture on the August air.
The seaweeds cling with flesh-like fingers where
The rocks give shelter that the sands deny;
And wrapped in all her summer harmonies
St. Andrews sleeps beside her sleeping seas.

The far-off shores swim blue and indistinct,
Like half-lost memories of some old dream.
The listless waves that catch each sunny gleam
Are idling up the waterways land-linked,
And, yellowing along the harbour’s breast,
The light is leaping shoreward from the west.

And naked-footed children, tripping down,
Light with young laughter, daily come at eve
To gather dulse and sea clams and then heave
Their loads, returning laden to the town,
Leaving a strange grey silence when they go,–
The silence of the sands when tides are low.

The Indian Corn Planter

He needs must leave the trapping and the chase,
For mating game his arrows ne’er despoil,
And from the hunter’s heaven turn his face,
To wring some promise from the dormant soil.

He needs must leave the lodge that wintered him,
The enervating fires, the blanket bed–
The women’s dulcet voices, for the grim
Realities of labouring for bread.

So goes he forth beneath the planter’s moon
With sack of seed that pledges large increase,
His simple pagan faith knows night and noon,
Heat, cold, seedtime and harvest shall not cease.

And yielding to his needs, this honest sod,
Brown as the hand that tills it, moist with rain,
Teeming with ripe fulfilment, true as God,
With fostering richness, mothers every grain.

Lady Lorgnette

I

Lady Lorgnette, of the lifted lash,
The curling lip and the dainty nose,
The shell-like ear where the jewels flash,
The arching brow and the languid pose,
The rare old lace and the subtle scents,
The slender foot and the fingers frail,–
I may act till the world grows wild and tense,
But never a flush on your features pale.
The footlights glimmer between us two,–
You in the box and I on the boards,–
I am only an actor, Madame, to you,
A mimic king ‘mid his mimic lords,
For you are the belle of the smartest set,
Lady Lorgnette.

II

Little Babette, with your eyes of jet,
Your midnight hair and your piquant chin,
Your lips whose odours of violet
Drive men to madness and saints to sin,–
I see you over the footlights’ glare
Down in the pit ‘mid the common mob,–
Your throat is burning, and brown, and bare,
You lean, and listen, and pulse, and throb;
The viols are dreaming between us two,
And my gilded crown is no make-believe,
I am more than an actor, dear, to you,
For you called me your king but yester eve,
And your heart is my golden coronet,
Little Babette.

The Man In Chrysanthemum Land

There’s a brave little berry-brown man
At the opposite side of the earth;
Of the White, and the Black, and the Tan,
He’s the smallest in compass and girth.
O! he’s little, and lively, and Tan,
And he’s showing the world what he’s worth.
For his nation is born, and its birth
Is for hardihood, courage, and sand,
So you take off your cap
To the brave little Jap
Who fights for Chrysanthemum Land.

Near the house that the little man keeps,
There’s a Bug-a-boo building its lair;
It prowls, and it growls, and it sleeps
At the foot of his tiny back stair.
But the little brown man never sleeps,
For the Brownie will battle the Bear–
He has soldiers and ships to command;
So take off you cap
To the brave little Jap
Who fights for Chrysanthemum Land.

Uncle Sam stands a-watching near by,
With his finger aside of his nose–
John Bull with a wink in his eye,
Looks round to see how the wind blows–
O! jolly old John, with his eye
Ever set on the East and its woes.
More than hoeing their own little rows
These wary old wags understand,
But they take off their caps
To the brave little Japs
Who fight for Chrysanthemum Land.

Now he’s given us Geishas, and themes
For operas, stories, and plays,
His silks and his chinas are dreams,
And we copy his quaint little ways;
O! we look on his land in our dreams,
But his value we failed to appraise,
For he’ll gather his laurels and bays–
His Cruisers and Columns are manned,
And we take off our caps
To the brave little Japs
Who fight for Chrysanthemum Land.

Where Leaps The Ste. Marie

I

What dream you in the night-time
When you whisper to the moon?
What say you in the morning?
What do you sing at noon?
When I hear your voice uplifting,
Like a breeze through branches sifting,
And your ripples softly drifting
To the August airs a-tune.

II

Lend me your happy laughter,
Ste. Marie, as you leap;
Your peace that follows after
Where through the isles you creep.
Give to me your splendid dashing,
Give your sparkles and your splashing,
Your uphurling waves down crashing,
Then, your aftermath of sleep.

Workworn

Across the street, an humble woman lives;
To her ’tis little fortune ever gives;
Denied the wines of life, it puzzles me
To know how she can laugh so cheerily.
This morn I listened to her softly sing,
And, marvelling what this effect could bring
I looked: ’twas but the presence of a child
Who passed her gate, and looking in, had smiled.
But self-encrusted, I had failed to see
The child had also looked and laughed to me.
My lowly neighbour thought the smile God-sent,
And singing, through the toilsome hours she went.
O! weary singer, I have learned the wrong
Of taking gifts, and giving naught of song;
I thought my blessings scant, my mercies few,
Till I contrasted them with yours, and you;
To-day I counted much, yet wished it more–
While but a child’s bright smile was all your store,

If I had thought of all the stormy days,
That fill some lives that tread less favoured ways,
How little sunshine through their shadows gleamed,
My own dull life had much the brighter seemed;
If I had thought of all the eyes that weep
Through desolation, and still smiling keep,
That see so little pleasure, so much woe,
My own had laughed more often long ago;
If I had thought how leaden was the weight
Adversity lays at my kinsman’s gate,
Of that great cross my next door neighbour bears,
My thanks had been more frequent in my prayers;
If I had watched the woman o’er the way,
Workworn and old, who labours day by day,
Who has no rest, no joy to call her own,
My tasks, my heart, had much the lighter grown.

When George Was King

Cards, and swords, and a lady’s love,
That is a tale worth reading,
An insult veiled, a downcast glove,
And rapiers leap unheeding.
And ’tis O! for the brawl,
The thrust, the fall,
And the foe at your feet a-bleeding.

Tales of revel at wayside inns,
The goblets gaily filling,
Braggarts boasting a thousand sins,
Though none can boast a shilling.
And ’tis O! for the wine,
The frothing stein,
And the clamour of cups a-spilling.

Tales of maidens in rich brocade,
Powder and puff and patches,
Gallants lilting a serenade
Of old-time trolls and catches.
And ’tis O! for the lips
And the finger tips,
And the kiss that the boldest snatches.

Tales of buckle and big rosette,
The slender shoe adorning,
Of curtseying through the minuet
With laughter, love, or scorning.
And ’tis O! for the shout
Of the roustabout,
As he hies him home in the morning.

Cards and swords, and a lady’s love,
Give to the tale God-speeding,
War and wassail, and perfumed glove,
And all that’s rare in reading.
And ’tis O! for the ways
Of the olden days,
And a life that was worth the leading.

Through Time And Bitter Distance

Unknown to you, I walk the cheerless shore.
The cutting blast, the hurl of biting brine
May freeze, and still, and bind the waves at war,
Ere you will ever know, O! Heart of mine,
That I have sought, reflected in the blue
Of these sea depths, some shadow of your eyes;
Have hoped the laughing waves would sing of you,
But this is all my starving sight descries-

I

Far out at sea a sail
Bends to the freshening breeze,
Yields to the rising gale
That sweeps the seas;

II

Yields, as a bird wind-tossed,
To saltish waves that fling
Their spray, whose rime and frost
Like crystals cling

III

To canvas, mast and spar,
Till, gleaming like a gem,
She sinks beyond the far
Horizon’s hem.

IV

Lost to my longing sight,
And nothing left to me
Save an oncoming night,-
An empty sea.

The Idlers

The sun’s red pulses beat,
Full prodigal of heat,
Full lavish of its lustre unrepressed;
But we have drifted far
From where his kisses are,
And in this landward-lying shade we let our paddles rest.

The river, deep and still,
The maple-mantled hill,
The little yellow beach whereon we lie,
The puffs of heated breeze,
All sweetly whisper–These
Are days that only come in a Canadian July.

So, silently we two
Lounge in our still canoe,
Nor fate, nor fortune matters to us now:
So long as we alone
May call this dream our own,
The breeze may die, the sail may droop, we care not when or how.

Against the thwart, near by,
Inactively you lie,
And all too near my arm your temple bends.
Your indolently crude,
Abandoned attitude,
Is one of ease and art, in which a perfect languor blends.

Your costume, loose and light,
Leaves unconcealed your might
Of muscle, half suspected, half defined;
And falling well aside,
Your vesture opens wide,
Above your splendid sunburnt throat that pulses unconfined.

With easy unreserve,
Across the gunwale’s curve,
Your arm superb is lying, brown and bare;
Your hand just touches mine
With import firm and fine,
(I kiss the very wind that blows about your tumbled hair).

Ah! Dear, I am unwise
In echoing your eyes
Whene’er they leave their far-off gaze, and turn
To melt and blur my sight;
For every other light
Is servile to your cloud-grey eyes, wherein cloud shadows burn.

But once the silence breaks,
But once your ardour wakes
To words that humanize this lotus-land;
So perfect and complete
Those burning words and sweet,
So perfect is the single kiss your lips lay on my hand.

The paddles lie disused,
The fitful breeze abused,
Has dropped to slumber, with no after-blow;
And hearts will pay the cost,
For you and I have lost
More than the homeward blowing wind that died an hour ago.

The King’s Consort

I

Love, was it yesternoon, or years agone,
You took in yours my hands,
And placed me close beside you on the throne
Of Oriental lands?

The truant hour came back at dawn to-day,
Across the hemispheres,
And bade my sleeping soul retrace its way
These many hundred years.

And all my wild young life returned, and ceased
The years that lie between,
When you were King of Egypt, and The East,
And I was Egypt’s queen.

II

I feel again the lengths of silken gossamer enfold
My body and my limbs in robes of emerald and gold.
I feel the heavy sunshine, and the weight of languid heat
That crowned the day you laid the royal jewels at my feet.

You wound my throat with jacinths, green and glist’ning serpent-wise,
My hot, dark throat that pulsed beneath the ardour of your eyes;
And centuries have failed to cool the memory of your hands
That bound about my arms those massive, pliant golden bands.

You wreathed around my wrists long ropes of coral and of jade,
And beaten gold that clung like coils of kisses love-inlaid;
About my naked ankles tawny topaz chains you wound,
With clasps of carven onyx, ruby-rimmed and golden bound.

But not for me the Royal Pearls to bind about my hair,

Joe

A meadow brown; across the yonder edge
A zigzag fence is ambling; here a wedge
Of underbush has cleft its course in twain,
Till where beyond it staggers up again;
The long, grey rails stretch in a broken line
Their ragged length of rough, split forest pine,
And in their zigzag tottering have reeled
In drunken efforts to enclose the field,
Which carries on its breast, September born,
A patch of rustling, yellow, Indian corn.
Beyond its shrivelled tassels, perched upon
The topmost rail, sits Joe, the settler’s son,
A little semi-savage boy of nine.
Now dozing in the warmth of Nature’s wine,
His face the sun has tampered with, and wrought,
By heated kisses, mischief, and has brought
Some vagrant freckles, while from here and there
A few wild locks of vagabond brown hair
Escape the old straw hat the sun looks through,
And blinks to meet his Irish eyes of blue.
Barefooted, innocent of coat or vest,
His grey checked shirt unbuttoned at his chest,
Both hardy hands within their usual nest—
His breeches pockets — so, he waits to rest
His little fingers, somewhat tired and worn,
That all day long were husking Indian corn.
His drowsy lids snap at some trivial sound,
With lazy yawns he slips towards the ground,
Then with an idle whistle lifts his load
And shambles home along the country road
That stretches on fringed out with stumps and weeds,
And finally unto the backwoods leads,
Where forests wait with giant trunk and bough
The axe of pioneer, the settler’s plough.

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