Emily Pauline Johnson (Tehakionwake): Ontario to British Columbia, 1861-1913
Poet and Performer
The daughter of a Mohawk chief and an English gentlewoman, Pauline was raised on the banks of the Grand River in Brantford, Ontario, which first inspired her naturalistic verse. Tehakionwake visited England in 1894 to become the toast of London, reciting her "redskin poems" in deerskins and returning in a ball gown to recite Longfellow and Shakespeare. After touring across Europe for several years, she settled in Vancouver. Pauline died of breast cancer at age fifty-two. She is buried at Siwash Rock in Vancouver's Stanley Park. This is at least the third known setting of her most famous poem.
West wind, blow from your prairie nest
Blow from the mountains, blow from the west
Blow, blow, I have wooed you so
But never a favor you bestow.
August is laughing across the sky
Laughing while paddle, canoe and I
Drift, drift where the hills uplift
On either side of the current swift.
And oh, the river runs swifter now
The eddies circle about my bow
Swirl, swirl as the ripples curl
In many a dangerous pool awhirl!
And forward far the rapids roar
Fretting their margin for ever more
Dash, dash, with a mighty crash
They seethe and boil and bound and splash
Be strong, o paddle! Be brave, canoe!
The restless waves you must plunge into
Reel, reel on your trembling keel
But never a fear my craft will feel.
We’ve raced the rapid, we’re far ahead
The river slips through its silent bed
Sway, sway as the bubbles spray
And fall in tinkling tunes away.
And up on the hills against the sky
A fir tree rocking its lullaby
Swings, swings its emerald wings
Swelling the song that my paddle sings.
from A Woman's Way,
released May 18, 2018
Pauline Johnson arr. Lynn Noel. Liz Lewis, Ed Softky, and Alan Field, harmony vocals.