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The Wedding of Winona

An Indian Legend

In the dim remote antiquity
Of very long ago,
When the warriors of Wabasha
Chased the roving buffalo;
Near the mighty Mississippi
Lived a chieftain, old and grey;
And he ruled the wild Wabashas
In an energetic way.

He could hunt and fight no longer,
For his hunting days were gone;
But he used to talk for hours about
The deeds he once had done;
His once mighty arm was feeble,
Age had dimmed his vision keen,
So he lived upon the memory
Of what he once had been.

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And the darling of his wigwam -
Who was dearer than his life,
Was not, as perhaps it should have been,
That aged Chieftain's wife,
'Twas his sweet and loving daughter,
Who was supple, strong, and trim,
For the beautiful Winona
Was the salt of life to him.

Lithe and active was Winona,
And the sparkle of her eyes
Was like dewdrops on the lilies
When the sun begins to rise.
Like the bosom of the robin
Were her lips, so rosy red,
And her laugh like sound of water
Rippling o'er its pebbly bed.

In the tribe of the Wabashas
Was a warrior, brave and young;
And the praises of Winona
Were for ever on his tongue.
He declared he loved her dearly,
And beneath the twilight dim,
She vowed, by the Great Spirit,
She would love no man but him.

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Alas! for lovers' promises;
Alas! for lovers' dreams;
Too often are they shattered
By a parent's sordid schemes.
Soon the aged Chief, her father,
In the wigwam caused a stir,
When he quietly announced, that he
Had other views for her.

Then, he told her how another chief,
From out another band,
Whose warriors were invincible,
Had asked him for her hand.
Said he, “You'll be obedient
And marry him, I trust;
In short, the day and hour are fixed,
So marry him you must.”

There's commotion in a dovecot
When an eagle-hawk appears,
We are startled when a sudden clap
Of thunder greets our ears;
But neither ever caused such dire
Perplexity, as stirred
Poor Winona's gentle bosom
When the horrid news she heard.

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Yet, for filial obedience,
Winona was renowned;
So she hung her head and answered,
As she knelt upon the ground,
"I must do my father's bidding,
Though my aching heart may burst;"
But, she added, sotto voce,
"I will see you smothered first.”

Upon the wedding morning,
As the sun rose in the east,
She wandered forth to gather flowers
To deck the bridal feast.
She climbed a rock, and standing there,
All in the morning glow,
She saw her aged ancestor
Upon the ground below.

He gazed upon her, as she stood,
With all a father's pride,
"My lovely eldest born,” cried he,
"So soon to be a bride.”
She laughed a wild, unearthly laugh,
As if his words to mock,
Then, with one loud heartrending scream,
She leapt from off the rock.

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It chanced that soon Winona's own
Wabasha man came round,
He clasped Winona's senseless form
And raised it from the ground.
She soon unclosed her lovely eyes,
And smiling sweetly said,
"I'm just a little shaken up,
I lit on father's head.”

They turned the aged Chieftain o'er,
But not a word he spoke;
Winona, was a solid girl,
His spinal cord was broke.
Winona and her lover then
So lightly skipped away,
To seek fresh fields and pastures new,
To spend their wedding day.

Now, Indians in their birch canoes,
At twilight paddle by,
And pause beneath the “Maiden's Rock"
To hear Winona's cry.
The dusky paddlers softly sing,
And, as they glide along,
The "Wedding of Winona,"
Is the burden of their song.