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Poems > Canadian > Johnson
for the enjoyment
and passion of words,
thoughts, and disiplines.
Subscribe Now
for the enjoyment
and passion of words,
thoughts, and disiplines.
The Song My Paddle Sings
by Emily Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

WEST wind, blow from your prairie nest,
Blow from the mountains, blow from the west.
The sail is idle, the sailor too;
O wind of the west, we wait for you!
Blow, blow!       
I have wooed you so,
But never a favor you bestow.
You rock your cradle the hills between,
But scorn to notice my white lateen.

I stow the sail and unship the mast:       
I wooed you long, but my wooing’s past;
My paddle will lull you into rest:
O drowsy wind of the drowsy west,
Sleep, sleep!
By your mountains steep,       
Or down where the prairie grasses sweep,
Now fold in slumber your laggard wings,
For soft is the song my paddle sings.

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.

The river rolls in its rocky bed,
My paddle is plying its way ahead,       
Dip, dip,
When the waters flip
In foam as over their breast we slip.

And oh, the river runs swifter now;
The eddies circle about my bow:       
Swirl, swirl!
How the ripples curl
In many a dangerous pool awhirl!
And far to forward the rapids roar,
Fretting their margin for evermore;       
Dash, dash,
With a mighty crash,
They seethe and boil and bound and splash.

Be strong, O paddle! be brave, canoe!
The reckless waves you must plunge into.      
Reel, reel,
On your trembling keel,
But never a fear my craft will feel.

We ’ve raced the rapids; 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.
Emily Pauline Johnson
She was a Canadian writer and performer popular in the late 19th century. Johnson was notable for her poems and performances that celebrated her Aboriginal heritage.
Born: March 10, 1861, Six Nations, Ontario, Canada
Died: March 07, 1913 (aged 51), Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Resting place: Stanley Park, Vancouver,  British Columbia, Canada

Emily Pauline Johnson was the youngest of four children born to an Englishwoman, named Emily Susanna Howells, and Mohawk Chief Teyonhehkon, a descendant of Hiawatha and Dekanahwideh, the Peacemaker, and other leaders Pontiac and Tecumseh.
Pauline’s family blended and reflected two distinct cultural heritages: one being the customs, traditions, myths, legends and historical accounts of her Mohawk heritage from the Wolf, Bear and Turtle clans, and the other being her mother’s British background. 
The Mohawk were one of six nations represented in the Iroquois Confederacy, governed by a Great Law of Peace and consisting of 50 sachems (chiefs of the ruling council within a Confederacy) chosen by the matriarchs of the Iroquoian societies. Members of these societies refer to themselves as the Haudenosaunee, meaning “People of the Longhouse.” They are linked together by shared languages, cultural heritages and histories. As a member of the League of Six Nations, the Mohawk are known as the Keepers of the Eastern Door and were regarded as leaders of the Confederacy by British Superintendent of Indian Affairs Sir William Johnson.
Chief Tekahionwake, Pauline’s great-grandfather, was the first to be given the English name, Johnson (after Sir William Johnson) at birth. In turn, Sir William Johnson was given the Mohawk name, Waraghiyagey.
Pauline was born at “Chiefswood,” a home her father built for his wife on the reserve land of the Six Nations of the Grand River, a region of forest that stretched from the Great Lakes northward.
A number of distinguished guests came to Chiefswood, such as Princess Louise, Prince Arthur and Lord Dufferin, on their visits to Canada. Other esteemed visitors included members of the Six Nations such as Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant) and his sister Koñwatsi'tsiaiéñni (Molly Brant), the second wife of Sir William Johnson. Gonwatsijayenni was a Mohawk clan mother, matriarch and loyalist who had much power in the dealings of the Confederacy.