Emily Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

Here you will find the Long Poem Ojistoh of poet Emily Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)


I am Ojistoh, I am she, the wife 
Of him whose name breathes bravery and life 
And courage to the tribe that calls him chief. 
I am Ojistoh, his white star, and he 
Is land, and lake, and sky--and soul to me. 

Ah! but they hated him, those Huron braves, 
Him who had flung their warriors into graves, 
Him who had crushed them underneath his heel 
Whose arm was iron, and whose heart was steel 
To all--save me, Ojistoh, chosen wife 
Of my great Mohawk, white star of his life. 

Ah! but they hated him, and councilled long 
With subtle witchcraft how to work him wrong; 
How to avenge their dead, and strike him where 
His pride was highest, and his fame most fair. 
Their hearts grew weak as women at his name: 
They dared no war-path since my Mohawk came 
With ashen bow, and flinten arrow-head 
To pierce their craven bodies; but their dead 
Must be avenged. Avenged? They dared not walk 
In day and meet his deadly tomahawk; 
They dared not face his fearless scalping knife; 
So--Niyoh!*--then they thought of me, his wife. 

O! evil, evil face of them they sent 
With evil Huron speech: "Would I consent 
To take of wealth? be queen of all their tribe? 
Have wampum ermine?" Back I flung the bribe 
Into their teeth, and said, "While I have life 
Know this--Ojistoh is the Mohawk's wife." 

Wah! how we struggled! But their arms were strong. 
They flung me on their pony's back, with thong 
Round ankle, wrist, and shoulder. Then upleapt 
The one I hated most: his eye he swept 
Over my misery, and sneering said, 
"Thus, fair Ojistoh, we avenge our dead." 

And we two rode, rode as a sea wind-chased, 
I, bound with buckskin to his hated waist, 
He, sneering, laughing, jeering, while he lashed 
The horse to foam, as on and on we dashed. 
Plunging through creek and river, bush and trail, 
On, on we galloped like a northern gale. 
At last, his distant Huron fires aflame 
We saw, and nearer, nearer still we came. 

I, bound behind him in the captive's place, 
Scarely could see the outline of his face. 
I smiled, and laid my cheek against his back: 
"Loose thou my hands," I said. "This pace let slack. 
Forget we now that thou and I are foes. 
I like thee well, and wish to clasp thee close; 
I like the courage of thine eye and brow; 
I like thee better than my Mohawk now." 

He cut the cords; we ceased our maddened haste 
I wound my arms about his tawny waist; 
My hand crept up the buckskin of his belt; 
His knife hilt in my burning palm I felt; 
One hand caressed his cheek, the other drew 
The weapon softly--"I love you, love you," 
I whispered, "love you as my life." 
And--buried in his back his scalping knife. 

Ha! how I rode, rode as a sea wind-chased, 
Mad with sudden freedom, mad with haste, 
Back to my Mohawk and my home. I lashed 
That horse to foam, as on and on I dashed. 
Plunging thro' creek and river, bush and trail, 
On, on I galloped like a northern gale. 
And then my distant Mohawk's fires aflame 
I saw, as nearer, nearer still I came, 
My hands all wet, stained with a life's red dye, 
But pure my soul, pure as those stars on high-- 
"My Mohawk's pure white star, Ojistoh, still am I."