Canadian Born

by Emily Pauline Johnson



The Quill Worker


 

Plains, plains, and the prairie land which the sunlight floods and             fills,
To the north the open country, southward the Cypress Hills;
Never a bit of woodland, never a rill that flows,
Only a stretch of cactus beds, and the wild, sweet prairie rose;
Never a habitation, save where in the far southwest
5
A solitary tepee lifts its solitary crest,
Where Neykia in the doorway, crouched in the red sunshine,
Broiders her buckskin mantle with the quills of the porcupine.

Neykia, the Sioux chief’s daughter, she with the foot that flies,
She with the hair of midnight and the wondrous midnight eyes,
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            [Page 42]
She with the deft brown fingers, she with the soft, slow smile,
She with the voice of velvet and the thoughts that dream the             while,—
“Whence come the vague to-morrows? Where do the yesters fly?
What is beyond the border of the prairie and the sky?
Does the maid in the Land of Morning sit in the red sunshine,
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Broidering her buckskin mantle with the quills of the porcupine?”

So Neykia, in the westland, wonders and works away,
Far from the fret and folly of the “Land of Waking Day.”
And many the pale-face trader who stops at the tepee door
For a smile from the sweet, shy worker, and a sigh when the hour
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            is o’er.
For they know of a young red hunter who oftentimes has stayed
To rest and smoke with her father, tho’ his eyes were on the maid;             [Page 43]
And the moons will not be many ere she in the red sunshine
Will broider his buckskin mantle with the quills of the porcupine.             [Page 44]