Oh the long and dreary Winter!
Oh the cold and cruel Winter!
Ever thicker, thicker, thicker
Froze the ice on lake and river,
Ever deeper, deeper, deeper
Fell the snow o’er all the landscape,
Fell the covering snow, and drifted
Through the forest, round the village.
Hardly from his buried wigwam
Could the hunter force a passage;
With his mittens and his snow-shoes
Vainly walked he through the forest,
Sought for bird or beast and found none,
Saw no track of deer or rabbit,
In the snow beheld no footprints,
In the ghastly, gleaming forest
Fell, and could not rise from weakness,
Perished there from cold and hunger.
Oh the famine and the fever!
Oh the wasting of the famine!
Oh the blasting of the fever!
Oh the wailing of the children!
Oh the anguish of the women!
All the earth was sick and famished;
Hungry was the air around them,
Hungry was the sky above them,
And the hungry stars in heaven
Like the eyes of wolves glared at them!
Into Hiawatha’s wigwam
Came two other guests, as silent
As the ghosts were, and as gloomy,
Waited not to be invited
Did not parley at the doorway
Sat there without word of welcome
In the seat of Laughing Water;
Looked with haggard eyes and hollow
At the face of Laughing Water.
And the foremost said: “Behold me!
I am Famine, Bukadawin!”
And the other said: “Behold me!
I am Fever, Ahkosewin!”
And the lovely Minnehaha
Shuddered as they looked upon her,
Shuddered at the words they uttered,
Lay down on her bed in silence,
Hid her face, but made no answer;
Lay there trembling, freezing, burning
At the looks they cast upon her,
At the fearful words they uttered.
Forth into the empty forest
Rushed the maddened Hiawatha;
In his heart was deadly sorrow,
In his face a stony firmness;
On his brow the sweat of anguish
Started, but it froze and fell not.
Wrapped in furs and armed for hunting,
With his mighty bow of ash-tree,
With his quiver full of arrows,
With his mittens, Minjekahwun,
Into the vast and vacant forest
On his snow-shoes strode he forward.
“Gitche Manito, the Mighty!”
Cried he with his face uplifted
In that bitter hour of anguish,
“Give your children food, O father!
Give us food, or we must perish!
Give me food for Minnehaha,
For my dying Minnehaha!”
Through the far-resounding forest,
Through the forest vast and vacant
Rang that cry of desolation,
But there came no other answer
Than the echo of his crying,
Than the echo of the woodlands,
“Minnehaha! Minnehaha!”
All day long roved Hiawatha
In that melancholy forest,
Through the shadow of whose thickets,
In the pleasant days of Summer,
Of that ne’er forgotten Summer,
He had brought his young wife homeward
From the land of the Dacotahs;
When the birds sang in the thickets,
And the streamlets laughed and glistened,
And the air was full of fragrance,
And the lovely Laughing Water
Said with voice that did not tremble,
“I will follow you, my husband!”
In the wigwam with Nokomis,
With those gloomy guests that watched her,
With the Famine and the Fever,
She was lying, the Beloved,
She, the dying Minnehaha.
“Hark!” she said; “I hear a rushing,
Hear a roaring and a rushing,
Hear the Falls of Minnehaha
Calling to me from a distance!”
“No, my child!” said old Nokomis,
“`T is the night-wind in the pine-trees!”
“Look!” she said; “I see my father
Standing lonely at his doorway,
Beckoning to me from his wigwam
In the land of the Dacotahs!”
“No, my child!” said old Nokomis.
“`T is the smoke, that waves and beckons!”
“Ah!” said she, “the eyes of Pauguk
Glare upon me in the darkness,
I can feel his icy fingers
Clasping mine amid the darkness!
Hiawatha! Hiawatha!”
And the desolate Hiawatha,
Far away amid the forest,
Miles away among the mountains,
Heard that sudden cry of anguish,
Heard the voice of Minnehaha
Calling to him in the darkness,
“Hiawatha! Hiawatha!”
Over snow-fields waste and pathless,
Under snow-encumbered branches,
Homeward hurried Hiawatha,
Empty-handed, heavy-hearted,
Heard Nokomis moaning, wailing:
“Wahonowin! Wahonowin!
Would that I had perished for you,
Would that I were dead as you are!
Wahonowin!. Wahonowin!”
And he rushed into the wigwam,
Saw the old Nokomis slowly
Rocking to and fro and moaning,
Saw his lovely Minnehaha
Lying dead and cold before him,
And his bursting heart within him
Uttered such a cry of anguish,
That the forest moaned and shuddered,
That the very stars in heaven
Shook and trembled with his anguish.
Then he sat down, still and speechless,
On the bed of Minnehaha,
At the feet of Laughing Water,
At those willing feet, that never
More would lightly run to meet him,
Never more would lightly follow.
With both hands his face he covered,
Seven long days and nights he sat there,
As if in a swoon he sat there,
Speechless, motionless, unconscious
Of the daylight or the darkness.
Then they buried Minnehaha;
In the snow a grave they made her
In the forest deep and darksome
Underneath the moaning hemlocks;
Clothed her in her richest garments
Wrapped her in her robes of ermine,
Covered her with snow, like ermine;
Thus they buried Minnehaha.
And at night a fire was lighted,
On her grave four times was kindled,
For her soul upon its journey
To the Islands of the Blessed.
From his doorway Hiawatha
Saw it burning In the forest,
Lighting up the gloomy hemlocks;
From his sleepless bed uprising,
From the bed of Minnehaha,
Stood and watched it at the doorway,
That it might not be extinguished,
Might not leave her in the darkness.
“Farewell!” said he, “Minnehaha!
Farewell, O my Laughing Water!
All my heart is buried with you,
All my thoughts go onward with you!
Come not back again to labor,
Come not back again to suffer,
Where the Famine and the Fever
Wear the heart and waste the body.
Soon my task will be completed,
Soon your footsteps I shall follow
To the Islands of the Blessed,
To the Kingdom of Ponemah,
To the Land of the Hereafter!”

Analysis, meaning and summary of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem The Famine


  1. Anonymous says:

    This was a poem that I enjoyed reading and it was very descriptive. I love how there was almost always an adjective for the nouns. It let me picture the poem visually in my head a bit better.

  2. Hannah Kim says:

    This poem is about starvation happening at a certain time period. I would say that the tone of this poem is sad and gloomy because they is no life. The whole entire world was fading away because of starvation. There wasn’t enough food for everyone to eat. In the poem, “The Famine there was a child that died from starvation. Also in the poem there are no animals and the women and their children are protesting. At the end of the poem Minnehaha dies and they respected the child, although she did die she will be remembered forever.

  3. Erica Bae says:

    First of all, this poem was very long… The poem obviously was about starvation, as said in the title. I believe that the tone of the poem was very sad and gloomy. The whole world was fading away because of starvation, there is not enough food for the people. I think this because the poem states, “All the earth was sick and famished; hunger was the air around them.” It’s saying that the people were getting sick and could possibly die, most likely the children. In the poem there was one particular child that died from starvation, Minnehaha. At the end of the poem Minnehaha did die and they respected the child and wished for the best and although she died, she will be forever remembered.

  4. Jaime Park says:

    I think this poem is rather lengthy, like the other poems in the series of the Song of Hiawatha. I believe that the subject in this poem is like taking a wild swing in the dark, or hope, because Hiawatha and the rest of the people (nation) are famished in a cold winter. Although the people are starving, there are no animals, and the children and women are complaining, they search on.

  5. Gian Cua says:

    I think that this poem is trying to send out the message of hope, because In the beginning it shows how harsh the winter is but then Hiawatha goes out with his stuff and shouts to give his children food or they will perish and to him food too or else he will perish. I think the tone of the poem is supposed to be scary in my opinion because one thing after another happens like it was a story and it seemed like it when the fever and the famine left the house.

  6. jeff says:

    This poem is very good and it tells good things, of what is happening, also they give hints of what weather it is and what is happening there in that very setting.

  7. jeff says:

    This poem is very good and it tells good things, of what is happening, also they give hints of what weather it is and what is happening there in that very setting.

  8. Brian Parungao says:

    This poem was astounding and was tastefully written. The poem has many descriptive words and sayings that make you feel like you are actually next to Hiawata, in the cold and starving from the famine. This poem is also sad because Minnehaha died and that there is a famine. I think the poem is talking about how there was a famine where Hiawatha was and he hears his loved one’s cries so he goes to her. When he reaches there, he finds her dead. He cries for many days until the burial day comes. Hiawatha then says that after he is done with his duties, he will reach her. I think that part was the most touching one and made me feel the pain and sorrow for Hiawatha.

  9. Karishma Parikh says:

    I think that the poem was very well written. The details in the poem help to understand the feelings of the character better. I think that the poem means that there was a famine in the areas that Hiawatha lived in. He was in the bitter cold trying to find food to survive. Then he herar the cry of his beloved and goes to her. When he reaches he sees her dead on her bed. He is so saddened and weeps for many days. Soon the burrial day arrives and she is buried. Hiawatha then say that once he finished his duties he will reach her. I thin kthat the poem was very well written and I liked it a lot.

  10. Joshua Suh says:

    This poem was very amazing. It has many descriptive words and you feel like you are in it. This poem is also very sad because Minnehaha dies and that there is a famine. This poem also has very amazing things such as descriptive words, it is emotional, and it has a very good ending because it tells us that they will always love Minnehaha and they will continually bless her.

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