“Give me of your bark, O Birch-tree!
Of your yellow bark, O Birch-tree!
Growing by the rushing river,
Tall and stately in the valley!
I a light canoe will build me,
Build a swift Cheemaun for sailing,
That shall float on the river,
Like a yellow leaf in Autumn,
Like a yellow water-lily!
“Lay aside your cloak, O Birch-tree!
Lay aside your white-skin wrapper,
For the Summer-time is coming,
And the sun is warm in heaven,
And you need no white-skin wrapper!”
Thus aloud cried Hiawatha
In the solitary forest,
By the rushing Taquamenaw,
When the birds were singing gayly,
In the Moon of Leaves were singing,
And the sun, from sleep awaking,
Started up and said, “Behold me!
Gheezis, the great Sun, behold me!”
And the tree with all its branches
Rustled in the breeze of morning,
Saying, with a sigh of patience,
“Take my cloak, O Hiawatha!”
With his knife the tree he girdled;
Just beneath its lowest branches,
Just above the roots, he cut it,
Till the sap came oozing outward;
Down the trunk, from top to bottom,
Sheer he cleft the bark asunder,
With a wooden wedge he raised it,
Stripped it from the trunk unbroken.
“Give me of your boughs, O Cedar!
Of your strong and pliant branches,
My canoe to make more steady,
Make more strong and firm beneath me!”
Through the summit of the Cedar
Went a sound, a cry of horror,
Went a murmur of resistance;
But it whispered, bending downward,
‘Take my boughs, O Hiawatha!”
Down he hewed the boughs of cedar,
Shaped them straightway to a frame-work,
Like two bows he formed and shaped them,
Like two bended bows together.
“Give me of your roots, O Tamarack!
Of your fibrous roots, O Larch-tree!
My canoe to bind together,
So to bind the ends together
That the water may not enter,
That the river may not wet me!”
And the Larch, with all its fibres,
Shivered in the air of morning,
Touched his forehead with its tassels,
Slid, with one long sigh of sorrow.
“Take them all, O Hiawatha!”
From the earth he tore the fibres,
Tore the tough roots of the Larch-tree,
Closely sewed the hark together,
Bound it closely to the frame-work.
“Give me of your balm, O Fir-tree!
Of your balsam and your resin,
So to close the seams together
That the water may not enter,
That the river may not wet me!”
And the Fir-tree, tall and sombre,
Sobbed through all its robes of darkness,
Rattled like a shore with pebbles,
Answered wailing, answered weeping,
“Take my balm, O Hiawatha!”
And he took the tears of balsam,
Took the resin of the Fir-tree,
Smeared therewith each seam and fissure,
Made each crevice safe from water.
“Give me of your quills, O Hedgehog!
All your quills, O Kagh, the Hedgehog!
I will make a necklace of them,
Make a girdle for my beauty,
And two stars to deck her bosom!”
From a hollow tree the Hedgehog
With his sleepy eyes looked at him,
Shot his shining quills, like arrows,
Saying with a drowsy murmur,
Through the tangle of his whiskers,
“Take my quills, O Hiawatha!”
From the ground the quills he gathered,
All the little shining arrows,
Stained them red and blue and yellow,
With the juice of roots and berries;
Into his canoe he wrought them,
Round its waist a shining girdle,
Round its bows a gleaming necklace,
On its breast two stars resplendent.
Thus the Birch Canoe was builded
In the valley, by the river,
In the bosom of the forest;
And the forest’s life was in it,
All its mystery and its magic,
All the lightness of the birch-tree,
All the toughness of the cedar,
All the larch’s supple sinews;
And it floated on the river
Like a yellow leaf in Autumn,
Like a yellow water-lily.
Paddles none had Hiawatha,
Paddles none he had or needed,
For his thoughts as paddles served him,
And his wishes served to guide him;
Swift or slow at will he glided,
Veered to right or left at pleasure.
Then he called aloud to Kwasind,
To his friend, the strong man, Kwasind,
Saying, “Help me clear this river
Of its sunken logs and sand-bars.”
Straight into the river Kwasind
Plunged as if he were an otter,
Dived as if he were a beaver,
Stood up to his waist in water,
To his arm-pits in the river,
Swam and scouted in the river,
Tugged at sunken logs and branches,
With his hands he scooped the sand-bars,
With his feet the ooze and tangle.
And thus sailed my Hiawatha
Down the rushing Taquamenaw,
Sailed through all its bends and windings,
Sailed through all its deeps and shallows,
While his friend, the strong man, Kwasind,
Swam the deeps, the shallows waded.
Up and down the river went they,
In and out among its islands,
Cleared its bed of root and sand-bar,
Dragged the dead trees from its channel,
Made its passage safe and certain,
Made a pathway for the people,
From its springs among the mountains,
To the waters of Pauwating,
To the bay of Taquamenaw.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem Hiawatha’s Sailing


  1. Aldric Gozon says:

    This poem is a great poem and he wrote it well. In this poem, Hiawatha is talking to the trees to help him build a canoe. It’s a long poem, but every word of it has its meaning. It says that Hiawatha was a legendary American Indian chief who established the Five Nations League. I think that this poem is telling us that Hiawatha is gathering the Five Nations League. The canoe could stand for their total powers, and the river can be thought of as their road to victory. This poem has a very serious, excited, yet sometimes sad tone because the trees have to be stripped of some of their parts. I think that it is filled with excitement because Hiawatha seems so eager to put together the canoe. The poem is very creative, and Longfellow has Hiawatha get one part of the canoe from something different, so Hiawatha can make the best canoe to go down the river with. It’s also quite an upbeat poem, while having that touch of sadness from the trees.

  2. Sara Elghazali says:

    This poem was very long, but also very intresting. It felt as if I was there and seeing what was happening. It was very superb! I could imagine everything very well. I think that this poem is trying to say that Hiawatha is trying to get different things from different trees to build a boat and sail. Because he is getting tree branches and bark from trees to build a boat. And also, the poem sounded cherful to me, and had a constant rhythm.

  3. Mary Um says:

    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem is reallly good and it feels like I am watching him really making the canoe to sail with his many detailed informations. It was upbeat, too. I see the Content Imperative, convergence because he uses the type of trees to make the canoe. I loved this poem because it was about a person making the canoe to travel.

  4. Amy Wong says:

    I think that this poem was a really good poem. It was excellent! I could imagine myself there, with Hiawatha. It was as if I could see everything he did because it was so detailed in described. The poem sounded up-beat to me, and had a constant rhythem. Some parts sounded like it rhymed, but others didn’t. By reading the poem, it made me realized that nature has been so kind to us human beings because we take so much of them. Whenever Hiawatha would ask for something to help make his canoe, nature would give it to him. I could most definitly see the content imperative, convergence in the story because all of the things taken from trees and nature made one canoe. It all came together at the end.

  5. Luis Gonzalez says:

    This poem was good and he used many repitition words. Then he would explain like how they bird should like go on the birch. Then this shows like someone is watching this in real person.

  6. Amber says:

    I extreamly enjoied this poem. It was very detailed and upbeat. It let you see what was going on. But it also had you use your imagination, such as when Hiawatha asked the trees for their bark and branches, and they let him take it. Now that I stop to think about it, I see that there is a content imperative in it, convergence. All of the trees and the porcupine come together to allow Hiawatha to build the boat. All around, I think it was a good read, and I would like to read some more poems like it.

  7. Kayle Curley says:

    I absolutely love the way Longfellow used personification so that the trees could talk with Hiawatha. The tone influenced me greatly!

  8. Jin Choi says:

    I think that this poem had a great flow and that it was interesting to read. Although I did not understand some parts, I enjoyed this poem because it was fun to read about a man building a canoe or something like that 😀

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