Hiawatha Wedding Feast is the first part of a vocal trilogy based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1855 poem The Song of Hiawatha, composed by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. The first cantata celebrates Native American leader Hiawatha's marriage to Minnehaha with feasting and dance.


What are the lyrics to Hiawatha Wedding Feast?

YOU shall hear how Pau-Puk-Keewis,

How the handsome Yenadizze

Danced at Hiawatha’s wedding;

How the gentle Chibiabos,

He the sweetest of musicians,

Sand his songs of love and longing;

How Iagoo, the great boaster,

He the marvellous story-teller,

Told his tales of strange adventure,

That the feast might be more joyous,

That the time might pass more gayly,

And the guests be more contented.

Sumptuous was the feast Nokomis

Made at Hiawatha’s wedding;

All the bowls were made of bass-wood,

White and polished very smoothly,

All the spoons of horn of bison,

Black and polished very smoothly.

She had sent through all the village

Messengers with wands of willow,

As a sign of invitation,

As a token of the feasting;

And the wedding guests assembled,

Clad in all their richest raiment,

Robes of fur and belts of wampum,

Splendid with their paint and plumage,

Beautiful with beads and tassels.

First they ate the sturgeon, Nahma,

And the pike, the Maskenozha,

Caught and cooked by old Nokomis;

Then on pemican they feasted,

Pemican and buffalo marrow,

Haunch of deer and hump of bison,

Yellow cakes of the Mondamin,

And the wild rice of the river.

But the gracious Hiawatha,

And the lovely Laughing Water

And the careful old Nokomis,

Tasted not the food before them,

Only waited on the others,

Only served their guests in silence

And when all the guests had finished

Old Nokomis, brisk and busy,

From an ample pouch of otter,

Filled the red-stone pipes for smoking

With tobacco from the South-land,

Mixed with bark of the red willow,

And with herbs and leaves of fragrance.

Then she said, “O Pau-Puk-Keewis,

Dance for us your merry dances,

Dance the Beggar’s Dance to please us,

That the feast may be more joyous,

That the time may pass more gayly,

And our guests be more contented!”

Then the handsome Pau-Puk-Keewis,

He the idle Yenadizze,

He the merry mischief-maker,

Whom the people called the Storm-Fool,

Rose among the guests assembled.

Skilled was he in sports and pastimes,

In the merry dance of snow-shoes,

In the play of quoits and ball-play;

Skilled was he in games of hazard,

In all games of skill and hazard,

Pugasaing, the Bowl and Counters,

Kuntassoo, the Game of Plum-stones.

Though the warriors called him Faint-Heart,

Called him coward, Shaugodaya,

Idler, gambler, Yenadizze,

Little heeded he their jesting,

Little cared he for their insults,

For the women and the maidens

Loved the handsome Pau-Puk-Keewis.

He was dressed in shirt of doeskin,

White and soft, and fringed with ermine,

All inwrought with beads of wampum;

He was dressed in deer-skin leggings,

Fringed with hedgehog quills and ermine,

And in moccasins of buck-skin,

Thick with quills and beads embroidered.

On his head were plumes of swan’s down,

On his heels were tails of foxes,

In one hand a fan of feathers,

And a pipe was in the other.

Barred with streaks of red and yellow,

Streaks of blue and bright vermilion,

Shone the face of Pau-Puk-Keewis.

From his forehead fell his tresses,

Smooth, and parted like a woman’s,

Shining bright with oil, and plaited,

Hung with braids of scented grasses,

As among the guests assembled,

To the sound of flutes and singing,

To the sound of drums and voices,

Rose the handsome Pau-Puk-Keewis,

And began his mystic dances.

First he danced a solemn measure,

Very slow in step and gesture,

In and out among the pine-trees,

Through the shadows and the sunshine,

Treading softly like a panther.

Then more swiftly and still swifter,

Whirling, spinning round in circles,

Leaping o’er the guests assembled,

Eddying round and round the wigwam,

Till the leaves went whirling with him,

Till the dust and wind together

Swept in eddies round about him.

Then along the sandy margin

Of the lake, the Big-Sea-Water,

On he sped with frenzied gestures,

Stamped upon the sand, and tossed it

Wildly in the air around him;

Till the wind became a whirlwind,

Till the sand was blown and sifted

Like great snowdrifts o’er the landscape,

Heaping all the shores with Sand Dunes,

Sand Hills of the Nagow Wudjoo!

Thus the merry Pau-Puk-Keewis

Danced his Beggar’s Dance to please them,

And, returning, sat down laughing

There among the guests assembled,

Sat and fanned himself serenely

With his fan of turkey-feathers.

Then they said to Chibiabos,

To the friend of Hiawatha,

To the sweetest of all singers,

To the best of all musicians,

“Sing to us, O Chibiabos!

Songs of love and songs of longing,

That the feast may be more joyous,

That the time may pass more gayly,

And our guests be more contented!”

And the gentle Chibiabos

Sang in accents sweet and tender,

Sang in tones of deep emotion

Songs of love and songs of longing;

Looking still at Hiawatha,

Looking at fair Laughing Water,

Sang he softly, sang in this wise:

“Onaway! Awake, beloved!

Thou the wild-flower of the forest!

Thou the wild-bird of the prairie!

Thou with eyes so soft and fawn-like!

“If thou only lookest at me,

I am happy, I am happy,

As the lilies of the prairie,

When they feel the dew upon them!

“Sweet thy breath is as the fragrance

Of the wild-flowers in the morning,

As their fragrance is at evening,

In the Moon when leaves are falling.

Does not all the blood within me

Leap to meet thee, leap to meet thee,

As the springs to meet the sunshine,

In the Moon when nights are brightest?

“Onaway! my heart sings to thee,

Sings with joy when thou art near me,

As the sighing, singing branches

In the pleasant Moon of Strawberries!

“When thou art not pleased, beloved,

Then my heart is sad and darkened,

As the shining river darkens

When the clouds drop shadows on it!

“When thou smilest, my beloved,

Then my troubled heart is brightened,

As in sunshine gleam the ripples

That the cold wind makes in rivers.

“Smiles the earth, and smile the waters,

Smile the cloudless skies above us,

But I lose the way of smiling

When thou art no longer near me!

“I myself, myself! behold me!

Blood of my beating heart, behold me!

Oh awake, awake, beloved!

Onaway! awake, beloved!”

Thus the gentle Chibiabos

Sang his song of love and longing;

And Iagoo, the great boaster,

He the marvellous story-teller,

He the friend of old Nokomis,

Jealous of the sweet musician,

Jealous of the applause they gave him,

Saw in all the eyes around him,

Saw in all their looks and gestures,

That the wedding guests assembled

Longed to hear his pleasant stories,

His immeasurable falsehoods.

Very boastful was Iagoo;

Never heard he an adventure

But himself had met a greater;

Never any deed of daring

But himself had done a bolder;

Never any marvellous story

But himself could tell a stranger.

Would you listen to his boasting,

Would you only give him credence,

No one ever shot an arrow

Half so far and high as he had

Ever caught so many fishes,

Ever killed so many reindeer,

Ever trapped so many beaver!

None could run so fast as he could,

None could dive so deep as he could,

None could swim so far as he could;

None had made so many journeys,

None had seen so many wonders,

As this wonderful Iagoo,

As this marvellous story-teller!

Thus his name became a by-word

And a jest among the people;

And whene’er a boastful hunter

Praised his own address too highly,

Or a warrior, home returning,

Talked too much of his achievements,

All his hearers cried, “Iagoo!

Here’s Iagoo come among us!”

He it was who carved the cradle

Of the little Hiawatha,

Carved its framework out of linden,

Bound it strong with reindeer sinews

He it was who taught him later

How to make his bows and arrows,

How to make the bows of ash-tree,

And the arrows of the oak-tree

So among the guests assembled

At my Hiawatha’s wedding

Sat Iagoo, old and ugly,

Sat the marvellous story-teller.

And they said, “O good Iagoo,

Tell us now a tale of wonder,

Tell us of some strange adventure,

That the feast may be more joyous,

That the time may pass more gayly,

And our guests be more contented!

And Iagoo answered straightway,

You shall hear the strange adventures

Of Osseo, the Magician,

From the Evening Star descended.”

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