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Peboan And Seegwun An Allegory Of Winter And Spring

Source: The Myth Of Hiawatha


An old man was sitting in his lodge, by the side of a frozen stream. It
was the close of winter, and his fire was almost out. He appeared very
old and very desolate. His locks were white with age, and he trembled
in every joint. Day after day passed in solitude, and he heard nothing
but the sounds of the tempest, sweeping before it the new-fallen snow.

One day, as his fire was just dying, a handsome young man approached
and entered his dwelling. His cheeks were red with the blood of youth,
his eyes sparkled with animation, and a smile played upon his lips. He
walked with a light and quick step. His forehead was bound with a
wreath of sweet grass, in place of a warrior's frontlet, and he carried
a bunch of flowers in his hand.

"Ah, my son," said the old man, "I am happy to see you. Come in. Come,
tell me of your adventures, and what strange lands you have been to
see. Let us pass the night together. I will tell you of my prowess and
exploits, and what I can perform. You shall do the same, and we will
amuse ourselves."

He then drew from his sack a curiously-wrought antique pipe, and having
filled it with tobacco, rendered mild by an admixture of certain
leaves, handed it to his guest. When this ceremony was concluded they
began to speak.

"I blow my breath," said the old man, "and the streams stand still. The
water becomes stiff and hard as clear stone."

"I breathe," said the young man, "and flowers spring up all over the

"I shake my locks," retorted the old man, "and snow covers the land.
The leaves fall from the trees at my command, and my breath blows them
away. The birds get up from the water, and fly to a distant land. The
animals hide themselves from my breath, and the very ground becomes as
hard as flint."

"I shake my ringlets," rejoined the young man, "and warm showers of
soft rain fall upon the earth. The plants lift up their heads out of
the earth, like the eyes of children glistening with delight. My voice
recalls the birds. The warmth of my breath unlocks the streams. Music
fills the groves wherever I walk, and all nature rejoices."

At length the sun began to rise. A gentle warmth came over the place.
The tongue of the old man became silent. The robin and bluebird began
to sing on the top of the lodge. The stream began to murmur by the
door, and the fragrance of growing herbs and flowers came softly on the
vernal breeze.

Daylight fully revealed to the young man the character of his
entertainer. When he looked upon him, he had the icy visage of
Peboan.[48] Streams began to flow from his eyes. As the sun increased,
he grew less and less in stature, and anon had melted completely away.
Nothing remained on the place of his lodge fire but the miskodeed,[49] a
small white flower, with a pink border, which is one of the earliest
species of northern plants.

[48] Winter.

[49] The Claytonia Virginica.

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