The Songs of Hiawatha

I’m too old to remember when, but long before my school years ended, I had a teacher who relished in having her students memorize famous bits of literature and assorted public documents. A few that come to mind are the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and the Song of Hiawatha.

Do I need to tell you that I hated Mrs. Adams’s class for this very reason? But, read on …

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political band which has connected them with another …”

“Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

“By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
At the doorway of his wigwam,
In the pleasant Summer morning,
Hiawatha stood and waited.”

There how’s that for an old guy who can’t remember where I left my car keys or what I ate for breakfast?

The truth is, I just checked all three pieces and I made mistakes in all three. Oh, well, you get the idea.

More to the point, we’re here to talk about poster style postcards and the featured card today is one which symbolized the Song of Hiawatha.

H. W. Longfellow

This epic poem was composed (written, if you will) in 1855 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It is long (including an Introduction and 21 songs), complex and full of unpronounceable names like Mudjekeewis, Pau-Puk-Keewis, and Kwasind.

Do you remember being a child and having your mother, grandmother or in my case an ancient great-aunt, read to you? I sure do and I remember well the cold winter nights when I was sent to bed in the upstairs, front bedroom, where there was a big double-bed with a feather mattress and down-filled (not cotton; real feathers) quilts.

I would crawl in under the quilts and although I was a little boy, I still sank into the feather bedding as if I were a pebble in a pond. My aunt usually followed me upstairs and she would sit at the foot of the bed and tell me stories of when she was a little girl or read to me from a big book of stories that she had some degree of discomfort just holding. I know her arthritic hands hurt her, but she never complained.

One wondrous night she read to me the first song of Hiawatha. I don’t know how many I heard her read, it may have been a few or all.

The featured postcard here is a sample from a set created by the American artist Cobb X. Shinn (1887–1951). If you have collected postcards for more than a week you know about Mr. Shinn and recognize his work. This particular card however may surprise you.

I hope you enjoy it or better yet have one or two or all twenty-four in the set in your collection.

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