The Cold-Woman

  by: Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943)






NAYENGEZANI, Destroyer of Wizards,
Bearing the war club, the quiver and bow,
Sang as he strode through the roar of the blizzards
Over the road to the Mountain of Snow--


"There dwells the Cold-Woman, high on her barrow,
Sending the Winter to fetter the land;
Her shall I slay with the flint-headed arrow,
Freeing my race from her evil command!"


Deserts he traversed through perils uncounted,
Fearless of weapons, regardless of spells;
Threading the ice-cumbered cañon, he mounted
Clear to the crag where the Storm-Brewer dwells.


Wrinkled and agèd, unfed, unbefriended,
Lacking the lodge fire's comforting glow,
Shivered the Cold-Woman, tempest attended,
Shaking the robes of her pallet of snow.


Swept in a cloud through her frigid dominions,
Vague in the mists that enveloped her form,
Snow buntings fluttered on eddying pinions--
Spies for the Winter and heralds of Storm.


Loud spoke the Hero: "Thy harsh rule is ended!
Cruel my errand! The Spring to restore,
Ready to slay thee my strong bow is bended;
Men from thy rigors shall suffer no more!"


Tossing her tresses, she answered in sorrow,
"Loosen the arrow and slay, if thou wilt,
Blindly triumphant, forgetting the morrow!--
Mine be the triumph and thine be the guilt,


"When all the prairies, the forests, and mountains
Parch in a Summer that findeth no close!
When all the rivers and nourishing fountains
Fail for the lack of my bountiful snows!


"When not a breath of my blustering season,
Health-giving, freshens a pitiless sky!
When those thou lovest, undone by thy treason,
Thirsting shall perish and fevered shall die!"


Low spake the Hero, unnocking his arrow:
"Mine is the folly! Thou, Mother, art wise.
Rule as thou wilt from thy snow-shrouded barrow,
Sender of blessings that come in disguise!"


Nayengezani strode down through the ranges
Homeward, untainted with death-doing wrong,
Blessing the Year for its glorious changes,
Weaving his thought in a burden of song:


"Dark is the East Wind and yellow the West Wind!
Blue is the South Wind and white is the north!
Who hath the wisdom that knoweth the best wind--
Save the Creator Who sendeth it forth!"

   More poems by Arthur Guiterman