The Cold-Woman

  by: Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943)

 

 

 

 

A NAVAJO LEGEND OF WINTER

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