The Ballad Of Wendinithit (Marcus Hopkins)

On the Lower Gander reaches,
beauty spot of all this world,
Mid the pines and silver birches,
where the restless waters swirled,
In the days before the White Man
raised his devastating hand,
Dwelt a young Beothuck maiden,
Wendinithit . . . (Shining-Sand).

There amid the sheltering forest,
in the Winter, cold and bleak,
Sang light-hearted Wendinithit
in her father's mamateek;
And when Summer spread her savours,
wafted on the whispering breeze,
Wendinithit's heart was happy,
singing with the birds and bees.

For this dusky Indian maiden
felt within her pagan breast,
Something pulsing, something throbbing,
whene'er she gazed on Mendonest;
Strong and stalwart; like an eagle;
lithe of limb, and keen of eye;
Little wonder that they called him
Mendonest . . . (Come-from-the-Sky).

And he loved young Wendinithit
with a love beyond compare,
Crooned to her an Indian love song,
as he stroked her raven hair;
Paddling softly on the river
in his sturdy bark canoe,
Or in the forest's deepest shadows,
told her of a love most true.

But to win his Wendinithit,
first he had to prove his worth,
Tell her father all the tribe lore
handed to him since his birth;
Show his skill as hunter, fisher;
wise in ways of every beast;
This accomplished, he would have
her at the Tribal Harvest-Feast.

With an inborn skill and patience
spurred by love of indian maid,
Builder's craft and art of hunting
to her father were displayed;
Weather wisdom; tribe traditions;
versed in all was Mendonest;
In her father's eye found favour,
Come-from-the-Sky had met the test.

Came the time of Indian Summer,
colours brown and gold and red,
Smoking meats and days of hunting,
for the Time-of-Snows ahead;
Wendinithit's heart was happier
as she gathered in the furs,
Tanning, stitching, fringing garments;
Mendonest would soon be hers.

Then one evening ere the sunset,
(soon would be the Harvest-Feast)
Wendinithit left the wigwam,
stole away to keep a tryst;
Mendonest, she knew, was waiting
where the rapids boil and toss,
In a pine-encircled arbour,
carpeted with greenest moss.

Without warning harsh hands seized her,
threw her roughly to the ground.
With leather thongs they quickly gagged her,
behind her back her arms were bound;
Painted faces; alien features;
Wheninithit was soon to know
That the eyes of hate about her
was the dreaded Micmac foe.

To the trysting place they dragged her,
and there she saw her Mendonest,
On the cool green moss he lay there,
an arrow buried in his breast;
O the grief! and O the sorrow!
welled up from her heart of love,
Silently she stood and prayed there
to her pagan god above.

Then with a leap of sudden swiftness
from her cruel relentless foe,
Weninithit's plunge was headlong
in the seething rush below;
Maddened waters quickly snatched her,
flung her, tossed her, till at last,
In the Land-of-Shining-Spirits,
she had joined her Mendonest.

On the Lower Gander reaches,
beauty spot of all this world,
Mid the pines and silver birches,
where the restless waters swirl,
There's a place called Summer-Houses,
beautified by Nature's hand,
Kept by her in fond remembrance
of Wendinithit . . . (Shining-Sand).

####.... Marcus Hopkins of Victoria Cove, Gander Bay, NL ....####
Second prize winning entry for 1957 in Short Story, Historical, Poetry and Ballad Sections of the Arts And Letters Competition of the Department of Education for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The variant above was printed on pp.27-28 of the Atlantic Guardian, volume 14, number 04 (April 1957) Ewart Young [1913-1968], editor, published by the Guardian Limited, St John's, NL.

A variant was also printed on p.21 of the Newfoundland Quarterly volume LVI, number 3 (September, 1957) Lemuel Willey Janes of Hants Harbour, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland [1889-1968], editor, St John's, NL. After serving overseas in the First World War, Janes settled in Vancouver, then moved in 1922 to Montreal where he became involved in printing, setting up his own company in the 1940s. He returned to Newfoundland in 1951 to work as supervisor of Guardian Press's printing installation. He became editor and publisher of the Newfoundland Quarterly in 1953, and in 1957 was appointed editor of Debates of the Newfoundland House of Assembly. He retired from both positions in 1965. Janes also edited The Treasury Of Newfoundland Stories (1961) and wrote three books of poetry: Adventures In Verse (1932), Whispering Winds (193?) and When Shadows Fall (1937-1938). He died in Hant's Harbour, Newfoundland, but is buried in Vancouver, British Columbia.

From the Dictionary of Newfoundland English:
Mamateek - Beothuk winter wigwam, intended to contain from six to eighteen or twenty people.


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