"MANITA." 1888

My Dear Sir, --"A prophet is not without honour save in his own country and in his own home." These words, spoken by our Lord 1857 years ago, are true about other persons than prophets. How true it is that we are unwilling to give praise where it is justly due, if the recipient is a townsman of our own. We are fearfully jealous lest he should become exalted or famous, and so leave us in the shade. We can worship the rising sun, because it is so glorious that it casts all in the shade alike, but a townsman who aspires to anything must be criticized severely or damned with faint praise.

Such were my thoughts when, having read "Manita", I thought that it was not only a pretty legend but abounded in bright and original ideas. It is a rather daring thing to attempt to write a historical romance, even on a small scale, about a place so familiar to us all as Sturgeon Point, where every child in the town of Lindsay knows all about it, and is apt to treat it with the contempt which familiarity breeds; but still, before the dam was built at Bobcaygeon; it must have been a pretty river from Lindsay to Sturgeon Lake, winding about in and out among the trees, which no doubt in many places formed an arch above it with their branches.

I remember well when I first came on the "Woodman" from Port Perry to Lindsay, that in several places on the river between Scugog Lake and Lindsay, the branches came against the smokestack; but the river then below the town was very ugly, often named the "River Styx" by passengers on the "Ogemah," which was built about 1853, and ran for years under Capt. Wallis, and after him by Capt. Albro, from Bridgenorth to Lindsay, via Fenelon Falls. But enough of this. The reader will find a very interesting description of the town of Lindsay appended to Mr. McDonnell's poem, and the latter will well repay not only a perusal, but a careful study.

But naught was heard -- the lake's bright breast

Seemed like a mirror in its rest.

The floating moonbeams spread each way,

Looked far more beautiful than day --

For days wild light will oft exclude,

Thoughts like those shaped in solitude.

All, all seemed calm, the fragrant breeze

Scarce whispered to the sleeping trees,

On which there stirred no spreading bough,

No pendant leaves were rustling now,

Yet Manita uneasy seemed,

As if she of some danger dreamed,

Again: --

Then Manita with gentle voice

Spoke words which made his heart rejoice.

"Upon this bank," she said, "all day

I watched the summer waves at play,

Longing to see you on your way.

The Ad ji-dau-mo near me came--

I thought he chattered out your name.

He cried, 'chic-chic' -- then -- 'Ogemah,'

His pretty, sparkling eyes I saw.

The Shaw-shaw twittered o'er my head

As if my secret thoughts he'd read,

And then at eve the P-pe-che

Sang his soft, sweet, lone song for me.

I waited on until the sun

Behind those western trees sunk down,

Until the waves sank all at rest

Like children on a mother's breast.

I head the evening's fragrant sigh

Whisper to them it's lullaby.

Again: --

How many in the present feel secure,

How many think that woe cannot be near,

How many dream of joys all bright and pure

When all seems calm and future hopes all clear.

Yet what they think, or dream, or hope may be

But mere illusions -- the mirage of Fate,

The shining guise of some sweet mystery

Deceiving all, the humble and the great,

Till comes at last a woe they least expect,

A fate whose shadow they could not detect.

The legend is that the Iroquois fought a battle with the Hurons at Sturgeon Point, and after many were slain, including the Chief of the Iriquois, the Hurons were defeated and their Chief and his daughter Manita were taken prisoners by the Iriquois. The young Chief, Ogemah, was present when his father was killed, and protected the Huron Chief and Manita, when prisoners with his tribe. He fell in love with her, and after she had returned to her people, left the Great Lakes and paddled down the Scugog River, past Potahgoning (Lindsay), to Sturgeon Point, where he met Manita, and while the lovers were breathing out their vows of constancy, Kenabeek, who was also a suitor for the hand of Manita slew Ogema by shooting him with an arrow. He was buried at Sturgeon Point, beneath a large oak tree. Manita was bereft of her reason and spent her time strewing flowers on his grave until at last she was called to her rest.

One autumn eve just as the sun had set,

She asked a child for more fragrant flowers to get.

She strewed them slowly as she watched the west,

And said, "I'm wearied now and here must rest.

Here for a while I shall a slumber take.

Arouse me if Ogemah should awake."

Then on the flowers her fading form she laid.

The children heard in silence what she said,

And when to camp 'twas time to have her led,

The faithful Manita was cold and dead.

And Ogemah and Manita his bride

At Sturgeon Point are lying side by side;

And the rough waves that oft rush up the shore

Seem wailing out a dirge for evermore.

-- A. H.


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