Monday, December 26, 2016

Pauline Johnson*

Pauline Johnson (1861—1914) also known as Tekahionwake, is a Canadian poet, daughter of an English mother and a Mohawk father. She is known for her poetry and performances that celebrated her aboriginal heritage. After a recital of one of her poems in 1892, she very rapidly became a sensation. Her work was championed by many in the Toronto Arts community, which led to wide-spread performances, and the publication of her first book, The White Wampum, in London in 1894.

The following poem is from that book, and also from her complete poems, known as Flint and Feather. My hardcover copy from 1931 is the Twenty-third Edition, and reveals that her poetry had appeared in both prestigious publications — such as Toronto Saturday Night and Harper's Weekly — but also more humble venture's such as The Boys' World, a weekly pulp Sunday School publication.

She died in Vancouver in 1914.


I may not go to-night to Bethlehem,
Nor follow star-directed ways, nor tread
The paths wherein the shepherds walked, that led
To Christ, and peace, and God’s good will to men.

I may not hear the Herald Angels’ song
Peal through the oriental skies, nor see
The wonder of that Heavenly company
Announce the King the world had waited long.

The manger throne I may not kneel before,
Or see how man to God is reconciled,
Through pure St. Mary’s purer, holier child;
The human Christ these eyes may not adore.

I may not carry frankincense and myrrh
With adoration to the Holy One;
Nor gold have I to give the Perfect Son,
To be with those wise kings a worshipper.

Not mine the joy that Heaven sent to them,
For ages since Time swung and locked his gates,
But I may kneel without—the star still waits,
To guide me on to holy Bethlehem.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Pauline Johnson: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.