The Universal Hiawatha.
To contextualize the internationalization of Hiawatha as the American literary Indian of choice, remember that Hiawatha was a transnational figure from conception. Relocating Hiawatha into an originating and continuing transnational diffuseness removes this poem from its questionable discussion within a canonized line of American national epics.(2) Moreover, the cross-cultural syncretism that produced Song of Hiawatha might either interrogate the poem's Americanness, or advocate the poem as a quintessentially American cultural amalgamation.
This epic was the literary result of a recombinatory chain of translations, mistranslations, and heavily refashioned source narratives. As is less well known today than at the time of publication, the poem's epic color, form, and meter were taken from the Finnish national epic Kalevala, itself an oral folk poetry assemblage published in 1835 by Elias Lonrott. Later, the Kalevala was translated into German, in which form it reached Longfellow's desk in Cambridge. Simultaneously reaching west as well as east, Longfellow derived his poem's narrative content from the ethnologist and Indian agent Henry Rowe Schoolcraft's Algic Researches.(3) Although Schoolcraft preferred not to acknowledge his intellectual debt, his mixed-blood wife, Jane Johnston, and her storytelling family provided both the original Chippewa stories and oral translations into English.(4) When born on America's northeastern seaboard in the mid-nineteenth century, Hiawatha was the mixed-blood Chippewa-Finnish progeny of an intellectual marriage between reports from a conquered tribal nation to the west and national revisionism to the east.
That Schoolcraft's text substantially distorted Chippewa beliefs and stories is unquestionable, although he professed a desire to record and publish these to exemplify the Red Man's nobility. Longfellow, misplacing his faith in Schoolcraft's credibility as an anthropological observer, viewed Hiawatha as a faithful rendering of tribal stories, and the reading public shared a similar regard. Yet Longfellow continued this chain of distortions. One sign of his "raw clay" approach to literary transformation of Chippewa culture lies in the poem's title. Longfellow disregarded the Chippewa name Manabozho and substituted Hiawatha, an Iroquoian name, because it was more manageable in an English-language poem.(5) This complete renaming was hardly the standard of literalism buttressed by "slight and judicious embellishments" that, in a European context, Longfellow set himself for his translation from the Spanish of Coplas de Don Jorge Manrique.(6) As ethnographic pretense, Longfellow's storytelling contributed substantially to the body of fakelore that has sought to reenunciate historic and lost glories, a body that includes Macpherson's Ossian forgeries, Lonrott's Kalevala, and other national pseudoepics.(7)
Translation constitutes an endorsement of Hiawatha as an "authentic" cultural object, or at least one whose representational deficiencies can be rationalized broadly as those common to narrative processes. As a body, Hiawatha translators have near uniformly accepted this conceit of a fidelity between "Indianness" and Longfellow's representations of Native subjects; indeed, their acceptance of the proposition empowers and enables their translations. To question the social construction of a generic Indian would inhibit or disable the translator's project in the face of conscientious participation in its transparent falsities, hollowness, and anti-ethicism. Almost by definition, Hiawatha's translators are among its most credulous readers. Ferdinand Freiligrath, a German poet and friend with whom Longfellow collaborated on an early German translation, stated in his introduction to the poem, "We may assume that he has faithfully and without addition of foreign elements reproduced for us the Indian tradition; and even where he had to add his own insights to weave together loose ends, he used moderation and artistic self-restraint."(8) If the impossibility of faithful oral-to-textual reproduction or the contradiction between translative fidelity and judicious amendment seem obvious today, times and credulity were different during the mid-nineteenth century when the first wave of Hiawatha translations appeared. One exception to this prevailing credulousness, probably born from a sense of literary caution, appears in the preface of the first French translation of 1860 where the translator writes:
When Longfellow presents his poetry as part of the Indians' sacred literature, almost as a faithful translation, is he speaking truth or just permitting himself that fiction so common among poets? And if he speaks truth, until what point did he make a necessity of faithfully reproducing the original's forms and ideas? In a word, to what degree did Longfellow, relative to Indian traditions, fill the role of MacPherson relative to Gaelic legends?(9)
For this insight an obscure translator, Henri Augustin Gomont, should be remembered for his singularity among Longfellow translators in expressing such scruples.
Previous work has characterized processes of narrative exchange neutrally as "intercultural migration" and "intercultural transfer."(10) This terminology is inadequate, for it conceals and dismisses acts of expropriation. Through its camouflage of agency, narrative origin and storytelling rights remain unacknowledged, cultural directionality disappears, and accumulation and/or diminution of social power proceed without critical signposting. In this descriptive regime for translation, history ends. The epic's Indian demigod hero disappears, an epoch and a culture come to an end, and Longfellow's believing readers continue on, conscience fortified, into the continuum of a bland and perfected American history. It is fitting that Longfellow concluded Song of Hiawatha with an English-language lexicon of Native terms, a gesture that serves a dual role as poetic self-authentication and as an attempted termination in a mass of linguistic fragments that no longer make sense outside an English-language framework. The Native-word list repeats the original storytelling language but Native coherence no longer attains.
As American literature, Song of Hiawatha can be located within the prevailing tradition of Euro-American representation of Native Americans. Over seventy Indian-based novels appeared in the United States between the War of 1812 and the Civil War, together with uncounted short stories, poems, and verse. During the 1820s an initial wave of sentimental writers -- including Lydia Sigourney, Lydia Maria Child, and James Wallis Eastburn and Robert Sands -- popularized techniques of authorial borrowing that prevailed for decades. In their efforts to fashion a distinct national literature, these writers immersed themselves in Native American folklore and ethnography. Their narrative borrowing, their embroidery through poetic naturalism, and their outright invention of a nominally Indian voice set the discourse terms for later expropriations of Native voice and stories.
By mid-century, a now-recognized critical backlash against sentimentalism had formed.(11) For critics who embraced a belief in manifest European superiority, the sentimentalization of Indians was an especially inviting target, exemplified in the rough reception given to Song of Hiawatha. One reviewer wrote, "Have we not had enough of these Red Indians -- nay, rather too much of them -- since the days when Fenimore Cooper, from his pleasant dream of The Last of the Mohicans, deluded our young fancies into believing that the conquering white race had destroyed a transatlantic Arcadia, in which the quiet enjoyment of Theocritus's sheperds was combined with the valour of Homer's heroes?"(12) Another review in Longfellow's hometown Boston Daily Evening Traveler read: "We cannot but suppress a regret that our own pet national poet should not have selected as the theme of his muse something higher and better than the silly legends of the savage aborigines. His poem does not awaken one sympathetic throb; it does not teach a single truth; and rendered into prose, Hiawatha would be a mass of the most childish nonsense that ever dropped from human pen."(13) While American reviews were mixed, the novelty effect of an "Indian edda" as Longfellow called his poem, was more persuasive in Europe, where it is difficult to discover an unfavorable review.(14) This sense of ethnographic discovery among European readers energized the poem's early translators and aided its nineteenth-century diffusion.
Nineteenth-century narratives relied broadly on the cultural shorthand of stereotypes that rendered vectors of race, class, and sex in immediately recognizable form.(15) Applied to Indians, such conventions constituted a distinctly American innovation on the received European tradition of sentimentalism, built largely on a presumptive white raciality, and an attempt by American writers to escape prior formulas. Their storytelling expropriations dislocated Native stories from an oral tradition in order to claim them for a developing American sentimental tradition relating to racialism. Disappearing braves and dying tribal elders populate these American fictions rather than star-crossed young English gentry. In this vein, Sigourney's 1820s vision of an apotheosized "Pocahantas" prefigures Hiawatha's even more popular 1855 apotheosis:(16) "And the people from the margin / Watched him floating, rising, sinking, / Till the birch canoe seemed lifted / High into that sea of splendour."(17) Heroicized sentimental Indians tended to float heavenward with substantial regularity.
There was a clear overlap between the memento mori poetry of the sentimental tradition and its images of a sweet death overtaking an ancient race of Indians. In Hiawatha's "Death of Minnehaha" canto, for example, we encounter the canons of sentimentalism employed to explain the passage of a race in a white-identified need for historical :self-fulfillment. Struck down by a metaphoric winter famine, the tribe's racial uplift follows Minnehaha's death. Her death releases Hiawatha from the constraints of domesticity and toward the call of a greater Promethean destiny. Spring, French missionaries, and Christian conversion arrive together in harmonious conjunction at the poem's end.
As adaptive usage of Chippewa source material, the American version of Song of Hiawatha provided an explanatory narrative for a transcontinental transition from aboriginal inhabitation to white racial dominance, from darkness to light, from unfulfillment to fulfillment, and from abased to ennobled consciousness.
Having sketched the ideology of Hiawatha as a Chippewa-to-American rendition in its own right, let us turn to Europe and deal briefly with a set of Hiawatha translations in Flemish, Latin, Hebrew, Russian, Polish, French, and Yiddish.(18)
Given the cultural mutation Hiawatha experienced in America, it should not be entirely surprising to discover that his function continued to mutate in Europe. One function that Hiawatha served in Europe was as a vehicle for elite discourses on education, religion, and social purpose. Two editions that provided this literary service were the Flemish and Latin, both the work of translators characterized by simultaneous measures of intellectual archaism and reformist spirit. The richness and malleability of meaning in Longfellow's epic attracted their attention for its romantic possibility, even as they arrived at the text with entirely different purposes.
One of the first Hiawatha translations was begun in 1856, only a year after Longfellow had published his poem. Guido Gezelle, a poet, priest, and central figure in nineteenth-century Flemish intellectual history, translated the fifth canto of Song of Hiawatha and published it in the journal Vlaemsch Land. Gezelle was drawn to the poem for its Christographic content superimposed upon an as-yet unmissionized New World scene. In poetic terms, Gezelle found Hiawatha's alliteration and parallelism appealing for what he believed incorporated a primitive spirit. In pedagogical terms, many of Gezelle's students were bound for missions in America, and they employed the poem as a discussion text that responded to their career aspirations. Gezelle himself responded to the text similarly, having been swept away as a young priest by the Paulist idea that if England and America could be converted to the Catholic faith, then the most powerful empire since Rome would be converted. Longfellow's poem exercised a perhaps inevitable attraction in an atmosphere of Catholic missionary idealism. However, the same preoccupation with spiritual challenge tended to limit the translation's readership to a religious elite that sought ideological self-confirmation and inspiration. This was not a popular edition, as its readership was limited by both the substantial degree of illiteracy prevailing in the Lowlands of the period and by the somewhat elevated literary language Gezelle employed. Nonetheless, the Flemish translation of Hiawatha has been attributed a significant part in sparking a fever for epics that spread through late-nineteenth-century Flemish culture.(19) In his flexible, cross-cultural, messianic signification, Hiawatha functioned as a fresh romantic possibility, a new spiritual limitlessness ascribed to an unknown geography. For Gezelle and his students, Hiawatha's apotheosis promised opportunities for Christian missionizing replication and European self-sanctification.
In 1862, a brief seven years after Longfellow published Hiawatha, Frances William Newman published his abridged Latin translation. It was Newman's second venture into literary translation, the first having been a Latin rendition of Robinson Crusoe. His motives in producing this translation apparently did not derive from the religious Latinism of his family: he was the younger brother of John Cardinal Newman but did not share his brother's famous conversion to Catholicism. Rather, Frances Newman was a classicist and professor of Latin at University College, London. His object in translating both Robinson Crusoe and Hiawatha was pedagogical, "to afford to learners of Latin a pleasing book which will smooth their way to some of the difficulties of the language and allure them to enlarge their vocabulary."(20) Of course, the Latin neologism for wampum (murex, or seashells) might have limited practical use. Newman argued though that Livy, Virgil, and Ovid presented excessive difficulty for beginning students, who ought to be encouraged to learn a language first and its literature afterward. So Hiawatha was drafted into reformist service as a substitute for the rigors of Ovidian couplets. The Latinate Hiawatha was bowdlerized, however, for, as the translator explained to both author and audience, "I trust ... he will forgive my large liberty, not only of abridgement, but of arbitrary alteration, especially where the native legends which he has followed appeared to me too puerile, tedious and obscure."(21) Newman used Hiawatha as an object to be elevated from popular culture, cleansed of Native roughness, and refashioned into a neoclassical epic as an introduction to real classical epics. In this Victorian pedagogy, Hiawatha's popularity identified it for service as a steppingstone toward a higher culture.
Although conceptually an epic of cultural modernization, the aura of nineteenth-century romanticism attached to Hiawatha throughout the twentieth century. Illogically perceived as an anti modernist work, the poem came to epitomize an appeal for spiritual reorganization, escape from mundane civilization, and a dream-space for European imagination struggling against its constraints. The Song of Hiawatha, in the words of a French translator in 1927, was an "idealized tableau of American life long ago, far long ago, before the Machine's reign."(22) In a similar vein of antimodernism, art Italian critic wrote in 1920 that for Italian readers the epic had interest "as poetic expression of legends and ideas of a human race almost completely destroyed or absorbed by so-called modern civilization," although that expression would be more accurately understood as a Euro-American discussion of the features of modernism.(23)
As advanced technological societies that perceived themselves as having achieved "maturity" searched out descriptions of civilizational hierarchy, the metaphors of juvenilia were consistently employed to describe "pre-civilizations" and to justify colonial behaviors. This civilizational presumption translated into a literary taxonomy that assigned a status of juvenile literature to Song of Hiawatha and its Native actors. If the colonial subject was a child needing guidance, then the colonial subject as narrative was suitable for children. Thus Song of Hiawatha, a work demanding an adult reading capacity, was deemed most appropriate for children.
A significant group of European translations emerge from and are bound up with childhood associations and their romances. The little comment that Hiawatha's best-known and most honored translator, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Ivan Bunin, made concerning his Russian translation was delivered in such terms. He declared, "I was working with ardent love for a book that was dear to me since childhood, and with great conscientiousness, as this was a small homage of my gratitude to a great poet who gave me much pure and lofty joy."(24) Another writer born in Russia, Saul Tschernichowsky, a master figure of twentieth-century Hebrew poetry, recalled in the preface to his 1913 Song of Hiawatha translation that he was first introduced to Longfellow through Russian translations published in a children's magazine: "I was a child when I first read Hiawatha.... My soul was bound to that song and my love was faithful until I was able to read it in the original. Who can fathom my feelings as I first read it in its entirety! ... and in the Town Library of Odessa, where I first obtained Longfellow's writings, I translated several passages aloud to the sound of seagulls screaming."(25) In this passage, Tschernichowsky constructs a juvenile romantic subjectivity through absence, distance, and a refiguring of realism's limits. His associative invocation of sea gulls rising over the library suggests imagination straining against gravity and Nature's tides exerting themselves in a young persona. Through memories of Hiawatha, an adult re-achieves the grandeur of a child's imagination. Tschernichowsky's romantic narrative position in the Odessa town library approximates that found in Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality," wherein an autobiographical narrator casts back for the sources of juvenile innocence amid an intellectualizing over-narration, all voiced in tandem with the animated spirits of a living world. In Song of Hiawatha this same parallel dialecticism resonates between primitive imagery and heroic development, between an unimproved reality and
messianic promise. "My soul was bound to that song and my love was faithful," wrote Tschernichowsky with the declarative phrases of a romantic heart. For a young boy caught up in Russia's haskalitic tail currents, Hiawatha simultaneously embodied an old epic textuality and an inviting new foreignness. A bibliocentric regard for sacred texts and the irresistibleness of secular appeal inhabit Tschernichowsky's declaration of faithfulness, a duality that offered a bridge between Hebrew soul and foreign idyll. Hiawatha's romanticism framed an intellectual window for translating more than words; it provided an exit into new form, poetic vision, and the Hebrew Renaissance. That same sense of cultural renaissance, with its deep resonances of youthfulness revisited, drew Tschernichowsky into prolonged engagement with the literature of his own youth. The interlacing of an ideology of national rejuvenation with the juvenile appeal of Hiawatha made this text a psychologically resonant translation choice.
Faithfulness to Hiawatha gave Tschernichowsky motivation to learn English in order to translate the poem into Hebrew, a task he began in 1894 at age nineteen. It was his first major translation and appeared after nearly twenty years of scrupulous aesthetic revisions and numerous personal migrations.(26) By 1925 and the occasion of Tschernichowsky's fiftieth birthday, the Hebrew Song of Hiawatha earned praise as "the most outstanding poetic translation in our literature."(27) Ten years later, on the author's sixtieth birthday, Hiawatha appeared as part of an expensive multivolume set containing Tschernichowsky's collected works, published under subsidy from the Mandate-era Jewish community government in Palestine. This is less a bibliographic detail than a significant marking point of the Universal Hiawatha's draft into the service of linguistic nationalism, one at which the poem's translation served to showcase the consolidation of neo-Hebraic cultural achievement.(28)
Exploring the translation history of Hiawatha, the poem appears again and again as a hyper-reflective translation source text, as a Darnacon spring to the translator's Narcissus. Translators see the visions they wish to see on the reflective surface of the text, and these visions mirror entirely contradictory narcissistic social self-images. A supple ideological reflexiveness in the Hiawatha text enables its readers to gaze into either nationalistic or universalistic self-reflections, a point that can be elucidated by comparing the Polish and Yiddish translations. In Europe, Song of Hiawatha attracted both translators and readers for its capacity to touch wellsprings of romantic national conceit. Hiawatha's Promethean gifts of auto-consciousness, maize ("Blessing the Corn-fields" canto), and written language ("Picture-Writing" canto) functioned as analogs for nationalism's own aspirations toward such spiritual and material provision. Incorporating romantic national heroism into one life-giving persona, Hiawatha spread through nineteenth-century Europe as a self-reflexive national imaginary, most notably in Central European and Baltic language translations. Feliks Tezierski summarized this national self-reflexiveness in a preface to the 1860 Polish translation that is worth quoting at length:
The principal motive of our attempting the translation of Hiawatha has been perhaps created, among many other impulses, by the wonderful kinship, amounting to a family likeness, which that poem seems to bear towards the Slavonic spirit. The singer of Hiawatha appeared to us the incarnation of a spiritual relation between two spirits of poetry; it seemed to us that he had transferred our own songs to the virgin forests of America. And truly, does not his arduous, instinctive love of deeds, his admiration of primitive manners, his pathos, spring from a serious, northern contemplative mood and give true expression to our own spirit? ... Is there but little of something which may be called peculiarly Polish in his images and pictures, his diction, his very rhythm, in the solemn attitude of his poetical heart, in his worship of nature and humanity, as embodied in a race -- in a nation?(29)
Longfellow kept the Polish edition on his bookshelf, together with a handwritten insert translating these preface passages. Possibly Longfellow chuckled, for he would have remembered Karl Bindel's 1857 German translation that nominated him "the most German of North American poets," and Freiligrath declared that "only Longfellow had discovered America for the Americans."(30) We do not know Longfellow's reaction to such claims, but their importance lies in a translator's adoption of Longfellow and Hiawatha as blood brothers of the national soul. The "family likeness" that Tezierski finds couches itself in an atavistic nationalism, one that ascribes a unified Slavonic spirit emerging from a primal consciousness and that inscribes this spirit onto the geography of a distant New Poland. In this reading, Song of Hiawatha reenacts the fusion of language, race, and nation, that fundamental Fichtean political postulate. This translator's preface contains a clear echo of Fichte's esteem for "primitivism" as an invigorating force in language or nation.(31) And indeed, turning again to the final passages of Hiawatha, we see that, once unified as a race through Hiawatha's leadership, the tribe achieves a unitary spirit that can be expressed as nationalism, a nationhood that is now to be consummated by the arrival of the Catholic "Black Robes" for spiritual guidance. Given the troubled history of nineteenth-century Polish nationalism and its search for intellectual consolidation, a para-Polish reading of Hiawatha as national consolidator seems entirely viable.
The translation patterns of Hiawatha reveal a clear sociopolitical motive of assertion by small-language nationalism. Of the twenty European language translations published in the first half-century after Hiawatha's 1855 appearance, only three represent comparatively small European languages (Danish, Dutch, and Greek). Of the fifteen published between the turn of the century and the start of World War II, eight are from small-language traditions. The majority of this latter group came from small northern European countries witnessing the cultural difficulties inherent in establishing or maintaining political autonomy: Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, and Latvia. This duster points both to the service Hiawatha provided to nationalist intellectuals through translations and to ideological demands for vernacular publication of "world classics" in order to substantiate a discrete national culture.
Hiawatha served universalism together with particularism. The Yiddish version of Song of Hiawatha, translated by Yehoash (pseudonym for Solomon Blumgarten) and published in New York in 1910, relies upon a quite opposite ideological argument for translation. In a lengthy theoretical introduction to Yehoash's translation of the poem, Chaim Zhitlowski argues that Hiawatha's value lies in its universalism. He writes:
Immersing oneself in the psychology of the entire Indian people, empathizing with their troubles and pains -- since these are basically the same troubles and pain that torment people everywhere -- can begin to erode emotionally the sense of national particularity, the hostile opposition between the national "I" and the national "You." In its place begins to grow a sense of solidarity which must finally bind all peoples into a brotherly family, into one free union of nationalities, in which each people can develop itself undisturbed, achieving everything it has in its own heart, and helping every other nationality in the general program for universal betterment.(32)
For Yiddish readers, according to Zhitlowski, this poem -- and translated literature generally -- offered a vista for a Jewish understanding of the Other. Phrasing this as a communal critique, Zhitlowski suggested that "in our emotional lives the difficulties of the Diaspora have rendered our souls so narrow that we have forgotten that `thou shalt love the stranger, for you understand the stranger's heart.' We have ceased to understand the heart of the non-Jew, and our entire atmosphere is so filled with chauvinism, small-minded hatred for others, that we will soon run out of air to breathe."(33) Hiawatha, sitting in a vigvam in his Yiddish incarnation, was enlisted here for the reform of ghetto insularity and in behalf of cross-cultural empathy.
Zhitlowski's sentiments are rare. Throughout these translation prefaces, thought or consideration for the realities of Native American existence are almost entirely absent. In a few twentieth-century editions, Song of Hiawatha emerges as a symbolic representation of the harms inflicted against Native American culture rather than as pail: of that harm. We encounter such a reversal in the preface to M. Richard's French translation of 1927, which, while regretting "the brutal contact between the first English and the Indian" portrayed white civilization as undertaking the functions of tribal memory. In Richard's interpretation, "Upon becoming the uncontested masters, they said to themselves: `Let not fall into entire forgetfulness this race which we are making disappear!'"(34) Under the terms of Richard's historical revision, Schoolcraft secures appointment as a senior archivist of Indian memory and it devolves upon Longfellow to render "the gracious traditions of this agonised people" into gracious English poetry.(35) The task of this economy of narrative appropriation thus becomes a sparking of human decency in public policy by reciting the stories of its victims. According to Richard, upon reading Hiawatha, "Even those who are uninterested in the Indian race love this poem because it makes each conscienceless fiber twinge, it awakens a buried store of common humanity."(36) Given the historical consequences of white-native contact, obviously the poem either entirely failed to awaken conscience, or it achieved negligible results upon doing so. Hiawatha is an artifact of that encounter, not its remedy.
Finally, perhaps the most astonishing, ironic, and ideologically complicated version of Hiawatha appeared with its 1900 translation into Chippewa. That is to say, having been exported by Schoolcraft to white culture for renarration, the resulting derivative was now reimported to Chippewa culture as a definitive representation of Chippewa belief. The only truly Chippewa Hiawatha was an invented, fictional character reclaimed from white culture as a lost signifier, an inversion of a simulacrum to create a new authenticity. The Chippewa Hiawatha arrived, startlingly, in the form of an opera libretto.(37) Its author, producer, and promoter was Louis Armstrong, a white Canadian Pacific Railroad official residing in Montreal who spent his summers in Desbarats, Ontario. Armstrong (who called himself Waubungo in Chippewa) conceived the idea of translating portions of Song of Hiawatha and presenting it outdoors at lakeside with Native actors as a Native passion play. The libretto was published by the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1901 with "how to get there" information as an inducement to tourists. For publicity, Armstrong arranged a visit by Longfellow's daughters at which they would become honorary tribal members. Reporting that event, one Boston newspaper located its understanding of Song of Hiawatha when it wrote:
Especially it is a marked homage from American Indians from a white person to be so received, and yet we may take it that these surviving redmen expressed a deep and sincere national feeling in electing the poet's daughters as daughters of their tribes. They have, furthermore, done wisely as well as kindly, for the song of "Hiawatha" is a beautiful memorial and an eloquent plea for their race and their history.(38)
The Armstrong libretto spun off a musical score by composer Frederick Burton. A road-show musical Hiawatha successfully went on tour and appeared in Madison Square Garden in 1904, accompanied by the New York Hiawatha Orchestra and a chorus of sixty singers.(39) The original show fell into disorganization after running at Desbarats for a couple of years.(40) It was picked up by Chippewas from the Garden River reservation adjoining Sault Ste. Marie, who continued to perform it as a passion play for decades thereafter.(41)
The few available descriptions of the original performance come from journalistic sources. Watching the performance together with the Longfellow daughters' party, the correspondent for another Boston newspaper described it as follows:
Hiawatha of the poem is the Hiawatha of the play, and it needs only reasonable familiarity with the poem to follow the action of the play understandingly, even though it is given in the Ojibway tongue. There is so much reverence for Hiawatha or Manabozho -- we will not pause to explain historical and literary distinctions -- in the minds of the Ojibways that when they present their national drama they enter upon it with almost religious enthusiasm. "Hiawatha" to them is little short of a Passion Play.... Although the Indians were incited by a white man to a presentation of their tribal legends in the form of a play, the enterprise or function is directly in line with efforts originating with their own chiefs for the perpetuation of their mythology and ancient ceremonials.(42)
This report elevates and positions Song of Hiawatha in the status of an Anishanabe national drama, one whose performance has assumed a quasi-religious function. What began as "the silly legends of the savage aborigines" has achieved a Fichtean consolidation as a drama of national mythification. On this occasion, Hiawatha achieves his full stature as a white fiction who has found a Native culture to define, a service that credulous Natives will literally perform before and for him. In the newspaper account's unconscious reading, Longfellow's invented Indian savior -- a white man's Indian if one ever existed -- has been reintegrated into the tribal line from which he never emerged.
So, at last, we arrive at a perverse circularity in which expropriated and mistranslated Native stories have been retranslated into a new "nativeness" and voiced by those from whom the stories were first taken.
The author wishes to acknowledge translation assistance from Boaz Arpali, Evgenii Bershtain, Charlotte Fonrobert, Ewa Pagacz, Bernardo Parella, Naomi Seidman, and Annette Teunis. A. Robert Lee, Mike Rotkin and Gerald Vizenor gave encouragement. Special thanks to Zohar Trifon for research assistance; to the InterLibrary Loan staff, University of California-Berkeley; and to Jim Shay and Michelle Clarke at the Longfellow National Historical Site, U.S. Park Service.
(1.) In the first decade after the poem appeared, a total of nine translations were published, beginning with German in 1856-59 (four); Danish, French, and Polish in 1860; and Dutch and Latin in 1862. From 1976 to 1985, twelve translations were published, including into Korean and Moldavian in 1976; Swedish in 1978; Georgian in 1979; Euskadi and Lithuanian in 1981; Ukranian in 1983; German in 1984 (tenth German translation since original publication); and Chinese, Finnish, and Kazahstani in 1985.
(2.) For a treatment of Hiawatha as a representative American national epic, see Charlotte Kretzoi, "Puzzled Americans: Attempts at an American National Epic Poem" in The Origins and Originality of American Culture, ed. Tibor Frank (Budapest: Akademia Kiado; Atlantic Highlands NJ: Humanities Press, 1984), 139-48.
(3.) Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Algic Researches, Comprising Inquiries Respecting the Mental Characteristics of the North American Indians (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1839). James Ruppert, "Henry Rowe Schoolcraft: The Indian Expert and American Literature," Platte Valley Review 19, no. 1 (winter 1991): 99-128; Ernest J. Moyne, Hiawatha and Kalevala: A Study of the Relationship between Longfellow's "Indian Edda" and the Finnish Epic, FF Communications, no. 192 (Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 1963).
(4.) This essay uses the terms Chippewa, Ojibway, and Anishanabe interchangeably, with general preference for the first. On Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, see Charles R. McCullough, "Jane Schoolcraft Monument," Michigan History 30, no. 2 (April-June 1946) 386-92; Chase Salmon Osborn and Stellanova Osborn, Schoolcraft, Longfellow, Hiawatha (Lancaster PA: Jacques Cattell Press, 1942), 512ff.
(5.) In a letter to his close friend and German translator, Longfellow wrote, "Hiawatha is Iroquois. I chose it instead of Manabazho (Ojibway) for the sake of euphony. It means `the Wise Seer, or Prophet' -- Hiawatha the Wise." HWL to Freiligrath, 11 January 1856, in Andrew Hilen, ed., The Letters of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Cambridge: Belknap, 1972), 3:517. On Longfellow's name borrowings, see also Edward Wagenknecht, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: His Poetry and Prose (New York: Ungar, 1986), 97, 241; Ron Messer, "Nanabozho: History and Mythology," Bulletin of Bibliography 40, no. 4 (1983): 242-51; and James Cleland Hamilton, "The Algonquin Manabozho and Hiawatha," Journal of American Folklore 16 (1903): 229-33.
(6.) Iris Lillian Whitman, Longfellow and Spain (New York: Instituto de las Espanas en los Estados Unidos, 1927), 140.
(7.) Alan Dundes, "Nationalistic Inferiority Complexes and the Fabrication of Fakelore: A Reconsideration of Ossian, the Kinder- und Hausmarchen, the Kalevala, and Paul Bunyan," in Papers I -- The Eighth Congress for the International Society for Folk Narrative Research, ed. Reimund Kvideland and Torunn Selberg (Bergen, Norway: 1984), 155-71.
(8.) Ferdinand Freiligrath, Der Sang yon Hiawatha (Stuttgart, Germany: J. G. Cotta, 1857), 7.
(9.) Henri Augustin Gomot, Hiawatha, Poeme Indo-Americain (Nancy, France: N. Grojean, 1860), 3.
(10.) Klaus Martens, "Versions of the Epic Idyl: A Genre's Intercultural Migrations by Translation," in Proceedings of the Twelfth Congress of the International Comparative Literature Association, ed. Roger Bauer and Douwe Fokkema (Munich: Iudicium Verlag, 1990), 5:353-58.
(11.) See Ann Douglas, The Feminization of American Culture (New York: Knopf, 1977), 227-33, for a review of hostility to sentimentalism in mid-century periodicals.
(12.) "The Mystic, and the Song of Hiawatha," Saturday Review, 10 November 1855, 34.
(13.) Review of Song of Hiawatha, Boston Daily Evening Traveler, 10 November 1855. Ralph Waldo Emerson added his agreement to the assessment of these reviews in a private letter to Longfellow: "I find this Indian poem very wholesome, sweet and wholesome as maize, very proper and pertinent to us to read, and showing a kind of manly sense of duty in the poet to write. The dangers of the Indians, are that they are really savage, have poor, small sterile heads, no thoughts, and you must deal very roundly with them, and find in them brains, and I blamed your tenderness now and then as I read, for accepting a legend or a song, when they had too little to give." HWL to Moncure Daniel Conway, 30 November 1855, in The Letters of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Andrew Hilen (Cambridge: Belknap, 1972), 3:503-4. This theme of regret over masculine sentimentalism wasted on "savages" manifests itself through many reviews of the poem.
(14.) Emile Montegut, "Poesie Americaine: Une Legende des Prairies" Revue des Deux Mondes 9 (1 June 1857): 689-705.
(15.) I am adopting the view most influentially expressed in Jane Tompkins, Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790-1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985).
(16.) Lydia Sigourney, "Pocahontas" in Illustrated Poems (New York: Allen Brothers, 1869), 181-209. See also "Oriska," 17-28, and "Indian Names" 237-38, in the same volume, for similar Native American thematics.
(17.) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha, Everyman edition, ed. Daniel Aaron (1855; reprint, London: J. M. Dent, 1992), 160.
(18.) The bibliographical methodology employed here relied primarily on a year-by-year survey from 1855 forward of the National Union Catalogue to identify Hiawatha translations. In a larger sense I share the methodological and conceptual models of narrative translation economies as elaborated in Franco Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel (London: Verso, 1998), 171-97. Song of Hiawatha was very much an American participant in the "common literary marketplace" (ibid., 187) that developed throughout the European nineteenth century and was the only nineteenth-century American epic poem to do so. Although there have, for instance, been three known Chinese translations of Hiawatha published since the 1980s and a few in other Asian languages, this study does not engage the full globality of twentieth-century Hiawatha translations. The great preponderance of Hiawatha translations emerged from Europe, and this essay focuses on their ideological economy.
(19.) J. Persyn, "The Song of Hiawatha in Het Spoor van Longfellow" in Verzameld Dichtwerk, ed. Guido Gezelle (Antwerp: Uitgeverij de Nederlandsche Boekhandel, 1981), 3:30-31.
(20.) Francis William Newman, Hiawatha: Rendered into Latin (London: Walton and Maberly, 1862). For further on Newman's theories of translation, see Newman, Homeric Translation in Theory and Practice. A Reply to Matthew Arnold, Esq. (London: Williams and Norgate, 1861).
(21.) Newman, Hiawatha, vi-vii.
(22.) M. Richard, Le Chant de Hiawatha, L'Edition d'Art (Paris: H. Piazza, 1927), vii.
(23.) P. E. Pavolini, preface to Poema dei Pellirosse, by Elena Beccarini Crescenzi (Palermo, Italy: Remo Sandron, 1920), xviii.
(24.) Ivan Bunin, Pesn o Gaiavate (Moscow: Izd. M. i S. Sabashnikovukh, 1918), iii. The original publication date is usually given as 1898, but Shalamov demonstrates that this Hiawatha translation was originally published serially from May to September 1896 in Orlovskii vestnik, a newspaper in the provincial city of Orel. B. Shalamov, "Bunin's Work on the Translation of Song of Hiawatha," Voprosy Literatury, no. 1 (1963): 153-58.
(25.) Yosef Klozner, "Autobiographia," Ha'Shiloah 35, no. 2 (August 1918): 97-103. In his contemporary review of Tschernichowsky's translation, Fischl Lahover suggests that the readership responded to Song of Hiawatha as a collective flight of cultural imagination. In the short-lived Warsaw literary journal Netivot, he wrote "Indeed the sound of the seagulls might be heard by our own ears as we read page after page of the book." Lahover, "Song of Hiawatha," Netivot (AhiAssaf, 1913): 325. For discussions of the confluence of Tschernichowsky's Hiawatha translation, optimistic romantic ideology, and the Hebrew Revival, see Lahover, "Tschernichowsky and His Translations," Moznaim 4 (1935): 560-68; Emmanuel Ben-Gurion, "Translating Mountains," Moznaim 15 (1943): 215-17; Y. Lichtenbaum, "Tschernichowsky's Translations" Moznaim 17 (1945) 11: 32-37.
(26.) Yosef Klozner, "Tschernichowsk the Translator," Ha'Aretz, 3 March 1950, 9. Hillel Barzel, Shirat Ha'Tehiya: Shaul Tschernichowsky. Toldot ha'Shira ha'Ivrit m'Hibbat Zion ad Yomenu, 3. Sidrat Poetica ve'Bikkuret (Tel Aviv: Sifriat Poalim, 1992), 16-26.
(27.) Yaakov Steinberg, "Review," Ha'Poel Ha'Tzair, 25 March 1925, 10.
(28.) Saul Tchernichowsky, Kol Shire Shaul Tchernichowsky (Jerusalem: Schoken, 1937).
(29.) Feliks Tezierski, Duma o Hiawacie (Warsaw: S. Orgelbranda, 1860), 1-2.
(30.) Karl Bindel, Der Sang yon Hiawatha (Halle, Germany: Otto Hendel, 1857), 3. Freiligrath, 6.
(31.) Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Addresses to the German Nation, trans. R. F. Jones and G. H. Turnbull (1808; reprint, Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1979), 52-90.
(32.) Yehoash [Solomon Blumgarten], Hiavatha. (New York: n.p., 1910). See H. Zhitlowski's "On the Value of Translation" in this same work, iii-xxiv.
(33.) Zhitlowski, xxii.
(34.) Richard, v.
(35.) Ibid., vi.
(36.) Ibid., vii.
(37.) Louis O. Armstrong [Waubungay, pseud.], Hiawatha, or Nanabozho: An Ojibway Indian Play (Montreal: Canadian Pacific Railway, 1901)
(38.) Undated, unsourced newspaper clipping (probably a Boston paper) reporting the adoption of Longfellow's daughter, Alice and Edith, into the Ojibway tribe at a ceremony that they attended and at which Alice gave a speech in Ojibway. Henry Dana Papers, box 36. All Dana Papers citations courtesy U.S. National Park Service, Longfellow National Historic Site, Cambridge MA.
(39.) Program, Dana Papers, box 36, folder 10.
(40.) Letter from John Newton Adams to Henry Dana, 26 April 1938. Dana Papers, box 37, folder 4.
(41.) "Hiawatha Play Algoma's Ober-Ammergau" Sault (Michigan) Daily Star (undated clipping; 1930s?). Dana Papers, box 37, folder 1.
(42.) William E. Brigham, "Hiawatha in Ojibway," Boston Evening Transcript, 19 July 1902, 10. Dana Papers, box 37, folder 1.
Joe Lockard is a doctoral candidate in American literature at University of California-Berkeley.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||The American Indian Quarterly|
|Article Type:||Critical Essay|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2000|
|Previous Article:||Gender and Indian Masquerade in the Life of Grey Owl.|
|Next Article:||James Welch's Fools Crow and the Imagination of Precolonial Space: A Translator's Approach.|