Longfellow’s “The Arrow and the Song,” translated by Solomon Ratt (th-dialect)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote this poem in 1845, and it came to be known as a poem with something timeless to offer. Over the years, it was taught to thousands if not millions of school children, many of whom memorized it and carried its message for life. That’s so old-school, it’s almost like Cree oral history!

To give context to his translation, Solomon Ratt comments, “What does Longfellow’s poem mean? It is about the power of words. The arrow represents words lashed out at people. They remain unbroken: the damage remains. The song represents words said with kindness. They nurture the soul forever.”

akask ikwa nikamon
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(translated: Solomon Ratt, th-dialect)

nikî-pimotahkwân ispimihk isi
askîhk akask pahkisin, tânitî îtokî?
osâm î-kisîkocihk namwâc awiyak
kaskîhtâw kita-pimâpimât kapî.

nikî-sipwîhîn ispimihk isi
askîhk kî-pahkihtin, tânitî îtokî?
awîna mâka kâ-nahâpit nikamon
kita-pimâpahtahk î-ispakotîthik?

mwîstas, mitoni kinwîsk, mistikohk
nimiskawâw akask, kiyâpic misiwîsiw;
ikwa nikamon, nistam ohci isko kisipanohk
kîhtwâm nikî-miskîn nitôtîm otîhk.

ᐊᑲᐢᐠ ᐃᑿ ᓂᑲᒧᐣ
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

ᓂᑮ ᐱᒧᑕᐦᒁᐣ ᐃᐢᐱᒥᕽ ᐃᓯ
ᐊᐢᑮᕽ ᐊᑲᐢᐠ ᐸᐦᑭᓯᐣ, ᑖᓂᑏ ᐄᑐᑮ?
ᐅᓵᒼ ᐄ ᑭᓰᑯᒋᕽ ᓇᒹᐨ ᐊᐏᔭᐠ
ᑲᐢᑮᐦᑖᐤ ᑭᑕ ᐱᒫᐱᒫᐟ ᑲᐲ᙮

ᓂᑮ ᓯᐿᐦᐄᐣ ᐃᐢᐱᒥᕽ ᐃᓯ
ᐊᐢᑮᕽ ᑮ ᐸᐦᑭᐦᑎᐣ, ᑖᓂᑏ ᐄᑐᑮ?
ᐊᐑᓇ ᒫᑲ ᑳ ᓇᐦᐋᐱᐟ ᓂᑲᒧᐣ
ᑭᑕ ᐱᒫᐸᐦᑕᕽ ᐄ ᐃᐢᐸᑯᑏᖨᐠ?

ᒱᐢᑕᐢ, ᒥᑐᓂ ᑭᐣᐑᐢᐠ, ᒥᐢᑎᑯᕽ
ᓂᒥᐢᑲᐚᐤ ᐊᑲᐢᐠ, ᑭᔮᐱᐨ ᒥᓯᐑᓯᐤ;
ᐃᑿ ᓂᑲᒧᐣ, ᓂᐢᑕᒼ ᐅᐦᒋ ᐃᐢᑯ ᑭᓯᐸᓄᕽ
ᑮᐦᑤᒼ ᓂᑮ ᒥᐢᑮᐣ ᓂᑑᑏᒼ ᐅᑏᕽ᙮

The Arrow and the Song
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

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