James Madison Bell

Paddle Your Own Canoe

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A Red chief dwelling near a lake,
Beneath a Western sky,
Felt soon his hold on life must break,
And he lay down and die --


He called around his wigwam door
His warriors, brave and true,
And gave to each a tiny oar,
Saying: "Paddle your own canoe,"


For I, your Brave, who taught the bow
And how to poise the dart,
And how the bearded shaft to throw
With many a needful art,


Am full of years and cannot stand
As I were wont to do;
I soon must try the spirit land,
So, "Paddle your own canoe."


Then lowly bowed each warrior's head,
And a deep long sigh he drew;
They started forth with measured tread,
To paddle their own canoe.


High rose the waves on either side,
Loud screamed the wild sea mew;
But naught could daunt their warrior pride,
They paddled their own canoe.


O'er rugged heights they onward sped,
And mazy forests through,
And whereso'er their duty led,
They paddled their own canoe.


And oft in fancy's bark they'd speed
Back through the waters blue,
And once again their chieftain heed
Saying: "Paddle your own canoe."


Should friends forsake, should fortune fail
Or loved ones prove untrue,
Then nerve your heart and courage take,
And paddle your own canoe.


For the world with many a snare is set
For the honest and the true,
And they alone escape the net,
Who paddle their own canoe.

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James Madison Bell