By the shore of Gitche Gumee
From The Song of Hiawatha
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
At the doorway of his wigwam
In the pleasant Summer morning,
Hiawatha stood and waited.
All the air was full of freshness,
All the earth was bright and joyous,
And before him, through the sunshine,
Westward toward the neighboring forest
Passed in golden swarms the Ahmo,
Passed the bees, the honey-makers
Burning, singing in the sunshine.
Bright above him shone the heavens,
Level spread the lake before him;
From its bosom leaped the sturgeon,
Sparkling, flashing in the sunshine;
On its margin the great forest
Stood reflected in the water,
Every tree-top had its shadow,
Motionless beneath the water.
One sometimes finds references to Longfellow in Powys's works and letters. He was, he said, quite familiar with The Song of Hiawatha for instance and that poem is quoted, or alluded to, quite a few times. It must have influenced his vision of the American Indians for he tells us:
I still regard Longfellow's Hiawatha as an exciting and thrilling poem; and I differ completely from D.H. Lawrence in my choice among Indians... When it comes to Indians I prefer heroes who worship, as my father taught me to do, a Great Spirit whose breath bloweth like the wind, to artistic tribes who worship Quetzacoatle and his feathery snake.(Autobiography)
In 1927 he devoted a whole essay to Longfellow, The Real Longfellow, published by Haldeman-Julius Quaterly, where he remarked that "there exists in Longfellow's work a genuine and original vein such as has not yet, as far as I know, received anything like its literary appreciation." And to underline where really lies the magic of the best poetry Longfellow wrote, Powys adds
For the finest vein in his poetry springs neither from his virtue nor from his religion. (...) I think it is the expression of a certain pensive nostalgia, the craving for some gentle sorcery that shall convey the soul altogether away from the sounds and sights of our diurnal existence. To escape into darkness, into flowing water, into strange and remote cities, along great mysterious highways; to escape into medieval cathedrals, into Byzantine libraries, into cloisters of the dark ages; to escape into any elf-land of vapour and mist where the sun is less potent and the moon more potent than with us, where human voices speak as in a trance and where the shores of their seas muffle the very whispering of their waves.
John Cowper Powys, "The Real Longfellow" in Elusive America, ed. Paul Roberts, Cecil Woolf, London, 1994