Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Parodies: The Song of Hiawatha

Writing, music, art, speech, etc. that intentionally copies the style of someone famous or copies a particular situation, making the features or qualities of the original more noticeable in a way that is humorous. 
Cambridge Dictionary 

I came across a parody of The Song of Hiawatha, an 1855 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that tells of the exploits of Native American Hiawatha and of his love for Minnehaha. It is a poem that is hard going, albeit unique. 


Example: opening words . . . 

By the shore of Gitche Gumee, 
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. 

Those wishing to read the entire original work can click on: 

There have been numerous parodies of The Song of Hiawatha, my own included which appears below. 

Even Lewis Carroll had a go, stating in his parody Hiawatha’s Photographing

In an age of imitation, I can claim no special merit for this slight attempt at doing what is known to be so easy. Any fairly practised writer, with the slightest ear for rhythm, could compose, for hours together, in the easy running metre of 'The Song of Hiawatha.' Having, then, distinctly stated that I challenge no attention in the following little poem to its merely verbal jingle, I must beg the candid reader to confine his criticism to its treatment of the subject. 

Here is the first verse of Carroll’s parody: 

FROM his shoulder Hiawatha 
Took the camera of rosewood, 
Made of sliding, folding rosewood; 
Neatly put it all together. 
In its case it lay compactly, 
Folded into nearly nothing; 
But he opened out the hinges, 
Pushed and pulled the joints and hinges, 
Till it looked all squares and oblongs, 
Like a complicated figure 
In the Second Book of Euclid. 

A real side splitter, that! 

And my parody? Patience, dear reader. 

The Wordsworth original has these lines: 

He had mittens, Minjekahwun, 
Magic mittens made of deer-skin; 
When upon his hands he wore them, 
He could smite the rocks asunder, 
He could grind them into powder. 

A year after Wordsworth’s 1855 work was published, the Reverend George A. Strong (1832-1912) published a parody that was 94 pages long. Here is an example from the Rev’s parody: 

In one hand Peek-Week, the squirrel, 
In the other hand the blow-gun – 
Fearful instrument, the blow-gun; 
And Marcosset and Sumpunkin, 
Kissed him, ’cause he killed the squirrel, 
‘Cause it was a rather big one. 
From the squirrel-skin, Marcosset 
Made some mittens for our hero, 
Mittens with the fur-side inside, 
With the fur-side next his fingers 
So’s to keep the hand warm inside; 
That was why she put the fur-side – 
Why she put the fur-side, inside. 

Over time the above passage was altered into a short stand alone verse and is now commonly attributed to the prolific writer “Anonymous”: 

He killed the noble Mudjokivis. 
Of the skin he made him mittens, 
Made them with the fur side inside, 
Made them with the skin side outside. 
He, to get the warm side inside, 
Put the inside skin side outside. 
He, to get the cold side outside, 
Put the warm side fur side inside. 
That’s why he put the fur side inside, 
Why he put the skin side outside, 
Why he turned them inside outside. 

Okay, now it’s time for my own humble contribution: 

By the Avenue of Pennsylvania, 
In the wigwam called the White House, 
Lived the big chief known as POTUS, 
Called The Donald, GOP tribe. 
Fought a battle with his rival, 
Amtrak Joe, one Democratic. 
One man leaves when two men enter, 
Fought for days and weeks and longer, 
Fighting still this mighty combat. 
Who will be the POTUS winner? 
Will The Donald leave the wigwam? 
We will know on 3 November.

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