Monday, March 9, 2009

Normanskill at Vale of Tawasentha

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793-1864)

When I came across a reference to Longfellow mentioning Tawasentha in The Song of Hiawatha, I went to the text to find it. The passage is there and it is printed below. By the pleasant water-courses, dwelt the singer Nawadaha. Why Longfellow would start the story of Hiawatha with our local stream escaped me? Until I read in Arthur B. Gregg’s history Old Hellebergh the conviction Longfellow was placing a tribute to Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, who perhaps is represented as the singer in the poem. Schoolcraft is credited by Longfellow with saving the native lore he used in his poem. Schoolcraft is a local Normanskill watershed poet, born in Guilderland, educated at Union College, wrote lots poems and impressive works which got his papers to the Library of Congress. Quite a story, most of his life was lived out of this area but he always kept his ties and a home here.

In the vale of Tawasentha,
In the green and silent valley,
By the pleasant water-courses,
Dwelt the singer Nawadaha.
Round about the Indian village
Spread the meadows and the corn-fields,
And beyond them stood the forest,
Stood the groves of singing pine trees,
Green in Summer, White in Winter,
Ever sighing, ever singing.
And the pleasant water-courses,
You could trace them through the valley,
By the rushing in the Spring-time,
By the alders in the Summer,
By the white fog in the Autumn,
By the black line in the Winter;
And beside them dwelt the singer,
In the vale of Tawasentha,
In the green and silent valley.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

From Introduction to The Song of Hiawatha

A native name given to the Normans Kill is Tawasentha.

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