Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The falls of Minnehaha still sing

Possibly as long as a month ago, I ran across a few turn of the century (19th Century, that is) post cards of Minnehaha Park, Creek and Falls in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Here are some of them. Things are pretty much the same today, attire and transportation modes to the contrary. Rather than paraphrasing someone else's research, below is printed a brief description of the area, written by Clara James from

A metropolitan interlude in time and space

Minnehaha Park is on the banks of the Mississippi River, surrounding Minnehaha Creek, a tributary of the Mississippi, and Minnehaha Falls. The falls have long been an important site to the native Dakota people. Minnehaha means "falling water" in Dakota, not "laughing water" as it is often translated.

White settlers discovered the falls around 1820, not long after arriving in Minnesota. Minnehaha Falls are very close to the Mississippi River, and only a couple of miles from Fort Snelling, one of the first places inhabited by settlers in the region. A small mill was built on the falls in the 1850s, but Minnehaha Falls have considerably less power than the St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi and the mill was soon abandoned.

The falls were to become a tourist destination after the publication of the epic poem, "The Song of Hiawatha," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1855. Longfellow never visited the falls in person, but he was inspired by the works of scholars of Native American culture and images of the falls.

The city of Minneapolis purchased the land in 1889 to make the area into a city park. The park has been a popular attraction for locals and tourists ever since.

As unto the bow the cord is,
So unto the man is woman;
Though she bends him, she obeys him,
Though she draws him, yet she follows;
Useless each without the other!"
Thus the youthful Hiawatha
Said within himself and pondered,
Much perplexed by various feelings,
Listless, longing, hoping, fearing,
Dreaming still of Minnehaha,
Of the lovely Laughing Water,
In the land of the Dacotahs.
Wed a maiden of your people.

Some lines from
"The Song of Hiawatha"
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Natalie said...

Beautiful cards, Mr. Fram…
where one usually “run across a century old post cards??”

Beautiful poem too. You know, it never entered my mind that all of us are “Useless each without the other"….
Thank you.

TheChicGeek said...

That was beautiful, Fram :) I must again read The Song of Hiawatha. I love the words and the imagery. "As unto the bow the cord is, So unto the man is woman;
Though she bends him, she obeys him,Though she draws him, yet she follows;Useless each without the other!" Those words are beautiful and so true. I think Longfellow understood the nature of relationships between man and woman very well.
The postcards are neat too. You must have borrowed them from Fram the First :)
Reading these words and looking at the picture of the statue makes me rethink, maybe I do like this one better than "The Kiss." Hmmmmmm, I am going to think about that.

Fram said...

Old post cards are to be found in many places, Natalie. In antique shops, antique shows, eBay, private sellers on the internet, at auctions or estate sales. I am not a collector, but I have picked up about 100 from my very tiny hometown which date from the early 1900s, even one written to a cousin of my great-grandmother telling her about events at a dance the previous night. Almost unbelievable to capture such a find.

"Useless each without the other." So simple, but that pretty much does cover it, does it not?

Fram said...

I think anyone (and I hope it still is most of us) who has read the "Song of Hiawatha" as a young student forgets the words as we grow older. My class read it in the sixth grade, for example, and certainly it did not mean to us then what it would have had we been adults.

There is a town in southwestern Minnesota that has put on a "Song of Hiawatha" pageant every year in a pipestone quarry that for generations was the ancient site of mining for the stone used to make the much sought-after peace pipes of Native American lore. History lives, although the pageant might no longer.

Auguste Rodin might have known how to portray a passionate kiss, but Hiawatha and Minnehaha creator Jacob Fjelde (what was that name again?) might have known better how to depict absolute adoration and eternal love. You think, Kelly?

A Cuban In London said...

It's funny that I finished a post last week for next week that has a very unknown Mississippi in it.

Again, wonderful post. I love your honesty in using someone else's direct commentary on the place rather than paraphrase her article, as some of us (yes,me included), do. I would not go as far as calling it plagiarism, but occasionally it comes close.

Now, to my tale. If all five comments (as it stands at the moment) were in all in agreement you would probably see a frown decorate my face (if you were here). So, I appreciate your comment.

The short story is exhibitionist in extremis, I wanted it to be that way. Whenever I have written before, or write now (usually in Spanish) I start with an exploration of language. I love the way language sounds and I have occasionally changed a word in my mother tongue for one in German, English or French. I love the way they pair up together.

Art is art. And a bed is a bed. But when Tracey Emin decided to name her bed a piece of art who was there to counteract her argument? The same happens in literature. My type of reading and favourite authors (and there was a slight nod to George Orwell in my narrative, at the end of the day this week is 1984's 60th anniversary) are those who subvert both the traditional structure of the novel (if ever there was one) and who play with language, hence my life-long affair with writers like Salman Rushdie, Virgilio Pinera and Margaret Atwood.

Many thanks for your comment. It was very welcome. As to the question, who knows? based on whether you're wrong or not. There's no right or wrong when it comes to liking or disliking art. You either do, or you don't. Or maybe, you dislike it now, and you will like it someday.

Greetings from London.

Polly said...

Hi Fram, thanks for your comment.

This is a very interesting post, I've never heard of Minnehaha falls before but I must say my US geography isn't great.

TheChicGeek said...

Yes, Fram, absolute adoration and eternal love, I think so.
Passion is wonderful, but this love he describes I think is the ultimate best...a love to last a lifetime :)

Rachael Cassidy said...

There is little I enjoy more than a waterfall quest. There are several all around me, just begging to be "rediscovered." I shall start looking for old pictures and postcards of them!

Katy said...

Beautiful pictures, beautiful words, Fram. Old postcards are real treasures, aren't they, and not least for the casual everyday things that they capture that change (clothes, cars) offset by those things that don't - like your stunning waterfalls.

My mother has a small collection of embroidered WWI postcards. Little works of art each one, with a few words in pencil on the back of each from long ago hands.

Fram said...

I often admit to any to all, CiL, that my view of many things in the community of art is particularly narrow. This is especially true in visual arts. To a lesser degree in music and in written words, but in those things, too.

This, then, makes me very opinionated, not so much in labeling things as good or bad, but in terms of like or dislike. I generally leave the decision as to whether art is good or bad to the marketplace, but I am not shy about saying what I like or dislike and the reason for that judgment.

Your explanation regarding the exploration of language and exchanging a word in one language for the word in another language is fascinating to think about in terms of the possibilities. It makes me wish my linguistic knowledge was not so minor.

In most instances, my preferences in writing tend toward subtlety, finesse and probably the least dramatic language available. My admiration goes toward writers who have the ability to paint pictures with words, and who use words which imply, suggest or insinuate rather than burst, explode or excite. Let the writer propose; allow the reader to interpret.

Whether one likes or dislikes a painting or a song or a book, it is only beneficial to know when reasons are given. In my case, almost anything "traditional" is going to win out over anything exploratory or experimental.

As for possibly liking something someday that is disliked now, I have found that to be happening to me in the sense of the work of some painters. Again, who knows?

Thanks, CiL, as always for the visit, and specially for your very detailed comment.

Fram said...

Yes, Polly, thank you here and now for there and then, and for your visit, as well. I think I "travel" more to England and to California these days (on the sea of blogs, at least) than I do to anywhere else. Must be something special in the scenery in those two locales.

I am not certain how well known Minnehaha Falls would be outside of Minnesota. It is not a tourist attraction in a real sense, but more like a bit of a historical site and a refuge within a city.

Fram said...

Yes, Kelly, and when viewed only as statuary, I have come to think that Hiawatha and Minnehaha might be superior in terms of conveying emotion and actual love. The everlasting feeling vs. the heat of the moment, so to speak.

Two comments from you on this post. Now, I know for certain I am lucky.

Fram said...

Too few waterfalls around here, Rachael, and nothing really spectacular. You are lucky if you can encounter them while on your hikes.

Old post cards are very enjoyable to me, especially ones of areas I am familiar with and, better yet, when they reveal a photograph of my own home town.

It is nice to see you commenting again.

Fram said...

When I look at old post cards, Kathy, I frequently use a magnifying glass to closer examine faces, clothing, cars, signs, windows -- you name it. Occasionally, there are interesting things to be found, for example, being able to read the words on a sign on a livery stable owned by one of my ancestors.

I think you might enjoy following in your mother's footsteps in a sense, by pausing to browse old post cards should you spy some in an antique shop or elsewhere.

I miss you, when you are gone for a few days.

Katy said...

That's very sweet of you, Fram :-)

Yes, back again today after a couple of days "off" - nearly finished thoses assessments now though! Hooray

Fram said...

What else is a blog for, Katy, other than to write/say what you think and feel?

Magdalena said...

Hi Fram the Wolf, I love, love, love waterfalls, I should build one in front of my house :-) Have a nice day, bye, bye :-)

Fram said...

It would appear the beautiful Polish girl has returned from her latest adventure. It is very nice to see you here again.

Believe it or not, I once knew a man who had a living stream with a small waterfalls run through his house. It can be done.

See you around, Magda.

Rachael Cassidy said...

an online source for vintage postcards by region!!

Fram said...

Thank you, Rachael. I will take a look at the site ....

Something special ....