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- The Legends of San Francisco - 5/9 -


Let them light the lurid war fires, When they see the foemen coming.'

Swiftly northward raced the sentries In their light canoes of deerskin - Through the narrows to Bonita, On the ocean to Bolinas. All was tumult in the village; To each warrior was given Long bows, strong bows, wrapped with sinews, Stores of arrows, eagle feathered, Newly tipped with sharpest flint-heads; Stone head war clubs, wrapped with rawhide; Shields of oakwood, tough and heavy. Women decked the braves with feathers, Robes of fur, and charms of seashell; Roused their courage with the stories Of the prowess of their Fathers; Cheered with songs of deeds of valor Of the heroes of the Tamals; While the children, heavy hearted, Watched the scene in wide-eyed wonder.

Every day the Chieftain's daughters, As twin sentinels were standing On the hill between the valley And the blue expanse of ocean.

Every day they watched the Morning Reach his rosy fingers upward, From behind the eastern mountains, Painting with an elfin fancy, Crimson edges on the cloudbanks; Then erasing and repainting Them with gold or mauve or amber; Always changing, as his fancy Swayed the child to blend the colors; Till Old Father Sun uprising, Drove his elfin son to shelter From the dazzle of his presence.

All day long the faithful sisters Stood upon the ridge and waited - Waited while the Sun ascended, Crossed the zenith, then descended On his daily westward journey. Watched him sink into the ocean As a molten globe of metal; While the fleecy clouds above him Caught afire, and blazed in beauty, Radiating flaming colors Through the changing clouds, and lighting O'er the purple sea a pathway Glinting in a golden glory.

Evening came, and still they waited - While the heavenly dome turned purple, And the twinkling stars were lighted, One by one, until the darkness Scintillated with their sparkle; And a milky way of star-dust Arched across, to hold the heavens High above the reach of mortals.

Through the night they watched and waited - While the silver moon was racing Through the silken clouds, and flooding All the bay and hills and ocean With a pale illumination, Casting moving shadows earthward When a dark cloud passed before her. Wild Coyotes broke the silence Of the midnight with their barking, And the prowling Wolves crept nearer, Till the patter of their footsteps Could be heard in stealthy rushes.

Still the fearless Sisters waited, Watched the north for signal fires, And in eager alternation Held the Magic Yellow Iris.

Came at last the welcome singing Of the Meadow Lark and Robin, And above the eastern mountains Flushed the rose-light of the morning; Then again the sky was tinted By the Elf who plays with colors, And the sleeping poppies wakened When the sunbeams kissed their eyelids.

From the Heights of Point Bonita Rose a thread of smoke that lengthened, Broadened, flaunted like a banner, Black and ominous of evil. "They are coming!" Yana whispered, "See, the signal fires are lighted! They are coming. Guardian Spirit Of our native country, save us!" And she pressed the Yellow Iris Closely to her throbbing bosom.

Over northern rim of ocean Came the war canoes by hundreds, Came until the waters darkened With the number of the warboats. Never could the Tamals conquer Such a multitude of foemen. Swiftly rose and fell their paddles, Flashing in the brilliant sunshine, Trailing scarfs of foam behind them, As they raced toward the harbor.

Tana searched the far horizon, Saw the signal fires blazing On the mountain tops and headlands, Heard the war drums in the village Roll in constant wild alarum.

Yana held the Yellow Iris With the Magic in its petals, Held and gazed with adoration On the velvet mystic markings. Then she plucked a magic petal, Held it high, and ere it fluttered To the breeze this prayer was uttered:

'Spirit of our Native Country, Goddess guarding home and harbor, Roll the fog-banks o'er the headlands, Hide the narrows from the foemen; Bring the west-wind from the ocean, Drive their boats to crash and shatter On the rocky surf-bound islands. Bring the west-wind! Bring the fogbanks!'

From the ocean came the west-wind, Blowing stronger, growing cooler, Bringing in protecting fog-banks, Sweeping landward o'er gray waters, Flooding through the Golden Gateway, Rolling over shore and headlands.

Through the fog the boats were racing For the entrance to the harbor, When they plunged into the smother Of the breakers round the islands - Crashed upon the rocks and splintered. From the surf the foemen struggled To the rocks and scrambled on them.

Then the Maiden plucked another Petal from the Magic Iris, And she prayed again, 'Oh, Spirit Of our Native Country, hear us, Change the foemen to Sea-creatures, That they never more attack us.'

As the magic petal fluttered To the ground the foe was changing. Arms and paddles changed to flippers; Legs were bound as in a bandage, And their brown and hairy bodies Wriggled on the rocks, and crowded, Barking, fighting one another.

When the danger was averted, When the enemy was helpless, Sisters wept, embraced each other, Thanked the Gods for their deliverance.

Still remained another petal Of the Magic Yellow Iris. 'One more wish we have, one only.' Said one sister to the other, 'Would we might remain forever, As the guardians of the harbor, To protect it from all foemen, To invoke the fog and west-wind.'

Then, again The Poppy Maiden Stood triumphantly before them. 'You have chosen well, my children, Had you wished for wealth or beauty, Robes or jewels for adornment, Or for any selfish purpose, Then the petals would have fallen To the earth and lost their Magic. My twin daughters, ever faithful, All your thoughts are for your people; Therefore, you shall be immortal, Standing on the heights forever, As the Guardians of the Harbor. Draw your mantles around your shoulders, Furs they are, but flowers they shall be. As my garments are of flowers, So shall yours be, golden poppies, Lupins, blue, shall deck your mantle. Blue and gold shall be your colors - Blue, for purity of purpose;


The Legends of San Francisco - 5/9

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