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The Sea Gulls.

Round the boat the Sea Gulls hovered,
Soaring on their spreading pinions,
Floating on the air, but turning
Searching eyes upon the people;
Searching, searching, always searching,
Winging, swinging, darting, calling
In their plaintive tones, "Ah-we-a."

By my side my friend, the Tamal,
Stood and gazed upon the Sea Gulls.
Long he gazed in deep abstraction,
Then he said, "They still are searching,
Still are calling to Ah-we-a.
Would you know the Tamal legend
Of Ah-we-a and the Sea Gulls?

Know you, then, that these blue waters
Were not always calm and peaceful.
Once the Sea King, grim and moody,
Held his court within this harbor -
Held his carnivals of beauty,
And his wild and stormy revels.

In the cove of Sausalito,
Where the houses of the paleface
Terrace on the wooded hillside
And the sailboats ride at anchor,
Lived a tribe of fisher people,
Building homes among the crannies
Of the rocks upon the bayshore,
Fishing in the harbor waters
From their light canoes of redwood -
Fishing boldly in defiance
Of the Sea King's fitful anger
At the raiding of his Kingdom
And the slaughter of his subjects.

Oft the Sea King, in reprisal,
Lashed the harbor with his west wind
Till the breakers leaped in frenzy,
Overturning boats and claiming
Many fishermen as victims.

Those who clung in desperation
To their boats and reached the mainland
Told the tale of their encounter
With the Sea King in the tempest.
Through the smother of the surges,
Through the driving rain and fog-banks,
Came the Sea King's boat upon them,
Drawn by floundering sea horses
With their manes of seafoam curling
From the prow and backward trailing.
Through the mist they saw it faintly,
As a ghostly apparition,
Riding down upon the billows -
Phantom ship, at times transparent,
White or gray - to ride them over;
Racing nearer, nearer, nearer,
Then dissolving into vapor;
Or, at times, it darted past them.
Giving glimpses through the fog-banks
Of the Furies at the paddles,
Bending, dipping, throwing surges
From their mighty magic paddles,
While the wake of foaming waters
Seethed and boiled in whirlpool currents.

Long the warfare had continued.
Fishermen must live by fishing,
And the Sea King claimed his victims
Through a strategy of cunning,
Seeking ever to beguile them
To the sea to work his vengeance.

When day dawned in rosy splendor
Calm and still the harbor waters
As a sea of purple satin,
Only wrinkled into ruffles,
Ever widening in a circle
Where the fishes leaped the surface.

Fishermen with song and laughter,
Waved farewell to wives and children,
Paddled off into the silence;
Then, without a sign of warning,
Gales arose and lashed the harbor
Till the waters writhed and tumbled,
Wave on wave, in thundering tumult;
And the Sea King, in his anger,
Dashed the boats, o'erturned and empty,
High upon the rocky seashore
At the feet of wailing women.

Queen Ah-we-a of the Fishers
Mourned the sorrows of her people;
Comforted the weeping widows;
Cared for all the little orphans.
Little wonder that her subjects
Loved the gentle Queen Ah-we-a.

Long the Queen in silence pondered
On the perils of her people.
Long she stood upon the headland
Where the wind-distorted cedars
Cling upon the rocky hillside.
Long she prayed to the Great Spirit
For his guidance and protection.
Long she prayed and watched and waited
Till the moon came up and silvered
All the sea, and cast the shadows
Of the cedars, weird and lonely.

From the harbor came the night winds
Robed in tinsel veils of vapors,
And they whispered in the branches
Of the cedar trees above her -
Whispered of the King, their master,
Whispered terms for ceasing warfare.

Ah-we-a heard the hard conditions,
Bowed her head as in submission.
On her face the resolution
For a sacrifice was graven -
For a sacrifice so noble
That the Spirit in the Heavens
Smiled and promised, in her absence,
To protect her Fisher people.

Morning dawned, with vapors brooding
On the silent glassy waters.
Queen Ah-we-a called her people
To the sandy shore, and standing
In her light canoe of deer skin,
Told them of her nightlong vigil.
'Now I go,' she said in parting,
'To the great boat of the Sea King,
There to plead that storms be banished,
Banished from our bay forever.
The Great Spirit will protect you
Till I come again to lead you.'
Then her paddle dipped the water,
And her light canoe of deer skin
Went into the fog and faded,
Faded to a shadow outline,
Then was gone into the silence.

Long and watchfully the people
Waited for the Queen Ah-we-a.
Then a great fear came upon them.
'She is lost. The wicked Sea King
Holds her hostage on his war boat.'

Thus they mourned, and prayed the Father,
The Great Spirit, that he give them
Wings to fly above the waters
Where the Sea King could not reach them.
'Give us wings,' they prayed 'On pinions
Would we fly to find Ah-we-a.
Change us, Father, into sea birds.
Let us search and find Ah-we-a,
And at last, when we have found her,
Change us back to Fisher People.

In the flicker of an eyelid,
All the fisher men and women
And their children changed to Sea Gulls.
And the Father, ever mindful
Of his promise to Ah-we-a,
Put into the hearts of mortals
Universal love for Sea Gulls.
Laws have even been enacted
To protect them from the hunters.

To this day the faithful Sea Gulls
Search the Bay, now free from tempests;
Search the ferry boats and steamers,
Soaring by on spreading pinions,
Peering into people's faces,
Searching for their Queen Ah-we-a.
Winging, swinging, darting, calling
In their plaintive tones, 'Ah-we-a;'
For they know that when they find her
They will change to human beings,
Subjects of the Queen Ah-we-a.

Thus was told the ancient legend
Of Ah-we-a and the Sea Gulls.

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