Flint and Feather
Flint and Feather, first issued in 1912 by the Musson Book Company in Toronto, was the largest collection of Pauline Johnson's poems to appear during her lifetime.
Flint and Feather, first issued in 1912 by the Musson Book Company in Toronto, was the largest collection of Pauline Johnson's poems to appear during her lifetime. Reissued more than 35 times, it remains one of the all-time best-selling volumes of Canadian poetry. The first edition of Flint and Feather reproduced the contents of Johnson's first two books of poems - The White Wampum (1895) and Canadian Born (1903) - followed by a section of "Miscellaneous Poems" that added fourteen new poems, along with "Autumn's Orchestra," a suite of nine brief verses. The second edition of 1913 added four more poems and the third edition of 1914 added a final poem, "As He Said, Fight On," reputedly written when Johnson was told that her breast cancer would be fatal. For the second edition of Flint and Feather, which appeared shortly after Johnson's death in 1913, the British critic Theodore Watts-Dunton wrote a touching memorial introduction that appeared in most subsequent editions, many of which also included photographs of Johnson and of her family home of Chiefswood, as well as other illustrations.
Johnson's brief foreword explains that she chose the title because "both flint and feather bear the hall-mark of my Mohawk blood." Flint "suggests the Red man's weapons of war; it is the arrow tip, the heart-quality of mine own people" and applies to "those poems that touch upon Indian life and love," while "feather may be the eagle plume that crests the head of a warrior chief." As well, she proclaimed her allegiance to the British Crown by obtaining permission to dedicate the book to Canada's Governor General of the time, Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught, "who is head chief of the Six Nations Indians" (SeeIroquois). The contents of Flint and Feather emphasize the Native aspects of Pauline Johnson's work and include the signature narrative poems that she recited in the performances that created her celebrity such as "Ojistoh," "A Cry from an Indian Wife," "The Cattle Thief," and "The Song My Paddle Sings." The reader subsequently encounters Johnson's more contemplative lyrics about nature, different Canadian places, and the loss of love. Taken as a whole, the volume displays her ability to write in diverse forms and styles, from folksy narratives to taut aestheticism.
Even though it was advertised from the beginning as Pauline Johnson's "complete poems," a claim that has also appeared on the book's title page since the third Musson edition of 1917, Flint and Feather is far from complete and contains barely half her total poetic oeuvre. It omits Johnson's earliest poetry, her lighter verse, many of her occasional poems, and the poems that directly reflect her relationship with Charles Wuerz. A scholarly edition containing all of Johnson's known poems was published in 2000 as E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake): Collected Poems and Selected Prose, edited by Carole Gerson and Veronica Strong-Boag.