John Greenleaf Whittier (18071892). The Poetical Works in Four Volumes. 1892.
The Cry of a Lost Soul
Lieutenant Herndons Report of the Exploration of the Amazon has a striking description of the peculiar and melancholy notes of a bird heard by night on the shores of the river. The Indian guides called it The Cry of a Lost Soul! Among the numerous translations of this poem is one by the Emperor of Brazil.1
Note 1. The story of the origin of this name, El alma perdida is thus related by Lieut. Herndon. An Indian and his wife went out from the village to work their chacra, carrying their infant with them. The woman went to the spring to get water, leaving the man in charge of the child, with many cautions to take good care of it. When she arrived at the spring, she found it dried up, and went further to look for another. The husband, alarmed at her long absence, left the child and went in search. When they returned the child was gone; and to their repeated cries, as they wandered through the woods in search, they could get no response save the wailing cry of this little bird heard for the first time, whose notes their anxious and excited imagination syllabled into pa-pa, ma-ma, (the present Quichua name of the bird). I suppose the Spaniards heard this story, and with that religious poetic turn of thought which seems peculiar to this people, called the bird The Lost Soul.Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon made under direction of the Navy Department. By William Lewis Herndon and Lardner Gibbon, Part I. p. 156. [back]