Provide a detailed explanation for the poem "The Delight Song of Tsoai-Talee" by F. Scott Momaday.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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F. Scott Momaday, a Kiowa Indian, writes about the Indian tradition.  “The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee” epitomizes the Indian spirit which expresses their spiritual connection to the natural world. His imagery suggests the beauty of nature.

The name Tsoai-talee represents the poet.  Momaday was given the name when he was taken as an infant to visit sacred ground at Devils Tower, Wyoming. .  The name Tsoai means Rock Tree boy or one who lives with nature.

Anaphora is the repetitive use of a word or a phrase at the beginning of a sentence or a clause.  The poet applies this literary device in the beginning words “I am a…” which creates the feeling and sound of the tom-tom drum as it beats the tempo of the Indian dance.  It builds the poem to its climax.

Native Americans used oral tradition to pass the ancient way of life and the appreciation for nature.  To the Indian, nature is a living being that is necessary for them to survive.  This is the image that the song portrays. Each of the visualizations represents the Native American’s love of the natural world.

His pattern of sentences continues the beat of the drums:

I am a feather on the bright sky…

The beat of the drum can be felt with the rhythm of the words.

The noun presented is modified to create the desired image. 

  • The blue horse runs in the plain
  • The fish rolls and shines in the water
  • A deer standing in the dusk

The poet references the animals that were important to the survival of the Native American and his relationship to the spiritual world. The horse, the fish, the deer, the eagle, the geese, and the wolf---each animal has an important place in the lives of the Indians. 

Momaday’s images pertain to the outside world which to the ancient times gave the meaning to their daily lives---the meadow’s gleam; the summer sky; the pounding rain shower; the moon’s reflection on the water; and the brightness of the snow.

But the image is enhanced by the anaphora which keeps the chant going building toward the high point of the poem:

You see, I am alive, I am alive

I stand in good relation to the earth

I stand in good relation to the gods

I stand in good relation to all that is beautiful

I stand in good relation to the daughter of Tsen-tainte

The man feels alive and a part of nature, god, and everything that is beautiful. 

The last line of the poem refers to the daughter of Tsen-Tainte or White Horse who as a daring Kiowa chief was noted for his great prowess as an Indian brave.

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