Summary of Poem A Legend of Northland by Phoebe Cary Beehive Class 9

Introduction of A Legend of Northland

The poem is about Saint Peter and a greedy Lady. The Lady angered Saint. Saint cursed the Lady.

Summary of A Legend of Northland


The poem 'A legend of the Northland' is about an old lady who angered Saint Peter because of her greed. This story is of the Northland area, the area which is near the North Pole.

The story begins like this. One day, Saint Peter was preaching around the world and reached the door of a cottage where this woman lived. She was making cakes and baking them on a hearth. St. Peter was fainting with hunger. He asked the lady to give him a piece of cake. The cake that she was baking then appeared to be too big, so she did not give him that and instead, she baked another smaller one.

That also appeared to be big so she did not give him that also. The second time she baked yet another smaller cake but found it too big to give away. In the third attempt, she took an extremely little scrap of dough and rolled it flat. She had it as thin as a wafer but was unable to part with that also. This angered St. Peter a lot. He said that she was not fit to live in human form and enjoy food and warmth. He cursed her and transformed her into a woodpecker bird.


After Saint Peter‘s curse, the little woman went up through the chimney and got changed to a woodpecker, who had to bore in hard, dry wood to get its scanty food. Her whole body turned to coal black because of going up through the chimney. Her red cap turned to red plumage of the woodpecker. After that people have been seeing her in the trees/wood all day where she lives by boring and boring the dry wood in search of food.

Stanza 1
Away, away in the Northland,
Where the hours of the day are few,
And the nights are so long in winter
That they cannot sleep them through;

The northland has been described here. It is winter in Northland. Here, the hours of days are few and there are long nights. The nights are cold and it is difficult to sleep.

Stanza 2
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight‘s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evenings full of the linnet‘s wings.

The people use to join the swift reindeer to the sledges when it rains. A sledge is a wheel less cart which is used to run on show. The children are there in funny and furry dresses. They appear like cup of bear.

Stanza 3
They tell them a curious story —
I don‘t believe ‘tis true;
And yet you may learn a lesson
If I tell the tale to you.

At such a place, a curious story, a famous story is told to children. Though, Poet doesn‘t believe in that story. But, poet says its story by which you may learn a lesson. Now, poet says it will convey the story in form the poem.

Stanza 4
Once, when the good Saint Peter
Lived in the world below,
And walked about it, preaching,
Just as he did, you know,

It is the story of legend, Saint Peter, when he lived in the world. Saint Peter has left for heaven. So, when Saint Peter was alive, he used to walk around and preach. This is fact about Saint Peter known to everyone.

Stanza 5
He came to the door of a cottage,
In travelling round the earth,
Where a little woman was making cakes,
And baking them on the hearth;

He came to the door of a cottage while travelling round the earth. In the cottage a little women was making cake. She was baking cake on a stove.

Stanza 6
And being faint with fasting,
For the day was almost done,
He asked her, from her store of cakes,
To give him a single one.

Saint Peter was fasting for whole day, and was about to faint. So, Saint Peter asked women to give him a single cake from her stores of cake.

Stanza 7
So she made a very little cake,
But as it baking lay,
She looked at it, and thought it seemed
Too large to give away.

The women went to make a small cake. But when she baked the cake she found it too large to give to the sent.

Stanza 8
Therefore she kneaded another,
And still a smaller one;
But it looked, when she turned it over,
As large as the first had done.

Therefore, she baked another cake for saint, a smaller one, but again it looked as large as previous one.

Stanza 9
Then she took a tiny scrap of dough,
And rolled and rolled it flat;
And baked it thin as a wafer —
But she couldn‘t part with that.

After that, she took a tiny scrap of dough. She rolled it flat. She baked it as thin wafer. But, she could not give that also to saint due to greed.

Stanza 10
For she said, ―My cakes that seem too small
When I eat of them myself
Are yet too large to give away‖
So she put them on the shelf.

The women told that her cakes seemed too small when she ate herself. It seemed too large when had to be given away. So, she put them on the shelf. This depicts her greediness.

Stanza 11
Then good Saint Peter grew angry,
For he was hungry and faint;
And surely such a woman
Was enough to provoke a saint?

The saint was hungry and faint. He was not getting food from women. So, he grew angry. This was obvious. The greedy behavior of women was enough to provoke any saint.

Stanza 12
And he said, ―You are far too selfish
To dwell in a human form,
To have both food and shelter,
And fire to keep you warm.

Saint was angry on women. He told her that she was a selfish woman. She didn‘t deserve to live in human form. He further told she didn‘t deserve food, shelter and fire to keep her warm.

Stanza 13
Now, you shall build as the birds do,
And shall get your scanty food
By boring, and boring, and boring,
All day in the hard, dry wood.‖

Saint crushed women to become a bird. She would build her own shelter. She should fly around from one place to another in search of food whole day in forests from one place to another.

Stanza 14
Then up she went through the chimney,
Never speaking a word,
And out of the top flew a woodpecker,
For she was changed to a bird.

Without speaking a word, she went through the chimney upward. She appeared above rooftop in the form of woodpecker. She was changed in form of bird as she was cursed by the saint.

Stanza 15
She had a scarlet cap on her head,
And that was left the same;
But all the rest of her clothes were burned
Black as a coal in the flame.

The scarlet cap woman was having cap as it. The bird also had that cap. But, all the rest of her cloths were burned in the chimney. They had become black as coal in the flame.

Stanza 16
And every country schoolboy
Has seen her in the wood,
Where she lives in the trees till this very day,
Boring and boring for food.

Every school boy in country has seen her in the forest. She lives in the trees till now. She is flying around forests for food. She had denied food to saint, and now she had to roam around for food.
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