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The Squaw Man



The cow-moose comes to water, and the beaver's overbold,
The net is in the eddy of the stream;
The teepee stars the vivid sward with russet, red and gold,
And in the velvet gloom the fire's a-gleam.
The night is ripe with quiet, rich with incense of the pine;
From sanctuary lake I hear the loon;
The peaks are bright against the blue, and drenched with sunset wine,
And like a silver bubble is the moon.

Cloud-high I climbed but yesterday; a hundred miles around
I looked to see a rival fire a-gleam.
As in a crystal lens it lay, a land without a bound,
All lure, and virgin vastitude, and dream.
The great sky soared exultantly, the great earth bared its breast,
All river-veined and patterned with the pine;
The heedless hordes of caribou were streaming to the West,
A land of lustrous mystery -- and mine.

Yea, mine to frame my Odyssey: Oh, little do they know
My conquest and the kingdom that I keep!
The meadows of the musk-ox, where the laughing grasses grow,
The rivers where the careless conies leap.
Beyond the silent Circle, where white men are fierce and few,
I lord it, and I mock at man-made law;
Like a flame upon the water is my little light canoe,
And yonder in the fireglow is my squaw.

A squaw man! yes, that's what I am; sneer at me if you will.
I've gone the grilling pace that cannot last;
With bawdry, bridge and brandy -- Oh, I've drank enough to kill
A dozen such as you, but that is past.
I've swung round to my senses, found the place where I belong;
The City made a madman out of me;
But here beyond the Circle, where there's neither right or wrong,
I leap from life's straight-jacket, and I'm free.

Yet ever in the far forlorn, by trails of lone desire;
Yet ever in the dawn's white leer of hate;
Yet ever by the dripping kill, beside the drowsy fire,
There comes the fierce heart-hunger for a mate.
There comes the mad blood-clamour for a woman's clinging hand,
Love-humid eyes, the velvet of a breast;
And so I sought the Bonnet-plumes, and chose from out the band
The girl I thought the sweetest and the best.

O wistful women I have loved before my dark disgrace!
O women fair and rare in my home land!
Dear ladies, if I saw you now I'd turn away my face,
Then crawl to kiss your foot-prints in the sand!
And yet -- that day the rifle jammed -- a wounded moose at bay --
A roar, a charge . . . I faced it with my knife:
A shot from out the willow-scrub, and there the monster lay. . . .
Yes, little Laughing Eyes, you saved my life.

The man must have the woman, and we're all brutes more or less,
Since first the male ape shinned the family tree;
And yet I think I love her with a husband's tenderness,
And yet I know that she would die for me.
Oh, if I left you, Laughing Eyes, and nevermore came back,
God help you, girl! I know what you would do. . . .
I see the lake wan in the moon, and from the shadow black,
There drifts a little, empty birch canoe.

We're here beyond the Circle, where there's never wrong nor right;
We aren't spliced according to the law;
But by the gods I hail you on this hushed and holy night
As the mother of my children, and my squaw.
I see your little slender face set in the firelight glow;
I pray that I may never make it sad;
I hear you croon a baby song, all slumber-soft and low --
God bless you, little Laughing Eyes! I'm glad.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:14 min read
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Robert William Service

Robert William Service was a poet and writer sometimes referred to as the Bard of the Yukon He is best-known for his writings on the Canadian North including the poems The Shooting of Dan McGrew The Law of the Yukon and The Cremation of Sam McGee His writing was so expressive that his readers took him for a hard-bitten old Klondike prospector not the later-arriving bank clerk he actually was Robert William Service was born 16 January 1874 in Preston England but also lived in Scotland before emigrating to Canada in 1894 Service went to the Yukon Territory in 1904 as a bank clerk and became famous for his poems about this region which are mostly in his first two books of poetry He wrote quite a bit of prose as well and worked as a reporter for some time but those writings are not nearly as well known as his poems He travelled around the world quite a bit and narrowly escaped from France at the beginning of the Second World War during which time he lived in Hollywood California He died 11 September 1958 in France Incidentally he played himself in a movie called The Spoilers starring John Wayne and Marlene Dietrich more…

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