Rhymes of a Rolling Stone/The Squaw Man

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Rhymes of a Rolling Stone by Robert W. Service
The Squaw Man

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.