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.