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Robert Service: The Heart of the Sourdough


The Heart of the Sourdough

Robert Service

There where the mighty mountains bare their fangs unto the moon,

There where the sullen sun-dogs glare in the snow-bright, bitter noon,

And the glacier-glutted streams sweep down

at the clarion call of June.

There where the livid tundras keep

their tryst with the tranquil snows;

There where the silences are spawned, and the light of hell-fire flows

Into the bowl of the midnight sky, violet, amber and rose.

There where the rapids churn and roar,

and the ice-floes bellowing run;

Where the tortured, twisted rivers of blood rush to the setting sun --

I've packed my kit and I'm going, boys, ere another day is done.

* * * *

*I knew it would call, or soon or late, as it calls the whirring wings;

It's the olden lure, it's the golden lure,

it's the lure of the timeless things,

And to-night, oh, God of the trails untrod,

how it whines in my heart-strings!

I'm sick to death of your well-groomed gods,

your make believe and your show;

I long for a whiff of bacon and beans, a snug shakedown in the snow;

A trail to break, and a life at stake, and another bout with the foe.

With the raw-ribbed Wild that abhors all life,

the Wild that would crush and rend,

I have clinched and closed with the naked North,

I have learned to defy and defend;

Shoulder to shoulder we have fought it out --

yet the Wild must win in the end.

I have flouted the Wild. I have followed its lure,

fearless, familiar, alone;

By all that the battle means and makes I claim that land for mine own;

Yet the Wild must win, and a day will come when I shall be overthrown.

Then when as wolf-dogs fight we've fought, the lean wolf-land and I;

Fought and bled till the snows are red under the reeling sky;

Even as lean wolf-dog goes down will I go down and die.