We sleep in the sleep of ages, the bleak, barbarian pines;
The gray moss drapes us like sages, and closer we lock our lines,
And deeper we clutch through the gelid gloom
where never a sunbeam shines.
On the flanks of the storm-gored ridges
are our black battalions massed;
We surge in a host to the sullen coast,
and we sing in the ocean blast;
From empire of sea to empire of snow we grip our empire fast.
To the niggard lands were we driven,
'twixt desert and floes are we penned;
To us was the Northland given, ours to stronghold and defend;
Ours till the world be riven in the crash of the utter end;
Ours from the bleak beginning, through the aeons of death-like sleep;
Ours from the shock when the naked rock
was hurled from the hissing deep;
Ours through the twilight ages of weary glacier creep.
Wind of the East, Wind of the West, wandering to and fro,
Chant your songs in our topmost boughs, that the sons of men may know
The peerless pine was the first to come,
and the pine will be last to go!
We pillar the halls of perfumed gloom; we plume where the eagles soar;
The North-wind swoops from the brooding Pole,
and our ancients crash and roar;
But where one falls from the crumbling walls shoots up a hardy score.
We spring from the gloom of the canyon's womb;
in the valley's lap we lie;
From the white foam-fringe, where the breakers cringe
to the peaks that tusk the sky,
We climb, and we peer in the crag-locked mere
that gleams like a golden eye.
Gain to the verge of the hog-back ridge where the vision ranges free:
Pines and pines and the shadow of pines as far as the eye can see;
A steadfast legion of stalwart knights in dominant empery.
Sun, moon and stars give answer; shall we not staunchly stand,
Even as now, forever, wards of the wilder strand,
Sentinels of the stillness, lords of the last, lone land?
Robert Service: The Pines