Menella Bute Smedley

A North Pole Story

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A FACT

Up where the world grows cold,
Under the sharp North star,
The wrinkled ice is very old,
And the life of man is far;
None to see when the fog falls white,
And none to shiver and hear
How wild the bears are in the night,
Which lasts for half a year!

The wind may blow as it will,
But it cannot shake a tree,
Nor stir the waves which lie so still
On the corpse of that dead sea!
The sun comes out over flowerless strands
Where only ice-tears flow,
When the North weeps for sweet wood-lands
Which she must never know.
Earth speaks with awful lips,
No place for man is here!
Between my bergs I'll crush your ships,
If you will come too near;
You shall be slain by bitter wind,
Or starved on barren shore,

My cruel snow shall strike you blind;
Go,—trouble me no more!”
But British men are fain
To venture on and through,
And when you tell them to refrain,
They set themselves to do;
Into the secrets of the snow
They hurry and they press,
And answer Nature's coldest “No”
With a great shout of “Yes.”
It was a little band
Went on that dangerous track,
To do a message from our land,
And to bring an answer back;
The frost had bound their good ship tight,
And years were come and gone,

When a few brave hearts, as best they might,
Went over the shores alone.
And as one strode so bold,
He saw a sight of fear,—
Nine white wolves came over the wold;
And they were watching a deer;
By three and by two and by one
A cunning half-moon they made,
They glanced at each other and did not run,
But crept like creatures afraid.
They knew what they were about,
And the poor thing knew it too,
It turned its head like a child in doubt,
And shrank, and backward drew;

But whether it look'd to left or right
It met a savage eye,
And the man stood still and saw the sight,
And felt that it must die.
Backward, trembling and fast,
And onward, crafty and slow,
And over the cliff's sheer edge at last,
And crash on the ice below;
But then with a whirl and a plunge and a whoop,
The wolves are down the hill;
They break their ranks, that wild white troop,
When it is time to kill.
And days and nights went past,
And the men grew weary and pale,

Scanty food and freezing blast,
And hearts beginning to fail!
The wanderer knew his steps were slow,
And his eyes were languid and dim,
When nine white wolves came over the snow,
And they were watching—him.
He saw them gather and glance,
And he remember'd the deer!
He saw them frame their cunning advance,
And he felt a little fear!
But never a hair's breadth did he swerve,
Nor lower his looks a whit,
He faced the cruel scimetar-curve,
And then walked up to it!

There is never a beast so strong
As to bear a brave man's eye!
They crouch'd; they look'd as if nothing was wrong,
And then they turn'd to fly.
The man stood still and drew his breath,
When he saw the scattering ranks;
He had been face to face with death:
I hope he utter'd thanks.
There's a fireside far away
A little anxious now,
Where a man shall sit one joyful day,
And tell of the world of snow;
And tell of the wolves who sup so grim,
And leave no bone behind;
And how they meant to sup on him,
But look'd, and changed their mind!

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Menella Bute Smedley