WHEN hot the sultry heats intense
Bake the dry soil, the brooklets parch,
In brakes impervious of the pine,
The cedar-thicket, and the larch,
The mighty caribou's retreat,
Seeking a shelter from the heat.
To these dim-wooded fastnesses
The hunter goes afoot to chase,
Without the help of horse or hound,
The giants of the Cervine race.
Tormeuted by the insect-swarms,
The black-flies, the green woodland's pest,
The caribous seek lonely pond
And forest lakelet for their rest.
There wading far out in the wave,
With nose dipt even with the tide,
Secure from his infesting foes,
He wallowing bathes his reeking hide,
Feeding luxurious on the leaves
Of lotus on the stream that heaves.
And here, ere dappled is the east,
The hunter lurks upon its path,
Watchful to catch its trampling tread,
Fast by its early forest-bath.
Watchful he notes the crackling twig,
The faintest rustling of the hedge;
Then drops with his unerring aim
The quarry at the water's edge.
When far the winter snows lie deep.
And woods are heavy with their freight,
And shapeless drift and brittle crust
No longer will sustain their weight,
Troops of swift-footed caribou
Form for their homes their " winter yard"—
Trampling with hoof the heaping snows,
As threshing-floor compact and hard;
Shelter'd by hemlock, fir, and pine,
That droop around their plumes of green,
They crop their juicy canopy,—
The shoots that form their leafy screen.
Mounted on snow-shoes, with their food
And blankets on light sledges pack'd,
The hunters of the wild stag cross
The snow's immeasurable tract.
For leagues they travel—pleasant task
Is theirs to form the camp at night;
To stack the arms; to fell a pine
For shelter, soaring to vast height;
To heap the fresh untrodden snow
To windward like a rampart wall;
To feed the camp-fire till it flames
Like furnace o'er the hemlocks tall;
To spread the couch with fragrant tips
Of spicy cedar, sweet for rest.
Then, when some Indian guide hath ta'en,
Thro' frozen lake, of trout a score,
Some hunter hath brought in a brace
Of the ruff'd grouse, to swell the store.
The bubbling pan and roasting-spit
Invite them to the •welcome board,
Where high the savory meat is pil'd,
And fast the generous cup is pour'd;
Then pipe is smok'd and talc is told,
And each one, wrapp'd in blanket's fold,
Sleeps sound beneath the winter sky,
Till dappled morning greets the eye.
With day-dawn is the hunt resum'd,
Until the browsing " yard " is found;
Then quick unharness'd is the sled,
The snow-shoe from each foot unbound ;
Then each and all with throbbing heart,
Grasping the rifle, cautious creep,
Thursting the tangling twigs apart
To where the yarded victims sleep.
A noble sight! Gigantic bulls
Flapping their huge ears they behold;
Licking their glossy hides, like kine
In rural farmer's cattle fold;
While cows on tender fir-tops browse,
Or lazy here and there repose,
Chewing the cud, unmindful all
Of cruel death and lurking foes.
Then comes the conflict—rifles flash,
And all is wild, tumultuous fright;
The wounded, bellowing madly, dash
Thro' the dense wood in headlong flight!
While many a forest monarch lies
Bleeding and struggling till he dies,
Encrimsoning with spouting gore
The forest's white unspotted floor.
McLellan, Isaac. Poems of the Rod and Gun. New York: Henry Thorpe, 1886.
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