FAR spread thy bleak, inclement solitudes,
O Lapland! girdled in by icy seas,
And fring'd by icebergs and the crystal floes,—
Floes all adrift in flow and ebb of tides,
Grinding o'er rocks and sands that skirt the shore.
In lapland realms run mountainous defiles,
Peak, pinnacle, and cliff, and gulches grand—
A bleak and barren, desolate expanse,
Seam'd with black ridges, with white torrents swept,
And in the winter-times untrod by man.
Here dwell the herdsmen all the summer-time,
Here rear their log-built cottages and huts,
And make their homes along the mountain-slopes,
And lead a social and a cheerful life;
But when the winter threatens, they migrate,
With all their flocks and herds, to milder climes.
Herding their thousand reindeer in the plains,
More frightful far are all these dreary wastes,
Than those wild mountain-slopes and rugged crags,
For here stretch savage roads and barren plains,
Trees without fruit, and pastures verdureless!
Far as the eye may reach can naught be seen
But sterile fields; no landscapes flowery,
No springing grass, no harvests of the grain.
Here the white mosses o'er the acres spread,—
Moss white as snow and ghastly to behold.
Yet bounteous nature yields this precious food,—
The sole, poor food the reindeer herds may crop.
Thick, dark around the gloomy forests bend,
Shrouded with blacken'd moss in hideous gloom;
Dark, trailing mosses, like funereal flags
That droop their festoons in cathedral aisles.
All summer long the gadfly and the gnat
Torment the herds that browse the mossy plain;
But when the winter kills those insect pests,
And herdsmen fill the valleys with their herds,
His pallid moss, so grievous to the sight,
Seems to the Laplander a treasure rich,
His only harvest, for it feeds his flocks,
And is to him the choicest boon of earth.
While it o'erspreads his endless dreary moor
He envies not the verdure and the bloom
Of southern landscapes with their fruitful wealth.
Clad in his deerskin garb, he drives his herds,
Fearless and careless, o'er the desert space,
Asking no fare luxurious, but content
With the pure milk and smoke-dried flesh they yield.
Ah, who so happy as the Laplander!
When the glaz'd snow is crusted with clear ice,
And far and fast for many a lengthen'd league,
Warm in his sledge, he urges on his team.
Swift as a courser in the race-course field,
Swift as a war-horse in the shock of arms,
The flying reindeer skims along the plain,
And skirts the gloomy wood in matchless speed.
McLellan, Isaac. Poems of the Rod and Gun. New York: Henry Thorpe, 1886.
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