Far Horizons

by Bliss Carman


 

DAVID THOMPSON


 

A GRAY Coat boy from London
At fourteen came over sea
To a lonely post on Hudson’s Bay,
To serve the H.B.C.
A seeker of knowledge, a dreamer of dreams,
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And a doer of deeds was he.

Before his feet lay a continent
Untrailed, unmapped, unguessed.
The whisper of the mysterious North,
The lure of the unknown West,

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Called to him with a siren’s voice
That would not let him rest.

’Twas but a step from the factor’s door
And the wilderness was there,
Rivers stretching a thousand miles,

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Lakes for his thoroughfare,
And forests fresh from the hand of God,
Waiting his will to dare.

Plains that dipped to the edge of the sky
Untracked from rim to rim,

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The sorcery when the sun was high
On ranges far and dim,
The summer morns and the winter nights,
They laid their spell on him.

Where did they lead, those waterways?

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Where did they end, those plains?
And what is the joy of the wilderness
Only its lover attains?
Ask little Whitethroat, Killooleet,
Who sings through the soft gray rains!
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Wherever they led, whatever the end,
This lad must find and know.
With pole and paddle and slender birch,
On snowshoes over the snow,
With saddle and pack and pony track,
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’Twas his dream and delight to go.

He followed the song the rivers sang
Over their pebbly bars;
By spruce and larch he tallied his march;
The moons were his calendars;

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And well he could reckon and read his path
By the faithful shining stars.

From the Churchill to the Assiniboine
And up the Saskatchewan,
Back and forth through all the North

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His purpose drove him on,
Making a white man’s trail for those
Who should come when he was gone.

So the days grew years, and the years a life,
Without reward or renown,

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No heed of self, no greed for pelf
Nor the idle ease of Town,
Till he came at last to the barrier
Where the wheeling sun went down.

There the enormous ranges stood

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Forbidding against the sky,
Where only the bear and the bighorn climbed
And the eagle’s brood could fly.
His was the foot must find a road
For the world to enter by.
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Up he followed the azure thread
Of the winding branch for guide,
By rapid and reach and shingly beach,
Then over the great divide.
Then he saw a river broad and strong
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Swing past in a silver tide.

Down through a maze of canyon walls
He watched the mighty stream
Sweep on in conquering plenitude
With arrowy flight and gleam,

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And knew that he had found at last
The river of his dream.

And here his house was builded.
Here let us stand and say,
Here was a man—full sized—whose fame

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Shall never pass away,
While the stars shine and the rivers run
In the land of the Kootenay.

Invermere, B.C.,
August, 1922.