THE MANY-MANSIONED HOUSE
AND OTHER POEMS


By
EDWARD WILLIAM THOMSON




 

WE TALKED OF LINCOLN



WE talked of Abraham Lincoln in the night,
Ten fur-coat men on North Saskatchewan’s plain—
Pure zero cold, and all the prairie white—
Englishman, Scotchman, Scandinavian, Dane,
Two Irish, four Canadians—all for gain

5

Of food and raiment, children, parents, wives,
Living the hardest life that Man survives,
And secret proud because it was so hard
Exploring, camping, axeing, faring lean.—
Month in and out no creature had we seen

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Except our burdened dogs, gaunt foxes gray,
Hard-feathered grouse that shot would seldom slay,
Slinking coyotés, plumy-trailing owls,
Stark Indians warm in rabbit-blanket cowls,
And, still as shadows in their deep-tracked yard,

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The dun vague moose we startled from our way.

We talked of Abraham Lincoln in the night
Around our fire of tamarac crackling fierce,
Yet dim, like moon and stars, in that vast light
Boreal, bannery, shifting quick to pierce

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Ethereal blanks of Space with falchion streams
Transfigured wondrous into quivering beams
From Forms enormous-marching through the sky
To dissolution and new majesty.
And speech was low around our bivouac fire,

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Since in our inmost heart of hearts there grew
The sense of mortal feebleness, to see
Those silent miracles of Might on high
Seemingly done for only such as we
In sign how nearer Death and Doom we drew,

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While in the ancient tribal-soul we knew [Page 37]
Our old, hardfaring father-Vikings’ dreams
Of Odin at Valhalla’s open door,
Where they might see the Battle-father’s face
Glowing at last, when Life and Toil were o’er,

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Were they but staunch-enduring in their place.

We talked of Abraham Lincoln in the night.—
Oh sweet and strange to hear the hard-hand men
Old-Abeing him, like half the world of yore
In years when Grant’s and Lee’s young soldiers bore

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Rifle and steel, and proved that heroes live
Where folk their lives to Labor mostly give.
And strange and sweet to hear their voices call
Him “Father Abraham,” though no man of all
Was born within the Nation of his birth.

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It was as if they felt that all on Earth
Possess of right Earth’s greatest Common Man,
Her sanest, wisest, simplest, steadiest son,
To whom The Father’s children all were one,
And Pomps and Vanities as motes that danced

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In the clear sunshine where his humor glanced.

We talked of Abraham Lincoln in the night
Until one spoke, “We yet may see his face,”
Whereon the fire crackled loud through space
Of human silence, while eyes reverent

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Toward the auroral miracle were bent
Till from that trancing Glory spirits came
Within our semi-circle round the flame,
And drew us closer-ringed, until we could
Feel the kind touch of vital brotherhood

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Which Father Abraham Lincoln thought so good. [Page 38]