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Death In The Arctic
by [?]

“Mary, many a day has passed,

Since that morn of hot-head youth.

Come I back at last, at last,

Crushed with knowing of the truth;

How through bitter, barren years

You loved me, and me alone;

Waited, wearied, wept your tears —

Oh, could I atone, atone,

I would pay a million-fold!

Pay you for the love you gave.

Mary, look down as of old —

I am kneeling by your grave.” . . .


Olaf, the Blonde, was first to go;
Bitten his eyes were by the snow;
Sightless and sealed his eyes of blue,
So that he died before I knew.
Here in those poor weak arms he died:
“Wolves will not get you, lad,” I lied;
“For I will watch till Spring come round;
Slumber you shall beneath the ground.”
Oh, how I lied! I scarce can wait:
Strike, little clock, the hour of eight! . . .

“Comrade, can you blame me quite?

The horror of the long, long night

Is on me, and I’ve borne with pain

So long, and hoped for help in vain.

So frail am I, and blind and dazed;

With scurvy sick, with silence crazed.

Beneath the Arctic’s heel of hate,

Avid for Death I wait, I wait.

Oh if I falter, fail to fight,

Can you, dear comrade, blame me quite?” . . .


Big Eric gave up months ago.
But seldom do men suffer so.
His feet sloughed off, his fingers died,
His hands shrunk up and mummified.
I had to feed him like a child;
Yet he was valiant, joked and smiled,
Talked of his wife and little one
(Thanks be to God that I have none),
Passed in the night without a moan,
Passed, and I’m here, alone, alone. . . .

“I’ve got to kill you, Dick.

Your life for mine, you know.

Better to do it quick,

A swift and sudden blow.

See! here’s my hand to lick;

A hug before you go —

God! but it makes me sick:

Old dog, I love you so.

Forgive, forgive me, Dick —

A swift and sudden blow. . . .”


Often I start up in the dark,
Thinking the sound of bells to hear.
Often I wake from sleep: “Oh, hark!
Help . . . it is coming . . . near and near.”
Blindly I reel toward the door;
There the snow billows bleak and bare;
Blindly I seek my den once more,
Silence and darkness and despair.
Oh, it is all a dreadful dream!
Scurvy and cold and death and dearth;
I will awake to warmth and gleam,
Silvery seas and greening earth.
Life is a dream, its wakening,
Death, gentle shadow of God’s wing. . . .

“Tick, little clock, my life away!

Even a second seems a day.

Even a minute seems a year,

Peopled with ghosts, that press and peer

Into my face so charnel white,

Lit by the devilish, dancing light.

Tick, little clock! mete out my fate:

Tortured and tense I wait, I wait. . . .”