Charles Dawson Shanly (1811-1875 / Canada)
The Walker of the Snow
Speed on, speed on, good master!
The camp lies far away;
We must cross the haunted valley
Before the close of day.
How the snow-blight came upon me
I will tell you as we go,—
The blight of the Shadow-hunter,
Who walks the midnight snow.
To the cold December heaven
Came the pale moon and the stars,
As the yellow sun was sinking
Behind the purple bars.
The snow was deeply drifted
Upon the ridges drear,
That lay for miles around me
And the camp for which we steer.
’T was silent on the hillside,
And by the solemn wood
No sound of life or motion
To break the solitude,
Save the wailing of the moose-bird
With a plaintive note and low,
And the skating of the red leaf
Upon the frozen snow.
And said I,—“Though dark is falling,
And far the camp must be,
Yet my heart it would be lightsome,
If I had but company.”
And then I sang and shouted,
Keeping measure, as I sped,
To the harp-twang of the snow-shoe
As it sprang beneath my tread;
Nor far into the valley
Had I dipped upon my way,
When a dusky figure joined me,
In a capuchon of gray,
Bending upon the snow-shoes,
With a long and limber stride;
And I hailed the dusky stranger,
As we travelled side by side.
But no token of communion
Gave he by word or look,
And the fear-chill fell upon me
At the crossing of the brook.
For I saw by the sickly moonlight,
As I followed, bending low,
That the walking of the stranger
Left no footmarks on the snow.
Then the fear-chill gathered o’er me,
Like a shroud around me cast,
As I sank upon the snow-drift
Where the Shadow-hunter passed.
And the otter-trappers found me,
Before the break of day,
With my dark hair blanched and whitened
As the snow in which I lay.
But they spoke not as they raised me;
For they knew that in the night
I had seen the Shadow-hunter,
And had withered in his blight.
Sancta Maria speed us!
The sun is falling low,—
Before us lies the valley
Of the Walker of the Snow!
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