The Yukon

Joaquin Miller

The moon resumed all heaven now,
She shepherded the stars below
Along her wide, white steeps of snow,
Nor stooped nor rested, where or how.

She bared her full white breast, she dared
The sun e'er show his face again.
She seemed to know no change, she kept
Carousal constantly, nor slept,
Nor turned aside a breath, nor spared
The fearful meaning, the mad pain,
The weary eyes, the poor dazed brain,
That came at last to feel, to see
The dread, dead touch of lunacy.

How loud the silence! Oh, how loud!
How more than beautiful the shroud
Of dead Light in the moon-mad north
When great torch-tipping stars stand forth
Above the black, slow-moving pall
As at some fearful funeral!

The moon blares as mad trumpets blare
To marshaled warriors long and loud;
The cobalt blue knows not a cloud,
But oh, beware that moon, beware
Her ghostly, graveyard, moon-mad stare!

Beware white silence more than white!
Beware the five-horned starry rune;
Beware the groaning gorge below;
Beware the wide, white world of snow,
Where trees hang white as hooded nun--
No thing not white, not one, not one!
But most beware that mad white moon.

All day, all day, all night, all night
Nay, nay, not yet or night or day.
Just whiteness, whiteness, ghastly white,
Made doubly white by that mad moon
And strange stars jangled out of tune!

At last, he saw, or seemed to see,
Above, beyond, another world.
Far up the ice-hung path there curled
A red-veined cloud, a canopy
That topt the fearful ice-built peak
That seemed to prop the very porch
Of God's house; then, as if a torch
Burned fierce, there flushed a fiery streak,
A flush, a blush, on heaven's cheek!

The dogs sat down, men sat the sled
And watched the flush, the blush of red.
The little wooly dogs, they knew,
Yet scarcely knew what they were about.
They thrust their noses up and out,
They drank the Light, what else to do?
Their little feet, so worn, so true,
Could scarcely keep quiet for delight.
They knew, they knew, how much they knew
The mighty breaking up of night!
Their bright eyes sparkled with such joy
That they at last should see loved Light!
The tandem sudden broke all rule;
Swung back, each leaping like a boy
Let loose from some dark, ugly school--
Leaped up and tried to lick his hand--
Stood up as happy children stand.

How tenderly God's finger set
His crimson flower on that height
Above the battered walls of night!
A little space it flourished yet,
And then His angel, His first-born,
Burst through, as on that primal morn!

Miller knew the frozen north, having been part of the Klondike gold rush.

Main Location:

The Yukon, Canada