Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE RUSSIAN EXILE, by JAMES THOMSON (1834-1882)

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THE RUSSIAN EXILE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: But what is this? Our infant winter sinks
Last Line: Hardens his heart against assailing want.
Alternate Author Name(s): B. V.; Bysshe Vanolis
Subject(s): Exiles; Russia; Siberia; Soviet Union; Russians

BUT what is this? our infant Winter sinks,
Divested of his grandeur, should our eye
Astonished shoot into the frigid zone;
Where, for relentless months, continual Night
Holds o'er the glittering waste her starry reign
There, through the prison of unbounded wilds,
Barred by the hand of Nature from escape,
Wide roams the Russian exile. Naught around
Strikes his sad eye, but deserts lost in snow;
And heavy-loaded groves; and solid floods,
That stretch athwart the solitary waste,
Their icy horrors to the frozen main,
And cheerless towns far distant, never blessed,
Save when its annual course the caravan
Bends to the golden coast of rich Cathay,
With news of humankind. Yet there life glows;
Yet cherished there beneath the shining waste,
The furry nations harbor: tipped with jet,
Fair ermines, spotless as the snows they press;
Sables of glossy black; and dark-embrowned,
Or beauteous freaked with many a mingled hue,
Thousands besides, the costly pride of courts.
There, warm together pressed, the trooping deer
Sleep on the new-fallen snows; and scarce his head
Raised o'er the heapy wreath, the branching elk
Lies slumbering sullen in the white abyss.
The ruthless hunter wants nor dogs nor toils,
Nor with the dread of sounding bows he drives
The fearful flying race; with ponderous clubs,
As weak against the mountain-heaps they push
Their beating breast in vain, and piteous bray,
He lays them quivering on the ensanguined snows,
And with loud shouts rejoicing bears them home.
There through the piny forest half absorbed,
Rough tenant of these shades, the shapeless bear,
With dangling ice all horrid, stalks forlorn;
Slow-paced, and sourer as the storms increase,
He makes his bed beneath the inclement drift,
And, with stern patience, scorning weak complaint,
Hardens his heart against assailing want.

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