The Song of the Ski

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Norse am I when the first snow falls;Norse am I till the ice departs.The fare for which my spirit callsIs blood from a hundred viking-hearts.The curved wind wraps me like a cloak;The pines blow out their ghostly smoke.I'm high on the hill and ready to go--A wingless bird in a world of snow:Yet I'll ride the airWith a dauntless dareThat only a child of the north can know.

The bravest ski has a cautious heartAnd moves like a tortoise at the start,But when it tastes the tang of the airIt leaps away like a frightened hare.The day is gloomy, the curtains half-drawn,And light is stunted as at the dawn:But my foot is sure and my arm is brawn.

I poise on the hill and I wave adieu:(My curving skis are firm and true)The slim wood quickens, the air takes fireAnd sings to me like a gypsy's lyre.Swifter and swifter grows my flight:The dark pines ease the unending white.The lean, cold birches, as I go by,Are like blurred etchings against the sky.One am I for a moment's joyWith the falling star and the plunging bird.The world is swift as an Arab boy;The world is sweet as a woman's word.Never came such a pure delight.To a bacchanal or a sybarite:Swifter and swifter grows my flight,And glad am I, as I near the leap,That the snow is fresh and the banks are deep.

Swifter and swifter on I fare,And soon I'll float with the birds on air.The speed is blinding; I'm over the ridge,Spanning space on a phantom bridge.The drifts await me; I float, I fall:The world leaps up like a lunging carp.I land erect and the tired winds drawlA lazy rune on a broken harp.

Child of the roofless world am I;Not of those hibernating dronesWho fear the gray of a wintry skyAnd the shrieking wind's ironic tones,Who shuffle cards in a cloud of smokeOr crawl like frozen flies at chess,Or gossip all day with meddling folkIn collar of starch and a choking dress.

Come, ye maids of the vanity-box,Come, ye men of the stifling air:The white wind waits at your door and knocks;The white snow calls you everywhere.Come, ye lads of the lounge and chair,And gird your feet with the valiant skisAnd mount the steed of the winter airAnd hold the reins of the winter breeze.

Lord of the mountains dark with pine!Lord of the fields of smoking snow!Grant to this vagrant heart of mineA patch of wood where my feet may go,And a roofless world to my journey's end,And a cask of wind for my cup of wine,And yellow gold of the sun to spend,And at night the stars in endless line,And, after it all, the hand of a friend--The hand of a trusted friend in mine.

© MacDonald Wilson Pugsley