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Bear Poems

Table of Contents

  1. The Black Bear by Isaac McLellan
  2. Grizzly by Bret Harte
  3. Hunting the Grizzly Bear by Isaac McLellan
  4. White Polar Bear by Isaac McLellan
  5. Polar Bear by Isaac McLellan
  6. The Dancing Bear by James Russell Lowell
  7. The Bear Hunt by Abraham Lincoln
  8. The Deacon's Bear-Yarn by Sam Walter Foss

  1. The Black Bear

    by Isaac McLellan

    (Ursus Americanus)

    The great black bear hath wide-extended range
    O'er every region in these banded States;
    In North, in South, in East and Western realms,
    It feeds, it prowls, in Winter hibernates.
    He that would hunt their numbers infinite
    Must cross Missouri, scale the Rocky Mounts,
    And riot there in sports beyond compare,
    Amid those craggy glooms and pouring founts;
    For nowhere in the world is nobler game
    To crown his efforts with a hunter's fame.

    In all areas 'tween that mountain chain
    And the far waters of Pacific shore,
    All game indigenous to this Continent
    Abounds and ranges the wide region o'er.
    The grizzly, cinnamon and dusky bear,
    Wolves, cougars, foxes and fleet-footed deer
    Are there to tempt the ardent hunter's search,
    To dare, to vanish from his bold career.
    He must evade the mountain fastnesses,
    Explore dense forests and far-spreading plains,
    The treeless plateaus and the caverns grim,
    For each a world of faunal life contains;
    Unrival'd in their plenitude of game,
    Save in thick jungles of the India's land,
    Or sunless forests of the Afric world,
    Swept by great rivers, crown'd with mountains grand.

    The black bear is of sluggish, solitary mood,
    Prowls in the densest cloisters of each space,
    Dozing and sleeping at his slothful ease,
    Harmless to man and the wild creature race.
    Its food it seeks where shrubberies grow profuse,
    Wild berries, grapes and fruits of luscious taste;
    Where trampled bush and leaf-stripp'd twigs betray
    The haunts of those gr1m creatures of the waste.
    Wild animals of size they ne'er attack,
    Save when by hungry torments they are press'd,
    Content on honies, and wild berries fare,
    Content to slumber in untroubled rest.
    In Southern States where they innumerous roam,
    In great plantations where they so abound,
    A bear-hunt is a gala festival,
    Pursued by mounted riders and the hounds,
    'Tis like a wolf-drive over Russian steppes,
    Or boar-hunt in the forests of Ardennes,
    Where the bold horsemen, arm'd with gun and spear,
    Surround their victims in the woods and fens.
    Great packs of hounds the hunters oft employ,
    Hounds lithe and active and of dauntless race,
    Endow'd with scent acute and tireless speed,
    Tracking and yelping in unerring chase.
    For, keen of scent, and Watchful in the ear,
    The bear alarm'd is wary of pursuit,
    And long ere hunter and the hounds draw near,
    It vanishes from sight on hurrying foot.

  2. Grizzly

    by Bret Harte

    Coward,—of heroic size,
    In whose lazy muscles lies
    Strength we fear and yet despise;
    Savage,—whose relentless tusks
    Are content with acorn husks;
    Robber,—whose exploits ne’er soared
    O’er the bee’s or squirrel’s hoard;
    Whiskered chin, and feeble nose,
    Claws of steel on baby toes,—
    Here, in solitude and shade,
    Shambling, shuffling plantigrade,
    Be thy courses undismayed!

    Here, where Nature makes thy bed,
    Let thy rude, half-human tread
    Point to hidden Indian springs,
    Lost in ferns and fragrant grasses,
    Hovered o’er by timid wings,
    Where the wood-duck lightly passes,
    Where the wild bee holds her sweets,
    Epicurean retreats,
    Fit for thee, and better than
    Fearful spoils of dangerous man.

    In thy fat-jowled deviltry
    Friar Tuck shall live in thee;
    Thou mayest levy tithe and dole;
    Thou shalt spread the woodland cheer,
    From the pilgrim taking toll;
    Match thy cunning with his fear;
    Eat, and drink, and have thy fill;
    Yet remain an outlaw still!

  3. Hunting the Grizzly Bear

    by Isaac McLellan

    Ursus Horibilis―the grizzly bear
    Hath range from Mexico to Canadian realm,
    From Rocky Mountains to Pacific seas,
    And ever will the mightiest foe o'erwhelm.

    Whether in forest or on granite height
    The conflict rages, the relentless fight,
    In size, in strength, ferocity supreme,
    It is the monarch of all animal life;
    E'en man himself oft yieldeth to its sway,
    Shrinks from encounter in the fearful strife.
    Men claim the lion as the desert's king,
    Yet the great grizzly is the lion's peer,
    For grizzly, wounded, would its foe pursue,
    But leo hurt would pause in its career.
    He is the bear of mountain fastnesses,
    As the black bear has home in wood and plain,
    Yet oft the grizzly roams where food is found,
    Whether on shrubby plain, or wood-domain.
    'Tis denizen of all States in farthest West,
    It slays the bison by Montana's founts,
    Its muffled roar disturbs Nevada's wilds,
    Its sway prevails o'er the Wind-River mounts,
    Its home is made 'mid craggy cliffs and peaks,
    Where Mountain-goat and Big-horn sheep abide,
    And there in dark ravine and canyon grim
    They prowl they ravage, with their mighty stride.
    The eagle and the vulture wheel above,
    But no life else their domains may invade,
    Save when at times the daring hunter comes
    With deadly rifle and the bowie-blade.
    No fear of mortal art, or human power,
    Hath this grand monster in his wild retreat,
    For arm'd with fangs and claws like sabre keen,
    He dreads no valorous assaults to meet.
    Its taloned paw, its massive jaw will rend
    The lordly bison at one trenchant blow;
    And the swart Indian, with his shaft and spear,
    Shrinks from the presence of such dangerous foe,
    And yet no prouder trophy he may wear
    Than necklace of the claws of grizzly bear.
    In winter's frozen time it hibernates,
    Yet then, at times, he roams the waste for food,
    Then wild with hunger, desperate in rage
    'Tis death to meet him in his savage mood;
    For then with hoarse and drum-like roar he strides,
    With voice like giants of a fairy tale
    He makes the charge, and woe betide the man,
    Save for escape some tall tree may avail;
    For the grand brute, with courage so sublime,
    May ne'er with clumsy limbs the branches climb!

  4. White Polar Bear

    by Isaac McLellan

    In the far North where Arctic vigors reign
    Man penetrates with awe the dreary scene,
    Lured by weird glooms of the sunless year,
    In silences of solitudes serene.
    Like a vast ocean, waveless, frigid, white,
    Faint-lighted by the crescent moonbeams' glance,
    Or by blue streams of auroral light,
    The land stretch'd endless in its dim expanse.
    There was no light or warmth to cheer the waste,
    While the faint radiance of moon or star
    Ting'd like a stormy sunset the deep snows,
    Causing a mirage floating high and far.
    Lamented Franklin here explorings made,
    And with his seamen perish'd in the snow,
    Where Hall, Kane, Peary, Greeley, gallantmen,
    Sought the North Pole far as mankind could go!

    There 'mid grand icebergs slipping from the cliffs
    Or on the drifting floes that chok'd the tide,
    Gigantic Polar bears, so grim and gaunt,
    In solitary majesty abide.
    Their haunt is some vast cave with icy walls,
    Where bright stalactics glisten overhead,
    And pendent icicles drop splinter'd points,
    Like pearly spars in grottoes overspread.
    They live secluded thro' inclement year,
    All undisturb'd by step of human foe,
    Save when at times, arm'd with the deadly lance,
    Invading their retreats comes Esquimaux.
    At times when whale-ships anchor by the shore,
    And seamen cut the blubber from the whale,
    The prowling bear-herds gather to the feast,
    And with wild rush the mariners assail.

    Little of life across these wastes is seen,
    Save where the gull and auk go screaming by,
    Or duck or loon or white-wing'd ptarmigan
    Startle the silence with discordant cry,
    Or musk ox or the walrus by the shore
    For finny spoil the frozen space explore.

  5. Polar Bear

    by Isaac McLellan

    (Ursus maritimus)

    Amid the vast, eternal ice,
    The crystal plain, the drifting floe,
    Dark chasm, awful precipice,
    Buried for ages deep in snow,
    The polar white bear, grim and gaunt,
    Chooseth his solitary haunt.

    In cavern with its icy wall,
    With adamantine floor outspread,
    Where freeze the raindrops as they fall,
    Stalactites glisten overhead
    Like pearly spar in grottoes dim
    That with a prismy lustre swim,
    This monarch of the desert drear
    Dwells thro' the dark, inclement year.
    Little of breathing life, I ween,
    Across the frozen waste is seen,
    Only the screaming auk and gull
    In restless flocks the breezes fan,
    And eider-duck and wailing loon,
    Or the white-plumag'd ptarmigan.
    Man seldom wanders o'er the plain
    To trespass on thy savage reign;
    Only the fur-clad Esquimau,
    Bearing his bone-lance or the bow,
    Or crossing with his skin canoe
    Some open water cold and blue,
    May venture to dispute thy sway
    And dare thee in the frozen way.

  6. The Dancing Bear

    by James Russell Lowell

    Far over Elf-land poets stretch their sway,
    And win their dearest crowns beyond the goal
    Of their own conscious purpose; they control
    With gossamer threads wide-flown our fancy's play,
    And so our action. On my walk to-day,
    A wallowing bear begged clumsily his toll,
    When straight a vision rose of Atta Troll,
    And scenes ideal witched mine eyes away.
    'Merci, Mossieu!' the astonished bear-ward cried,
    Grateful for thrice his hope to me, the slave
    Of partial memory, seeing at his side
    A bear immortal. The glad dole I gave
    Was none of mine; poor Heine o'er the wide
    Atlantic welter stretched it from his grave.

  7. The Bear Hunt

    by Abraham Lincoln

    A wild-bear chace, didst never see?
    Then hast thou lived in vain.
    Thy richest bump of glorious glee,
    Lies desert in thy brain.

    When first my father settled here,
    ’Twas then the frontier line:
    The panther’s scream, filled night with fear
    And bears preyed on the swine. ...

    But woe for Bruin’s short lived fun,
    When rose the squealing cry;
    Now man and horse, with dog and gun,
    For vengeance, at him fly.

    A sound of danger strikes his ear;
    He gives the breeze a snuff;
    Away he bounds, with little fear,
    And seeks the tangled rough.

    On press his foes, and reach the ground,
    Where’s left his half munched meal;
    The dogs, in circles, scent around,
    And find his fresh made trail.

    With instant cry, away they dash,
    And men as fast pursue;
    O’er logs they leap, through water splash,
    And shout the brisk halloo.

    Now to elude the eager pack,
    Bear shuns the open ground;
    Through matted vines, he shapes his track
    And runs it, round and round.

    The tall fleet cur, with deep-mouthed voice,
    Now speeds him, as the wind;
    While half-grown pup, and short-legged fice,
    Are yelping far behind.

    And fresh recruits are dropping in
    To join the merry corps:
    With yelp and yell,—a mingled din—
    The woods are in a roar.

    And round, and round the chace now goes,
    The world’s alive with fun;
    Nick Carter’s horse, his rider throws,
    And more, Hill drops his gun.

    Now sorely pressed, bear glances back,
    And lolls his tired tongue;
    When as, to force him from his track,
    An ambush on him sprung.

    Across the glade he sweeps for flight,
    And fully is in view.
    The dogs, new-fired, by the sight,
    Their cry, and speed, renew.

    The foremost ones, now reach his rear,
    He turns, they dash away;
    And circling now, the wrathful bear,
    They have him full at bay.

    At top of speed, the horse-men come,
    All screaming in a row,
    “Whoop! Take him Tiger. Seize him Drum.”
    Bang,—bang—the rifles go.

    And furious now, the dogs he tears,
    And crushes in his ire,
    Wheels right and left, and upward rears,
    With eyes of burning fire.

    But leaden death is at his heart,
    Vain all the strength he plies.
    And, spouting blood from every part,
    He reels, and sinks, and dies.

    And now a dinsome clamor rose,
    ’Bout who should have his skin;
    Who first draws blood, each hunter knows,
    This prize must always win.

    But who did this, and how to trace
    What’s true from what’s a lie,
    Like lawyers, in a murder case
    They stoutly argufy.

    Aforesaid fice, of blustering mood,
    Behind, and quite forgot,
    Just now emerging from the wood,
    Arrives upon the spot.

    With grinning teeth, and up-turned hair—
    Brim full of spunk and wrath,
    He growls, and seizes on dead bear,
    And shakes for life and death.

    And swells as if his skin would tear,
    And growls and shakes again;
    And swears, as plain as dog can swear,
    That he has won the skin.

    Conceited whelp! we laugh at thee—
    Nor mind, that now a few
    Of pompous, two-legged dogs there be,
    Conceited quite as you.

  8. The Deacon's Bear-Yarn

    by Sam Walter Foss

    When the Deacon told his bear-yarn we would gather round to hear him,
    In open-mouthed expectancy to drink in all he said;
    For all list'ners who drew near him could not choose but to revere him,
    For an aureole of honor rested on the Deacon's head.
    'Twas a tale of gore and slaughter, where the red blood flowed like water,
    Such as ear had never heard of, or the heart could not conceive;
    But our faith did never weaken in that bear-yarn of the Deacon—
    When the Deacon told his bear-yarn we would listen and believe.

    We had listened to the horse-liar and the fish-liar and the snake-liar,
    But they told no tale of wonder with the Deacon's to compare;
    Though their tales were dark and dire, not a tale of not a liar
    Approached the truthful story of the Deacon and the bear.
    'Twas a tale of awful terror, but without a shade of error;
    And whereas it was impossible the Deacon could deceive,
    We knew the Deacon's bear-yarn was an honest, fair, and quare yarn—
    When the Deacon told his bear-yarn we would listen and believe.

    When the Deacon told his bear-yarn we could hear the bone a-breaking,
    And the loud reverberations of the bear's resounding growl;
    We could feel the mountains shaking, and the very planet quaking,
    And the air a-palpitating with the thunder of his howl.
    Oh, the sanguinary, savage fierceness of the awful ravage
    Of the roaring, ravening monster, heart of man cannot conceive!
    But, whereas we knew the Deacon from the truth could never weaken—
    When the Deacon told his bear-yarn we would listen and believe.

    When the fierce bear wound his red jaws round the white neck of the Deacon,
    And we heard the Deacon gurgle with a deathgasp of despair,
    How our trembling knees would weaken as we gazed upon the Deacon,
    And our lifted hats go flying from our perpendicular hair!
    When into the mad bear's vitals—strangest of all strange recitals—
    Did the Deacon plunge his right arm, with its reeking, bloody sleeve,
    And tear out the bear's heart beating, as you'd tear a piece of sheeting—
    When the Deacon told this bear-yarn we would listen and believe.

    Fiercer, wilder, grew the contest every time we did behold it,
    Wilder, fiercer, fought the Deacon, fiercer, wilder, raged the bear;
    It was bloodier, more terrific, every time the Deacon told it,
    Till at length there was no story w ith this bear-yarn could compare.
    Bear and Deacon m ixed and mangled, gore incrusted, blood bespangled,
    Dance through sanguin ary wal tzes that the m ind cannot conceive;
    But there is a deathless beauty in all truth, and 'tis our duty
    When the Deacon tells his bear-yarn just to listen and believe.

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