Songs of a Sourdough

Song Cycle by Stephen Lias (b. 1966)

Word count: 1116

1. The Heart of the Sourdough [sung text checked 1 time]

There where the mighty mountains bare their fangs unto the moon,
There where the sullen sun-dogs glare in the snow-bright, bitter noon,
And the glacier-glutted streams sweep down at the clarion call of June.

There where the livid tundras keep their tryst with the tranquil snows;
There where the silences are spawned, and the light of hell-fire flows
Into the bowl of the midnight sky, violet, amber and rose.

There where the rapids churn and roar, and the ice-floes bellowing run;
Where the tortured, twisted rivers of blood rush to the setting sun—
I've packed my kit and I'm going, boys, ere another day is done.


I knew it would call, or soon or late, as it calls the whirring wings;
It's the olden lure, it's the golden lure, it's the lure of the timeless things,
And to-night, oh, God of the trails untrod, how it whines in my heart-strings!

I'm sick to death of your well-groomed gods, your make-believe and your show;
I long for a whiff of bacon and beans, a snug shakedown in the snow;
A trail to break, and a life at stake, and another bout with the foe.

With the raw-ribbed Wild that abhors all life, the Wild that would crush and rend,
I have clinched and closed with the naked North, I have learned to defy and defend;
Shoulder to shoulder we have fought it out—yet the Wild must win in the end.

I have flouted the Wild. I have followed its lure, fearless, familiar, alone;
By all that the battle means and makes I claim that land for mine own;
Yet the Wild must win, and a day will come when I shall be overthrown.

Then when as wolf-dogs fight we've fought, the lean wolf-land and I;
Fought and bled till the snows are red under the reeling sky;
Even as lean wolf-dog goes down will I go down and die.


Researcher for this text: Andrew Schneider [Guest Editor]

2. The Lure of the Little Voices [sung text checked 1 time]

There's a cry from out the loneliness — oh, listen, Honey, listen!
⁠Do you hear it, do you fear it, you're a-holding of me so?
You're a-sobbing in your sleep, dear, and your lashes, how they glisten —
⁠Do you hear the Little Voices all a-begging me to go?

All a-begging me to leave you. Day and night they're pleading, praying,
⁠On the North-wind, on the West-wind, from the peak and from the plain;
Night and day they never leave me — do you know what they are saying?
⁠"He was ours before you got him, and we want him once again."

Yes, they're wanting me, they're haunting me, the awful lonely places;
⁠They're whining and they're whimpering as if each had a soul;
They're calling from the wilderness, the vast and God-like spaces,
⁠The stark and sullen solitudes that sentinel the Pole.

They miss my little camp-fires, ever brightly, bravely gleaming
⁠In the womb of desolation, where was never man before;
As comradeless I sought them, lion-hearted, loving, dreaming,
⁠And they hailed me as a comrade, and they loved me evermore.

And now they're all a-crying, and it's no use me denying;
⁠The spell of them is on me and I'm helpless as a child;
My heart is aching, aching, but I hear them, sleeping, waking;
⁠It's the Lure of Little Voices, it's the mandate of the Wild.

I'm afraid to tell you, Honey, I can take no bitter leaving;
⁠But softly in the sleep-time from your love I'll steal away.
Oh, it's cruel, dearie, cruel, and it's God knows how I'm grieving;
⁠But His loneliness is calling, and He knows I must obey.


Confirmed with The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses, New York, Barse & Hopkins, 1907, pages 46-48.

Researcher for this text: Andrew Schneider [Guest Editor]

3. Premonition [sung text checked 1 time]

'Twas a year ago and the moon was bright
⁠(Oh, I remember so well, so well);
I walked with my love in a sea of light,
⁠And the voice of my sweet was a silver bell.
⁠And sudden the moon grew strangely dull,
⁠And sudden my love had taken wing;
⁠I looked on the face of a grinning skull,
⁠I strained to my heart a ghastly thing.

'Twas but fantasy, for my love lay still
⁠In my arms, with her tender eyes aglow,
And she wondered why my lips were chill,
⁠Why I was silent and kissed her so.
⁠A year has gone and the moon is bright,
⁠A gibbous moon, like a ghost of woe;
⁠I sit by a new-made grave to-night,
⁠And my heart is broken — it's strange, you know.


Confirmed with The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses, New York, Barse & Hopkins, 1907, page 122.

Researcher for this text: Andrew Schneider [Guest Editor]

4. Grin [sung text checked 1 time]

If you're up against a bruiser and you're getting knocked about —
If you're feeling pretty groggy, and you're licked beyond a doubt —
Don't let him see you're funking, let him know with every clout,
Though your face is battered to a pulp, your blooming heart is stout;
Just stand upon your pins until the beggar knocks you out —
⁠And grin.
This life's a bally battle, and the same advice holds true
⁠Of grin.
If you're up against it badly, then it's only one on you,
⁠So grin.
If the future's black as thunder, don't let people see you're blue;
Just cultivate a cast-iron smile of joy the whole day through;
If they call you "Little Sunshine," wish that they'd no troubles, too —
⁠You may — grin.
Rise up in the morning with the will that, smooth or rough,
⁠You'll grin.
Sink to sleep at midnight, and although you're feeling tough,
⁠Yet grin.
There's nothing gained by whining, and you're not that kind of stuff;
You're a fighter from away back, and you won't take a rebuff;
Your trouble is that you don't know when you have had enough —
⁠Don't give in.
If Fate should down you, just get up and take another cuff;
You may bank on it that there is no philosophy like bluff,
⁠And grin.


Confirmed with The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses, New York, Barse & Hopkins, 1907, pages 53-54.

Researcher for this text: Andrew Schneider [Guest Editor]

5. L'Envoi [sung text checked 1 time]

You who have lived in the land,
⁠You who have trusted the trail,
You who are strong to withstand,
⁠You who are swift to assail:
⁠Songs have I sung to beguile,
⁠Vintage of desperate years,
⁠Hard as a harlot's smile,
⁠Bitter as unshed tears.

Little of joy or mirth,
⁠Little of ease I sing;
Sagas of men of earth
⁠Humanly suffering,
⁠Such as you all have done;
⁠Savagely faring forth,
⁠Sons of the midnight sun,
⁠Argonauts of the North.

Far in the land God forgot
⁠Glimmers the lure of your trail;
Still in your lust are you taught
⁠Even to win is to fail.
⁠Still you must follow and fight
⁠Under the vampire wing;
⁠There in the long, long night
⁠Hoping and vanquishing.

Husbandman of the Wild,
⁠Reaping a barren gain;
Scourged by desire, reconciled
⁠Unto disaster and pain;
⁠These, my songs, are for you,
⁠You who are seared with the brand.
⁠God knows I have tried to be true;
⁠Please God you will understand.


Confirmed with The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses, New York, Barse & Hopkins, 1907, pages 125-126.

Researcher for this text: Andrew Schneider [Guest Editor]