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This poem is often wrongly thought to be by Robert W Service. It is published here to the memory of Hugh Antoine D'Arcy, its rightful father.
An Evening with the Bard of the Yukon, July 18 th 2003 at 20.30pm in the Town-Hall of Lancieux, Brittany.
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Archives > Books and Poetry > Poetry > Ballads Of Cheechako > The Ballad of Pious Pete

The Ballad of Pious Pete

Published by Susan on 07/21/2003 (17786 reads)
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I tried to refine that neighbor of mine, honest to God, I did...

"The North has got him." --Yukonism.


I tried to refine that neighbor of mine, honest to God, I did.
I grieved for his fate, and early and late I watched over him like a kid.
I gave him excuse, I bore his abuse in every way that I could;
I swore to prevail; I camped on his trail; I plotted and planned for his good.
By day and by night I strove in men's sight to gather him into the fold,
With precept and prayer, with hope and despair, in hunger and hardship and cold.
I followed him into Gehennas of sin, I sat where the sirens sit;
In the shade of the Pole, for the sake of his soul, I strove with the powers of the Pit.
I shadowed him down to the scrofulous town; I dragged him from dissolute brawls;
But I killed the galoot when he started to shoot electricity into my walls.

God knows what I did he should seek to be rid of one who would save him from shame.
God knows what I bore that night when he swore and bade me make tracks from his claim.
I started to tell of the horrors of hell, when sudden his eyes lit like coals;
And "Chuck it," says he, "don't persecute me with your cant and your saving of souls."
I'll swear I was mild as I'd be with a child, but he called me the son of a slut;
And, grabbing his gun with a leap and a run, he threatened my face with the butt.
So what could I do (I leave it to you)? With curses he harried me forth;
Then he was alone, and I was alone, and over us menaced the North.

Our cabins were near; I could see, I could hear; but between us there rippled the creek;
And all summer through, with a rancor that grew, he would pass me and never would speak.
Then a shuddery breath like the coming of Death crept down from the peaks far away;
The water was still; the twilight was chill; the sky was a tatter of gray.
Swift came the Big Cold, and opal and gold the lights of the witches arose;
The frost-tyrant clinched, and the valley was cinched by the stark and cadaverous snows.
The trees were like lace where the star-beams could chase, each leaf was a jewel agleam.
The soft white hush lapped the Northland and wrapped us round in a crystalline dream;
So still I could hear quite loud in my ear the swish of the pinions of time;
So bright I could see, as plain as could be, the wings of God's angels ashine.

As I read in the Book I would oftentimes look to that cabin just over the creek.
Ah me, it was sad and evil and bad, two neighbors who never would speak!
I knew that full well like a devil in hell he was hatching out, early and late,
A system to bear through the frost-spangled air the warm, crimson waves of his hate.
I only could peer and shudder and fear--'twas ever so ghastly and still;
But I knew over there in his lonely despair he was plotting me terrible ill.
I knew that he nursed a malice accurst, like the blast of a winnowing flame;
I pleaded aloud for a shield, for a shroud--Oh, God! then calamity came.

Mad! If I'm mad then you too are mad; but it's all in the point of view.
If you'd looked at them things gallivantin' on wings, all purple and green and blue;
If you'd noticed them twist, as they mounted and hissed like scorpions dim in the dark;
If you'd seen them rebound with a horrible sound, and spitefully spitting a spark;
If you'd watched IT with dread, as it hissed by your bed, that thing with the feelers that crawls--You'd have settled the brute that attempted to shoot electricity into your walls.

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