The Bear Hunt

2    Then hast thou lived in vain.
4    Lies desert in thy brain.
5When first my father settled here,
6    'Twas then the frontier line:
7The panther's scream, filled night with fear
8    And bears preyed on the swine.
10    When rose the squealing cry;
11Now man and horse, with dog and gun,
12    For vengeance, at him fly.
13A sound of danger strikes his ear;
14    He gives the breeze a snuff;
15Away he bounds, with little fear,
16    And seeks the tangled rough.
17On press his foes, and reach the ground,
18    Where's left his half munched meal;
19The dogs, in circles, scent around,
20    And find his fresh made trail.
21With instant cry, away they dash,
22    And men as fast pursue;
23O'er logs they leap, through water splash,
24    And shout the brisk halloo.
25Now to elude the eager pack,
26    Bear shuns the open ground;
28    And runs it, round and round.
29The tall fleet cur, with deep-mouthed voice,
30    Now speeds him, as the wind;
32    Are yelping far behind.
33And fresh recruits are dropping in
34    To join the merry corps:
35With yelp and yell, -- a mingled din --
36    The woods are in a roar.
37And round, and round the chace now goes,
38    The world's alive with fun;
39Nick Carter's horse, his rider throws,
40    And more, Hill drops his gun.
41Now sorely pressed, bear glances back,
42    And lolls his tired tongue;
43When as, to force him from his track,
44    An ambush on him sprung.
45Across the glade he sweeps for flight,
46    And fully is in view.
47The dogs, new-fired, by the sight,
48    Their cry, and speed, renew.
49The foremost ones, now reach his rear,
50    He turns, they dash away;
51And circling now, the wrathful bear,
52    They have him full at bay.
53At top of speed, the horse-men come,
54    All screaming in a row,
55"Whoop! Take him Tiger. Seize him Drum."
56    Bang, -- bang -- the rifles go.
57And furious now, the dogs he tears,
58    And crushes in his ire,
59Wheels right and left, and upward rears,
60    With eyes of burning fire.
61But leaden death is at his heart,
62    Vain all the strength he plies.
63And, spouting blood from every part,
64    He reels, and sinks, and dies.
65And now a dinsome clamor rose,
66    'Bout who should have his skin;
67Who first draws blood, each hunter knows,
68    This prize must always win.
69But who did this, and how to trace
70    What's true from what's a lie,
71Like lawyers, in a murder case
73Aforesaid fice, of blustering mood,
74    Behind, and quite forgot,
75Just now emerging from the wood,
76    Arrives upon the spot.
77With grinning teeth, and up-turned hair --
78    Brim full of spunk and wrath,
79He growls, and seizes on dead bear,
80    And shakes for life and death.
81And swells as if his skin would tear,
82    And growls and shakes again;
83And swears, as plain as dog can swear,
84    That he has won the skin.
85Conceited whelp! we laugh at thee --
86    Nor mind, that now a few
87Of pompous, two-legged dogs there be,
88    Conceited quite as you.


1] This poem may be the third canto of Lincoln's "My childhood's home I see again." Back to Line
3] bump: increase. Back to Line
9] Bruin: brown bear, once common in now-urban America, to judge from the name of the Boston Bruins, a professional hockey team. Back to Line
27] Through: Though (ms). Back to Line
31] fice: small cur-dog, pronounced to rhyme with "mice" (OED, "fist 2," 3). Back to Line
72] argufy: argue and argue and argue (slang). Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, I, ed. Roy P. Basler, Marion Dolores Pratt, and Lloyd A. Dunlap (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953): 386-89. E 457 .91 Robarts Library
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: