The Death of the Ox

Original Text: 
Alexander McLachlan, Poems and Songs (Toronto: Hunter, Rose, 1874): 144-47. Internet Archive.
2A faithful friend thou wert indeed, e'en to the very last!
3And thou wert the prop of my house, my children's pride and pet,--
4Who now will help to free me from this weary load of debt?
5Here, single-handed, in the bush I battled on for years,
6My heart sometimes buoyed up with hope, sometimes bowed down with fears.
7I had misfortunes not a few, e'en from the very first!
9My great ambition's always been, to owe no man a cent;
10To compass that, by honest toil, my every nerve I've bent;
11Not for proud Independence! no, of which the poets sing,
12But for the very love of Right--the justice of the thing.
13To clear accounts within the year, I saw my way so plain--
14But losing thee, it throws me back, God knows, how far again!
15Just when I thought within my grasp, I had success secure,
16Here comes Misfortune back again, resolved to keep me poor!
17I've no one to depend upon, to do my teaming now!
18And there's ten acres to be logged! the fallow all to plough!
20How can I keep my credit clear--how can my children eat?
21O, nothing in the shape of work, was e'er a scare to thee!
22Thou wert the hero of the field, at every logging bee!
23The drags, they might be double length, the maples monster thick,
24Then give thee but a "rolling hitch," and off they went so slick.
25'Twas but a tug,--the monsters seem'd to thee as light's a pin;
26And how you wheeled them round about, and how you jerked them in;
27The very crookedest of all, would hardly make thee strain,
28And from the teamsters, every one, fresh laurels thou didst gain.
29A gentleness, a beauty, too, within thine eye did dwell!
30It seemed to me as beautiful as eye of the gazelle!
31And, how thy hide of tawny-white lost every shade of dun,
32And its brown streaks to velvet changed, all in the summer's sun.
33And through the Indian Summer too, transfigured thou didst seem,
34A great dumb giant looking through her hazy amber beam!
35And how you loved in Spring-time oft, to browse beside the creek--
36When all the air was laden with the odour of the leek.
37How you would stand and ruminate, like sage in thoughtful mood;
38Or listen to the children's shout, far in the leafy wood,--
39While they were hunting flowery spots, where Spring had newly been,--
40Or gathering lilies, red and white, beneath the maples green;
41Or, far beneath the tamarac's shade--where many a hemlock leans
42Above the salt-licks, in the dell, fringed with the evergreens;--
43Or climbing the o'erhanging bank, or swinging from the tree;
44Or starting with their ringing shout, in search, old friend, of thee!
45And laden with the spoils of Spring, they'd follow up thy track,
46And wreath thy horns superb with flowers, and mount upon thy back;
47And how you shook your tawny sides, in absolute delight;
48And I have stood, and looked unseen, in rapture on the sight.
49It seemed a miracle to me--for thou wert never broke--
50How willingly you always came, and bowed beneath the yoke;
51And when Buck--as he sometimes did--would take a stubborn fit.
52Then, in some language of thine own, you coaxed him to submit.
53It's clear to me, that thou hadst got some kind of moral sense,--
54For never didst thou sneak, and steal, nor ever break a fence,--
55And when Buck would leap over one, for he was ne'er reclaimed,
56How hurriedly you stole away, as perfectly ashamed!
57And thou wert so sagacious too, so sensible and shrewd,
58And every word I said to thee, was fully understood.
59No whip was e'er laid on thy back, nor blue-beech, never never!
60While slaves and tyrants wrought and fought, we lived in peace together,
61I've no doubt, but you learned some things, my poor old friend from me,
62And many a silent lesson too, I also got from thee;
63I ne'er could think thou wert a brute, but just a silent brother!
64And sure am I, to fill thy place I'll never get another!


1] dumb: unspeaking. Back to Line
8] Bright: the name of the ox, from his colour (31). Back to Line
19] drag the wheat: possibly "break up (the surface of lands, clods, etc.) with a drag or heavy harrow" (OED, "drag," v., 8). Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: