By Charles Sangster



     It was a night of terror—fiercely bleak!
The winds like haggard demons leaped along
The whitened fields.  Far o’er the piney hills,
Far up among the mountain fastnesses,
Their horrid laughter and avenging tones,


Shook the red granite to its base.  The trees
Sprang from the frozen ground in fear, and fell
Death-doomed to earth.  Indifferent were they,
These unrelenting and malignant winds,
What poor misguided wretch they scourged to death;


Whether he struggled onward clad with rags,
The sport and playthings of the spiteful breeze,
That as it filled his very bones with chills [Page 147]
And heartfelt tremblings, whistled as it passed,
A merry tune; or whether favored less


By some capricious messenger of Fate,
His weary limbs refused to carry him
To where a scanty shelter might be found,
And he was forced to hug the ground and die,
A victim to the Frost King’s Judas kiss—


’Twas all the same.—The subtle winds swept down
On all who madly ventured forth to dare
Their rugged blasts that night.  Theirs was the task
To swell the almost endless catalogue
Of those who perished by their cruel aid:


A countless multitude, whose names were traced
Upon a scroll the hoary Frost King held
In his firm grasp, as, seated on a cloud
Of snowy vapour, he was wafted through
The skies, by winds that loved to do him homage.


     Onward he sped, attended by his train
Of tyrannous dependents: Winds that pierced
And froze the marrow in men’s bones, that chilled
The blood, so that it nourished not the frame,
But crept, cold and unnatural, in slow


And sluggish motion through the heart; vapours
That quenched the stars and darkened all the air,
Bearing their frozen spray o’er many a league
Of country.  These obeyed their monarch’s nod,
Joyed in his frowns, and watched his meteor-eye


To catch an icy look of cool approval, [Page 148]
As they performed their ærial manœuvres,
Or sprinkled showers of snow upon the earth,
Or laid some miserable hovel low,
Leaving its inmates in the cold to perish.


     The merry monarch held his boisterous way
Through mid-air, marshalling his blackest clouds,
Devising cruel schemes wherewith he might
Descend, and torture some unconscious wretch,
Who, unsuspecting, lay upon his couch,


Dreaming of happiness.  His keen eyes gleam,
Like rival stars, that through the wintry night
Flash hatred on each other; his gaze is fixed
On earth; and shouting a triumphant shout,
That strikes the echoes dumb in the hill sides,


He claps his deathly hands, as, smilingly,
He marks some scene of suffering below,
On which his heartless look is fixed.  The winds
Gather their fiercest blasts; the vapoury car
Restrains its airy flight; and hastening down


To view the fearful scene and claim his rights,
The Frost-King comes.  It is a sight of awe,
From which, and justly too, the sensitive mind
Recoils with terror.  Flames are seen to rise,
Mouthing the shrinking air with feverous lips,


Scorching the raven locks from night’s dark brow,
And showering up swift, burning-pointed darts,
That rend the tortured bosom of the sky,
And rive the clouds in twain.  Affrighted cries, [Page 149]
And shrieks of thrilling anguish and despair,


Resound abroad; the mother clasps her babes,
And flies the shelter of her burning roof,
With scarce a tatter snatched up in her haste,
To shield them from the cold.  Their humble home
Is soon reduced to ashes.  ’Tis the dead


Of night.  The winds unmercifully beat
Against their naked forms.  For many miles
No human dwelling can be found, wherein
They might obtain a refuge from the storm,
That with its breath inclement, sharp and cold,


Shrivels the tender skin, and numbs the flesh
Of these poor houseless ones.  No strength have they
To move their stiffened joints.  Their breath departs,
With many a groan, light-breathed, inaudible,
And they a group of corses strew the ground.


     Blow on, stern tyrants! death-leagued winds that come
From out the north’s bleak chambers, vent your rage!
Above, below, on earth, and in the sky,
Gather your forces; set the deadliest parts
Of your destructive, dread machinery


In motion, and the hoary Prince of Cold
Bear far away from the appalling view
Of this too-tragic picture!  Now unrolls
The fatal scroll.  The Frost King writes thereon
The names of his last victims, and ascends,


With triumph in his eye, to seek new haunts [Page 150]
Where he can exercise his brief authority,
And make his arbitrary presence felt.

     Across wide-tracts of country sped the car.
As quick as thought the surly king was borne


Over primeval forests, where the trees,
Like those in hardy Lapland, hid in snow,
Scarce shewed their leafless tops; o’er deserts wide,
Where roamed the Indian and the trapper, free
Joyous and unconstrained, as if they trod


The grassy sod of Summer; o’er the gay
And populous city, where luxurious Ease
And Plenty dared his ghostly train to enter.
No passion had he for the glories of
The tropics, or the blooming of the south;


Brazilian forests, or the slumberous lakes
Of Guinea, or the bamboo-covered bakes
Of the immortal Ganges; or the woods
And prairies of the unfathomed ocean deeps;
Italian sunsets; the delicious skies


Of Greece; where’er continual Summer reigned;
Or where Mozambique or Arabian gales
Scent the fine air a furlong out at sea:
On these his spectre vision rested not.

     But like a fiend he hastened to the Cape,


Where reigns eternal winter; to the plains
Bordering on the Icy Sea; across
Norwegian hills, or o’er the desert bleak
Where the brave sons of Sweden, years ago, [Page 151]
Fell patriot victims to the northern blast;


Nor stayed to pluck a single Alpine rose,
That, like a cherub in the midst of death,
Peered in sweet beauty o’er the icy mass.
Now, he beheld the gleaming palaces
Of Russia’s tyrant realm; and now, he swept


Over Siberian deserts; or reviewed,
A moment after, Greenland’s frost-bound plains,
Which, in interminable fields of ice,
Lay stretched in vastness.  Hast’ning back he comes,
With rage impatient, furious with delay,


To tread his old haunts o’er and o’er again,
In search of death.  The Northern skies grow dark
At his approach; the poor his presence dread,
Though tremblingly submit, with many a sigh,
To all his rude, tyrannic pleasantries.


High on the cold bleak hills, on mountain peaks,
That rear their whitened summits to the skies,
He, watchful, sits.  High up above the Alps,
He listens to the echoes whooping through
The snow-bound defiles, like a troop of wolves


Howling among the hills.  Swiftly he flies,
As the last echo fells the avalanche,
And sweeps the venturous traveller to his doom;
Records his victims; mounts his car again,
And like a universal spirit-thought,


Circles the world.  His eagle eye is strained,
To catch an early glimpse of dire mishaps,
And rude disasters; and his lengthening scroll [Page 152]
Is oft unrolled and furled, and op’d again,
As he inscribes the name of many a youth


And buxom dame, o’ertaken by the storm,
That yield to his embrace—the clasp of Death!

     Here, the too happy swain, returning home
From the exciting dance, with some fair girl,
His chosen partner and affianced bride,


Drives the impatient horse o’er the frail ice,
That bends beneath their weight, when down they sink,
Beyond the reach of help.  And here, from some
Vile brothel, rank with pestilence and crime,
The senseless Drunkard reels, uncertain where


To seek the home he might have made a heaven,
And where his wife, a-weeping o’er her babe,
Like a drenched lily o’er a budding rose,
Patiently droops, awaiting his return—
Return!—Long has the wily Frost King marked


That senseless and inebriated fool,
Who, sinking ’neath his weight of wretchedness,
Extends himself upon the ground, and dies!
These, from his high retreat, and thousands more,
Well pleased, the rugged Frost King sees expire.


Thus is his dreaded reign, from year to year,
Pregnant with death.  His icy sceptre sways
These Northern wilds for months; until the Spring—
Creation’s first-born—comes through the smiling heavens,
And hurls the tyrant monarch from his throne. [Page 153]