Robert William Service
The man above was a murderer, the man below was a thief,
And I lay there in the bunk between ailing beyond belief,
A weary armful of skin and bone, wasted with pain and grief.
My feet were froze, and the lifeless toes were purple and green and gray;
The little flesh that clung to my bones, you could punch it in holes like clay;
The skin on my gums was a sullen black, and slowly peeling away.
I was sure enough in a direful fix, and often I wondered why
They did not take the chance that was left and leave me alone to die,
Or finish me off with a dose of dope -- so utterly lost was I.
But no; they brewed me the green-spruce tea, and nursed me there like a child;
|| And the homicide he was good to me, and bathed my sores and smiled;
And the thief he starved that I might be fed, and his eyes were kind and mild.
Yet they were woefully wicked men, and often at night in pain
I heard the murderer speak of his deed and dream it over again;
I heard the poor thief sorrowing for the dead self he had slain.
I'll never forget that bitter dawn, so evil, askew and gray,
When they wrapped me round in the skins of beasts and bore me to a sleigh,
And we started out with the nearest post a hundred miles away.
I'll never forget the trail they broke, with its tense, unuttered woe;
And the crunch, crunch, crunch as their snowshoes sank through the crust of the hollow snow;
And my breath would fail and every beat of my heart was like a blow.