The hairy man was a trapper,
  and he lived in the wilds alone,
and he sought the furs of the sleek beavers
  where the winds through the pine-trees groan.
He found the pelt of the snow-white fox
  while the northern lights shone pink,
and the skins of the hare, and he caught his share
  Of the soft-furred, sly-eyed mink.

For the fur of the mink is as soft as wind
  and as white as a moonlit night
and the stars and ice (and a fabulous price)
  made joy in his heart flame bright.

In a land of snow and blue-black trees
 and peaks that cut the sky
In a run of luck where his boots got stuck
  and he couldn't trap a fly
By a smould'ring fire and a meager meal
  and the wind-wail's stolid moan
With a sudden thrill the stars stood still
  and a mink strode there alone.
Its fur was as white as a maiden's love
  but its eyes were as black as sin
And he sat entranced in its death-dark glane
  and its black eyes burned through skin.
He dogged that mink with haunted tread
  for three months if a day,
And it stalked his dreams in a dark moon's beams
  and it robbed his traps like play.

For the eyes of a mink are as cold as wind
  and as black as a starless night
And the stars and ice (and wand'ring's price)
  made dark his heartfire's light.

One gloomy day as he walked the lines
  the trapper glimpsed a streak,
A ghostly glow past the week-old snow
  black-eyed, white-furred, and sleek.
With a blink and a dream the mink led on
  and the trapper followed after,
With no heed of place in that deadly race
  to the sound of phantom laughter.
On a twisted chase through the darkling trees
  with no thought for the path it led,
For the fur of white frolicked in his spite,
  and the mink ran just ahead.
Near dusk he stood but a yard behind;
  he lunged to close the gap;
He fell, face down, on the frozen ground,
  with his arm in his own steel trap.

For the mind of a mink is as sharp as wind
  and as deep as a cloudless night,
And the stars and eyes (and a worthless prize)
  left him cold in the red twilight.

In a bloody night on the bloody snow
  he woke afire with pain,
Too weak to stand or to free his hand,
  though he tried for hours in vain.
He knew as he lay on the frozen dirt,
  in cold and hurt and fear,
With no help to come, and his body numb,
  that his only choice was clear.
Trapped like a beast, with a beast's resort
  a man will save his life,
A horrific deed, but a time of need;
  he unsheathed his hunting knife.
It was gory work, but he got it done,
  and he barely made it home;
But never more, though his heart was sore,
  did he dare to trap or roam.

For the heart of a mink is as cruel as wind
  and deadly as arctic night
And the stars and ice (and a terrible price)
  had taught the worth of fright..

In the smoky dens of the wild north,
  where the rovers rest and plan,
They'll tell, with a drink and a cautious wink,
  of the one-armed hairy man.
But more dreadful things than this, there are,
  in the lore that the northmen quote;
A shadow, a tale, that turns strong men pale,
  Of a mink in a man-fur coat.


Though I imagine this qualifies as an original work, I take neither credit nor blame for it, as it came to me thus in a dream: On a stormy evening I read first Watership Down, then the collected poems of Robert Service; and having fallen asleep over the second volume, I woke with these verses playing in my head. I succeeded only in recording the first stanza and a half before I lost the spell; the rest, I fear, is only reconstructed from the images I remembered.

I kid you not.

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