Robert Frost

An Empty Threat

I stay; But it isn’t as if There wasn’t always Hudson’s Bay And the fur trade, A small skiff And a paddle blade. I can just see my tent pegged, And me on the floor, Cross-legged, And a trapper looking in at the door With furs to sell. His name’s Joe, Alias John, And between what he doesn’t know And won’t tell About where Henry Hudson’s gone, I can’t say he’s much help; But we get on. The seal yelp On an ice cake. It’s not men by some mistake? No, There’s not a soul For a windbreak Between me and the North Pole— Except always John-Joe, My French Indian Esquimaux, And he’s off setting traps In one himself perhaps. Give a headshake Over so much bay Thrown away In snow and mist That doesn’t exist, I was going to say, For God, man, or beast’s sake, Yet does perhaps for all three. Don’t ask Joe What it is to him. It’s sometimes dim What it is to me, Unless it be It’s the old captain’s dark fate Who failed to find or force a strait In its two-thousand-mile coast; And his crew left him where be failed, And nothing came of all be sailed. It’s to say, ‘You and I—’ To such a ghost— You and I Off here With the dead race of the Great Auk!’ And, ‘Better defeat almost, If seen clear, Than life’s victories of doubt That need endless talk-talk To make them out.’

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