James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

February 16

Elisha Kent Kane

By George H. Boker (1823–1890)

  • Elisha Kent Kane, an American scientist and explorer, died on Feb. 16, 1857. He was noted chiefly for his Arctic explorations.

  • O, MOTHER EARTH, thy task is done

    With him who slumbers here below;

    From thy cold Arctic brow he won

    A glory purer than thy snow.

    Thy warmer bosom gently nursed

    The dying hero; for his eye

    The tropic Spring’s full splendors burst,—

    “In vain!” a thousand voices cry.

    “In vain, in vain!” The poet’s art

    Forsook me when the people cried;

    Naught but the grief that fills my heart,

    And memories of my friend, abide.

    We parted in the midnight street,

    Beneath a cold autumnal rain;

    He wrung my hand, he stayed my feet

    With “Friend, we shall not meet again.”

    I laughed; I would not then believe,

    He smiled; he left me; all was o’er.

    How much for my poor laugh I’d give!—

    How much to see him smile once more!

    I know my lay bemeans the dead,

    That sorrow is an humble thing,

    That I should sing his praise instead,

    And strike it on a higher string.

    Let stronger minstrels raise their lay,

    And follow where his fame has flown;

    To the whole world belongs his praise,

    His friendship was to me alone.

    So close against my heart he lay,

    That I should make his glory dim,

    And hear a bashful whisper say,

    “I praise myself in praising him.”

    O, gentle mother, following nigh

    His long, long funeral march, resign

    To me the right to lift this cry,

    And part the sorrow that is thine.

    O, father, mourning by his bier,

    Forgive this song of little worth!

    My eloquence is but a tear,

    I cannot, would not rise from earth.

    O, stricken brothers, broken band,—

    The link that held the jewel lost,—

    I pray you give me leave to stand

    Amid you, from the sorrowing host.

    We’ll give his honors to the world,

    We’ll hark for echoes from afar;

    Where’er our country’s flag ’s unfurled

    His name shall shine in every star.

    We feel no fear that time shall keep

    Our hero’s memory. Let us move

    A little from the world to weep,

    And for our portion take his love.