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The Song of Hugh Glass

John Neihardt

Book Overview: 

This poem tells a story that begins in 1823 - just after the Leavenworth campaign against the Arikara Indians - and follows an expedition of Major Andrew Henry during a series of arduous journeys over the Trans-Missouri region. The poem focuses upon the relationship between two trappers - Hugh Glass and Jamie - who, after fighting and hunting together, consequently develop a close friendship. The poem revolves around the betrayal of Hugh by Jamie: who leaves Hugh alone "as good as dead" to die by the Missouri. But Hugh lives - and recovers against all odds, pushing on with murderous intent to track down the ex-friend who left him helpless and expiring. The final canto describes the moving denouement: Hugh and Jamie both are forced to recognize their own weaknesses, and then come to terms with the implications of their individual realizations.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .And reared a tent of light in that lone place. Then Jamie set about to bathe the face 16With water from the spring, oft crooning low, “It’s Jamie here beside you—don’t you know?” Yet came no answer save the labored breath Of one who wrestled mightily with Death Where watched no referee to call the foul. The moon now cleared the world’s end, and the owl Gave voice unto the wizardry of light; While in some dim-lit chancel of the night, Snouts to the goddess, wolfish corybants Intoned their wild antiphonary chants— The oldest, saddest worship in the world. And Jamie watched until the firelight swirled Softly about him. Sound and glimmer merged To make an eerie void, through which he urged With frantic spur some whirlwind of a steed That made the way as glass beneath his speed, Yet scarce kept pace wi. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Mountain Man Hugh Glass’s epic crippled crawl of vengeance has been the subject of several novels and numerous biographies, but this is, to my knowledge, the only Homeric poem based on Glass. I commend Neihardt for his poetry and his effort, but I became confused often by the language. I fault

I glanced at the first few pages of this because of The Revenant, and when it became clear that it was a love story - between two men - from the 1910s - I kept reading it because, well, I mean, that's awesome. And then it became surprisingly gripping and moving, enough that I wound up reading the wh

This is a captivating and quite haunting epic poem. Given the time it took place, about the 1830s, and the time it as written, early 1900s, the closeness of Hugh and Jamie is all the more surprising, how the young man thawed the heart of the grizzled old trapper and was his one true love (like I sai