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“Tubal Cain”

Poem by Charles McKay, found in the Independent Fifth Reader.

You had to stand up and let your voice ring out with the hammer strokes of old Tubal Cain. – The Long Winter, Chapter 22, “Cold and Dark”


In The Long Winter (Chapter 22, “Cold and Dark”), Laura Ingalls recites the following poem from the Independent Fifth Reader; it can be found on page 313. Later on, in her dismay at the never-ending blizzards, Laura confuses “Old Tubal Cane” and “Old King Cole” when reciting. A copy of the Fifth Reader can be found online HERE.

“Tubal Cain” was written by Charles MacKay (1814-1899).



Old Tubal Cain was a man of might,
In the days when the earth was young;
By the fierce red light of his furnace bright,
The strokes of his hammer rung;
And he lifted high his brawny hand
On the iron glowing clear,
Till the sparks rushed out in scarlet showers,
As he fashioned the sword and spear.
And he sung,– “Hurrah for my handiwork!
Hurrah for the spear and sword!
Hurrah for the hand that shall wield them well!
For he shall be king and lord.

To Tubal Cain came many a one,
As he wrought by his roaring fire,
And each one prayed for a strong steel blade,
As the crown of his desire;
And he made them weapons sharp and strong,
Till they shouted loud in glee,
And gave him gifts of pearls and gold,
And spoils of forest free.
And they sung,– “Hurrah for Tubal Cain,
Who hath given us strength anew!
Hurrah for the smith! hurrah for the fire!
And hurrah for the metal true!”

But a sudden change came o’er his heart
Ere the setting of the sun;
And Tubal Cain was filled with pain
For the evil he had done.
He saw that men, with rage and hate,
Made war upon their kind;
That the land was red with the blood they shed,
In their lust for carnage blind.
And he said,– “Alas, that ever I made,
Or that skill of mine should plan,
The spear and the sword, for men whose joy
Is to slay their fellow-man!”

And for many a day old Tubal Cain
Sat brooding o’er his sword;
And his hand forbore to smite the ore,
And his furnace smoldered low;
But he rose at last with a cheerful face
And a bright, courageous eye,
And bared his strong right arm for work,
While the quick flames mounted high;
And he sang,– “Hurrah for my handiwork!”
And the red sparks lit the air–
“Not alone for the blade was the bright steel made,”–
And he fashioned the first plowshare.

And men, taught wisdom from the past,
In friendship joined their hands,
Hung the sword in the hall, the spear on the wall,
And plowed the willing lands;
And sang,– “Hurrah for Tubal Cain!
Our staunch good friend is he;
And, for the plowshare and the plow,
To him our praise shall be.
But while oppression lifts its head,
Or a tyrant would be lord,
Though we may thank for him the plow,
We will not forget the sword.”


“Old Tubal Cain” (TLW 22, 24; PG)