Produced by Andrew Sly. Thanks to A Celebration of Women Writers for providing the source text.
FIRES OF DRIFTWOOD
BY ISABEL ECCLESTONE MACKAY
WITH DECORATIONS BY J.E.H. MACDONALD A.R.C.A.
First published by McClelland & Stewart, Limited, Toronto, 1922.
The thanks of the author are due to the editors of Ainslee’s Magazine, The American Magazine, The Canadian Magazine, Canadian Home Journal, The Canadian Bookman, The Forum, The Globe, Harper’s Magazine, The Independent, The Ladies’ World, McClure’s Magazine, Metropolitan Magazine, The Reader Magazine, Scribner’s Magazine, Saturday Night, and The Youth’s Companion for permission to publish this verse in its present form.
FIRES OF DRIFTWOOD
WHEN AS A LAD
OUT OF BABYLON
IN AN AUTUMN GARDEN
SPRING WILL COME
I WATCH SWIFT PICTURES
THE LOST NAME
THE HAPPY TRAVELLER
THE DEAD BRIDE
THE CROCUS BED
THE SLEEPING BEAUTY
DOWN AT THE DOCKS
THE BRIDGE BUILDER
THE PRAIRIE SCHOOL
THE WAY TO WAIT
THE PASSER BY
SAD ONE, MUST YOU WEEP
A CHRISTMAS CHILD
SPRING IN NAZARETH
SONG OF THE SLEEPER
THE TOWN BETWEEN
ON THE MOUNTAIN
GIVE ME A DAY
LITTLE BROWN BIRD
THE FIELDS OF EVEN
I LOVE MY LOVE
SPRING AWOKE TO-DAY
THE DOOM OF YS
THE COMING OF LOVE
THE SEA’S WITHHOLDING
CHRISTMAS IN HEAVEN
I WHISPERED TO THE BOB-O-LINK
TIR NAN OG
THE LITTLE MAN IN GREEN
KILLED IN ACTION
SPRING CAME IN
FROM THE TRENCHES
THE RETURNED MAN
FOR ONE WHO WENT IN SPRING
Fires of Driftwood
ON what long tides
Do you drift to my fire,
You waifs of strange waters?
From what far seas,
What murmurous sands,
What desolate beaches–
Flotsam of those glories that were ships!
I gather you,
Bitter with salt,
Sun-bleached, rock-scarred, moon-harried, Fuel for my fire.
You are Pride’s end.
Through all to-morrows you are yesterday. You are waste,
You are ruin,
For where is that which once you were?
I gather you.
See! I set free the fire within you– You awake in thin flame!
Tremulous, mistlike, your soul aspires, Blue, beautiful,
Up and up to the clouds which are its kindred! What is left is nothing–
Ashes blown along the shore!
When as a Lad
WHEN, as a lad, at break of day
I watched the fishers sail away,
My thoughts, like flocking birds, would follow Across the curving sky’s blue hollow,
And on and on–
Into the very heart of dawn!
For long I searched the world–ah, me! I searched the sky, I searched the sea, With much of useless grief and rueing
Those winged thoughts of mine pursuing– So dear were they,
So lovely and so far away!
I seek them still and always must
Until my laggard heart is dust
And I am free to follow, follow,
Across the curving sky’s blue hollow, Those thoughts too fleet
For any save the soul’s swift feet!
DEATH met a little child who cried
For a bright star which earth denied, And Death, so sympathetic, kissed it,
Saying: “With me
All bright things be!”–
And only the child’s mother missed it.
Death met a maiden on the brae,
Her eyes held dreams life would betray, And gallant Death was greatly taken–
“Leave,” whispered he,
“Your dream with me
And I will see you never waken.”
Death met an old man in a lane;
So gnarled was he and full of pain
That kindly Death was struck with pity– “Come you with me,
Old man,” said he,
“I’ll set you down in a fair city.”
So, kingly Death along the way
Scatters rare gifts and asks no pay– Yet who to Death will write a sonnet?
If any dare,
Let him take care
No foolish tear be spilled upon it!
Out of Babylon
THEIR looks for me are bitter,
And bitter is their word–
I may not glance behind unseen,
I may not sigh unheard.
So fare we forth from Babylon,
Along the road of stone;
And no one looks to Babylon
Save I–save I alone!
My mother’s eyes are glory-filled
(Save when they fall on me)
The shining of my father’s face
I tremble when I see,
For they were slaves in Babylon,
And now they’re walking free–
They leave their chains in Babylon, I bear my chains with me!
At night a sound of singing
The vast encampment fills;
It sweeps the nearing hills–
But no one sings of Babylon
(Their home of yesterday)
And no one prays for Babylon,
And I–I dare not pray!
Last night the Prophet saw me;
And, while he held me there,
The holy fire within his eyes
Burned all my secret bare.
“What! Sigh you so for Babylon?”
(I turned away my face)
“Here’s one who turns to Babylon,
Heart traitor to her race!”
I follow and I follow!
My heart upon the rack;
I follow to Jerusalem–
The long road stretches back
To Babylon, to Babylon!
And every step I take
Bears farther off from Babylon
A heart that cannot break.
THIS morning at the door
I heard the Spring.
Quickly I set it wide
“Come in, sweet Spring,” I cried,
“The winter ash, long dried,
Waits but your breath to rise
On phantom wing.”
A brown leaf shivered by,
A soulless thing–
My heart in quick dismay
Forgot to sing–
Twisted and grim it lay,
Kin to the ghost-ash gray,
Dead, dead–strange herald this
Of jocund Spring!
I spurned it from the door.
I longed that Spring
Should come with song and glow
And rush of wing,
Not this, not this!–But O
Dead leaf, a year ago
You were the dear first-born
Of Hope and Spring!
BY a sense of Presence, keenly dear,
I, who thought her distant,
Knew her near.
By an echo that most sweetly woke,
I, long keyed to silence,
Knew she spoke.
By her nearness and the word she said, I, who thought her living,
Knew her dead.
In an Autumn Garden
TO-NIGHT the air discloses
Souls of a million roses,
And ghosts of hyacinths that died too soon; From Pan’s safe-hidden altar
Dim wraiths of incense falter
In waving spiral, making sweet the moon!
Aroused from fragrant covers,
The vows of vanished lovers
Take voice in whisperings that rise and pass; Where the crisped leaves are lying
A tremulous, low sighing
Breathes like a startled spirit o’er the grass.
Ah, Love! in some far garden,
In Arcady or Arden,
We two were lovers! Hush–remember not The years in which I’ve missed you–
‘Twas yesterday I kissed you
Beneath this haunted moon! Have you forgot?
THE moan of Rose Dolores, she made her plaint to me, “My hair is lifted by the wind that sweeps in from the sea; I taste its salt upon my lips–O jailer, set me free!”
“Content thee, Rose Dolores; content thee, child of care! There’s satin shoon upon thy feet and emeralds in thy hair, And one there is who hungers for thy step upon the stair.”
The moan of Rose Dolores, “O jailer, set me free! These satin shoon and green-lit gems are terrible to me; I hear a murmur on the wind, the murmur of the sea!”
“Bethink thee, Rose Dolores, bethink thee, ere too late! Thou wert a fisher’s child, alack, born to a fisher’s fate; Would’st lay thy beauty ‘neath the yoke–would’st be a fisher’s mate?”
The moan of Rose Dolores “Kind jailer, let me go! There’s one who is a fisher–ah! my heart beats cold and slow Lest he should doubt I love him–I! who love not heaven so!”
“Alas, sweet Rose Dolores, why beat against the bars? Thy fisher lover drifteth where the sea is full of stars; Why weep for one who weeps no more?–since grief thy beauty mars!”
The moan of Rose Dolores (she prayed me patiently) “O jailer, now I know who called from out the calling sea, I know whose kiss was in the wind–O jailer, set me free!”
ACROSS the trodden continent of years To shrines of long ago,
My heart, a hooded pilgrim, turns with tears– For could I know
That in the temple of thy constancy There still may burn a taper lit for me, ‘Twould be a star in starless heaven, to show That Heaven could be.
Bent with the weight of all that I desired And all that I forswore,
My heart roams, mendicant, forlorn and tired, From door to door,
Begging of every stern-faced memory An alms of pity–just to come to thee,
No more thy knight, thy champion no more– Only thy devotee!
Spring will Come
SPRING will come to help me: she’ll be back again, Back with the soft sun, the sun I knew before. She will wear her green gown, the emerald gown she wore When the white-faced windflowers blew along the lane.
Spring will come to help me: When her waking sigh Drifts across my sore heart all the pain will go. How shall hearts be aching when larks are flying low, Low across the fields of camas bluer than the sky?
I’ve a tryst with Spring here–maybe they’ll be few Now the world grows older–and shall I delay Just because a Winter has stolen joy away? What cares Spring for old joys, all her joys are new.
Maybe there’ll be singing in my sorrow yet– I have heard of such things–but, if there be not, Still there’ll be the green pool in the pasture lot, All a-trail with willow fingers, delicate and wet.
Winter is a passing thing and Spring is always gay; If she, too, be passing she does not weep to know it. Time she takes to quicken seed but never time to grow it– Naught she cares for harvest that lies so far away.
THE tiny thing of painted gauze that flutters in the sun And sinks upon the breast of night with all its living done;
The unconsidered seed that from the garden blows away, Blooming its little time to bloom in one short summer day;
The leaf the idle wind shakes down in autumn from the tree, The grasshopper who for an hour makes gayest minstrelsy–
These–and this restless soul of mine–are one with flaming spheres And cold, dead moons whose ghostly fires haunt unremembered years.
IF I should tell you what I know
Of where the first primroses grow,
Betray the secrets of the lily,
Bring crocus-gold and daffodilly,
Would you tell me if charm there be To win a maiden, willy-nilly?
I lie upon the fragrant heath,
Kin to the beating heart beneath;
The nesting plover I discover
Nor stir the scented screen above her, Yet am I blind–I cannot find
What turns a maiden to her lover!
Through all the mysteries of May,
Initiate, I take my way–
Sure as the blithest lark or linnet To touch the pulsing soul within it–
Yet with no art to reach Her heart, Nor skill to teach me how to win it!
I Watch Swift Pictures
I WATCH swift pictures flash and fade On the closed curtains of my eyes,–
A bit of river green as jade
Under green skies;
A single bird that soars and dips
Remote; a young and secret moon
Stealing to kiss some flower’s lips Too shy for noon;
A pointing tree; a lifted hill,
Sun-misted with a golden ring,–
Were these once mine? And am I still Remembering?
A path that wanders wistfully
With no beginning there nor here,
Nor special grace that it should be So sharply dear,
Unless,–what if when every day
Is yesterday, with naught to borrow, I may slip down this wistful way
I HEARD a sound of crying in the lane, A passionless, low crying,
And I said, “It is the tears of the brown rain On the leaves within the lane!”
I heard a sudden sighing at the door, A soft, persuasive sighing,
And I said, “The summer breeze has sighed before, Gustily, outside the door!”
Yet from the place I fled, nor came again, With my heart beating, beating!
For I knew ’twas not the breeze nor the brown rain At the door and in the lane!
I BURIED Joy; and early to the tomb
I came to weep–so sorrowful was I
Who had not dreamed that Joy, my Joy, could die.
I turned away, and by my side stood Joy All glorified–ah, so ashamed was I
Who dared to dream that Joy, my Joy, could die!
The Lost Name
THE voice of my true love is low
And exquisitely kind,
Warm as a flower, cold as snow–
I think it is the Wind.
My true love’s face is white as mist
That moons have lingered on,
Yet rosy as a cloud, sun-kissed–
I think it is the Dawn.
The breath of my true love is sweet
As gardens at day’s close
When dew and dark together meet–
I think it is a Rose.
My true love’s heart is wild and shy
And folded from my sight,
A world, a star, a whispering sigh– I think it is the Night.
My true love’s name is lost to me,
The prey of dusty years,
But in the falling Rain I see
And know her by her tears!
The Happy Traveller
WHO is the monarch of the Road?
I, the happy rover!
Lord of the way which lies before
Up to the hill and over–
Owner of all beneath the blue,
On till the end, and after, too!
I am the monarch of the Road!
Mine are the keys of morning,
I know where evening keeps her store Of stars for night’s adorning,
I know the wind’s wild will, and why The lone thrush hurries down the sky!
I am the monarch of the Road!
My court I hold with singing,
Each bird a gay ambassador,
Each flower a censer, swinging;
And every little roadside thing
A wonder to confound a king.
I am the monarch of the Road!
I ask no leave for living;
I take no less, I seek no more
Than nature’s fullest giving–
And ever, westward with the day,
I travel to the far away!
The Dead Bride
WITHIN my circled arm she lay and faintly smiled the long night through, And oh, but she was fair to view, fair to view!
Upon the whiteness of her robe the dew distilled, and on her veil And on her cheek of carved pearl that gleamed so pale.
(How still the air is in the night, how near and kind the heavens are, One might a naked hand outstretch and grasp a star!)
I kissed her heavy, folded hair. I kissed her heavy lids full oft; Beneath the shining of the stars her eyes shone soft.
“Love, Love!” I said, “the day was long”–“Oh, long indeed,” she sighing said. “I grow so jealous of the sun, since I am dead.”
(How sweet the air is in the night, how sweet, sweet, sweet the flowers seem– But oh, the emptiness of dawn that breaks the dream!)
The Crocus Bed
YELLOW as the noonday sun,
Purple as a day that’s done,
White as mist that lingers pale
On the edge of morning’s veil,
Delicate as love’s first kiss–
Crocuses are just like this.
Ere the robin paints his breast,
Ere the daffodil is drest,
Ere the iris’ lovely head
Waves above her perfumed bed
Comes the crocus–and the Spring
Follows after, wing on wing!
Sweet perfection, holding up
Magic dew in topaz cup,
Curling lips which Earth has kissed, Folded hearts where secrets hide,
Secrets old when Eve was bride!
Beauty’s soul was born with wings,
Flight inspires all lovely things– Would you gather rainbow fire?
See the rose of dawn’s desire
Turn to ash beneath the moon?–
Crocuses must leave us soon.
“O SISTER, sister, from the casement leaning, What sees thy tranced eye, what is the meaning Of the strange rapture that thy features know?” “I see,” she said, “the sunset’s crimson glow.”
“O sister, sister, from the casement turning, What saw’st thou there save sunset’s sullen burning? –Thy hand is ice, and fever lights thine eye!” “I saw,” she said, “the twilight drifting by.”
“O sister, oft the sun hath set and often Have we beheld the twilight fold and soften The edge of day– In this no mystery lies!” “I saw,” she said, “the crescent moon arise.”
“O sister, speak! I fear when on me falleth Thine empty glance which some wild spell enthralleth! –How chill the air blows through the open door!” “I saw,” she said, “I saw”–and spake no more.
THERE’S not a leaf upon the tree
To show the sap is leaping,
There’s not a blade and not an ear
Escaped from winter’s keeping–
But there’s a something in the air
A something here, a something there, A restless something everywhere–
A stirring in the sleeping!
A robin’s sudden, thrilling note!
And see–the sky is bluer!
The world, so ancient yesterday,
To-day seems strangely newer;
All that was wearisome and stale
Has wrapped itself in rosy veil–
The wraith of winter, grown so pale That smiling spring peeps through her!
WIND-SWEPT and fire-swept and swept with bitter rain, This was the world I came to when I came across the sea– Sun-drenched and panting, a pregnant, waiting plain Calling out to humankind, calling out to me!
Leafy lanes and gentle skies and little fields all green, This was the world I came from when I fared across the sea– The mansion and the village and the farmhouse in between, Never any room for more, never room for me!
I’ve fought the wind and braved it; I cringe to it no more! I’ve fought the creeping fire back and cheered to see it die. I’ve shut the bitter rain outside and, safe within my door, Laughed to think I feared a thing not so strong as I!
I mind the long, white road that ran between the hedgerows neat, In that little, strange old world I left behind me long ago, I mind the air so full of bells at evening, far and sweet– All and all for someone else–I had leave to go!
It cost a tear to leave it–but here across the sea With miles and miles of unused sky, and miles of unturned loam, And miles of room for someone else, and miles of room for me I’ve found a bigger meaning for the little word called “Home.”
IT is the English in me that loves the soft, wet weather– The cloud upon the mountain, the mist upon the sea, The sea-gull flying low and near with rain upon each feather, The scent of deep, green woodlands where the buds are breaking free.
A world all hot with sunshine, with a hot, white sky above it– Oh then I feel an alien in a land I’d call my own; The rain is like a friend’s caress, I lean to it and love it, ‘Tis like a finger on a nerve that thrills for it alone!
Is it the secret kinship which each new life is given To link it by an age-long chain to those whose lives are through, That wheresoever he may go, by fate or fancy driven, The home-star rises in his heart to keep the compass true?
Ah, ’tis the English in me that loves the soft, gray weather– The little mists that trail along like bits of wind-flung foam, The primrose and the violet–all wet and sweet together, And the sound of water calling, as it used to call at home.
*The Sleeping Beauty
SO has she lain for centuries unguessed, Her waiting face to waiting heaven turned, While winds have wooed and ardent suns have burned And stars have died to sentinel her rest.
Only the snow can reach her as she lies, Far and serene, and with cold finger-tips Seal soft the lovely quiet of her lips
And lightly veil the shadows of her eyes.
Man has no part–his little, noisy years Rise to her silence thin and impotent– There are no echoes in that vast content, No doubts, no dreams, no laughter and no tears!
* A formation of mountain peaks above Vancouver Harbor, outlining the profile and form of a sleeping maiden.
Down at the Docks
DOWN at the docks–when the smoke clouds lie, Wind-ript and red, on an angry sky–
Coal-dumps and derricks and piled-up bales, Tar and the gear of forgotten sails,
Rusted chains and a broken spar
(Yesterday’s breath on the things that are) A lone, black cat and a snappy cur,
Smell of high-tide and of newcut fir, Smell of low-tide, fish, weed!–I swear
I love every blessed smell that’s there– For, aeons ago when the sea began,
My soul was the soul of a sailorman.
Down at the docks–where the ships come in, And the endless trails of the sea begin, Where the shining wake of a steamer’s track Is barred by the tow of the tugboats black, Where slim yachts dip to the singing spray And a gay wind whistles the world away– Here sad ships lie which will sail no more, But new ships build on the noisy shore,
And always the breath of the wind and tide Whispers the lure of the sea outside,
Till now and to-morrow and yesterday Are linked by the spell of the faraway!
Down at the docks–when the morning’s new And the air is gold and the distance blue, There’s a pull at the heart! But best of all Is to see the sun shrink, red and small, While the fog steals in (more surely fleet Than the smacks that run from her white-shod feet) And clamours of startled calls arise
From bewildered ships that have lost their eyes; The fog horn bellows its deep-mouthed shout, The little lights on the shore blur out
And strange, dim shapes pass wistfully With a secret tide to a secret sea.
I THINK that when the Master Jeweler tells His beads of beauty over, seeking there One gem to name as most supremely fair, To you He turns, O lake of hidden wells!
So very lovely are you, Lake Louise,
The stars which crown your lifted peaks at even Mistake you for a little sea in heaven
And nightly launch their shining argosies.
From shore to dim-lit shore a ripple slips, The happy sigh of faintly stirring night Where safe she sleeps upon this virgin height Captive of dream and smiling with white lips.
Surely a spell, creation-old, was made For you, O lake of silences, that all
Earth’s fretting voices here should muted fall, As if a finger on their lips were laid!
THE sunlight falls on old Quebec,
A city framed of rose and gold,
An ancient gem more beautiful
In that its beauty waxes old.
O Pearl of Cities! I would set
You higher in our diadem,
And higher yet and higher yet,
That generations still to be
May kindle at your history!
‘Twas here that gallant Champlain stood And gazed upon this mighty stream,
These towering rock-walls, buttressed high– A gateway to a land of dream;
And all his silent men stood near
While the great fleur-de-lis fell free, (Too awe-struck they to raise a cheer)
And while the shining folds outspread The sunset burned a sudden red.
Here paced the haughty Frontenac,
His great heart torn with pride and pain, His clear eye dimming as it swept
The land he might not see again,
This infant world, this strange New France Dropped down as by some vagrant wind
Upon the New World’s vast expanse,
Threatened yet safe! Through storm and stress Time’s challenge to the wilderness.
Here, when to ease her tangled skein
Fate cut her threads and formed anew The pattern of the thing she planned
And red war slipped the shuttle through, Montcalm met Wolfe! The bitter strife
Of flag and flag was ended here–
And every man who gave his life
Gave it that now one flag may wave, One nation rise upon his grave!
The twilight falls on old Quebec
And in the purple shines a star,
And on her citadel lies peace
More powerful than armies are.
O fair dream city! Ebb and flow
Of race feuds vex no more your walls. Can they of old see this? and know
That, even as they dreamed, you stand Gatekeeper of a peace-filled land!
The Bridge Builder
OF old the Winds came romping down,
Oh, wild and free were they!
They bent the prairie grasses low
And made a place to play.
Then, that the gods might hear their voice On purple days of spring,
They sought the tossing, pine-clad slope And made a place to sing.
Tired at last of song and play,
They found a canyon deep
And in its echoing silences
They made a place to weep.
Man came, a small and feeble thing,
And looked upon the plain.
“Lo, this is mine,” he said, and set A seal of golden grain.
Upon the mountain slopes he gazed,
Where the great pine trees grow,
Then gashed their mighty sides and laid Their singing branches low.
He clung upon the canyon’s ledge
And from its topmost ridge,
Above its vast and awful deeps,
He built himself a bridge.
A bauble in the light of day,
New gilded by the sun,
It seemed like some great, golden web By giant spider spun!
The homeless winds came rushing down– Oh they were wild and free!
And angry for their stolen plain
And for their felled pine tree–
And angry–angry most of all
For that brave bridge of gold!
With deep-mouthed shout they hurtled down To tear it from its hold–
The girders shrieked, the cables strained And shuddered at the roar–
Yet, when the winds had passed, the bridge Held firmly as before!
Still fairy-like and frail it shone
Against the sunset’s glow–
But one, the builder of the bridge, Lay silent, far below!
The Prairie School
THE sweet west wind, the prairie school a break in the yellow wheat, The prairie trail that wanders by to the place where the four winds meet– A trail with never an end at all to the children’s eager feet.
The morning scents, the morning sun, a morning sky so blue The distance melts to meet it till both are lost to view In a little line of glory where the new day beckons through–
And out of the glow, the children: a whoop and a calling gay, A clink of lunch-pails swinging as they clash in mimic fray, A shout and a shouting echo from a world as young as they!
The prairie school! The well-tramped earth, so ugly and so dear, The piney steps where teacher stands, a saucy gopher near, A rough-cut pole where the flag flies up to a shrill voiced children’s cheer.
So stands the outpost! Time and change will crowd its widening door, Big with the dreams we visioned and the hopes we battled for– A legacy to those who come from those who come no more.
DAZZLED by sun and drugged by space they wait, These homeless peoples, at our prairie gate; Dumb with the awe of those whom fate has hurled, Breathless, upon the threshold of a world!
From near-horizoned, little lands they come, From barren country-side and deathly slum, From bleakest wastes, from lands of aching drouth, From grape-hung valleys of the smiling South, From chains and prisons, ay, from horrid fear, (Mark you the furtive eye, the listening ear!) And all amazed and silent, scared and shy– An alien group beneath an alien sky!
See–on that bench beside the busy door– There sleeps a Roman born: upon the floor His wife, dark-haired and handsome, takes her rest, Their black-eyed baby tugging at her breast. Her hands lie still. Her brooding glances roam Above the pushing crowd to her far home, And slow she smiles to think how fine ’twill be When they (so rich!) return to Italy.
Yonder, with stolid face and tragic eye, Sits a lone Russian; as we pass him by
He neither stirs nor looks; his inner gaze Sees not the future fair, but, troubled, strays To the dark land he left but can’t forget, Whose bonds, though broken, hold him prisoner yet.
Here is a Pole–a worker; though so slim His muscle is of steel–no fear for him; He is the breed which conquers; he is nerved To fight and fight again. Too long he served, Man of a subject race! His fierce, blue eye Roams like a homing eagle o’er the sky,
So limitless, so deep! for such as he Life has no higher bliss than to be free.
This little Englishman with jaunty air And tweed cap perched awry on close-trimmed hair– He, with his faded wife and noisy band,
Has come from Home to seek a promised land– He feels himself aggrieved, for no one said That things would be so big and so–outspread! He thinks of London with a pang of grief; His wife is sobbing in her handkerchief. But all his children stare with eager eyes. This is their land. Already they surmise Their heritage, their chance to live and grow, Won for them by their fathers, long ago!
Another generation, and this Scot,
Whose longing for the hills is ne’er forgot, Shall rear a son whose eye will never be Dim with a craving for that distant sea, Those barren rocks, that heather’s purple glow– The ache, the burn that only exiles know!
This Irishman, who, when he sees the Green, Turns that his shaking lips may not be seen, He, too, shall bear a son who, blythe and gay, Sings the old songs but in a cheerier way! Who has the love, without the anguish sharp, For Erin dreamingly by her golden harp!
All these and many others, patient, wait Before our ever-open prairie gate
And, filing through with laughter or with tears, Take what their hands can glean of fruitful years. Here some find home who knew not home before; Here some seek peace and some wage glorious war. Here some who lived in night see morning dawn And some drop out and let the rest go on. And of them all the years take toll; they pass As shadows flit above the prairie grass.
From every land they come to know but one– The kindly earth that hides them from the sun– But, in their places, children live, and they Turn with glad faces to a common day.
Of every land, they too, but one land claim– The land that gives them place and hope and name– Canadians, they, and proud and glad to be A part of Canada’s sure destiny!
What if within their hearts deep memories hide Of lands their fathers grieved for, till they died? The bitterness is gone and in its stead
New understanding and new hopes are bred, With wider vision which may show the world Its cannon dumb, its battle-flags close furled! –Dreams? We may dream indeed, with heart elate, While a new Nation clamors at our gate!
LONE Voyager! Thy Ship of Dreams
Spreads its free sail and slips away Into the distant visioning
That lies behind the end of day.
The restless tide’s impatient wave
In from the broad Pacific rolls
And sunset marks a mystic way
To the far-shining Port of Souls.
We, watching on the darkening shore,
Wave you farewell, and strain our eyes Till that bright speck which is your sail Is lost in the enfolding skies.
Brave Heart, Sweet Singer! Speed you well To those dim islands of the blest,
Far–far–and ever farther, till
The end of distance brings you rest!
* For Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake.)
The Way to Wait
O WHETHER by the lonesome road that lies across the lea Or whether by the hill that stoops, rock-shadowed, to the sea, Or by a sail that blows from far, my love returns to me!
No fear is hidden in my heart to make my face less fair, No tear is hidden in my eye to dim the brightness there– I wear upon my cheek the rose a happy bride should wear.
For should he come not by the road, and come not by the hill And come not by the far seaway, yet come he surely will– Close all the roads of all the world, love’s road is open still!
My heart is light with singing (though they pity me my fate And drop their merry voices as they pass the garden gate) For love that finds a way to come, can find a way to wait!
WE are as children in a field at play Beside a road whose way we do not know,
Save that somewhere it meets the end of day.
Upon the road there is a Passer-By
Who, pausing, beckons one of us–and lo! Quickly he goes, nor stays to tell us why.
One day I shall look up and see him there Beckoning me, and with the Passer-By
I, too, shall take the road–I wonder where?
BY the pulse that beats in my throat
By my heart like a bird
I know who passed through the dusk
Though he spoke no word!
I cannot move in my place,
I am chained and still;
I pray that the moon pause not
By my window-sill.
I have hidden my face in my hair
And my eyes are veiled–
Not even a star must know
How my lips have paled–
Was ever a night so quick
‘Neath a moon so round?
I hear the earth as it turns–
And my heart’s low sound!
Sad One, Must You Weep
“SAD one, must you weep alway?
Youth’s ill wedded with despair;
Ringless hand and robe of grey
Mock the charms which they declare.”
Sad and sweetly answered she,
“What are comely robes to me?
I would wear a grass green dress,
Dew pearls for my gems–no less
Now can comfort me.”
“Sweet, the shining of your hair
(All forgotten and undone)
Squanders ‘neath the veil you wear
Gold whose loss bereaves the sun.”
Very sad and low said she,
“What is shining hair to me?
When from out the rain-wet mold
Kingcups borrow of its gold
Sweet and sweet ’twill be.”
“Love, O Love! your hand is chill
As a snowflake lost in spring,
Wild it flutters–then lies still
As a bird with prisoned wing!”
Sad and patient answered she,
“As a bird I would be free;
As the spring I would find birth
In the sweet, forgetful earth–
Pray you, let it be!”
NEVER in all her sweet and holy youth Seemed she so beautiful! The tired lines Etch her white face with look so wholly pure I tremble–dare I speak to her of aught?– She is so wrapt in silence. Yet her lips Part on a word whose honey she doth taste And fears to lose by uttering too soon.
I know the word; its meaning is plain writ In the wide eyes she turns upon the Child. I dare not speak. No word of mine could find Its way into a soul close sealed with God And busy with the thousand mysteries
Revealed to every mother. The soft hair Veiling her placid brow is all unbound,
Ungentle hands are mine but, trained by love, She might conceive them gentle–yet, I pause– I’ll not disturb her thought . . . . .
What meant those men,
Far-famed and wise, who came to see the Child? Their gifts lie by forgotten, though the Babe Smiled on the shining treasure in his hands. (Those tiny hands like crumpled bits of gauze) Their sayings were mysterious to me.
“A King!” they said. What King?
The mother smiled
As one who knew; and it is true they knelt As to a King. The thing disturbs me much! I’ll ask–but no . . . . .
The breathless shepherds, too; Plain men, blank-eyed with awe, in broken speech Stumbling some strange, glad tale of midnight sky A-shine with angel wings! And at their word Again the mother smiled, as one who sees No wonder but what well might happen since A child is born to her. Are mothers so?
And are they prone to dream the careless earth And distant heaven wait upon their joy?
I’ll speak to her . . . . .
What is that in her look
Which answers me–yet leaves me wondering still, With wonder so like rapture that I seem
Caught up a breathless second into Heaven? She turns deep eyes upon me, and she smiles, Always she smiles! Ah, Mary! could I know The source of that glad smile–what would I know? I dare not dream, save that the mystery
Is not yet given . . . one day I may know!
A Christmas Child
SHE came to me at Christmas time and made me mother, and it seemed There was a Christ indeed and He had given me the joy I’d dreamed.
She nestled to me, and I kept her near and warm, surprised to find The arms that held my babe so close were opened wider to her kind.
I hid her safe within my heart. “My heart” I said, “is all for you,” But lo! She left the door ajar and all the world came flocking through.
She needed me. I learned to know the royal joy that service brings, She was so helpless that I grew to love all little helpless things.
She trusted me, and I who ne’er had trusted, save in self, grew cold With panic lest this precious life should know no stronger, surer hold.
She lay and smiled and in her eyes I watched my narrow world grow broad, Within her tiny, crumpled hand I touched the mighty hand of God!
Spring in Nazareth
“THE Spring is come!” a shepherd saith; Sing, sweet Mary,
“The Spring is come to Nazareth
And swift the Summer hurrieth.”
Sing low, the barley and the corn!
Across the field a path is set–
Sing, sweet Mary,
Green shadow in a golden net–
The tears of night have left it wet. Sing low, the barley and the corn!
The Babe forsakes His mother’s knee,
Haste, sweet Mary–
See how He runneth merrily,
One foot upon the path hath He–
Green, green, the barley and the corn!
The mother calls with mother-fear–
Hush, sweet Mary!
Another sound is in His ear,
A sound he cannot choose but hear– Hush, hush, the barley and the corn!
Far and still far–through years yet dim List, sweet Mary!
From o’er the waking earth’s green rim Another Springtime calleth Him!
Bend low, the barley and the corn!
Call low, call high, and call again,
Ah, poor Mary!
Know, by thy heart’s prophetic pain, That one day thou shalt call in vain–
Moan, moan, the barley and the corn!
O mother! make thine arms a shield,
Sing, sweet Mary!
While love still holds what love must yield Hide well the path across the field!–
Sing low, the barley and the corn!
. . . . .
“The Spring is come!” a shepherd saith; Rest thee, Mary–
The passing years are but a breath
And Spring still comes to Nazareth– Green, green, the barley and the corn!
THERE lived a man who raised his hand and said, “I will be great!”
And through a long, long life he bravely knocked At Fame’s closed gate.
A son he left who, like his sire, strove High place to win;–
Worn out, he died and, dying, left no trace That he had been.
He also left a son, who, without care Or planning how,
Bore the fair letters of a deathless fame Upon his brow.
“Behold a genius, filled with fire divine!” The people cried;
Not knowing that to make him what he was Two men had died.
Song of the Sleeper
SLEEPER rest quietly
Lord of your kingdom
Of murmurous sound.
Hear the grass growing
Sweet for the mowing;
Hear the stars sing
As they travel around–
Grass blade and star dust,
You, I, and all of us,
One with the cause of us,
Murmur not, sleeper!
Yours is the key
To all things that were and
To all things that be–
While the lark’s trilling,
While the grain’s filling,
Laugh with the wind
At Life’s Riddle-me-ree!
How you were born of it?
Why was the thorn of it?
Where the new morn of it?
Yours is the Key!
Sleep deeper, brother!
Sleep and forget
Red lips that trembled
Eyes that were wet–
Though love be weeping,
Turn to your sleeping,
Life has no giving
That death need regret.
Here at the end of all
Hear the Beginning call,
Life’s but death’s seneschal–
Sleep and forget!
ONE comes with foot insistent to my door, Calling my name;
Nor voice nor footstep have I heard before, Yet clear the calling sounds and o’er and o’er– It seems the sunlight burns along the floor With paler flame!
“‘Tis vain to call with morning on the wing, With noon so near,
With Life a dancer in the masque of Spring And Youth new wedded with a golden ring– When falls the night and birds have ceased to sing My heart may hear!
“‘Tis vain to pause. Pass, friend, upon your way! I may not heed;
Too swift the hours; too sweet, too brief the day: Only one life, one spring, one perfect May– I crush each moment, with its sweets to stay Life’s joyous greed!
“Call not again! The wind is roaming by Across the heath–
The Wind’s a tell-tale and will bear your sigh To dim the smiling gladness of the sky
Or kill the spring’s first violets that lie In purple sheath–
“If you must call, call low! My heart grows still, Still as my breath,
Still as your smile, O Ancient One! A chill Strikes through the sun upon the window-sill– I know you now–I follow where you will, O tyrant Death!”
I GIVE you Life, O child, a garden fair; I give you Love, a rose that blossoms there– I give a day to pluck it and to wear!
I give you Death, O child–a boon more great– That, when your Rose has withered and ’tis late, You may pass out and, smiling, close the gate!
The Town Between
A WALL impregnable surrounds
The Town wherein I dwell;
No man may scale it and it has
Two gates that guard it well.
One opened long ago, and I
A vagrant soul, slipped through,
Bewildered and forgetting all
The wider world I knew.
I love the Town, the narrow ways,
The common, yellow sun,
The handclasp and the jesting and
The work that must be done!
I shun the other gate that stands
Beyond the crowded mart–
I need but glance that way to feel
Cold fingers on my heart!
It stands alone and somberly
Within a shaded place,
And every man who turns that way
Has quiet on his face.
And every man must rise and leave
His pleasant homely door
To vanish through this silent gate
And enter in no more–
Yet–once–I saw its opening throw
A brighter light about
And glimpsed strange glory on the brow Of someone passing out!
I wonder if Outside may be
One fair and great demesne
Where both gates open, careless of
The Town that lies between?
On the Mountain
THE top of the world and an empty morning, Mist sweeping in from the dim Outside,
The door of day just a little bit open– The wind’s great laugh as he flings it wide!
O wind, here’s one who would travel with you To the far bourne you alone may know–
There would I seek what some one is hiding, There would I find where my longings go!
To some deep calm would I drift and nestle Close to the heart of the Great Surprise. O strong wind, do you laugh to see us?
We are so little and oh, so wise!
HE trod upon the heights; the rarer air Which common people seek, yet cannot bear, Fed his high soul and kindled in his eye The fire of one who cries “I prophesy!”
“Look up!” he said. They looked but could not see. “Help us!” they cried. He strove, but uselessly– The very clouds which veiled the heaven they sought Hid from his eyes the hearts of them he taught!
Give Me a Day
GIVE me a day, beloved, that I may set A jewel in my heart–I’ll brave regret,
If, on the morrow, you shall say “forget”!
One golden day when dawn shall blush to noon And noon incline to dark, and, oversoon, My joy lie buried ‘neath a rounded moon.
Only a day–it’s worth you scarce could tell From other days; but in my life ’twill dwell An oasis with palm trees and a well!
Little Brown Bird
O LITTLE brown bird in the rain,
In the sweet rain of spring,
How you carry the youth of the world In the bend of your wing!
For you the long day is for song
And the night is for sleep–
With never a sunrise too soon
Or a midnight too deep!
For you every pool is the sky,
Breaking clouds chasing through,– A heaven so instant and near
That you bathe in its blue!–
And yours is the freedom to rise
To some song-haunted star
Or sink on soft wing to the wood
Where your brown nestlings are.
So busy, so strong and so glad,
So care-free and young,
So tingling with life to be lived
And with songs to be sung,
O little brown bird!–with your heart That’s the heart of the Spring–
How you carry the hope of the world In the bend of your wing!
THE long road and the low shore, a sail against the sky, The ache in my heart’s core, and hope so hard to die– Ah me, but the day’s long–and all the sails go by!
The long road and the dark shore, pools with stars aflame, The ache in my heart’s core, the hope I dare not name– Ah, me, but the night’s long–and every night the same!
A YOUTH sat down on a wayside stone,
A pack on his back and a staff at his knee. He whistled a tune which he called his own, “It’s a fine new tune, that tune!” said he.
In his pack he carried a crust of bread, And he drank from his hands at a brook hard by; “Spring water is wonderful cool,” he said, “And wonderful soft is the summer sky!”
He looked to the hill which his steps had passed, He looked to the slope where a brooklet purled, He looked to the distance blue and vast
And “Ah,” cried he, “what a fine, wide world!”
The youth passed on down the winding track That led to the beckoning distance dim, And though he carried but staff and pack, The world and its giving belonged to him.
“TELL me, Singer, of the way
Winding down to Arcady?
Of the world’s roads I am weary–
You, with song so brave and cheery, Happy troubadour must be
On the way to Arcady?”
Pausing on a muted note,
Song forsook the Singer’s throat,
“Friend,” sighed he, “you come too late, Once I could the way relate,
Once–but long ago; Ah me,
Far away is Arcady!”
“Tell me, Poet, of the way
Winding down to Arcady?
Haunting is your verse and airy
With the grace and gleam of faery– Dweller you must surely be
In the land of Arcady?”
Slow the Poet raised his eyes,
Sad were they as winter skies,
“Once, I sojourned there,” he said; Then, no more–but with bent head
Whispered low, “Ask not of me
That lost road to Arcady!”
Tell me, Lover, of the way
Winding down to Arcady?
Some sweet bourne your haste confesses– Know you paths no other guesses?
Does your gaze, so far away,
See the road to Arcady?
In the Lover’s eyes there gleamed
Radiance of all things dreamed–
“Nay, detain me not,” he cried
“I am hasting to my bride;
What have roads to do with me,
Love’s at home in Arcady!”
The Fields of Even
O STILLER than the fields that lie
Beneath the morning heaven,
And sweeter than day’s gardens are
The purple fields of even!
The vapor rises, silver-eyed,
Leaving the dew-wet clover,
With groping, mist-white hands outspread To greet the sky, her lover.
Ripples the brook, a thread of sound
Close-woven through the quiet,
Blending the jarring tones that day Would stir to noisy riot.
And all the glory seems so near
A common man may win it–
When every earth-bound lakelet holds A million stars within it.
A common man, who in the day
Lifts not his eyes above him,
Roaming the fields of even through
May find a God to love him!
I Love My Love
I LOVE my love for she is like a garden in the dawn, Pale, yet pink-flushed, with softly waking eyes, And primrose hair that brightens to gold skies, And petalled lips for dew to linger on.
I love my love for she is like the mirror of the moon, (A sweet, small moon but newly come to birth) So full of heaven is she, so close to earth, So versed in holy spell and magic rune.
I love my love. O words that be too feeble and too few! I love my love!–as April on the hill
Brings back earth’s morning with each daffodil, So she within my heart makes all things new.
Spring Awoke To-Day
SPRING awoke to-day!
Spring awoke to-day
From the depth of dream.
Through the air bestirred
Pulse of winging bird,
Through the air bestirred
Laugh of hidden stream.
On the world’s cold lips
Fell warm finger-tips;
On the world’s cold lips
Woke the glow and gleam!
Spring awoke to-day!
Spring awoke to-day
From the depth of dream!
SOMEWHERE there’s a willow budding
In a hollow by the river,
Where the autumn leaves lie sodden, Turning all the pool to brown;
There’s a thrush who’s building early, With his feathers all a-shiver,
And the maple sap is rising–
But I’m glad that I’m in town.
Somewhere out there in the country
There’s a brook that’s overflowing, And a quaker pussy-willow
Sews grey velvet on her gown;
Rushes whisper to each other
That marsh marigolds are showing,
And those saucy crocus fellows–
But I’m glad that I’m in town.
Long ago, when we were younger,
How those little things enthralled us; King-birds nesting in the hedges,
Baby field-mice soft as down,
Muskrats in the sun-warmed shallows– Strange how all these voices called us!– Hark, was that a robin singing?
When’s the next train out of town?
A SINGLE branch of flaming red,
A branch of tawny yellow
And every branch in gorgeousness
A rival of its fellow;
Some russet brown and faded green
With golden shadows in between
And mist-hid sun to mellow.
An instinct as of music near–
A breath the wind is bringing,
Broken and sweet, as from a host
Of swift and solemn winging–
A mystery born of light and sound
Wrapping our tranced progress round– A sighing and a singing!
Thus in a certain lovely pomp
We leave the Summer lying–
These are her funeral banners, this The pageantry of dying!
The music that we almost hear
Is wafted from her passing bier–
The singing and the sighing!
The Doom of Ys
DO you hear the bell? ‘Tis a silver chime But it ringeth not in the bourne of time.
With the wind it swells, with the wind ’twill sink, Dying at last by the sea’s dim brink.
By mortal hands the bell was hung
By mortal hands ’tis never swung.
When the moon’s at full and the long tide creeps It rings o’er the town that the deep sea keeps–
The town of Ys, that, unafraid,
Cursed God’s good bells for the noise they made,
Cursed them well and pulled them down From every belfry in the town!
For that sin of pride and that pride of sin, Deathly and soft, a Doom stole in.
It sucked through the stone, it stole through the street, It rose in the hall, silent and fleet;
Soundless it swept through the market-place Folding the town in a chill embrace;
No ruth it knew, it heard no call,
Sinner and saint it gathered them all,
Gathered them all, while over them
The bells they had cursed tolled requiem.
Do you hear the bell? When the full moon rides It rings o’er the town that the deep sea hides!
YEARS are the seedlings which we careless sow In Time’s bare garden. Dead they seem to be– Dead years! We sigh and cover them with mould, But though the vagrant wind blow hot, blow cold, No hint of life beneath the dust we see; Then comes the magic hour when we are old, And lo! they stir and blossom wondrously.
Strange spectral blooms in spectral plots aglow! Here a great rose and here a ragged tare; And here pale, scentless blossoms without name, Robbed to enrich this poppy formed of flame; Here springs some hearts’ease, scattered unaware; Here, hawthorn-bloom to show the way Love came; Here, asphodel, to image Love’s despair!
When I am old and master of the spell To raise these garden ghosts of memory, My feet will turn aside from common ways, Where common flowers mark the common days, To one green plot; and there I know will be Fairest of all (O perfect beyond praise!) The year you gave, beloved, your rosemary.
The Coming of Love
HOW shall I know? Shall I hear Love pass In the wind that sighs through the poplar tree? Shall I follow his passing over the grass By the prisoned scents which his footsteps free?
Shall I wake one day to a sky all blue And meet with Spring in a crowded street? Shall I open a door and, looking through, Find, on a sudden, the world more sweet?
How shall I know?–last night I lay
Counting the hours’ dreary sum
With naught in my heart save a wild dismay And a fear that whispered, “Love is come!”
LAST night I dreamed
No dream of joy or sorrow,
Yet, when I woke, I wept,
Knowing the brightness of some far to-morrow Had darkened while I slept!