Low Tide on Grand Pré: A Book of Lyrics

by Bliss Carman


 

THE VAGABONDS


 

     "Such as wake on the night and sleep on the day, and haunt customable taverns and alehouses and routs about, and no man wot from whence they came, nor whither they go."— Old English Statute.

 

WE are the vagabonds of time,
    And rove the yellow autumn days,
When all the roads are gray with rime
    And all the valleys blue with haze.

We came unlooked for as the wind

5
    Trooping across the April hills,
When the brown waking earth had dreams
    Of summer in the Wander Kills.

How far afield we joyed to fare,
    With June in every blade and tree!

10
Now with the sea-wind in our hair
    We turn our faces to the sea.

We go unheeded as the stream
    That wanders by the hill-wood side,
Till the great marshes take his hand

15
    And lead him to the roving tide.

The roving tide, the sleeping hills,
    These are the borders of that zone
Where they may fare as fancy wills
    Whom wisdom smiles and calls her own.

20

It is a country of the sun,
    Full of forgotten yesterdays,
When time takes Summer in his care,
    And fills the distance of her gaze.

It stretches from the open sea

25
    To the blue mountains and beyond;
The world is Vagabondia
    To him who is a vagabond.

In the beginning God made man
    Out of the wandering dust, men say;

30
And in the end his life shall be
    A wandering wind and blown away.

We are the vagabonds of time,
    Willing to let the world go by,
With joy supreme, with heart sublime,

35
    And valor in the kindling eye.

We have forgotten where we slept,
    And guess not where we sleep to-night,
Whether among the lonely hills
    In the pale streamers’ ghostly light

40

We shall lie down and hear the frost
    Walk in the dead leaves restlessly,
Or somewhere on the iron coast
    Learn the oblivion of the sea.

It matters not. And yet I dream

45
    Of dreams fulfilled and rest somewhere
Before this restless heart is stilled
    And all its fancies blown to air.

Had I my will!…The sun burns down
    And something plucks my garment’s hem;

50
The robins in their faded brown
    Would lure me to the south with them.

‘Tis time for vagabonds to make
    The nearest inn. Far on I hear
The voices of the Northern hills
55
    Gather the vagrants of the year.

Brave heart, my soul! Let longings be!
    We have another day to wend.
For dark or waylay what care we
    Who have the lords of time to friend?

60

And if we tarry or make haste,
    The wayside sleep can hold no fear.
Shall fate unpoise, or whim perturb,
    The calm-begirt in dawn austere?

There is a tavern, I have heard,

65
    Not far, and frugal, kept by One
Who knows the children of the Word,
    And welcomes each when day is done.

Some say the house is lonely set
    In Northern night, and snowdrifts keep

70
The silent door; the hearth is cold,
    And all my fellows gone to sleep… .

Had I my will! I hear the sea
    Thunder a welcome on the shore;
I know where lies the hostelry

75
    And who should open me the door.