Low Tide on Grand Pré: A Book of Lyrics

by Bliss Carman


 

WAYFARING


 

ACROSS the harbor's tangled yards
     We watch the flaring sunset fail;
Then the forever questing stars
     File down along the vanished trail,

To no discovered country, where

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     They will forgather when the hands
Of the strong Fates shall take away
     Their burdens and unloose their bands.

Westward and lone the hill-road gray
     Mounts to the skyline sheer and wan,

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Where many a weary dream puts forth
     To strike the trail where they are gone.

The sleepless guide to that outland
     Is the great Mother of us all,
Whose molded dust and dew we are

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     With the blown flowers by the wall.

Girt with the twilight she is grave,
     The strong companion, wise and free;
She leads beyond the dales of time,
     The earldom of the calling sea—

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Beyond these dull green miles of dike,
     And gleaming breakers on the bar—
To the white kingdom of her lord,
     The nameless Word, whose breath we are.

And all the world is but a scheme

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     Of busy children in the street,
A play they follow and forget
     On summer evenings, pale with heat.

The dusty courtyard flags and walls
     Are like a prison gate of stone,

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To every spirit for whose breath
     The long sweet hill-winds once have blown.

But waiting in the fields for them
     I see the ancient Mother stand,
With the old courage of her smile,

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     The patience of her sunbrown hand.

They heed her not, until there comes
     A breath of sleep upon their eyes,
A drift of dust upon their face;
     Then in the closing dusk they rise,

40


And turn to the empty doors;
     But she within whose hands alone

The days are gathered up as fruit,
     Doth habit not in brick and stone.

But where the wild shy things abide,

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     Along the woodside and the wheat,
Is her abiding, deep withdrawn;
     And there, the footing of her feet.

There is no common fame of her
     Upon the corners, yet some word

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Of her most secret heritage
     Her lovers from her lips have heard.

Her daisies sprang where Chaucer went;
     Her darkling nightingales with spring
Possessed the soul of Keats for song;

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     And Shelley heard her skylark sing;

With reverent clear uplifted heart
     Wordsworth beheld her daffodils;
And he became too great for haste,
     Who watched the warm green Cummer hills.

60


She gave the apples of her eyes
     For the delight of him who knew,
With all the wisdom of a child,
     "A bank whereon the wild thyme grew."

Still the old secret shifts, and waits

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     The last interpreter; it fills"
The autumn song no ear hath heard
     Upon the dreaming Ardise hills.

The poplars babble over it
     When waking winds of dawn go by;

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It fills her rivers like a voice,
     And leads her wanderers till they die.

She knows the morning ways whereon
     The windflowers and the wind confer;
Surely there is not any fear

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     Upon the farthest trail with her!

And yet, what ails the fir-dark slopes,
     That all night along the whippoorwills
Cry their insatiable cry
     Across the sleeping Ardise hills?

80


Is it no fair mortal thing,
     Blown leaf, nor song, nor friend can stray
Beyond the bourne and bring one word
     Back the irremeable way?

The noise is hushed within the street;

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     The summer twilight gathers down;
The elms are still; the moonlit spires
     Track their long shadows through the town.

With looming willows and gray dusk
     The open hillward road is pale,

90

And the great stars are white and few
     Above the lonely Ardise trail.

And with no haste nor any fear,
     We are as children going home
Along the marshes where the wind

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     Sleeps in the cradle of the foam.