The Rough Rider and Other Poems

by Bliss Carman


 

CHAMPLAIN

(READ AT BURLINGTON, VERMONT, JULY, 1909)


 

WHEN the sweet Summer days
Come to New England, and the south wind plays
Over the forests, and the tall tulip trees
Lift up their chalices
Of delicate orange green
5
Against the blue serene;
When the chestnut crowns are full of flowers,
And the long hours
Are not too long
For the oriole’s song;
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When the wild roses blow
In blueberry pastures, and the Bobwhite’s note
Calls us away
On the happy trail where every heart must go;
When the white clouds float
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Through an ampler day,
Above the battlements of the Mountains Green,
Where the woods come down to the fields on every hand,
And the meadow-land
Breaks into ripples and swells
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With the gold of the black-eyed daisies and lily-bells;
Along the Pilgrim shore,
Crooning to stone-fenced pastures sweet with fern
Tales of the long ago and the far away;
And when to the hemlock solitudes return
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The gold-voiced thrushes, and the high beach woods
Ring with enchantment as the twilight falls
Among the darkening hills;
And the new moonlight fills
The world with beauty and the soul with peace
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And infinite release;
Is there any land that history recalls,
Bestowed by gods on mortals anywhere,
More goodly than New England or more fair?

On such a day three hundred years ago

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By toilsome trails and slow,
But with the adventurer’s spirit high aflame,
The great discoverer came,
Finding another Indies than he guessed
To reward his daring quest,
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And fill the wonder-volume of Romance,—
The sailor of little Brouage, the founder of New France,
Sturdy, sagacious, plain
Samuel de Champlain.

On many a river and stream

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The paddles of his Abenakis dip and gleam;
Their slim canoe-poles set and flash in the sun,
Where strong white waters run;
By many a portage, many a wooded shore,
They press on to explore
50
The unknown that leads them ever to the west;
And when at dusk their camp is made
Within the dense still shade,
The white shafts of the moonlight creep
About them while they sleep
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On the earth’s fragrant and untroubled breast.
Then on a day upon some marble rise
They stand in mute surmise,
And wonder, as they gaze
On the green wilderness in summer haze,
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At a new paradise
Unrolled before their eyes.

What did he seek,
This hardy voyager with the steady hand,
And the sunburnt cheek?
65

Passage to India and the fabled land
So longed for and foretold,
Where rivers ran with gold,—
Man’s fond far hope of unlaborious ease,
Miraculous wealth and benefits unearned,
70
For which he vainly yearned.
He found here no such place,
But in this new world again was face to face
With life’s familiar laws and orders old,
Still to be followed, if we would fill the mould
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Of our ideal,—a manhood that is free
With the soul’s large and happy liberty.

As if God said to Man,
"Try once again my plan.
Here is a continent all new,

80
Take it and see once more what thou canst do.
The happiness which thy stormy heart desires
My will foresees, requires.
On the long road that lies
Across the centuries
85
To my perfection dimly understood,
Seek thou the almighty good,
The everlasting beautiful and true."

Men of New England, sons of pioneers,
And in your birthright peers

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Of the world’s masters, this is holy soil,
The divine ancestral dust from which we come,
Bringing our dream of justice, the high thought
Of a pure freedom for which our mothers wrought
In dreamful pride,
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And our fathers lived and died
With unselfish toil.

Even as they willed,
We too must toil to build
The ideal state,

100
Which shall be strong without brutality,
And by its fine humanity be great.

This is no fairyland,
No Eldorado planned
For man’s salvation. The law runs forth and back,

105
Immutable as the sun on his sidereal track,
Beneficent as the trees,
And as the noon profound:
Only with labor comes ease,
Only with wisdom comes joy,
110
And greatness comes not without love.

This is God’s garden ground,
And we are the tillers thereof.
And the crop shall be women and men,
As ever of old,—
Not a pale city breed,

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Bred between hunger and greed,
But a new cosmic race,
With the poise of the world in its mien,
The ineffable soul in its face,
Remembering the best that has been,
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And its password, "The best that can be!"
No Mesopotamian valley, nor Eden age,
No long ago, nor by-and-by,
Is the place, is the time,
For the birth of the sublime
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From the lovely and the sane.
But the time is now, and the place is here,
For life divine,
In July of the year
Nineteen hundred and nine,
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In the Country of Champlain.