Lundy's Lane and Other Poems

by Duncan Campbell Scott


 

A MYSTERY PLAY


 

CHARACTERS
The Father. The Child. Death. Angels.
Two Travellers.

*     *     *     *     *

5
THE even settles still and deep,
  In the cold sky the last gold burns,
Across the colour snowflakes creep.
Each one from grey to glory turns
Then flutters into nothingness;
10

The frost down falls with mighty stress
Through the swift cloud that parts on high;
The great stars shrivel into less
In the hard depth of the iron sky.

*     *     *     *     *

 
The Child:
What is that light, dear father,
15
  That light in dark, dark sky?
 
The Father:
Those are the lights of the city
  And the villages thereby.
 
The Child:
There must be fire in the city
  To throw that yellow glare;
20
And fire in the little villages
  On all the hearthstones there.
 
The Father, musing:
Yea, flames are on the hearthstones;
  The ovens are full of bread,
But here the coals are dying
25
  And the flames are dead.
 
The Child:
What is the cold, dear father?
  It stings like an angry bee.
Wherever it stings my hand turns white,
  See!
30
 
The Father:
The cold is a beast, my dear one,
  With his paws he tears at the thatch,
His breath is a curse and a warning,
  You can see it creep on the latch.
 
The Child:
If 'tis a wolf, dear father,
35
  That lies with his paw on the floor,
Let us heat the spade in the embers
  And drive him away from the door.
 
Angels:
God is that power of growth,
In the snail and the tree,
40
God is the power of growth
In the heart of the man.
 
The Child:
Did you not hear the singing,
  Voices overhead?
Mother's voice and Ruth's voice,
45
  Voices of the dead.
 
The Father, musing:
Our Ruth died in the springtime,
  With the spade I turned the sod,
We buried her by the brier rose,
  Her life is hid with God.
50
 
The Child:
All summer long in the garden
  No roses came to the tree.
Father, was it for sorrow,
  Sorrow for thee and me?
 
The Father:
Roses grew in the garden,
55
  I saw them at morning and even,
Shadows of earthly roses
  They bloomed for fingers in heaven.

 

*     *     *     *     *

 

The air is very clear and still,
The moonlight falls from half the sphere;
60
The shadow from the silver hill
Fills half the vale, and half is clear
As the moon's self with cloudless snow;
By the dead stream the alders throw
Their shadow, shot with tingling spars;
65
On the sheer height the elm trees glow:
Their tops are tangled with the stars.

 

*     *     *     *     *

 

  The Child:
Father, the coals are dying,
  See! I have heated the spade,
Let me throw the door wide open,
70
  I will not be afraid.
 
The Father:
Let me kiss you once on the forehead,
  And once on your darling eyes;
We may see them both at the dawning,
  In the dales of Paradise.
75
 
The Child:
And if I only see them,
  I will tell them how you smiled;
For the wolf, you know, is angry,
  And I am a little child.
 
Death:
Undaunted spirits,
80
I give thee peace,
For a world of dread—
Calm.
For desperate toil—
Rest.
85
Thou who didst say,
When the waters of poverty
Waxed deep, deep,
What we bear is best;
Just ones,
90
I give thee sleep.
 
First Traveller:
Keep up your spirits, I know
There's a cabin under the hill,
The fellow will make a roaring fire;
We'll heat our hands and drink our fill
95
And go warm to our heart's desire!
 
Second Traveller:
The door is open,—Heigho!
This pair will claim neither crown nor groat,
The man has gripped his garden spade
As if he would dig his grave in the snow;
100
The boy has the face of a saint, I trow;
His brow says, "I was not afraid!"
 
First Traveller:
Ah well, these things must be, you know!
Gather your sables around your throat;
Give us that story about the monk,
105
His niece, and the wandering conjurer,
Just to keep our blood astir.
 
The Angels:
The heart of God,
The worlds and man,
Are fashioned and moulded,
110
In a subtle plan;
Passion outsurges,
Sweeps far but converges;
Nothing is lost,
Sod or stone,
115
But comes to its own;
Bear well thy joy,
'Tis mixed with alloy,
Bear well thy grief,
'Tis a rich full sheaf:
120

Gather the souls that have passed in the night,
Theirs is the peace and the light.

*     *     *     *     *

The moon is gone, the dawning brings
A deeper dark with silver blent,
Above the wells where, myriad, springs

125
Light from the crimson orient;
The elms are born, the shadows creep,
Tremble and melt away—one sweep
The great soft color floods and flows,
Where under snow the roses sleep;
130
The morn has turned the snow to rose.