Poems: Old and New

by Frederick George Scott




ON the crag I sat in wonder,
Stars above me, forests under;
   Through the valleys came and went
   Tempest forces never spent,
And the gorge sent up the thunder
   Of the stream within it pent.

Round me with majestic bearing
Stood the giant mountains, wearing
   Helmets of eternal snows,
   Cleft by nature’s labour throes—

Monster faces mutely staring
   Upward into God’s repose.

At my feet in desolation
Swayed the pines, a shadowy nation,
   Round the woodlake deep and dread,

   Round the river glacier-fed, [Page 64]
Where a ghostly undulation
    Shakes its subterranean bed.

And I cried, “O wilderness!
Mountains! which the wind caresses,

   In a savage love sublime,
    Through the bounds of space and time,
All your moods and deep distresses
   Roll around me like a chime!

“Lo, I hear the mighty chorus

Of the elements that bore us
   Down the course of nature’s stream,
    Onward in a haunted dream
Towards the darkness, where before us
   Time and death forgotten seem!

“Now behold the links of lightning,
Round the neck of storm-god tightening,
    Madden him with rage and shame
    Till he smites the earth with flame,
In the darkening and the brightening
   Of the clouds on which he came! [Page 65]

“Nature! at whose will are driven
Tides of ocean, winds of heaven,
   Thou who rulest near and far
   Forces grappling sun and star,

Is to thee the knowledge given
   Whence these came and what they are?

“Is thy calm the calm of knowing
Whence the force is, whither going?
   Is it but the blank despair

   Of the wrecked, who does not care
Out at sea what wind is blowing
   To the death that waits him there?

“Mother Nature, stern aggressor,
Of thy child the mind-possessor,

   Thou art in us like a flood,
   Welling through out thought and blood—
Force evolving great from lesser,
   As the blossom from the bud.

“Yea, I love thy fixed, enduring

Times and seasons, life procuring [Page 66]
   From abysmal heart of thine;
    And my spirit would resign
All its dreams and hopes alluring
   With thy spirit to combine.

“Would that I, amid the splendour
Of the thunder-blasts, could render
   Back the dismal dole of birth,
   Fusing soul-clouds in the girth
Of thy rock breasts, or the tender
   Green of everlasting earth.

“Haply, when the scud was flying
And the lurid daylight dying
   Through the rain-smoke on the sea,
   Thoughtless, painless, one with thee,

I, in perfect bondage lying,
   Should forever thus be free.

“Mighty spirits, who have striven
Up life’s ladder-rounds to heaven,
   Or ye freighted ones who fell

   On the poppy slopes of hell, [Page 67]
When the soul was led or driven,
    Knew ye not who wrought the spell?

“Understood not each his brother
From the features of our mother

   Stamped on every human face?
   Did not earth, man’s dwelling-place,
Draw ye to her as no other,
   With a stronger bond than grace?

“Tempest hands the forests rending,

Placid stars the night attending,
   Mountains, storm-clouds, land and sea,
   Nature!—make me one with thee;
From my soul its pinions rending,
   Chain me to thy liberty.

“Hark! the foot of death is nearing,
And my spirit aches with fearing,
   Hear me, mother, hear my cry,
    Merge me in the harmony
Of thy voice which stars are hearing
Wonder-stricken in the sky. [Page 68]

“Mother, will no sorrow move thee?
Does the silence heartless prove thee?
   Thou who from the rocks and rain
   Mad’st this soul, take back again

What thy fingers wrought to love thee
   Through the furnace of its pain.

“Giant boulders, roll beside me;
Tangled ferns, bow down and hide me,
   Hide me from the face of death;

   Or, great Nature, on thy breath
Send some mighty words to guide me
    Till the demon vanisheth.”

Then, as sweet as organ playing,
Came a voice, my fears allaying,

    From the mountains and the sea,
    “Wouldst thou, soul, be one with me,
In thy might the slayer slaying?
   Wrestle not with what must be.”

Heart and spirit in devotion,

Vibrant with divine emotion, [Page 69]
    Bowed before that mighty sound,
   And amid the dark around
Quaffed the strength of land and ocean
    In a sacrament profound.

Then I burst my bonds asunder,
And my voice rose in the thunder
   With a full and powerful breath,
   Strong for what great nature saith,
And I bade the stars in wonder
   See me slay the slayer—death. [Page 70]