LYRICS

—ON—

FREEDOM, LOVE AND DEATH


By

GEORGE FREDERICK CAMERON



 

Lyrics in Pleasant Places

AND

Other Places.


Ah, me! the mighty love that I have borne
     To thee, sweet Song! A perilous gift was it
My mother gave me that September morn
     When sorrow, song, and life were at one altar lit.

A gift more perilous than the priest’s: his lore

5

     Is all of books and to his books extends;
And what they see and know he knows—no more,
     And with their knowing all his knowing ends.

A gift more perilous than the painter’s: he
     In his divinest moments only sees

10

The inhumanities of color, we
     Feel each and all the inhumanities.

1885.  [Page 147]

 


 

WISDOM—A SONNET.


Wisdom immortal from immortal Jove
     Shadows more beauty with her virgin brows
Than is between the pleasant breasts of Love
     Who makes at will and breaks her random vows,
And hath a name all earthly names above:

5

The noblest are her offspring; she controls
     The times and seasons—yea, all things that are—
The head and hands of men, their hearts and souls,
     And all that moves upon our mother star,
And all that pauses ’twixt the peaceful poles.

10

Nor is she dark and distant, coy and cold,—
     But all in all to all who seek her shrine
In utter truth, like to that king of old
Who wooed and won—yet by no right divine. [Page 148]

 


 

DOWNS AND UPS.


Dance of moonlight on summer waves,
     Drip of streamlet and dip of oar;
Echo softly singing in caves,
     Grounding keels on a shining shore:

Laboring ships on wintry seas,

5

     Clamorous feet upon slimy decks;
Drowning shrieks on an angry breeze,
     Mangled corpses and tangled wrecks:

Music and laughter and love and song,
     Violets, roses, and lilies white;

10

Beautiful forms in a moving throng,
     Perfume and wine and a gala night. [Page 149]

A pale, worn face in an attic lone,
     Bending over a wretched bed,
A clasp of hands, a dying moan,

15

     The rattle, the hush—and a spirit fled!

Golden prospects and ominous clouds;
     Impassable walks and level drives;
Glittering silks and colorless shrouds;
     Flattering records, and shattered lives:

20


Brimming fountains and empty cups;
     Beggars and nobles—peasants and kings:—
These are a few of our downs and ups,—
     A part of the total of human things. [Page 150]

 


 

ANTICIPATION.


Anticipation is the oil that feeds
     The flame of life. It is the Siren fair
That sings at twilight in the hollow reeds,
     And drowns the moaning discord of despair.
Nay, now in darkest night it comes to me,—

5

     It dulls the edge of every present care:
Blots from the tablets of the memory
     What hath been ill, or is, inscribing there
In golden letters that which yet may be
     Of earth’s good things my individual share.

10

And should the days be drearier in age,
     And disappointment part of mine estate,
With fortune I shall not a warfare wage,
     But sing my song as now,—as now anticipate. [Page 151]

 


 

PAST AND FUTURE.


The Past!—In even our oldest songs
     Regret for older past appears,—
The Past with all its bitter wrongs,
     And bitter, buried years:
With all its woes and crimes and shames,—

5

     Its rule of sword, and king, and cowl—
Its scourges, tortures, axes, flames,
     And myriad murders foul!

The Future! To our latest lays
     A common strain of longing clings

10

For future nights, and future days,
     And future thoughts and things. [Page 152]
The Future! Who of us will see
     This Future,—in its brightness bask?
Ye ask the Future?—Let it be!

15

     Ye know not what ye ask.

’Tis best,—let Folly still lament
     The past, or for the future yearn,—
With this large Present well content,
     To watch, and work, and learn:

20

Assured that, if we do aright
     What must by us to-day be done,
The three shall open to our sight—
     Past, Present, Future—One! [Page 153]

 


 

THE BEST PHILOSOPHY.


If there be aught of light behind
     The grave’s sepulchral gloom;
If this, so-called, immortal mind
     Shall triumph o’er the tomb,
Man well may laugh at death, and find

5

     A pleasure in his doom.

Or if Omnipotence decrees
     A harsher fate to men,
If Truth, and Love, and Joy, if these
     Shall not be ours again,

10

What is of good ’twere well to seize,
     And laugh in life even then.

Ay, this is best philosophy,—
     The present to enjoy;
To trust but little what may be

15

     Our after-death employ,
Since after-life is mystery,
     And Hope—a fragile toy! [Page 154]

 


 

WITH A FAITH.


With a Faith
     So firm, so full, so reverent as thine,
Triumphant trampling over life and death—
     All but divine,—

Hold it fast!

5

     For earth hath many winning voices, each
Striving to win the people from the past
     With cunning speech!—

I could win,
     Methinks, some solace in this world of ours,

10

Transforming to rich music its rude din,
     Its weeds to flowers: [Page 155]

Life’s wild storms
     To calms: its darkness all to light,
And its most hideous and repelling forms

15

     To beauty bright.

I could live
     In proud defiance of Earth’s utmost scorns;
Pluck all the joys existence had to give,—
     Shun all the thorns.

20


I could die
     Calm as a foam bell on a placid wave,
Calm as a love-lit dream, yet living I
     Would be—a slave. [Page 156]

 


 

AT THE CROSS-ROADS.


     To which hand shall I turn?
That road upon the right ascends the hill,
Abrupt, all but impassable:
     This on the left, as I discern,
Winds down the vale beside the wimpling burn

5

And lake star-fair and still:—
     To which hand shall I turn?

     Shall I not walk in this—
The left, the smooth and ever pleasant way;
Where birds shall greet me as I stray

10

     With strains oracular of bliss;
Where every care I may dismiss—
Where all is garden-gay,
     Shall I not walk in this?

     No—in the other. Why?

15

The one road was so bitter, bleak, and bare,
The other was so wonderfully fair,
     With every gift to please the eye,—
With sun and shade and flowers and song,—
How should I choose nor choose the wrong?

20

     One word I heard—“Beware!”
So paused and pondered long. [Page 157]

 


 

ON LIFE’S SEA.


On Life’s sea! Full soon
     The evening cometh—cheerless, sad, and cold;
Past is the golden splendor of the noon,
     The darkness comes apace—and I grow old.

Yet the ship of Fate

5

     Drives onward o’er the waters mountain high!
And now the day goes out the western gate
     And not a star is smiling in the sky.

Gloom before—behind!
     Rude billows battling with an iron shore

10

On either hand: anon, the chilling wind
     Smiting the cordage with an angry roar.

Then the compass veers
     And doth avail not: for the dust of earth
Hath marred its beauty, and the rust of years

15

     Hath made its mechanism of little worth. [Page 158]

And tho’ oft I gaze
     Into the lost, yet ever lovely Past,
And strive to call a power from perished days
     With which to dare the midnight and the blast,

20


The power flies my hand;
     And my sad heart grows wearier day by day,
Beholding not the lights which line the land
     And throw their smile upon the desert way:

For the star of Hope

25

     Shed but one beam along the lonely path,
Then slid behind the clouds adown the slope,
     And set forever in a sea of wrath!

Yet the ship moves on—
     Aye, ever on! still drifting with the tide,

30

With Faith alone to look or lean upon,
     As pilot o’er the waters wild and wide.

Yet for all, I feel
     My bark shall bound on billows gentler rolled.
Be Faith my pilot, then, until the keel

35

     Shall kiss and clasp the glittering sands of gold! [Page 159]

 


 

ALL HEART-SICK.


All heart-sick, and head-sick, and weary,
     Sore wounded, oft struck in the strife,
I ask is there end of this dreary,
     Dark pilgrimage, called by us Life?

I ask is there end of it—any?

5

     If any, when comes it anigh?
I would die not the one death but many
     To know and be sure I should die.

To know that the sighing and sadness
     Should vanish and leave not a trace,

10

Although never a sunbeam of gladness
     Should shine on my soul in its place.

To know that there was no Hereafter—
     Hereafter of sorrow or joy;
No time of mirth, music or laughter,—

15

     Not a moment of time of annoy.

To know that somewhere in the distance,
     When Nature shall take back my breath,
I shall add up the sum of existence
     And find that its total is—death!

20


New York 1879.  [Page 160]

 


 

THE ROSES AND THORNS OF LIFE.


Ah, well! ’Tis as old as this world of ours,—
     The few are born to the couch of ease,
But the great men only—these, ah, these
     Are born to the thorns and not the flowers.

And He who made it so best knows

5

     What is our good; and so the man
Goes forth, fulfilling nature’s plan,
     Grasping the thistle—passing the rose. [Page 161]

 


 

THE MAYFLOWER.*

(IMPROMPTU)


You ask me, dear friends, a toast to propose?
     Let me think for a moment—ah, yes! it shall be
The sweet-scented blossom that blooms ‘neath the snows,
     The sweet little Mayflower for me.

You may drink to the thistle, the shamrock, the rose,—

5

     May they each bloom on Liberty’s shore;
But my toast is the Mayflower that blooms ’neath the snows,
     The bonniest, best of the four!

——
* The National Emblem of Nova Scotia. [back]
  [Page 162]

 


 

EDGAR ALLAN POE.


Though all the world forbear, Columbia weep:—
     Guard well the grave where Edgar’s ashes sleep;
Let fairest flowers and rarest lilies grow
     Where sleeps in dust thy noblest genius—Poe! [Page 163]

 


 

QUID REFERT?


     “They had lived and loved, and walked and worked in their own way, and the world went by them.  Between them and it a great gulf was fixed: it cared nothing for them, and they met its every catastrophe with the Quid Refert? of the philosophers.


*DE LA ROQUE.


What care we for the winter weather,—
     What care we for set of sun,—
We, who have wrought and thought together,
     And know our work well done?

What do we care though glad stars glitter

5

     For others only? Though mist and rain
Be over our heads? Though life be bitter,
     And peace be pledged to pain? [Page 164]

What care we? Is the world worth minding,—
     The sad, mad world with its hate and sin?

10

Is the key worth seeking for, or finding,
     Of the Cretan maze we wander in?

What care we though all be a riddle,—
     Both sea and shore, both earth and skies?
Let others read it! We walk that middle,

15

     Unquestioning way where safety lies.

And care not any for winter weather,
     And care no more for set of sun,—
We who have wrought and thought together,
     And know our work well done!

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* Myself, G.F.C. [back]   [Page 165]

 


 

WHEN EVERY HOPE.


     When every hope the heart hath held
And every joy the heart hath known
     Depart, yet leave a soul unquelled
In moody grandeur on its throne,
     I sigh, and wish it all my own:—

5

I sigh, and wish such spirit mine
     That I may soar above distress
And prove that man may be divine
     In his own native lordliness.

     But what my fate?—To weave in song

10

My idle fancies, and to grope
     With troubled spirit through the throng
From fear to fear—from hope to hope:
     And if I sometimes strive to cope
With these forebodings of the soul,

15

     Too soon, alas! I feel and know
’Tis but a Samson-hand can roll
     The stone upon the tomb of woe. [Page 166]

 


 

ON——


A singer, I admit: but hath his song
     E’er eased the sad, sick soul, e’er dried the eye
Of secret sorrow, bruised the head of wrong,
     Or woke the heart to listen to the cry
Of Right down-trodden by the despot-throng?

5

     No? Then, so please you, we will put him by.
     He is a poet? Never! I deny
He hath a portion of the sacred rage.
All flowers of speech may bloom upon his page,—
     His soft words on my senses idly fall:

10

Not having any utterance for his age,
     He hath no power to stir my blood at all;
So off with him to moulder on the shelf!—
He knows not man, nor any God save self. [Page 167]

 


 

ON McDONALD CLARKE.

(THE MAD POET)


Unhappy, penniless, alone!
     With doubt before, and debt behind;
With reason tottering on her throne,
     And love a bitterness, being blind:

With passions much too largely framed

5

     For his poor body to control,
He went his way all unashamed
     And wooed the muse with all his soul,

So, poets, take him from the throng
     Of weaklings who have feigned to wake

10

The lyre, and name him in your song,
     And crown him for the muse’s sake! [Page 168]

 


 

TO——


Not often, in these latter days
     Of gloss and glass and overpress,
Do poets by the world’s highways
     Pluck plumes of everlastingness.

Not often—where the eagle sweeps—

5

     About the sun-swathed crags of ice,
Do they, uprising from the deeps,
     Reach forth and pluck their edelweiss.

Not often.—For the elders took
     The best of fancy’s flowers so fair:

10

Or, passing, in their frenzy shook
     All trees and left the branches bare.

And yet, methinks that thou hast found
     A something—subtle as a sense;
A something—sweeter than a sound,

15

     Which means eternal eminence. [Page 169]

 


 

A FACE.


I mark at a window over the way
     A woman who sits most patiently there
Whose face is as pale as a stellar ray—
     As pale, and as pure, and as fair;—
A face you might look upon all the day,—

5

     A face like a beautiful petrified prayer! [Page 170]

 


 

JOHN MILTON.


A name not casting shadow any ways,
     But gilt and girt about with light divine;
A name for men to dream of in dark days,
     And take for sun when no sun seems to shine—
Thou sightless wearer of immortal bays,

5

     Thou Milton of the sleepless soul is thine! [Page 171]

 


 

THREE SONNETS.

ON LEAVING NOVA SCOTIA, 1874.


I.


Farewell! And I must speak the word to-day;
     And I must leave what I have known so long,—
     And only known to love, and loved to know!
The breeze moves strongly outward from the bay,—
     And here and there amid the busy throng

5

Affection wrings the hands of those who go,
     And love as deep the hearts of those who stay.
The feast is o’er, and sad the parting song!
Why not? These hills our feet have trod in youth:
     Why not? These vales our earliest vision knew:

10

Why not? These friends—we long have prov’n their truth:
     And now to each and all we bid adieu!
The lines are cast: loud rings the warning bell:
Swift clasp of hands, brief kiss,—and long farewell! [Page 172]


II.


I stand alone at midnight on the deck,
     And watch with eager eye the sinking shore
Which I may view, it may be, nevermore:
For there is tempest, battle, fire, and wreck,
     And ocean hath her share of each of these,—

5

     Attest it, thousand rotting argosies,
Wealth-laden, sunken in the southern seas!
     And who can say that evermore these feet
Shall tread thy soil, Acadia? Who can say
     That evermore this heart of mine shall greet

10

The loved to whom it sighs adieu to-day?
Our sail is set for countries far away;
     Our sail is set, and now is no retreat,
Though Ocean should but lure, like Beauty, to betray! [Page 173]


III.


When shall I see them all again? I say,
     Now that the loved, lost land lies far a-lea,—
Now that we are upon the world’s highway,
     Now that we are alone upon the sea.
When shall I meet them all, when shall it be?

5

     When shall I come to them, if ever? When
Shall I come back to these dear ones again?
Speak, ocean-winds! Is it beyond your ken?
     When shall I come to them, or they to me?
I hear no tone; no token gives the wind:

10

     The only voice is where above the shrouds
The sea-mew screams defiance to the clouds:
     Till Night comes down, about, before, behind,
And locks all lands from sight, but locks not mine from mind! [Page 174]

 


 

TRUE GREATNESS.


What is true greatness? Is’t to climb
     Above the rocks and shoals of time
To sculpture on some height sublime
           A name
To live immortal in its prime

5

     And flush of fame?

What is true greatness? Is’t to lead
     Your armed hirelings on to bleed,
And move a terrible god, indeed,
          An hour;

10

To sate your lust of gold, or greed
     Of despot power? [Page 175]

What is true greatness? Question not,
     But go to yon secluded spot
And enter yonder humble cot

15

          And find
A husbandman who never fought
     Or wronged his kind:

For whom the lips of war are dumb:
     Who loves far more than beat of drum

20

The cattle’s low, the insect’s hum
          In air:
And find true greatness in its sum
     And total there!

What is true greatness? ’Tis to clear

25

     From sorrow’s eye the glistening tear:
To comfort there, to cherish here,
          To bless:
To aid, encourage, and to cheer
     Distress. [Page 176]

30

 


 

TO JOHN RHODE.

A POSTAL.


From Tybee, John! from joyless Georgian Tybee,—
     From godless, graceless Tybee by the sea,
Whereon at present a sojourner I be,
     A word from me!

Fill high the bowl—and fill it to o’erflowing!

5

     High let the flagon flash, and flare, and foam:
For Thursday next I’m going, going, going,
     I’m going home.

I hate to leave—God bless the loves!—the ladies
     With their dark eyes and smiles that thrill me so;

10

But, peste! the atmosphere is hot as Hades,
     And I must go.

So please the gods, then, and the wind blows steady
     And favoring, Monday next I’ll blow the foam
From off a cup,—be sure and have it ready!—

15

     With you at home!

Tybee Island, Georgia, June, 1882. [Page 177]

 


 

TYBEE.


Lone Ultima Thule, fare thee well!
     Upon thy ocean-battered shore
     If it should be that nevermore
In all this life my eyes should dwell;

If it should be that ’neath thy shades,

5

     No more in rapture to my breast,
     When the red sun is in the west,
These arms shall clasp thine amorous maids;

If it should be, that I shall gaze,
     When the broad moonbeams on it sleep,

10

     No more upon thine emerald deep,
I bow to Fate’s mysterious ways:

And, leaving in the hands of Him
     Who threads the future through and through
     The few who stay, the faithful few,

15

Say only, as the woods grow dim,

And as the wild-voiced sea winds swell,—
     Say only, as I wave my hand
     For the last time out toward thy strand,
Lone Ultima Thule—fare thee well!

20


Atlantic Ocean, off Tybee, June, 1882.  [Page 178]

 


 

INSULÆ FORTUNATÆ.


Oh, for a breeze from the balmy islands,
     The fortunate islands and blest of the sea!
Vine-lands or pine-lands, lowlands or highlands,
     So they be summer lands—nought care we.

Here are we thralled by the autocrat hoary

5

     And heartless—the hater of lily and rose—
Winter, who gives us no gleam of the glory
     And brightness and bloom that the summer-time knows.

Here Love lies dormant or dead for a season;
     Joy plumes her wing for less desolate clime;

10

Hope flings farewell to us, giving no reason;
     Faith even goes star-ward to tarry a time. [Page 179]

Pæan Apollo, disdaining to linger,
     Calls to his lovers of song and of shine,
Calls those who love him, and, pointing the finger

15

     Fair to the southward, goes over the Line.

So then, of sweetness, of summer forsaken,
     What is the wonder that ones who are wise
Sigh for the isles where forever men waken
     To scent-laden airs and to song-laden skies?

20


What wonder we long for a breeze from the islands—
     The beautiful islands and blest of the sea?
Vine-lands or pine-lands, lowlands or highlands,
     So they be summer lands—nought care we!

Kingston, November, 1882.  [Page 180]

 


 

TO MY BROTHER CHARLEY.


Though others fail or fly,
     Thou wilt not fail me—thou!
I read it in thy clear, calm eye
     And steadfast brow.

Whate’er of good or ill

5

     May chance with time or tide,
To me and mine unchangeable
     I feel thou wilt abide.

Though my high hopes decay,
     Though summer-friends depart,

10

I know that thou wilt cling alway
     To me, heart of my heart!

Until Life’s storm subsides,
     And o’er the billow’s crest
My vessel all victorious rides,

15

     Or lies a wreck—at rest. [Page 181]

 


 

THE GOLDEN TEXT.


You ask for fame or power?
     Then up, and take for text:—
This is my hour,
     And not the next, nor next!

Oh, wander not in ways

5

     Of ease or indolence!
Swift come the days,
     And swift the days go hence.

Strike! while the hand is strong:
     Strike! while you can and may:

10

Strength goes ere long,—
     Even yours will pass away.

Sweet seem the fields, and green,
     In which you fain would lie:
Sweet seems the scene

15

     That glads the idle eye: [Page 182]

Soft seems the path you tread,
     And balmy soft the air,—
Heaven overhead
     And all the earth seems fair:

20


But, would your heart aspire
     To noble things,—to claim
Bard’s, statesman’s fire—
     Some measure of their fame;

Or, would you seek and find

25

     Their secret of success
With mortal kind?
     Then, up from idleness!

Up—up! all fame, all power
     Lies in this golden text:—

30
This is my hour—
     And not the next, nor next!

Boston, 1882.  [Page 183]

 


 

*THE “WEEK” vs. WENDELL PHILLIPS.


I.


They sneer at him who ever wrought—
     Disdaining any earthier aim,—
To keep whatever God begot
     As something—something worthy name!
     A man whose breath was fan and flame

5

To blight and blast a bitter wrong:
     Who held it as his fairest fame
To cheer the weak and curb the strong?


II.


They
sneer at him who was a foe
     To every man that menaced man!

10

Who went, as brave hearts always go,
     To cannon lip and battle van;—
     Who never owned a rout, nor ran;—
Who, till the final field was won,
     Up from the day the fight began

15

Still bared his breast to wind and sun! [Page 184]


III.


They
sneer at him who dropped and died,—
     The harness on him—in the way;
Who ever taught and ever tried
     To date a good from every day;

20

     Who spoke when Freedom went astray
And waked and warned and won her, too,
     With words that die not, nor decay;—
Still to be Freedom, and be true!


IV.


They
raise their voice and rail at him

25

     Who was as high above their ken
As stars that in the zenith swim
     Are high above the heads of men!
     Back to forgetfulness again
When they and theirs alike are fled,

30

     This Phillips’ work of lip and pen
     Shall ride on earth high-charioted! [Page 185]


* In answer to a virulent attack upon the dead orator which appeared in the columns of the Week directly after the announcement of his death. [back]

 


 

MAN, BOAST NOT OF THY FRIENDS.


Man, boast not of thy friends, until
     They have been tried in fortune’s flame:
Until, in day of pain and ill
They friendship’s holy vows fulfil,
And prove that time can change nor kill

5

     What is forevermore the same.

Wait, till thy faltering footsteps tread
That dim, mysterious, distant, dread,
     To us unknown abode;
If then thou hast but one true friend

10

     Who trod with thee life’s journey o’er,
Weep not to part!—such steps will tend
Together yet; such souls will blend
     Like music—on another shore. [Page 186]

 


 

DISCONTENT.


The morning’s mirth, the midnight’s grief,
     These wait on each and all of us—
On yonder slave, on yonder chief—
     The great one and the small of us.

We fain would fly the future fact,—

5

     Avoid the very way of it;
But every deed we do, each act
     Of ours but draws the day of it.

We fret like foreigners on earth
     And fools, and cry:—O shame of it!

10

Why had we being, why had we birth,
     To bend and bear the blame of it?

Why did we ever see the sun,
     When we must see the set of it?
’Twere well if day had ne’er begun,

15

     For all the good we get of it!

1883.  [Page 187]

 


 

TO WENDELL PHILLIPS.

A FRAGMENT.


O eloquent-lipt last lover of mankind,
     Full-veined apostle, blest of God above!—
Hath Death the dark, the bitter and the blind—
     Called halt, and clipped thy mission work of love?

Far in the dim and undivined somewhere—

5

     In what hope holds as better yet-to-be,
Drinking deep draughts of more immortal air,
     We hope to meet, and walk, and talk with thee.

February 3rd, 1884.  [Page 188]

 


 

MY FAITH.


I would not blot the star of Hope
     That hangs so palely in the skies:
But, giving thought a larger scope,
     And following wheresoe’er it flies,

I find I hate nor sects nor creeds,

5

     Yet have a creed all creeds above,
Whose faith consists in noble deeds,
     Whose highest law is highest love.

And thus I do not feign, but feel
     A different faith from thee, my friend!

10

And yet, perhaps, through woe and weal
     They both lead on to one grand end. [Page 189]

 


 

I AM YOUNG.


I am young, and men
     Who long ago have passed their prime
 Would fain have what I have again,—
     Youth, and it may be—time.

To gain these, and make

5

     Life’s end what it may not be now,
Monarchs of thought and song would shake
     The laurels from their brow.

And each king of earth,
     Whose life we deem a holiday,

10

For this would give his kingship’s worth
     Most joyously away! [Page 190]

 




THE POET’S REASON.


You ask me why I write, yet print not? I
     Have heard there lived far back in the past ages
 A mighty sage amid the mighty sages
     Of earth, and one whose name may never die,
     Who thus was questioned, and did thus reply:

5


I cannot practise that I preach, and so
     I must not preach the thing I cannot do:
But it is meet for self to take a view
     Of inner and of outward things, although
These thoughts or things be neither nice nor new.

10


And when these musings into verse will flow,
     I hold it right to keep them to myself,
     Nor lumber up my neighbor’s groaning shelf! [Page 191]

 


 

TO THE WEST WIND.


West wind, come from the west land
          Fair and far!
     Come from the fields of the best land
          Upon our star!

     Come, and go to my sister

5

          Over the sea:
     Tell her how much I have missed her,
          Tell her for me!

     Odors of lilies and roses—
          Set them astir;

10

     Cull them from gardens and closes,—
          Give them to her!

     Say I have loved her, and love her:
          Say that I prize
     Few on the earth here above her,

15

          Few in the skies!

     Bring her, if worth the bringing,
          A brother’s kiss:
     Should she ask for a song of his singing,
          Give her this!

20


Boston.  [Page 192]

 


 

TO LOUISE.*


My Sister! It is long since thou and I
     Have been together, and it may be long
Ere we shall meet again: thou dwellest nigh
     Our childhood’s home: I mingle with the throng,
     Though thou dost know I do not there belong;

5

For I abhor the spirit of the mart
     That makes our air an atmosphere of wrong;
That checks the growth of every noble art,
And poisons each pure spring that issues from the heart.

Earth hath not much to love: but soon I learned

10

     To love those things it hath of good or great;
To noble deeds and noble words I turned,
     And marked my own bright pathway. If stern fate
     Hath changed its proper current, mine estate
Is not less noble: I shall walk alone,—

15

     Not with a mien defiant and elate,
But in humility,—and if I own
No kinship with the crowd, to them ’twill not be known. [Page 193]

But Fate is lord, and we are slaves of Fate:
     His wish, his will, his word our law supreme;

20

And we, perforce must touch the things we hate,
     Though such was not our own fantastic dream:
     For we are only bubbles on a stream,
And as the torrent goes, we too must go,—
     Now wrapped in darkness, now by Cynthia’s beam

25

Made beautiful and bright: and if we know
Nought of our final end, ’tis best it should be so.

Yea, this is as it should be: for if we
     Could only know in youth what we must know
When youth is ours no longer, few would see

30

     The summer sun of life; for most would go
To probe at once the spell of mystery,
     And sound its dreadful depth of weal or woe:—
Would free the bird, and spurn the narrow cage,
Nor wait to taste the marah of old age.

35


Which would be most unwise. It is so sweet
     To drink life’s chalice to its very lees;
To crush the daisies with your dotard feet,
     And mourn departed opportunities; [Page 194]
To see your hopes wrapped in their winding-sheet;

40

     To spend your days and nights upon your knees;
To live a dreary life, a weary slave,—
To tumble trembling to a dismal grave.

But let us dream awhile that we are free,—
     Free as God’s azure! Casting care aside,

45

Be once again the things we used to be,
     Ere I had drifted out upon the tide,—
     Ere I had sailed on seas unsanctified;
Ere thou had’st put the mantle of the maid
     Away, to wear the mantle of the bride:

50

Stray once again where once our footsteps strayed,
Play once again beside the stream where once we played.

Come, let us dream our bosoms still contain
     The essences of pleasure; that the bloom
Of happy youth is on our cheeks again!

55

     Come, let us drive away each thought of gloom
     That in our breasts hath ever yet found room!
Come let us roam together hand in hand,
     And pluck the flowers full-freighted with perfume—
With dew-drops sparkling, and by south-winds fanned,—

60

The flowers that gem the fields of our beloved land! [Page 195]

Come, while the world grows old, we will grow young!—
     Read o’er again the books we wont to read,—
Methinks I hear the accents of thy tongue
     As thou dost say, “We may do this, indeed,

65

     But all the rest—?” I pr’ythee still take heed!—
Or, let us watch the reapers as they reap,
     Or watch the boats that down the river speed:
To-day on pleasure pleasure let us heap,—
To-morrow we shall wake,—perchance, to-morrow weep!

70


To-morrow waken? I have wakened now!
     The scene grows dim, and broken is the spell:
The lines of age come back upon my brow—
     The heart grows older than the tongue can tell:
     Enchantment, Beauty, Pleasure—all farewell!

75

Oh, blame me not, Louise, that I did call
     Illusion to delight me from her cell!
Her tone was sweet as ever yet did fall
On mortal ear:—alas, ’tis silent soon and all!

Each sunny-featured fancy fades away;

80

     Stern, iron-visaged Duty claims her due; [Page 196]
Melts as a dream the prospect garden-gay,
     Which but this moment recollection drew,—
     And forth I fare to face the fray anew.
Well, there are honors in all wars to gain,—

85

     And be my chaplet laurel-leaves or yew,
And be the sequel pleasure all or pain,
This much will Time attest,—no fight is fought in vain!

Whatever moves, the end is recompense
     For every action, whatsoe’er the end!

90

In this I have ’gainst every ill defence,
     How thick and fast soever ills impend:
     And if at times the body chance may bend,
O’erburdened pilgrim! weary in the way,
     I deem the stronger spirit still will lend

95

     A faith and strength unto the weaker clay,
That it may well endure—until the close of day! [Page 197]


* Mrs. Stewart, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. [back]

 


 

SIC TRANSIT.


A noble record! so he said in pride,
     A noble record, and right nobly won,
     Which ages yet to be shall look upon;
A noble record! so he said—and died.
And, lo! the years came up from out the sea

5

     Of time; like dreams all old things passed away—
     The bud that gave rich promise yesterday
Of fair and fragrant immortality
     Dropped faded, withered—ceased for aye to be,—
And with it died the poet’s proudest lay. [Page 198]

10

 


 

WHAT THEY MEANT.

(IMPROMPTU)


There is a man—an Ishmaelite,
     Who never (hardly) does a square thing,
Got drunk, alas! one Sunday night,
     Which was—alas! again—no rare thing,
Whose friends all prophesied that he

5

     (Of course they said it not in malice!)
Would break his neck upon a tree,
Or have it broken, so you see
’Twas just the same to you, and me,
     And him,—they meant the gallows. [Page 199]

10

 


 

THE WAY OF THE WORLD.


We sneer and we laugh with the lip—the most of us do it,
     Whenever a brother goes down like a weed with the tide;
We point with the finger and say—Oh, we knew it! we knew it!
     But, see! we are better than he was, and we will abide.

He walked in the way of his will—the way of desire,

5

     In the Appian way of his will without ever a bend;
He walked in it long, but it led him at last to the mire,—
     But we who are stronger will stand and endure to the end.

His thoughts were all visions—all fabulous visions of flowers,
     Of birds and of song and of soul which is only a song;

10

His eyes looked all at the stars in the firmament, ours
     Were fixed on the earth at our feet, so we stand and are                        strong. [Page 200]

He hated the sight and the sound and the sob of the city;
     He sought for his peace in the wood and the musical wave;
He fell, and we pity him never, and why should we pity—

15

     Yea, why should we mourn for him—we who still stand, who                   are brave?

Thus speak we and think not, we censure unheeding,                                unknowing,—
     Unkindly and blindly we utter the words of the brain;
We see not the goal of our brother, we see but his going,
     And sneer at his fall if he fall, and laugh at his pain.

20


Ah, me! The sight of the sod on the coffin lid,
     And the sound, and the sob, and the sigh of it as it falls!
Ah, me! the beautiful face forever hid
     By four wild walls!

You hold it a matter for self-gratulation and praise

25

     To have thrust to the dust, to have trod on a heart that was                   true,—
To have ruined it there in the beauty and bloom of its days?
     Very well! There is somewhere a Nemesis waiting for you. [Page 201]

 


 

O LADY FAIR AND DEBONAIR!


O lady fair and debonair,
     Why dost thou weep in darkness there!
Why mourning now? why dost thou bow
Thy flower-like head and starry brow
     Crowned with so wondrous wealth of hair?

5

Those eyes of thine were made to shine—
So deep their hue is and divine—
Where love and light and beauty bright
     Do make a splendor of the night.

Now, pardon me, but, can it be

10

     That love has proven false to thee?
Speak, lady, speak! Hath Love been weak
And sought afar a fairer cheek?
     Then Love must seek it over sea.
Nay, should he roam afar from home

15

For fairer o’er the farthest foam,
His task is done—his race is run:—
     There is no fairer, lady, none. [Page 202]

Forgive me still, since sin I will—
     Though not to work thee any ill—

20

But, hath there been of sons of men
One loved who did not love again,—
     Whose breast hath proven invincible?
Then, lady, know—’tis better so:
Forgive, forget, and let him go!

25

Since he hath shown his heart was stone,
     Lo, I will sacrifice mine own.

Thy pardon, yet!—I did forget
     The weightier ills that do beset:
Did lightly speak, and vainly seek

30

The reason of thy pallid cheek,
     Bowed head and heart, and eyelids wet:
Some bitter woe, some fearful blow
Hath touched thee thus, it must be so:
So at thy feet I bend me, Sweet,

35

     And beg thou wilt thy tale repeat. [Page 203]

Ah! Arctic Death with sudden breath
     Hath touched thy bud—Elizabeth?
Then, let her lie, nor vainly sigh;
We, all of us—were born to die:

40

     But look to Him of Nazareth!
As marble cold, of marble mould
Is she whom thou dost vainly fold
Now to thy breast: but, being blest,
     I pr’ythee, lady, let her rest! [Page 204]

45

 


 

BUNKER HILL, 1885.

A RONDEL.


Ten years ago a boy reclined
     Where Warren won his fatal blow,
And sung what passed within his mind
     Ten years ago:

     While idly in the soft June wind,

5

The palm and pine rocked to and fro,
     And spake to eyes that were not blind

Of a defeated south, resigned
     To meet in peace her old time foe,
And of a conquering North, but kind,

10

     Ten years ago.


     I wrote some verses on the occasion above referred to—June 17th, 1875,—the one hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill. The Palmetto and the Pine were planted side by side on the hill.—G.F.C.  June 17th, 1885.  [Page 205]

 


 

HOPES AND FEARS.

A RONDEL.


With hopes and fears the gods still try us
     Each and all through the winding years:
The past is past, and the morrows defy us
     With hopes and fears.

     Naught that is stable and sure appears:

5

We reach for power—’tis sure to fly us,—
     And the oftener still as the churchyard nears.

We reach for rest, while the world wheels by us
     And leaves us each in our vale of tears,
Till the green sod covers and naught comes nigh us

10

     With hopes and fears.

June 17th, 1885.  [Page 206]

 


 

OH, NEVER MAY THE SHADOW OF THE PAST.

To———


Oh, never may the shadow of the Past
     Upon thy path fall grimly: never may
Thy summer sun be shrouded and o’ercast:
     May peace be ever with thee on thy way!
And if a though shall come to thee at last

5

     Of him who loved thee in his better day,
Kind be that thought, and void of all regret,
For he who loved, if living, loves thee yet. [Page 207]

 


 

AS SOME SWIFT STAR.

To———


As some swift star that through the azure slips,
     Led by a secret, passionate desire,
Forever moving in her bright ellipse
     With eager pinion towards the central fire
Thy course hath been! and through the upcoming years

5

     I hold no doubt that it will be the same,—
     Unto the morning-light of noble fame.
And this it is that most to me endears
     Thy song; for thou dost cherish still the pure,
The true—the wise. In every noble line

10

I see the beauty of thy large design,
     And feel, sweet singer, thy reward is sure:
So, all delighted, watch each flight of thine,
     And wait to see the praise thou wilt secure! [Page 208]

 


 

“OUR BOYS.”*


We thought them and called them and held them “Our boys”—they             are men:
      They have stood at the lip of the cannon and felt its hot breath:
They have heard of the hiss of the ball, and again and again
     They have looked in the face of death.

We sent them away to the battle with many a sigh,

5

     With many a tremor of heart, and with many a tear;
And, now that the day is their own, let each shadow go by,—
     And welcome them home with a cheer! [Page 209]

With the flaunting of flags, and the ringing of bells, and the sound
     Of the trumpet and cannon, whose voice they have heard in the

10
            fight,

Let us show we are proud of our boys who all ready were found
     To battle like men for the right.

So welcome them back to their mothers, and sweethearts, and             wives;
     And remember forever and ever, whatever befal,
That in perilous moments they gallantly perilled their lives,—

15

     And honor them each one and all! [Page 210]


* Who served in the North-West rebellion—1885. [back]

 


 

ERE THE MOON THAT WANES.


Ere the moon that wanes to-night again shall largen,
     Ere the sun that sets to-night shall set again,
You and I may be beyond the bound and margin
     Of the death and doubt that makes the death a pain.
          For, albeit Time’s wheels move slow,

5

               Time’s wheels move steadily still;
          And when they go, we go,
               And when they pause, we will.

You may reap a golden harvest—I may reap less;
     I may wear a motley mantle, you a crown:

10

But I feel unto the valiant and the sleepless
     Meet reward the powers above us will cast down.
          To Him who watched by day,
               And watches all night through,
          Will come a perfect pay—

15

               Rich reckoning and true. [Page 211]

He who knew what weariness and want and woe meant,
     He who pillowed Earth’s sad head upon His breast,—
He who bore that one unutterable moment
     When the burden of her sorrow on Him pressed:—

20

          To Him, we deem, was given,
               For answer to His love,
          All things on earth—in heaven,
               All love below—above.

Fear no loss! Although the shadows close and thicken,

25

     Just beyond the shadow surely lies the light:
If it be not so, we are, at best, but stricken
     Back, who were brought forth of Night, again to night.
          Fear nothing—nought is lost!
               Life, freedom, love and truth

30

          From sphere to sphere are tost:—
               Here have they but their youth! [Page 212]

 


 

THEY SAY I SING TOO SAD A STRAIN.


They say I sing too sad a strain,
     And question of the reason why:
     I know not,—but it seems that I
Sang gaily once:  I may again
     If that which makes me sad goes by.

5

There is a mystery of joy
     In each and every woodbird’s trill;
The song of man, the song of boy
     Have more of loss and ill.

The song of man, the song of boy

10

     Have more of pain; though, it may be,
’Twas but some trifling, slight annoy,
     It leaves a sadness in his strain—
A darkness in his every song;
Just as the cloud in yon inane—

15

     An aery nothing seemingly—
Leaves, as it floats above, a long
     Dark line of shadow on the sea. [Page 213]

 


 

TO JOHN CARRUTHERS, ESQ., GLENVALE.


Oh, I have heard of welcomes, yes!
     Of highland ones and others;
But none of them surpass, I guess,
In pure and simple heartiness,
      A welcome by Carruthers. [Page 214]

5

 


 

LORD BYRON.


     On hearing it averred that the works of Byron were too immoral to be read, and that, for that reason, all memory of the poet should quickly perish.


          I think your judgment incorrect:
               For he, though sometimes not too moral,
          Like Cæsar hides his sole* defect
               With an immortal laurel. [Page 215]


* Caesar’s SOLE defect was a CROWN defect—he was bald; so he covered his head with laurels.—G.F.C. [back]

 


 

WITH ALL MY SINGING.


With all my singing, I can never sing
     A gay, glad song—an honest song of mirth:
In vain my fingers seek some tender string
     Whose voice would catch the dainty ear of earth.
Why is it so? Because the fount and spring

5

     Of all my song was sorrow; it had birth
In gloom, and desolation, and dark hours,—
’Twas not the offspring of the happy flowers. [Page 216]

 


 

TO CHARLEY.


Hast thou the poet-gift? Thou hast,
     O golden-tongued and hearted Greek!
     To find thy prototype, I seek
Far down along the shadowy Past,
     Where half-gods and whole poets speak:

5


Wit, song, and eloquence divine—
     Where are they in the list of names?
     I halt at his of many fames,
And boldly call thee, brother mine,
     A Sheridan—without his shames! [Page 217]

10

 


 

TO MY DAUGHTER JESSIE.

On her first birthday.


My little gem!—a dearer gem
     Than ever flashed since Adam’s fall,
Or so to me than all of them,—
     Yea, more to each than all.

Save one, my mother’s, ’neath the sky

5

     No lovelier lip hath ever smiled;
Nor ever beamed a kindlier eye
     Than that of thine, my child!

Kingston, July 8th, 1885.  [Page 218]

 


 

THE DAYS OF LONG AGO.

A SONG.


Bring back, O Time! bring back to me
     The days I once did know,
The dear old days that used to be—
     The days of long ago!

Bring back the hopes that failed to last,

5

     The fears that failed not so:
Bring back, bring back the golden past—
     The days of long ago!

Bring back the loves I won and lost
     Through Love’s inconstant flow;

10

Bring back, bring back, at any cost,
     The days of long ago! [Page 219]

Bring back once more the fruit and flower,
     The early morning glow,
And give me for a single hour

15

     The days of long ago.

O Autocrat divine and strong!—
     For men have called thee so,—
Bring back with summer and with song,
     The days of long ago.

20


Vain, vain! I know it—my request;
     They come not once they go
However bright, however blest—
     The days of long ago. [Page 220]

 


 

BECAUSE!


“O woman, in our hours of ease,”
     As Scott has somewhere said or sung,
So very difficult to please,
     So sweet of lip, so swift of tongue,
     I’ve often tried, since I was young

5

And danced you darlings on my knees,
     To find out why you have not kept
From Time’s rapacious, greedy jaws
     A reason for your whims, except
That old moth-eaten one—“Because!”

10


Why is it? Hath there never been
     A time in all the tides of Time
When female tongue or female pen
In rhymed prose or prosed rhyme
     Hath given an utterance more sublime

15

And pleasant to the ears of men?
In all the ages that have slipped
     Since that old ark of Noah’s was,
Hath never dear young woman lipped
     A better reason than—“Because!”? [Page 221]

20


Not one! The summers come and go,
     The ages dwindle to a span,
And woman sweet can only throw
     These self-same syllables at man.
     Yea, from Beersheba unto Dan,—

25

While men, the brutes! have reasons plus
     For finding faults, or forging flaws,—
The Fates have shackled woman thus
     To mild, monotonous—“Because!”

And as it was and is, it will

30

     Be ever till the years grow pale
And die with very age; until
     There is nor female left nor male;
     Until the sun himself shall fail:
For this is woman’s last resort,

35

     Parenthesis, and saving clause,
And period still in sense or sport,
     Her exclamation point—“Because!”

Kingston,—’83.  [Page 222]

 


 

THE LAND OF DREAMS.


There is a land where rolls along
     A thousand gilded streams,
The half enchanted son of song
     Names it the land of dreams.

Sweet warblers hang on every bow,

5

     And softened twilight gleams
Eternal o’er the mountain’s brow
     In this dear land of dreams.

With amber drops the luscious vine
     Bows to the foliaged ground,

10

And myriad warblers from the pine
     Send harmony around. [Page 223]

With argent tint its limpid lakes
     Embrace the silver streams:
Reality alone awakes

15

     Ye from that land of dreams!

And wandering through the lofty halls
     In upper realms of air,
Where not a footstep’s echo falls
     To break the stillness there,

20


I met a being fair as day,
     Her eyes like night, I ween,—
A sweet, fair angel gone astray,—
     My own, loved, lost Ellene. [Page 224]