Pine, Rose and Fleur de Lis

by Susie Frances Harrison


 

THE RIME OF THE GRAY CITIE


 

  I.  

                     From firelight to starlight,
                     (And northward flies a flame)
It streameth high to the Polar sky,
                     And a pageant doth proclaim;
While the Gray Citie that is crowned of the cold,
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       Hath need of a singer proud and bold.


II.

 
                     She sigheth, she lieth
                     Prone on her couch of snow,
She feels the beat of the stranger feet
                     That through her ways o’erflow,
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And her soul from the sordid things of sense
       Awakes to a present nobler tense.

  III.

                     She thinketh, she dreameth,
                     She broodeth on a throng
Of voices great that might dedicate
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                     To her worthily their song,
But she faileth to find, doth the Gray Citie,
       The while that she holdeth revelry

  IV.

                     In firelight, in starlight,
                     In dreaming or at day,
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The voice, the song that to her may belong
                     And illuminate her way,
And speak to her sisters over seas,
Of her stately streets and her crowded quays.

 
  V.

                     She stoopeth, back loopeth
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                     (The better she may see)
Her pine-dark hair from her forehead fair,
                     Thus watching waiteth she;
And then that the better she may hear,
She turns to the air her listening ear.
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  VI.

                     The northward, the southward,
                     She scans with vision rare,
But the north-song star a cloud doth mar,
                     Laughs the south in its song so fair,
And no song lives in the red sunset,
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And the dawn declares no singer yet.

 
  VII.

                     She stayeth, delayeth,
                     For fear that she may miss
A half-blown sigh, or a word, or a cry,
                     Or a string-swept, heart-flung kiss;
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But she waiteth in vain for a minstrel bold,
And the sigh that is wafted upon the cold
                     From her own heart comes I wis.
 
 
VIII.

                     She rises, she hearkens
                     To the roar of a hundred guns,
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She opens her eyes on a light that vies
                     With the glare of a thousand suns,
And a million arrows overhead
To the Polar sky stream blue and red.

 
  IX.

                     To northward from southward
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                     The gay processions wind,
To mount from quay of the Gray Citie,
                     And she maketh up her mind
To-night by herself in her own clear tongue
Shall now or never her song be sung.
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X.

                     “O hear me! Draw near me!”
                     She towereth where she stands,
Her voice rings loud to the careless crowd,
                     She spreadeth forth her hands,
On her brow the crystal ice crown gleams,
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At her feet the frozen river dreams.

 

XI.

                     “O hear me! Draw near me!
                     And rest from revelry!
The silken mask and the flowing flask,
                     The varied garb of glee,
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The shining skate and the swift snowshoe,
Lay down with the tasselled tuque of blue,

 
  XII.

                     While welcome, twice welcome,
                     Thrice with my strongest call
A welcome loud from Mount Royal proud
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                     Do I bid you one and all,
And bid you too in my pleasures share,
My winter glories of sky and air.

 
  XIII.

                     From flowerlight to firelight,
                     (And northward flies a flame),
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O first to you is a greeting due,
                     You from the south who came,
Leaving your golden orange trees,
Your sweet acacia scented breeze!

 
  XIV.

                     From coast-land to inland,
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                     Leaving the fresh salt spray,
There sat at my feast to-day from the east
                     Keepers of holiday;
My people all (thus the Gray Citie)
Do bid you a welcome fair and free.
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XV.

                     And leaving the heaving
                     Green of the prairie wave,
A jovial guest, came you from the west,
                     Singing a lusty stave,
The pallor perished, the white hands brown,
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With glory of health for your manhood’s crown.

 
  XVI.

                     You others, my brothers,
                     Remember as you dash
Down the steep white hill while your hearts stand still
                     And the sharp wind stings like a lash,
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My peace, my perils, my foes, my fears,
Two hundred and forty-seven years

 
  XVII.

                     I count, I remember,
                     Since one soft summer night,
An altar green was strangely seen
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                     Festooned with fireflies bright,
And the forest tall stood dark above
The form of the martial Maisonneuve.

 
  XVIII.

                     And dreaming, in seeming,
                     I bow to the saintly Mance;
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The face I see of the fair Peltrie
                     As she stands in a heavenly trance;
And the gentle Marguerite Bourgeoys,
Charming the sullen Iroquois
                     From the maze of his savage dance,
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I see by the side of those pioneers,
The Frenchmen who gave their blood, their tears
                     For the flag and faith of France!

 
  XIX.

                     Thus learning, discerning
                     Lessons the Past has taught,
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You dare not despise the heroes I prize,
                     Nor the later lives that brought
The merchant-ships to my harbour gay,
And cut through my cold limestone their way.

 
  XX.

                     Disdaining, complaining,
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                     The New World bent to their power
As had done the Old, nor failed to unfold
                     The pod, the plant, the flower,
While the beaver stared and stared in vain,
And the Red man’s hear nigh broke in twain.
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XXI.

                     And packing and filling
                     The house and cellar and bin,
My people dare love the icy air,
                     And they love the silver din
Of the fur-trapt sleighs, nor do they disdain
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The loveliness of the frosted pane
                     When the fire is red within.”

 
  XXII.

                     She pauses, the Citie;
                     Then to her own she saith,
“Look ye agree in your revelry
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                     To revere both pain and death;
And forget not the poor in their poverty,
So shall ye bless yourselves and me.”

 
  XXIII.

                     From firelight to starlight,
                     To the north there darts a flame,
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It streameth high to the Polar sky
                     And a pageant doth proclaim.
Unchecked once more is the revelry
In the streets and paths of the Gray Citie.