Later Canadian Poems

Edited by J. E. Wetherell



BLISS CARMAN.





The Yule Guest.

And Yanna by the yule log
  Sat in the empty hall,
And watched the goblin firelight
  Caper upon the wall:

The goblins of the hearthstone,
5
  Who teach the wind to sing,
Who dance the frozen yule away
  And usher back the Spring:

The goblins of the Northland,
  Who teach the gulls to scream,
10
Who dance the Autumn into dust,
  The ages into dream.

Like the tall corn was Yanna,
  Bending smooth and fair—
His Yanna of the sea-gray eyes
15
  And harvest-yellow hair. [Page 39]

Child of the low-voiced people
  Who dwell among the hills,
She had the lonely calm and poise
  Of life that waits and wills.
20

Only to-night a little
  With grave regard she smiled,
Remembering the morn she woke
  And ceased to be a child.

Outside, the ghostly rampikes,
25
  Those armies of the moon,
Stood while the ranks of stars drew on
  To that more spacious noon,—

While over them in silence
  Waved on the dusk afar
30
The gold flags of the Northern light
  Streaming with ancient war.

And when below the headland
  The riders of the foam
Up from the misty border rode
35
  The wild gray horses home,

And woke the wintry mountains
  With thunder on the shore, [Page 40]
Out of the night there came a weird
  And cried at Yanna’s door.
40

“O Yanna, Adrianna,
  They buried me away
In the blue fathoms of the deep,
  Beyond the outer bay.

“But in the yule, O Yanna,
45
  Up from the round dim sea,
And reeling dungeons of the fog,
  I am come back to thee!”

The wind slept in the forest,
  The moon was white and high,
50
Only the shifting snow awoke
  To hear the yule guest cry.

“O Yanna, Yanna, Yanna,
  Be quick and let me in!
For bitter is the trackless way
55
  And far that I have been!”

Then Yanna by the yule log
  Starts from her dream to hear
A voice that bids her brooding heart
  Shudder with joy and fear. [Page 41]
60

The wind is up a moment
   And whistles at the eaves,
And in his troubled iron dream
   The ocean moans and heaves.

She trembles at the door-lock
65
   That he is come again,
And frees the wooden bolt for one
   No barrier could detain.

“O Garvin, bonny Garvin,
   So late, so late you come!”
70
The yule log crumbles down and throws
   Strange figures on the gloom;

But in the moonlight pouring
   Through the half-open door
Stands the gray guest of yule and casts
75
   No shadow on the floor.

The change that is upon him
   She knows not in her haste;
About him her strong arms with glad
   Impetuous tears are laced.
80

She’s led him to the fireside,
   And set the wide oak chair, [Page 42]
And with her warm hands brushed away
   The sea-rime from his hair.

“O Garvin, I have waited,—
85
   Have watched the red sun sink,
And clouds of sail come flocking in
   Over the world’s gray brink,

“With stories of encounter
   On plank and mast and spar;
90
But never the brave barque I launched
   And waved across the bar.

“How came you so unsignalled,
   When I have watched so well?
Where rides the Adrianna
95
   With my name on boat and bell?”

“O Yanna, golden Yanna,
   The Adrianna lies
With the sea dredging through her ports,
   The white sand through her eyes.
100

“And strange unearthly creatures
   Make marvel of her hull,
Where far below the gulfs of storm
   There is eternal lull. [Page 43]

“O Yanna, Adrianna,
105
   This midnight I am here,
Because one night of all my life
   At yuletide of the year,

“With the stars white in heaven,
   And peace upon the sea,
110
With all my world in your white arms
   You gave yourself to me.

“For that one night, my Yanna,
   Within the dying year,
Was it not well to love, and now
115
   Can it be well to fear?”

“O Garvin, there is heartache
   In tales that are half told;
But ah, thy cheek is pale to-night,
   And thy poor hands are cold!
120

“Tell me the course, the voyage,
   The ports, and the new stars;
Did the long rollers make green surf
   On the white reefs and bars?”

“O Yanna, Adrianna,
125
   Though easily I found [Page 44]
The set of those uncharted tides
   In seas no line could sound,

“And made without a pilot
   The port without a light,
130
No log keeps tally of the knots
   That I have sailed to-night.

“It fell about mid-April;
   The Trades were holding free;
We drove her till the scuppers hissed
135
   And buried in the lee.
           
            *      *      *      *      *

“O Yanna, Adrianna,
   Loose hands and let me go!
The night grows red along the East,
   And in the shifting snow
140

“I hear my shipmates calling,
   Sent out to search for me
In the pale lands beneath the moon
   Along the troubling sea.”

“O Garvin, bonny Garvin,
145
   What is the booming sound [Page 45]
Of canvas, and the piping shrill,
   As when a ship comes round?”

“It is the shadow boatswain
   Piping his hands to bend
150
The looming sails on giant yards
   Aboard the Nomansfriend.

“She sails for Sunken Harbor
   And ports of yester year;
The tern are shrilling in the lift,
155
   The low wind-gates are clear.

“O Yanna, Adrianna,
   The little while is done.
Thou wilt behold the brightening sea
   Freshen before the sun,
160

“And many a morning redden
   The dark hill slopes of pine;
But I must sail hull-down to-night
   Below the gray sea-line.

“I shall not hear the snowbirds
165
   Their morning litany,
For when the dawn comes over dale
   I must put out to sea.” [Page 46]

“O Garvin, bonny Garvin,
   To have thee as I will,
170
I would that never more on earth
   The dawn came over hill.”
           
           *      *      *      *      *

 Then on the snowy pillow,
   Her hair about her face,
He laid her in the quiet room,
175
   And wiped away all trace

Of tears from the poor eyelids
   That were so sad for him,
And soothed her into sleep at last
   As the great stars grew dim.
180

Tender as April twilight
   He sang, and the song grew
Vague as the dreams which roam about
   This world of dust and dew:

“O Yanna, Adrianna,
185
   Dear Love, look forth to sea,
And all year long until the yule,
   Dear Heart, keep watch for me! [Page 47]

“O Yanna, Adrianna,
   I hear the calling sea,
190
And the folk telling tales among
   The hills where I would be.

“O Yanna, Adrianna,
   Over the hills of sea
The wind calls and the morning comes,
195
   And I must forth from thee.

“But Yanna, Adrianna,
   Keep watch above the sea;
And when the weary time is o’er,
   Dear Life, come back to me!”
200

“O Garvin, bonny Garvin—”
   She murmurs in her dream,
And smiles a moment in her sleep
   To hear the white gulls scream.

Then with the storm foreboding
205
   Far in the dim gray South,
He kissed her not upon the cheek
   Nor on the burning mouth,

But once above the forehead
   Before he turned away; [Page 48]
210
And ere the morning light stole in,
   That golden lock was gray.

“O Yanna, Adrianna—”
  The wind moans to the sea;
And down the sluices of the dawn
215
  A shadow drifts alee.

 —————

  Low Tide on Grand-Pré.

The sun goes down, and over all
    These barren reaches by the tide
Such unelusive glories fall,
    I almost dream they yet will bide
    Until the coming of the tide.
5

And yet I know that not for us,
    By any ecstasy of dream,
He lingers to keep luminous
    A little while the grievous stream,
    Which frets, uncomforted of dream,—

10

A grievous stream, that to and fro
    Athrough the fields of Acadie [Page 49]
Goes wandering, as if to know
    Why one beloved face should be
    So long from home and Acadie!

15
 
Was it a year or lives ago
    We took the grasses in our hands,
And caught the summer flying low
    Over the waving meadow lands,
    And held it there between our hands?
20
 
The while the river at our feet—
    A drowsy inland meadow stream—
At set of sun the after-heat
    Made running gold, and in the gleam
    We freed our birch upon the stream.
25
 
There down along the elms at dusk
    We lifted dripping blade to drift,
Through twilight scented fine like musk,
    Where night and gloom awhile uplift,
    Nor sunder soul and soul adrift.
30
 
And that we took into our hands—
    Spirit of life or subtler thing—
Breathed on us there, and loosed the bands,
    Of death, and taught us, whispering,
    The secret of some wonder-thing. [Page 50]
35

Then all your face grew light, and seemed
    To hold the shadow of the sun;
The evening faltered, and I deemed
    That time was ripe, and years had done
    Their wheeling underneath the sun.
40

So all desire and all regret,
    And fear and memory, were naught;
One to remember or forget
    The keen delight our hearts had caught;
    Morrow and yesterday were naught!
45

The night has fallen, and the tide . . .
    Now and again comes drifting home,
Across these aching barrens wide,
    A sigh like driven wind or foam;
    In grief the flood is bursting home! [Page 51]
50

 —————

In Apple Time.

The apple harvest days are here,
  The boding apple harvest days,
And down the flaming valley ways

The foresters of time draw near.

Through leagues of bloom I went with Spring,
5
  To call you on the slopes of morn,
Where in imperious song is born

The wild heart of the goldenwing.

I roved through alien summer lands,
  I sought your beauty near and far;
To-day, where russet shadows are,

10
I hold your face between my hands.

On runnels dark, by slopes of fern,
  The hazy undern sleeps in sun;
Remembrance and desire, undone,

15
From old regret to dreams return.

The apple harvest time is here,
  The tender apple harvest time;
A sheltering calm, unknown at prime,

Settles upon the brooding year. [Page 52]
20
 
—————

Carnations in Winter.

Your carmine flakes of bloom to-night
      The fire of wintry sunsets hold;
Again in dreams you burn to light
      A far Canadian garden old.

The blue north summer over it
5
      Is bland with long ethereal days;
The gleaming martins wheel and flit
      Where breaks your sun down orient ways.

There, where the gradual twilight falls,
      Through quietudes of dusk afar,
10
Hermit antiphonal hermit calls
      From hills below the first pale star.

Then, in yon passionate love’s foredoom,
      Once more your spirits stir the air,
And you are lifted through the gloom
15
      To warm the coils of her dark hair! [Page 53]

—————

In the Heart of the Hills.

In the warm blue heart of the hills
    My beautiful beautiful one
Sleeps where he laid him down
    Before the long journey was done.

All the long summer day
5
    The ghosts of noon draw nigh,
And the tremulous aspens hear
    The footing of winds go by.

Down to the gates of the sea,
    Out of the gates of the west,
10
Journeys the whispering river
    Before the place of his rest.

The road he loved to follow
    When June came by his door,
Out through the dim blue haze
15
    Leads, but allures no more.

The trailing shadows of clouds
    Steal from the slopes and are gone;
The myriad life in the grass
    Stirs, but he slumbers on; [Page 54]
20

The inland-wandering tern
    Skriel as they forage and fly;
His loons on the lonely reach
    Utter their querulous cry;

Over the floating lilies
25
    A dragon-fly tacks and steers;
Far in the depth of the blue
    A martin settles and veers;

To every roadside thistle
    A gold-brown butterfly clings;
30
But he no more companions
    All the dear vagrant things.

The strong red journeying sun,
    The pale and wandering rain,
Will roam on the hills together
35
    And find him never again.

Then twilight falls with the touch
    Of a hand that soothes and stills,
And a swamp-robin sings into light
    The lone white star of the hills.
40

Alone in the dusk he sings,
    And a burden of sorrow and wrong [Page 55]
Is lifted up from the earth
    And carried away in his song.

Alone in the dusk he sings,
45
    And the joy of another day
Is folded in peace and borne
    On the drift of years away.

But there in the heart of the hills
    My beautiful weary one
50
Sleeps where he laid him down;
    And the long sweet night is begun.

—————

The Last Watch.

Comrades, comrades, have me buried
    Like a warrior of the sea,
With the flag across my breast
    And my sword upon my knee.

Steering out from vanished headlands
5
    For a harbor on no chart,
With the winter in the rigging,
    With the ice-wind in my heart, [Page 56]

Down the bournless slopes of sea room,
    With the long gray wake behind,
10
I have sailed my cruiser steady
    With no pilot but the wind.

Battling with relentless pirates
    From the lower seas of Doom,
I have kept the colors flying
15
    Through the roar of drift and gloom

Scudding where the shadow foemen
    Hang about us grim and stark,
Broken spars and shredded canvas,
    We are racing for the dark.
20

Sped and blown abaft the sunset
    Like a shriek the storm has caught;
But the helm is lashed to windward,
    And the sails are sheeted taut.

Comrades, comrades, have me buried
25
    Like a warrior of the night.
I can hear the bell-buoy calling
    Down below the harbor light.

Steer in shoreward, loose the signal,
    The last watch has been cut short; [Page 57]
30
Speak me kindly to the islesmen,
    When we make the foreign port.

We shall make it ere the morning
    Rolls the fog from strait and bluff;
Where the offing crimsons eastward
35
    There is anchorage enough.

How I wander in my dreaming!
    Are we northing nearer home,
Or outbound for fresh adventure
    On the reeling plains of foam?
40

North I think it is, my comrades,
    Where one heart-beat counts for ten,
Where the loving hand is loyal,
    And the women’s sons are men;

Where the red auroras tremble
45
    When the polar night is still,
Lighting home the worn sea farers
    To their haven in the hill.

Comrades, comrades, have me buried
    Like a warrior of the North.
50
Lower me the long-boat, stay me
    In your arms, and bear me forth; [Page 58]

Lay me in the sheets and row me,
    With the tiller in my hand,
Row me in below the beacon
55
    Where my sea-dogs used to land.

Has your captain lost his cunning
    After leading you so far?
Row me your last league, my sea-kings;
    It is safe within the bar.
60

Shoulder me and house me hillward,
    Where the field-lark makes his bed,
So the gulls can wheel above me
    All day long when I am dead;

Where the keening wind can find me
65
    With the April rain for guide,
And come crooning her old stories
    Of the kingdoms of the tide.

Comrades, comrades, have me buried
    Like a warrior of the sun;
70
I have carried my sealed orders
    Till the last command is done.

Kiss me on the cheek for courage,
    (There is none to greet me home,) [Page 59]
Then farewell to your old lover
75
    Of the thunder of the foam;

For the grass is full of slumber
    In the twilight world for me,
And my tired hands are slackened
    From their toiling on the sea.
80

—————

Outbound.

A lonely sail in the vast sea-room,
I have put out for the port of gloom.

The voyage is far on the trackless tide,
The watch is long, and the seas are wide.

The headlands blue in the sinking day
5
Kiss me a hand on the outward way.

The fading gulls, as they dip and veer,
Lift me a voice that is good to hear.

The great winds come, and the heaving sea,
The restless mother, is calling me. [Page 60]
10

The cry of her heart is lone and wild,
Searching the night for her wandered child.

Beautiful, weariless mother of mine,
In the drift of doom I am here, I am thine.

Beyond the fathom of hope or fear,
15
From bourn to bourn of the dusk I steer,

Swept on in the wake of the stars, in the stream
Of a roving tide, from dream to dream.

—————

Overlord.

Lord of the grass and hill,
    Lord of the rain,
White overlord of will,
    Master of pain,

I, who am dust and air,
5
    Blown through the halls of death
Like a pale ghost of prayer,
    I am thy breath. [Page 61]

Lord of the blade and leaf,
    Lord of the bloom,
10
Sheer overlord of grief,
    Master of doom,

Lonely as wind or snow,
    Through the vague world and dim,
Vagrant and glad I go
15
    I am thy whim.

Lord of the storm and lull,
    Lord of the sea,
I am thy broken gull
    Blown out alee.
20

Lord of the harvest dew,
    Lord of the dawn,
Star of the paling blue
    Darkling and gone,

Lost on the mountain height
25
    Where the first winds are stirred,
Out of the wells of night
    I am thy word.

Lord of the haunted hush
    Where raptures throng, [Page 62]
30
I am thy hermit thrush
    Ending no song.

Lord of the frost and cold,
    Lord of the north,
When the red sun grows old
35
    And day goes forth,

I shall put off this girth—
    Go glad and free,
Earth to my mother earth,
    Spirit to thee. [Page 63]
40