Later Canadian Poems

Edited by J. E. Wetherell



DUNCAN CAMPBELL SCOTT.





  Above St. Irénée.

I rested on the breezy height,
  In cooler shade and clearer air,
      Beneath a maple tree;
          Below, the mighty river took
Its sparkling shade and sheeny light
5
      Down to the sombre sea,
          And clustered by the leaping brook,
      The roofs of white St. Irénée.

The sapphire hills on either hand
  Broke down upon the silver tide,
10
      The river ran in streams,
          In streams of mingled azure-grey
With here a broken purple band,
      And whorls of drab, and beams
          O shattered silver light astray,
15
      Where far away the south shore gleams. [Page 121]

I walked a mile along the height
  Between the flowers upon the road,
      Asters and golden-rod;
          And in the gardens pinks and stocks,
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And gaudy poppies shaking light,
      And daisies blooming near the sod,
          And lowly pansies set in flocks
      With purple monkshood overawed.

And there I saw a little child
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  Between the tossing golden-rod,
      Coming along to me;
          She was a tender little thing,
So fragile-sweet, so Mary-mild,
      I thought her name Marie;
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          No other name methought could cling
      To any one so fair as she.
 
And when we came at last to meet,
  I spoke a simple word to her,
      “Where are you going, Marie?”
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          She answered and she did not smile,
But oh, her voice,—her voice so sweet,
      “Down to St. Irénée,”
          And so passed on to walk her mile,
      And left the lonely road to me. [Page 122]
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And as the night came on apace
  With stars above the darkened hills,
      I heard perpetually,
          Chiming along the falling hours,
On the deep dusk that mellow phrase,
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      “Down to Saint Irénée:”
          It seemed as if the stars and flowers
      Should all go there with me.

—————

The End of the Day.

I hear the bells at eventide
   Peal slowly one by one,  
Near and far off they break and glide,
  Across the stream float faintly beautiful
The antiphonal bells of Hull;
5
   The day is done, done, done,  
     The day is done.

The dew has gathered in the flowers
   Like tears from some unconscious deep,
The swallows whirl around the towers,
10
  The light runs out beyond the long cloud bars, [Page 123]
And leaves the single stars;
   ’Tis time for sleep, sleep, sleep,
     ’Tis time for sleep.

The hermit thrush begins again,
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   Timorous eremite,
That song of risen tears and pain,
  As if the one he loved was far away:
“Alas! another day—”
   “And now Good Night, Good Night,”
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     “Good Night.”

—————

The Fifteenth of April.

Pallid saffron glows the broken stubble,
    Brimmed with silver lie the ruts,
        Purple the ploughed hill;
Down a sluice with break and bubble
        Hollow falls the rill;
5
Falls and spreads and searches,
    Where, beyond the wood,
Starts a group of silver birches,
    Bursting into bud. [Page 124]

Under Venus sings the vesper sparrow,
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    Down a path of rosy gold
        Floats the slender moon;
Ringing from the rounded barrow
        Rolls the robin’s tune;
Lighter than the robin; hark!
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    Quivering silver-strong
From the field a hidden shore-lark
    Shakes his sparkling song.

Now the dewy sounds begin to dwindle,
    Dimmer grow the burnished rills,
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        Breezes creep and halt,
Soon the guardian night shall kindle
        In the violet vault,
All the twinkling tapers
    Touched with steady gold,
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Burning through the lawny vapors
    Where they float and fold. [Page 125]

—————

September.

The morns are grey with haze and faintly cold,
    The early sunsets arc the west with red,
    The stars are misty silver overhead,
Above the dawn Orion lies outrolled.
Now all the slopes are slowly growing gold,
5
    And in the dales a deeper silence dwells;
    The crickets mourn with funeral flutes and bells
For days before the summer had grown old.

Now the night gloom with hurrying wings is stirred,
    Strangely the comrade pipings rise and sink,
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        The birds are following in the pathless dark
        The footsteps of the pilgrim summer. Hark!
    Was that the redstart or the bobolink?
That lonely cry the summer-hearted bird? [Page 126]

—————

Ottawa.

City about whose brow the north winds blow,
    Girdled with woods and shod with river foam,
    Called by a name as old as Troy or Rome,
Be great as they but pure as thine own snow;
Rather flash up amid the auroral glow,
5
    The Lamia city of the northern star,
    Than be so hard with craft or wild with war,
Peopled with deeds remembered for their woe.

Thou art too bright for guile, too young for tears,
    And thou wilt live to be too strong for time;
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        For he may mock thee with his furrowed frowns,
But thou wilt grow in calm throughout the years,
    Cinctured with peace and crowned with power sublime,
        The maiden queen of all the towered towns. [Page 127]

—————

At Les Éboulements.

The bay is set with ashy sails,
    With purple shades that fade and flee,
And curling by in silver wales,
    The tide is straining from the sea.

The grassy points are slowly drowned,
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    The water laps and overrolls
The wicker pêche; with shallow sound
    A light wave labours on the shoals.

The crows are feeding in the foam,
    They rise in crowds tumultuously,
10
“Come home,” they cry, “come home,—come home,”
    “And leave the marshes to the sea.” [Page 128]

—————

Life and Death.

I thought of death beside the lonely sea
That went beyond the limit of my sight,
Seeming the image of his mastery,
The semblance of his huge and gloomy might.

But firm beneath the sea went the great earth,
5
With sober bulk and adamantine hold,
The water but a mantle for her girth,
That played about her splendour fold on fold.

And life seemed like this dear familiar shore
That stretched from the wet sand’s last wavy crease,
10
Beneath the sea’s remote and sombre roar,
To inland stillness and the wilds of peace.

Death seems triumphant only here and there;
Life is the sovereign presence everywhere. [Page 129]

—————

For Remembrance.

It would be sweet to think when we are old
    Of all the pleasant days that came to pass,
    That here we took the berries from the grass,
There charmed the bees with pans, and smoke unrolled,
And spread the melon-nets when nights were cold,
5
    Or pulled the blood-root in the underbrush,
    And marked the ringing of the tawny thrush,
While all the west was broken burning gold.

And so I bend with rhymes these memories,
    As girls press pansies in the poet’s leaves
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And find them afterward with sweet surprise;
Or treasure petals mingled with perfume,
    Loosing them in days when April grieves;
A subtle summer in the rainy room. [Page 130]

—————

The Reed-Player.

By a dim shore where water darkening
    Took the last light of spring,
I went beyond the tumult, harkening
    For some diviner thing.

Where the bats flew from the black elms like leaves,
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    Over the ebon pool
Brooded the bittern’s cry, as one that grieves
    Lands ancient, bountiful.

I saw the fire-flies shine below the wood
    Above the shallows dank,
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As Uriel from some great altitude,
    The planets rank on rank.

And now unseen along the shrouded mead
    One went under the hill;
He blew a cadence on his mellow reed,
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    That trembled and was still.

It seemed as if a line of amber fire
    Had shot the gathered dusk,
As if had blown a wind from ancient Tyre
    Laden with myrrh and musk. [Page 131]
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He gave his luring note amid the fern
    Its enigmatic fall,
Haunted the hollow dusk with golden turn
    And argent interval.

I could not know the message that he bore,
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    The springs of life from me
Hidden; his incommunicable lore
    As much a mystery.

And as I followed far the magic player
    He passed the maple wood,
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And when I passed the stars had risen there,
    And there was solitude.

—————

Autumn Song.

Sing me a song of the Autumn clear,
    With the mellow days and the ruddy eves;
Sing me a song of the ending year,
    With the piled-up sheaves.

Sing me a song of the apple bowers,
5
    Of the great grapes the vine-field yields, [Page 132]
Of the ripe peaches bright as flowers,
    And the rich hop-fields.

Sing me a song of the fallen mast,
    Of the sharp odor the pomace sheds,
10
Of the purple beets left last
    In the garden beds.

Sing me a song of the toiling bees,
    Of the long flight and the honey won,
Of the white hives under the apple-trees
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    In the hazy sun.

Sing me a song of the thyme and the sage,
    Of sweet marjoram in the garden grey
Where goes my love Armitage
    Pulling the summer savory.
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Sing me a song of the red deep,
    The long glow the sun leaves,
Of the swallows taking a last sleep,
    In the barn eaves. [Page 133]

—————

Song.

Here’s the last rose,
    And the end of June,
With the tulips gone,
    And the lilacs strewn;
A light wind blows
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    From the Golden West,
The bird is charmed
    To her secret nest:
Here’s the last rose—
    In the violet sky
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A great star shines,
    The gnats are drawn
To the purple pines;
    On the magic lawn
A shadow flows
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    From the summer moon:
Here’s the last rose,
    And the end of the tune. [Page 134]

—————

Off Rivière du Loup.

Oh, ship incoming from the sea,
    With all your cloudy tower of sail,
Dashing the water to the lee,
    And leaning grandly to the gale;

The sunset pageant in the West
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    Has filled your canvas curves with rose,
And jewelled every toppling crest
    That crashes into silver snows.

You know the joy of coming home,
    After long leagues to France or Spain,
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You feel the clear Canadian foam,
    And the gulf water heave again.

Between the sombre purple hills
    That cool the sunset’s molten bars,
You will go on as the wind wills
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    Beneath the river’s roof of stars.

You will toss onward towards the lights
    That spangle over the lonely pier,
By hamlets glimmering on the heights,
    By level islands black and clear. [Page 135]
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You will go on beyond the tide,
    Through brimming plains of olive sedge,
Through paler shallows light and wide,
    The rapids piled along the ledge.

At evening off some reedy bay
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    You will swing slowly on your chain,
And catch the scent of dewy hay
    Soft blowing from the pleasant plain. [Page 136]