Lays of the ‘True North,’

AND

OTHER CANADIAN POEMS

BY

AGNES MAULE MACHAR


II.

CANADIAN WOODNOTES.


—————


 

 

IN THE FOREST.


MID the cloistered forest arches,
    ’Neath the quivering hemlock shade,
Where the tassels of the larches
    Toss their incense through the glade,
Where the bracken’s clustered masses

5

    Wave beneath the sheltering pines,
And the sumach interlaces
    With a tangle of wild vines,

There—like touch of fairy fingers,
    Parting light the leafy screen—

10

Every ray of sunlight lingers
    Mid the mystery of green,
Many a web of shadow tracing
    O’er green stones and mosses bright,
Through the beechen covert threading

15

    Quivering skeins of golden light.

Low amid the bending beeches
    Many a wilding blossom blows;
Scarce its tiny life outreaches
    The safe covert where it grows.

20

Waxed–pure or tender-tinted,
    In the solitude they bloom;
Scarcely in their presence hinted
    By their subtle, faint perfume. [Page 44]

Through the boughs light forms are winging,

25

    And—unseen but sweetly heard—
In a burst of low, sweet singing
    Comes the carol of a bird.
So amid the silence dreaming,
    Many a vagrant fancy wakes,

30

Like the blossoms shyly gleaming
    Mid the tangled forest brakes;

And we listen to the murmur
    Of the wandering summer breeze,
Till we feel our kinship firmer

35

    With the birds, and flowers, and trees;
Till we reach its living centre—
    Till to us its heart is bare,
And souls that reverent  enter
    Meet God in His temple there!

 


 

SPRING BIRDS


FROM southern shores and summer seas,
Where wanders wild the fragrant breeze,
Where mangrove copse and stately palm
In still lagoon are mirrored calm,
O’er orange groves, on tireless wing,

5

Northward they’ve come—our birds of spring.

What impulse strange their flight hath sped?
Their course what guiding thought hath led?
From climes where summer reigns always
What fancy moved their flight to stray,

10

And pour, our leafless boughs among,
Their ecstasy of joyous song?

We know not now, nor can we tell
Why these same songs our pulses swell
With bounding life and waking dreams

15

Of rustling leaves and murmuring streams;
What magic o’er our spirits bring
The rainbow-tinted skies of spring— [Page 45]

Whence comes the rapture, vague but sweet,
With which each wilding flower we greet,

20

Or breathe the scent of budding trees,
That fill with balm and the April breeze—
Or why the weariest heart is stirred
By carols of the early bird!

We may not thread the mysteries

25

Through which our human pathway lies:
Enough to know that all the range
Of form and thought, of life and change—
In countless types—develop still
One central unity of will!

30


Ourselves a part of one grand whole,
Inspired throughout by living soul,
Which dimly to our heart reveals
The Presence Nature still conceals
Beyond our highest thoughts to trace,

35

And yet—our Home and Dwelling-place!

 


 

THE SOUTH-WEST WIND.


LET who will extol the north wind,
    Keen with frost and blinding snow;
I will praise the sweet sou’wester
    As the fairest wind I know.
When old Boreas’ savage splendour

5

    Has at length its course outrun,
And from the skies of April tender
    Smiles the northward-veering sun;

When in warm and sheltered places,
    From brown beds of leafage sere,

10

Pale young blossoms lift sweet faces,
    Shyly poised ’twixt hope and fear,
Comes the soft sou’-wester, blowing
    From the isles of spice and palm,
Fields and woods with blossoms strewing,

15

    Filling all the air with balm. [Page 46]

Life-restorer, beauty-giver,
    Making hearts, with longing sore,
Throb to see the captive river
    Sparkle in the sun once more;

20

While the happy thrush is telling
    Sweet bird-gossip to his love,
How the fragrant buds are swelling
    On the bending boughs above;

How the lily-bells are ringing

25

    Wedding-chimes upon the breeze,
Fragrant flowers their censers swinging
    For the butterflies and bees;
How, the velvet mosses leaving;
    Ferns their crosiers green upraise;

30

How thy fairy touch is weaving
   Wreaths of bloom round woodland ways.

Glad we hail thee, south wind, bringing
    Foretaste sweet of fairer things,
Of the woodland, gay with singing,

35

    Of the rush of airy wings;
Happy toil of hopeful sower,
    Bloom of summer’s glorious prime,
Golden sheaves that bless the mower
    In the joyous autumn-time.

40


Let who will extrol the north wind,
    Reigning king of frost and death;
Nature-lovers hail the south wind,
    Warm with life-awaking breath,
Bearing, to our human sadness

45

    Dreams of beauty far above
All our earthly spring of gladness
    In eternal light and love! [page 47]

 


 

AN APRIL DAY.


THE calm, sweet brightness of an April Day
    Broods o’er the earth, and floods the quiet air,
Which holds its breath, as if the gentle play
    Of even a breeze would break a dream so fair,
    So sweet the charmèd stillness everywhere!

5


The lake lies like a radiant mirror spread;
    No ripple breaks its calm and glassy breast;
The lightest cloud that flecks the blue o’erhead
    Is in the blue below again expressed,
    Unbroken image of most perfect rest.

10


And yet, beneath the calm, a myriad lives
    Are pressing through the silence to the sun,
With strength that conquers, though it never strives.
    So tranquilly its destined task is done,
    As, without haste, the yearly race is run.

15


O Nature—grand and strong, and fair and calm,
    How dost thou shame our passionate despair!
Thy very work is rest, thy life is calm,
    The breath of spring— the essence of the prayer,
    That seems to rise about us everywhere.

20


So may we each our destined task fulfil
    In patient toil and sweet tranquillity,
Unhasting and unresting—faithful still
    To higher impulse, hidden strength and stay,
    With the sweet calmness of this April day!

 


 

THE LEGEND OF THE MAYFLOWER.

(THE TRAILING ARBUTUS, THE SPECIAL FLOWER OF NOVA SCOTIA.)


WHEN the maple wears its tassels and the birch-buds grow                 apace,
And the willows gleam out golden in the sunset’s tender grace,          [Page 48]
And the ferns amid the mosses their curly heads uprear,
Then awakes our wilding blossom, first and fairest of the year—
The Mayflower­– oh, the Mayflower!—sweet of scent and fair to

5
        see,

Tiny, trailing, pink arbutus, chosen flower of Acadie!

Sheltered ’neath the dropping pine-boughs, see its tendrils                     creeping low,
Gleam in fresh and glistening verdure through the swiftly melting         snow.
Till the pink buds in the sunshine open wide their throats to fling
From their censers, rarest incense on the balmy air of spring—

10

The Mayflower­—oh, the Mayflower!—sweet of scent and fair to             see,
How we hail thee in the springtime—chosen flower of Acadie!

There’s the robin, plaintive fluting in the budding boughs above,
And the cat-bird sweetly warbling for the pleasure of his love;
Are they telling the old story, how a gentle Indian maid,

15

Vainly seeking her lost lover, through the forest tireless strayed?
The Mayflower—oh, the Mayflower!—sweet of scent and fair to             see,
All the woodland feels thy fragrance, chosen flower of Acadie!

Do they tell how—mid her sorrow for the one she had held so                 dear—
Every sad and suffering creature still she sought to help and

20
        cheer,

Till there sprang up, in the pathway of her ministering feet,
The  Mayflower’s tender blossoms—full of fragrance rare and                 sweet ? [Page 49]
The Mayflower­—oh, the Mayflower!—sweet of scent and fair to             see,
Filled with all the springtime’s sweetness—chosen flower of                 Acadie!

Passing years bring many changes—joy and sorrow come and

25
        go,

Yet unchanged the Mayflower wakens at the melting of the snow;
Though unseen, its fragrance breathing through the budding                 woodland maze
Brings sweet foretaste of the summer to the changeful April days.
The Mayflower­—oh, the Mayflower!—sweet of scent and fair to             see,
With love’s fragrant breath thou’rt laden, chosen flower of Acadie!

30


Years have glided into ages and the centuries grow gray,
Still as fresh and sweet as ever does the Mayflower greet the                 May;
And the heaviest heart grows lighter as it hails thy promise true
Of the love that lives for ever, and shall make all old  the things             new.
The Mayflower­—oh, the Mayflower!—sweet of scent and fair to

35
        see,

Shedding spring’s divinest fragrance through the woods of                     Acadie!

 


 

THE COMING OF THE SPRING.


WHAT subtle presence the air is filling,
    Our pulses thrilling;
What strange mysterious sense of gladness
    Transfused with sadness;
Trembling in opal and purple hues

5

    That wake and melt in the azure high,
Brooding in sunbeams that suffuse
    With the light of hope, the fields that lie
    Quite and gray ’neath the sunset sky? [Page 50]

Thor’s thunder-hammer hath waked the earth

10

    To a glad new birth—
The birth of the fresh, young, joyous spring,
    New blossoming—
Bidding the south wind softly blow,
    Loosing the tongues of the murmuring streams,

15

Sending the sap with a swifter flow
    Through the bare brown trees, and waking dreams
    Of summer shadows and golden gleams!

Down in the budding woods unseen,
    Amid mosses green,

20

The fair hepatica wakes to meet
    The hastening feet
Of children that soon, with laughter sweet,
    Shall shout with glee to find it there,
And bear it homeward—the herald meet

25

    Of the countless bells and blossoms fair
    That shall ring sweet chimes on the balmy air.

And tiny ferns their fronds unbind
    By streams that wind—
Singing a song in soft undertones—

30

    O’er the smooth brown stones;
And pure white lilies and purple phlox,
    And violets yellow and white and gray,
And columbines gleaming from lichened rocks,
    And dogwood blossoms and snowy may,

35

    Shall wreathe with beauty each woodland way!

Soon, in the shadow of dewy leaves
    About our eaves,
The chorister-birds shall their matins ring,
    Sweet carolling;

40

While, through the bowery orchard trees,
    All sprinkled with drifts of scented snow,
Comes the fragrant breath of the morning breeze,
    And over the long lush grass below
    Soft wavering shadows glide to and fro. [Page 51]

45


But when shall the better Spring arise
    Beneath purer skies—
The Spring that can never pass away
    Nor know decay—
Sending new joy through the stricken heart,

50

    Waking new life from the silent tomb,
Joining the souls that have moved apart,
    Bidding earth’s winter for ever depart,
With incompleteness, pain and gloom,
Till—ransomed at last from its inwrought doom—

55

It shall blossom forth in immortal bloom?

 


 

WELCOME TO THE HEPATICA, OR LIVERWORT.


LET them sing of the lily and the rose as they will,
    Of the daisy and the daffodil poets hold dear;
There’s a blossom we welcome as lovelier still,
    As it wakes in the woods in the spring of the year—
The tiny hepatica, welcome and dear.

5

How it pierces the brown leaves so withered and sere,
    With its delicate fairness, its exquisite rareness!
How it gladdens our eyes in the spring of the year!

How it whispers that winter is over at last,
    That the time of singing birds is at hand!

10

How it blends with the music of streams rushing fast,
    And the note of the robin that thrills through the land!
So fragile and graceful, so welcome and dear,
As its smiles mid the brown leaves so withered and sere,
    In its exquisite rareness, its delicate fairness;

15

How it gladdens our thoughts in the spring of the year!

How it comes like a vision of beauty that soon
    Shall deck all the woods in a bridal of bloom,
The waving luxuriant foliage of June,
    The breezes that bring us a wealth of perfume!

20

Yet none to our hearts is more welcome and dear
Than thine, breathing out from the leaves brown and sere,
    In thine exquisite rareness, thy delicate fairness;
How they gladden our hearts in the spring of the year! [Page 52]

For thou comest when trees are still leafless and bare,

25

    When the last patch of snow has scarce melted away;
When even the shad-flower* still shrinks from the air,
    Thy soft stars shine out  from a background of gray—
A herald of hope with a message of cheer
Peeping out from the brown leaves so withered and sere,

30

    With thy delicate fairness, thine exquisite rareness;
How they gladden our souls in the spring of the year!

 

* The shade-bush is the popular Canadian name for the white blossoming shrub, Amelanchier Canadense, earliest bloomer in the Canadian woods. [back]

 


 

MAY-DAYS.


OH! the days are fair when May has come,
With the robin’s call and the wild bee’s hum,
In each forest-nook a shimmer of green
Glancing in sunlight and dewy sheen;
While a snowy bloom wreathes the budding bough

5

So gray and leafless and bare—but now!
For the woods have waked from the wintry night
’Neath the kiss of the sunshine soft and bright,
And the meadows bask in the golden light
                                                When May is  here,

10

The fairest month in the circling year!

For May has brought us the blossoms sweet
That hide in the brown leaves ’neath our feet:
Pale hepaticas, just awake,
Peep shyly out from the woodland brake;

15

Dewy violets with tender faces,
Lilies shining in shady places,
Columbines tufting the rock’s gray side
By quite waters’ azure tide;
For the earth is fair in the sweet May-tide,

20

                                                Fair and bright
Are the woodlands with snowy bloom bedight!

And the air is filled with the wandering scent
Of the bursting leaves with the Zephyr blent; [Page 53]
And the birds pour forth  from their tiny throats
25

Showers of music in clamouring notes,
Till the soft breeze throbs with the tide of song
The matin-chant of the joyous throng;
Till bud and blossom and flower and bee
Seem mingled in perfect symphony

30

Of  the season’s exquisite witchery!
                                                Word may not tell
The charm of the May and its magic spell.

For hope is so bright when the year is young,
And the bridal song of earth is sung

35

By myriad voices mingling clear
In the morning hymn of the waking year.
Lost is the mournful minor tone
In the swell of the great diapason;
Life and gladness resume their sway,

40

And even to sorrow they seem to say,
                                                ‘Smiles conquer tears,
And joy shall rule the immortal years!’

 


 

THE HERALDS OF THE SPRING.


LONG  hath the dreary winter’s chilling hand
Been laid upon the frost-imprisoned land,
And long the north wind’s keen and bitter blast
Hath swept the fleecy snowflakes wildly past
In powdery drifts and clouds of icy spray,

5

Whirling aloft and darkening all the day;
Or, calm and still, the snow with noiseless fall
Sank down on the tree and bush, enfolding all
In a soft, fragile foliage, that might seem
The passing vision of a fairy dream,

10

And draped the earth in mantel fair and white,
Crusted with diamonds dazzling in their light; 
Drift piled on drift oppressed the buried ground,
An Arctic landscape seemed to stretch around.
Long slept the land fast bound in frozen chains,

15

All blank and dreary lay the snow-clad plains, [Page 54]
Too coldly fair such wintry glories show
To eyes grown weary of perpetual snow!

But now a greater breath pervades the air,
The opening skies a softer azure wear;

20

The snow has vanished at the south wind’s breath,
And Nature wakens from her seeming death;
The lakes and steams, set free from icy chain,
Flash their blue waters to the sun again!
We hear once more the rushing torrent’s flow,

25

The fragrance of the ‘unbound earth’ we know!
The soft, the sweet tinkle of the streamlet seems
To lull our senses to delicious dreams,
And soft and sweet the light of evening lies
On quite fields beneath the sunset skies.

30

She comes! although we chide her tardy wing,
We hail the welcome advent of the Spring!
And through our memory breaths the old, sweet strain,
So often heard, yet gladly heard again:
‘The winter’s past and gone, the flowers appear,

35

The time of singing of the birds is here!

Already by our gladdened ears is heard
The welcome twitter of the earthly bird,
And, ere the winter blasts are wholly fled,
The pure white Blood-root lifts her gentle head.

40

Half shrinking from the rude, ungenial air,
She bends to earth her petals waxen fair,
As if afraid to fell herself alone,
On the bleak threshold of the winter thrown.
Yet her fragile beauty, faithful still,

45

She seems her welcome errand to fulfil,
To glad our longing eyes with promise true
Of all the beauty soon to burst to view!

Ere yet the lingering snow the woods has left,
But tarries late in many a rocky cleft,

50

The waking ferns their curling fronds uncoil,
And velvet moss o’erspreads the spongy soil.
Ere yet her glossy leaves have donned their green,
The shy Hepatica from downy screen [Page 55]
Opens her soft-hued cups in lovely bloom,

55

Filled with the spring’s most delicate perfume;—
Wood-violets follow, opening to the light
Their changeful tints of yellow, blue and white;
Tall Trilliums waving in the woodland dells;
The bright Dicentra, with her clustered bells;

60

May-apple white, beneath broad shield of green,
Meet canopy of state for fairy queen;
With the dark Arum and the Cranebill bright,
And Convallaria’s drooping clusters white;
The small Mitella’s feathery shaft appears,

65

Piercing the sodden leaves of bygone years;
By the dark cleft of some old rugged pine
Wave the bright blossoms of the Columbine,
While hawthorn boughs their snowy burden bear,
Wafting spring fragrance through the balmy air;

70

The summer hours more gorgeous blossoms bring,
But none so dear sweet heralds of the Spring!

 


 

THE WHIP-POOR-WILL.


OH, Whip-poor-Will! oh, Whip-poor-Will!
When all the joyous day is still,
    When from the sky’s fast deepening blue
    Fades out the sunset’s rosy hue,
We hear thy steady, measured trill

5

From woodland shade, oh, Whip-poor-Will!

In the soft dusk of dewy May,
At pensive close of autumn day,
    All other birds may silent be,
    Or flood the air with minstrelsy:

10

Thou carest not—eve brings us still
Thy plaintive burden, ‘Whip-poor-Will!’

When moonlight floods the summer night
With a soft vision of delight,
    We listen till we fain would ask

15

    For thee, some respite from thy task. [Page 56]
At dawn we wake, and hear it still,
Thy plaintive song—oh, Whip-poor-Will!

We hear thy voice, but see not thee;
Thou seemest but a voice to be,

20

    A wandering spirit, breathing yet
    For parted joys a vain regret;
So plaintive thine untiring trill
At dawn or dusk—oh, Whip-poor-Will!

So faithful to thy strange refrain,

25

Is it the voice of joy or pain?
    We cannot know—thou wilt not tell
    The secret kept so long and well,
What moves thee thus to warble still
Thine endless plaint—oh, Whip-poor-Will!

30

 


 

SPRING’S  UNDERTONE.


THIS is no day for sadness;—let me breathe
    The sweet, pure air beneath the clear blue sky,
While visions, lovely in their vagueness, wreathe
    Their misty forms before the dreaming eye,
    Entranced to look upon their witchery!

5


This is no day for sadness! When the sun
    Is draped in weeping clouds of sullen gray,
Or when the tranquil autumn day is done,
    And early twilight sleeps upon the bay—
    Then may we sigh for blessings passed away!

10


And yet, why is it that on days like these,
    When Nature wears her sweetest, sunniest face,
When all the air is sweet with budding trees,
    And flowers bloom softly in each sunny place,
    And clothe the waking earth with tender grace,

15


And joyous birds their merry carols sing,
    Our hearts can never rise to notes like theirs—
A strain of sadness wanders through the spring—
    The very perfectness of Nature bears
    A spell that weighs our hearts down unawares? [Page 57]

20


Is it that budding woods and opening flowers,
    All the fresh life that gladdens our dull earth,
Seem but to flout this fleeting life of ours,
    That here, at least, knows no new vernal birth,
    And seemeth oft to us little worth?

25


Or is it that fair Nature’s unstained face
    Wakes yearnings for purity we prize
And cannot reach?—that Spring’s fresh, undimmed grace
    Wakes sadness in us most when to the skies,
    In unchecked gladness, all her anthem rise?

30


Yet may our restless souls in this rejoice,
    That every unchecked aspiration here
Each vague, half-conscious yearning is a voice
    Calling us onward—if we will but hear—
    To higher life and growth in nobler sphere!

35

 


 

DRIFTING AMONG THE THOUSAND ISLANDS.


NEVER a ripple on all the river,
    As it lies like a mirror beneath the moon,
Only the shadows tremble and quiver
    ’Neath the balmy breath of a night in June!
All dark and silent, each shadowy island

5

    Like a silhouette lies on its silver ground,
While just above us a rocky highland
    Towers grim and dusk, with its pine-trees crowned.

Never a sound but the waves’ soft splashing,
    As the boat drifts idly the shore along,

10

And the darting fireflies, silently flashing,
    Gleam—living diamonds—the woods among,
And the night-hawk flits o’er the bay’s deep bosom,
    And the loon’s laugh breaks through the midnight calm,
And the luscious breath of the wild vine’s blossom

15

    Wafts from the rocks like a tide of balm! [Page 58]

Drifting—why may we not drift for ever?
    Let all the world and its warfare go;
Let us floats and drift with the flowing river,
    Whither—we neither care nor know!

20

Dreaming a dream—might we ne’er awaken!
    There’s joy enough in this passive bliss,
The wrestling crowd and its cares forsaking,
    Was ever Nirvana more blest than this?

Nay! but our hearts are ever lifting

25

    The veil of the present, however fair;
Not long—not long can we go drifting,
    Not long enjoy surcease from care!
Ours is a nobler task and guerdon
    Than aimless drifting, however blest;

30

Only the heart that can bear the burden
    Shall share the joy of the victor’s rest!

 


 

A SUMMER SUNSET.


COME, dear, lay down your book awhile to rest,
While sinks the sun behind yon wooded crest;—
Leave human lore for less enchanted hours,
That dull the skies and steal away the flowers;
Now Nature’s face is too bewitching sweet,

5

God’s thoughts seem writ in beauty at our feet!

There, on the river, rose and opal seem
To melt and mingle in the placid stream,
Blent with ethereal tones of purple hue,
With gleams of palest azure breaking through

10

The softened double of those rose-flushed skies,
Bathed in whose glamour all the landscape lies
Like dreamland!—See how fair each mirrored isle
Still fairer in its shadow seems to smile,
While silently the light canoe glides o’er

15

The enchanted river towards the farther shore!
It seems that Nature’s self stands still with us,
While through her temple-rings her Angelus; [Page 59]
Ev’n yon small bird has ceased his happy trill,
On the high pine-top perched, all hushed and still,

20

As if he listened to some sweeter strain
He fain would catch and give to us again!

So let us, too, leave lower thoughts and things
To catch the nobler strain that Nature sings.
What boots it though we could, with curious eye,

25

Thread all her hidden paths of mystery;
See how she fashions in her inmost shrine
Her myriad-featured beauty, line by line;
Trace life’s long growth from earliest dawn to day,
And measure all the laws its forms obey—

30

If in our searching we should miss the soul
That animates, inspires, informs the whole?

In such an hour as this —if but we will,
While that is speaking, listen and be still—
Our hearts shall feel, soft breathing through the calm,

35

The brooding love that drops like healing balm;—
Feel the Great Infinite we vainly seek
To grasp with thought—for such a task too weak—
Now close and sweet, as kiss by mother pressed
On her tired child close folded to her breast!

40

 


 

THE INDIAN PIPE.


AMID the clustering beeches, hidden deep,
Where scarce at noon the July sunbeams creep,
Where on the bough the humming-bird’s small nest
Seems, like a knot of lichen, light to rest,
From the dead leaves of last year’s autumn ripe

5

Rise from the white clusters of the Indian Pipe.

Is it an earthly flower or ghostly shade,
From fields Tartarean to our forest strayed?
Or wrought from stainless marble, carven fine
By cunning sculptor in a quaint design,

10

In mimic semblance of the pipe of peace
That warriors smoke when war and havoc cease?[Page 60]

All waxen white in stem, and leaf, and flower
It stands—a vision strange in summer bower;
But whence the form its bending blossoms wear?

15

Does the pale bloom a runic legend bear?
Then murmuring rose the breeze of eventide,
And, whispering low, an ancient sorrow sighed!

Here, long ago, amid this sylvan shade,
There grew, in budding bloom, an Indian maid,

20

Her father’s only child—his joy and pride;—
She seemed a lily by a cedar’s side.
Careless she roamed, until one fatal day
A pale-face stranger stole her heart away.

Could a chief’s daughter with such a lover go?

25

Leave sire a nation for her people’s foe?
Nay! better death than baseness such as this!
Yet youth an d joy went with his parting kiss;—
And, like another Iphigenia brave,
Swift-ebbing life fro sire and race she gave.

30


But one last boon she sought with parting life—
That with her death should end the vexing strife:
’Twixt white and red man war and feud should cease,
While o’er her grave they smoked the pipe for peace;
And there, ere maize and wilding rice were ripe,

35

Sprang the pale clusters of the Indian Pipe!

 


 

AN AUGUST MORNING.


IN gleam of pale translucent amber woke
    The perfect August day;
Through rose-flushed bars of pearl and amber broke
    The sunset’s golden way.

The river seemed transfigured in its flow

5

    To tide of amethyst,
Save where it rippled o’er the sands below,
    And granite boulders kissed. [Page 61]

The clouds of billowy woodland hung unstirred
    In languorous slumber deep,

10

While, from its green recesses, one small bird
    Piped to its brood asleep.

The clustering lichens wore a tenderer tint,
    The rocks a warmer glow;
The emerald dewdrops, in the sunbeam’s glint,

15

    Gemmed the rich moss below.

Our birchen shallop idly stranded lay
    Half mirrored in the stream,
Wild roses drooped, glassed in the tiny bay,
    Ethereal as a dream!

20


You sat upon your rock, enthroned a queen,
    As on a granite throne,
And all that world of loveliness serene
    Held but us twain alone.

Nay! but we felt another presence there,

25

    Around, below, above;
It breathed a poem through the fragrant air—
    Its name was LOVE.

 


 

THE HAPPY ISLANDS


PAST the Rocks in Deep Water,* winding its way to the sea,
Sweeps our might St, Lawrence, grand, majestic and free;
Yet methinks he tarries, as glad to linger awhile
Amid the mazy channels where the happy islands smile.
Fair do they seem as Eden, when Eden was newly made,

5
To the wearied city toilers who seek their grateful shade;
Far from the hurry and clamour, far from the bustle and din,
See the cool and shady recesses that lure the wanderer in!
[page 62]


Soft in the haze of morning, their shadowy masses seem
To rest on the calm blue water like the phantasm of a dream;
10

Dark in the glare of noonday their bowers of foliage stand,
Spreading their deep, cool shadow like rocks in a weary land;
But when  at close of his journey the sun rides down the west,
Trailing his crimson and purple o’er the river’s opal breast,
Then, like isles of the blessed, bathed in celestial light,

15

They float between earth and heaven like a mystic vision bright.

Happy the careless paddler who steers his light canoe
O’er the mingling ruby and topaz, the purple shadows through,
While the stroke of the ashen paddle beneath the skilful arm
Scarce clouds the magic mirror, or breaks the wondrous charm;

20

And when the mystic moonlight, with its white unearthly spell,
Like a vision of enchantment clothes river and rock and dell,
How the lights and shadows tremble with a hidden mystery,
And the silhouettes of the islands lie dark on the silver sea!

 

* ‘Gananoque.’ [back]

 


 

TO A FRIEND IN EUROPE.

Cœlum, non animum, mutant, qui trans mare currunt.’


I, HERE amid Canadian pines,
    Whose floating fragrance fills the air;
Where rocks and green with tangled vines,
    And ferns are waving everywhere; [page 63]

Where, under long, dark hemlock boughs,

5

    Bright waves leap sparkling to the sun,
Or rest ’neath pine-crowned craggy brows
    In purple state when day is done!

You, where, amid bright southern flowers,
    You gaze on soft, blue southern seas,

10

And , framed in vine and olive boughs,
    The summits of the Pyrenees;—

Where, o’er the château’s vine-clad wall
    You watch the sunset’s glorious dream,
When softly kissed by golden mist

15

    The Titans all transfigured seem;—

Or, passing from the quaint old town,
    You wander up their rocky base,
While laden peasants clamber down
    The winding, walnut-shaded ways;—

20


Or, seaward turned, your eyes explore
    Soft gleaming hills and headlands bare;
The sleeping sea and sunlit shore,
    And crags that swim in purple air!

What matter ’neath those skies or these

25

    We share the long sweet summer day,
Where myrtle blossoms scent the breeze,
    Or feathery hemlocks fringe the bay?

So, only by the waiting soul
    Mid rustling leaves or woodland scent,

30

The spirit that informs the whole
    More closely with the heart is blent—

So, in the presence felt of Him
    Who seems so near in woodland ways,
We learn, in forest alleys dim,

35

    Sweet lessons for the wintry days,

When death lies chill on vale and hill,
    And even a southern sea is gray;
When fairest skies the storm-clouds fill,
     And summer seems so far away! [Page 64]

40


So, from the heart divine there rise
    A fuller spring of love in ours,
Bright hopes for dark November skies,
    Warm faith for bleak and wintry hours;

That faith, to those who seek it given,

45

     Grow still in us as seasons roll,
And—drawing sunshine straight from heaven—
     Keep living summer in the soul!

 


 

THE CREEK.


WHISPERING, plashing, rippling, dashing
    Merrily over its pebbly bed,
Its mimic cataracts foaming, flashing
    In golden gleams from the sky o’erhead;
Dropping elms and bending beeches

5

    Glass themselves in its limpid stream,
As it seems to sleep in shadowy reaches
    Where the lilies float and the herons dream;
Yet ever onward the creek runs free,
Singing the song that it sang to me!

10


In the fragrant breeze of the dewy morning
    Merrily soundeth its woodland song,
Catching the light as—the darkness scorning—
    With gold enwoven, it dances along;
Over the pebbles in happy gushes

15

    The wavelets are hurrying, crystal clear,
And it sings to the child mid the long, tall rushes,
    A song that he stops from his play to hear;
And he falls asleep in a happy dream
To the lullaby of the woodland stream!

20


In a pensive murmur the stream is flowing,
    When the noonday heat stills the morning breeze;
It ripples soft through the rushes growing
    Where it winds its course ’neath the whispering trees. [Page             65]
    To the maiden who sits by the margin dreaming

25

    It murmurs the notes of a sweet love-song,
And her face with a smile and a blush is beaming
    At the name it breathes as it glides along,
Till love and thought and fancy seem
Lost in the song of the tireless stream.

30


In the shades of evening, so swift descending,
    Still talks the stream with the sighing breeze,
With the trembling shadows above it bending,
    While the dust steals down from the arching trees.
The old man sits where the tall reeds quiver

35

    Silently over the dusky stream,
And he seems to hear in the tiny river
    Old echoes from life’s long, changeful dream;
And it whispers to him of the mighty sea
Whither both are tending, the stream and he.

40


So, ever whispering, rippling, plashing,
    O’er its pebbly bed it flows along,
Dark in the shade, in the sunlight flashing,
    Still ever singing the same low song !
So it sang to the Indian, as here he wandered,

45

    Chasing the deer in its coverts dim;
Perchance he heard, as he stood and pondered,
    The Spirit’s voice in its murmured hymn;
So it sang, till the child grew to white-haired age,
Till the maiden had turned o’er life’s last page;

50

Till her dream had faded in long-dried tears,
And its memory passed with the passing years!
And still, like Time’s river, it ceaseth never,
    But—full of life’s present and echoes past —
Its seems to sing of the great Forever,

55

    Till it finds its home in the sea at last,
And hushes its tiny troubled song
In that mighty music so grand and strong,
Where all earth’s tones seem to mingle calm
In the solemn rhythm of the ocean-psalm! [Page 66]

60

 


 

SEPTEMBER AMONG THE THOUSAND ISLANDS.


THE long pine branches lightly bend
    Above gray rocks with moss o’ergrown,
And rays of golden light descend
    Aslant on twisted root and stone;
And still and silent at our feet

5

Lies the broad river’s glassy sheet.

So calm, so tranquil its expanse;
    No ripple on its peaceful breast;
It might be sea of fairyland
    By some strange magic laid to rest;

10

And the gray, hazy islands seem
The vision of a passing dream.

In such soft tints their shores extend,
    So dim their winding outlines lie;—
They do not separate, but blend

15

    The melting hues of lake and sky,
Save where some light-tower’s snowy gleam
Is mirrored in the placid stream.

No sounds the dreamy stillness break;
    No echo o’er the lake is heard,

20

Save that the leaping fishes make,
    Or twitter of a lonely bird;
And summer sweetness seems to stray,
Confused, through the September day!

We watch the swift receding boat,

25

    And long we bend our patient gaze,
And strive to trace it, far afloat,
    Through the soft mist’s uncertain haze,
To catch the latest glimpse we may
Of friends beloved it bears away.

30


So, often, through the misty veil
    That hides from us the spiritland, [Page 67]
We gaze and gaze, till gazing fail,
    As on its outer verge we stand,
On cherished forms receding far

35

To realms that undiscovered are!

 


 

A DIRGE FOR THE DYING SUMMER.


ALAS for the dying summer!
    Fading so fast away;
Sad to our sight is her parting smile
    In the sweet September day.

For the autumn we know is coming,

5

    On wings that are all too fleet;
And the summer flowers are shedding fast
    Their blossoms at our feet.

The dahlia in robes of velvet
    Stands queenly and proud and fair;

10

The rainbow hues of the aster
    Glow bright in the golden air.

But we scarce can greet them gladly,
    For they presage the fading year;
And the death of the flowers is a sorrowful time,

15

    And the winter looms dark and drear!

Alas for our short lived summer!
    For it seems but a few short days
Since the trees burst forth into joyous leaf,
    And the birds sang their bridal lays;

20


Since the rose-flushed apple-blossoms
    Wooed the bee to the orchard trees;
Since the humming-bird sucked at the lilac bloom
    That sweetened the fresh May breeze;

Since the glowing heart of the rose-bud

25

    Was opening, fold on fold;—
Now the apple hangs ripe o’er the orchard wall,
     And the maples are flecked with gold. [Page 68]

Alas for the dying summer!
    It seemeth all too soon

30

For summer sunshine to fade away,
    And the light of the summer moon.

The rose-flushed and purple sunsets,
    The incense-laden night,
The fresh, bright morning’s balmy breath,

35

    And the noon steeped in throbbing light;

The sparkle of dancing waters,
    The gleams through the glancing leaves,
The hum of the bee and the clover scent,
    And the twitter beneath the eaves––

40


All gone! So the heart dreams sadly!
    Yet wherefore shouldst thou repine,
When the love that guides the season’s course
    Is a higher love than thine?

 ’Tis a higher love and a wiser

45

    Bids the seasons come and go,
And the same power that loosens the blossoms now
    Shall banish the winter snow.

We may dream of the April sunshine
    Through the dull November rain,––

50

And watch with calm and hopeful heart
    For the spring that shall come again.

And so when the heart’s short summer
    Is clouded by the storm and strife,
And the mist and darkness gather fast

55

    Round the winter of our life,

We may look through the closing shadows,
    Through the tempest and the gloom,
To the light of a spring that is ever green,
    And the summer of fadeless bloom! [Page 69]

60

 


 

AN INDIAN SUMMER CAROL.


ALL day the dreaming sunshine steeps
    In gold the yellowing beeches;
In the softest blue the river sleeps
    Among the island reaches.

Against the distant purple hills

5

    The autumn tints are glowing;
With blood-red wine the sumach fills,
    Rich lines of carmine showing.

Upon the glassy stream the boat
    Glides softly like a vision;

10

And, with its shadow, seems to float
    Among the isles Elysian.

About the plumy golden-rod
    The tireless bees are humming;
The aster’s clusters star the sod

15

    And wait the rover’s coming.

The birch and maple glow with dyes
    Of  scarlet, rose, and amber;
And like a flame from sunset skies,
    Bright tangled creepers clamber.

20


The oaks in Tyrian purple dight
    Burn, where the sunlight presses;
The birch stands like a Dryad bright
    Beneath her golden tresses.

So still the air, so like a dream,

25

    We hear the acorn falling;
And o’er the scarcely rippled stream
    The loon’s long quavered calling.

The robin* softly o’er the lea,
    His farewell song is trilling;

30

The squirrel flits from tree to tree,
    His winter storehouse filling.[page 70]

Like him we, too, may gather store
    From all this glorious nature.
Then leave, my friend, dry bookish lore

35

    And dreary nomenclature;

Let logic wintry hours beguile;
    Leave weary mathematics;
Let Aristotle rest awhile,
    And all the Eleatics.

40


O’er Plato we can talk and muse
    When wintry winds are blowing;
Now Nature bids us not refuse
    The glory she is showing.

For she herself has better lore

45

    Than all man’s cold dissections;
Her hieroglyphs can teach us more
    Than volumes of reflections.

Leave the old thinkers to the dreams
    That have been dreamed for ages;

50

Leave dry old scientific reams,
    And study Nature’s pages.

Her poetry is sweeter far
    Than all men write about her;
Old Homer, though his theme was war,

55

    Had scarcely sung without her!

Haste to the woods, throw books away:
    They’ll wait the tardy comer;
For them there’s many a winter day,
    But brief’s our Indian summer!

60

 

* The Canadian robin, properly a species of thrush. [back]

 


 

OCTOBER GOLD.


SOFTLY the golden sunshine broods
    Like kiss of peace o’er land and sea,
Touching to gold the yellowing woods
    With subtle skill of alchemy.  [Page 71]

Too soon, alas! that gold must pass

5

    Into the dross of dull decay;
Too soon upon the dewy grass
    The frost its chilling touch must lay.

Too soon, too soon, the glory fades,
    So richly lavished everywhere

10

That rugged rocks and forest glades
    A more than regal splendour wear!

The purpled oak, the crimson pine,
    The birch in robes of fluttering gold,
The sumach dipped in blood-red wine,

15

    The maple reddening the wold—

All drop their glory—and behind
    Leave woodlands etched in gray and black,
In which the sun can scarcely find
     A spot to give his glory back.

20


The transient beauty must decay,
    That we may see the budding year
Wake from the desolation gray
    That makes the bursting life so dear

Nature must rest, that she may keep

25

    Tryst with the first flowers’ blossoming;
So, like a tired child, let her sleep,
    The while we wake and watch for spring!

 


 

ST. MARTIN’S SUMMER.


THE sunbeams fall as softly bright
    And sparkle on the bay;
As clear the sky, as full of light,
    As in the joyous May.

The robin’s and the catbird’s call

5

    Still break the quietude,
The last lone lingerers of all
    The singers of the wood! [Page 72]

Yet still we feel an undertone
    Of sadness everywhere—

10

In sunshine on the lichened stone,
    And in the purple air.

The glory of the golden-rod
    That gilds the woodland way
Is far less sweet than clover sod,

15

    Or the white bloom of May!

Still wheels the dainty humming-bird,
    His daily sweets to find
Amid the blossoms, still unstirred
    By breath of autumn wind;

20


And still the gorgeous butterfly
    Flits round the brilliant bloom;
The while for both is drawing nigh
    The sure, unwritten doom.

For thought the air is full of balm,

25

    The creepers blood-red glow,
Yet dropping in a soundless calm,
    The dead leaves downward go!

But life still underlies decay,
    And, to the hearing ear

30

The swelling buds behind them say
    That spring comes every year.

If these brown leaves in autumn hours
    Ne’er strewed the woodland ways,
We scarce could hail the waking flowers

35

    In the sweet April days!

 


 

GOLDEN-ROD AND ASTERS.


WHEN other blossoms fade and fall,
    Oh, faithful to the fading year,
Ye come to us, the last of all
    The woodland tribe we hold so dear;— [Page 73]
     Yet while we hail your smile of cheer,

5

Your waving plumes of living gold
Almost we grieve again to hold!
    They speak to us of summer past,
    Of autumn’s chill winds, hovering near,
That soon must strew the yellowing wold

10

    With wreck of leaf and blossom, fast
    Flying before the wintry blast.
Yet, Golden-rod, let us forget
The coming ills that are not yet,
And, while we may, rejoice awhile

15

In your bright plumes and Nature’s smile!

But not alone your golden sheen
    Gleams through the fast dismantling wood,
For silvery stars, with ray serene,
    Light up the pensive solitude,

20

    That seems to breathe a mournful mood;
And clusters bright of purple rays
Smile softly to the shortening days.
    Unconscious they of aught to fear,
    Braving the winds, so keen and rude,

25

With all the gentle springtime’s grace!
    Purple and gold—a royal bier
     Ye spread for the departing year;
Yet whisper of a future hour
When these bare woods—in bud and flower

30

Arrayed—another spring shall greet,
While ye lie withered at our feet!

 


 

NOVEMBER FANCIES.

 

I.


IF earth were always bright and fair,
    And skies were always blue;
And flowers were blooming everywhere,
    And dreams were true;— [Page 74]

If pain were not, and death were sought

5

    In vain from shore to shore;
If haunting fears and parting tears
    Were all no more;—

If hearts once joined were ever bound;
    If friends were ever true—

10

Why, then this world no place were found
    For me and you!

For only perfect hearts, that beat
    With calm, unvarying poise,
Keep even way through passion’s sway

15

    Through griefs and joys,

Could in a perfect world find place;
    And ours, so frail and weak,
Could never dare a world so rare
    To vainly seek!

20


Let us be patient, then, the while!
    When we shall perfect be,
A perfect world shall doubtless smile
    For you and me!


II.


The soft, sad autumn rain is falling, falling

25

    Through leafless boughs from skies o’ercast and gray;
In all the wood no bird its mate is calling,
    For all are fled away!

No sunshine on the sodden grass, and sadly
    In mournful heaps, lie dank and sodden leaves,

30

That but so late were fluttering lightly, gladly,
    About our chamber eaves.

Where is the sunshine and the summer gladness?
    The brooding light and warmth, come they no more?
And are we left alone in gloom and sadness

35

    Upon a desert shore? [Page 75]

Nay, but beyond the clouds, beyond the shadows,
    Beyond the dark horizon dull and gray,
The summer sunshine falls on dewy meadows,
    And birds sing, all the day.

40


Somewhere the sun is shining, bright as ever,
    And summer leaves are dancing, fresh and fair,
And golden ripples fleck the sparkling river
    Somewhere—somewhere!

Let us be glad in our November sorrow

45

    To know that, though unseen, the day is fair
With golden promise of a happier morrow
    Somewhere—somewhere!

Nay, that though earth itself were draped in sadness,
    The eye of faith may see the farther shore,

50

Where God Himself shall be the light and gladness
    Of all for evermore!

 

III.


A misty, November evening,
    Dreary and sad and gray,
With the raindrops falling, falling,

55

    As they fell the livelong day;

And the hills—we scarce can see them
    Faint through the dropping rain;
Cold and dark flows the river,
    Sobbing as if in pain.

60


The dropping boughs of the hemlock
    Are heavy with gathered tears;
Sadly the long pine-branches
    Wave their diamond-pointed spears.

Oh, where is the bright, glad sunshine

65

    Of the summer morning fair?
And the mingled rose and purple
    Of the summer sunset—where? [Page 76]

And where are the friends belovèd
    Who stood by the riverside,

70

Watching the sunset glory
    Transfused in the crystal tide?

Yet there is sunshine somewhere,
    Shining on hill-tops bright;
Somewhere a rosy sunset

75

    Fades into purple night.

Somewhere the friends we see not
    Wait for and love us still;
And the light that shines for ever
    Each longing heart shall fill!

80

 


 

PREMONITION.


A SABBATH hush upon the silent woods;
    The songless birds flit by on restless wing;
’Neath veil of golden haze the sunshine broods;
    As soft as summer and as sweet as spring
    The fragrance of the flowers’ late blossoming!

5


The river sleeps so calm, so softly blue,
    It seemeth but that double of the sky,
Mid island mazes softly glancing through
    Vistas that stretch  to dim infinity,
    Touching us with vague dreams—we know not why.

10


But one, with soundless footfall, comes apace,
    Bronzing the oak-boughs, yellowing the grass,
Tinging the sumach’s fringe with gorgeous grace
    Of gold and carmine; while there seems to pass
    A lustrous veil o’er all the forest mass!

15


It is, we deem, the harbinger of Death,
    The golden-haloed prophet of decay;
And yet, methinks, a hidden whisper saith
    That life is life for ever, though it may
    Pass through a myriad changes on its way.  [Page 77]

20


So grandly careless ever Nature seems
    Of  Life or Death, as mortals name them here,
That in their changes we may catch the gleams
    Of higher life that knows not change or fear,
    Enthroned for ever in a nobler sphere!

25

 


 

IN ‘MELANCHOLY DAYS.’


SOFTLY the patterning raindrops drip and fall
    From sky enswathed in clouds of leaden gray;
We hear no song of thrush, no liquid call
Of lingering robin—not a note of all
    The chorus of the summer minstrelsy.

5

The spring’s soft rains ne’er hushed their gladsome strains
    They sang out loud to greet the early showers;
Now they are still, while autumn winds blow chill,
    And silent frosts despoil the summer flowers.

Yet sometimes in the silence one small bird

10

    Will tune its tiny flute to sudden song,
As if its heart in prophecy were stirred
To catch the distant music, still unheard,           
    Of spring that comes, though winter tarry long.
Even so, when life glooms dark our hearts may cling,

15

    In faith and hope, to gladness yet come,
And prophet-like may sing a note of spring;
    ’Tis but the deafened heart that can be dumb! [Page 78]

 


 

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