Lays of the ‘True North,’

AND

OTHER CANADIAN POEMS

BY

AGNES MAULE MACHAR


V.

SONNETS.

—————

 


 

 

 

TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE WILLIAM EWART GLADSTONE.


Sans peur et sans reproche!
  Our Lion-heart,
    To whom we turn when other hopes betray,
    When tyrant Might puts forth her power to slay
Young struggling Freedom, with her poisoned dart,
And Britain hath forgot the nobler part

5

    She played as Freedom’s champion that proud day
    She led a world to break one despot’s sway,
And from her old traditions stands apart!
Milton hath gone, and Wordsworth, but through thee
    Still rings their hate of tyranny defied,

10

Still breathes the voice ‘whose sound was of the sea,’
    And that one ‘of the mountains;’ far and wide
Such echoes roll where’er true Britons be,
    Or men for liberty have lived and died!

 


 

THE EMPEROR WILLIAM,

FIRST EMPEROR OF GERMANY.


HE filled his niche in history passing well,
    And there his stalwart figure long shall stand;
    The last of the old Kaisers,—simple, grand,
Staunch to his conscience, whatsoe’er befell, [Page 176]
Whether with firm imperial mien to quell

5

    Tumult and discord in the Fatherland,
    Or curb its foes with firm, unwavering hand,
Making it one, through victory’s magic spell;
His care alone to win his people’s weal;
    His trust in Him who all events controls.

10

It was not his young Freedom’s pulse to feel,
    Or gauge the impulses of widening souls;—
We seem to see the dawn of morning light;
He followed one clear star through storm and night!

 


 

‘UNSER FRITZ.’


WE looked for tidings of thee day by day;
    The whole world watched with awe the stress and strain
    Of mortal combat with disease and pain,
Wondering to see thy strong will hold at bay
The stern, dark power that seized thee for his prey.

5

    While in his shadow, still, thy heart was fain
    To set on throne secure the happy reign
Of Peace and Freedom in thy land for aye.
Through many a suffering day and sleepless night
    Unhasting and unresting was thy toil

10

    For purer victory and nobler spoil
Than wins the blood-stained sword in deadly fight.
In mould heroic, in thine aims divine,
We hold thee crown of all thine ancient line!

 


 

CAPE ETERNITY.

ON THE SAGUENAY.


THOU weather-beaten warder, grim and gray,
    Towering majestic towards the glittering Plough,
    O’er all the thronging hills that seem to bow
In humble homage to thy sovereign sway; [Page 177]
Ev’n thy great consort waits her meed to pay

5

    In her calm grandeur, scarce less grand than thou,
    Raising aloft—star-crowned—thy regal brow,
Sublime in lonely might and majesty!
Thy rugged, storm-crowned forehead to the blast
    Thou barest—all unscreened thy Titan form,

10

    Radiant in sunset, dark in winter storm.
So thou hast stood through countless ages past!
What comes or goes—it matters not to thee—
Serene, self-poised, in triple unity!

 


 

ASSOCIATION.


SUCH fragrance lingers round these ancient books,
    As breathes the scent from rose-leaves laid away,
Dear memories of old familiar looks,
    Smiles on beloved faces wont to play,
In which we caught the light of truth divine,

5

    Breaking upon us like a sudden ray
Of light from realms where light doth always shine,
    And tones whose echoes long have died away.

These add their music to the poet’s lays,
    Their beauty to the beauty of their dream,

10

Shedding the grace of long-departed days
    O’er those that paler now and poorer seem—
Memories that round our inmost hearts entwine,
Breathing their sweetness through each well-known line!

 


 

THE HAREBELL AND THE CATARACT.

AT RIVIÈRE-DU-LOUP.


WHERE the great thundering cataract tosses high
    Its crest of snow, ’mid thunders deep and dread,
    A tiny harebell from its mossy bed
Smiles softly blue to the clear summer sky; [Page 178]
And the great roaring flood that rages by

5

    In sheets of foam, o’er the gray rocks outspread,
    But sheds a tender dew upon its head,
And feeds the freshness of its purity!
So seeking heaven, ’mid this rude earth of ours,
    Some dwell in safety, through the roar and din

10

Of human passion, as in sheltered bowers,
    Growing in beauty ’mid turmoil and sin,
Keeping the hue of heaven like the flowers
    Because they keep the soul of heaven within!

 


 

ROBERT BROWNING.

DECEMBER 12, 1889.


SOFT falls the snow upon the fading year
    As death falls softly on the quiet face
    By which we fain would stand, a little space,
To drop the silent tribute of a tear,
And lay the laurel-wreath upon the bier

5

    Where sleeps in peace—as if in love’s embrace—
    He who so long hath held so lofty place—
Our crownèd singer, our belovèd seer,
Who kept his faith undimmed in faithless days,
    Whose witness for the right was stern and strong,

10

    Whose life was true and earnest as his song—
Whose love was noble as his poet’s bays.
What meed for him whose working-day is done?
Rest with his love, and joy eternal won! [Page 179]

 


 

THE WHITE CITY.

A REMINISCENCE, SEPTEMBER, 1893.


I.


THROUGH the light drift of soft September haze,
    What dream of beauty meets the wondering sight?
    See dome and colonnade, and palace white
Shine forth resplendent in the early rays
    That touch with glory all the wondrous maze

5

    Of this enchanted vision of delight,
Robed in a world’s magnificence and might,
And wearing as a crown the nations’ praise!
While statues, mirrored in the tranquil tide,
    Gleam out on arch and frieze; clear fountains play,

10

    Soft plashing through the sultriness of noon,
Wreathing their rainbow-tinted sheaves of spray,
    While swift the gondolas to music glide,
    And swans sail stately o’er the still lagoon.

 

II.


What wondrous city this of heavenly birth?

15

    What mystic workers raised these gleaming walls?
    Who dwell serenely in these palace halls?
Whence was the gleaming vision conjured forth?
    What costly treasure is the casket’s worth?
    All day, methinks, the golden statue calls

20

Amid the plash of mimic waterfalls,
And sounds of many voices’ praise and mirth.
‘There are the haunts of Peace,’ she seems to say.
    ‘Such trophies Brotherhood alone may bring.
    Here dwell the handmaids of our outward life,

25

With flowers and gems of beauty glistening,—
    The hope and promise of a fairer day
    That brings earth love for hate and peace for strife! [Page 180]

 

III.


Even so—behold another city shine,
    For eyes that see—beyond the mists that rise

30

    From earthly moor and fen, and hide the skies;—
The city robed in righteousness divine.
Whose gates with pearl and walls with gems are fine,
    Whose dwellers are the loving and the wise,
    Loving, because they see with clearer eyes

35

The light that even darkness may enshrine!
Even so, methinks, we see that city fair
    Shining for faith beyond the shades of death,
Whose citizens know neither pain nor care,
    Where neither sin nor sorrow entereth;

40

Even so, methinks, that city may be born,
Out of the mists of an eternal morn!

 


 

PRESENT-DAY SONNETS.

SCYLLA.


GOD hath His martyrs still, in very deed,
    Though rack and stake and headsman are forgot;—
    And ofttimes he by whom the truth is sought,
Who dares appeal from old tradition’s creed
To truth Divine, though pure in life and deed,

5

    Must be prepared for furnace seven times hot
    Of bitter words, and harsh and hasty thought!
Not yet our faith from tyranny is freed,
For she who on the seven hills sat so long
    Hath cruel words as sharp as sword or flame.

10

Oh, when we think of all the bitter wrong
    That hath been done in pure religion’s name,
Well may we long for that thrice blessèd day
When ‘all their idols’ shall be swept away! [Page 181]

 

CHARYBDIS.


Still, as through Eden rings the tempter’s cry,
    Yea—hath God said, Is there one only way
    To light and truth?  We boldly answer, Nay!
Faith is a vanished dream, so let it die;
Come forth and gather knowledge.—How? and why?

5

    Leave faith to fighting bigots?  Fact, we say,
    Must be our guide of life from day to day.
Then sleep we well, when down at last we lie!
We but believe what we can see and know,
    Where science guides us not we may not pass;

10

No touch Divine to heal our sin and woe;
    No light from heaven to fall upon the grass
That hides our dearest—all we dare to say
Is but, We live, and dream, and pass away!

 

FIDES.


To which we answer—Faith can never die,
    So on eternal love she keep her hold!
    We venture not to sound the depths that hold
A fuller knowledge from the straining eye.
Enough that to our hearts He makes reply,

5

    Who is our faith.—No creed of human mould,
    All clamped with human logic, hard and cold,
But He, for ever living, ever nigh,
The ONE—One only real—’mid shifting dreams,
    All true, all loving, undefiled by sin.

10

Your boasted knowledge is but of what seems,
    He liveth evermore our hearts within;
Our Guide to life hereafter—here our Stay,
Himself our Faith—the Life, the Truth, the Way! [Page 182]

 


 

THE CIRCLING YEAR.

JANUARY.


THE soft blue arch of turquoise, crystal clear,
    Curves o’er white hills and rivers’ frozen flow,
    Draped in a virgin robe of dazzling snow
That veils the silent landscape far and near,
Swathing the withered herbage brown and sere,

5

    And the tall dusky pines that—sweeping low
    Their long dark branches—violet shadows throw
Across the stainless marble of the mere.

Hark! through the stillness break the glad sleigh-bells
    In silvery cadence through the frosty air;

10

Of happy hearts their merry music tells;—
    Of glad home-comings—meetings everywhere;
But late we owned the sway of Christmas spells;
    Now New Year chimes ring out the call to prayer!

 

FEBRUARY.


A world of whirling whiteness hides the sun;
    Fierce biting blasts in sweeping eddies go,
    Massed cohorts of the Spirit of the snow,
Effacing a whole world, as Goth and Hun
Devoured the brightness of an earlier one;

5

    So these wild forces whelm and overthrow
    All Nature’s fairer life, engulfed below,
Till we begin to fear a world undone!

But lo! the strife is stilled; the sunbeams break
    Through the dense clouds, with softer airs—to bring

10

Visions of greening meads, that soon shall make
    Sweet fantasies of bud and blossoming,
And sunny nooks, where the first snowdrops wake
    In welcome promise of the gladsome spring! [Page 183]

 

MARCH.


O bright impetuous March—thou changeful child
    Of bleak north winds, and gales from southern seas!
    We dread thy blustering storms that rend and freeze;
Yet sudden stills the tempest’s wailing wild
Before thy softening mood—as April mild!

5

    Warm brooding sunshine from the budding trees
    Spreads floating fragrance on the wandering breeze,
And melts the solid ice and snow-wreaths piled.

Fast runs the sap and high the torrent swells
    Beneath the subtle influence that seems

10

Wafted from waking woods and violet dells,
    Breathing of bursting buds and rushing streams,
And sheltered nooks, where spring already dwells,
    While winter dies amid sweet vernal dreams!

 

APRIL.


Hail! gentle nurse of opening buds and flowers;
    Thy weeping skies we love;—thy balmy breath
    A thousand happy fancies whispereth;
Visions of May shine through thy kindly showers:—
Dreams of white blossoming trees and leafy bowers;

5

    The woods awake from Nature’s seeming death;
    ‘Winter is past and gone’—their fragrance saith,
While gleeful birds salute the balmy hours.

Fair tender blossoms smile brown leaves between,—
    Pale liverwort and blood-root’s stainless white;

10

The shad-bush rears its plumes of snowy sheen;
    The shrilling blue-bird flashes azure light
Athwart the brake just touched with tender green,
    And robins flute their carols of delight! [Page 184]

 

MAY.


Wreathed in soft mists and bathed in dewy sheen,
    Smiling through tears—with brooding tender face,
    Our May month comes; and straight with airy grace
Each twig unfurls its tufts of shining green;
Soft clouds of verdure break the blue serene;

5

    Vague wandering fragrance fills each bowery place
    From snowy clustering blossoms that embrace
The half-fledged boughs which late so bare had been.

In the soft shadows of the forest-brake
    White lily-cups pour forth their incense rare;

10

And dewy violets and white May flowers make
    A blended sweetness on the balmy air,
Whose charmèd stillness joyous bird-notes wake,
    And light and joy and hope are everywhere!

 

JUNE.


Through interlacing boughs—a leafy screen,
    Golden in sunlight, green where shadows fall;
    Between gray, ancient boles, wide-girthed and tall,
That skywards rise with calm majestic mien,
Looks the red morning sun, and pours between

5

    Their crowns of foliage, golden arrows small
    Against the tender leaflets’ living wall,
Whence comes the robin’s liquid call serene.

The air is filled with love-notes mingling sweet
    Of happy feathered mates that haunt the dell;

10

The humming-bird whirs by on pinion fleet
    To drain the honey from the lilybell;
Wild-rose and hawthorn weave their garlands, meet
    To grace the happy month we love so well! [Page 185]

 

JULY.


Hail! glorious month, when Nature, festal-bright,
    With roses wreathed and crowned, holds festival,
    ’Mid honeysuckle bowers, and lilies tall
Pouring lush fragrance from their censers white;
And bramble-vines, tempting both sense and sight,

5

    Hang forth their berries bright on rock and wall:
    Joyous the feathered tribe their nestlings call,
And warble forth in song their full delight.

The soft rich sunsets fade in moonlight gleams,
    Where sparkling floods of molten silver flow,

10

Impetuous with the rush of mountain streams,
    Or sleeping on the placid lake below—
A mystic glamour of enchanted dreams,
    Where fairy-worlds of beauty shine and glow!

 

AUGUST.


So calm, so bright, so still—fair August days!
    Now lulled to rest, amid her ripened seeds,
    The year seems musing o’er her earlier deeds,
While here and there a few soft parting lays
Of lingering birds are heard—the water-ways

5

    Are stirless, save for swaying of the reeds,
    And tremulous movements of the water-weeds,
And water-lilies set in quiet bays.

Then dragon-flies on silver pinions sweep,
    The shrill cicada drones her drowsy chime;

10

Nature, like a tired gleaner, falls asleep
    Amid the golden grain’s rich harvest-prime,
Beneath the brooding heat that seems to steep
    Earth, air and sky in some soft southern clime! [Page 186]

 

SEPTEMBER.


Most changeful of the months—September—thou
    Comest, the last of all the summer train;
    Cheating us ever with illusions vain!
Thou dost out-April April—dreaming now,
With summer sunshine on thy pensive brow,

5

    Then, changing swift, to drive, with loosened rein
    Wild winds and sobbing storm-gusts o’er the plain,
And toss the yellowing leaves from writhing bough.

Is it the symbol of thine own regret
    For early closing days and dying flowers?

10

Well might we deem thine eyes with tears are wet
    For all the lost delights of summer hours
That pass so swiftly from our sight—and yet
    A thought of spring shines through September showers!

 

OCTOBER.


She drives the snowy clouds o’er azure skies,
    Chasing each other in their playful flight;—
    A spirit full of buoyant life and light:
Tearing aside fair Nature’s summer guise;
Tossing the dying leaflet as it flies;

5

    Waking the storm-cloud’s desolating might;
    Loosing the frost-king’s chilling silent blight.
Then swiftly the enchanter’s part she tries;—

From wood and lea a myriad hues outpour,
    Crimson and gold and Tyrian purple glow;

10

A rainbow-tinted woodland, from the shore,
    Makes a new rainbow in the stream below,
’Neath rose and amber sunsets.  Then once more
    Comes change, and driving rain, and wild winds blow!
[Page 187]

 

NOVEMBER.


The children wade amid the sodden leaves,
    So lately glistening green in summer breeze,
    Now dropping slowly from the bare brown trees,
That stretch gaunt arms about the cottage eaves.
Stripped are the orchards; gathered in the sheaves;

5

    The wildfowl quits her haunts for southern seas
    Ere touched by silent frost the streamlets freeze,
And winter’s craft her icy mantle weaves!

About the woods there breathes the mystic spell
    That speaks of vanished beauty—lost delight;

10

The last belated robin flutes farewell;
    The sun, ’mid dun and purple, sinks from sight;
While the wild winds and rain-gusts rise and swell
    To wrap the world in storm and wintry night!

 

DECEMBER.


Darkest and dreariest of the monthly train,
    December—gray with snow-clouds, rising pale
    Against the dull horizon!  Sharp the gale
Howls ’mid the leafless woods its wild refrain.
Thy magic touch encrusts the window-pane

5

    With many a fairy landscape—hill and dale—
    Steeps crowned with pines and ferns in icy mail;
A lifeless dream of summer’s vanished reign!

But yet against thy dreariness we set
    Warm gleams from household firesides—bright and clear,

10

Where loving hearts in happy groups have met
    Around the bounteous board of Yule-tide cheer.
The Christmas stars are beaming brightly yet;
    We bless the Old and wait the glad New Year! [Page 188]

 


 

A FAREWELL GREETING TO LORD AND LADY ABERDEEN ON THEIR LEAVING CANADA.


YOU leave us—whom our hearts have learned to love,
    For the dear land that some of us love well,
    Where many a ‘bonnie brae’ and rocky fell,
    And ‘burnie,’ wimpling through the leafy dell,
And mist-crowned heathery hills that tower above

5

    The shadows brooding o’er the purple glen,
    Unite their spells to win you home again.

Yet will you cast some wistful looks behind
    On our fair forest-land, whose hills and streams
    And rainbow-tinted woods, where autumn dreams,

10

    Reflect for you the sunset’s parting beams—
A farewell vision meet for eyes so kind!
    Long may they haunt you with their memory sweet,
    And lure to us again your wandering feet!

Fain had we kept you with us many a day;

15

    For Canada hath need of such as you
    To mould her growing life, still crude and new,
    To high ideals, with a vision true.
Yet, since you go, we speed you on your way
    With loving thoughts—for there are ties that bide

20

    Though distance stretch between and seas divide!

We hold you by the living bond that lies
    Deep hidden in the heart—our being’s core,—
    Stretching invisible from shore to shore,
    Unmoved though winds may rave and billows roar—

25

The bond that seals our kinship with the skies—
    The Father’s service, through the children’s need—
    In that enduring bond we cry ‘God speed!’ [Page 189]

 


 

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