Songs of the Common Day, and Ave!

An Ode for the Shelley Centenary

by Charles G.D. Roberts


 

THE KEEPERS OF THE PASS


 

[When the Iroquois were moving in overwhelming force to obliterate the infant town of Montreal, Adam Daulac and a small band of comrades, binding themselves by oath not to return alive, went forth to meet the enemy in a distant pass between the Ottawa river and the hills. There they died to a man, but not till they had slain so many of the savages that the invading force was shattered and compelled to withdraw.]

 

NOW heap the branchy barriers up.
    No more for us shall burn
The pine-logs on the happy hearth,
    For we shall not return.

We've come to our last camping-ground.

5

    Set axe to fir and tamarack.
The foe is here, the end is near,
    And we shall not turn back.

In vain for us the town shall wait,
    The home-dear faces yearn,

10

The watchers on the steeple watch,—
    For we shall not return.

For them we're come to these hard straits,
    To save from flame and wrack
The little city built far off;

15

    And we shall not turn back.

Now beat the yelling butchers down.
    Let musket blaze, and axe-edge burn.
Set hand to hand, lay brand to brand,
    But we shall not return.

20


For every man of us that falls
    Their hordes a score shall lack.
Close in about the Lily Flag!
    No man of us goes back.

For us no morrow's dawn shall break.

25

    Our sons and wives shall learn
Some day from lips of flying scout
    Why we might not return.

A dream of children's laughter comes
    Across the battle's slack,

30

A vision of familiar streets,—
    But we shall not go back.

Up roars the painted storm once more.
    Long rest we soon shall earn.
Henceforth the city safe may sleep,

35

    But we shall not return.

And when our last has fallen in blood
    Between these waters black,
Their tribe shall no more lust for war,—
    For we shall not turn back.

40


In vain for us the town shall wait,
    The home-dear faces yearn,
The watchers in the steeple watch,
    For we shall not return.