Songs of the Common Day, and Ave!

An Ode for the Shelley Centenary

by Charles G.D. Roberts


 

THE SUCCOUR OF GLUSKÂP

(A MICMAC LEGEND)


 

THE happy valley laughed with sun,
    The corn grew firm in stalk,
The lodges clustered safe where run
    The streams of Peniawk.

The washing-pools and shallows rang

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    With shout of lads at play;
At corn-hoeing the women sang;
    The warriors were away.

The splashed white pebbles on the beach,
    The idling paddles, gleamed;

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Before the lodge doors, spare of speech,
    The old men basked and dreamed.

And when the windless noon grew hot,
    And the white sun beat like steel,
In shade about the shimmering pot

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    They gathered to their meal.

Then from the hills, on flying feet,
    A desperate runner came,
With cry that smote the peaceful street,
    And slew the peace with shame.

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'Trapped in the night, and snared in sleep,
     Our warriors wake no more!
Up from Wahloos the Mohawks creep—
    Their feet are at the door!'

The grey old sachems rose and mocked

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    The ruin that drew near;
And down the beach the children flocked,
     And women wild with fear.

Launched were the red canoes; when, lo!
    Beside them Gluskâp stood,

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Appearing with his giant bow
    From out his mystic wood.

With quiet voice he called them back,
    And comforted their fears;
He swore the lodges should not lack,

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    He dried the children's tears;

Till sorrowing mothers almost deemed
    The desperate runner lied,
And the tired children slept, and dreamed
    Their fathers had not died.

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That night behind the mystic wood
    The Mohawk warriors crept;
A spell went through the solitude
    And stilled them, and they slept.

And when the round moon, rising late,

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    The Hills of Kawlm had crossed,
She saw the camp of Mohawk hate
    Swathed in a great white frost.

At morn, behind the mystic wood
    Came Gluskâp, bow in hand,

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And marked the ice-bound solitude,
    And that unwaking band.

But as he gazed his lips grew mild,
    For, safe among the dead,
There played a ruddy, laughing child

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    By a captive mother's head;

And child and mother, nestling warm,
    Scarce knew their foes had died,
As past their sleep the noiseless storm
    Of strange death turned aside.

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