Songs of the Common Day, and Ave!

An Ode for the Shelley Centenary

by Charles G.D. Roberts


 

THE WOOD FROLIC


 

THE Morning Star was bitter bright, the morning sky was grey;
And we hitched our teams and started for the woods at break of day.
    Oh, the frost is on the forest, and the snow piles high!

Along the white and winding road the sled-bells jangled keen
Between the buried fences, the billowy drifts between.

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    Oh, merry swing the axes, and the bright chips fly!

So crisp sang the runners, and so swift the horses sped,
That the woods were all about us ere the sky grew red.
    Oh, the frost is on the forest, and the snow piles high!

The bark hung ragged on the birch, the lichen on the fir,

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The lungwort fringed the maple, and grey moss the juniper.
    Oh, merry swing the axes, and the bright chips fly!

So still the air and chill the air the branches seemed asleep,
But we broke their ancient visions as the axe bit deep.
    Oh, the frost is on the forest, and the snow piles high!

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With the shouts of the choppers and the barking of their blades,
How rang the startled valleys and the rabbit-haunted glades!
    Oh, merry swing the axes, and the bright chips fly!

The hard wood and the soft wood, we felled them for our use;
And chiefly, for its scented gum, we loved the scaly spruce;

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    Oh, the frost is on the forest, and the snow piles high!

And here and there, with solemn roar, some hoary tree came down,
And we heard the rolling of the years in the thunder of its crown.
    Oh, merry swing the axes, and the bright chips fly!

So, many a sled was loaded up above the stake-tops soon;

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And many a load was at the farm before the horn of noon;
    Oh, the frost is on the forest, and the snow piles high!

And ere we saw the sundown all yellow through the trees,
The farmyard stood as thick with wood as a buckwheat patch with bees;
    Oh, merry swing the axes, and the bright chips fly!

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And with the last-returning teams, and axes burnished bright,
We left the woods to slumber in the frosty shadowed night.
    Oh, the frost is on the forest, and the snow piles high!

And then the wide, warm kitchen, with beams across the ceiling,
Thick hung with red-skinned onions, and homely herbs of healing!

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    Oh, merry swing the axes, and the bright chips fly!

The dishes on the dresser-shelves were shining blue and white,
And o'er the loaded table the lamps beamed bright.
    Oh, the frost is on the forest, and the snow piles high!

Then, how the ham and turkey and the apple-sauce did fly,

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The heights of boiled potatoes and the flats of pumpkin-pie!
    Oh, merry swing the axes, and the bright chips fly!

With bread-and-cheese and doughnuts fit to feed a farm a year!
And we washed them down with tides of tea and oceans of spruce beer.
    Oh, the frost is on the forest, and the snow piles high!

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At last the pipes were lighted and the chairs pushed back,
And Bill struck up a sea-song on a rather risky tack;
    Oh, merry swing the axes, and the bright chips fly!

And the girls all thought it funny—but they never knew 'twas worse,
For we gagged him with a doughnut at the famous second verse.

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    Oh, the frost is on the forest, and the snow piles high!

Then someone fetched a fiddle, and we shoved away the table,
And 'twas jig and reel and polka just as long as we were able,
    Oh, merry swing the axes, and the bright chips fly!

Till at last the girls grew sleepy, and we got our coats to go.

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We started off with racing-teams and moonlight on the snow;
    Oh, the frost is on the forest, and the snow piles high!

And soon again the winter world was voiceless as of old,
Alone with all the wheeling stars, and the great white cold.
    Oh, the frost is on the forest, and the snow piles high!

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