In Divers Tones

by Charles G.D. Roberts

Edited by Tracy Ware


 

IN THE AFTERNOON


 

Wind of the summer afternoon,
Hush, for my heart is out of tune!

Hush, for thou movest restlessly
The too light sleeper, Memory!

Whate’er thou hast to tell me, yet

5
’Twere something sweeter to forget,—

Sweeter than all thy breath of balm
An hour of unremembering calm!

Blowing over the roofs, and down
The bright streets of this inland town,

10

These busy crowds, these rocking trees—
What strange note hast thou caught from these?

A note of waves and rushing tides,
Where past the dikes the red flood glides,

To brim the shining channels far

15
Up the green plains of Tantramar.

Once more I snuff the salt, I stand
On the long dikes of Westmoreland;

I watch the narrowing flats, the strip
Of red clay at the water’s lip;

20

Far off the net-reels, brown and high,
And boat-masts slim against the sky;

Along the ridges of the dikes
Wind-beaten scant sea-grass, and spikes

Of last year’s mullein; down the slopes

25
To landward, in the sun, thick ropes

Of blue vetch, and convolvulus,
And matted roses glorious.

The liberal blooms o’erbrim my hands;
I walk the level, wide marsh-lands;

30

Waist-deep in dusty-blossomed grass
I watch the swooping breezes pass

In sudden, long, pale lines, that flee
Up the deep breast of this green sea.


I listen to the bird that stirs

35
The purple tops, and grasshoppers

Whose summer din, before my feet
Subsiding, wakes on my retreat.

Again the droning bees hum by;
Still-winged, the gray hawk wheels on high;

40

I drink again the wild perfumes,
And roll, and crush the grassy blooms.

Blown back to olden days, I fain
Would quaff the olden joys again;

But all the olden sweetness not

45
The old unmindful peace hath brought.

Wind of this summer afternoon,
Thou hast recalled my childhood’s June;

My heart—still is it satisfied
By all the golden summer-tide?

50

Hast thou one eager yearning filled,
Or any restless throbbing stilled,

Or hast thou any power to bear
Even a little of my care?—

Ever so little of this weight

55
Of weariness canst thou abate?

Ah, poor thy gift indeed, unless
Thou bring the old child-heartedness,—

And such a gift to bring is given,
Alas, to no wind under heaven!

60

Wind of the summer afternoon,
Be still; my heart is not in tune.

Sweet is thy voice; but yet, but yet—
Of all ’twere sweetest to forget!


Fredericton, N.B.