In Divers Tones

by Charles G.D. Roberts

Edited by Tracy Ware


 

THE DEPARTING OF CLOTE SCARP


 

   It is long ago; and men well-nigh
Forget what gladness was, and how the earth
Gave corn in plenty, and the rivers fish,
And the woods meat, before he went away.
His going was on this wise.
5
                                                   All the works
And words and ways of men and beast became
Evil, and all their thoughts continually
Were but of evil. Then he made a feast.
Upon the shore that is beside the sea
10
That takes the setting sun, he ordered it,
And called the beasts thereto. Only the men
He called not, seeing them evil utterly.
He fed the panther’s crafty brood, and filled
The lean wolf’s hunger; from the hollow tree
15
His honey stayed the bear’s terrific jaws;
And the brown rabbit couched at peace, within
The circling shadow of the eagle’s wings.
And when the feast was done he told them all
That now, because their ways were evil grown,
20
On that same day he must depart from them,
And they should look upon his face no more.
Then all the beasts were very sorrowful.

It was near sunset, and the wind was still,
And down the yellow shore a thin wave washed

25
Slowly; and Clote Scarp launched his birch canoe,
And spread his yellow sail, and moved from shore,
Though no wind followed, streaming in the sail,
Or roughening the clear waters after him.
And all the beasts stood by the shore, and watched.
30
Then to the west appeared a long red trail
Over the wave; and Clote Scarp sailed and sang
Till the canoe grew little like a bird,
And black, and vanished in the shining trail.
And when the beasts could see his form no more,
35
They still could hear him, singing as he sailed,
And still they listened, hanging down their heads
In long row, where the thin wave washed and fled.
But when the sound of singing died, and when
They lifted up their voices in their grief,
40
Lo! on the mouth of every beast a strange
New tongue! Then rose they all and fled apart,
Nor met again in council from that day.