T H E  P O E M S  O F

W I L F R E D
C A M P B E L L



 


Lake Lyrics
 

 



Vapor and Blue


DOMED with the azure of heaven,
     Floored with a pavement of pearl,
Clothed all about with a brightness
     Soft as the eyes of a girl,

Girt with a magical girdle,

5

     Rimmed with a vapor of rest—
These are the inland waters,
     These are the lakes of the west.

Voices of slumberous music,
     Spirits of mist and of flame,

10

Moonlit memories left here
     By gods who long ago came,

And vanishing left but an echo
     In silence of moon-dim caves,
Where haze-wrapt the August night slumbers,

15

     Or the wild heart of October raves.

Here where the jewels of nature
     Are set in the light of God’s smile,
Far from the world’s wild throbbing,
     I will stay me and rest me awhile.

20


And store in my heart old music,
     Melodies gathered and sung
By the genies of love and of beauty
     When the heart of the world was young.  [Page 341]

 



The Children of the Foam


OUT forever and forever,
Where our tresses glint and shiver
     On the icy moonlit air;
Come we from a land of gloaming,
Children lost, forever homing,

5

     Never, never reaching there;
Ride we, ride we, ever faster,
Driven by our demon master,
     The wild wind in his despair.
Ride we, ride we, ever home,

10

Wan, white children of the foam.

In the wild October dawning,
When the heaven’s angry awning
     Leans to lakeward, bleak and drear;
And along the black, wet ledges,

15

Under icy, caverned edges,
     Breaks the lake in maddened fear;
And the woods in shore are moaning;
Then you hear our weird intoning,
     Mad, late children of the year;

20

Ride we, ride we, ever home,
Lost, white children of the foam.

All grey day, the black sky under,
Where the beaches moan and thunder,
     Where the breakers spume and comb,

25

You may hear our riding, riding,
You may hear our voices chiding,
     Under glimmer, under gloam;
Like a far-off infant wailing,  [Page 342]
You may hear our hailing, hailing,

30

     For the voices of our home;
Ride we, ride we, ever home,
Haunted children of the foam.

And at midnight, when the glimmer
Of the moon grows dank and dimmer,

35

     Then we lift our gleaming eyes;
Then you see our white arms tossing,
Our wan breasts the moon embossing,
     Under gloom of lake and skies;
You may hear our mournful chanting,

40

And our voices haunting, haunting,
     Through the night’s mad melodies;
Riding, riding, ever home,
Wild, white children of the foam.

There, forever and forever,

45

Will no demon-hate dissever
     Peace and sleep and rest and dream;
There is neither fear nor fret there
When the tired children get there,
     Only dews and pallid beam

50

Fall in gentle peace and sadness
Over long surcease of madness,
     From hushed skies that gleam and gleam:
In the longed-for, sought-for home
Of the children of the foam.

55


There the streets are hushed and restful,
And of dreams is every breast full,
     With the sleep that tired eyes wear;
There the city hath long quiet
From the madness and the riot,

60

     From the failing hearts of care;  [Page 343]
Balm of peacefulness ingliding,
Dream we through our riding, riding,
     As we homeward, homeward fare;
Riding, riding, ever home,

65

Wild, white children of the foam.

Under pallid moonlight beaming,
Under stars of midnight gleaming,
     And the ebon arch of night;
Round the rosy edge of morning,

70

You may hear our distant horning,
     You may mark our phantom flight;
Riding, riding, ever faster,
Driven by our demon master,
     Under darkness, under light;

75

Ride we, ride we, ever home,
Wild, white children of the foam.

 



How One Winter Came in the Lake Region


FOR weeks and weeks the autumn world stood still,
     Clothed in the shadow of a smoky haze;
The fields were dead, the wind had lost its will,
And all the lands were hushed by wood and hill,
     In those grey, withered days.

5


Behind a mist the blear sun rose and set,
     At night the moon would nestle in a cloud;
The fisherman, a ghost, did cast his net;
The lake its shores forgot to chafe and fret,
     And hushed its caverns loud.

10


Far in the smoky woods the birds were mute,
     Save that from blackened tree a jay would scream,[Page 344]
Or far in swamps the lizard’s lonesome lute
Would pipe in thirst, or by some gnarlèd root
     The tree-toad trilled his dream.

15


From day to day still hushed the season’s mood,
     The streams stayed in their runnels shrunk and dry;
Suns rose aghast by wave and shore and wood,
And all the world, with ominous silence, stood
     In weird expectancy:

20


When one strange night the sun like blood went down,
     Flooding the heavens in a ruddy hue;
Red grew the lake, the sere fields parched and brown,
Red grew the marshes where the creeks stole down,
     But never a wind-breath blew.

25


That night I felt the winter in my veins,
     A joyous tremor of the icy glow;
And woke to hear the north’s wild vibrant strains,
While far and wide, by withered woods and plains,
     Fast fell the driving snow.

30

 



On the Shore

(Age)


WITH golden spicèd dreams blows in the dawn,
     About the cool blue bosom of the lake;
     Far over wave and shore wild voices wake,
The watery curves and windy reeds upon,
Where the young glory of the day dreams on;

5

     And wingèd creatures haunts of sleep forsake,
     And dreams and silence their dim ways betake
Round the grey edge where lidded night hath gone.  [Page 345]

Here all is young and glad, the laughing shore,
     The sunshine, the glad birds, no memories

10

          On haggard faces wistful to forget;
Save yon old man beside the rude hut door,
     With palsied hands, chin bending to his knees,
          Mending dead youth in meshes of a net.

 



The Winter Lakes


OUT in a world of death far to the northward lying,
     Under the sun and the moon, under the dusk and the day;
Under the glimmer of stars and the purple of sunsets dying,
     Wan and waste and white, stretch the great lakes away.

Never a bud of spring, never a laugh of summer,

5

     Never a dream of love, never a song of bird;
But only the silence and white, the shores that grow chiller and                dumber,
     Wherever the ice winds sob, and the griefs of winter are heard.

Crags that are black and wet out of the grey lake looming,
     Under the sunset’s flush and the pallid, faint glimmer of dawn;

10

Shadowy, ghost-like shores, where midnight surfs are booming
     Thunders of wintry woe over the spaces wan.

Lands that loom like spectres, whited regions of winter,
     Wastes of desolate woods, deserts of water and shore;                     [Page 346]
A world of winter and death, within these regions who enter,

15

     Lost to summer and life, go to return no more.
Moons that glimmer above, waters that lie white under,
     Miles and miles of lake far out under the night;
Foaming crests of waves, surfs that shoreward thunder,
     Shadowy shapes that flee, haunting the spaces white.

20


Lonely hidden bays, moon-lit, ice-rimmed, winding,
     Fringed by forests and crags, haunted by shadowy shores;
Hushed from the outward strife, where the mighty surf is grinding
     Death and hate on the rocks, as sandward and landward it                roars.

 



A Lake Memory


THE lake comes throbbing in with voice of pain
     Across these flats, athwart the sunset’s glow;
I see her face, I know her voice again,
     Her lips, her breath, O God, as long ago.

To live the sweet past over I would fain,

5

     As lives the day in the red sunset’s fire,
That all these wild, wan marshlands now would stain,
     With the dawn’s memories, loves and flushed desire.

I call her back across the vanished years,
     Nor vain—a white-armed phantom fills her place;

10

Its eyes the wind-blown sunset fires, its tears
     This rain of spray that blows about my face.  [Page 347]

 



The Flight of the Gulls


OUT over the spaces,
The sunny, blue places,
     Of water and sky;
Where day on day merges
     In nights that reel by;

5

Through calms and through surges,
Through stormings and lulls,
O, follow,
               Follow,
The flight of the gulls.

10


With wheeling and reeling,
With skimming and stealing,
     We wing with the wind,
Out over the heaving
Of grey waters, leaving

15

     The lands far behind,
And dipping ships’ hulls.
O, follow,
               Follow,
The flight of the gulls.

20


Up over the thunder
Of reefs that lie under,
     And dead sailors’ graves;
Like snowflakes in summer,
Like blossoms in winter,

25

     We float on the waves,
And the shore-tide that pulls.
O, follow,
               Follow,
The flight of the gulls.

30


Would you know the wild vastness
Of the lakes in their fastness,
     Their heaven’s blue span;
Then come to this region,
     From the dwellings of man.

35

Leave the life-care behind you,
That nature annuls,
And follow,
               Follow,
The flight of the gulls.

40

 



How Spring Came

(To the Lake Region)


NO PASSIONATE cry came over the desolate places,
     No answering call from iron-bound land to land;
But dawns and sunsets fell on mute, dead faces,
     And noon and night death crept from strand to strand.

Till love breathed out across the wasted reaches,

5

     And dipped in rosy dawns from desolate deeps;
And woke with mystic songs the sullen beaches,
     And flamed to life the pale, mute, death-like sleeps.

Then the warm south, with amorous breath inblowing,
     Breathed soft o’er breast of wrinkled lake and mere;

10

And faces white from scorn of the north’s snowing,
     Now rosier grew to greet the kindling year.  [Page 349]

 



Lake Huron

(October)


MILES and miles of lake and forest,
     Miles and miles of sky and mist,
Marsh and shoreland where the rushes
     Rustle, wind and water kissed;
Where the lake’s great face is driving,

5

     Driving, drifting into mist.

Miles and miles of crimson glories,
     Autumn’s wondrous fires ablaze;
Miles of shoreland red and golden,
     Drifting into dream and haze;

10

Dreaming where the woods and vapors
     Melt in myriad misty ways.

Miles and miles of lake and forest,
     Miles and miles of sky and mist;
Wild birds calling where the rushes

15

     Rustle, wind and water kissed;
Where the lake’s great face is driving,
     Driving, drifting into mist.

 



Sunset, Lake Huron

(September)


THE sunbeams fall in golden flakes,
     Like snow-banks flamed the clouds are furled;
The soft light shakes
On wave that breaks
     On wave, far round the gleaming world.  [Page 350]

5


Great brown, bare rocks, wet, purple dyed,
     By sunsets’ beams, hedge in this realm
Of sky and wide,
Bleak sweep of tide,
     Grey, tossed, scarce-plowed by keel or helm.

10


The east looms dark, the red day dips
     Down under gleaming rock and wave,
In hushed eclipse,
While grey night slips
     The cerements of her shrouded grave.

15


And buildeth up her arches dark,
     From ruins of the dim dead day,
Till earth may mark
Each luminous spark,
     Of stars that far in heaven stray.

20


And weaveth with her phantom hands
     (Blind, dumb, save for the moon’s white wreath,
And rude wind bands
From Eblis lands)
     A shroud for the great lake beneath;

25


That beats and moans, a prisoned thing,
     Rock-manacled beneath the night;
And tells each shore,
Forever more
     Its sorrow in the pallid light.  [Page 351]

30

 



Nama-Way-Qua-Donk—The Bay of Sturgeons

(Written in Boyhood)


     Commonly known as Colpoy’s Bay, an arm of the Georgian Bay.  This is a beautiful sheet of water, nine miles long, surrounded by lofty cliffs of limestone, crowned by forests, once the haunt of a tribe of Indians called Petons, or “Tobacco Indians.”
     Medwayosh is a word of Ojibway origin, resembling the sound of the waves beating or washing on the shore.


COLD in the autumn night—
Sleeping with its waters bright,
Gilded by the moon’s pale light,
Stretching to the northward white—
Rests the Bay of Sturgeons.

5


Huddled round it, sleeping soft,
Looming their great forms aloft
In the moonlight;

Bearded, grey, the great rocks stand
Silent, hushed, on either hand,

10

As if some dusky warrior band,
To-night, hushed, from the spirit land,
Came back once more.

Gliding here on either shore,
Lingering near the haunts of yore,

15

But to hear the waves once more
As in nights long, long before,
Whisper: Medwayosh.

Towering stern, each blanket round,
Have the silent ages wound,

20

As they watched above each mound,  [Page 352]
O’er the grave or battle-ground,
Where each warrior sleeps.


•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •


Once by these shores these warriors played,
Here lover bronzed and maiden strayed,

25

And as they parted coyly stayed
To plight their troth.

And oft when summer moons were young,
When swaying branches murmuring hung,
Whispered their loves in unknown tongue.

30

Oft in the autumn harvest feast,
Through purple mists from out the east,
They watched old Gheezis golden-fleeced,
Rise o’er the forest.

Here many a warrior sleeps below,

35

His place of rest full well they know,
Marked where the midday’s glorious glow
Turns to the west.

The world of men may burn and burn,
But in these dreamy walls of fern,

40

Swathed in deep rest, they never turn.

Through the dim ages soft they sleep,
Wrapt in calm slumber, long and deep,
While Nepenthean dews their eyelids steep.

A wild, strange banquet long ago,

45

Whose lamps, in midst of festive glow
And mirthful sounds, burnt sudden low.


•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •


O sunsets old, long wandered  down;
O ancient Indian shore and town,  [Page 353]
Time’s strange dark roll hath wrapt around

50

Thy dreamless sleep.

O saddest picture of a race—
A wild and passionate broken race—
That melting nightward leaves no trace,
No camp-fire on the sweet, loved face

55

Of their own land;
As shades that wander to their rest,
Toward those dim regions of the west
And setting sun.


•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •


No wonder that in sternest close

60

The last wild war-cry weirdly rose,
To break the settler’s short repose
In midnight hour.


•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •


Sleep, sleep, by dreamy bank and stream;
Sleep through the dim year’s afternoon;

65

Let no strange babblers break thy dream,
No softer, weaker voices wean
Thee from thy rest.

Sleep, sleep, by dreamy shore and glen;
Sleep on through murk, and mist, and moon,

70

Through the mad years of modern men,
While only dreams of cave and fen
Fill each wild breast.  [Page 354]

 

 

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