The Dread Voyage Poems

by William Wilfred Campbell


 

DECEMBER


 

BLOWEST thou in again, thou bleak December,
      Comest thou back with bearded, icy sheen,
Lone hours that make the saddened heart remember
      The flower of life, the sweetness that hath been:
Grey, chilly skies, wild winds that fray and fret,
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Bring me kind peace or bid the heart forget.

Comest thou in with thy rude, kindly bluster,
      The wintry glow of fagots on pale fires;
Thy lonesome woodlands in a ragged cluster
      About the earth’s shrunk edge, with dreary spires

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Of tree-tops loomed athwart the chilly sky;
Where late the low night-wind went haunting by.

I love thee, Month, for all thy cold north blowing;
      I greet thee, friend, for all thy frosty mood;
With mantling blood I meet thy slanted snowing,

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      O’er withered field or by the leafless wood,
Whose damp earth-floors with rain-bleached leaves are stained,
And frosty nuts that rich November rained.

Men call thee rude, but thou art soft and gentle,
      Thy voice is loud, but oh, thy heart is kind,

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Who coverest shivering earth with thy soft mantle,
      To shield the grasses from the cruel wind:
And the sweet buds in brown earth laid away,
Thou tendest for thy gentle sister May.

When haggard cold hath nipped the hills and meadows,

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      And chilly mornings lift from pallid skies,
And chimney smoke to earthward sendeth shadows;
      ’Tis then I seek thine icèd glamouries,
In lonely ways of wood, and watery field,
Which thou hast silvered with a frosty shield.
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O’er ways of the wind’s moods of fitful wandering,
      Or querulous moanings by some hillside bare,
Naked of snows, where Heaven’s largesse squandering,
      The night had built snow-turrets here and there,
Heaping the hollows, cloaking stumps and trees
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With wintry coat of ermine draperies.

Or ’neath gaunt aisles of sombre woodlands crooning,
      Like gray old crones, some sad December song,
Or barren trees like aged harpers tuning
      Their withered instruments, an eerie throng,

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Bright icicles from each white, branchy beard,
Stand waiting for the dying old year’s weird.

So I have roamed with thee, thou grey December,
      Through all thy sheeted nights and withered days;
And dreamed beneath thy chillèd ice and ember,

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      The secret thoughts of Nature’s hidden ways:
How under all thy storm and maddened moods,
Thou barest her message to the fields and woods.