THE MANY-MANSIONED HOUSE
AND OTHER POEMS


By
EDWARD WILLIAM THOMSON




 

PARLIAMENT OF THE AGES

(AN OTTAWA VISION)



OF all who’d thronged the Commons’ galleries
For early April evening’s main debate,
One student visionary sole remained.

Down on the floor the members argued yet,
Though midnight long had passed, and rosy dawn

5

Came streaming in through eastward glory-panes
To tint the lofty ashlared westward wall
With shining jewel-colored phantasies.

The Dreamer watched the brilliancies of morn
Descending on that opposite westward wall

10

From panelled ceiling down to pointed arch,
From arch to shadowy alcoves’ ruby panes,
Where luminous beamed the storied English Kings,
The Crown, the ramping Pards, the Unicorn,
With ancient mottoes of the Ancient Realm,

15

And new-made Arms of modern provinces
Emblazoned on the young Dominion’s shield.

Now in the watcher’s dream the sunrise merged
The Fish, the Maple Leaves, the Buffalo
With Rose and Thistle, Shamrock, Fleur-de-lys,

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The Crown, the Kings, the emblem Viking-ships,
With some great banner, glorious, indistinct,
The Flag of mighty, English-speaking kin,
All beaming benison ineffable,
Such promise as no mortal ever saw

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On Land or Sea, save o’er the mystic shores
And waters of a halcyon Future dreamed.

The desks, the Speaker’s Chair seemed rapt away,
No stony walls inclosed the Commons’ House, [Page 23]
But in the wonder-light a woodland spread

30

About one venerable northland Oak
Silent, except for distant-droning bees,
And one tall, blue-eyed, sworded, yellow-haired,
Hard-panting Viking, kirtled gray, who stood
Beneath the trysting-oak, and strove to quell

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His gasps, deep-laboring from a lengthy run,
While, listening keen, he heard the bees in drone,
And watched to hail his second to the tryst
Of freemen signalled for a moot of War.

Then, far around, the forest sounded live

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With crackling twigs and scores of emulous feet
From every quarter of the glooming shade,
And wonder-shouts, half vexed and half of praise,
Roared at the Champion who to tree of Moot
Had speeded foremost of the valorous band.

45


Hard-breathing all, they ranged about the Oak
Equal alike, save one they lifted high
On shield, and named him for their Council Earl.
Then there they fell to talk of march and plan,
Of meat and meal and beer and dragon-ships,

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And Ways and Means,—contentious, passionate,
Yet one man only speaking up at once,
Heard silently, approved, or laughed to scorn,
Yet hearkened closely, since th’ elected Earl
Full briskly stopt each interrupting voice

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By one clear word, quite mystic, quite unknown
Unto the Dreamer in the gallery,
For whom no more the banners of the morn
In wholly visionary colors flared,
Because imperious from the Speaker’s Chair

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A voice called “Order” stoutly, in a tone
So like the ancient Viking Earl’s, the two
Seemed blent as one within the Dreamer’s brain. [Page 24]

Scarcely awake, the Student’s roaming thought—
Oblivious to the actual place, the dawn,

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The visioned tryst of Father Odin’s men—
Pondered a Deity who shaped His world
In such a wise that they must most prevail
Who choose one Will to rule by Order’s call,
That every Manliness may freely tell

70

Its thought upon the public thing in hand,
And so the general common sense have sway,
Instead of Policy conceived alone
By any one hereditary Will,
Or, worse, take course tumultuous, scarce resolved

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By gabblers chattering unamenable,
In whose Assemblages prehensile tails,
Inscrutable to eyesight, swing the Ape
In futile men through dizzy fooleries.

And still the talkers on the Commons’ floor

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Contended voluble; while he who heard
Their drone, forgot once more, and dreamed a scene
More wondrous than the primal Viking moot.

For one came frowning in, with sword in hand
And blazoned armor, and an eye more stern

85

Than gleamed beneath the brow of England’s king:—
“I call,” he spoke, “The Realms to Parliament!
Present and Past, by mine, the Founder’s right,
Simon de Montfort, I, proclaim the call!”

It clanged as sounding through The Ages’ tombs

90

So loud that lofty-opening doors of Time
Revealed in earthly garb a Statesman throng
From every Parliament since Montfort breathed,
Majestic, turbulent, guileful, eloquent,
Profound, laborious, witty, whimsical,

95

Reverend in age, or beardless chinned as boys;
Knight, Admiral, Merchant, Lawyer, Pedagogue,
Yeoman, Adventurer, Soldier, Minister, [Page 25]
Poet, Philosopher, Roundhead, Cavalier,
Mechanic, Theologue, Philanthropist;

100

Exploring wights whose bones the jackals pawed
On Lybian arid sands, and they whose forms
Lie, white as marble, stiff nigh either Pole;
Spirits whose mortal vestures braved all fates
That daring hearts or martyr hopes conceived.

105


It seemed not strange to view the Shapes of Eld
In formal-friendly conference of talk
With some who perished as of yesterday,
With some who founded New World congresses,
With some who wielded outland Parliaments

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Which strove so English-like for Liberty
That England reeled to win against their few,
With some whose mien and accents now control
The rising younger Nations of The Race;
It seemed not strange, so clear they all alike,

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Musing the ordered methods of their rule,
Blessed dear the Mother of all Parliaments,
The Many-mansioned Mother of The Free.

There prudent Cecil leaned to Laurier
While John Macdonald held them both in talk,

120

His “brother,” Cartier, nodding to the tale;
There Richard Seddon’s burly honest ghost
With Wilberforce and Hampden close conferred;
There Edmund Burke warned Deakin cautiously
Of tempting Innovation’s bright mirage;

125

There Pitt, the younger, spoke with Cecil Rhodes
And stout Oom Paul, of Empire building themes,
While Grattan unto icy Parnell sighed
Of angry Ireland’s immemorial wrong;
There Chatham, eagle-faced, with Washington

130

And Franklin nigh, declared,—“I praise again
Your English-minded fight for Liberty—
America’s victory secured it firm
For all the outland broods of England’s swarm.” [Page 26]

There Strafford gloomed to Russell’s lofty gaze,

135

The Stuart circle round each stately neck;
There honest-meaning, muddle-headed Cade,
Who lingered nigh the portal as of right,
Because he called a shirtless Parliament,
Received a courteous nod of compliment

140

From mighty Gladstone’s comprehensive love;
There Peel, considerate still, eyed D’Israeli
As if in wonder that the Great Jew’s heart
Should yet be counted one of England’s pride;
There Canning, of the soul-revealing face,

145

And bull-dog Cobbett, passionately wroth,
And Palmerston and Bright and thousands more
All moved at home within the visioned space
Until, it seemed, a Puritan Statesman stern,
With Puritan Troopers ringed, eyed Harry Vane

150

With “Take away that bauble.”  Then the Mace
Seemed borne afar incredibly, by force,
From that great Chamber of the freeman Race,
Old Englandish, New Englandish, Canadian,
Newfoundlandish, Australian, African,

155

Who hold, or held, the emblem sacrosanct.

With that great sacrilege the dream dissolved,
And clear again the radiancies high
Shone o’er the Ottawa floor of Parliament,
While, down below, a high-pitched Loyalist

160

Declared, convinced, with querulous energy,—
“The Empire’s tottering down!  It can’t be saved
Unless we get the Preference all around.”

Touched sudden by the Sun’s imperial beams,
A gargoyle grinned upon the western wall

165

As if it heard the Preferentialist,
While gales of laughter echoed far below.
Whereat the dreamer, wide awake with glee,
Gazed on the golden, crown-surmounted Mace
Pillowed serene before the Speaker’s Chair; [Page 27]

170

Then marked in high-built panes, the Kings gleam clear
The Lion-shield, the mystic Unicorn,
The scrolls, the mottoes, “For my God and Right,”
And “Evil be to him who evil thinks,”
All seemed the racial Soul transfigured there,

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Ages and Ages old, yet scarcely born,
So future-glorious, past all dreaming, looms
The Voluntary Empire of The Blood,
Monarchical, Republican, all’s one,
With Vikings rushing to the beacon’s flare

180

As long as winds shall blow and waters run. [Page 28]