From: Charles G.D. Roberts, In Divers Tones (Boston: Lothrop, 1886).

The Pipes of Pan

Ringed with the flocking of hills, within shepherding watch of Olympus,
Tempe, vale of the gods, lies in green quiet withdrawn;
Tempe, vale of the gods, deep-couched amid woodland and woodland,
Threaded with amber of brooks, mirrored in azure of pools,
All day drowsed with the sun, charm-drunken with moonlight at midnight,
Walled from the world forever under a vapour of dreams—,
6
Hid by the shadows of dreams, not found by the curious footstep,
Sacred and secret forever, Tempe, vale of the gods.

How, through the cleft of its bosom, goes sweetly the water PenŽus!
How by PenŽus the sward breaks into saffron and blue!

10
How the long slope-floored beech-glades mount to the wind-wakened uplands,
Where, through flame-berried ash, troop the hoofed Centaurs at morn!
Nowhere greens a copse but the eye-beams of Artemis pierce it.
Breathes no laurel her balm but Phœbus’ fingers caress.
Springs no bed of wild blossom but limbs of dryad have pressed it.
15
Sparkle the nymphs, and the brooks chime with shy laughter and calls.

Here is a nook. Two rivulets fall to mix with PenŽus,
Loiter a space, and sleep, checked and choked by the reeds.
Long grass waves in the windless water, strown with the lote-leaf.
Twist thro’ dripping soil great alder roots; and the air 

20
Glooms with the dripping tangle of leaf-thick branches, and stillness
Keeps in the strange-coiled stems, ferns, and wet-loving weeds.
Hither comes Pan, to this pregnant earthy spot, when his piping
Flags; and his pipes outworn breaking and casting away,
Fits new reeds to his mouth with the weird earth melody in them, 
25
Piercing, alive with a life able to mix with the god’s.
Then, as he blows, and the searching sequence delights him, the goat-feet
Furtive withdraw; and a bird stirs and flutes in the gloom
Answering. Float with the stream the outworn pipes, with a whisper,—
“What the god breathes on, the god never can wholly evade!” 
30
God-breath lurks in each fragment forever. Dispersed by PenŽus
Wandering, caught in the ripples, wind-blown hither and there,
Over the whole green earth and globe of sea they are scattered,
Coming to secret spots, where in a visible form
Comes not the god, though he come declared in his workings. And mortals
Straying in cool of morn, or bodeful hasting at eve,  
36
Or in the depths of noonday plunged to shadiest coverts,
Spy them, and set to their lips; blow, and fling them away!

Ay, they fling them away, —but never wholly! Thereafter
Creeps strange fire in their veins, murmur strange tongues in their brain,
Sweetly evasive; a secret madness takes them, —a charm-struck

41
Passion for woods and wild life, the solitude of the hills.
Therefore they fly the heedless throngs and traffic of cities,
Haunt mossed caverns, and wells bubbling ice-cool; and their souls
Gather a magical gleam of the secret of life, and the god’s voice 
45
Calls to them, not from afar, teaching them wonderful things.

The Tantramar Revisited

Summers and summers have come, and gone with the flight of the swallow;
Sunshine and thunder have been, storm, and winter, and frost;
Many and many a sorrow has all but died from remembrance,
Many a dream of joy fall’n in the shadow of pain.
Hands of chance and change have marred, or moulded, or broken, 
5
Busy with spirit or flesh, all I most have adored;
Even the bosom of Earth is strewn with heavier shadows, —
Only in these green hills aslant to the sea, no change!
Here where the road that has climbed from the inland valleys and wood lands,
Dips from the hill-tops down, straight to the base of the hills,—
10
Here, from my vantage-ground, I can see the scattering houses,
Strained with time, set warm in orchards, and meadows, and wheat,
Dotting the broad bright slopes outspread to southward ane eastward,
Wind-swept all day long, blown by the south-east wind.
Skirting the sunbright uplands stretches a riband of meadow, 
15
Shorn of the laboring grass, bulwarked well from the sea,
Fenced on its seaward border with long clay dykes from the turbid
Surge and flow of the tides vexing the Westmoreland shores.
Yonder, toward the left, lie broad the Westmoreland marshes,—
Miles on miles they extend, level, and grassy, and dim, 
20
Clear from the long red sweep of flats to the sky in the distance,
Save for the outlying heights, green-rampired Cumberland Point;
Miles on miles outrolled, and the river-channels divide them, —
Miles on miles of green, barred by the hurtling gusts.

Miles on miles beyond the tawny bay is Minudie. 

25
There are the low blue hills; villages gleam at their feet.
Nearer a white sail shines across the water, and nearer
Still are the slim, grey masts of fishing boats dry on the flats.
Ah, how well I remember those wide red flats, above tide-mark
Pale with scurf of the salt, seamed and baked in the sun!
30
Well I remember the piles of blocks and ropes, and the net-reels
Wound with the beaded nets, dripping and dark from the sea!
Now at this season the nets are unwound; they hang from the rafters
Over the fresh-stowed hay in upland barns, and the wind
Blows all day through the chinks, with the streaks of sunlight, and sways them
35
Softly at will; or they lie heaped in the gloom of a loft.

Now at this season the reels are empty and idle; I see them
Over the lines of the dikes, over the gossiping grass,
Now at this season they swing in the long strong wind, thro’ the lonesome
Golden afternoon, shunned by the foraging gulls.

40
Near about sunset the crane will journey homeward above them;
Round them, under the moon, all the calm night long,
Winnowing soft grey wings of marsh-owls wander and wander,
Now to the broad, lit marsh, now to the dusk of the dike.
Soon, thro’ their dew-wet frames, in the live keen freshness of morning,
45
Out of the teeth of the dawn blows back the awakening wind.
Then, as the blue day mounts, and the low-shot shafts of the sunlight
Glance from the tide to the shore, gossamers jewelled with dew
Sparkle and wave, where late sea-spoiling fathoms of drift-net
Myriad-meshed, uploomed sombrely over the land.
50
Well I remember it all. The salt raw scent of the margin;
While, with men at the windlass, groaned each reel, and the net,
Surging in ponderous lengths, uprose and coiled in its station;
Then each man to his home, —well I remember it all!

Yet, as I sit and watch, this present peace of the landscape,—                   

55
Stranded boats, these reels empty and idle, the hush,
One grey hawk slow-wheeling above yon cluster of haystacks,—
More than the old-time stir this stillness welcomes me home.
Ah, the old-time stir, how once it stung me with rapture,—
Old-time sweetness, the winds freighted with honey and salt!                  
60
Yet will I stay my steps and not go down to the marsh-land,—
Muse and recall far off, rather remember than see,—
Lest on too close sight I miss the darling illusion,
Spy at their task even here the hands of chance and change.

 

From: Charles G.D. Roberts, Songs of the Common Day, and Ave: An Ode for the Shelley Centenary (Toronto: Briggs, 1893).

 

Prologue

Across the fog the moon lies fair.
      Transfused with ghostly amethyst,
O white Night, charm to wonderment
      The cattle in the mist!

Thy touch, O grave Mysteriarch,   

5

      Makes dull, familiar things divine.
O grant of thy revealing gift
      Be some small portion mine!

Make thou my vision sane and clear,
      That I may see what beauty clings

10
In common forms, and find the soul
      Of unregarded things!

 

The Salt Flats

Here clove the keels of centuries ago
     Where now unvisited the flats lie bare.
     Here seethed the sweep of journeying waters, where
No more the tumbling floods of Fundy flow,
And only in the samphire pipes creep slow
5
     The salty currents of the sap. The air
     Hums desolately with wings that seaward fare,
Over the lonely reaches beating low.

The wastes of hard and meagre weeds are thronged
With murmurs of a past that time has wronged;

10
     And ghosts of many an ancient memory
Dwell by the brackish pools and ditches blind,
In these low-lying pastures of the wind,
     These marshes pale and meadows by the sea.

 

The Sower

A brown, sad-coloured hillside, where the soil
     Fresh from the frequent harrow, deep and fine,
     Lies bare; no break in the remote sky-line,
Save where a flock of pigeons streams aloft,
Startled from feed in some low-lying croft,
5
     Or far-off spires with yellow of sunset shine;
     And here the Sower, unwittingly divine,
Exerts the silent forethought of his toil.

Alone he treads the glebe, his measured stride
     Dumb in the yielding soil; and though small joy

10
     Dwell in his heavy face, as spreads the blind
Pale grain from his dispensing palm aside,
     This plodding churl grows great in his employ;—
     Godlike, he makes provision for mankind.

 

The Pea-Fields

These are the fields of light, and laughing air,
     And yellow butterflies, and foraging bees,
     And whitish, wayward blossoms winged as these,
And pale green tangles like a seamaid’s hair.
Pale, pale the blue, but pure beyond compare,
5
     And pale the sparkle of the far-off seas
     A-shimmer like these fluttering slopes of peas,
And pale the open landscape everywhere.

From fence to fence a perfumed breath exhales
     O’er the bright pallor of the well-loved fields,—

10
My fields of Tantramar in summer-time;
     And, scorning the poor feed their pasture yields,
Up from the bushy lots the cattle climb
     To gaze with longing through the grey, mossed rails.

 

The Potato Harvest

A high bare field, brown from the plough, and borne
     Aslant from sunset; amber wastes of sky
     Washing the ridge; a clamour of crows that fly
In from the wide flats where the spent tides mourn
To yon their rocking roosts in pines wind-torn;
5
     A line of grey snake-fence, that zigzags by
     A pond and cattle; from the homestead nigh
The long deep summonings of the supper horn.

Black on the ridge, against that lonely flush,
     A cart, and stoop-necked oxen; ranged beside

10
          Some barrels; and the day-worn harvest-folk,
Here emptying their baskets, jar the hush
     With hollow thunders. Down the dusk hillside
          Lumbers the wain; and day fades out like smoke.

 

The Winter Fields

Winds here, and sleet, and frost that bites like steel.
     The low bleak hill rounds under the low sky.
     Naked of flock and fold the fallows lie,
Thin streaked with meagre drift. The gusts reveal
By fits the dim grey snakes of fence, that steal
5
     Through the white dusk. The hill-foot poplars sigh,
     While storm and death with winter trample by,
And the iron fields ring sharp, and blind lights reel.

Yet in the lonely ridges, wrenched with pain,
     Harsh solitary hillocks, bound and dumb,

10
Grave glebes close-lipped beneath the scourge and chain,
     Lurks hid the germ of ecstasy—the sum
Of life that waits on summer, till the rain
     Whisper in April and the crocus come.

 

In the Wide Awe and Wisdom of the Night

In the wide awe and wisdom of the night
     I saw the round world rolling on its way,
Beyond significance of depth or height,
     Beyond the interchange of dark and day.
I marked the march to which is set no pause,
5
     And that stupendous orbit, round whose rim
The great sphere sweeps, obedient unto laws
     That utter the eternal thought of Him.
I compassed time, outstripped the starry speed,
     And in my still soul apprehended space,
10
Till, weighing laws which these but blindly heed,
     At last I came before Him face to face,—
And knew the Universe of no such span
As the august infinitude of Man.

 

Marsyas

A little grey hill-glade, close-turfed, withdrawn
Beyond resort or heed of trafficking feet,
Ringed round with slim trunks of the mountain ash.
Through the slim trunks and scarlet bunches flash—
Beneath the clear chill glitterings of the dawn—
5
Far off, the crests, where down the rosy shore
The Pontic surges beat.
The plains lie dim below. The thin airs wash
The circuit of the autumn-coloured hills,
And this high glade, whereon
10
The satyr pipes, who soon shall pipe no more.
He sits against the beech-tree’s mighty bole,—
He leans, and with persuasive breathing fills
The happy shadows of the slant-set lawn.
The goat-feet fold beneath a gnarlŤd root;
15
And sweet, and sweet the note that steals and thrills
From slender stops of that shy flute.
Then to the goat-feet comes the wide-eyed fawn
Hearkening; the rabbits fringe the glade, and lay
Their long ears to the sound;
20
In the pale boughs the partridge gather round,
And quaint hern from the sea-green river reeds;
The wild ram halts upon a rocky horn
O’erhanging; and, unmindful of his prey,
The leopard steals with narrowed lids to lay
25
His spotted length along the ground.
The thin airs wash, the thin clouds wander by,
And those hushed listeners move not. All the morn
He pipes, soft-swaying, and with half-shut eye,
In rapt content of utterance,—
30
                                         nor heeds
The young God standing in his branchy place,
The languor on his lips, and in his face,
Divinely inaccessible, the scorn.

 

Ave!

(An Ode for the Centenary of Shelley’s Birth, [1892])

I

O tranquil meadows, grassy Tantramar,
     Wide marshes ever washed in clearest air,
Whether beneath the sole and spectral star
     The dear severity of dawn you wear,
Or whether in the joy of ample day
5
     And speechless ecstasy of growing June
You lie and dream the long blue hours away
          Till nightfall comes too soon,
Or whether, naked to the unstarred night,
You strike with wondering awe my inward sight,—
10
 

II

You know how I have loved you, how my dreams
     Go forth to you with longing, though the years
That turn not back like your returning streams
     And fain would mist the memory with tears,
Though the inexorable years deny
15
     My feet the fellowship of your deep grass,
O’er which, as o’er another, tenderer sky,
          Cloud phantoms drift and pass,—
You know my confident love, since first, a child,
Amid your wastes of green I wandered wild.
20
 

III

Inconstant, eager, curious, I roamed;
     And ever your long reaches lured me on;
And ever o’er my feet your grasses foamed,
     And in my eyes your far horizons shone.
But sometimes would you (as a stillness fell
25
     And on my pulse you laid a soothing palm)
Instruct my ears in your most secret spell;
          And sometimes in the calm
Initiate my young and wondering eyes
Until my spirit grew more still and wise.
30
 

IV

Purged with high thoughts and infinite desire
     I entered fearless the most holy place,
Received between my lips the secret fire,
     The breath of inspiration on my face.
But not for long these rare illumined hours,
35
     The deep surprise and rapture not for long.
Again I saw the common, kindly flowers,
          Again I heard the song
Of the glad bobolink, whose lyric throat
Pealed like a tangle of small bells afloat.
40
 

V

The pounce of mottled marsh-hawk on his prey;
     The flicker of sand-pipers in from sea
In gusty flocks that puffed and fled; the play
     Of field-mice in the vetches;—these to me
Were memorable events. But most availed
45
     Your strange unquiet waters to engage
My kindred heart’s companionship; nor failed
          To grant this heritage,—
That in my veins for ever must abide
The urge and fluctuation of the tide.
50
 

VI

The mystic river whence you take your name,
     River of hubbub, raucous Tantramar,
Untamable and changeable as flame,
     It called me and compelled me from afar,
Shaping my soul with its impetuous stress.
55
     When in its gaping channel deep withdrawn
Its waves ran crying of the wilderness
          And winds and stars and dawn,
How I companioned them in speed sublime,
Led out a vagrant on the hills of Time!
60
 

VII

And when the orange flood came roaring in
     From Fundy’s tumbling troughs and tide-worn caves,
While red Minudie’s flats were drowned with din
     And rough Chignecto’s front oppugned the waves,
How blithely with the refluent foam I raced
65
     Inland along the radiant chasm, exploring
The green solemnity with boisterous haste;
          My pulse of joy outpouring
To visit all the creeks that twist and shine
From Beausťjour to utmost Tormentine.
70
 

VIII

And after, when the tide was full, and stilled
     A little while the seething and the hiss,
And every tributary channel filled
     To the brim with rosy streams that swelled to kiss
The grass-roots all a-wash and goose-tongue wild
75
     And salt-sap rosemary,—then how well content
I was to rest me like a breathless child
          With play-time rapture spent,—
To lapse and loiter till the change should come
And the great floods turn seaward, roaring home.
80
 

IX

And now, O tranquil marshes, in your vast
     Serenity of vision and of dream,
Wherethrough by every intricate vein have passed
     With joy impetuous and pain supreme
The sharp, fierce tides that chafe the shores of earth
85
     In endless and controlless ebb and flow,
Strangely akin you seem to him whose birth
          One hundred years ago
With fiery succour to the ranks of song
Defied the ancient gates of wrath and wrong.
90
 

X

Like yours, O marshes, his compassionate breast,
     Wherein abode all dreams of love and peace,
Was tortured with perpetual unrest.
     Now loud with flood, now languid with release,
Now poignant with the lonely ebb, the strife
95
     Of tides from the salt sea of human pain
That hiss along the perilous coasts of life
          Beat in his eager brain;
But all about the tumult of his heart
Stretched the great calm of his celestial art.
100
 

XI

Therefore with no far flight, from Tantramar
     And my still world of ecstasy, to thee,
Shelley, to thee I turn, the avatar
     Of Song, Love, Dream, Desire, and Liberty;
To thee I turn with reverent hands of prayer
105
     And lips that fain would ease my heart of praise,
Whom chief of all whose brows prophetic wear
          The pure and sacred bays
I worship, and have worshipped since the hour
When first I felt thy bright and chainless power.
110
 

XII

About thy sheltered cradle in the green
     Untroubled groves of Sussex, brooded forms
That to the mother’s eye remained unseen,—
     Terrors and ardours, passionate hopes, and storms
Of fierce retributive fury, such as jarred
115
     Ancient and sceptred creeds, and cast down kings,
And oft the holy cause of Freedom marred
          With lust of meaner things,
With guiltless blood, and many a frenzied crime
Dared in the face of unforgetful Time.
120
 

XIII

The star that burns on revolution smote
     Wild heats and change on thine ascendant sphere,
Whose influence thereafter seemed to float
     Through many a strange eclipse of wrath and fear,
Dimming awhile the radiance of thy love.
125
     But still supreme in thy nativity,
All dark, invidious aspects far above,
          Beamed one clear orb for thee,—
The star whose ministrations just and strong
Controlled the tireless flight of Dante’s song.
130
 

XIV

With how august contrition, and what tears
     Of penitential, unavailing shame,
Thy venerable foster-mother hears
     The sons of song impeach her ancient name,
Because in one rash hour of anger blind
135
     She thrust thee forth in exile, and thy feet
Too soon to earth’s wild outer ways consigned,—
          Far from her well-loved seat,
Far from her studious halls and storied towers
And weedy Isis winding through his flowers.
140
 

XV

And thou, thenceforth the breathless child of change,
     Thine own Alastor, on an endless quest
Of unimagined loveliness didst range,
     Urged ever by the soul’s divine unrest.
Of that high quest and that unrest divine
145
     Thy first immortal music thou didst make,
Inwrought with fairy Alp, and Reuss, and Rhine,
          And phantom seas that break
In soundless foam along the shores of Time,
Prisoned in thine imperishable rhyme.
150
 

XVI

Thyself the lark melodious in mid-heaven;
     Thyself the Protean shape of chainless cloud,
Pregnant with elemental fire, and driven
     Through deeps of quivering light, and darkness loud
With tempest, yet beneficent as prayer;
155
     Thyself the wild west wind, relentless strewing
The withered leaves of custom on the air,
          And through the wreck pursuing
O’er lovelier Arnos, more imperial Romes,
Thy radiant visions to their viewless homes.
160
 

XVII

And when thy mightiest creation thou
     Wert fain to body forth,—the dauntless form,
The all-enduring, all-forgiving brow
     Of the great Titan, flinchless in the storm
Of pangs unspeakable and nameless hates,
165
     Yet rent by all the wrongs and woes of men,
And triumphing in his pain, that so their fates
          Might be assuaged,—oh then
Out of that vast compassionate heart of thine
Thou wert constrained to shape the dream benign.
170
 

XVIII

— O Baths of Caracalla, arches clad
     In such transcendent rhapsodies of green
That one might guess the sprites of spring were glad
     For your majestic ruin, yours the scene,
The illuminating air of sense and thought;
175
     And yours the enchanted light, O skies of Rome,
Where the giant vision into form was wrought;
          Beneath your blazing dome
The intensest song our language ever knew
Beat up exhaustless to the blinding blue!—
180
 

XIX

The domes of Pisa and her towers superb,
     The myrtles and the ilexes that sigh
O’er San Giuliano, where no jars disturb
     The lonely aziola’s evening cry,
The Serchio’s sun-kissed waters,—these conspired
185
     With Plato’s theme occult, with Dante’s calm
Rapture of mystic love, and so inspired
          Thy soul’s espousal psalm,
A strain of such elect and pure intent
It breathes of a diviner element.
190
 

XX

Thou on whose lips the word of Love became
     A rapt evangel to assuage all wrong,
Not Love alone, but the austerer name
     Of Death engaged the splendours of thy song.
The luminous grief, the spacious consolation
195
     Of thy supreme lament, that mourned for him
Too early haled to that still habitation
          Beneath the grass-roots dim,—
Where his faint limbs and pain-o’erwearied heart
Of all earth’s loveliness became a part,
200
 

XXI

But where, thou sayest, himself would not abide,—
     Thy solemn incommunicable joy
Announcing Adonais had not died,
     Attesting death to free but not destroy,
All this was as thy swan-song mystical.
205
     Even while the note serene was on thy tongue
Thin grew the veil of the Invisible,
          The white sword nearer swung,—
And in the sudden wisdom of thy rest
Thou knewest all thou hadst but dimly guessed.
210
 

XXII

— Lament, Lerici, mourn for the world’s loss!
     Mourn that pure light of song extinct at noon!
Ye waves of Spezzia that shine and toss
     Repent that sacred flame you quenched too soon!
Mourn, Mediterranean waters, mourn
215
     In affluent purple down your golden shore!
Such strains as his, whose voice you stilled in scorn,
          Our ears may greet no more,
Unless at last to that far sphere we climb
Where he completes the wonder of his rhyme!
220
 

XXIII

How like a cloud she fled, thy fateful bark,
     From eyes that watched to hearts that waited, till
Up from the ocean roared the tempest dark—
     And the wild heart love waited for was still!
Hither and thither in the slow, soft tide,
225
     Rolled seaward, shoreward, sands and wandering shells
And shifting weeds thy fellows, thou didst hide
          Remote from all farewells,
Nor felt the sun, nor heard the fleeting rain,
Nor heeded Case Magni’s quenchless pain.
230
 

XXIV

Thou heedest not? Nay, for it was not thou,
     That blind, mute clay relinquished by the waves
Reluctantly at last, and slumbering now
     In one of kind earth’s most compassionate graves!
Not thou, not thou,—for thou wert in the light
235
     Of the Unspeakable, where time is not.
Thou sawest those tears; but in thy perfect sight
          And thy eternal thought
Were they not even now all wiped away
In the reunion of the infinite day!
240
 

XXV

There face to face thou sawest the living God
     And worshipedst, beholding Him the same
Adored on earth as Love, the same whose rod
     Thou hadst endured as Life, whose secret name
Thou now didst learn, the healing name of Death.
245
     In that unroutable profound of peace,
Beyond experience of pulse and breath,
          Beyond the last release
Of longing, rose to greet thee all the lords
Of Thought, with consummation in their words:
250
 

XXVI

He of the seven cities claimed, whose eyes,
     Though blind, saw gods and heroes, and the fall
Of Ilium, and many alien skies,
     And Circe’s Isle; and he whom mortals call
The Thunderous, who sang the Titan bound
255
     As thou the Titan victor; the benign
Spirit of Plato; Job; and Judah’s crowned
          Singer and seer divine;
Omar; the Tuscan; Milton, vast and strong;
And Shakespeare, captain of the host of Song.
260
 

XXVII

Back from the underworld of whelming change
     To the wide-glittering beach thy body came;
And thou didst contemplate with wonder strange
     And curious regard thy kindred flame,
Fed sweet with frankincense and wine and salt,
265
     With fierce purgation search thee, soon resolving
Thee to the elements of the airy vault
          And the far spheres revolving,
The common waters, the familiar woods,
And the great hills’ inviolate solitudes.
270
 

XXVIII

Thy close companions there officiated
     With solemn mourning and with mindful tears,—
The pained, imperious wanderer unmated
     Who voiced the wrath of those rebellious years;
Trelawney, lion-limbed and high of heart;
275
     And he, that gentlest sage and friend most true,
Whom Adonais loved. With these bore part
          One grieving ghost, that flew
Hither and thither through the smoke unstirred
In wailing semblance of a wild white bird.
280
 

XXIX

O heart of fire, that fire might not consume,
     For ever glad the world because of thee;
Because of thee for ever eyes illume
     A more enchanted earth, a lovelier sea!
O poignant voice of the desire of life,
285
     Piercing our lethargy, because thy call
Aroused our spirits to a nobler strife
          Where base and sordid fall,
For ever past the conflict and the pain
More clearly beams the goal we shall attain!
290
 

XXX

And now once more, O marshes, back to you
     From whatsoever wanderings, near or far,
To you I turn with joy for ever new,
     To you, O sovereign vasts of Tantramar!
Your tides are at the full. Your wizard flood,
295
     With every tribute stream and brimming creek,
Ponders, possessor of the utmost good,
          With no more left to seek;—
But the hour wanes and passes; and once more
Resounds the ebb with destiny in its roar.
300
 

XXXI

So might some lord of men, whom force and fate
     And his great heart’s unvanquishable power
Have thrust with storm to his supreme estate,
     Ascend by night his solitary tower
High o’er the city’s lights and cries uplift.
305
     Silent he ponders the scrolled heaven to read
And the keen stars’ conflicting message sift,
          Till the slow signs recede,
And ominously scarlet dawns afar
The day he leads his legions forth to war.
310

 

From: Charles G.D. Roberts, New York Nocturnes and Other Poems (Boston: Lamson Wolffe, 1898).

A Nocturne of Consecration

I talked about you, Dear, the other night,
Having myself alone with my delight.
Alone with dreams and memories of you,
All the divine-houred summer stillness through
I talked of life, of love the always new,
5
Of tears, and joy,—yet only talked of you.

To the sweet air
That breathed upon my face
The spirit of lilies in a leafy place,
Your breath’s caress, the lingering of your hair,

10
I said—“In all your wandering through the dusk,
Your waitings on the marriages of flowers
Through the long, intimate hours
When soul and sense, desire and love confer,
You must have known the best that God has made.
15
What do you know of Her?”

Said the sweet air—
“Since I have touched her lips,
Bringing the consecration of her kiss,
Half passion and half prayer,

20
And all for you,
My various lore has suffered an eclipse.
I have forgot all else of sweet I knew.”

To the wise earth,
Kind, and companionable, and dewy cool,

25
Fair beyond words to tell, as you are fair,
And cunning past compare
To leash all heaven in a windless pool,
I said—“The mysteries of death and birth
Are in your care.
30
You love, and sleep; you drain life to the lees;
And wonderful things you know.
Angels have visited you, and at your knees
Learned what I learn forever at her eyes,
The pain that still enhances Paradise.
35
You in your breast felt her first pulses stir;
And you have thrilled to the light touch of her feet,
Blindingly sweet.
Now make me wise with some new word of Her.”

Said the wise earth—

40
She is not all my child.
But the wild spirit that rules her heart-beats wild
Is of diviner birth
And kin to the unknown light beyond my ken.
All I can give to Her have I not given?
45
Strength to be glad, to suffer, and to know;
The sorcery that subdues the souls of men;
The beauty that is as the shadow of heaven;
The hunger of love
And unspeakable joy thereof.
50
And these are dear to Her because of you.
You need no word of mine to make you wise
Who worship at her eyes
And find there life and love forever new!”

To the white stars,

55
Eternal and all-seeing,
In their wide home beyond the wells of being,
I said—“There is a little cloud that mars
The mystical perfection of her kiss.
Mine, mine, She is,
60
As far as lip to lip, and heart to heart,
And spirit to spirit when lips and hands must part,
Can make her mine. But there is more than this,—
More, more of Her to know.
For still her soul escapes me unaware,
65
To dwell in secret where I may not go.
Take, and uplift me. Make me wholly Hers.”

Said the white stars, the heavenly ministers,—
“This life is brief, but it is only one.
Before to-morrow’s sun

70
For one or both of you it may be done.
This love of yours is only just begun.
Will all the ecstasy that may be won
Before this life its little course has run
At all suffice
75
The love that agonizes in you eyes?
Therefore be wise.
Content you with the wonder of love that lies
Between her lips and underneath her eyes.
If more you should surprise,
80
What would be left to hope from Paradise?
In other worlds expect another joy
Of Her, which blundering fate shall not annoy,
Nor time nor change destroy.”

So, Dear, I talked the long, divine night through,

85
And felt you in the chrismal balms of dew.
The thing then learned
Has ever since within my bosom burned—
One life is not enough for love of you.

The Solitary Woodsman

When the grey lake-water rushes
Past the dripping alder bushes,
     And the bodeful autumn wind
In the fir-tree weeps and hushes,—

When the air is sharply damp

5
Round the solitary camp,
     And the moose-bush in the thicket
Glimmers like a scarlet lamp,—

When the birches twinkle yellow,
And the cornel bunches mellow,

10
     And the owl across the twilight
Trumpets to his downy fellow,—

When the nut-fed chipmunks romp
Through the maples’ crimson pomp,
     And the slim viburnum flushes

15
In the darkness of the swamp,—

When the blueberries are dead,
When the rowan clusters red,
     And the shy bear, summer-sleekened,
In the bracken makes his bed,—

20
On a day there comes once more
To the latched and lonely door,
     Down the wood-road striding silent,
One who has been here before.

Green spruce branches for his head,

25
Here he make his simple bed,
     Crouching with the sun, and rising
When the dawn is frosty red.

All day long he wanders wide
With the gray moss for his guide,

30
     And his lonely axe-stroke startles
The expectant forest-side.

Toward the quiet close of day
Back to camp he takes his way,
     And about his sober footsteps

35
Unafraid the squirrels play.

On his roof the red leaf falls,
At his door the blue-jay calls,
     And he hears the wood-mice hurry
Up and down his rough log walls;

40

Hears the laughter of the loon
Thrill the dying afternoon,—
     Hears the calling of the moose
Echo to the early moon.

And he hears the partridge drumming,
45
The belated hornet humming,—
     All the faint, prophetic sounds
That foretell the winter’s coming.

And the wind about his eaves
Through the chilly night-wet grieves,

50
     And the earth’s dumb patience fills him,
Fellow to the falling leaves.

 

From: Charles G.D. Roberts, The Iceberg, and Other Poems (Toronto: Ryerson, 1934).

The Iceberg

      I was spawned from the glacier,
A thousand miles due north
Beyond Cape Chidley;
And the spawning,
When my vast, wallowing bulk went under,
5
Emerged and heaved aloft,
Shaking down cataracts from its rocking sides,
With mountainous surge and thunder
Outraged the silence of the Arctic sea.

     Before I was thrust forth

10
A thousand years I crept,
Crawling, crawling, crawling irresistibly,
Hid in the blue womb of the eternal ice,
While under me the tortured rock
Groaned,
15
And over me the immeasurable desolation slept.

     Under the pallid dawning
Of the lidless Arctic day
Forever no life stirred.
No wing of bird—

20
Of ghostly owl low winnowing
Or fleet-winged ptarmigan fleeing the pounce of death,—
No foot of backward-glancing fox
Half glimpsed, and vanishing like a breath,—
No lean and gauntly stalking bear,
25
Stalking his prey.
Only the white sun, circling the white sky.
Only the wind screaming perpetually.

     And then the night—
The long night, naked, high over the roof of the world,
Where time seemed frozen in the cold of space,—

31
Now black, and torn with cry
Of unseen voices where the storm raged by,
Now radiant with spectral light
As the vault of heaven split wide
35
To let the flaming Polar cohorts through,
And close ranked spears of gold and blue,
Thin scarlet and thin green,
Hurtled and clashed across the sphere
And hissed in sibilant whisperings,
40
And died.
And then the stark moon, swinging low,
Silver, indifferent, serene,
Over the sheeted snow.

     But now, an Alp afloat,

45
In seizure of the surreptitious tide,
Began my long drift south to a remote
And unimagined doom.
Scornful of storm,
Unjarred by thunderous buffeting of seas,
50
Shearing the giant floes aside,
Ploughing the wide-flung ice-fields in a spume
That smoked far up my ponderous flanks,
Onward I fared,
My ice-blue pinnacles rendering back the sun
55
In darts of sharp radiance;
My bases fathoms deep in the dark profound.

     And now around me
Life, and the frigid waters all aswarm.
The smooth wave creamed

60
With tiny capelin and the small pale squid,—
So pale the light struck through them.
Gulls and gannets screamed
Over the feast, and gorged themselves, and rose,
A clamour of weaving wings, and hid
65
Momently my face.
The great bull whales
With cavernous jaws agape,
Scooped in the spoil, and slept,
Their humped forms just awash, and rocking softly,—
Or sounded down, down to the deeps, and nosed
71
Along my ribbed and sunken roots,
And in the green gloom scattered the pasturing cod.

     And so I voyaged on, down the dim parallels,
Convoyed by fields

75
Of countless calving seals
Mild-featured, innocent-eyed, and unforeknowing
The doom of the red flenching knives.
I passed the storm-racked gate
Of Hudson Strait,
80
And savage Chidley where the warring tides
In white wrath seethe forever.
Down along the sounding shore
Of iron-fanged, many-watered Labrador
Slow weeks I shaped my course, and saw
85
Dark Mokkowic and dark Napiskawa,
And came at last off lone Belle Isle, the bane
Of ships and snare of bergs.
Here, by the deep conflicting currents drawn,
I hung,
90
And swung,
The inland voices Gulfward calling me
To ground amid my peers on the alien strand
And roam no more.
But then an off-shore wind,
95
A great wind fraught with fate,
Caught me and pressed me back,
And I resumed my solitary way.

Slowly I bore
South-east by bastioned Bauld,

100
And passed the sentinel light far-beaming late
Along the liners’ track,

And slanted out Atlanticwards, until
Above the treacherous swaths of fog
Faded from the view the loom of Newfoundland.

105

     Beautiful, ethereal
In the blue sparkle of the gleaming day,
A soaring miracle
Of white immensity,
I was the cynosure of passing ships
110
That wondered and were gone,
Their wreathed smoke trailing them beyond the verge.
And when in the night they passed—
The night of stars and calm,
Forged up and passed, with churning surge
115
And throb of huge propellers, and long-drawn
Luminous wake behind,
And sharp, small lights in rows,
I lay a ghost of menace chill and still,
A shape pearl-pale and monstrous, off to leeward,
120
Blurring the dim horizon line.

     Day dragged on day,
And then came fog,
By noon, blind-white,
And in the night

125
Black-thick and smothering the sight.
Folded therein I waited,
Waited I knew not what
And heeded not,
Greatly incurious and unconcerned.
130
I heard the small waves lapping along my base,
Lipping and whispering, lisping with bated breath
A casual expectancy of death.
I heard remote
The deep, far carrying note
135
Blown from the hoarse and hollow throat
Of some lone tanker groping on her course.
Louder and louder rose the sound
In deepening diapason, then passed on,
Diminishing, and dying,—
140
And silence closed around.
And in the silence came again
Those stealthy voices,
That whispering of death.

     And then I heard

145
The thud of screws approaching.
Near and more near,
Louder and yet more loud,
Through the thick dark I heard it,—
The rush and hiss of waters as she ploughed
150
Head on, unseen, unseeing,
Toward where I stood across her path, invisible.
And then a startled blare
Of horror close re-echoing,—a glare
Of sudden, stabbing searchlights
155
That but obscurely pierced the gloom;
And there
I towered, a dim immensity of doom.

     A roar
Of tortured waters as the giant screws,

160
Reversed, thundered full steam astern.
Yet forward still she drew, until,
Slow answering desperate helm,
She swerved, and all her broadside came in view,
Crawling beneath me;
165
And for a moment I saw faces, blanched,
Stiffly agape, turned upward, and wild eyes
Astare; and one long, quavering cry went up
As a submerged horn gored her through and through,
Ripping her beam wide open;
170
And sullenly she listed, till her funnels
Crashed on my steep,
And men sprang, stumbling, for the boats.

But now, my deep foundations
Mined by those warmer seas, the hour had come

175
When I must change.
Slowly I leaned above her,
Slowly at first, then faster,
And icy fragments rained upon her decks.
They my enormous mass descended on her,
180
A falling mountain, all obliterating,—
And the confusion of thin, wailing cries,
The Babel of shouts and prayers
And shriek of steam escaping
Suddenly died.
185
And I rolled over,
Wallowing,
And once more came to rest,
My long hid bases heaved up high in air.

     And now, from fogs emerging,

190
I traversed blander seas,
Forgot the fogs, the scourging
Of sleet-whipped gales, forgot
My austere origin, my tremendous birth,
My journeyings, and that last cataclysm
195
Of overwhelming ruin.
My squat, pale, alien bulk
Basked in the ambient sheen;
And all about me, league on league outspread,
A gulf of indigo and green.
200
I laughed in the light waves laced with white,—
Nor knew
How swiftly shrank my girth
Under their sly caresses, how the breath
Of that soft wind sucked up my strength, nor how
205
The sweet, insidious fingers of the sun
Their stealthy depredations wrought upon me.

      Slowly now
I drifted, dreaming.
I saw the flying-fish

210
With silver gleaming
Flash from the peacock-bosomed wave
And flicker through an arc of sunlit air
Back to their element, desperate to elude
The jaws of the pursuing albacore.
215
      Day after day
I swung in the unhasting tide.
Sometimes I saw the dolphin folk at play,
Their lithe sides iridescent-dyed,
Unheeding in their speed
220
That long grey wraith,
The shark that followed hungering beneath.
Sometimes I saw a school
Of porpoise rolling by
In ranked array,
225
Emerging and submerging rhythmically,
Their blunt black bodies heading all one way
Until they faded
In the horizon’s dazzling line of light.
Night after night
230
I followed the low, large moon across the sky,
Or counted the large stars on the purple dark,
The while I wasted, wasted and took no thought,
In drowsed entrancement caught;—
Until one noon a wave washed over me,
235
Breathed low a sobbing sigh,
Foamed indolently, and passed on;
And then I knew my empery was gone;
As I, too, soon must go.
And well content I was to have it so.
240

      Another night
Gloomed o’er my sight,
With cloud, and flurries of warm, wild rain.
Another day,
Dawning delectably
245
With amber and scarlet stain,
Swept on its way,
Glowing and shimmering with heavy heat.
A lazing tuna rose
And nosed me curiously,
250
And shouldered me aside in brusque disdain,
So had I fallen from my high estate.
A foraging gull
Stooped over me, touched me with webbed pink feet,
And wheeled and skreeled away,
255
Indignant at the chill.

      Last I became
A little glancing globe of cold
That slid and sparkled on the slow-pulsed swell.
And then my fragile, scintillating frame

260
Dissolved in ecstasy
Of many coloured light,
And I breathed up my soul into the air
And merged forever in the all-solvent sea.

 

The Squatter

Round the lone clearing
Clearly the whitethroats call
Across the marge of dusk and the dewfall’s coolness.

Far up in the empty
Amber and apple-green sky

5
A night-hawk swoops, and twangs her silver chord.

No wind’s astir,
But the poplar boughs breathe softly
And the smoke of a dying brush-fire stings the air.

The spired, dark spruces

10
Crowd up to the snake fence, breathless,
Expectant till the rising of the moon.

In the wet alders,
Where the cold brook flows murmuring,
The red cow drinks,—the cow-bell sounds tonk-tonk.

15
 

•      •      •

From his cabin door
The squatter lounges forth,
Sniffs the damp air, and scans the sky for rain.

He has made his meal,—
Fat bacon, and buckwheat cakes,

20
And ruddy-brown molasses from Barbados.

His chores all done,
He seats himself on the door-sill,
And slowly fills his pipe, and smokes, and dreams.

He sees his axe

25
Leaning against the birch logs.
The fresh white chips are scattered over the yard.

He hears his old horse
Nosing the hay, in the log barn
Roofed with poles and sheathed with sheets of birch-bark.

Beyond the barn

31
He sees his buckwheat patch,
Its pink-white bloom pale-gleaming through the twilight.

Its honeyed fragrance
Breathes to his nostrils, mingled

35
With the tang of the brushfire smoke, thinly ascending.

Deepens the dusk.
The whitethroats are hushed; and the night-hawk
Drops down from the sky and hunts the low-flying night-moths.

•      •      •

The squatter is dreaming.

40
Vaguely he plans how, come winter,
He’ll chop out another field, just over the brook.

He’ll build a new barn
Next year, a barn with a haymow,
No more to leave his good hay outside in the stack.

45

He rises and stretches,
Goes in and closes the door,
And lights his lamp on the table beside the window.

The light shines forth.
It lights up the wide-strewn chips.

50
For a moment it catches the dog darting after a rabbit.

It lights up the lean face
Of the squatter as he sits reading,
Knitting his brow as he spells out a month-old paper.

•      •      •

Slowly the moon,

55
Humped, crooked, red, remote,
Rises, tangled and scrawled behind the spruce-tops.

Higher she rises,—
Grows round, and smaller, and white,
And sails up the empty sky high over the sprure-tops.

60

She washes in silver,
Illusively clear, the log barn,
The lop-sided stack by the barn, and the slumbering cabin.

She floods in the window,—
And the squatter stirs in his bunk,

65
On his mattress stuffed with green fir-tips, balsamy scented.

•      •      •

From the dark of the forest
The horned owl hoots, and is still.
Startled, the silence descends, and broods once more on the clearing.

 

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Frontispiece, from Charles G.D. Roberts, Poems (1907).