Sophia Almon Hensley

by Wanda Campbell



Sophia Almon Hensley
1866-1946


Sophia (Almon) Hensley was born in Bridgetown, Nova Scotia, on May 31, 1866, and received her education in England and Paris. While living in Windsor, Nova Scotia she studied with Charles G.D. Roberts, who encouraged her to submit her poetry to various North American periodicals. Roberts’ poem to the then twenty-year old poet, “To S—M” (her middle name is Margaritta), appears in his book In Divers Tones. He mentions her again in an 1888 letter to William Douw Lighthall: “I think you might get something of value from my young & fair friend Miss Sophie M. Almon, of Windsor, N.S. who has written some good & thoughtful verse for the Chicago Current & the Toronto Week. I shall send you some of her stuff. A little of it is markedly good” (86). Though his misdirected praise may have hindered her chances of being taken seriously, ten years later Roberts was still writing on her behalf, this time to a publishing firm about her romance called “Souls:”

Also I know she is a clever, a mighty clever and mightily attractive young woman! And I think she will do good work, if she has not already done it. I hope you may find the book worth printing. But my advice is,—judge the book before you meet the lady. Thus you will be more likely to judge without prejudice!!     (Letters 244)

Her first book of poetry entitled simply Poems was published privately in 1889 and received a positive, if brief, review in the Dominion Illustrated Monthly, where Hensley’s verse was then appearing along with that of Bliss Carman, Agnes Maule Machar, and others:

Miss Almon gives us her impressions of the actual sights and sounds of the glorious world, so fair, yet so sad—not transcripts, more or less modified of the impressions of others, or fancy sketches of what her own impressions [Page 271] should or might be, in certain circumstances. She thus makes loyalty to truth the basis of her work.             (279)

In 1889, she married the Halifax lawyer Hubert Hensley and the couple moved to New York. In an 1893 article entitled “Canadian Writers in New York,” Hensley speaks on behalf of the “large number of writers, born Canadians, Canadians in heart, and hope, and ambition, who have been obliged to make their home in other countries…when they found their energies stunted by the narrowness of the home field” (195-96). Henry James Morgan describes Hensley in The Canadian Men and Women of the Time (1912) as a “popular speaker at women’s clubs” who believes “in municipal ownership of public franchises, in social tolerance and religious freedom” (527-28).

    In her entry on Hensley in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gwendolyn Davies describes her as “an elegant woman and an independent thinker” (DLB 99:165) and traces the increasingly progressive and feminist directions of Hensley’s writing which included three more collections of poetry, a novel Love & Company (Limited), a musical play Princess Mignon in collaboration with her husband, and two non-fiction studies of social issues, Woman and the Race and Love and the Woman of Tomorrow.

    The idea of basing Love & Company on a man and a woman’s diaries may have come from Ludovic Halevry’s A Marriage for Love, which is disparagingly reviewed in the Dominion Illustrated Monthly (1891), a journal in which Hensley’s own work appears. It is tempting to think that Hensley’s choice of Mary Woolston for a pseudonym reflects a play on Mary Wollstonecraft.

    Out of the Silence, a long poem published in 1900, is a poetic reflection on the drowned body of a young prostitute resting in the Paris morgue. The dead young woman addresses the statue of Mary, Lady of the Pitying Heart, pleading for entry into Heaven. The Way of a Woman, and Other Poems published in 1928 and dedicated “to all the lovers in the world” contains some of Hensley’s finest poetry, including poems about the homefront experience during the first World War.

    Davies quotes from a 1934 letter by Hensley to Roberts which reveals her continuing commitment to poetry: “I am thinking of collecting the verses written here and making a little volume, ‘Songs of St. Mary’s Bay.’ Our bay is as yet unsung” (DLB 99:164-65). Though she spent much of her life away from Canada, including three years on the island of Jersey from which she was forced to flee because of the Nazi occupation, Hensley [Page 272] always thought of herself as Canadian, a sentiment expressed in the poem “Repatriated.” She died on February 10, 1946 and was buried in Nova Scotia. Though she travelled the world, her first and last poems were of the home place.

Selected Bibliography

Poems (Windsor, NS: Anslow, 1889)
A Woman’s Love Letters (New York: Tait, 1895)
Out of the Silence (Westwood, Mass: Ariel, 1900)
The Heart of a Woman (New York: Putnam’s, 1906)
The Way of a Woman, and Other Poems (San Diego:     Canterbury, 1928)

“Editor’s Table,” Dominion Illustrated Monthly 2:44 (4 May 1889): 279; Sophia Almon Hensley, “Canadian Writers in New York,” Dominion Illustrated Monthly 2:4 (May 1893): 195-96; Almon Hensley, “The Society for the Study of Life,” The Arena (November 1899): 614-20; Henry James Morgan, ed. The Canadian Men and Women of the Time (Toronto: Briggs, 1912): 527-28; Charles G.D. Roberts, Collected Letters of Charles G. D. Roberts, ed. Laurel Boone (Fredericton: Goose Lane, 1989); Carole Gerson, “Captain John Try-Davies and Sophia Almon Hensley,” Canadian Notes and Queries 39 (Spring 1988): 10-11; Gwendolyn Davies, “Sophie Almon Hensley,” Dictionary of Literary Biography 99 (1990): 163-65; Gwendolyn Davies, Studies in Maritime Literary History: 1760-1930 (Fredericton: Acadiensis, 1991): 18-20. [Page 273]

 

Soothing

 

 
I aimless wandered thro’ the woods, and flung
My idle limbs upon a soft brown bank,
Where, thickly strewn, the worn-out russet leaves
Rustled a faint remonstrance at my tread.
The yellow fungi, shewing pallid stems,
5
The mossy lichen creeping o’er the stones
And making green the whitened hemlock-bark,
The dull wax of the woodland lily-bud,
On these my eye could rest, and I was still.
No sound was there save a low murmured cheep
10
From an ambitious nestling, and the slow
And oft-recurring plash of myriad waves
That spent their strength against the unheeding shore.
Over and through a spreading undergrowth.
I saw the gleaming of the tranquil sea.
15
The woody scent of mosses and sweet ferns,
Mingled with the fresh brine, and came to me,
Bringing a laudanum to my ceaseless pain;
A quietness stole in upon me then,
And o’er my soul there passed a wave of peace.
20

 

Dominion Illustrated                                                     Poems 1889
Monthly 16 February
1889 (2:103)

 

Slack Tide

 

My boat is still in the reedy cove
Where the rushes hinder its onward course,
For I care not now if we rest or move
O’er the slumberous tide to the river’s source.

My boat is fast in the tall dank weeds

5
And I lay my oars in silence by,
And lean, and draw the slippery reeds
Through my listless fingers carelessly. [Page 274]

The bubbling froth of the surface foam
Clings close to the side of my moveless boat,
10
Like endless meshes of honeycomb,—
And I break it off, and send it afloat.

A faint wind stirs, and I drift along
Far down the stream to its utmost bound,
And the thick white foam-flakes gathering strong

15
Still cling, and follow, and fold around.

Oh! the weary green of the weedy waste,
The thickening scum of the frothy foam,
And the torpid heart by the reeds embraced
And shrouded and held in its cheerless home.

20

The fearful stillness of wearied calm,
The tired quiet of ended strife,
The echoed note of a heart’s sad psalm,
The sighing end of a wasted life,—

The reeds cling close, and my cradle sways,

25
And the white gull dips in the waters’ barm,
And the heart asleep in the twilight haze
Feels not its earth-bonds, knows not alarm.

 

Dominion Illustrated                                                      Poems 1889
Monthly 27 April 1889
(2:259)

 

Crows

 

They stream across the fading western sky
    A sable cloud, far o’er the lonely leas;
    Now parting into scattered companies,
Now closing up the broken ranks, still high
And higher yet they mount, while, carelessly,
5
    Trail slow behind, athwart the moving trees [Page 275]
    A lingering few, ’round whom the evening breeze
Plays with sad whispered murmurs as they fly.

A lonely figure, ghostly in the dim
    And darkening twilight lingers in the shade
10
    Of bending willows: “Surely God has laid
His curse on me,” he moans, “my strength of limb
    And old heart-courage fail me, and I flee
    Bowed with fell terror at the augury.”

 

Dominion Illustrated                                                      Poems 1889
Monthly 27 April 1889
(2:259)

 

Disappointment

 

The light has left the hill-side. Yesterday
    These skies shewed blue against the dusky trees,
    The leaves’ soft murmur in the evening breeze
Was music, and the waves danced in the bay.
Then was my heart, as ever, far away
5
    With you,—and I could see you as one sees
    A mirrored face,—and happiness and ease
And hope were mine, in spite of long delay.

After these months of waiting, this is all!
    Hope, dead, lies coffined, shrouded in despair,
10
    With all the blessings of the outer air
Forgot, ’neath the black covering of a pall.
    Only the darkening of the woodland ways,
    A heart’s low moaning over wasted days.

 

Poems 1889

 

Noon

 

 
No ripple stirs the water,
    No song-bird wakes the grove, [Page 276]
Calm noon-tide sways his sceptre,
    And hushes even love.

On earth the sun-god bending
5
    Poureth his wonderous store;
The soft-tongued tide, advancing,
    Laps the unconscious shore.

The long, low isle of marsh-land
    Stretches in weary waste,
10
By sloping sand-banks guarded,
    By winding weeds embraced.

Comes clearly from the open
    The plash of distant oars,—
Over the rocky headland
15
    The snow-white sea-gull soars.

I see as if through dream-clouds,
    I hear from far away,
The scorched air breathes its opiate,
    The drowsy fancies stay;
20

I have no hopes or longings,
    I scarce can feel your kiss,—
For thought, and joy and worship,
    Another hour than this!

 

Poems 1889

 

Pictures

 

The full-orbed Paschal moon; dark shadows flung
On the brown Lenten earth; tall spectral trees
Stand in their huge and naked strength erect,
And stretch wild arms towards the gleaming sky.
A motionless girl-figure, face upraised
5
In the strong moonlight, cold and passionless. [Page 277]

A proud spring sunset; opal-tinted sky,
Save where the western purple, pale and faint
With longing for her fickle Love,—content
Had merged herself into his burning red.
10
A fair young maiden, clad in velvet robe
Of sombre green, stands in the golden glow,
One hand held up to shade her dazzled eyes,
A bunch of white Narcissus at her throat.

November’s day, dark, leaden, lowering,—

15
Grey purple shadows fading on the hills;
Dreary and desolate the far expanse
And gloomy sameness of the open plain.
A peasant woman, in white wimpled hood,
White vest, and scarlet petticoat, surveys
20
The meadow, with rough hands crossed on her breast.

A shining, shimmering, gracious, golden day;
The sated summer’s all pervading hush;
Warm luscious tints, glowing in earth and sky
On a low mossy bank, a little child,

25
His golden curls twined in the reedy grass,
Clutching within his tear-stained feverish hands
The yellow blossoms of the Celandine,
Sobs out his heart in passionate childish grief.

 

Poems 1889

 

Song

 

Red gleams the mountain ridge,
    Slow the stream creeps
Under the old bent bridge,
    And labor sleeps.

There are no restless birds,
5
    No leaves that stir, [Page 278]
Dark her gray mantle girds,
    Night’s harbinger.

The storm-soul’s change and start
    Pause, lull, and cease;
10
In my unquiet heart
    Is born a peace.

 

A Woman’s Love
Letters
1895

 

Loneliness

 

Dear, I am lonely, for the bay is still
    As any hill-girt lake; the long brown beach
    Lies bare and wet. As far as eye can reach
There is no motion. Even on the hill
    Where the breeze loves to wander I can see
5
    No stir of leaves, nor any waving tree.

There is a great red cliff that fronts my view
    A bare, unsightly thing; it angers me
    With its unswerving grim monotony.
The mackeral weir, with branching boughs askew
10
    Stands like a fire-swept forest, while the sea
    Laps it, with soothing sighs, continually.

There are no tempests in this sheltered bay,
    The stillness frets me, and I long to be
    Where winds sweep strong and blow tempestuously,
15
To stand upon some hill-top far away
    And face a gathering gale, and let the stress
    Of Nature’s mood subdue my restlessness.

An impulse seizes me, a mad desire
    To tear away that red-browed cliff, to sweep
20
    Its crest of trees and huts into the deep,
To force a gap by axe, or storm, or fire, [Page 279]
    And let rush in with motion glad and free
    The rolling waves of the wild wondrous sea.

Sometimes I wonder if I am the child
25
    Of calm, law-loving parents, or a stray
    From some wild gypsy camp. I cannot stay
Quiet among my fellows; when this wild
    Longing for freedom takes me I must fly
    To my dear woods and know my liberty.
30

It is this cringing to a social law.
    That I despise, these changing, senseless forms
    Of fashion! And until a thousand storms
Of God’s impatience shall reveal the flaw
    In man’s pet system, he will weave the spell
35
    About his heart and dream that all is well.

Ah! Life is hard, Dear Heart, for I am left
    To battle with my old-time fears alone
    I must live calmly on, and make no moan
Though of my hoped-for happiness bereft.
40
    Thou wilt not come, and still the red cliff lies
    Hiding my ocean from these longing eyes.

 

A Woman’s Love
Letters
1895

 

Barter

 

 
There is a long thin line of fading gold
    In the far West, and the transfigured leaves
    On some slight, topmost bough that sways and heaves
Hang limp and tremulous. Nor warm, nor cold
    The pungent air, and, ’neath the yellow haze,
5
    Show flushed and glad the wild, October ways.

There is a soft enchantment in the air,
    A mystery the Summer knows not, nor [Page 280]
    The sturdy, frost-crowned Winter. Nature wore
Her blandest smile to-day, as here and there
10
    I wandered, elf-beset, through wood and field
    And gleaned the glories of the autumn yield.

A bunch of purple aster, golden-rod
    Darkened by the first frost, a drooping spray
    Of scarlet barberry, and tall and gray
15
The silk-cored cotton with its bursting pod,
    Some tarnished maple-boughs, and, like a flash
    Of sudden flame, a branch of mountain ash.

She smiled, but it was not the welcoming smile
    Of frank surrunder. As a witching maid
20
    In gorgeous garments cunningly arrayed
Might smile and draw them closer, hers the guile
    To let men hope, pray, labor in love’s stress
    Ere they her hidden beauties may possess.

Deep in the heart of earth where the springs rise,
25
    Down with the sweet linnæa and the moss,
    In the brown thrush’s throat, where the pines toss
In Winter’s harrying storms her secret lies.
    Ours the chill night-dews and the waiting pain
    Ere we her fairy wealth may hope to gain.
30

’Tis so with knowledge. Eagerly we turn
    Great Wisdom’s page, and when our clear eyes grow
    Dim in the dusk of years, and heads bend low
Weary at last, the truth we strove to learn
    Is ours forever. But the joy of sight
35
    Is dearly bought, methinks, with Youth’s delight.

Fate, too, with chaffering voice and beckoning hand
    Doles out our happiness; we snatch at wealth
    And pay with anxious care and fading health.
We call for Love, and dream that we shall stand [Page 281]
40
    On ground enchanted, but, though sweet the way,
    The rocks are sharp, and grief comes with the Day.

Even in love, Dear Heart, there is exchange
    Of gifts and griefs, and so I render thee
    Vows for thy vows, and pay unfalteringly
45
What love demands, nor ever deem it strange.
    And when the snow drifts fast, and north-winds sting
    I make no murmur, but await the Spring.

 

A Woman’s Love
Letters
1895

 

Misunderstanding

 

Spring’s face is wreathed in smiles. She had been driven
    Hither and thither at the surly will
    Of treacherous winds till her sweet heart was chill.
Into her grasp the sceptre has been given
    And now she touches with a proud young hand
5
    The earth, and turns to blossoms all the land.

We catch the smile, the joyousness, the pride,
    And share them with her. Surely winter gloom
    Is for the old, and frost is for the tomb.
Youth must have pleasure, and the tremulous tide
10
    Of sun-kissed waves, and all the golden fire
    Of Summer’s noontide splendor of desire.

I have forgotten,—for the breath of buds
    Is on my temples, if in former days
    I have known sorrow; I remember praise,
15
And calm content, and joy’s great ocean-floods,
    And many dreams so sweet that, in their place,
    We would not welcome even Truth’s fair face.

O Man to whom my heart hast leaned, dost know
    Aught of my life? Sometimes a strong despair
20
    Enters my soul and finds a lodging there; [Page 282]
Thou dost not know me, and the years will go
    As these last months have gone, and I shall be
    Still far, still a strange woman unto thee.

I do not blame thee. If there is a fault
25
    Let it be mine for surely had I tried
    The door of my heart’s home to open wide
No need had been for even Love’s assault.
    And yet, methinks, somewhere there is a key
    Thou mightest have found, and entered happily.
30

I am no saint niched in a hallowed wall
    For men to worship, but I would compel
    A level gaze. You teachers who would tell
A woman’s place I do defy you all!
    While justice lives, and love with joy is crowned
35
    Woman and man must meet on equal ground.

The deepest wrong is falsehood. She who sells
    Her soul and body for a little gain
    In ease, or the world’s notice, has a stain
Upon her soul no lighter for the bells
40
    Of marriage rites, and purer far is she
    Who gives her all for love’s sad ecstasy.

Canst thou not understand a nature strong
    And passionate with impulses that sway
    With yearning tenderness that must have way,
45
Yet knows no ill desire, no touch of wrong?
    If canst not then in God’s name I pray
    See me no more forever from this day. [Page 283]

 

A Woman’s Love
Letters
1895

 

A Dream

 

 
I stood far off above the haunts of men
    Somewhere, I know not, when the sky was dim
    From some worn glory, and the morning hymn
Of the gay oriole echoed from the glen.
    Wandering, I felt earth’s peace, nor knew I sought
5
    A visioned face, a voice the wind had caught.

I passed the waking things that stirred and gazed,
    Thought-bound and heeded not; the waking flowers
    Drank in the morning mist, dawn’s tender showers,
And looked forth for the Day-god who had blazed
10
    His heart away and died at sundown. Far
    In the gray west faded a loitering star.

It seemed that I had wandered through long years,
    A life of years, still seeking gropingly
    A thing I dared not name; now I could see
15
In the still dawn a hope, in the soft tears
    Of the deep-hearted violets a breath
    Of kinship, like the herald voice of Death.

Slow moved the morning; where the hill was bare
    Woke a reluctant breeze. Dimly I knew
20
    My Day was come. The wind-blown blossoms threw
Their breath about me, and the pine-swept air
    Grew to a shape, a mighty, formless thing,
    A phantom of the wood’s imagining.

And as I gazed, spell-bound, it seemed to move
25
    Its tendril limbs, still swaying tremulously
    As if in spirit-doubt; then glad and free
Crystalled the being won from waiting grove
    Into a human likeness. There he stood,
    The vine-browed shape of Nature’s mortal mood. [Page 284]
30

“Now have I found thee, Vision I have sought
    These years, unknowing; surely thou art fair
    And inly wise, and on thy tasselled hair
Glows Heaven’s own light. Passion and fame are naught
    To thy clear eyes, O Prince of many lands,—
35
    Grant me thy joy,” I cried, and stretched my hands.

No answer but the flourish of the breeze
    Through the black pines. Then, slowly, as the wind
    Parts the dense cloud-forms, leaving naught behind
But shapeless vapor, through the budding trees
40
    Drifted some force unseen, and from my sight
    Faded my god into the morning light.

Again alone. With wistful, straining eyes
    I waited, and the sunshine flecked the bank
    Happy with arbutus and violets where I sank
45
Hearing, near by, a host of melodies,
    The rapture of the woodthrush; soft her mood
    The love-mate, with such golden numbers woo’d.

He ceased; the fresh moss-odors filled the grove
    With a strange sweetness, the dark hemlock boughs
50
    Moved soft, as though they heard the brooklet rouse
To its spring soul, and whisper low of love.
    The white robed birches stood unbendingly
    Like royal maids, in proud expectancy.

Athwart the ramage where the young leaves press
55
    It came to me, ah, call it what you will
    Vision or waking dream, I see it still!
Again a form born of the woodland stress
    Grew to my gaze, and by some secret sign
    Though shadow-hid, I knew the form was thine.
60

The glancing sunlight made thy ruddy hair
    A crown of gold, but on thy spirit-face
    There was no smile, only a tender grace [Page 285]
Of love half doubt. Upon thy hand a rare
    Wild bird of Paradise perched fearlessly
65
    With radiant plumage, and still, lustrous eye.

And as I gazed I saw what I had deemed
    A shadow near thy hand, a dusky wing,
    A bird like last year’s leaves, so dull a thing
Beside its fellow; as the sunshine gleamed
70
    Each breast showed letters bright as crystalled rain,
    The fair bird bore “Delight,” the other “Pain.”

Then came thy voice: “O Love, wilt have my gift?”
    I stretched my glad hands eagerly to grasp
    The heaven-blown bird, gold-hued, and longed to clasp
75
It close and know it mine. Ere I might lift
    The shining thing and hold it to my breast
    Again I heard thy voice with vague unrest.

“These are twin birds and may not parted be.”
    Full in thine eyes I gazed, and read therein
80
    The paradox of life, of love, of sin,
As on a night of cloud and mystery
    One darting flash makes bright the hidden ways
    And feet tread knowingly though thick the haze.

Thy gift, if so I chose,—no other hand
85
    Save thine.—I reached and gathered to my heart
    The quivering, sentient things.—Sometimes I start
To know them hidden there.—If I should stand
    Idly, some day, and one,—God help me!—breast
    A homing breeze,—my brown bird knows its nest. [Page 286]
90

 

A Woman’s Love
Letters
1895

 

 

The Real Woman

 

 
Poets have sung the glory of man’s passion,
    His mastery and strength for love’s delight,
The woman’s part a tender, childlike yielding
    To an o’erpowering might,

A sentiment, a stroking of the lion,
5
    A gasp of joy, half pleasure and half fear,
Glad, in an answering echo of emotion,
    To know herself so dear.

Now will I tell thee. In the summer dryness
    Watch for the spark thrown ’mid the dusky furze,
10
See the flames work a forest desolation
    Before gray morning stirs.

See the calm river banked against o’erflowing!
    A break, a gap,—and the tumultuous tide
Of pent-up passion spreads in wild endeavor
15
    Flooding the mountain-side.

Dost thou not know that giving—not compliance—
    The soul’s oblation—not its sacrifice—
Is greater far than all the dreams of conquest
    The minds of men entice?
20

Not only greater as the artist’s fancy
    Is greater than the thing his brush portrays,
The architect outlives, in grander soaring,
    The temples he may raise;

But greater in its power for love’s expression,
25
    Because, beneath the quiet woman-guise
Dwells a supremer and a fiercer passion
    Than ever meets the eyes.

Because,—how rarely, to man’s shame and sorrow!
    When understanding love has found the key [Page 287]
30
Treasures undreamed-of show, to stay, unstinting,
    Man’s slight necessity.

Love does not ask. Ere yet the feeble flutter
    Of dear Desire’s wings far-off is heard
The woman bares her bosom for the homing
35
    Of the enchanted bird.

She knows no barter and she asks no answer,
    Of man’s love-coinage notes not the alloy,
And in the loving and the fuller giving
    She lives the larger joy.
40

 

The Heart of a Woman 1906

 

Courage

 

Leave me alone here, proudly, with my dead,
    Ye mothers of brave sons adventurous;
He who once prayed: “If it be possible
    Let this cup pass,” will arbitrate for us.
Your boy with iron nerves and careless smile
5
    Marched gaily by, and dreamed of glory’s goal;
Mine had blanched cheek, straight mouth, and close- gripped             hands,
    And prayed that somehow he might save his soul.
I do not grudge your ribbon or your cross,
    The price of these my soldier, too, has paid;
10
I hug a prouder knowledge to my heart,
    The mother of the boy who was afraid!

He was a tender child with nerves so keen
    They doubled pain and magnified the sad,
He hated cruelty and things obscene,
15
    And in all high and holy things was glad.
And so he gave what others could not give,
    The one supremest sacrifice he made,

A thing your brave boy could not understand;
    He gave his all because he was afraid. [Page 288]
20

Like a machine he fed the shining shell
    Into a hungry maw from sun to sun;
And when at last the hour struck, and he fell,
    He smiled, and murmured: “Thank God, it is done.”
Ye glory well, ye mothers of brave sons
25
    Eager and sinewy, in the part they played;
And England will remember, and repay,
    And history will see their names arrayed.
But God looked down upon my soldier-boy
    Who set his teeth, and did his bit, and prayed,
30
And understands why I am proud to be
    The mother of the boy who was afraid!

 

Everybody’s Magazine                                 The Way of a Woman
August 1918 (39)                                         and Other Poems 1928

 

The Madonna

 

The great gold moon swung down the sky
    An hour ago, and from my bed
I watched it lower lingeringly
    Leaving but stars o’erhead.

Fades my Madonna on the wall,
5
    The Botticelli that you loved
In baby days, and cuddled small
    To imitate. You moved

Your little hands upon my breast
    As His were laid in loving wise,
10
And searched my face in tender quest
    With earnest, answering eyes.

Two hours till dawn. But, over there
    It is broad daylight, and the sun
Strikes on your field-equipment, bare,
15
    The day’s work well begun; [Page 289]

And by-and-by, as that long train
    Of ammunition finds the road
You will ride straight, in reek or rain
    Your eyes upon your load.
20

I am so proud, O soldier fine!
    Yet now, before I rest,
Your baby eyes look into mine,
    Your hands beat on my breast.

 

The Way of a Woman
and Other Poems
1928

 

Love’s Rights

 

Look into my eyes, Sweetheart, and know the truth.
    There are great crying Causes, where the arm
Of Power, of Ruth,
        Withholds and harms; then can we have no peace
    But raise defiant flags, sound the alarm,
5
          As now the mother-half of this strange world
        Fights, nor will cease
          Till man-made might from his high place is hurled,
And shamed Democracy may raise its head.
    Only in love, Dear Heart,
10
        Are there no rights save the sole right to love.
Bonds of a silken thread
    So slight that one quick fear, one selfish start
        And they are gone; and so the wise ones move
Softly. In love there is no place
15
    For “mine” and “thine”—it is forever “thine.”
As love in melting mist unveils his face,
        Holy with the sweet chrism of centuries,
    Pride, the arch-foe, fades from the shrine,
        A traitor, from the house of mysteries. [Page 290]
20

 

The Way of a Woman
and Other Poems
1928

 

The Worker-Woman

 

When the need lay in the homestead,
    Loom and dairy, fruit and bee,
When the products of our labor
    Fed our households worthily,
How we sewed and spun, and nourished
5
    All the hungry family!

From the home has gone the spinning,
    And the bakers pass the door;
Men have seized our old-time labors
    Building up the mart and store;
10
So, as women empty-handed,
    We must look about for more.

Eye and heart grow wider open
    And we see our sister’s hand
Beckon to us through the darkness,
15
    And, at last, we understand;
We must work for light and freedom
    Till our labors bless the land.

So our work has weightier issues,
    And the home has wider grown;
20
All the suffering, tempted children
    We must cherish as our own;
And our helpless, sad-eyed sisters
    Labor never more alone.

And if we must fight injustice,
25
    Gain the power to further good,
Leave behind the sweeter quiet,
    Standing where our fathers stood.
We shall, with the higher impulse,
    Find a finer womanhood. [Page 291]

 

The Way of a Woman
and Other Poems
1928

 

Morning Glories

 

In a garden, suddenly, purple, pink, and blue,
Flashed gay morning-glories; to my heart there flew
Pangs of hurt and restless dream; nothing I have known
In this life of loveliness that I call my own.

Like a lightening fire-flash in a summer sky

5
Darts a wave-winged wonder like a threnody.
Somewhere, in a life unknown, just such odors blew;
On a hedge beside a cot morning-glories grew.

There was youth and love and pain in that long ago,
Severed lives and weeping,—and I surely know

10
Where we stood and gazed and loved, sun-shafts glinting             through,
Morning-glories twined and bloomed, pink and purpled blue.

 

The Way of a Woman
and Other Poems
1928

 

Karma

 

If one could doubt of the full-flowered plum
The blossom’s fall and fruitage; if we feared
When night makes things invisible and dumb
A lagging dawn; if when our course we steered
Northward we knew not if our ship would shift
5
South, East, or West, then the unwelcome gift
Of life in a wild world were but a jest,
A quaint conceit enshaped at some mad king’s behest.

Behind all life is one unerring law.
Fond fools there be who deem the Power that holds

10
The worlds unchanging will admit a flaw
At some deep-voiced request,—the creature molds
God as he wills. We, with the lesson learned
Know action and reaction are not turned [Page 292]
From their own course. We reap as we have sown
15
And in the full requital are but fuller grown.

 

The Way of a Woman
and Other Poems
1928

 

Repatriated

 

All my dear childhood and the budding years,
Glamorous and glowing, knew the spruce-bound hills,
The ruddy Avon, and the towering tiers
Of bleak-browed Blomidon; the wood-locked mills;
The apple-orchards dropping yellow fruit,
5
The fields of grass and grain of Acadie.
Through long maturer years, with magic mute
In clamour of great cities, I could see,
Eyes closed, the marshes that I loved, the stream
Of plover, hear the raucous call of crows,
10
And knew a deep nostalgia through my dream.
Out where the strange Pacific ebbs and flows,
Through the wild roads and hills of Santa Fé,
Far on the Tucson desert, and along
The Apache Trail, a thousand wonders lay.
15
Grandeur I knew, and warmth, and friendliness
In the great Western States, and health and play;
But always was I alien, nationless,
With voices calling from St. Mary’s Bay,
From little sleepy towns of Gaspereaux.
20
I have come home from world-wracked troublous climes
To the calm haven of the Maritimes,
Calm without fixity, a land of men
Rugged and real, my people. All of me—
Sprung from their soil, their forests, and their sea,
25
Canadian in blood and hope and heart—
Calls to my people. And so, in the gloam,
My eventide, ready to do my part,
    I have come home. [Page 293]
 

 

Dalhousie Review
January 1934 (14:434)