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Title: Out of the Wilderness

Date of first publication: 1926

Author: Wilson Pugsley MacDonald (1880-1967)

Date first posted: May 26, 2020

Date last updated: May 26, 2020

Faded Page eBook #20200557

This eBook was produced by: Al Haines, John Routh & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at https://www.pgdpcanada.net

Copyright, Canada, 1926

by Wilson MacDonald, Toronto


Copyright, United States, 1926

by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York


Author’s Edition, October, 1926

First Edition, October, 1926

Second Edition, Revised November, 1926



Produced in the Dominion of Canada



Poems included in this book have been reprinted from The Canadian Journal of Religious Thought, The Canadian Magazine, Contemporary Verse, The Dalhousie Review, The London Mercury, The McMaster University Monthly, The Montreal Star, Scribner’s Magazine, The Theosophical Magazine, The Toronto Globe, and The Toronto Saturday Night.

Out of the Wilderness3
A Song of the Unreturning7
A Song to the Valiant8
The Call11
The Loon13
These Friends of Mine16
The Song of the Ski17
I Heard a Woodman Grieve31
An Adventurer’s Song32
The Berry Pickers37
The War in the Gorse39
The Song of the Winding Road40
In a Wood Clearing51
February the First on the Prairies54
A Song of Lonesomeness57
I Love Old Things61
In the Far Years64
In Howard Park65
Who Are These Spirits?74
English Bay76
The Maker of Dreams78
Come Here Nevermore81
The Garment83
On the Stair84
Twilight at Crescent Beach85
The Unsung Passion86
You Are a Haven87
Maggie Swartz88
Ylette and Yvonne89
A Song of Two Houses93
Saint Césaire95
Graduation Day97
I Wonder100
Haeckel of Jena102
And No One Shall Forget108
Why Not I?109
The Song of the Flashing Door111
Christmas Dinner at Childs’114
Three O’Clock117
The Song of a Plutocrat122
Sea Harvest124
Trinity College, Toronto126
The Toll-Gate Man129
The Three Riders132
He Has Kept Faith with Beauty135
Centre Street136
The Shoe-Cobbler in Heaven138
On His Golden-Wedding Day144
An Evening Song145
Sir George Parkin152
O Sweet Translator154
Ghost Hornpipes155
The Undying Beauty157
Off Juan de Fuca158
As a White Moon161
A Street Song162
A Gypsy Song165
The Song of the Rebel167
The Unburied Dead172
First Song of a Vagabond174
Second Song of a Vagabond175
The Puppets176
The Song of the Hemp182
Nineteen Twenty-Six188
The Golden Cross190
The Song of the New Communities200
The Masked Ball206
The Last Portage210

Out of the Wilderness


I, a vagabond, gypsy, lover forever of freedom,

Come to you who are arrogant, proud, and fevered with civilization—

Come with a tonic of sunlight, bottled in wild, careless acres,

To cure you with secrets as old as the breathing of men;

Come with the clean north wind in my nostrils,

To blow out the dust and the smoke of your lives in a great blast of beauty;

Come with a chaos of wild-flowers, grouped in a lovely disorder,

To shame all your gardens of maddening, cloying perfection.

I have in my veins all the sweet unrest of the wild places,

And if you toss me aside I will come hither again on the morrow;

For I am a force that you cannot deny;

I am an offering that you finally must accept,

For I am the herald of new things in a new land.


If you knew what savagery I have endured

That you might know peace;

If you knew how often mine eyes have been blinded

To give you light;

If you knew how many times mine ears have been deafened

To give you sound;

If you knew the chains and manacles I have worn

To give you freedom,

Then would you open the doors you have closed in my face

And recant all you have spoken against me

And drink my song to the full measure of my cup.


I am a renegade, laughing at rules and laws,

And my whims are my king and my royal family.

I am an adventurer, delving in joy and sorrow

And love and friendship and the white quarries of truth.

I am a plunderer, taking all that the sages have left me

And adding thereto, that the children to come may have peace.

I am a highwayman, stealing the gold of the dawn

And the star-heavy, blue-purple robe of the night.

I hold up the wind for its fragrance and wrestle the sea

With my brown, naked arms, for the tang of its salt.

I am a pirate, a gay, laughing, profligate pirate

Sailing the seas of delight, where my loot

Is diamonds of sunlight and the cold pearls of the moon.


My song is a lily in darkness, keeping the whiteness of truth

To guide the lost soul of the night up to dawn.

My song is a cactus that stings him who touches,

With misunderstanding, its sharp, biting needles,

But blesses with beauty of yellow and crimson and all flaming colors

Whoever beholds it with wisdom and love.


My song is a roseate rug, yet not of the Orient.

Here is the weave of it: seaweed, curled black with salt,

Under the cold, high cliffs of Gaspe;

Pine-shadowed snow, at the dome of the Selkirks,

Burning with suns and flaming with moons and remaining forever;

Sands from the restless and changeable dunes of Wasaga;

Slim, hardy reeds in the broad, lonely marshes

Where James Bay falters between her allegiance

To land and the gray, green of water;

Gold suns that slip from the world at Alberni,

Warming the seas with their fires;

Threads of blue mist from the indolent valleys

Of the low, lovely, lounging Laurentians;

Sighs of the hemlock and snow-loving tamarack,

Where the trees march to the south in Saskatchewan;

Firs that leap up from dark Capilano

Where music glides down a long stair to the sea;

Orange and purple and crimson and bronze

From the gay palette of gorgeous October

In the lake-lyric land of Algonquin;

Shadows from deep, frosty fissures whose waters

Slip from their turbulent life to the hill-cradled Shuswap;

Leaves of the red-limbed arbutus and roses of yellow and red,

Leaning low to the sea in Victoria,

The all-lovely lyric of cities.

And, through all these colorful threads of my song,

Tolerance, truth, and the kiss of full brotherhood!


I am the herald of new things in a new land.

The light of my song blinds the bats and the night-owls.

I tear from all men their false trappings

And they in their anger revile me.

The disciples of Cant feel my words in their hearts,

As a dead tree that knows not sunlight from moonlight.

Like the dancing of rain upon water

I run with a song in my feet.


Who then shall hear me?

Men with brown limbs who rise up with joy to the sun

At the dawn; children who know a pure song

From their own flowing rhythm of flesh;

Old men who hunger for youth;

Young men who thirst for the blue, living waters of life.


I am forever the foe of Intolerance,

Hating her soul with a hatred undying.

I am a renegade, I am a highwayman,

I am a plunderer, I am a vagabond.

I am a pirate, a gay, laughing, profligate pirate

Sailing the seas of delight, where my loot

Is diamonds of sunlight and the cold pearls of the moon.


To-night a crimson sun

With no attendants by

Goes down in lonely splendor

An orange waste of sky.

Never in all the years

Garbed thus will he go from me:

Red is the sea-gull’s wing

And blood-red is the sea.


Never again will the clouds

Group in this austere way;

Never again will love

Be as it is to-day;

Never again will the waves

Break as now on the shore:

Nothing in earth or heaven

Comes as it came before.


High Beauty will never return

In the same hood and gown,

Whether the rose grows red

Or the old oak burns brown,

Or the blue rain dances swiftly

Down the green-aisled sea,

Or whether on gray, winding roads

My love walks with me.


I’ll walk on the storm-swept side of the hill

In my young days, in my strong days,

In the days of ardent pleasure.

I’ll go where the winds are fierce and chill—

On the storm-swept side of the daring hill—

And there will I shout my song-lays

In a madly tumbling measure.

Hilloo the dusk,

And hilloo the dark!

The wind hath a tusk

And I wear its mark.

The day’s last spark hath a valiant will:

Hilloo the dark on the wind-swept hill!

From the hour of pain

Two joys we gain—

The strife and the after-leisure.


When the fang of the wind is bared and white,

In the strong days, in the wild days,

In the days that laugh at sorrow,

I love to wander the hills at night—

When the gleaming fang of the wind is white—

Nor yearn a whit for the mild days,

Or the ease of life to borrow.

Hilloo the whine

In the pungent cone

Of the dreaming pine

On the hill alone!

The bare trees moan with a dead thing’s cry,

And their skeletons crawl along the sky,

Like a dinosaur

Who would live once more

In the flesh that blooms to-morrow.


I’ll walk on the sheltered side of the hill

In my old days, in my cold days,

As the sap of life is waning.

I’ll find a road where the trees are still—

On the sheltered side of the placid hill—

And dream a dream of the bold days

When the leash of Time was straining.

Adieu the snows,

And the fang that rips!

And hilloo the rose

With her velvet lips!

Where the brown bee sips with his gorgeous lust

I’ll pay earth back with her borrowed dust;

Nor shall I grieve

At the clay I leave,

But joy in the gifts I’m gaining.


Lord, hear Thou the prayer of a poet’s soul,

In his fire days, when his lyre plays,

And his song is swift with passion!

Give to him prowess to near the goal

While his limbs are firm and his sight is whole.

Make brief his stay in the dire days

When the paling heart is ashen.

The storm-swept sides

Of the hill belong

To the soul that rides

To the gates of song;

May his days be long where the wild winds play;

On the sheltered side let him briefly stay.

When his muse grows dumb

Let the darkness come

In the Orient’s fine, swift fashion.


A gray wind wails

At the world’s cold edge

And its song is all for me:

It calls me away

From the drab-hooded town

To the surf of the last lone sea.


A white cloud floats

With its empty car,

And it bids me mount and go

To the clean, sweet lands

Where the strong elks feed

At the milkless breasts of snow.


The town’s voice sounds

Like a harlot’s laugh,

But a virgin’s blush is there.

And the great, gaunt rocks

Are a kinder couch

Than a woman’s breast and hair.


The bitterns cry

At the world’s cold edge,

But their notes are sweeter far

Than the warmest word

On a false maid’s tongue

In the land where false things are.


A rude, brown hut

I will build some day

In that land of purple flowers,

And my comrades shall be

The sky and the wind

And the cool, young heart of showers.


Gold rain runs there

Down a green, cold sea

And its feet are silver-shod;

And there’s not a word

In the mouth of space

That mocks at the dream of God.


A gray wind wails

At the world’s cold edge

And its song is all for me:

It calls me away

From the drab-hooded town

To the surf of the last lone sea.


All night, since that rich farewell of the sun,

  The weedy shores of this unchristened lake

    Have heard thy daring laughter; all night long

Wild echoes with their fading strength have run

  Over the sounding rock and muffling brake,

    A maddened and incorrigible throng

That seek the woodland’s silence to destroy;

  Until that sylvan spirit of content

Is angered at thy mockery of joy

  While Night is at her starry sacrament.


In this august cathedral, where no jest

  Disturbs the holy anthem of the pine

    Or those low wind-sonatas of the leaf,

Thy cry is like an uninvited guest

  Who soils the rubric and invades the shrine

    With some profaning word of unbelief.

What bold derision goads thee to this mirth?

  Rue of the endless silence or high scorn

For those dull souls that crowd one rood of earth:

  Pale amours from the twilight to the morn?


Or art thou some old mortal here set free

  To mock the trite conventions until doom

    With that erosive satire which destroys?

The servile as of yore, with bended knee,

  Curl to the purple princes and make room

    For dupes that move like masquerading toys.

From sullen wombs of women still outflow

  Choice morsels for the lusty lips of war;

The drums blind reason: youth will rise and go

  To mock that travail which their mothers bore.


Shallow is grief that weeping can subdue;

  And wintry is the woe that refuge takes

    In silence or in laughter; in thy call

Some sorrow of dead years dost thou pursue

  Across the choric marshes of these lakes,

    Or shadowed by some shoreland’s granite wall?

Is one who mixed her beauty with cold lies

  The maiden of thy scorn? I laugh with thee—

Last victim of the falsehood in her eyes,

  Last sad receiver of her treachery.


Ease thou my soul, O prophet of the wild!

  The copper moon is heavy in the reeds

    That fan it slowly upward to the sky—

And all the wood is guileless as a child;

  Wan is the air with ghosts of feathered seeds

    That will not let the soul of summer die.

But who of men shall heed this loveliness,

  Or who shall hear this pleasant night’s refrain!

The rose in vain puts on her crimson dress,

  In vain is poured the cooling cup of rain.


To-night, like gloomy scythes, the raven wings

  Of some avenging hawk mow down the light

    That tethers this dark planet to the moon;

The whip-poor-will from deep retirement brings

  Her lyrics to the archives of the night,

     Stored well with many an unremembered rune,

And sighs of lovers dead a thousand years

  And stars that fell when Hesperus was young

And all those cold, imperishable tears

  Forgotten in the darkness and unsung.


Cool are the ages with these night-born tears

  That feed the dark Cocytus with their flow;

    And, richer for this weeping, men go on.

And some return as bards and some as seers;

  And some, like thee, release their flood of woe

    In laughter through the darkness to the dawn.

And I, as one old grief invades my heart

  With all her sad attendants in a throng,

Command my lamentations to depart

  Along this easeful avenue of song.


To-night I come back from the silent places

  And all the sweets of loneliness resign;

And waiting here to greet me are the faces—

  The cheering faces of these friends of mine.


I find the words I long ago have spoken

  Safe in the tender guarding of their care.

They kept my image in their hearts unbroken

  And clean of all the stains of life I wear.


The gypsy trail was pleasant to my going;

  The solitude was sweet as amber wine.

And yet I only loved this vagrance, knowing

  I might turn back to these old friends of mine.


How firm their hands are in my hour of sadness!

  How cool their voices to my soul’s deep scars!

Beneath the moon they greet me in their gladness,

  And warm the bloodless current of the stars.


O Life, my heart is not for riches yearning,

  My prayers are always humble at thy shrine;

For this is wealth: to know my foot’s returning

  Is always music to a friend of mine.


Norse am I when the first snow falls;

Norse am I till the ice departs.

The fare for which my spirit calls

Is blood from a hundred viking-hearts.

The curved wind wraps me like a cloak;

The pines blow out their ghostly smoke.

I’m high on the hill and ready to go—

A wingless bird in a world of snow:

Yet I’ll ride the air

With a dauntless dare

That only a child of the north can know.


The bravest ski has a cautious heart

And moves like a tortoise at the start,

But when it tastes the tang of the air

It leaps away like a frightened hare.

The day is gloomy, the curtains half-drawn,

And light is stunted as at the dawn:

But my foot is sure and my arm is brawn.


I poise on the hill and I wave adieu:

(My curving skis are firm and true)

The slim wood quickens, the air takes fire

And sings to me like a gypsy’s lyre.

Swifter and swifter grows my flight:

The dark pines ease the unending white.

The lean, cold birches, as I go by,

Are like blurred etchings against the sky.

One am I for a moment’s joy

With the falling star and the plunging bird.

The world is swift as an Arab boy;

The world is sweet as a woman’s word.

Never came such a pure delight

To a bacchanal or a sybarite:

Swifter and swifter grows my flight,

And glad am I, as I near the leap,

That the snow is fresh and the banks are deep.


Swifter and swifter on I fare,

And soon I’ll float with the birds on air.

The speed is blinding; I’m over the ridge,

Spanning space on a phantom bridge.

The drifts await me; I float, I fall:

The world leaps up like a lunging carp.

I land erect and the tired winds drawl

A lazy rune on a broken harp.


Child of the roofless world am I;

Not of those hibernating drones

Who fear the gray of a wintry sky

And the shrieking wind’s ironic tones,

Who shuffle cards in a cloud of smoke

Or crawl like frozen flies at chess,

Or gossip all day with meddling folk

In collar of starch and a choking dress.

Come, ye maids of the vanity-box,

Come, ye men of the stifling air:

The white wind waits at your door and knocks;

The white snow calls you everywhere.

Come, ye lads of the lounge and chair,

And gird your feet with the valiant skis

And mount the steed of the winter air

And hold the reins of the winter breeze.


Lord of the mountains dark with pine!

Lord of the fields of smoking snow!

Grant to this vagrant heart of mine

A path of wood where my feet may go,

And a roofless world to my journey’s end,

And a cask of wind for my cup of wine,

And yellow gold of the sun to spend,

And at night the stars in endless line,

And, after it all, the hand of a friend—

The hand of a trusted friend in mine.


The Ottawa is a dark stream;

  The Ottawa is deep.

Great hills along the Ottawa

  Are wrapped in endless sleep.

And, where the purple waters turn

  To seek the valiant north,

At Mattawa I found a road

  And on it wandered forth.


The road was made for free men

  And fenced alone with wood;

And every blossom at its edge

  Declared that life was good.

It wound in love about the rocks

  And ’round and ’round the trees;

It went asearch for loveliness,

  A vagrant with the breeze.


A mile away from Mattawa

  The road breaks in a clearing;

And near by is a whitewashed hut

  And fields in gold appearing.

And from this place came out a maid—

  A winsome maid of ten—

And I have never hope to see

  A fairer child again.


She came along the roadway

  In that fair summer hour,

And softer grew the pine-songs

  And fairer bloomed each flower.

And when she passed she raised her eyes,

  As bluebells do at dawn,

And cried, “M’sieu,” and courtesied low,

  And then went swiftly on.


My heart, that leaps not lightly now,

  Thrilled wildly at the word:

A poem with a lovelier sound

  I never yet had heard.

I would have clasped her to my heart—

  This little woodland belle—

But all I did was blush a bit

  And stammer “Mademoiselle.”


When I went back to Mattawa

  And thence to Montreal,

I heard, on every wandering wind,

  That little maiden’s call.

And when the empty words of men

  Leave faith a thing forlorn,

I’ll think of Mademoiselle’s “M’sieu”

  And that fair summer morn.


The Ottawa is a dark stream;

  The Ottawa is deep.

Great hills along the Ottawa

  Are wrapped in endless sleep.

And when the purple days return,

  Go, all ye weary, north,

And find the road to Mattawa

  And on it wander forth.


Laranowa of the Mohawks, lovely Iroquois,

  Elemental, winsome, gentle, shy and daring child!

Would I call thee back from freedom to our warping law?

  Would I see thy maddening beauty with our ways defiled?

Dashing through the splashing dew with a joyous mind,

  Thou dost race the morning matins down the crooning air.

Like a laggard to thy running leaps the carolling wind;

  Like a shaft of midnight is thy hair.


Would I stop thy flaming foot, burning strength and grace?

  Would I turn thy lyric going to this prose of mine?

Dusky is the twilight beauty of thy swarthy race—

  Like the deeper, richer glowing of a darker wine.

Men would teach thee, who hast wisdom at the fountain source;

  Painted women shrug their shoulders when thou comest near.

Thou art free and strong and tameless—they a spent-out force.

  Thou hast still thy pagan blushes when the gods appear.

Laranowa, in thy motion I can count the cost

  Of this carnivalian crowding of our prisoned feet.

Thou dost skim along a pathway, where the rocks are mossed,

  Lightly going as a zephyr winnowing o’er the wheat.

Elemental, winsome, gentle, shy and daring child,

  Fearless of the silent darkness and her starry awe,

Heiress of the woodland’s largess, sweetheart of the wild—

  Laranowa of the Mohawks, lovely Iroquois!


Chide not the leisure of this drifting moon,

  Nor blame the lazy loitering of stars

    That pass above these isles of bearded stone;

  Nor wonder should the slowly wheeling cars

Of Algol and Arcturus crave the boon

  To ever here remain—

And Night pause like a nomad who has found,

  In woodlands strung with moonlight whose pale rain

    Descends to earth with neither scent nor tone,

The haven whither agelong she was bound.


Dark are these groping waters, dark as wine

  From a wild cherry’s heart; a light wind comes

    With speed of fire around a wooded turn

  Within whose drowsy haunts a partridge strums

In dreams, disturbing slumber of the pine.

  Here the white poplars boil

Above the moon-fires kindled in a pool

  Wherein the dying hemlock pours its oil

    And where the brown, decaying fronds of fern

Lie in a dreamless slumber, sweet and cool.


Against the soft, gray ashes of a cloud

  The red stars burn and fade like dying coals.

    And, lured by them beyond the shore’s deep shade,

  My slim canoe draws near unguarded shoals

Where white waves dance about me in a crowd

  Nor ever tire of song.

And on the burning beauty of this flood,

  Around which quiet and dusky waters throng,

    I pillow drifts of light against my blade;

And all the Redman’s lust is in my blood.


No hue is on the canvas here outrolled

  Save one frail touch of amber on the sky,

    Spilled by the yellow moon in her slow flight.

  The high, dark shore, where pine and hemlock sigh,

Seems like a drift of shadows, deep and cold,

  Washed hither from the gloom

Of countless nights in ages passed away.

  Brave is the task that brings once more the bloom

    Of that wine-flower of morning, and delight

Of feathered choirs and furry hosts at play.


How rich is silver, fallen with sweet grace

  Upon the ebon velvet of this lake!

    How fair the throat of water bared to heaven!

  This hour I long will keep for Beauty’s sake

And store its memory like old, treasured lace.

  And on December nights,

When it is hard to think of life as kind,

  And when the frozen tempest coldly smites,

    The fingering of this pattern fair shall leaven

The gray and frosty reaches of the wind.


In one forgotten cove on Tobin’s shore

  My frail canoe crawls up the crying sand;

    And here I watch the lights of Windermere—

  Strange lights the stars can never understand.

Here a forsaken dwelling evermore

  Dreams of its kinder past,

While tides of moonbeams wash its broken doors;

  And all its ancient order stands aghast

    That any vagrant storm may enter here

Or any stranger wander on these floors.


Here once I came with one who softly leaned—

  As softly as this moonlight—on my arm,

    And we, together, climbed the groaning stair

  In this old wreck of wood, and felt alarm

When at our touch the slender flight careened;

  And in the dark her hand

Came searching for my own, and I could feel

  Her hair against my temples softly fanned.

    And that was long ago: she still is fair,

But I am touched with wounds that cannot heal.


And yet to-night I have a lovely dream

  Which in our lives too often is destroyed

    When love is granted all her dear desires.

  So long one phantom face have I enjoyed

That, should it bloom in flesh, the holy gleam

  Might never shine again!

Her grace is ever with me in the wind,

  Her hair is in the falling of the rain;

    And Beauty that is absent never tires

The changeful fancy of the human mind.


Sweet is the mossy earth to wounded life

  When in the heart regrets and griefs abound;

    And so I rest and read the starry scrolls,

  Until a loud thing comes like a frothing hound

And cuts the waters swiftly as a knife,

  And clear above its roar

Swift, unharmonious music, mad, profane,

  Blasphemes above the sobbing of the shore;

    And they who sing are dull, demented souls

Whom Beauty calls for evermore in vain.


For them the hemlock vainly broods and sighs;

  Nor do they ever heed the poplar’s mirth

    When it is roused by sudden wind; they care

  For not one wistful wonder of the earth:

No lovely thing is lovely to their eyes.

  When the white-surpliced choir

Of singing waters marches up the sand

  Or when the wild rose with her tongue of fire

    Laps the cool vintage of the northern air

They never dream, nor love, nor understand.


Muskoka! Who hath syllabled in tones

  More lovely than this mellow Indian cry,

    Born to the rhythm of fire and dancing feet

  And copper silhouettes against the sky!

O land of lyric trees and epic stones!

  To-day thy granite shores

Are presses making wine of all my dreams—

  The purple wine that here in music pours.

    Drink thou, O weary heart, the grapes are sweet,

And pure the flow as these cold, woodland streams.


Drink thou some winter night when the white moon

  Tires for her couch of waters, and the air

    Grieves for the dance of wind on laughing leaves;

  Drink and forget the heavy heart’s despair,

Knowing the joy of summer cometh soon—

  And, having drunk my song,

Lie down and dream that paradise of hours

  When the tired sun will once again be strong

    And when this blessed haunt of Eden weaves

Her rugged grass and slow and hardy flowers.


I heard a woodman grieve the fate

  Of all condemned to level lands,

Whose treeless acres vainly wait

  A gift of leaves from Beauty’s hands.


And yet some compensating Mind

  Doth even crown their loss with gain—

And where no tree retards, we find

  A richer sunlight on the plain.


Too soon the woodman’s day is gone;

  But they, who on the prairies dwell,

Shall know an unobstructed dawn

  And give the day a full farewell.


I have tried the strength of the salt surf where the last sun leaves the world;

I have walked Ontario’s lilac lanes, in the late May’s wistful weather.

I have breasted winds off Labrador where the whole sea-strength is hurled;

I have bound, high up in the Selkirks, blue and gold flowers together.

I have roamed in lands where blue lakes gleam like the fallen tears of gods;

I have trailed the cold Saskatchewan to the undiscovered places.

I have heard the gorse on Beacon Hill breaking their golden pods;

I have watched the blue St. Lawrence lave the grim Laurentian bases.

I come sun-tanned from a great marauding of wind and wave and tree;

And the copper hue of a savage face peers upward through my singing.

And all that I love is in my song: the tang of the great West Sea

And the loon’s laugh and the gull’s shriek and the pale star’s swinging.


Some nomad yearning burns within my singing

  For that bleak beauty scorned of lute and lyre,

That loveliness of gray whereon are winging

  The last wild lyrists of the marsh and mire.

  And, lest that migrant choir

Should wing away all music from the land,

  By one forgotten lake I chant this song;

And that cold passion of her choric sand

  Shall to my muse belong.


This lake, unnamed in June, is still more nameless

  Amid this ruined grandeur of the year,

These roofless, pillared temples where the tameless

  Young Winter soon will chase her frosty spear;

  And where even now I hear

The prelude of her long and ghostly wail

  In boughs that creak and shallows that congeal.

And, like a child who hears some ghostly tale,

  A strange delight I feel.


I saw the year pass by me like a dancer:

  The imp of April and the child of May,

The modest maid of June with her soft answer

  To every wooing wind that blew her way.

  And now, this autumn day,

When the high rouge of leaf no more conceals

  And there is none to pipe a dancing theme,

A woman old, with heavy toes and heels,

  Plods by me in a dream.


Let others pour their opulence of roses

  To please their high-born ladies of the tower;

Rather would I the thin, wan hand that closes

  In grateful love about my simple flower.

  While comrade singers shower

With wonderment of word and garish phrase

  The luscious year, that moves from plough to plough,

I rest content to twine mine austere bays

  About November’s brow.


Here, in this cheerless womb, is born the glory

  Of June’s white-woven whorl of scented hours.

And here, within this mist supine and hoary,

  Is dreamed the foot of April’s dancing showers.

  Here, where the black leaf cowers

Against the dusky bosom of the earth,

  Is drawn the milk that feeds the dawning year;

And Flora plans, herself, the rhythmic birth

  Of spring’s new chorus here.


Above my nameless lake the broken fingers

  Of those once-hardy reeds are jewelled with ice;

The mallard duck, despite this warning, lingers

  Until the gripping air is like a vice.

  The year hath tossed her dice

And lost the Indian summer, and the loon

  Chills, with her wintry laughter, the bleak skies—

And, where a meagre sun is doled at noon,

  A wounded pheasant dies.


And, lest these hueless days should pass despairing,

  The rose hath garbed her seeds in orbs of red—

The last warm touch of pure, autumnal daring

  In all this frosty garden of the dead.

  The quail, to hardship bred,

Frames her soft eyes with tangled brush and brier,

  And woos us with the contrast; and the hare,

Urged by the weasel’s probing eyes of fire,

  Leaps from her peaceful lair.


This is the hour when the bold sun is sleeping

  On his last couch—and here his lady comes,

Cold as a cloud that will not melt to weeping,

  And breaks the flutes and muffles all the drums,

  And the last warmth benumbs.

I know the road she walks to greet her lord

  By the strange rustle of her silken dress;

Or do I hear the oak-tree’s phantom horde

  Of dead leaves in distress?


O troubadours of spring! O bards of gladness,

  Who in the scented gardens love to throng!

So loath are ye to sing the hour of sadness

  When all the world is hungry for a song,

  And nights are strange and long,

That I, in this pale hour, have called mine art

  To hymn that beauty, scorned of pen and tongue;

For God Himself hath set my song apart

  To praise His worlds unsung.


Through the uncombed grasses

  Of the ungroomed North

The brown berry-pickers

  Come gaily forth—


Come where the purple

  Makes a royal sward

For an uncrowned king,

  For an unknown lord.


I can hear a tune

  As their fingers play

In the clean, warm air

  Of a summer’s day.


Brown-eyed Agnes,

  Swift-footed Kate,

Are picking blueberries

  For my cold, white plate.


Any berry’s flavor

  Would taste very good

If plucked by brown fingers

  In a frayed, wild wood.


Mary has a fair eye

  And a trim waist:

I touch her dark beauty

  In this berry’s taste.


Sweetest is the berry,

  Sweetest to the tongue,

When the berry-pickers

  Are blithe and young.


Dwellers of the wilderness

  Long have understood

Old crones should never gather

  Berries in a wood.


At a certain time of the year a popping as of miniature artillery can be heard in the gorse. The yellow of one variety of broom is tipped with red. The broom and the gorse are the same.

The warm, yellow gorse is a child of the noon

  When the lava of sunlight is gold.

But the white broom is born in the reign of the moon

  When the lava of beauty is cold.


And the white gorse at dusk goes to war with the gold:

  By the sun and the moon are they led—

And the white is the victor, for, lo! we behold

  The wounds where the yellow gorse bled.


The lava of moonlight goes back to its queen,

  The lava of gold to its king;

And the broom takes again its old banner of green,

  And there’s peace on the hill until spring.


The mourners come from the last dead rose,

  Crying: “Beauty is gone.”

But I go up where the north wind blows

  Out of the gap of dawn.

And I turn a key of the frozen snow

In a phantom gate to the road I go.


There is a road that doth wind and wind

  For love of the hills about it lying,

And there I go with my cares and bind

  Their burden up with a pine-tree’s sighing.

Alone I go and leave behind

  A dead, cold rose and the mourners crying;

And there, in a hueless tome, I find

  That Beauty’s birth is at Beauty’s dying.


When the yellow leaf in sorrow passes

  Back through the door that set it free,

When the sapless brown grows dark on the grasses

  I’ll turn to the bloom that few shall see.

I’ll go where the barren bushes flare

  With formless buds and with hueless dyes;

And out of the peopled void I’ll bear

  A spirit flower for a poet’s eyes.


There is a loom, by the cold winds plied,

  That garbs the souls of the garden’s dead,

And there’s not a bush on the countryside

  That blooms not white where it flaunted red.

But the hosts deny this phantom dress

  That hath no form and that hath no hue;

And the world is full of a cold distress,

  And the mourners doubt and the doubters rue.


There’s a friend who comes when a friend departs,

  (Hear me now while my muse is strong)

And up from the field of broken hearts

  There floats forever a pure white throng.

And a white bud burns when the red flower goes;

  And a white bird sings when the blackbird leaves—

And her wings are spread when the north wind blows

  And the east wind grieves.


“Mourners,” I cry, “come up with me!”

  And they will not come, but still I call;

And tire no more than the climbing sea

  That leaps in vain up the brown cliff’s wall.

And I shall sing when there’s not a song

  In all of the wastrel woodland, crying:

That Death is weak and that Life is strong,

  And Beauty’s birth is at Beauty’s dying.


The relay runners are on the height,

  And they race with Time and his flaming car;

And the red sun tosses at dusk his light

  To a cold young moon and her comrade star.

And the graves that take are the wombs that give;

  And the vale of tears is the fount of laughter;

And the deaths we die are the lives we live

  In the gypsy joy of a wild hereafter.


There is a road that doth wind and wind

  For love of the hills about it lying,

And the mourners pass to its peace and find

  A fount of grief where the snow is flying.

And the pale leaf sings on the phantom tree;

  And the wood is warm with dancing hosts—

But the sightless mourners do not see

  One slim, pale limb of the dead year’s ghosts.


When the rose is dead

Two roses lift to the winds their red:

  The rose that was and the rose to be.

  And I find two souls in the barren tree.

And the cold winds burn with the blooms of May;

  And crowded with feet is the printless snow.

And elfins dance in a roundelay

  Wherever I go, I go.

And the things I see you’ll some day find

When you walk my road that doth wind and wind.


When the first frail flame of the woodland dies

  The mourners weep with the April rain,

And their tears blur many a glad surprise

  That rises up from each flower slain;

And the mourners wail, when the summer’s done,

  For the green leaf’s sap, and they cannot see

  The last brown leaf in the wind-swept tree

Hold high its hand to the last warm sun.


The march of beauty breaks not its rhyme

  For one cold hour in a dismal dawn;

  And the rarest wines of Avalon,

In the hours unloved of men, are mine.

And the scoffers scoff and I hear the blind:

  “Will never the poet cease his crying?”

But I shall run as this road, and wind

  For love of the hills about me lying.


I sing not red and I sing not blue,

But I sing their pure, white residue.

  When the flame is out I will go and gain

  A new, sweet joy where her light was slain.

And I, at the tomb of each dead night,

  Roll back the stone where the sleeper lies,

  And watch the souls of the Masters rise

And walk in the morning’s clear, cold light.


The first dawn gazed in the great Deep’s face,

  And then stood high on her jewelled toes,

And plucked the dark at the edge of space

  Where long it bloomed like a dull, black rose.

And the mourners wept for the dead flower’s hue,

  And wailed so long for a lost delight

  That Pity brought back the rose of night

To hold their tears in a cup of dew.


I sing where never a man hath sung:

  I dare of themes which they long passed by.

My rune is strange as the red pine’s tongue

  That dulls its song in the soft June sky,

But bursts in passion when winds are cold

  And clouds are tossed in a pagan blare,

And when all the face of the world is old

  I’ll sing a song of the young and fair.


Adieu, dear road that dost wind and wind

  For love of the hills about thee lying!

For the dead town calls with her careless blind,

  And I must go, for her heart is crying.

And I bid adieu to the vagrant snow,

  To the dusky pines aloofly sighing;

And come back here, that you too may know

  That Beauty’s birth is at Beauty’s dying.


No flaming hue is here,

For no youth is in the fold—

They are old, very old,

And they garb in russet and gold.

The burning maples are near;

The pine is a sound like a tear:

One is too sombre, one is too gay

For this autumn holiday.

The mists are cold on the low ponds

And the frost is chill;

But the world is warm with crimson and bronze

Where the oaks stand on the hill.


The yellow willow leaf

Has gone to an early rest;

The leaves of the elm

Marched on at a wind from the west.

Only the oak leaves remain

With their brave russet and gold:

Their fires shall burn to the edge

Of the winter’s cold.


What do the oak leaves think

In this rich, thoughtful hour?

Are they doleful at going

From so fair a bower?

Or sad as a limner

Who, in sight of the prize,

Must give up forever

His long-beloved dyes?

Or do they wonder

Who, when they are dead,

All others having gone before,

Shall make their last bed?


Russet and bronze and gold,

You shall not leave

Without fitting mourners

To weep and grieve.

The rose-pod is yet burning

In the quiet roadside air:

When the oak’s bronze goes out

There will be some one to care.


Shall we go to sleep—

To the unbreathing Deep—

Like black weeds touched with frost?

Nay! Age is the time for bright colors,

Though life be the cost.

Youth is a fine adventure,

But it’s rare to be old

And to go to the Master of Colors

In russet and bronze and gold.


The tidal darkness floods the lonely land,

  Leaving its stain on sky and field and wood,

Save where the silver birches palely stand—

  A cold and phosphorescent brotherhood

  That age-long have the dark and gloom withstood.

I find my pathway by their gentle glow;

  Their laughter drowns the hemlock’s woful whine.

They are a valiant company to go

  So boldly mid a nubian group of pine.


Brave is the laughter of their limpid leaves

  In presence of that primal oligarch;

And strange the daring spirit that conceives

  Their moony misalliance with the dark.

  Are these the offspring of some ancient arc

That stumbled through the clouds, some giant moon

  Whose beams were frozen and must aye remain

To gaze as violets on the blue of noon,

  Nor evermore their former state regain?


Like slim and naked damsels of the wood,

  Where all are proudly gowned in tan and gray,

Their tresses gathered in a silver snood,

  The birches, nude and chaste, salute the day,

  And rouse the prudes to spurious dismay.

O for a power to set their clean limbs free

  To rhyme, in teasing flesh, their sealed desire,

Or dance their prisoned feet in ecstasy

  On that fell form of puritanic ire!


I raise my goblet, with this winking wine,

  Not to the toasts that often meet the ear,

Not to the burning maple nor the pine

  That keeps her august vesture through the year

  Lest any woodland doubter should have fear;

But to the silver birches in a row

  I lift my cool and amber chalice high,

And drink the columned beauty of their snow

  That in the rains of April does not die.


Fine rebels of the shadowland are they.

  Make me their comrade rebel! May I hold

Their stainless beauty in the dark, and may

  I meet the massive blackness of the wold,

  Sandalled as they with shade and helmed with gold.

What axe shall dare assail their gallant band,

  Or dim their silver torches, shining clear

To make the cooling lilies understand

  Some spirit, kindred to their own, is near!


Once more the tidal wave of black withdraws

  And hides within the ever-shadowed wood;

And the avenging morning overawes

  With light a cold and traitorous multitude

  That still with thoughts of midnight are imbued,

But hails a group of birches that alone

  Of all the earth rebelled the imperious Night,

And mocked the Ethiopian on her throne

  With brave, unarmored companies of white.




All night I wearied utterly of the pillow of darkness

In hope of the dawn, knowing it should bring me,

In one soft word, a joy that is past understanding.

Now stirs the morning breeze with thoughts of the clover

Bent by the bees, with thoughts of the balsam-trees;

But I go with dreams sweeter by far—with dreams of a maiden

Sloping to loveliness up from her finger-tips.


High in the wilderness there is a clearing

That gluts itself all day with the sunshine.

Here is the rain soonest forgotten; here the slim shadows

Of bending trees run in and away again,

Like children at play. Here I come this high morning,

Robed in the freshness of dawn, and here I wait

In a delicious confusion, knowing not whether

’Tis my heart that beats or her step that falls

On the wood mosses of gray, green, and silver.


And here, splashed by sun, I sit wondering

Which shall bend lower the head of the clover—

The bee or the wind: the transparent dragon-flies,

Hovering, watch with me, and the birch leaves applaud,

Their green-gloved fingers joyously clapping.

She comes now out of the wood, her long hair tossing

Darkness out of its tangle. The woodpecker thumps

On the tree to out-distance my heart.

Now I know who taught the willow its grace

And the flower its abundance of sweetness—now I know

Where the curve in the wind found its pattern.




All day we sat in a clearing, under a great tree,

Holding the leash of the runaway hours in our hands.

Sometimes we shut our eyes and offered vague guesses

Which was the voice of the lake at our feet,

And which was the cry of the cool, liquid poplar—

That mimic of water. Thus we were startled by dusk

Ere we were quite aware the young dawn had departed.

How easily slips night into the forest; it is black wine

Into black wine. What a fine tussle with light in this clearing

Hath darkness! Proudly it gains this place.


It was she who spoke first of the home-going—

Perhaps, in a woman’s way, just to be sure in her heart

That I was reluctant to leave her. So we stayed:

Stayed till the bronze moon grew pale from its climbing,

Stayed till the night was an octoroon lovely to see.

The air was so silent that even the whip-poor-wills dared not sing;

Nor could we hear aught save the rhythmic advance of our hearts

And the wash of her hair that fell about me like rain.


The page is snowy white, the pen is dipped,

And yet unwritten is this manuscript—

Save for a scattered letter leagues apart.


But through this frail beginning I can peer

On days when all this wilderness shall hear

The rhythmic throbbings of the human heart.


The heavens are bare; no clouds are on her face

To make the laggard sun increase his pace

Above the rusted hillocks bare and red.


The yellow straw-pipes, spearing through the ice,

Are lovely from an ancient sacrifice;

They gave and hear the nations breaking bread.


The prairie lands are spread to-day for me

Like frozen billows on a pulseless sea

That waits the golden wheat’s releasing tide.


Here, in his largest mood, the artist tries

To catch the amber glory with his dyes,

And sees, with aching soul, his task defied.


Bolder, the poet, with a stronger hand

Anoints with song this little-laurelled land,

Weaving the west winds wildly in his rune.


He sees the cattle stand with moveless tails,

And heads together, to outwit the gales

That blow the bronze of summer from the moon.


He sees, beside a ridge where poplars grow,

A bronco coldly nosing in the snow,

And gains the prairie vastness from his form.


He sees the patient straw-stack, brown with rain,

A giant, ripened mushroom of the plain

Whose stem is worn by rubbing flank and storm.


Here, while the blizzard aches its heart in sound,

The cattle move like driftwood, ’round and ’round,

Yea, ’round and ’round as in a whirlpool’s reach.


And, in a nook that lulls the wilder whine,

A shaggy bush claims kinship with the pine

And meets the gale with boldness in its speech;


Or, with a thought for some far woodland, dense,

Her branches wail against an old offense—

Complaining of the hoof that brought them here.


No lordly tree this land shall ever dare;

And yet, unfearful of their valiant fare,

Soon, in this vast, shall frailest flowers appear.


Where Might doth falter, Beauty enters in;

Where Pride shall fail, Humility shall win.

And this will be until the heavens are old.


And here, to prove the adage, I shall pass

When April kindles beauty in the grass

And warms these frozen fields with red and gold.


When you are out in the Westland and grow lonesome for the East

You can drown your care in the champagne air and the sky’s eternal feast.

But when you are back in the Eastland and are hungry for the West

You cannot find, in the peopled towns, a crumb for your deep unrest.


When you are lost in the sage-brush, and grow weary for the rose,

The day dies down on a heap of flowers and the night with fragrance flows.

But when you are choked in a crashing street, and yearn for the mesa’s moan,

There isn’t a hole where you can crawl and talk with your God alone.


When you grow tired of the spinning-wheel, that weaves in the town her loom,

You cannot flee from her gnawing voice, which sings in your ear like doom.

But when you tire in the joyous West, at the sunset’s crimson bars,

You can ease your head on a couch of wind and cover your limbs with stars.


My heart is away in the wild-lands, my soul is lost in the West—

The tribe of her countless wild-flowers is marching across my breast;

The wing of her crooning wild wind is cool to my fevered eyes.

I’m full of a savage thirst for blue and the endless sweep of skies.


I would away from the town to-day and out where the clean stars shine—

The wind in my ear like a sweetheart’s voice, the air on my tongue like wine.

And when I lie at the sky-line’s rim, where I and this life must part,

You will find the sage-brush in my hair and the cactus through my heart.



I love old things:

Streets of old cities

Crowded with ghosts

And banked with oranges,

Gay scarfs and shawls

That flow like red water.


I love old abbeys

With high, carved portals

And dim, cool corners

Where tired hearts pray:

I join them in the silence

And repair my soul.


I love old inns

Where floors creak eerily

And doors blow open

On windless nights,

And where heavy curtains

Dance a slow waltz.


I love old trees

That lift up their voices

High above the grasses.

They do not sing

At the light wind’s bidding:

They chant alone to storms.


I love old china,

Knowing well the flavor

Of great, strong men

And fair, sweet women

Lurks at the rim

Of each deep brown bowl.


I love old books

Frayed from the searching

Of truth-hungry fingers:

Their warm, soft vellum

Leads me up through sorrow

Like a dear friend’s hand.


I love old men

And old, dear women

Who keep red cheeks

As the snows of winter

Keep the round red berry

Of the winter-green.


I love old things:This verse to be chanted.

Weather-beaten, worn things,

Cracked, broken, torn things,

The old sun, the old moon,

The old earth’s face,

Old wine in dim flagons,

Old ships and old wagons—

Old ships and old wagons— (This line softly.)

Old coin and old lace,

Rare old lace.


What have I to give?

Nothing that you can take.

You have no lips for that bread

Which my hands can make;

That pure, living bread

Which the gods break.


It is a strong bread

That few mortals favor;

But somewhere in the far years

You will catch its flavor:

Like a sweet incense

Will rise its old savor.


But not for you; another,

Clad in white apparel,

Will catch up her dark hair

In a clasp of beryl

And carry that bread past your door,

Singing a sweet carol.



When I was but a child my mother, Anna MacDonald, died at Decewsville, Haldimand County, Ontario. She was a woman of great beauty of character and much loved and admired by every one who knew her. In our little community she was the centre of culture and her talent in music was known far beyond the border of the village.

Although I was but seven years of age when she took leave of me, my grief was that of a person far beyond my years. I had lost not only a mother but a comrade and a friend, and the readjustment of life seemed an almost impossible task. My father did all he could to make me forget my grief and he finally sent me to Toronto, where I was received by relatives.

On one historic day I was introduced to Howard (High) Park, and the beauty of these wooded acres fairly set my youthful soul on fire. Here was the place I had dreamed about in all my rambling through books. On that hill which slopes down to Grenadier Pond I fancied I could see dryads and fairies, and the old Howard homestead, with its hint of the forgotten past, filled me with the most glamorous fancies.

When I was sixteen I came back to my “Sweetheart of the Wood” and wooed her for one memorable summer, always singing to her one delightful rune that eternity shall not make me forget.

A few years later I visited this shrine under the weight of another grief—a grief to which the heart is never quite reconciled.

For many years I lived in the great West Country and, although I had found many new loves near the voice of the greatest of oceans, yet the yearning for my beloved Howard Park was always awake in me.

In the autumn of 1920 I went into the sacred sanctuary and began the poem which here follows. As I wrote the “hooded acorns were tapping at my feet.” The poem here born was finished in May of the year 1924 under the shadows of the great mountains that guard the lovely village of Revelstoke, British Columbia.

I seldom go now to Howard Park, for the blasphemy of the motor-car has driven away all its fauns and dryads and gnomes; and only on stormy days do they dare come back to their old haunts.




Call me away not yet a vagrant while!

  The tide of years so seldom bears me here.

    Call me not back to walk the crashing street,

  Until the color blanches from the year

And the sun dims his dial!

  Then, in the gray November, will I go,

Back to the weary wash of human streams,

  Back to the droning town, and when the snow

    Is blurred by marching of young April’s feet

Here will I come and dream again my dreams.


Fine is the fabric of these dreams of mine—

  It fades not with the using, for its thread

    Was stained immortal colors in my breast.

  Here, at my mother’s passing, was I led;

And here I reared a shrine

  Whereon to soothe my deep, unhealing pain;

And here I sought to find in a child’s way

  The trembling warmth of one dear lip again.

    And here, past many a mile-stone pointing west,

I come with that same seeking heart to-day.


Ah, one unhealing pain! what aching grief

  With this supreme bereavement can compare?

    For, though I ease my wounds with flower and fern,

  With nature’s mystic anodyne of air,

With music of the leaf,

  With merriment of stars and warmth of sun,

With that near-human kindness of the rain,

  With winds that curve about me as I run

    Like my lost mother’s arm: still do I yearn

One peerless gift and yearn it all in vain.


Youth’s grief is strange; through all my childhood days

  My hungry soul was pauper for a kiss.

    And so I took as comrades the warm flowers

  And wooed the soul of their eternal bliss,

And sought the silent ways,

  And ran with dryads, shaping at my whim,

And pressed the cooling pine against my woes.

  And now, here, oft I come when life is dim

    And dusty with the years, and in these bowers

Fill with my blood again each withered rose.


Yea, often here I wander when the blame

  And praise of men is weary on my heart,

    And chant those shyer fragments of my song

  Whose simple beauty has transcended art

To light a purer flame.

  And once I came here in the matchless May,

And heard my mother’s dear, applauding hands,

  And sang for her alone that darling day;

    And came away at even clean and strong

And girded for my soul’s divine commands:


Girded to endure once more the witless mirth

  Of blind Misunderstanding’s callous cry

    And all this late apostasy to Truth;

  To stand, an outcast lyrist, and defy

The songless choir of earth;

  To find so seldom what thou did’st possess—

The miracle of love, the untroubled eyes,

  And that serene, unconscious loveliness

    That burns in woodland roses and in youth

Ere our unlearnèd wisdom hath made wise.


With golden leaves my garish hour is cloyed:

  And yet what woodland opulence shall suffice

    For one lost word of lips too early mute?

  Even loveliest autumn cannot pay the price

For life too soon destroyed.

  But, better than grievous wailing, let us find

Some wealth of noble yearning to atone,

  Some holy beauty of a heart resigned.

    Adown the air now falls the summer fruit

And never more sweetly did the winds make moan.




There is a road and proudly at its side,

  With cooling vision of Ontario’s Lake,

    The homestead of the Howards crowns a hill.

  Here, in a youthful fancy, I did take

The woodland as my bride:

  Nor ever in the years ’twixt then and now,

Though all the world about me grew unclean,

  Have I relaxed the ardor of that vow.

    Even as then the air to-day is still,

But the great trees have darker cloaks of green.


Two massive oaks, that guard the homestead’s door,

  Invite us where their shadows cool like rain.

    Here let us sit alone, where none may see,

  And wash away the city’s yellow stain;

And dream how, on this floor,

  Two frosty acorns in their cold distress

Slept in the earth and grew up side by side,

  Feeling through nights of gloom the soft caress

    Of perfect understanding such as we,

The mortals of our day, have been denied.


What cups of light were gaily tossed away!

  What clouds were freed to cool these thirsting tongues!

    What winds pressed firmly with their shaping bands!

  What tempests blew the bellows of these lungs!

In the late hours of May

  Full often have these ancient trees reclad

Their barren limbs—a laggard robe to don—

  And heard the willow chiding, she who had

    Taken her green from April’s hueless hands:

But these shall keep their robes when hers are gone.


Yea, these shall feel the thin October rain,

  Turned to fine snow, hiss coldly on their leaves,

    And see the willows, naked in their prime,

  And watch their garments floating in the eaves;

And know that all we gain

  By easy effort shall not long endure.

But here the air to-day is ribbed with heat,

  And the full-statured, crimson asters cure

    Our grief as summer passes to the rhyme

Of hooded acorns, tapping at her feet.


There was an hour these oaks bewailed their fate

  And stood like guiltless men condemned to die,

    And heard the distant axe in birch and pine;

  And nights of old were bitter with their cry.

But now no more they wait,

  For one high morning brought their glad reprieve:

“Here shall the tide of dwellings never flow;

  Here shall the woodland looms forever weave

    Robes of the purple phlox and columbine

And plumes of fir and lilies of warm snow.”


So silent are this homestead’s storied walls

  That it doth seem the nobler age we lost,

    Here, at these doors, is tethered like a steed

  That waits the mount who long ago hath crossed

Beyond her whinnied calls.

  And yet how near is that black tide that swirls

At Yonge and Queen, from dawn to midnight stars:

  The frowning men and gaudy, painted girls

    Who lean their joys upon a broken reed

And burn their souls to drive their flaming cars.


Through sunken suns and faded moons I fly

  Back to the gold of those forgotten hours

    When love was sure and simple in its plea.

  Here came a lover once with gift of flowers

That pleased a maiden’s eye,

  And up the winding road they took the light

Out of the Night’s high hand, and found their way.

  And she was gowned in fragrant dress of white;

    And comrade-rebel of the dark was she

With hawthorn and the apple-blossom spray.


That was an age of fine belief in Christ;

  And these two lovers lived in quaint content

    Until upon the maid the darkness fell.

  Then in a few, sad years her comrade went

To keep with her a tryst.

  And here I dwell in this Gothamic ease

Where words are light and love is soon defiled,

  And where the former lovers of the trees

    Come not to vespers at the woodland’s bell

But everywhere are by false gods beguiled.


There is a tomb to which the pilgrims go,

  And here, amid its peace, our lovers sleep;

    And you can read the legend of their names

  Writ, on a stainèd stone, in letters deep.

Bright is their bed below,

  For through their dumb, eternal weight of clay,

The voice of youth, emancipated, drones;

  And they can hear this blessèd sound of play

    Above their heads at dusk, when sunset flames

Upon their couch and fires the crimson cones.


I leave the tomb and mount the gentle hill

  Until I reach a garden drenched in red

    That tames the purple asters and the blue

  Forget-me-nots that fleck the garden’s bed—

And wonder what could fill

  This narrow sward with loveliness so deep,

Unless some crimson cloud had floated nigh

  And here had fallen in a rosy heap;

    For in this garden I behold each hue

That warmed last night the solemn evening sky.


Along the northern margin of the park

  There is a field of few and scattered trees

    From which the browning acorn now is hurled.

  Here, as a youth, I took the hours of ease,

And lit the sacred spark;

  And to this day if I my lyre take down,

And chant a song[1] which once I chanted here,

  This field arises in its cloak of brown.

    And oft in gardens half-way ’round the world

Have I, in music, bade this scene appear.


Call me not then away a vagrant while!

  The tide of years so seldom bears me here.

    Call me not back to walk the crashing street,

  Until the color blanches from the year,

And the sun dims his dial!

  Then, in the gray November, will I go

Back to the weary wash of human streams,

  Back to the droning town, and when the snow

    Is blurred by marching of young April’s feet

Here will I come and dream again my dreams.

The “song” is “Sue Dear”—a song with atrocious words but a lovely melody.


Who are these spirits grouping

  Forever at my door,

Clamoring, persistent,

  Unwelcome evermore?

These are mine ancient follies

  Come again to me;

Their feet are moving at my door

  Like a cold sea.


My cudgel failed to mark them

  Or put their hosts to rout.

I ran my broadsword through their hearts

  And drew it, bloodless, out.

I called to them in anger

  But they cried back in scorn:

“O but for you, O but for you

  We had never been born!”


And so I threw my cudgel down,

  I broke my broadsword’s blade

And sang a simple song or two

  About a pretty maid;

And all my ghostly visitors

  Went swift away from me:

Their feet no longer haunt my door

  Like a cold sea.


I placed the first wild wonder in her eyes,

The first high word upon her lips; I led

Her footsteps out beyond these living dead

Who never trembled at the dawn’s surprise.

I girt her with the proverbs of the wise,

And roused within her bosom all the gods.

And then she fled me for the village clods,

And on one clumsy bosom now she lies.


I move in sorrow, comrade of the sun,

Who gilds the rose and sees its color fade,

To feed the first mad wind that Aura brings.

And grief is mine as Heaven grieved for one

Who plunged to blackness, and, amid that shade,

Lures the lost angels with his godlike wings.


I want to go to English Bay and see the old tugs towing:

The black tugs, the strong tugs, the tugs of sturdy soul—

The pigmy craft that draw the large

Obedient boom and docile barge,

With pride of their important charge in every movement showing.


It’s, O, to be on English Bay,

By the high tide or the low tide,

With a singing, swinging west wind blowing;

With a day of sea-delight

And a hundred hills in sight

With their summits wild and white in the rich air glowing.


I want to go to English Bay and hear her friendly voices:

The chug-chug, the sea-laugh, the wind against the bows;

To hear the humble craft salute

The sea-patricians on their route,

And watch the gulls dive low and loot until my heart rejoices.


It’s, O, to be on English Bay,

By the high tide or the low tide,

With a singing, swinging west wind blowing;

With the sea-lure in my soul

Of the lusty waves that roll

On their tearing, biting goal where the rocks are showing.


Some day I’ll go to English Bay and wrap again about me

Her wild winds, her wet winds, her winds of sudden whim.

And then, perchance, at close of day

A maiden whom I love will say

How very lonely English Bay has been for years without me.


It’s, O, to be on English Bay,

By the high tide or the low tide,

With a singing, swinging west wind blowing;

With a day of sea-delight,

And a maiden’s lips at night

And her circling arms of white, till the dawn comes glowing.


He puts his fingers on our dumb,

  Cold life and starts to play;

The maker of our Dreams has come

  To bide with us a day.


He leads us far away from home

  And down a rhyming road.

He pillows us on fragrant loam

  Where never man abode.


His voice is strong and strangely sweet;

  It hath a god’s control.

His heart is like a cool retreat

  For every weary soul.


He takes us with his silent tread

  To meadow-lands of June,

Where pales the dandelion’s head

  To silver of the moon.


His distaff is the golden grain,

  His eyes are blue, like smoke.

Upon his shoulders lies the rain

  Like a well-fitting cloak.


You hear the hum of centuries

  Drone grandly in his talk.

The wash of space is in his eyes,

  And æons in his walk.


The maker of our Dreams is here,

  To bide with us a day.

His steps are like the sounds that cheer

  When children are at play.


He makes the earth a laughing child

  That knows not right nor wrong;

He lifts us up with music wild

  And lays us down with song.


Grim, crooked shapes at his advance

  Grow godlike in their forms.

He bids the foot of Beauty dance

  Along the rim of storms.


He paints a crimson, gypsy stain

  Upon the hueless mouth.

His voice is cool as summer rain

  Across a month of drouth.


The scripture of his lonely tracks

  Each woodland loves to tell.

His laughter drips like molten wax,

  To seal the lids of Hell.


To-night our hearts can laugh at fear,

  Our souls be pagan gay;

For he who makes our Dreams is here,

  To bide with us a day.


Pale is your scarf

In the cool night blowing—

Pale as the pennon

From a ghost-ship at sea.

Cold, proud maiden,

Who disdained my loving,

If you cannot love me

Come not back to me.


I feel your breath

In my new love’s kisses;

It chills my lips

With a fierce, cold pain.

Dear, proud maiden,

Who disdained my loving,

If you cannot love me

Come not back again.


Come not in dreams,

With your wintry manner,

Leaving my spirit

Broken at the dawn.

Cold is the moonlight

Falling on my pillow;

Yet colder is my heart, dear,

After you have gone.


Last night a girl,

With quick, clear laughter,

Passed by my window

Like a swaying rose:

She had all beauty

For a lone heart’s craving—

An anodyne sweet

For a world of woes.


I warmed her lips

With strange, wild kisses;

I told my lyre

Of her dark, rich charms;

I held her close

And, when I looked upon her,

There lay my old love

Dead within my arms.


The moon is white

On the silver rose-leaf;

But she I loved

Comes through a broken door.

And, O, I cry

Like wind in a willow:

“If you cannot love me

Come here nevermore!”


I made a garment of kisses

  For her lips and eyes;

The garment was woven

  From a fount of sighs—

And she’ll wear my garment

  Until one day dies.


Then will she toss it away

  And another shall bring

Her silks and a high name

  And a costly ring

Such as no bard or seer

  Ever could bring.


And when she grows tired

  Of the prince and his play

She’ll hunt for that garment

  Which she tossed away—

The garment of kisses

  I wove her that day.


But she will not find it

  Wherever she searches—

Down the cool aisles

  Of the high, pillared churches,

Or out where the wild rain

  Lashes the birches.


With pleasant rhythm breaking at her heels

My lady now descends the ample stair:

I cannot see her, but the dark reveals

A lily of pure beauty in her hair.

So white that lily is which she doth wear

That I, who look upon it from afar,

See it descend the midnight-haunted air

As lovely as a slowly falling star.


Mine, mine is she no longer; from that day

Until the gloomy shadows of this hour

I have not felt her arms, her lips, her eyes.

And, lonely now, I walk the woodland’s way,

Over the frosty tombs of fern and flower,

Knowing that star will no more light my skies.


The tide has swept the aching flats

  And hid their barren shame once more,

And in the dying wind she chats,

  Of deep-sea gossip, with the shore.


The sun, an alien soul at noon,

  Becomes more intimate with earth;

And, floating high, a lonely moon

  Waits eagerly the first star’s birth.


A slim, black shape creeps up the sea,

  And oar-locks gulp like living things;

And birds come winging over me

  With day’s last effort in their wings.


The crimson banks of cloud ascend

  And all the former red is gray.

The rowers near; I watch them bend

  And turn with song their toil to play.


And, as I seek my chair and fire,

  Somewhere beyond that sea’s last cry

Strange songsters of a tropic choir

  Sing pæans to a morning sky.


They sing, the bards, in many a lyric cry

The passion of the eagle’s wing, of trees

That lash the unruly air, of waves

That thunder. But what bard has risen to sing

The unexpressive passion of mute stone

Or grief that hides in immobility?


And yet I doubt not in pale marble, cold

And insensate as it may seem, there lurks

A yearning that its cool and quiet stone

Most utterly belies—a yearning bold

As any mortal knows—to run the hills

Even as a young wolf, or know the joy

Of a wind tiptoeing over roses

Or a shy bank of lilies at white noon,

Or go as water on a long descent

Careless and singing. And in some mad hour

Of the earth’s deep passion this stone will shatter

Into fine dust upon the startled air,

And take that motion which a marble mould

So long denied its spirit, and go forth

Exultant—with all the mocking stillness

Of its age-long prison a strange memory.


You are a haven to me

From the storm’s rage:

Whatever woe may come to me

Your lips assuage.

I rest in your arms

As a sailor ashore

Rests in a white cottage

With a rose-hung door.


When the evening comes

And my lips are tired

Of the crying flute

That my song inspired—

O dear, incomparable

Welcome and full rest

On the high and low tides

Of your sweet breast!


How dull, companionless,

Were those years ere you came

With the rose of your lips

And your cheeks all aflame.

No lake, at a mountain summit,

Fed from the proud skies,

Ever reflected more of heaven

Than your quiet eyes.


People seldom smiled at little Maggie Swartz:

One look at her put the spirits out of sorts—

Freckles on her nose, her hands all warts—

Just the kind of maiden no gay youth courts.

Her eyes were narrow and a washed-out gray;

Her hair was skimpy and brushed the wrong way,

And hid like a waif behind her large, fat ears.

You couldn’t look on Maggie Swartz and keep back tears.


No one ever left a kiss on Maggie’s wide mouth:

Her life was as barren as a field in drouth;

Yet everything within her that was hidden from view

Was lovely as a rose and as fragrant, too.

Her thoughts were as pure as the dawn upon the sea,

But through those ugly eyes and mouth they couldn’t get free—

And no one had a kinder heart anywhere about:

O, if God had only made her inside out!


Ylette and Yvonne were twins who dwelt in a cottage near Cadboro Beach, Victoria, British Columbia. What one would do the other always would do; if one wept the other wept, if one laughed the other laughed. I often talked to them as they played on the shore, and one day Ylette, who had dug a deep hole in the sand, remarked that she was digging the hole to free a lover who was imprisoned there.

Ylette was born the same day as Yvonne;

And one is with us still and one is gone—

And which one was the lovelier none could say,

For each was lovely in her own sweet way.

And some would say Yvonne was fair and yet

Less lovely than Ylette.

And some would say Ylette was fair but shone

Less clearly in her beauty than Yvonne.


My garden was the place

That seemed to suit their grace;

And, if my bushes missed a rose, I knew

Two roses less

Would there unfold their flaming loveliness—

For it was true

What one would do the other maid would do.

And both at work and play

What one would say the other maid would say:

And no one ever saw them walk apart,

For each was keeper of the other’s heart.


Along the sands I’ve traced their footsteps four

Like dimples on the shore,

And found each youthful gypsy with her hand

Plunged in a well of sand,

And watched them dig with ardor that they might

Free some imprisoned lover from his plight;

For every hidden place where they would look

Was filled with faces from some fairy-book.


And so the saying grew:

“What one will do the other maid will do.”

And it was sweet to see

The kinship of their movement’s artistry,

And, in this age when comradeship is rare,

To hear their steps go rhyming up the stair.


One day Yvonne brushed down

A treasured plant for which I knew renown,

And in the sudden moment of my wrath

I drove her from my path.

And as she went with eyes and spirit wet

I saw the dear Ylette

Run to her side and weep as though her heart

Had all been torn apart:

And then I learned the hasty words I’d sown

Had hurt two buds far lovelier than my own.


But God, who knew this saying to be true,

“What one will do the other maid will do,”

Foresaw that hour and its attendant pain

When both should love and one should love in vain—

And, fearing for the sorrow of that day,

He took Yvonne away.


To-night there was a storm,

But, snug and warm,

In folds of down was wrapped Ylette’s fair form—

And as she slept

Her mother crept

And kissed her lips and eyes and hair, and wept;

And, in her sleep, the child

Reached out her arms and smiled.


“What one will do the other maid will do”:

And it was true

Yvonne reached out her arms in Heaven too,

And hearing, in the depths below, those kisses,

Knew there are earthly joys an angel misses.


I dreamed the gates of Heaven were opened wide,

And whosoever desired therein might pass;

And, night and day, there came a weary mass

Of spirits, nor was any soul denied:

The harlot and philosopher, side by side,

The glutton and the faster, men of rhyme

Whose hearts held not a hint of place or time,

And clods, gorilla-mawed and evil-eyed.


Sorrow seemed ended for a season, and then

Some trace of grief grew audible in the light

That washed like golden waves along the sky.

It was the wailing of the souls of men

Who hungered for the vanished gloom of night,

And thirsted, at Truth’s fountain, for a lie.


I’m going up where a poor man dwells

In a log house on a side-road

Where no one thinks of going.

I’ll find my way by the gay bluebells,

And, when it’s dark, by the asphodels

That like white stars on the side-road

Through deeps of gloom are glowing.

The poor man’s house has a single chair;

Its floors are hard and its walls are bare,

And the only wealth that you’ll find there

Is a cup of wisdom flowing.


I’m going up to a rich man’s door,

To a stone house on the high-road

Where marble steps are shining.

I’ll find my way by the blatant horn,

The vineyard’s purple, the yellow corn,

To the stone house on the high-road

Where I at noon am dining.

The rich man’s house has carven glass

And candlesticks of heavy brass

And carpets soft as summer grass

And walls of rare designing.


But should the dawn of a sad day break

On my cold heart, on my tired soul,

To-day or yet to-morrow,

I know whose bread my hands will break;

I know whose gifts I’ll gladly take

To my cold heart and my tired soul

If I have need to borrow.

The rich man can all things command,

But all his gifts are in his hand,

And seldom can he understand

The lonely heart of sorrow.


A village quaint is Saint Césaire,

  With homes that brew their own content.

Her single spire points high in air

  To show where her departed went.

No town she knows save Montreal,

  And that is farther off than Heaven.

The parish priest is straight and tall

  Although his years are sixty-seven.


This padre is a kindly chief

  Who bravely lifts the common care,

The gray hairs of the parish grief

  Are numbered in his whitened hair.

He knows not any change of creed,

  Nor days of doubt, nor nights of worry,

But plants the old and silent seed

  Amid the gardens of our hurry.


If you should go to Saint Césaire,

  And let no scorn betray your eye,

The gentle priest will show you there

  Men unafraid to live or die.

You’ll miss the city’s silk and ease

  That indolence delights to cherish;

But more enduring gifts than these

  Are heaped upon this humble parish.


Afar, the airplane drones her path;

  The angry motor shakes the town;

The swift leviathan, in wrath,

  Ploughs the green ocean up and down—

But here is still the plodding horse

  And slow quatre-rous and rustic staring:

Yet here is freedom from remorse

  That follows in the paths of daring.


If brick and stone and gold are wealth

  Then Saint Césaire is poor, in truth.

But if there’s gold in love and health,

  In age that keeps the soul of youth,

In youth that holds its fevered way

  Serenely ’mid the days of folly,

Then Saint Césaire is rich to-day

  Beneath her mistletoe and holly.


Written after watching the graduation exercises at a Toronto young women’s college.

June, O thou magical, whimsical June,

Blow with thy fragrance of breath through this rune

Torrents of blossoms to darken the moon!

Oft have I come unto thee in the past,

Shaping my lips for the musical blast,

Only to find thou wert gone, and my cry,

Like a swift-fashioning cloud in the sky,

Floated away with its fragments to die.


Last night the moon was a blossom-blurred light,

Last night the wind was a dead poppy’s soul,

Yet without sorrow I jilted the night

And in a warm, crowded chapel I stole.

Moons will look down through the blossoms again,

Winds full as sweet will come after the rain,

But this proud summit of youth comes no more:

They that go shall not return by this door.


Thirteen young ladies made lovely by roses?

Nay, making lovely the roses they wore!

Was there a girl (as the first chapter closes)

Knew of the beauty she left at the door?

Now they have passed to the rigid and narrow

Path of our years, to the care and the task.

Soon would they barter the kingdom of Pharaoh

Just to wear youth for a day as a mask.


Let us reopen the door they came through,

Lest we forget all the glory they shed—

See that disdain at the splash of the dew,

And that fine, sixteen-year toss of the head—

See that strong faith they will lose and regain

Up through philosophies tangled with briers,

Fashioned with sorrow and moulded with pain,

Till they shall reach the invisible choirs.


Here is a maid very winsome and fair:

To-night she will look in her glass and prepare

To fold up her girlhood in braids of her hair—

And O, I, a lover of beauty would hold

The strands for a day in their freedom of old.

Ye lovers with me—let us lift up our glasses!

Fair seventeen passes—she passes—she passes.

She is gone to the bride and the mother—and yet

I sometimes think God has His hours of regret.


June, O thou magical, whimsical June,

Cease not to blow through this gypsical rune

Torrents of blossoms to darken the moon!

We, who walk down to the grave on each breath,

Find all our triumphs are gateways to death.

O, what a prodigal spender is Time!

Here is a purse he is spending to-day:

All this young blood with its tropical clime,

All these slim throats with their lyrical chime,

All these love chancels of brown and of gray—

All that is fairest he tosses away.


Grief—’tis a moment’s pure passion—no more:

What if they do not return by this door?

Youth, the eternal, is waiting somewhere;

Christ, the All-lovely, is evermore fair.

There is in guardianship now of thy Lord

All the lost treasures which Time hath outpoured.

All the dead suns from their couches of fire

Some day will flame at His whim and desire.

Some day the long-sleeping lilies will rise

Under the warmth of the love in His eyes.

Then shall we see them again in pure white,

Fair, even fair as these lilies to-night.


I wonder if amid this strife,

  That stabs my heart with pain,

The lover’s perfect hour of life

  Will e’er be mine again.

The wine is purpling on the hill

  And beauty knows no ending;

But there’s a glass I cannot fill

  Till God hath done His mending.


I looked on beauty, cold, austere,

  And then a maid went by

And colored all my whirling year

  With warmer tints of sky;

She left me then without a smile,

  Without a word of sighing,

And now I march an endless mile

  And watch the colors dying.


Chide me not if I linger long

  Beside a hidden brook

And dream it hath a purer song

  Where one did downward look;

For if the Man of Wounded Hands

  Returned, would He not tarry

A tender moment in the lands

  That knew the feet of Mary!


I wonder should a maiden rise

  With all my lost love’s charms

Would I find light within her eyes

  And peace within her arms?

Or is there none in all the land

  To heal my ancient sorrow—

No lip or eye or gentle hand

  To sweeten my to-morrow!


Who would dispute with thee? Virchow applauds thee

With no more vigorous hands than mine own.

Man is a vertebrate, primate, placental:

Galen to Lavoisier knew no analysis

Keener than that of magnificent Haeckel.

Who in the embryo now shall out-atom,

In the to-morrow of further divisions,

Haeckel the learned and Haeckel the daring!


Now that I’ve granted the greatness of Haeckel,

Calling him splendid—a monarch of reason—

Let me proceed with a thrust at his bosom.

Surely a poet may ride against Haeckel

Since Haeckel dared ride in the face of the gods.


Master of atoms and master of reason,

Haeckel the proud and Haeckel the daring,

Here I propound to your wisdom a fable

Whispered to me by the gods you have banished.


Lived in the Kingdom of Jena a mason

Who could go up to the oldest of castles,

Place his hard fingers on stone and in crevice,

And in a trice tell whence was the quarry.

Better than this—his hands could discover,

From the hard mortar that held all together,

Just in what period did the proud structure

Mount to the heavens and lean on the moon.

Many times men did behold the great mason,

Many times heard him declaim on the ruins;

Always however he spoke of the substance,

Always the mortar and always the granite,

Always the breadth and the depth of the towers.


Under the battlements stood a young poet,

Purpling his lips in the vineyard of beauty;

Blind was his soul to the age of the mortar,

Blind to the girth of the moat and the wall.

Drenched in cold moonbeams he burst into music:


  “Mystical castle, that rose when the builders

  All were asleep,

  Thou art a shepherd and up in the cloudlands

  Are grazing thy sheep.

  The tower is thy vigil, the wind is thy horn—

  There is peace in its rune—

  And there’s peace in the way thou dost lean through the night

  On the brow of the moon.

  Mystical castle, I know all thy story,

  I know all thy pain,

  And I know why the soft showers have left on thy battlements hoary

  Their piteous stain.

  I know why the winds that caress thee so gently

  Seem ever to weep;

  And I know why the silver-hued ivy is touched

  With so restless a sleep.

  Names do not matter, mon chéri—

  Call her Yvonne for the sound;

  Seer in mine eyes doth behold her,

  With hair to the ground:

  Velvet to velvet her foot doth press soft on the lawn,

  And a voice cries, ‘Yvonne!’

  And the breath of the great guard, Marcella,

  Is heavy and deep,

  And his brow’s purple-veined—

  And up in the tower are the lords and the ladies asleep

  And the mastiffs are chained.


  And soon is she safe through the gateway, soon is she far

  On the echoing road

  With her lover, the brave and the gentle. The cool morning star

  From its lordly abode

  Illumes them well over the border, where none can pursue,

  From the great to the least;

  Wet high to the knees by the opulent orbs of the dew,

  They seek out a priest—

  And he joins their young souls with a word and a prayer

  And the amber-white round of a ring,

  And their blessing is chanted high up in the air

  Where the birds are a-wing.


  O mystical castle! more real than the brick and the stone and the mortar,

  More real than the girth of the wall,

  Down the cool aisles of the years you are calling, are calling,

  And sweet is your call.

  My hands are as sure as yours, O ye masons who finger the stone,

  But your task is not mine!

  I measure the tears and the sighs and the joy and the laughter

  That poured like rich wine.

  The lovers are dead but I know where they passed

  For the leaves are fairer in places;

  And the more fragrant boughs are the boughs that caressingly

  Fondled their faces—

  Yea, I know they are dead from the mournful,

  Long sweep of the grasses,

  And I know they still live from the calm of the cloud

  As it passes.


Whom then shall ye follow: the craftsmen of science

Who move ever inward with knife and with lens,

Or bards of the ages who move ever outward,

Ever outward and upward with the spirit of song?

Who but a poet may answer those secrets

Kept from proud Haeckel by mountains of atoms!

Hear then his song of this flesh habitation:


  “Mystical castle of rose-tinted beauty

  Lodging my soul,

  The weave of thy fabric I know not, nor care I

  For aught save thy goal.

  I know thou hast harbored the wandering spirits

  Of clods and of seers;

  And I know thou hast power everlasting to mount

  From the ruins of years.

  Down through the atoms he goes, carefully, slowly,

  Haeckel the daring;

  Up through the atoms I rise, swiftly and surely,

  Never despairing.

  Who goes in shall lose God at the end—

  Who goes out

  Shall burn in the fury of sunlight, the coldness of starlight

  His evil of doubt.

  This is the secret no mason shall know

  And all poets shall gain—

  It knows the invisible weave of the wind,

  The staccato of rain.

  Away with the lenses! Up with the telescopes!

  Fling outward your reason!

  To see one pale star, at the dawn, without love

  Is the summit of treason.

  Immortal am I, for my dreams are immortal,

  Although, in their gleaming,

  They hold but a hint of the plan of Jehovah’s

  Magnificent dreaming.


Science has slain all the gods; but the poets

Have lifted them back to their thrones in the heavens.

Man is a vertebrate, primate, placental:

What know the masons or Haeckel beyond this?


Three black crows

And a white crow:

Which will you remember?


Three white crows

And a black crow:

Which will you forget?


I sing of snowflakes

Late in June,

Of roses in December.


I sing the fool

An epic grand,

The sage a triolet.


And all shall listen

When I sing,

And every one remember.


And all shall love

To hear me sing,

And no one shall forget.


If the flower can draw blue from the sky

Why not I?

If the leaf can draw green from the sun

Why not I?

All the colors of heaven are fain to be won:

Come now to the capture—the chase is begun!

If the flower can draw gold from the heart of the sun

Why not I?


All things we would gain must be won by pursuit:

Loose now for the capture the hounds of your soul!

The gray sap is running away from the root

And the tree’s highest leaf is its ultimate goal.

There’s a word for the dumb,

There’s a hue for the blind,

And he, who despairs not, shall find.


The gardens of heaven are lonely for men—

The stars almost plead for a glance from your eyes.

And though this that passes comes never again

Yet no one goes weeping when loveliness dies.

There are wings in the air

Which the lowly may wear;

There are harps in the wind everywhere.


The girth of the sky

Is yours for the asking, to wear on your brow.

The strength of the sun

Is a gift which is held as a prize to be won:

Let us seek for it now,

You and I!

Let us mine the day through

In those quarries of blue,

For the miners who come to the task are too few.


If the flower can draw blue from the sky

Why not I?

If the leaf can draw green from the sun

Why not I?

All the colors of heaven are fain to be won:

Come now to the capture—the chase is begun!

If the flower can draw gold from the heart of the sun

Why not I?


The Door is flashing to and fro;

  The light leaps out in amber streams.

I gather up a shaft and go

Back to the sleeping hosts below

  And thread the light within their dreams—

And then I seek again the glow

Where the Door flashes to and fro.


The Door that flashes leads to Heaven,

  And none have seen it opened wide;

But some have gathered up, as leaven,

  A golden portion of its tide—

And it is woven in my song

  With earthly fibres, lest its light

  Should blind the timid human sight

With blazings bright and strong.


His eyes are darkened still with sin,

  His ears are deadened to the Call,

Whoever says he wandered in

  The blazing doors and learned the All.

The creeds were writ with blood and hate,

  With here and there a golden glow

That filtered through the jewelled Gate,

  The Door that flashes to and fro.


To one in every host is given

  A glimpse beyond the flashing Door—

A daring glance—and he is driven

  Back to his subterranean floor.

But in his hair the light will burn;

  His eyes will wear the holy glow;

And blinded hosts will rise and yearn

  The living Light he brought below.


Sometimes an outcast, with a cry

  Of joy beside his dying fire

Sees the swift portal flash on high,

  And runs to tell the hosts of Tyre;

And hears the high priests mock and jeer,

  The jesters laugh, the wise men roar—

And finds not any man to hear

  His message of the flashing Door.


If you would know what burns inside

  The Door that flashes to and fro,

Bid swift adieu to creed and pride,

  And wash your linen white as snow,

And go as any simple child

  Who filches pearls upon the shore,

And you shall gather, undefiled,

  Some beauty of the flashing Door.


Some day I’ll hear the cymbals crash,

  The bugles break the frightened air

And see the golden portals flash

  With light that even for them is fair:

And through the door I’ll pass, and on,

  And on, beneath the sunless skies,

Until I find the Eternal Dawn—

  The shining of the Master’s eyes.


Yesterday the merchant-men

  Slew an army of young trees,

All for the benedicts

  With children at their knees;

But none for the bachelors:

  I am one of these.


Patter, patter ’round the world,

  From the early dawn

Children’s feet will tramp my heart

  Till this day is gone—

All last night their diamond eyes

  Through my dreaming shone.


Every whiff of evergreen

  On the scented air

Tells my heart what might have been

  Had a word been fair:

Twenty winters old to-night

  Is my soul’s despair.


Turkey has a lonely taste,

  On the Christmas Day,

Without loving hands to baste

  All the loneliness away.

Was he jesting—he who placed

  On this card a holly spray?


To the waitress: “Bring me, Miss,

  Christmas dinner, table d’hôte.”

But I’d rather order this:

  Two young arms about my throat,

Little rosebuds in a kiss,

  Fingers tugging at my coat.


Few are here to-night to dine:

  Thank for that the god of Fate!

“Merry Christmas” on a sign

  Does not ease this crash of plate

Or the winter winds that whine

  At the slowly-swinging gate.


Comes a ghostly merchant-man:

  “Here, my lad, ’s your evergreen;

Weight it with the gay things

  From the Might Have Been.

Even in this hueless place

  It will have a lovely sheen.”


I hung it with the broken words

  Of a thoughtless maid,

I lit a censer of her smiles

  And saw the slim smoke fade

In fear of that cold crash of glass

  And metal serenade.


I took a rose, that once she wore,

  And a gown of lovely gray,

And hung them high and for a while

  My heart was very gay;

And all our unborn children laughed

  About me in their play.


Crash of silver, smash of plate,

  And the vision is no more:

Long, white tables, cold, sedate,

  And the slowly-swinging door—

Mock accoutrements of state

  Of a lonely bachelor.


Yet to-night had held for me

  All for which my spirit longs:

Little children at my knee

  Chanting me their joys and wrongs—

All were mine had I not given

  To my land a hundred songs.

October 17, 1923

My brother met me at a prairie inn

Near lands where rust and hail had broken his life—

And in my room we talked, and he seemed thin

About the eyes; he spoke of his dead wife

And how his baby had grown, and then he said:

“Were you at father’s funeral?” and I,

Not having heard that our dear father was dead,

Gave, in my heart’s abyss, one soundless cry.

“Have you not heard?” and when I answered, “No,”

My brother waited ere his words would flow—

“He went away over three weeks ago.”

The prairie wind outside grew swiftly cold;

The slanting yellow of an October sun,

That but a moment before looked rich with gold,

Became a jaundiced hag, most miserable, old,

And all my days seemed utterly undone.

Long silence followed, unassuaged by tears,

But into this space of time came all my years,

To hold one sad reunion in my breast.

I knew my brother’s thoughts, for they were sown

With my own sudden sorrow and his own.

When I found words I said in a quiet tone:

“A nobleman, our father, is at rest;

The world is cold to greatness; it is best.”

And then came memories of my childhood days,

And I once more, with my wood-loving dad,

Went through a grove of Haldimand, ablaze

Lest any leaf’s departure should be sad.

My father could tell a tale in a master’s way;

And often, by some road, at the close of day

I would rest upon the ground or on a stone

And listen as he spoke of gnomes or fairies.

And now he was gone and from the prairies

I heard the tragic wind’s unbroken tone.

(Ah! the prairies are very lonely near November.)

“Brother,” I spoke again, “I cannot remember

One word unkind our father ever said

To any of his children: we were not driven, but led.”


Still moaned the wind, and ’neath my garment’s cloth

The throbbings of my watch were wild and loud—

They beat like hammers of some savage Goth

Or like the feet of a disturbing crowd.

I read the blurring dial: “Ah, I must go,

I read to the students at the school at three.”

“Can you not cancel this?” “Ah no, ah no;

My father would have wished that I should go,

I will take his brave spirit along with me.”


Easily to the old

  Opens the hard ground:

But when youth grows cold,

  And red lips have no sound,

Bitterly does the earth

  Open to receive

And bitterly do the grasses

  In the churchyard grieve.


Cold clay knows how to hold

  An agèd hand;

But how to comfort youth

  It does not understand.

Even the gravel rasps

  In a dumb way

When youth comes homing

  Before its day.


Elizabeth’s hair was made

  To warm a man’s breast,

Her lips called like roses

  To be caressed;

But grim the Jester

  Who gave her hair to lie

On the coldest lover

  Under the cold sky.


But Elizabeth never knew,

  Nor will learn now,

How the long wrinkle comes

  On the white brow;

Nor will she ever know,

  In her robes of gloom,

How chill is a dead child

  From a warm womb.


O clay, so tender

  When a flower is born!

Press gently as she dreams

  In her bed forlorn.

They who come early

  Must weary of their rest—

Lie softly, then, as light

  On her dear breast.


Unflowered is her floor,

  Her roof is unstarred.

Is this then the ending—

  Here, shuttered and barred?

Nay, not the ending;

  She will awake

Or the heart of the earth

  That enfolds her will break.


Easily to the old

  Opens the hard ground:

But when youth grows cold,

  And red lips have no sound,

Bitterly does the earth

  Open to receive

And bitterly do the grasses

  In the churchyard grieve.


Grieve not for me, dear friend, when men shall curse me

And women revile me in their unkinder way;

Nor think my woes and poverty accurse me,

For I am monarch of both night and day;

Nor wail my wounds in battle, they will heal

At the warm touch of sunlight—their hurt shall go

When the rain runs on my roof and the winds blow

And the red leaves dance in a reel;

Nor even for my passing have thou tears,

Unless I go, like a coward, full of fears.


But grieve if in my heart wonder should ever cease

At waters tumbling earthward in glad release

With hunger for the sea; and likewise give me pity

Should I unlatch one door with laggard hands

When Beauty calls me from the loveless city

To the sweet vagrance of the lonely lands;

And greet me with thy tears should I grow cold

To chivalry, or should one gesture of mine lose its grace

In the royal presence of the poor or old,

Or should I turn to truth an unwelcome face,

If tears were no more possible to mine eyes,

Or daybreak brought no wonder of surprise;

And wear thou sable for me evermore

Should I hold life or song a careless reed,

Or should the waters of my love recede

And leave old comrades like a forsaken shore.


Sweet wounds there are and triumphs that bring woe:

Grieve not for me, I have chosen the harder way;

Nor would I retrace one step and elsewhere go,

Nor my more noble yearnings disobey.

Upon my roof the slowly-tapping rain

Is anodyne sufficient for my pain.

Grieve not for me: I cannot be undone,

With the strong wind my friend and the quiet sun.


The sea has furrows

But no ploughman’s tracks.

What will be sown there?

Stout fishing-smacks,

Sailors with hazel eyes

And hair like flax,

Men who loved too well the sea’s lore.


What will they reap there

From this strange seed?

Tears salter than the frost

On the seaweed,

Widows of the water’s toll,

Of the storm’s greed—

Old widows who will love no more.


When the sea is turned

Like cold, ploughed loam

There’s weeping and wailing

In every sailor’s home.

What will the drag-net

Bring in its comb?

Sad are the vigils on the shore.


Call the sailors’ wives

Back to the farms

Where tired women sleep

In strong men’s arms,

And they’ll go weeping

For the sea’s alarms

And nights of waiting on the shore.


Those who love to spin

Will keep to their spinning,

Saints to their prayers,

Sinners to their sinning,

Every one to the track

Where they made beginning:

Strange are mortal souls forevermore.


I wrap about me this cold cloak of rain,

  Fibred with sullen smoke and woven with wind,

  And come from marble and stone, which never sinned,

To these old walls of honored scar and stain,

These bricks with human laughter in their grain,

  These scriptured towers of humble girth and reach,

  This ivy that would give her dumb walls speech.


Late is the autumn afternoon: dim light

  Wakens a cloudy window here and there,

  Enhancing but the gloom of hall and stair

Up which an old man comes with waning might—

Lengthened has grown each day for him that flight,

  As twilight shadows lengthen when the sun

  Feels that his splendid course is nearly run.


Each summer these cold hallways yearn for sound,

  And wonder why the silence is so long,

  Wonder why youth and comradeship and song

Should die to one old warder on his round.

And then, when peace in quietness they have found,

  Comes red October, letting silence out

  And bringing back the joy of laugh and shout.


But soon no more will youth come here again:

  No more will classic droning drowse the ear

  With lyrics of a far, forgotten year;

No longer will brown, campus-loving men

Prove hateful squares and angles with the pen;

  No more will midnight frolic hear the roar

  Of her own restless foot upon the floor.


High, on a prouder campus, they have wrought,

  In this old patriarch’s form a noble pile,

  Clean of the etching wind and tempest’s guile,

Gripping in granite strength the ancient thought,

But bringing not that moveless thing they sought—

  That drab, historic bloom which Time commands,

  That loveliness which is not made with hands.


Not to the grander structure can they call

  The patient script, by sun and rain designed,

  Which on the parchment of old walls we find,

Nor that patrician gloom of room and hall,

Nor the proud spirit brooding over all,

  Nor dark and musty crannies with their store

  Of buried dreams and unremembered lore.


Nor can they bear away with cunning art

  The legendary touch and fabled sound

  Of that invisible edifice which is bound

With phantom brick and mortar of the heart,

That is not bought nor sold on any mart,

  Or those dim wraiths of faded smiles and tears

  And hopes and disappointments of dead years.


How can they call one footstep from that stair

  That will not give up memories that are sweet,

  Or hope upon some mimicked flight to greet

Our deathless scholar,[1] shy yet debonair,

Who teased such quiet lyrics from the air,

  Who loved the phrasing of these ancient trees

  That washed against his sleep like inland seas!


Around the old, gray buildings creeps the night,

  As though she felt a kinship with their gloom;

  Afar, the blatant clocks of commerce boom

And all the hueless acres wake with light.

The grim, old watchman crawls his dreaded flight

  And worms through darkness to his early bed,

  Nor heeds the ghosts that follow in his tread.

“Our deathless scholar” refers to Archibald Lampman.


They tore down the toll-gate

  By the songless mill,

But the gray gate-man

  Takes toll there still;

And he takes from all

  Whether or not they will.


Few people see him,

  With his moonlit hair,

Taking with ghost palms

  The old, slim fare.

But the whole night long

  He waits sadly there.


In winter on the snow

  I can hear his shoes

Crunching me welcome,

  Crunching me adieus:

But wherever he goes

  He leaves no clews.


Strange coin I pay him,

  Minted in my soul—

Tears I caught long ago

  In a silver bowl,

Sighings for a lost love:

  These I pay for toll.


Strangely does his hand come

  Out of the thin wind,

And strangely is the night air

  About his shoulders pinned.

So white his hair is you would think

  His soul had never sinned.


The fool goes by him,

  In a blazing car,

Sighing: “How lonely

  These crossroads are.”

But the old gate-man

  Will follow him far.


Follow him until he pays

  As men paid of old;

But not with cold silver

  And not with warm gold,

But with that treasure

  Which is life to hold.


On dark, wet nights

  In the slanting rain

The gate-man bends

  With an old, old pain;

But on warm, clear nights

  He grows straight again.


They tore down the toll-gate

  By the songless mill,

But the gray gate-man

  Takes toll there still;

You can see his moonlit hair

  From the next far hill.




Three men went riding down a hill

When the stars were bright and the winds were still.


Their tunics were red and their helmets were gold

And with scented wood were their sandals soled.


Their horses’ flanks were like moistened silk,

Their horses’ teeth were as white as milk.


The meadows around were sweet as a song,

But the road smoked dust as they passed along.


And two men whispered after a time:

“We’ll leave the road with its dust and grime,


“For here our tunics will soil and fade,

And freeze the eye of some haughty maid.”


So they left the road for a cool retreat,

But the third went on through the dust and heat,


Went on and on past meadow and town,

Until his red tunic was frayed and brown.


He saw strange things and he felt hard blows;

He touched a thorn but he gained a rose.


The gold of his helmet no longer shone,

But his soul had something to feast upon.


Many and many a year did he roam

And his face was bronze as he turned home.




Three men came riding up a hill

When the stars were bright and the winds were still.


And two looked fine as upon that day

When they went down the hill and away.


They had spent the years in a cool retreat,

Away from the dust and the grime and the heat.


Their tunics flashed red and their helmets shone,

But their souls had nothing to feast upon.


The garb of the third was frayed and torn,

And the two men laughed at him in scorn.


And they met a maiden whose hair fell down

On her shoulders like rain on a marble town.


And the two fine fellows in tunics of red

Bowed to the maiden fair, and said:


“What shall we do with this sad clown

Whose helmet is bent and whose robes are brown?


“We kept away from the strife and din

That we in your eyes might favor win.


“But he, poor fool, went travelling far;

And his face is covered with many a scar.”


And the maiden cried: “In a near-by store

There are twenty fine tunics of red, and more.


“But I cannot buy in the great, wide town

A garment like his that is frayed and brown.”


And she called aloud, and her eyes were stars:

“Come here, O man with the lovely scars!”


And she bathed his wounds and she gave him bed,

And covered with kisses his dark, bronze head.

“O women are strange,” the other two said.


If I have erred, O Lord, in love and pleasure

  Let this for all my failings make amend,

Whether at noon of toil or eve of leisure:

  “He kept high faith with beauty to the end.


“He loved her not in days of splendor only

  But in the gray of fogs, the dark of rain;

In droning streets or woodlands wild and lonely

  She never called his poet-heart in vain.


“The gray moth growing grayer in the moon-ray,

  The brown bee growing browner in the sun,

The strong hills burning amber in the noonday,

  Or vales at dusk—he loved them every one.”


Great God, when Thou dost grieve my wayward faring

  Let this one virtue all my sins defend;

And may I hear Thy voice at last declaring:

  “He kept high faith with beauty to the end.”


Centre Street is very drab,

Drab of look and drab of talk:

There the maidens look like chalk,

There old women leer and gab,

There each doorway shows inside

Breeding-grounds of fratricide.

When I pass the fumes pour

From each window, from each door—

Sullen fumes, musty fumes,

As from sudden-opened tombs.

“Nothing,” cried I, “pure and sweet

Ever came from Centre Street.”


There’s a doorway, to disgrace

All the others in this place,

Here the foulest woman’s skirt

Lifts in instinct from the dirt.

This door would I hurry past

To escape its evil blast;

But instead of smells astounding—

Sullen fumes and choking gases—

Came the loveliest of lasses

From the doorway bounding.

Nothing cleaner or more fair

Ever burst on summer air:

White shoes and white socks,

Pink cheeks and pink knees,

And pink sash to match these,

And the daintiest of frocks.


The sun was shining, it was noon:

The pretty maiden passed me by

Like a lovely butterfly

From a drab cocoon;

Or like a gull which, at one stroke,

Swings from a ship’s smoke,

With no hint of gray or black

On its clean and glowing back;

Or like lilies white that come

From the marsh’s bronze scum.

Swiftly did she go, and sweet

Was the music of her feet

On the cobbles of Centre Street.


Near the white heart of Heaven’s blaze of glory

I hid beside the shadowless jasper walls,

I clomb the amber stairways draped with throngs,

I scanned the feasters in the banquet halls,

And listened to the poets in rune and story;

And, still athirst, I drank the deific songs

Of Heaven’s untiring choir

Which played on lyres of linden strung with flame,

Salvaged from dying suns:

But from the utmost of their benisons

I found no quenching of my thirst or shame.


Wandering, with aching hunger in mine eyes,

I found a garden cropped by fearless fawns,

And feasted there on roses with rich dyes,

Gathered for me by singing amazons

Who danced, more swiftly than the falling fountains,

On the wide, languid lawns.

I watched their white limbs cool the golden glow

That through all Heaven did flow

From the Lamb’s throne to the clear glacier mountains—

I watched their eyes atone each absent star;

Their foreheads were of some immortal snow,

Their cheeks the rise and fall of cinnabar:

They danced and grew not weary and I, accurst,

Left them with no abatement of my thirst.

Dark, deep, arboreal

Gardens along Heaven’s wall

That hold forever the massive shade at bay,

And guard lest any waif of night

Should invade the halls of light

And bring pollution to the unshadowed day!

Down your still, mossy lanes I cooled my tongue

In bracken pools with winter at their core;

I curved my lips for the wild grape that hung

Its purple like a royal ambassador;

And still my hunger grew

And hideously before me my thirst stood,

And back to the light I flew,

Nor sought again the darkness of that wood.


One took me by the hand

And led me down a gracious gallery

Whose chanting walls were pure chalcedony,

With arches of sardonyx girt and spanned.

Here the amazing angels swiftly played

On golden harps their warm, unanguished songs

That bore no hint of sorrow or of shade.

They sat in groups or stood in companies

Or walked in white-robed throngs,

Chanting unpenitential litanies;

And swiftly from the gallery I freed

My thirsting soul, and by that shadowless wall,

Which one had measured with a golden reed,

I leaned against the jasper, still accurst

With that strange, parching fury of my thirst.


And some one said:

“Cast up your hungering vision overhead

Past all the twelve foundations that resist

The occult fancy of a cabalist:

Sapphire and emerald and amethyst

Crowning a jasper plinth—

The eighth a beryl, the eleventh a jacinth.

The yellowing topaz warms for you alone;

A thousand suns are imprisoned in this stone;

In this one gate of pearl twelve moons are kept.”

I looked and bowed in weariness my head,

My eyes, from blazing beauty tired and red:

If one could weep in Heaven, I had wept.


Came unto me an angel slim and tall:

“What do you seek, O Comrade? Whom do you call?

All that the heart desires is here.” “Not all.”

“Whatever you desire, pray command.”

O, Angel of God, you would not understand.

Look at these marks of shame upon my hand,

These fingers hard and red

From awl and leather and thread.

Only to mortals can a soul explain

The aching of the ragged feet of rain,

The weeping of the wind, the anguish of pain.”


And then he led me upward to a throne

About whose base the leaves of palm had blown,

Cast hither by the lovers of the Lamb,

Who marched behind a blazing oriflamme

And sang hosannas loud—

Their robes as white as noonday on a cloud.

But what I yearned was not the thronèd King:

My lips were mute of praise, nor could I sing.


And from the Prince of Heaven Himself I fled,

Waking wild echoes on the amber stairs

From whose far base came up the newer dead,

Urged skyward by earth’s orisons and prayers.

But one foot quickened echoes on mine own;

The singing had ceased; the Lamb had left His throne.

He called my name and fragrant was His breath

With cedar-wood He carved at Nazareth.


Hosannaed, deified,

He came to me with His old earthly stride,

His white robe flowing wide

And open at the crimson on His side.

He showed the bruise of stones upon His feet

And where His hands had calloused from plane and saw—

The long, white hands that plucked the bearded wheat

And broke the hateful tablets of the Law.

His words were fountains and His eyes were bread;

I bathed in every cooling word He said

Until my hunger had gone, my thirst was dead.

“Comrade,” cried Jesus, “let us walk alone,

At times my soul grows weary of a throne;

Sometimes I yearn the cool of evening sand

And the strange quiet of the desert land.”


Topaz and shining beryl!

High Heaven at full carol

No longer affrighted me, no more I fled:

In Him was all my yearning answerèd.

The dancing amazons

On the untended lawns

Were swift and lovely in their pale apparel—

I felt not any shame

For my awl-blunted fingers, my cobbler’s bend:

If shining companies a Carpenter could acclaim

Should my old leather and thread and wax offend?


Erect and unafraid,

I sound my sandals down a colonnade

Whose pillars, shining through an amber mist,

Were carved from deep, wine-purpled amethyst

Where the dead violet tombs her soul.

By the clear stream of life I drink

Out of a graven bowl;

And past that tree, which bare

Twelve manner of fruit in air,

With lips unsated I no longer slink.

I show my fingers to bright companies,

In shining robes, in the white galleries—

My thread-worn fingers show I to them all,

Crying to angels in the banquet-hall:

“His were the plane and saw; mine were the leather and awl.”


Love burned once in your cheeks where now, as ashes,

  A pallor, no less lovely, greets mine eyes.

Once, where the twilight plays behind your lashes,

  Stood windows open to the morning skies.


I do not find your beauty has diminished:

  Rather does it increase with every year.

True loveliness shall grow till life be finished;

  And they alone shall fade who sin or fear.


I would not give that love with which I love you

  For all the passion that my youth could show.

There is no single star that shines above you

  But keeps some secret we alone may know.


All that is best in youth joins in migration

  And leaps the bounds of passion and of sense:

Age holds the miracle of adoration

  When soul meets soul upon love’s eminence.


If from my painting one hue,

  If from my singing one line,

If from my building one true

  Hint of design;


If from my carving one curve,

  If from my wisdom one phrase

The Master sees fit to preserve—

  Joyous my days.


May this be said of me:

  “He gave to sound one cry,

To life one memory

  That would not die.


“He took from strife her sword;

  He gave to peace his breath.”

May this be said, O Lord,

  Of me at death.


Happy is he who at last

  Hears the immortal choir

Gather one note of his blast

  From the destroying fire;


Or who knows that, at night,

  When the dusk curtains fall,

He has left one guiding light

  In the King’s hall.


This poem refers not only to Niagara Falls but to the entire Niagara River.

Thy mother, Erie, loves each furious form:

The crash of water and the howl of wind

Are ever in her mind,

For she is called the sweetheart of the storm.

And thou, Niagara, art thy mother’s child—

And with thy restless spirit now I go

The world’s most tragic water-way, and lo!

Like thee to narrow ways unreconciled.


And yet thine early childhood was serene

And fraught with blackened quays and humble craft,

And often thou had’st glimpses of pure green

Where tourists sang and laughed;

But soon thy mother’s whisper bade thee rise

And hurl thy laggard body toward the skies—

And thou did’st then forget

All else save wildness and the haste of life,

And that far, roaring, curving parapet

That called thee to its strife

And then thy feet the maddest race began

That ever waters ran—

Madder than oceans in their wildest hour,

And moving without plan,

Even as chaos ere the worlds began.


If till the mountain snows

Could melt into the beauty of one rose,

That ermine bloom would not more lovely be

Than this pale flower I see—

This curving verdure, crashing into white

More lovely than pure light

And colder than the spirit of the night.


Here all the fury since the world was young

Is chanted on one tongue.

Here all the beauty since the earth was born

Is beaten, bruised and torn.

Here all the passions of the stifled cries

Of sages, who were martyred, wildly rise.

Here is the protest in the daring art

Of all true poets of the rebel-heart.


To westward of thy cataract’s tired spray

I watch now thy descent at break of day,

Gaining the thrill of war without its sorrow

And feeding sweet disorder to my soul—

And in my rhyme you’ll find upon the morrow

The tamelessness of thy great river’s roll.

And, as I wait, I plead for power to be,

For but one flash of time, a part of thee!

To taste the full nutrition of that kernel

Whose passions never die

But keep the fury of a storm eternal,

While days and years and æons wander by.


There is a tiger in thy veins, thy tongue

Is white and furred and thou hast often drawn

A draught of human blood and coldly flung

Full many a broken body to the dawn;

The tiger’s eyes are in thy water’s gleam,

The tiger’s purr is in thy warning call,

A tiger leaps when thy soft-footed stream

Takes her long plunge from off thy granite wall.


Come, Chaos, toss thy wildness in my pen!

Sound thunder and flash lightnings in my heart!

That I, the most peace-loving of all men,

May limn thee as thou art

In that wild leap of water where is caught

A thousand rivers in a single thought.


Before that plunge thy spirit hungered strife,

But in that wayward moment came to thee

The deeper beauty of that passive life;

And now thy spirit flows from madness free—

And here, at night, it wears the stars once more

And learneth of the passing sky and shore.


Thou goest now in peace—but not for long,

For soon thy mother’s spirit doth advise,

And goads thee to another, wilder song

Than thy first furious pæan of surprise;

And then the sinew of some hidden brawn

Pulls at thy throat and thou art downward drawn.


Drawn in that coiling whirlpool’s silent fold,

The last adventurous plunge of thine begins.

Thou comest here a youth and leavest old

And weary of thy tempest-loving sins.

Thine enemies were visible before:

The rock, the leap, the narrow way of stone;

But here a foe is eating at the core

Of all the seaward passion thou hast known;

And we, who know the foe that smites within,

See, with full joy, thy waters rise and win.


Yet one more tragic run and thou art soon

Where thou dost hold inviolate the moon;

Here thou hast time to note the clouds that pass,

The crimson bank and sloping fields of grass.

Here, with an old man’s eyes,

Thy gaze is turned forever to the skies—

I stand at Queenston and behold thy face,

Veined like blue marble and from passion cool,

And on it not one sorrow for that race

From Erie to thy serpent-winding pool.


Niagara! I have run a course like thine.

Like thee I’ve marched to beauty through great throes.

Like thee I lost the stars, and doubtings rose

About the slender moon’s nocturnal sign.

Yet I went forward when my doubt was strong,

And never ceased my song,

But took with joy the valiant leap of life

And gained the peace that cometh after strife;

Nor kept it long ere I was called to fight

A more insidious might—

The enemy that takes the victor’s crown,

The coiling whirlpool that drags ever down—

And I have beaten this with furious blows,

And hurled its slimy winding from my soul:

And soon I’ll wear like thee the sunset’s rose

And then, like thee, go smiling to my goal,

With all my stars of faith alight again,

To prove I have not passed this way in vain.


“Sound the horn, brother;

  A fog comes this way.”

“There is no fog, comrade;

  Clear is the day.

Never rode a high sun

  In warmer skies.”

“The fog grows thicker,”

  The old man cries.


“Pile the logs high, brother;

  The wind blows cold.”

“The wind is warm, comrade,

  As the wood-marigold.

The lads have bared their arms,

  The lasses their throats.”

“Nay, nay; the wind, brother,

  Like a thin wraith floats.”


Now the fog is falling

  Like ghostly rain,

And the winds are calling

  For the summer’s slain;

And the horns sound hoarsely

  And the logs pile high—

But who needs their comfort

  When he walks high

  On an amber ledge of sky?


When a great tree goes down beneath the weight

Of its own years, in ripeness of completion,

We keep a noble sorrow, not akin

To that despair which sounds the grievous passing

Of lovely, young and incompleted life:

And when a great man comes at last to earth,

Urged by his own magnificence of years,

The hour is not for sorrow or regret;

And yet it is not free from loneliness—

The groping ever for departed hands,

The waiting for a word that will not come.


This mighty fugue of life is built on chords—

Some loud, resounding, some quiet as light,

Some that seem discord until our hearts are tuned

To the advancing harmony of Time;

When Parkin went he left a gap in the rhythm

Of the great song. His going was a loss

To chivalry, and the fine-mannered years

Stumbled into his sleep. On friend or foe

He cast no shadow of intolerance,

And took your way of thinking with a warmth,

Or differed with you as a gentleman.


O Youth, your burning wine is in my blood!

May I keep this forever—it is good.

Yet sometimes I have seen, in an old man’s face,

That sparkle which is valor in old wine.

Here was one whose flow of soul had gained,

In the cool cellars of near eighty years,

A flavor of great richness. Lay him down,

This fine aristocrat of our young land,

And fold about him that bright cloth of gold

Which all his days have woven for this hour.


Gray is the sky,

  Yet no gray I see;

The wind has a sad cry,

  Yet not sad to me;

Summer dies by the dull fires

  Of the last roadside flowers,

But in my heart is April

  And the cool feet of showers.


O blessèd thief

  Who has stolen away

The woe from the wind,

  The drab from the gray!

O sweet translator

  Of every word of grief

Into the warmth of joy

  And strong belief!


Frail are your hands

  For so strong a part,

Yet you have conquered

  My unconquerable heart.

You have done, O so swiftly,

  What the gods failed to do:

You have made the hills strong again

  And the stars true.


To break their long sleep,

  One hour each night

The dead, drowned sailors

  Are given respite.


But not before the last flesh

  Is torn from their skulls

By the deep-sea shadows

  Of the high-air gulls.


One hour each night

  They have power to rise

And gaze through the caverns

  Of their once-warm eyes.


Then they do all things

  That in life were sweet:

They dance slow hornpipes

  With their fleshless feet—


Tap, tap; bone to board,

  Their joints creaking loud!

One who died in his bed

  Dances in a shroud.


Every sunken ship’s deck

  Knows these phantom throngs:

They swing on wet ratlines,

  Singing old songs.


One hour each night

  And then back to sleep:

Their eyes’ black sockets

  Make the scared fish leap.


Flesh at the hornpipes

  Is a merrier note

Than bones at the hornpipes

  On a sunken boat.


Every time I hear the wind

  Make a doleful roar

I know dead sailors dance

  On the ocean floor.


One hour each night,

  Leagues down the sea,

Their clanking, phosphorescent bones

  Make high revelry.


But not until all flesh is torn

  From their salted skulls

By the deep-sea shadows

  Of the white, swift gulls.


Give me the loveliness that is undying:

The comrade look of welcome in mine eyes,

The echo in my spirit for the sighing

Of every broken soul beneath the skies,

The healing in my voice for pain or sorrow,

The beating in my heart for grief or love,

The open hand for all who come to borrow,

The judgment that is tempered from above.

Give me the deeper mind of understanding:

The feet that know the course and will not swerve,

The courage for the sceptre of commanding,

The humble heart contented but to serve.

Then come Old Age to crown my life’s adventure;

Come wrinkles—I will wear them without tears:

My blood I’ll pour with joy to sate the Quencher;

My flesh I’ll give to feed the hungry Years—

But when the gulls are high in heaven flying,[1]

And all my waning hours are white with snow,

Give me the loveliness that is undying,

And I will let all other beauty go.

When winter approaches, the sea-gulls fly high.


Off Juan de Fuca lies a cove

  Rimmed round with rock and paved with shale,

And here the quinqueremes of Jove

  Once dipped their canvas to the gale.


And here at last each roving soul

  Gave dreams of warm Olympus up,

Forgot the bacchanalian bowl

  And Ganymede’s carven cup.


Dark pines with cloisters cool and deep

  Rose high above this blessèd cove,

That Ida here might never weep

  To wander in her gloomy grove.


And elsewhere all the cove was warm

  With motes that danced their golden feet

To make Apollo bless the storm

  That drove him to this fair retreat.


The rocks that rimmed this cove were crowned

  With grass whose green was almost lost

Amid a group of daisies, bound

  For Beauty’s yearly Pentecost.


Thor beat his hammer on the rocks,

  And praised their battling with the tide;

And sad Medusa sheared her locks,

  For nothing ill could here abide.


And no one mourned for Thessaly;

  Nor was their full contentment strange,

For, looking southward, all could see

  The new Olympics, range on range.


Here from their beds of purple shale,

  And fanned by winds too shy to croon,

They saw these mountains press their pale,

  Cold foreheads to a colder moon.


And one day came command from Jove

  To lift the sails and man the oars

And leave for evermore this cove

  For far and less Elysian shores.


“To go,” he thundered, “all are loath;

  Yet came in vain, who did not learn

Even the gods will sink in sloth

  If they have naught for which to yearn.


“And here, where waters gently lave,

  Forgetful of the outer roar,

The soul to peace becomes a slave,

  And sweet unrest is nevermore.”


Off Juan de Fuca lies a cove

  Rimmed round with rocks and paved with shale;

And here the quinqueremes of Jove

  One lovely summer’s day set sail.


And here come I a morn in May,

  a slope where Flora ran

And where the daisies, white and gay,

  Once cooled the fevered feet of Pan.


As a white moon comes to a lonely cloud,

Dark with the grief of many unshed tears,

She came to me; and even as that orb

She flooded me with light and then passed on,

Leaving my darkness greater than before.

Now all my days are like a miser’s hand,

Counting the secret wealth of that rich hour

When her sweet presence I knew. The memory fades not

With hurry of the hours but gathers beauty

From my sad musing’s wonder. I have seen

Her once in all these empty years: she passed

As any stranger, and yet farther away

Than any stranger could be. Nothing to her

Was that warm pledge she gave a winter’s night

Under the constant stars, nor those sweet hours

We walked in the cool moonlight of a dream,

Whose waking came too soon, too sadly soon.


Springs have come with their pale flood of green,

And summers with their darker, deeper tides,

And winters have washed white three times the world

Since that amazing hour, and many a day

Have I rejoiced in power of my forgetting,

Yet only to fall back on my remembrance,

And find it easier to suffer than forget.


Rare wine is theirs

Who have no taste for wine;

For them who have no hunger

Great herds of kine;

For hearts that have no craving

Delight and laughter

In the days that were—and now,

And in the days hereafter.


But Thirst must walk

The hot, unwatered lands;

And Hunger must stalk

With white and empty hands;

And Rest must move forever,

And Peace assemble

Where the great guns boom and crash

And the brown rocks tremble.


No love have I

Whose heart was made for loving;

No lands have I

Whose foot was made for roving.

Lonely now I walk the street,

Cold with alien faces—

Lonely from the long defeat

And the yearning, bitter-sweet,

For the silent places.



Let Art awhile a gypsy be,

  And words a vagrant throng—

Let all the lure of Romany

  Come dancing up my song;

Come dancing zigzag on the breeze

  Like whimsy thistle-down,

And caring less than it to please

  The idlers of the town.


Let Art refresh our pallid schools

  With crimson of the heart—

Let her forsake her cramping rules

  And tear her measured chart;

And let her outcast brood of sound,

  That know the scoffer’s sneer,

On savage lute and lyre astound

  The little bards of fear.


Let Art regain her virgin flaw

  And lose her studied grace,

And run, a maiden nude, to awe

  The soulless market-place;

Let her tired hair unfold its braid

  And lie along the wind,

Until again we see the maid

  The Masters once designed.


We blush at passion in our runes,

  And daring fancies shun;

Yet rather than an age of moons

  Would I an hour of sun.

The droning scholars far too long

  Have ruled the rhymes of men:

Bring back the wayward flights of song

  And errant bards again.


Take me by the hand, you storm winds, take me madly by the hand;

Lead me out beyond the regions where the little rules command.

Lead me far beyond the city

With its hundred aisles of pity;

Take me as you take the legions of the dead leaves from the land.


I am sick of sniff and snivel; I am tired of withered prayers;

I would go where not a coward or a weakling ever dares.

Hurl me then beyond that station

At the rag-end of creation

Where the huts are snow-embowered and the arctic heaven flares.


I am weary of these females with the chatter of the ape,

With the wisdom of the gander in their gossip and their gape,

Turning virgins into harlots

Youths of beauty into varlets

With the brimstone of their slander and their tongue’s unpunished rape.


Better far a dusky savage, with clean hunger in his heart,

Than the inner shrine of Learning with the mildew on its art.

Better far the tom-tom’s beating

Than this academic bleating

That retards the spirit’s yearning with a soul-destroying chart.


Take me by the hand, you storm winds, take me fiercely by the hand:

Lead me far beyond this prating where my spirit may expand.

In the truthful, silent places

I will waken phantom faces

And forget the world of hating and the gossip-ridden land.


I am choking, O my lover, O you wind against my doors!

Lead me to the freer breathing of the little-peopled shores,

Far from these unlovely alleys

To the cedar-scented valleys

Where the mighty streams are seething and the tameless rapid roars.


Lead me far beyond these kingdoms that are lousy with their lords,

Out amid the kingly silence and the world’s untitled hordes,

Far away from Piccadilly

And the Duke of Willy-Nilly

And his children weak and silly—far from creeds and bloody swords.


Half the bodies draped in satin have the inner breed of sluts;

Half our rulers need the sunshine for the poison in their guts.

There is something in the birches

For the hungry soul that searches

That should empty all your churches lying idly in their ruts.


Better far a godless bastard, with his freedom in his hands,

Than the scion of the ages, bound and gagged with iron bands;

Better far the fool’s digression

Than the rigid Scotch confession,

Smeared with crimson of the sages who obeyed not its commands.


Silence, how I cry for silence! But the gods have hemmed me ’round

With the clamor of the builders and the street’s unceasing sound.

All I hate to me is given

And my soul is driven, driven

In a battle that bewilders and where evil deeds are crowned.


Here the dullards wrap in satins; here the fools are draped in lace;

Here the sages, weak with hunger, walk the valleys of disgrace.

Here the soul of mammon bosses,

Nailing gods and seers to crosses;

Here the hand of commerce tosses vitriol in the prophet’s face.


Better far the cosmic silence than our folly’s cultured note;

Better ages back of Lilith than the lie within the throat.

While the Pharisees are praying

Truth and Honor have gone straying,

And each jackass does his braying in a cleric tie and coat.


Lead me by the hand, you north winds, as you lead the flakes of snow;

Carve me with your touch of wonder as we wander to and fro;

Leave me far beyond the border

Of this civilized disorder

Where the soul is rent asunder by the thrust of friend and foe.


I am coming, O my lover—but I know my words are wild,

For I cannot find the gateway to the regions undefiled.

So I turn me back with sorrow,

But I’ll go with you to-morrow

To the wilderness, and borrow back the freedom of a child.


They wear velvet grave-clothes,

  Purple and blue and red;

For they are unaware

  That they are dead.


The scarecrow in the field,

  Blown by the wind,

Than these unburied dead

  Is not more blind.


They breathe and have no breath,

  They see and have no sight;

On them the sun and stars

  Waste all their light.


Their flesh is like a stone

  That sepulchres them in:

When it shall break they’ll come

  Out starved and thin.


Sometimes a living man

  Goes walking with these dead

And tries to speak a word

  The prophets said.


But these sleep far too well

  Ever to hear his cries;

The light hath fled for aye

  Their soulless eyes.


At twilight oft I go

  And sit beside a tomb,

And sing to joy once more

  My heart of gloom.


And when my feet return

  Unto the paths men tread

I feel as one who goes

  Back to the dead.


Pour not pity upon his head

Who hath no meat, or wine or bread;

But give him well of your gift of sorrow

Who never had need to beg or borrow,

And yet who hungers amid his store,

And starves and dies at his granary’s door.


Pity not him that has no bed

To soothe his limbs or ease his head,

But pity those spirits without number

Whose beds are soft and who cannot slumber—

Whose limbs are cooled by their linen’s snow,

Yet never an hour of rest may know.


Vagabond you and vagabond I,

Pillowed on grass and roofed by the sky,

And yet with slumber upon our pillow

And a servant’s hand in the fanning willow!

The vagabond’s morsel is never sour,

The vagabond’s couch is never hard;

There is no room in the castle’s tower

So fine as ours in the roofless yard.


Give thou this day to paganry thy heart,

And burn thy fool conventions in the sun.

A vagabond of freedom, rise and run,

And every prohibition tear apart.

Come, bid adieu to all that stifles art:

Kiss lovely women ere their beauty dies;

If truth is cold—then warm thy soul with lies

More lovely than a decalogue or chart!


Commandments are the safeguards of a fool.

The dreamer heeds them not, for he has found

One law in love that banishes them all.

His days are truant to all creed and rule;

And vagrantly he goes as that wild sound

When loons cry laughter at a world in thrall.


I walked into a cathedral’s eternal twilight,

Waded down an aisle flooding with sweet music

And whispered to a mortal at my side:

“Whom do you worship, pilgrim?” and the pilgrim said:

“I worship the Christ.”


With the sweet music bathing my temples,

And trickling like cool waters into the caverns of my heart,

I took a resting-place in the great, solemn sanctuary.

“I am full of worship,” I said, “and I must worship something.

I will learn of the Christ and perhaps I will worship Him.”


“I will tell you of Christ,” said the worshipper.

“Nay, tell me not,” I cried, “for I have read many histories of Him.

But, pilgrim, histories may lie, so I will learn of Him

From the actions of these who are His followers.”


And I watched the proud and the poor come into the place of worship.

And the proud assembled in the high places,

And the poor sat timidly in the shadows of the pillars.

And the proud chanted with a loud voice,

And the poor could scarcely be heard.


Then uprose a company of singers and they sang,

In the clear bird-tones of the morning of life:

“Glory to God in the highest.”

And the worshippers heard them not as they sang,

Because of their interest in one another.

Then a mortal, not unlike other mortals, came out and declaimed:

“Christ is God: will ye take the Christ into your hearts?”


And I arose and spoke unto the astonished multitudes:

“If Christ is God then are the heavens debased;

If Christ is man then is our manhood degraded,

For I behold He loveth the rich and despiseth the poor;

He loveth the fine garments of men

Better than the sweet incense of holy music—

Else why do the rich occupy all the high places in His house,

And why do so many notes of praise fly unnoticed unto God?”

And I passed out of the twilight temple into the morning of full light.

And as I departed I broke a puppet image of their Christ

On the hard pavement of the portals of their holy place.


Other voices, singing in unison, greeted me;

And I went into a sanctuary full of light.

Here the rich also held the more comfortable seats,

But the poor were bold and unashamed.

And a flippant creature with great power of lung

Trilled her own glory in the face of God.

And a mortal, not unlike other mortals, stood up and declaimed:

“Christ is God: will ye take the Christ into your hearts?

For if ye receive Him not into your unholy souls

Then shall the fires of hell consume you forever.”

And the men in the high places said “Amen” first,

And the men in the low places repeated “Amen.”

And then young men and women arose, one after the other,

And they all said with the same fervor: “I love the Christ.”

And I knew they spoke thus because fire is hot

And eternity is a long time.


And I arose and spoke also unto these peoples:

“If Christ is God then are the heavens debased;

If Christ is man then is our manhood degraded;

For I behold He loveth best those that speak the loudest,

He loveth a strong voice that lacks praise

Better than the poor, unmusical notes of the faithful.”

And, as I passed out of this temple into the sweet morning,

I picked up another puppet image of the Christ

And broke it on the hard pavement of the portals

Of their holy place.


Many holy places did I visit on that morning,

And every holy place possessed its puppet Christ,

And I left a dozen portals littered with fragments.

And still the day was young and I was full of worship.

“Something must I worship,” I said, and I went into the fields

And fell asleep under the trees and dreamed a dream.


In my dream I beheld all the broken puppets scattered over the field.

Then like a dead leaf in the wind an eye of one puppet arose

And an ear from another moved over and joined it.

And each broken puppet made its contribution;

And soon did a perfect figure appear. Then it moved,

Straightened into magnificent stature, and said:

“Lo! I am Jesus.”


And I asked: “Dost Thou love the rich better than the poor?”

And He smiled a great smile and said unto me:

“Art thou not poor and am I not come hither unto thee

Even at an hour when the temples are filled with worshippers!”

And again I said: “Jesus, tell me, art Thou God or man?”

And the figure replied: “Sayest thou I am God or sayest thou I am man?”

And I answered “God” and He stooped and kissed me.

And then I repented and said “Man,” and He kissed me again;

And the last kiss was sweeter than the first.


And He arose and said: “Follow Me,

And thou shalt hear what the churches think of the Christ.”

And the first church He entered was the mightiest church of all—

And He announced himself unto the people, saying:

“I am the Christ.”

And the assembled ones arose and cried with one voice:

“Thou hast the hair of Christ but thine eyes are not His eyes;

Depart, for thou art an impostor.”

And He left them with an old look of sorrow upon His face—

A look which a multitude of men on the Mount of Olives had once beheld.

And so He passed on to another body of worshippers,

But they too cried:

“Thou hast the eyes of Christ but not His hands.”

Thus none of the people would receive Him,

And He passed back to the field as lonesomely

As ever He passed through the weeping trees of Gethsemane.


And I awoke from my dream

And looked to see where the broken fragments were piled,

But where I dreamed they lay

Stood a mute chorus of white daisies, nodding in the wind.

And from their assent I knew that God was well pleased

With His Belovèd One,

Even as He had been well pleased with Him of old.


In a certain northern country called Canada, in the savage year 1919, certain barbarians took one hour and eleven minutes of God’s time to hang an Italian named Antonio Sprecage.

The stubbled Hemp-field called the wind

  That passed with moistened eyes:

“Go down to Bordeaux Gaol and find

  Where he, the dead man, lies.

Tell him my fields are shamed to-night

  Beneath the autumn skies.


“Tell him if I had known my strands

  Would weave a hangman’s coil

My seed had never groped its hands

  Up through the choking soil,

My fields had never burned at night

  Their lamps of silver oil.


“Was it for this I drank the sun

  Out of the Noon’s high cup?

Was it for this I lay against

  The mammalled wind, to sup?

Was it for this I braved the dark

  Till the bronze moon came up?


“Blest is the golden wheat that gives

  Red blood to good or ill,

And blest the weed that wastes her seed

  Upon the gypsied hill.

But I must stand with cursèd hand,

  For I was born to kill.


“To-night a cooling summer breeze

  Blows down from Saint Hilaire.

It blows to Bordeaux Gaol and through

  Her chamber of despair.

It blows across a grave whose sides

  A coat of quick-lime wear.


“It blows on your own sleeping boy

  And cools his fevered head;

Perhaps, when you are gone, he’ll go

  Less early to his bed—

When you are gone, some time, at dawn

  His hands may too be red.


“Or yet his hands may not be red

  But clean of ill design,

And still he’ll swing—a breathless thing—

  Upon the hangman’s line,

And join the guiltless host who poured

  Their pale unripened wine.


“I am the Hemp; God made me strong

  To swing the flowing sail,

To hold the mast against the blast

  He made me stout and hale.

And now He walks my stubbled fields

  And weeps for Bordeaux Gaol.


“They took my strands and made the rope;

  They made it white and strong—

Perhaps he too had done the same,

  In Naples, to a song,

Before his strangely-ventured life

  Had stumbled on the Wrong.


“I felt my fibre ’round his neck:

  His veins grew hard and black—

His tongue flew out and, with strong hands,

  They could not force it back—

It was a shame to keep outside

  Men waiting with a sack.


“An hour he battled with my rope—

  An endless hour of Time.

It was a shame to keep outside

  The men with sack and lime.

And yet I held so firm, his mouth

  Was dribbling with his slime.


“Was it for this I drank the sun

  Out of the Noon’s high cup?

Was it for this I lay against

  The mammalled wind, to sup?

Was it for this I braved the dark

  Till the bronze moon came up?”


The stubbled Hemp-field called the wind

  That passed with hurried stride:

“Go down to Bordeaux Gaol and find

  The man they killed,” she cried—

“Tell him my fields lie shamed to-night

  Beneath the moon’s white tide.”


If you are sure I’m down in Hell

  Wear mourning when I die,

And crape the door and toll the bell,

  And cast a doleful eye,

And shun the road of the dancing leaf,

  Where laughter loves to dwell;

For reason waits behind your grief

  If I am down in Hell.


But if you think I’m up in Heaven,

  Beyond the clouds’ white ships,

Put on a robe of colors seven

  And a new song on your lips,

And ring the bells with a hand gay,

  And lift the red flags high

For one who tossed his flesh away

  To prove he could not die.


Away with these barbaric rites

  Bequeathed us like a curse:

The tolling belfry that affrights,

  The black and gloomy hearse,

The granite shaft and marble vault,

  The weeping march from Saul,

The slow procession that doth halt

  Beside the abbey wall.


Upon our doorsteps lies each day

  Some wounded child of Truth;

And Beauty burns its soul away

  With every step from youth;

And Honor dies and no one cares;

  Yet when our dust would sleep

The men go chanting woful airs

  And all the women weep.


Mark not my body’s final bed,

  Nor let the place be known,

Nor light it with one rose of red,

  Nor weight it with a stone.

But take my songs where’er you go

  And sing them to the sky,

And from their beauty you shall know

  A poet cannot die.


How shall we keep it—

This power we have gained?

“With steel-lipped guns

And with men well trained,

With wave-smashing battleships,

With wind-smashing aircraft,

Red rum on our hips,

Battle-songs on our lips:

That’s the way we’ll keep it,”

The War Men laughed.


But the world is heavy

With a dead, cold host

Who died sword-weary,

Who died gun-weary,

Who died ere their time

To the deep, dull rhyme

Of the War Man’s boast


These did not keep it—

The power they had gained

With full-throated gun-song,

Blood-spouting bayonets

And men well trained:

These did not keep it—

The power they had gained.


And here we stand,

Nineteen Twenty-Six,

Hemmed in with steel guns

And full of the old tricks;

Holding here a hand-grenade,

Holding there a crucifix.


If the indignities and cruelties that were heaped upon conscientious objectors during the Great War were fully revealed, they would form a fitting sequel to the atrocities of the Inquisition. Historians have carefully kept silence on this subject, but the spectacle of men being driven insane by the brutality of military officials, because they believed in the message of One, Jesus of Nazareth, will not recommend our civilization to the more humane ages that are to be.

We hold in memory all the whiter moons,

And store them with the red and golden eves,

With the dew-drinking morns, the higher noons

That brew their languid dreams in cooling leaves.

And thus I keep one night from Lethe’s arms,

For that white flower she wore—

That mystic, moon-blown lily whose pale charms

Fell on the stained stone and blackened wood,

And on the yellow pavement where I stood

By Notre Dame and her wide, open door.


It was a Sabbath evening, calm and cool;

And from the great cathedral poured that stream

Of older children, passing out from school,

To laugh and weep, and some—a few—to dream:

An uninspiring sea of heavy eyes,

Tired in an iron age,

And lost to every wonder and surprise—

Lost to the wildness of a winter’s day,

Lost to the fragrant loveliness of May,

Lost to the poet’s lyric, laughing page.


Were there then none among these mortal men,

Whose voices droned in that great, common choir,

To rouse the sullen flowing of my pen

With that pure passion of the Doric fire?

And then, in spirit alien to the throng

That filled the narrow aisle,

A youth of strangest beauty passed along,

And some one turned and shouted: “That is he—

A dog of peace—the poet, Paul Dupris.”

And Paul, who heard them, answered with a smile.


There rose the Mount of Olives in that look,

And I drew near and spoke the poet’s name;

And he, as though he knew me, gently took

My arm and walked with me until we came

To flaming woodlands slowly sloping down

From that pine-pillared hill

That holds her silence proudly from the town.

And there we talked of themes unknown to men:

Of how the will of Christ would come again

When khakied hosts no more went out to kill.


I learned to know him well within that hour,

And to his humble dwelling we returned—

A darkened haunt on Bleury, where the flower

Of his high, musing spirit long had burned.

And in a room of simple taste and fare,

And ’mid her vellum choir,

Whose magic songs have eased a world’s despair,

Before a luscious board of fig and date

And amber honey, curving on the plate,

We eased the frugal heart of our desire.


I saw him often in that passing year:

There seemed no secret place but knew him well.

Sometimes I caught him standing rapt to hear

The plaintive tone of some wood vesper-bell—

And often, on the road to Saint Hilaire,

When the gold tides of wheat

Wash the hot sandals of the summer air,

And the frail flowers have lost their power to dance,

I’ve heard him chanting runes of ancient France;

And always, when I met him, life grew sweet.


And once he held me in as strange a tale

As haunts the fragrant pages of romance:

How, in a woodland nook called Ardenvale,

A maid once trembled at his swift advance;

How, oft, he passed the girl and how her fear

Grew gentler, day by day,

Until he knew she cared to have him near;

And how, upon her path, a fallen glove

Brought forth the word that led them up to love;

And how her heart had cast that love away.


He opened wide his coat and I could see

A long, white feather pinned against his heart.

“This was her gift of scorn,” he said to me,

“And ’tis forever, I know well, we part.

I had not gone to fight in this world woe,

Because of words One said

By Galilee, two thousand years ago.”

A mile we walked and spoke no more, and then

We parted and I saw him not again

Until the night when blood was on his head.


It was a winter evening, gaunt and lean,

And shouting men were passing by my door;

And, carried on the breezes cold and keen,

I heard the poet’s name above the roar.

And in the human tide I bathed my feet

And came to Notre Dame—

And there, upon the street’s white-woven sheet,

I saw the lifeless form of Paul Dupris,

And on his breast, for any eye to see,

The feather she had given for his shame.


“They killed him,” sobbed a woman, “for he cried:

‘There is no sword in Christ’s diviner law.’ ”

“God grant him peace, which here he was denied,”

Whispered a gaunt old riverman in awe.

And some new Mary of our later day,

Sad for the spilled life-wine,

Dewed, with her tears, the stone on which he lay.

And the white moon dropped the rare flower she wore

Upon his breast; and through the abbey’s door

Came music, searching for a soul divine.


But in my dreams that night an angel knelt

Beside the dead, and touched the badge of shame,

And in her tapered hands I saw it melt

And change into a cross whereon his name

Was burned in living letters, pure as light

At dawn upon the sea;

And it was made from gold of flawless white

Such as no cave of earth was ever known

To hold within its coldest depth of stone;

And it was graved: “For valor; Paul Dupris.”


And, in my dreams, that messenger divine

Cried sadly to the hosts, now cowed and still:

“When will ye learn that man may grow so fine

That Hell’s own legions could not make him kill?

This man was more to Nature than her flowers,

And dearer to the spring

Than April and her lilt of laughing showers;

Richer to autumn than her cloak of gold.

And, if the winds could speak, their tongues had told

How at his feet a wounded bird would sing.”


The years have passed and now I walk alone

Along fair Côte-de-Neiges and up the hill,

And by the river marges making moan,

And in the deeper woods of Cartierville.

And once I sought, upon a summer’s eve,

The acre of his rest—

And found another soul had come to grieve;

And watched her, through the scented, swaying trees,

Pour out her grief in white anemones

And lilies wet from no fair woodland’s breast.


Age is in their wasted features;

  Terror dulls their piercing cries:

Little children, loved of Jesus,

  Falling, nevermore to rise.

Look, the sunlight now is pouring

  In their cups of sunken eyes!


We, who feel our tables groaning

  With their wealth of meat and grain,

What care we of gentle children

  By the breath of famine slain?

What to us the tombless graveyards

  On Samara’s frozen plain?


All day long the white-rimmed Volga

  With a ghastly meal is fed.

All night long she moveth seaward

  With her crop of bloated dead,

Holding up their sores in pity

  To the cold moon overhead.


Frozen sores with awful gaping;

  Twisted faces carved with pain;

Wasted limbs and swollen bellies:

  Here are Russia’s sleeping swain.

Can we on the day of Judgment

  Cleanse our garments of this stain?


Miles and miles of moonlight glowing

  On a far more ghostly hue;

Miles and miles of smoking snowbanks

  With dead hands protruding through:

Dumb, dead hands that plead in silence

  To the soul in me and you.


There’s a land where sorrow’s children

  Never knew the foot of play—

I can hear them slowly, slowly,

  In their ghostlike bodies pray

For the crumbs our burdened tables

  In the feast-hour cast away.


Olga might have been your daughter:

  O her wealth of golden hair!

When you think of children’s laughter

  Can you leave her dying there

Where the Volga waits to take her

  On that last ride of despair.


Everywhere tall pines are moaning,

  In that land of awful curse,

And they sway like plumes of blackness

  On a never-moving hearse;

And the music of their grieving

  Wanders wildly in my verse.


We can rub our hands as Pilates

  But, from that far wailing shore,

God will bear the Volga’s burden

  Unto every Christian’s door;

And the dead upon our thresholds

  Will remain forevermore.


But the preachers go on praying

  And the little peoples die;

And the children, frail as moonlight,

  Vainly, with their thin lips cry,

Vainly plead their swollen faces

  To a sullen winter sky.


And the Volga moves to seaward

  With her crop of bloated dead,

Holding up their sores in pity

  To a cold moon overhead;

For the nations have forgotten

  What the Master, Jesus, said.


His boyhood held high vision of the gods,

And many years of manhood found him true

To one lone purpose which his spirit knew

To be with most existing things at odds.

And then he wearied of the ungrateful clods,

And, sipping a royal favor, found it sweet;

And now, oblivious wholly of the street,

And traitor to his heroic years, he nods.


The brave young man of Manchester turned away

To hear the singing sirens of applause

And lie against their bosoms and their hair;

Nor knew there comes an inevitable day

When Triumph with her fickle soul withdraws

And, going, leaves but silence and despair.


I hear the sound of the breaking of glass,

The crushing of stone, the falling of bridges,

The hurrying of people to and fro.

I see the last Reactionary sitting upon a pile of dead men

Which his own hands have slain,

And hear him plead to save his soulless flesh.


Then I stand in the midst of a great, beautiful silence,

And I hear the calmness broken by the marching of distant feet,

And out of the Unknown comes a magnificent host,

Sun-helmed, and leaning on the staff of the wind;

And these are the men who shall make the New Communities.


And they shall come without sword in either hand;

And their garb shall be as humble as the gray of the wren,

But their songs shall come down the spiral stair of the nightingale:

Their feet shall be shod with sandals, scented

With the pungent beauty of the paths they pursue;

They shall separate and each man shall go to his own acre,

And, wherever they go, the yellow corn to the young dawn shall sing.


In that day shall the cities shrivel and the iron rust,

And the picture-houses shall lock up their doors;

The flaming magazines will cease to oil their presses,

The gramophones will hush their gnawing voices;

And no flag shall fly to separate the wind

Or to keep the tide of peoples apart.

And gold and silver shall be then no more;

And the fools shall call in their ships from the air,

And the pleasure motors from the highways;

And men shall walk, as Enoch walked, with God.


Now do we see the materialist almost at the summit of his power:

Then shall we see him on his last couch of gold.

Even now he goes over the dizzy heights

To the quick pathway of his sure descent—

And when he goes only his kind shall mourn.

But not until after he is gone shall the hand hold charity,

The brow burn wisdom, the foot scatter kindness,

Or the yellow corn sing freely to the young dawn.


In the New Community all shall be given cloth for their garments,—

Which may be fashioned after the wearer’s own taste,

But no one shall add to these garments, or exchange,

Lest the old idolatry of ribbon and beads return.

Then will the eye go searching for the soul

In every passing mortal, and comradeship shall be chosen

From preference for one weave of spirit over another;

And none shall crave for jewels, for all shall see

The finger’s tapering beauty and the neck’s white, sloping charm

Formed in the image of an unjewelled God.


And the youths, who now so unevenly

Start in the race of life, shall toe a line together;

And privilege will come to none or to all,

And knowledge will not be whispered in favored ears

But from the housetops will it gladly speak.

Then shall the genius wear his crown of bays;

Then shall the studious gain his larger portion;

Then shall the dullard find no fair excuse,

And change his dullard ways for shame of men.


And there shall be no prisons in the New Communities,

For all who break the law are sick or rebels,

And here shall no cause for rebellion be found,

And the sick will be washed in a great sea of grass,

And their bodies shall be perfumed with wild flowers,

And the fingers of love will straighten their foreheads,

And the outcast look will be kissed away from their eyes.


And the tables in the New Communities will be spread with white linen,

With oaten cakes and figs and the honey-in-comb,

With greens that crisp in salad of the dew,

With nuts and red-cheeked apples, to make glad;

And the sun’s rays alone shall serve the feast,

And pot and pan and oven shall be no more.


The lamb will no more look up wistfully at the descending axe

And the birds will sing blithely over the banquet-hall.

And none shall use unripened things or condiments;

And thirst shall call to the udder and the bubbling spring

And to the purple vineyards on the hillside;

And the feasters shall arise from the table with bright eyes,

Their breath shall be pure as the breath of the ox,

Their teeth shall be white as the teeth of savages,

Their blood shall make rose petals of their limbs.


In those days shall no rail be laid in all the world;

But the highways will be broadened and the roads smoothed to glass,

And all the motors will whirl in the public cause.

Then few things will be imported into any land:

The north shall send furs and grain to the south,

And the south shall send nuts and cotton and fruit to the north.

Then the grain will be crushed again between stones,

And the pecan-tree shall stand in every orchard—

And each community shall be a world unto itself,

And dress after its own pleasure and live after its own heart.


And in each community I see five great temples,

Like five great fountains flowing with moonbeams—

And their shining domes shall suck all the light from the moon

And leave it a bloodless thing in the morning sky.

The pillars of these temples shall lift nobility

Out of the grovelling soul, and their domes shall expand thought

And free her from her warped confines forever.

And the first temple shall echo with the feet of Pan;

And Terpsichore shall stand at the portals of the second,

With Euterpe, gowned in white rhythm, at her side;

And they who rob the rainbow shall slant their easels

In the unhindered beauty of the third;

And the fourth temple shall surround a solitary Cross,

Lest any man forget the price One paid

To lead the world up to the New Communities.

Then through a great doorway, made of stone and brass,

Shall we pass into the fifth temple, and, having passed,

Find ourselves domed with blue sky and comraded by trees

And cloaked with the spindrift of white, breaking waters;

And there shall each man walk sun-helmed,

And girdled with tall grasses and leaning on the staff of the wind.


And they shall walk without sword in either hand.

Their garb shall be humble as the gray of the wren,

But their songs shall come down the spiral stair of the nightingale;

Their feet shall be shod with sandals, scented

With the pungent beauty of the paths they pursue—

And, wherever they go, the yellow corn to the young dawn shall sing.


The heralds of dawn are blowing at the last star;

When it goes out the masks will come off

And the dancers will lean homeward on their weariness.


All who dance at the Ball of Life are masked

Save the children and the poets and dreamers

And a few old men and women.


Sometimes a daring soul tugs at his mask;

And the smart young fellows chide him and he hesitates,

And the gay young ladies taunt him and he desists.


No man can see God through a mask:

No man can enter Heaven who is masked:

But God and Heaven are small things at the Masked Ball.


When the masks are tossed away I shall see

The lovely, grown hideous—the hideous, lovely.

O, the joy when I shall behold nakedness of soul!


Then shall I observe the courage of the coward

And the timidity of the brave man.

O, the joy when I shall behold nakedness of soul!


Then shall I discover the purity of harlots

And the lewdness of men at their morning prayers.

O, the joy when I shall behold nakedness of soul!


A mask is a hiding-place from truth,

From virtue, from honor:

It hates the nudity of love and the nakedness of kindness.


At the Masked Ball the false are the proudest

Of flesh, and their limbs are all beauty—

Their breasts are abundant, their fingers are tapered.


But when the masks are torn from their eyes

Their flesh will be foul and their limbs will be laggard,

And their breasts will be milkless and withered.


If Jesus should come to-day He would say:

“Tear off the masks.”

And the Pharisees would lift another cross against the sky.


Masks, masks, masks!

How He hated them—this Man of the Desert

Who came once and danced with us at the Masked Ball.


Comrades, I warn you the Masked Ball is near an end—

The heralds of dawn are blowing at the last star;

When it goes out the masks will come off

And the dancers will lean homeward on their weariness.


In one swift leap of shining steel

  Three thousand miles were tossed away;

And now, at eventide, I feel

  Once more the sands of English Bay.


Last night my swaying couch was spread

  So very near the journeying stars

That I could almost feel their tread

  Above our long, luxurious cars.


O wildest joy that man can reach:

  To swing at noon through blazing snows

And hear, at eventide, the speech

  Of sea-waves chanting to a rose.


Who dropped these rails from star to sea

  Had surely felt the cascade’s thrill;

Had known the eagle’s ecstasy

  In that long mounting of the hill.


O shining rails that led me far

  To tilt in larger lands with Fate!

The spirit of the evening star

  At both our comings is elate.


How sweet to race the rising sun

  That flees with me the shambled East!

Better the banquet just begun

  Than debris of an ancient feast.


O blessed fount of beauty broken

  For him who dwells beside the sea:

In weary hours my heart has spoken

  Only forever there to be.


And yet, amid warm gardens fraught

  With heavy blooms of tropic dyes,

I sometimes have a yearning thought

  For sullen winds and frozen skies.


And sometimes, where the arbutus flings

  Away her bark at winter’s call,

My hands upreach for ice that clings

  Against the coldest mountain wall.


What contradictions haunt the steel

  That tossed three thousand miles away!

At dawn the star-dust on my heel;

  At night the sands of English Bay.


Age shall never come near my soul,

With his bent form and his dim eye

And his beard of yellow flowing;

Young as the ancient seas that roll

I shall go to my valiant goal,

Whether a blue or a grim sky

Waits for my hour of going.

Sandalled with loam

And helmed with sun

I’ll turn home

When my day is done:

The last hill won shall hear me sing

A song as bold as an eagle’s wing—

A song that dares

A world of cares

And the tempests ’round me blowing.


The youngest thing in a youthful world

Is a young soul in an old heart;

Full statured at the ending.

Through the flaming years is my spirit hurled—

A homing stone in an alien world,

That leaps to God like a flung dart

Back from His love’s own sending.

To-night the veins

Of the world are white,

For her blood now drains

At the door of night:

I warm my sight at the painted cloud,

My heart beats strong and the wind beats loud—

And here outrolled

Are caldrons of gold,

And all for my pleasant spending.


As the stars go out so let me go

With a quick leap and a clear light

And a joyous understanding—

My form erect in the driving snow

And the winds that over the borders blow,

Whether by day or by drear night

I make my lonely landing.

You shall not know

That I am old

By word of woe

Or hands grown cold;

But swift and bold, as when a boy,

I’ll make the Last Portage with joy—

And I’ll find there

White-robed and fair

The Lord of Life commanding.


Mis-spelled words and printer errors have been corrected. Where multiple spellings occur, majority use has been employed.

Inconsistency in accents has been retained.

Inconsistency in hyphenation has been retained.

[The end of Out of the Wilderness by Wilson Pugsley MacDonald]