Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets
Bittersweet
2nd Aug 2013Posted in: Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets 0

The RYERSON
POETRY
CHAP–BOOKS:
Bittersweet

By
ELSIE WOODLEY
[unnumbered page]

OF THIS EDITION OF BITTERSWEET,
BY ELSIE WOODLEY, TWO HUNDRED
AND FIFTY COPIES HAVE
BEEN PRINTED. THIS CHAP–BOOK IS
A PRODUCT OF THE RYERSON PRESS.
TORONTO, CANADA
1930

Bittersweet is the first offering of Miss Elsie Woodley, daughter of
E.C. Woodley, M.A., of the Department of Education, Quebec
[unnumbered page]

The RYERSON
POETRY
CHAP-BOOKS:
Bittersweet
by Elsie Woodley
***
THESE THREE

FROM the mountains at the dawning
Bright came Joy;
Sang, and singing bade me follow,
Offered me the World for toy.

From the highway at the noonday
Swift ran Fame;
Laughed, and laughing spread before me
Gold and honour, deathless name.

From the valley came the evening
Love’s footfall;
Softly spake Love, “Wouldst thou have me,
Giving, thou must give thine all.”

Joy was fair, and very pleasant 
Fame’s prize sweet;
Yet’ beyond the fading sunset,
I must follow Love’s dear feet. [page 1]

THE SUBLIME HAZARD

FATHER, forgive us for our timid ways, 
Our minds that falter, eyes that turn aside
And will not see the task that thou hast set,
Our feet that weary of the mountain path
And seek the lowland roads that all men know.
Forgive us, Lord, that in our indolence 
We say, “All times our fathers were content
To walk the trodden ways. There let us walk.”
And speaking so, we wall ourselves about 
With petty things, and make ourselves secure
From sudden, unexpected joys and fears;
And out of self–complacency we forge 
A shield that even Pain, the surest blade
In all thine arsenal, can scarce pierce through.
Take these things from us, Lord, and grant instead
The heart that gives and never counts the cost,
That risks its very life upon one chance,
That dares the high adventure, reckless wise,
And laughing says, “Why, if one life be all, 
I’ll spend it freely. What I spend I have.
Yes, and I’ll spend it, too, upon the chance
That other lives shall pay this back and more,
If there be no more lives, why then, I’ve lost 
The wager, but the game at least was good.”
So only may we drain the brimming cup
Of life, and drink with fierce, keener joy,
When it grows bitter, and the blood–red wine 
Savours of wormwood and the salt of tears; 
Our one great hope that in its utmost depths 
A sweetness lingers, sweeter than the first 
Richness we tasted when the cup was full.

***

AFTER THE LIGHT

AFTER the light the dark,
After the sun the rain,
After love’s perfect joy
Love’s utter pain.

Yet after death comes life,
Flowers where sun has lain;–
Oh, after bitter grief
Comes joy again? [page 2]

THE OLD ROAD

WHEN we went down the old Road the leaf was on the tree,
The white–wing gulls went wheeling above the summer sea,
The sky was a cup of happiness, the earth a golden toy,
For Youth was hot, and Laughter sweet, and the end of the 
     Road was Joy.

But farther down the old Road the blue skies turned gray,
And we came out on a treeless track, a strange and stony way;
Then we parted in the twilight, and we wept the bitter loss,
For Youth grows old, and Laughter dies, and the end of the
     Road is a Cross.

Now we go down the old Road alone and far apart,
And we smile, though sorrow meet us in field and house and mart;
And our Cross grows bright and gleaming, a star in the sky above,
For the path is steep, and the way is rough, but the end of the
     Road is Love.

***

BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET, bittersweet,
Crimson flames all down the street,
And in my heart a memory flames,
Bittersweet.

Sweet in the springtime woke our love’s first smile,
Gay in the summer danced its little while;
Sweet of its budding, sweet of its prime,
Will you remember, in after-time?

Bitter in autumn came sad love’s defeat;
Rue was our harvest, not the sun-bright wheat:
Bitter of autumn, tears’ bitter rime,
Will you remember, in after-time?

Bittersweet, bittersweet,
Crimson flames all down the street,
And in my heart a memory flames,
Bittersweet. [page 3]

 

ILIAD, BOOK 22

                                       “Thus they twain sped ever, past the watch-place
                                                   and the wind-blown wild fig-tree.”
THE seed first, then the tree grows, then the birds
Nest in the branches, and at evening time 
Mingle their singing with the church-bell’s chime
And with the lowing of home-seeking herds.

All this for many summers; and young trees
Grow old, and die, and moulder into earth;
New trees, new flowers, all new things have birth,
And other herds move home across the leas.

Yet all the gusts of Time cannot destroy
One wind-blown fig-tree on the plains of Troy.

***

PERSEPHONE TIRED

DAY is not always sweet, nor life forever kind;
Tired are my eyes with light, with restlessness my mind,
So I’ll go home:	

Home to my land of shades, where, in one peaceful night
Silent the endless hours go past, and yet their flight 
Brings never pain;

Where are no harsh degrees of light and sudden dark, 
Only the watching eye, without such change, may mark
Shadows more deep.

Surely the gods are wise, who in an age long past
Framed so the place to which men come at last,
Wearied of day.

Home will I go; and in that shadow land
Meet one who waits for me with outstretched hand,
My lover, Death. [page 4]

 

LOVE AND LIVE

(From the Latin of Catullus)

 

OLESBIA mine, let’s live, yes, and let’s love;
Count up the gossip tales of harsh old men 
As worth–a penny, say! The sun above 
Can sink from sight and yet return again:
For us, when sink our sun’s quick-drying rays,
Night is unending, with no dawning days,
And we must sleep it through. So, now, a Kiss!
A thousand Kisses, then a hundred more,
Another thousand will not come amiss!
When we’re done kissing we’ll confuse the score,
And not keep count, less crabbèd age should know
Kisses are many, and should envious grow.

***

WHEN GOD LAUGHS

ONCE on a shining day I heard a child
Laugh, and the world stood suddenly revealed 
Gleaming, a place of wonder, strange and wild
With laughter shaken from golden stars,
And mirth that lurked in deeps of earth concealed.

Then I stood free; and weariness drew back,
Leaving to me the marvel in the sod,
Laughter that rolls in storm-cloud’s whirling wrack,
And, head flung back in joyousness, I heard 
The wonder-filled, earth-shaking mirth of God.

***

DEIRDRÊ’S SONG

DOWN drift the leaves, wearied and sad and pale;
Down drift the leaves, summer’s bright fruits must fail;
Flowers must die; dreams in their death must break
Hearts that were gay, gay as the leaves that shake 
Shadows on summer’s grasses. Joy is dead.

Joyless the world, colourless, gray, and cold;
Cold is my heart, like the poor world grown old;
Never a leaf left on the tree’s bare bough,
Never a hope lighting my darkness now.
Down on the earth in pity falls the snow. [page 5]

 

A LEAF FROM HORACE.

O SEEK not thou, Leuconoë, to know 
What is forbid; that is, what course of life 
The gods have set for thee, for me, to go.
Try not the Babylonish numbers rife 
With superstition. Nay! ‘tis better far
To take whate’er may come, with strength steadfast.
Granted to thee, or whether this thy last 
Dashes the Tuscan wave against the might 
Of hostile rocks–be wise! Strain the wine’s red,
Cut down far-reaching hope: swift comes the night!
While yet we speak begrudging Time has fled;
Grasp, grasp this day, trust not the one ahead.

***

EVENING

(lac des Iles)

YONDER the hills are spreading misty shadows 
Down on the waters rippling in the vale;
Sweet is the lake–land, pleasant are the meadows,
Green are the leaves on birch trees in the dale.
Gently at evening comes a peace descending,
Forest and waters quiet lie and sleep;
Far heard and near the woodland sounds are blending 
Onto the living hush that night holds deep.

***

THE NYMPHS OF PAN

SISTERS, have you seen him where the gray wolf prowls?
     Fear, little sisters, he is Fear.
You will hear his laughter when the lone wolf howls;
Loud he laughs, and hearts grow chill
When they hear Pan’s laughter shrill.
     Fear, little sisters, he is Fear.

Sisters, have you seen him where the shy fawns sleep?
     Love, little sisters, he is Love.
You will see him watching in the shadows deep:
There he watches through the night
That no creature may feel fright.
     Love, little sisters, he is Love. [page 6]

Sisters have you seen him when the wild rose flowers?
     Joy, little sisters, he is Joy.
Watch him as he dances in the summer showers,
Singing, playing on his pipe,
When the purple grape grows ripe.
     Joy, little sisters, he is Joy.

Sisters, have you seen his eyes when mortals cry?
     Pain, little sisters, he is Pain.
He is watching always when small things die;
He is there when dangers creep
On the sleeping, harmless sheep.
     Pain, little sister, he is Pain.

Sisters, he is Fear, and Love, and Joy, and Pain;
     Life, little sisters, he is Life.
Lord of field and flood and mountain, all that lives his toy;
He is old, yet young as well,
He has wisdom none can tell.
     Life, little sisters, he is Life.

***

THE GARDEN OF SLEEP

DOWN by the sea the poppies grow,
White poppies grow,
Red poppies blow;
And ever by the water-side
Whispers the tide.

What does the sea cry, sobbing low,
Hushing its flow,
Whispering so?
It tells of long and aching years
Filled full of tears.

Yet by the sea the poppies grow.
White poppies grow,
Red poppies blow,
And give the tide’s long wailing sweep
Their answer, “Sleep.” [page 7]

MONA LISA

BEHIND thee loom the dim, grey lands of tears,
That in thine eyes have left their only trace 
In calm, and pay with wisdom their arrears
Of heart–wrung agony. All still thou art:
Yet strength and knowledge glimmer on thy face
In that veiled smile that says “I have had part
In all the madness of this strange. and mad life;
Known fear, and love, and hate, and the alarms
Of time; have seen how, like the shifting sands,
It goes, and snares all loved things from our arms.”
Mother of Wisdom, lift thy folded hands
So patient strong, and touch my weary head,
And tell me, though Time’s river should run red
With blood from grief-torn hearts, yet sorrow fills 
Man’s heart with wisdom like the ancient hills.

***

NON NOBIS

NOT unto us, O Lord, but unto Thee
Be glory given of our morning days;
When with sure joyous tread,
And proudly lifted head,
We go a-dancing down the golden ways
Of laughter, Love, and song.

Not unto us, O Lord, but unto Thee
Be glory, too, of our slow-dropping tears,
When, heads bowed down in grief,
We see our harvest sheaf 
Grow heavy with the sorrow–weighted years
Of bitterness and woe.

Not unto us, O Lord, but unto Thee!
The cry goes up mingled of loss and gain;
For when our joys ebb swift,
Then shall our sorrows lift
A chorded song made mightier by our pain,
And praise be given Thee. [page 8]

THE RYERSON POETRY

CHAP-BOOKS

Lorne Pierce–Editor


*THE SWEET O’ THE YEAR

By Charles G.D. Roberts

COMPANIONSHIP AND THE CROWD

By W.H.F. Tenny

FORFEIT AND OTHER POEMS

By Kathryn Munro

*THE EAR TRUMPET

By Annie C. Dalton

*THE PROPHET’S MAN

By W.V. Newson

SHEEP–FOLD

By Geoffrey B. Riddehough

*THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS

By Leo Cox

BY COBEQUID BAY

By Agnes Joynes

TWELVE POEMS

By Alexander Louis Fraser

SONGS FOR SWIFT FEET

By Esme Isles-Brown

ECSTASY AND OTHER POEMS

By Gostwick Roberts

*BITS O’VERSE IN SCOTS

By Elaine M. Catley

*DESTINY AND OTHER POEMS

By Mary Matheson

FOWLS O’ THE AIR

By William P. McKenzie

*THE BATTLE OF ST. JULIEN

By Kate Colquhoun

SPENDTHRIFTS

By Guy Mason

THE TIDE OF LOVE

By Thomas O’Hagan

FRAGMENTS OF FANTASY

By Nelda MacKinnon Sage

*XII POEMS

By F. Elsie Laurence

COSMIC ORATORY

By “Regis”

THE VIKING’S BRIDE

By Winifred Stevens

*THE BLUE–WALLED VALLEY

By May P. Judge

IN MY GARDEN

By Jean Kilby Rorison

THE IMMIGRANTS

By Marie Zibeth Colman

THE ARBUTUS TREE

By John Hosie

MONSERRAT

By William Edwin Collin

BITTERSWEET

By Elsie Woodley

THE AULD FOWK

By William P. McKenzie

Fifty cents


*A POOL OF STARS

By Lionel Stevenson

*SPRING IN SAVARY

By Alice Brewer

*THE CAPTIVE GYPSY

By Constance Davies-Woodrow

THE LOST SHIPMATE

By Theodore Goodridge Roberts

*A BREATH IN THE WOODS

By Lilian Leveridge

*VAGRANT

By Frederick B. Watt

WHAT-NOTS

By Geoffrey Warburton Cox

*TWENTY AND AFTER

By Nathaniel A. Benson

THE CRY OF INSURGENT YOUTH

                                                              By Guy Mason

THE POET CONFIDES

By H.T.J. Coleman

LATER POEMS

By Frances Harrison (Seranus)

THE FOUNTAIN (A Dramatic Fantasy)

By H.L. Huxtable

MAGIC HILL AND OTHER POEMS

By Mary Matheson

*A SHEAF OF VERSE

By the Carillion Group of the

                        Writers’ Craft Club

Sixty cents


*SONGS

By John Hanlon

*OTHER SONGS

By John Hanlon

COCKLE–SHELL AND SANDAL–SHOON

By H.T.J. Coleman

*WAIFS OF THE MIND

By W.V. Newson

Seventy cents


PAUL PERO

By R.D. Cumming

THE WANDERER AND OTHER POEMS

By Nathaniel A. Benson

One Dollar

*The Chap–books marked with an asterisk are now out of print.

[unnumbered page]

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