Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets
Eager Footsteps
15th Aug 2013Posted in: Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets 0

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Eager Footsteps
by Anne Elizabeth Wilson

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Eager Footsteps
by Anne Elizabeth Wilson
Published at Toronto
by The Musson Book Company Ltd.
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Copyright, Canada, 1924
By The Musson Book Company Ltd., Toronto
Printed in Canada
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TO
MY FATHER, ROBERT BURNS WILSON
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Acknowledgements are made to Poetry, The Stratford Monthly, The Canadian Magazine, Everywoman’s World, and The Quill, in whose pages these poems first appeared. [unnumbered page]

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Contents

LITTLE SONGS

PAGE

EAGER FOOTSTEPS

13

THE SWEET LADY

15

GRISETTE

16

THE FORTUNATES

17

MISSED

18

FOUR WALLS

19

THE BEGGAR HEART

20

THE GIFT

21

A SORRY THING

22

FUR AND FEATHER

IN A MUSEUM (To the Mummy of a Sacred Cat)

25

STARLINGS

29

OTHER POEMS

TO A LIFE MASK OF KEATS

33

GOD TO TIRED WINGS

35

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FOLLY

36

CHANGED (To a Place by the Sea)

37

RECOMPENSE

40

MEMORY

41

SLEEP

42

TWO CHILDREN

44

TEARS

45

THE SENTRY ANGEL

47


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Little Songs
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Eager Footsteps
(To Jane)

I CHARGE you now, about your thoughts of me
When soon or late,
I lose the wish for this mortality
And humour fate
By giving up my breath.
Dear friends, believe me
I shall have no hate
For that most whimsical of angels, Death.

It was by blessing, (so remember this)
That eager footsteps brought
And shall have sent me hence.
They led me early into ways of bliss,
And what with loss and what with recompense
They taught me all the wonder of the quest.
(Oh they were sandaled with rare exigence!)
They shall not be dismayed at finding rest.

And so if you should ever wish to make
A little epitaph or say [page 13] 
A word or two of memory for my sake,
Have it, I pray,
That I should venture sweet.
“This one,” write down, and I
Shall thank you in some way,
“This one had eager feet.” [page 14]

 

The Sweet Lady.

SHE is so gay—
Such sweetness falls away
From her! Her words are simple as a little wind
That sings all day.
Such lazy kindliness she spreads about,
As thoughtless as her hands that twine
And turn their pink palms in and out.
Such loving weariness has she
Of giving sweetness forth unthinkingly,
That she is almost sad—still smiling sad,
Tired with her all-unknowing ministry. [page 15]

 

Grisette

 

TO you I bring the little things I have,
Such as they be;	
And yet, to you, the littlest I can give
Is all of me!
I stay with you to do the little things I can—
For I can sing,
Or tilt a cup of water on your flower-sill
Or mend, or send a samovar awhispering—
Such little things I bring. [page 16]

 

The Fortunates

 

(By the Passerby)

WELL, anyway, they have a house,
And maybe flower beds behind.
They might keep rabbits or a goat—
They shouldn’t mind!

And they have windows curtained up
That twinkle like mirth-lighted eyes.
They have an old vase on the porch—
They’re rather wise.

I see they have a violin,
And foot-worn rugs and earthenware.
They have a baby too—well then—
They shouldn’t care! [page 17]

 

Missed

THE mother-arms are born, not made;
The mother-flame burns bright unfed,
And there’s a sweet place hollowed out
Somewhere, for every little head.
The mother-tears are lived, not shed
When little heads go otherwhere,
And little heads who miss that place
Can never know what waited there. [page 18]

 

Four Walls

FOUR walls that close me in—
And you, belov’d, without!
They are most bleak and empty then,
And I am sick with doubt
If they are gay enough for you
With my poor garlands hung about.

Four walls—and you within!
Ah love, they make a place
Of gold and incense
And the light upon your face
Warms me like a living sun
And fills my humbleness with grace. [page 19]

 

The Beggar Heart

GIVE me your hand—no more—the warmth inside;
Give me, I ask it, nay I know no pride—
The love that’s left when you
Have spent the greater part.
I have a beggar heart.	

Lay your head here—it is enough if you would rest.
Your weariness is still to me more blest
Than others’ eagerness.
Rest unafraid, there is no art
In such a beggar heart.

Turn your eyes past—no more—the dream that lies
Beneath their lids could be my paradise.
Give me the dream; you take the rest.
Life’s scorning has no smart
For such a beggar heart. [page 20]

 

The Gift

ONE gift I had when I was born
Into this world of sorrow.
I’ve always had enough of it
And never had to borrow.
I’ve even had my share of it
If I should die to-morrow.

Though I came in gray November
I got Happiness some way.
My birthstone was a topaz
And Thanksgiving was my day.

I’ve never had to ask a soul
For gladness great or small.
There always were a thousand laughters
At my beck and call.
I’ve never had to worry
About happiness at all. [page 21]

 

A Sorry Thing

 

SOME hearts there are that beat and beat
As even day by day,
As feet that walk a well-known street
And cannot lose their way.

But other hearts (and we must weep
To watch them as they go)
Have sundry heavy thoughts to keep.
These hearts are always slow.

Then many hearts, because they are
Born truants from the start,
Must skip a beat and wander far
Seeking some other heart.

And is it not a sorry thing
That the even hearts can’t know
What a song it is the wild hearts sing
Or what mem’ries cheer the slow? [page 22]

 

Fur and Feather

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In a Museum

 

(To the mummy of a sacred Egyptian cat 1000 years or so B.C.)

SO there you lie,
You one-time sleep and debonair!
Your lissome body’s like a knotty stick
Under the muddy swaddlings there,
And all the mystery of three thousand years
Upon your whiskers and your hair.

A little brindled where the ears slant back
And still contemptuous where the old grin breaks;
Still ivory fanged beneath the ancient crack
Of that last smile, you are as scornful as the crowd
That gaze on you like some nick-back,
As of the votaries who did you homage
In the time of Egypt’s worshipping—
Before they put you—in that sack.

Oh, thwarted necromancy, death-lost mystic touch! [page 25] 
Could not your old black prophets warn you how
The centuries would find you smirking thus,
Your head above the wrappings like a toy
That tops a Christmas sock—as now?

At least, be comforted. I understand.
I know the soft paws’ tread on giving grass—
I know the agony that was in you the nights
The moon went spinning up the sky in Africa;
The rounded wails that mellowed in your throat
Before you turned the tapis of that oval mouth
And let them pass.

There was the rushes’ smell, along the damp
Of little waters where you picked your way.
There were the ghosts of mice that haunted you,
Because you were a psychic and they knew
Their opportunities, by night if not day.
But there were living mice, God wot!
What of the time you slaughtered six
And all to lay them at Hystasia’s feet
Because you were not hungry and the day was hot?

Villain, I know! But you were little once.
You had blue eyes that were all pleadingness [page 26] 
And pins on every foot. You were the dunce
Of all that spindly brood because your tail was over-long
And trembled when you balanced it. Or am I wrong?
Were you the one who first stalked sand-fleas
In the temple yard, and had meat bits
Before the others left off milk—to make you strong?
And sing! They thought the thunder in your chest
Was sacred satisfaction. So it was!
A pampered Tom Cat’s at his best
When food and gentle somnolence console
And there is sleepy rumbling in his breast.

They had some more insight in those days—
They understood the stark necessity
Of harmless battle, little ways
Of loosening the energy within;
The unmalicious hiss, the wholesome harmony
Of growl on growl; the lays
Of springtime that awake the heart.

They were all sympathetic of your gaze
That saw fresh phantoms in each slantwise sunbeam’s path. [page 27] 
They knew the nervous kicking craze
Which seizes cats with water on their feet;
They kept the temples dry; they sang your praise.

And now, the fate to whom all dignities
Are naught, has brought you this!
But there is one to sing old praises yet.
I pay my tribute to the prideful turn
Of your slim face, moustaches bristling still
The humour and the grimness set.
I do my homage to your blade-sharp arrogance
That neither life nor death
Nor mould, nor time’s long chance, unwhet. [page 28]

 

Starlings

TWIGS in winter casings still,
Snow, and stinging fall of sleet,
But “hey you!” comes that blessed shrill
Of starlings, down the street.

Shouldering the huddled sparrows
Off the fence-rails for a seat,
“Hey you!” personal and earnest,
Passerby they greet.

May, and blossom petals drift
On air with springtime sweet—
“Hey you!” and their voices lift
A hail from leaves’ retreat.

Shy, yet proud of something hidden
Where the curtained branches meet—
“Hey you!” and the world is bidden
In to share the treat.

Summer late and autumn burning,
Meadows, brook-runs dry with heat—
“Hey you!” starlings challenge gravely,
Teetering on dusty feet. [page 29]

Still the sheen of gleaming feather,
Still that cry with cheer replete,
“Hey you!” (speaking of the weather)
“Hey you!” they repeat.
          .          .          .          .
Sturdy hearts, in my September
Will you call me so again?
Valiant hearts, will you remember,
Swinging on the branches then? [page 30]

 

Other Poems

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To a Life Mask of Keats

 

(The Day the Mould Was Made)

PAIN’S withering kiss had not been pressed
Upon your singing mouth that day,
Nor anguish silenced in your breast
The glad heart’s lay.	
With scent of the hedges’ bitter bloom
And a misted blow from sea
The English air was sweet to breathe
And laughter free.

So with earth’s music in your throat
And the winds of youth for breath,
Love’s hand preserved this replica
Of you, forgetting death, [page 33] 

Yet where the faint smile’s loveliness
Makes beauty in your face;
Where whimsy turns a question
And yearning leaves a trace,
Three griefs oppress the eyelids
And little shadows lie;
Where lip and little shadows meet
Three piteous sorrows cry—

The loneliness of life unloved,
The agony of songs unwrote,
The waste that youth’s sweet voice must die
Still calling its eternal note.  [page 34]

 

God to Tired Wings

 

HERE is a furry hemlock
Leading up the sky.
Nestle here, fallen wing;
Thou hast not strength to fly.

And here’s a drowsy willow
With clear water by.
Turn hither, broken wing;
Rest here, lest thou die.

Here is home, lost wing.
Hear the branches sigh.
Fallen, broken, lost wing,
Lie soft, it is I. [page 35]

 

Folly

SOMETIMES, belov’d, I sit apart
In the full silence of my little room,
Waiting on that blest emptiness of heart
That comes of solitude and quiet gloom.
And then your face,
Half grave and whimsical,
Makes mockery of my hiding-place.

Ah love, what hushed serene of mine,
What stillness or withdrawal is a mystery?
I sit with folded hands, unknowingly
Dreaming of you—and you—and you—
I, that thought to be alone in my austerity! [page 36]

 

Changed

 

(To a Place by the Sea)

THEY say you’re changed,
My misty-brown, my water-free
But what could change the sweet of you
When still there is—the sea?

What of the dunes flushed at the morning,
Breasting the loving waves’ embrace,
And spray, gust-wafted, still adorning
Their bent heads in bridal lace?

And can the evening be less radiant
Where ocean joins stream along the river?
(Chalice-filled and glassy deep it went
In days I knew, over the sands aquiver.)

What of the silver flats at noon
Fresh with the brine-bath of tides;
The soft heart-agonizing tune
The gull makes as he rides? [page 37] 

Or can the rain, that liquid lute,
Whose strings were ever plucked by sail and tree
Have lost its cadence or grown mute?
What change is there for me?
          *          *          *          *
They say you’re changed
My forest-bound, my meadow-wide,
But what could harm the best of you
While still the brave pines bide?

Bracing the water-winds and singing
They still must chant their triumph high,
Ragged and beautiful, glad-upspringing
From the shadows to the sky.

And if the bridge is gone where brook-ferns were
I still believe that I should find it when
I came at night and heard the stir
Of little frogs among the stems again.

Yes, I should find it, wet and rooty-smelling,
Curtained with beech leaves, smooth with moss,
And I should feel the freshets swelling
Under me as I cross. [page 38] 

I’d fill my hands with orchid grass
And the little bridge would carry me
Over the old enchanted pass,
Unchanging and unchanged eternally. [page 39]

 

Recompense

 

YOU are growing old, my lithe and gay,
But age with you is different and rare;
Gray—yes, but like the mist that veils an autumn moon
Stretched across the black trees’ gaunt array.
Your light, now opalescent and more gently bright
Makes beautiful the wintry night.
Why do you long for the bronze hue of youth
Or the nosiness of its display?
Let us be comforted in this sweet quietness where
There is nothing loved before
But that our having loved so long can make more fair. [page 40]

 

Memory

I SAW you standing so, upon the shore,
With the light of heaven on your hair
And all eternity ablowing on your face.
What was the memory that strove, and tore
My heart? Was it you still standing there,
Or someone old with many lives? What space
What ghostly sting of tears long-wept before,
What laughter did I sense? A snare
Of myriad weaving circled our embrace—
Do you recall the distant soar	
Or our remembering? We were in gardens where
We knew old wonderings once more,
Far out of mind with time, 
In some old well-loved place. [page 41]

 

Sleep

THE breath of sleep is on you, blessed face,
Caressing and most comforting.
The moon rays shadowings have made a lace
About your head—a faery fashioning.
The wind has left the candles standing stark
And blown a reed dance ‘round your bed.
Your lashes have upmeshed the dreamy dark
Leaving your cheeks ungarmented.

(The soft wee moths are quiet on the wall;
The little beetles have forgot to sing;
The hour-complaining chime clock in the hall
Has hushed its muffled sorrowing.)

And now come I, atiptoe down the gloom
To fresh my lips upon your brow,
To drink the fragrance, soul-sweet through the room
Of your own fragile bloom. To marvel how
The dappled starshine yet can hide
Beside your breast—so moveless still— [page 42] 
Ah, how the perfume of your hair
Must chide those flowers on the sill!

(This is my gift, beloved, like the rest
Of all the Night has brought you, far too slight,
Yet rich with endless tenderness—the best
One clay-wrought heart may give—a kiss (Good-night.) [page 43]

 

Two Children

OH little singing-hearted,
I wonder long at you,
Your airiness, your fairness
And the cruel things you do.
Your face is young with eagerness
But age is in your eyes—
The age of woman’s wantonness
And the sorrow for her lies.

Oh little silent-lipped and sad,
You are my own to me—
Your head down bent, your upward look
At the starry things you see.
Your face is soft with visioning
But still there brood the years
Of woman’s long remembering
And the touch of ancient tears. [page 44]

 

Tears

(Tears are the glowers of the heart that blossom in the eyes.)

“DEW,” some call them; “jewels” glistening—
They do not know.	
No; tears are flowers, seed and bloom.

I had a tear that seeded in my heart
All childhood. I remember
The odd hurt of its slow growing—
Perhaps the heart grew with it, there’s no knowing.
Of such mystic things.
I remember how the sun
And all warm sweetness stirred its roots,
And sometimes when I looked
On naked fields or tired grass—again
On empty water runs or unkept graves
It grew, in pain.

Then, not so long ago, its stem grew high;
Its blossom reached my eyes and light. [page 45] 
That time when I was left alone
With only it for comforting
Aye, comforting—for through it shone
Great prismed gleams
That made me know my old sight dim.

Its root is in my heart which still
Must nurture it—for him. [page 46] 

 

The Sentry Angel

 

(Who Is a Nightwatchman)

ANGEL with the sleepy face
Leaning up agsinst the dawn,
Put your six-starred girdle off,
Wrap your wooly kirtle on.

Drop your star-belt in its place
In the blue-box of the lake.
Shake the sky-rheum from your hair,
The day’s awake.

Turn your misty feathers out.
Stretch your stiff wings in the sun,
Cast those weary sandals off,
Your watch is done.

Throw your wind-harp on a willow;
Trees have gentle finfers too.
Lay your tired head on this pillow
That the hills have made for you. [page 47]

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