Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets
The Silent Zone
15th Aug 2013Posted in: Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets 0

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Author’s Edition limited to two hundred and fifty copies numbered and autographed of which this is number 133
— Annie Charlotte Dalton

Cover by Joan Goodall
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THE SILENT ZONE
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CLO-OOSE. V. I., B. C.

     “Only last week we walked over to a light-house five miles away, and after a heavenly walk in bright sunshine through the trails that reminded me of Clovelly, and shores and sands like nothing else but themselves, we were shortly after our arrival, encompassed in fog, and the fog-horn boomed continuously all the evening, and most of the night and next day.

Standing up high and looking over the fog rolling in, one felt the blessed safety provided for ships by this big comforting boom-boom-boom, every twelve seconds. Then the light-house keeper told us that three miles out there was a silent zone. I realized what that meant to a ship, knowing the jagged coast-line so near, and unable to see or hear, and naturally my thoughts flew to you and your book, and I felt how very true the title is.”

—Joan Goodall. [unnumbered page]

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THE SILENT ZONE
by
ANNIE CHARLOTTE DALTON
AUTHOR OF
“THE MARRIAGE OF MUSIC”
“FLAME AND ADVENTURE”
AND OTHER POEMS

“All that you have for Love’s sake spend”
EDWARD CARPENTER

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Made and Printed in Canada, 1926
Vancouver, B. C.
Cowan & Brookhouse, Printers, Vancouver, B. C.
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Contents

Introduction

1

A Singing and a Silent Zone

31

O Wine of Life!

32

Silence

32

Wild Larkspur

33

The Bride

34

The Dandelion

35

THE EAR TRUMPET

     The Ear Trumpet

37

     To Elizabeth Bibesco

41

     Marie Bashkirtseff Said

43

     To Viola Meynell

46

     Pluto’s Horn

49

REVOLT

     Revolt

59

     Chaos

60

     A Simple Thing

64

     The Flowers

65

     On the Beach

66

     The Rebel in Heaven

66

     Monotony

69

     Melancholy

70

     Loneliness

70

     If I Could Hear

71

     The Canary

71

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OF CHILDREN

     Little Ships

75

     Children’s Dreams

75

     The Garland

77

     These Children

78

     And These—

79

     And These—

80

     To a Child Asleep

81

     Broken Branches

81

     The Lesson

82

     In the Silence

83

THE DEEPER SILENCE

     A Song for Charles Crane

87

     The Dance

89

     A Ruined Shrine

89

     They Also Served

90

     The Darkened Room

91

LISTENING–IN

97

THE SILENT ZONE

     The Silent Zone

107

     To All Men

110

     The Sea

111

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Introduction
I.

HOW very few people know anything about the mysterious dangers which lie in wait for the unwary sailor upon the surface of the sea in various parts of our world.

These inscrutable and gigantic webs of silence are known to seafaring folk as “silent zones,” and are supposed to be the cause of numerous and unaccountable shipwrecks, for, suddenly, the company of a ship may be cut off entirely from all communication with the world by sound; sometimes during fog and sometimes in clear weather.

During fog a ship goes slowly, feeling her way, but her [page 11] captain, unconsciously caught in a silent zone, and intently listening for fog-alarms, knows nothing of his danger until the ship goes hard aground. Captain Lecky in his book, “Wrinkles in Practical Navigation,” says: “Sound is liable to be intercepted by streams of air unequally heated and not equally saturated with moisture. Vibrations fail to reach the ear of persons well within the ordinary hearing limits; rain, hail, fog and snow have no power to obstruct sound . . . . Sound is conveyed in a very capricious way through the atmosphere. Large areas of silence have been found even in the very clearest weather and under the very bluest skies.”

These things are as little known to ordinary people as the painful truth that there are millions of human beings in the world, of all ages, of all classes of society, and of all races, who have lived part or all of their lives in a silent zone, which often isolates the partially deaf quite as cruelly as the wholly deafened, for there must be some compensation for those who are born deaf, in that they cannot realize fully their disadvantages.

No words can, however, describe the hopelessness and desolation which falls upon those, who, from the glorious plentitude and beauty of life, are launched into a tiny world of complete silence. It is like being caged in a prison-ship off the Isles of the Blest; it is like being buried alive, to those who have known the utmost felicity of sound. Perhaps least to be pitied are those who became partially deaf in early childhood, who learned to speak naturally, and who [page 12] were able to adapt themselves gradually to new conditions. Yet, even for them are reserved terrible hours of revolt and despair.

The names of Helen Keller and Madame Berta Caleson de Calonne shine like stars of the first magnitude. These are noble and heroic women, both deaf and blind. Miss Keller, unrivalled for courage and endurance, and the lesser known, but brave and beautiful spirit, Madame de Calonne, whose initial sufferings were more protracted, perhaps even more severe, glow apart in a world of heroic suffering. They shine, it is true, by the reflected light of the love which never leaves them, but still they are stars of the first magnitude in their strange heaven of silent darkness.

Canada, too, has one of whom she may be inordinately proud. The late Dr. Graham Bell was once asked, “Who in your opinion, is the cleverest man in the world?” “I don’t know,” replied the doctor, “but the cleverest boy in the world is Charlie Crane.”

Handicapped in the same terrible way as Helen Keller and Madame de Calonne, Charlie is magnificent in his physique and mentality. He is absolutely fearless. On one point only will he express any misgivings. To quote his own words, spoken to a friend: “You ask me what is my great ambition? I have been very fortunate so far in receiving a fair education, but I dread to think of my being checked in my desire for more advanced studies. My hope is that kind Providence may intervene in some manner so that I may be able to take up the University course in British Columbia under [page 13] proper instructors and duly receive my degree in arts. I should like then to travel around the world, particularly the British Empire, and speak to the different people in their own homes and in their own language. After that I should like to become a useful citizen, well equipped. I hope to justify in some measure the bounteous blessings which have been bestowed upon me by patient, loving and loyal hearts.”

These cases are desperate. The sheer enormity of the disaster which has befallen them, calls for extraordinary exertion on the part of the souls so cruelly imprisoned, and on the part of those who love them. The simple relation of their unique experience and achievement must be a tremendous excitement for them. Under the spur of this excitement they maintain an optimism, which, I dare say, they cannot always feel.

But these, of whom I now speak, are seldom so excited. They cannot be stars of the first magnitude. Their colourless fate calls for no such heroic measures. They can and do bear their burden of complete or partial deafness with a sort of dumb, dogged courage which demands no display of pity or optimism. Their lives are drab and make no appeal. They are not remarkable people. They are plain, everyday folk, who are intolerably bored and irritated by the intense monotony and difficulty of their position. There is no romance or colour in their lives, no “impact of life, no pride of discovery.”

Outwardly, inertia settles on them like a blight, there is no visible sign of the conflict, but inwardly, the dull mental [page 14] strain never relaxes; the unnatural thing fastens like a parasite upon the mind. It is this silent, dull uniformity, this fatal lack of excitement, that drains their life of its strength and joy; which injures the health and depresses the spirits. The deafened are too resigned¾they do not make noise enough in the world¾and the world naturally never thinks of them, has no idea of their secret suffering.

To quote from a writer in the “British Deaf Times,” “As long as the deaf keep quiet and ask no questions, they are like sheep led by a shepherd, but when once they commence to make a fuss and to say disagreeable things, well, as I say, we can begin to hope. There is more hope for the deaf man who is pursuing the wrong course than for the deaf man who pursues no course at all . . . A considerable number of us have been trying for years to do things for the general body of the deaf. We have been legislating for them; we have been planning for them. What, think you, will happen if they commence planning; if they begin to do things; if they take a hand in the game? . . . If this inarticulate mass becomes articulate, if these slow-thinking, slow-moving deaf do decide to work out their own salvation, it would be the biggest and grandest resolve ever made.”

Have the deaf, then, no passion that they themselves make so little effort to improve their standing in the world? Considering their drawbacks and the average lack of individual co-operation, it is truly marvellous what many have accomplished, but for the most part they are sunk in inertia, uninspired, deflated. The world is not interested in them; [page 15] they are not interested in themselves. They are frankly bored, shrug their shoulders, and sink back voluntarily to their dreary solitude. Their prison becomes their refuge. Their suffering and stoicism are alike unsuspected and unappreciated. This is a hard saying, but there are hundreds of thousands of seemingly normal people who lead abnormal lives. Their pride will not allow them to confess the heavy handicap under which they labour. These, the semi-deaf, keep up a deception that would be impossible to the blind. They carry on in their own fashion and suffer intensely, very often quite needlessly, for deafness is an intangible thing, and the world cannot always be blamed for its seeming heedlessness.

We hear much of the power of suggestion. If all the unknown millions of deaf people could be organized to concentrate simultaneously on a single thought, who could foretell what might be accomplished? With their wonderful opportunities for concentrativeness, they should be able to develop the radio-mind much more easily than people possessing the power of perfect audition. It is an open question whether they can or cannot become clair-audient.

Everyone pities the blind, and rightly so, but it is far easier for a blind man to make friends than for a deaf one. A deaf man may suffer torture daily in the midst of a crowd and no one know it. Madame de Calonne, whose complete deafness came upon her many years later than her blindness and partial deafness, says, “From not being able to see my loved ones I have often suffered, but infinitely less than I have [page 16] from not being able to hear them talking.”  The italics are mine, but she says the same thing, even more insistently, in one of her beautiful poems, for she is greatly honoured in France for her poetry.

Some time ago, the “Atlantic Monthly” published several remarkable articles on deafness by Margaret Baldwin and Earnest Elmo Calkins.

Mrs. Baldwin, who had loved and understood the voices of Nature to an extraordinary degree, was stricken with sudden deafness. For a time the tragedy was terrible. She says, “The depression which inevitably comes with the beginning of deafness is strangely and intensely overpowering . . . It is a feeling deeply physical as well as mental, a mingled condition of woeful sickness and sadness that beggars description. . . the depression of deafness is out of all proportion.

Fully recognizing the immeasurable difference between being deaf and being blind. . . why did I still feel indescribably depressed and hopeless? . . . The simple fact is that sound has far more to do fundamentally with originating our emotions, or how we feel from day to day, than has what we see. . . Sound, pure and simple, has a specific relation to feelings widely different from that of sight. Its primary effect is the creating of moods. . .Now it follows that the absence of sound is the very large withdrawal of the natural arouser of feelings, leaving in their stead an unbroken dullness or lack of cheerfulness. . . negativeness. Hence the deaf man’s depression.”

Mr. Calkins, who has had a much longer and wider [page 17] experience of the terrors of the silent zone, says, “The attempt to keep up with a hearing world gives many deaf people a distracted air.

It is perhaps unfortunate that we deafened can go so long without detection. The halt and blind are spared the temptation to practise this innocent camouflage. It is no use for them to pretend. But the choice is offered us of the part we will play. We frequently choose foolishly, preferring to pass as slow, thick-headed, stupid persons, rather than as the quick-witted persons we really are.

For the deaf are called on to perform prodigies of deduction. In every communication that goes on between them and their fellows, they are working double, devoting most of their energy to finding out what it is all about, and carrying on the conversation with one hand, as it were. I have frequently reconstructed the whole colloquy from a single chance remark, as a palaeontologist restores a dinosaur from a single bone. It is a fine indoor sport, but the waste is enormous.”

And again, “I have become a master of the art of being deaf. It is an acquired art. People are no more born with it than they are born bachelors. A bachelor is something more than a man who has failed of marrying; and the art of being deaf is something more than loss of hearing. . .We cannot draw any consolation from the belief that our condition is tragic. It isn’t. All literature is against us. The hero is never deaf. The deaf man furnishes only the comedy. . . . And literature is right. It is backed up by life. We all [page 18] smile at the deaf man’s slips, but never at the blind man’s. Pathos is inherent in one, and not in the other.”

 

II.

 

SOMETIMES it requires more courage to speak of a trouble than to be silent. Landor said: “Glory to the man who rather bears a grief corroding his breast, than permits it to prowl beyond and to prey on the tender and compassionate.” Thousands of deafened ones, who perhaps never heard of Landor, cherish that spirit in their souls. But one may speak of a secret sorrow, if, by doing so, other hearts may be unburdened, and their hold upon life strengthened and enlarged.

Tchehov’s words: “People who have carried a sorrow till they have grown used to it, only whistle now and then, and often fall into a reverie,” are particularly true of the deafened.

Wordsworth, in his “Prelude,” attempts to delineate the life and feelings of a deaf man. Nothing could be more dreary than the fate and conduct, the apathy of the unfortunate one, which the poet seems to think so natural and so worthy of praise, just as if patience and further renunciation were all the victim was entitled to, or could expect in this world.

It must not be forgotten that ancient and medieval indifference towards the welfare of the deaf continued up to quite recent times. St. John of Beverley, who lived in the seventh century, was a glorious exception. He did much for the deaf [page 19] and is now honoured as their patron saint. The Guild of St. John of Beverley for the Deaf originated in Yorkshire, England in 1896, and became international in 1919. In later times there were and are many other like him; but even now, that medieval spirit of indifference and unconscious cruelty survives, and we meet with flashes of cheap wit which radiate neither humour nor kindliness. Of such is Edith Sitwell’s verse:

                                                           “Down the horn
                                             Of her ear-trumpet I convey
                                            The news that, “It is Judgment Day!”
                                            “Speak louder, I don’t catch, my dear.”
                                             I roared: “It is the Trump we hear!

 

Of such is the present-day advertisement of a comic moving-picture which is entitled “Deaf, Dumb and Daffy.” There is no particular reason for the title beyond the introduction of an ear-trumpet with the usual horse-play. Why should “deaf and daffy” be thought attractive? It is not amusing, and books and picture-shows being the pet luxuries of the deafened, it gives them a nasty jolt to find themselves suddenly faced with the very thing from which they imagined they had made a happy if only temporary escape. These jokes have no humour for them as they might have in a circle of their own friends, for very often the mistakes they make are screamingly funny, and when the joke is explained to them, no one can be more willing to join in the laughter at their own expense. But, when the joke is not explained, and this is far too often the case, then one is reminded of Oscar [page 20] Wilde’s terrible words: “The laughter, the horrible laughter of the world, a thing more tragic than all the tears the world has ever shed.”

Then we have the cynical notion that the deaf make capital of their affliction. A well-known churchman is thus arraigned by an equally well-known man of letters: “He is deaf, but I think it is the deafness of the mind rather than the sense, for I have noticed that in conversation he hears very well what he wants to hear.” While another writer, an American, gives a good-natured slap at the “diplomatic deafness” of an American statesman.

In the Volta Review, the splendid journal issued monthly by the Volta Bureau, of Washington, is an admirable sketch of Mrs. Juliette Low, founder of the Girl Scout Organization in America, by Laura Davies Holt. “As regards to deafness,” says Mrs. Low, “one must be alert and patient. When excited or interested, my nerve is so good that I can almost hear the grass grow. Usually, however, I am deaf, and I can sympathize with all who are thus handicapped.”

The injustice goes deeper. We find in Webster’s Dictionary that “daff,” “daffe,” are defined thus (Ice. Dauf, allied to deaf) a stupid, blockish fellow. (Obs). The word, used in that connection, is, unfortunately, not yet obsolete, for some of us are still living in the age when people believed that “all things are learned by the power of hearing,” and that deafness is certainly due to “default of the brayne.”

The newly deafened have no lack of the sense of humour, but they have an abnormal fear of ridicule, which perhaps [page 21] lies at the heart of their reticence. They remember, only too well, how often upon the stage, in the pictures and in literature, their disability is made the butt for clumsy witticism. One must possess great strength and sweetness of character, to carry off successfully the daily mistakes, which, trivial and ludicrous as they may appear to the uninitiated, are yet productive of exquisite pain, amounting at times to sheer agony of the mind. Timely tact can do more than sympathy on these occasions; for the deafened, as a rule, are proud and independent people, who thoroughly dislike and deprecate anything approaching to sentimentality.

It is difficult to decide which is the hardest thing to bear, blindness or complete deafness. Were one compelled to choose between them, deafness would seem by far the lesser evil; and yet, how much harder it is for a deaf many to obtain employment than for a blind man. It is impossible for the world at large to realize the monstrous handicap of deafness to one who must earn his living, and who so often has others dependent upon him; but anyone, without imagination, can understand the terrible affliction of blindness. Many soldiers who lost their hearing in the Great War, in addition to their suffering, have had to put up a strenuous fight for their due share of public sympathy and restitution.

Notwithstanding many splendid public and private institutions, the facilities for the higher education of the deaf are extremely limited. England, it is pleasing to note, is wakening up to the necessity of unifying her numerous societies, and also to the need of State provision. Thanks to [page 22] the munificence of Sir James Jones, Chairman of the Royal School for the Deaf at Manchester, the training has now been put upon a college basis. But the United States is still, I believe the only country to possess a College for the Deaf, consequently complete deafness is a far greater handicap in the struggle for existence than complete blindness.

We are told that comparisons are odious; but to speak of deafness in conjunction with blindness, is such a common thing on the part of those who, happily, suffer from neither, that further comparison seems to be the only way of making new facts impressive. Sir Frederick Milner said a little time ago that, “From the point of view of earning, the totally deaf man is in a far worse position than the man who has lost his sight. The late Sir Arthur Pearson absolutely agreed with me in this. The blinded soldier meets with sympathy on all sides. For the deaf man nothing is done. He can have a limited number of lessons in lip-reading, but not one in a thousand is ever able to learn the rudiments of this most difficult accomplishment. He meets with no sympathy. Nobody will offer employment to a man even partially deaf. For a stone-deaf man there is no hope.”

Let us, who have already forgotten the war, or wish to forget it, think for a moment of these heroic spirits so remorselessly fettered by unnatural things, beyond hope, almost beyond comfort, dying daily. Then let us try to realize that beyond all this visible anguish, lies the invisible, the unrealizable, the deeper anguish of inscrutable things, the full bitterness of which we can never be told. [page 23]

     It is strange that in all the annals of poetry, one so rarely meets lament or apotheosis of deafness. Wordsworth, I have already quoted. Browning’s attempt was not much happier.

 

                        “Only the prism’s obstruction shows aright,
                        The secret of a sunbeam, breaks its light
                        Into the jewelled bow from blankest white,
                        So may a glory from defect arise;
                        Only by Deafness may the vexed Love wreak
                        Its in suppressive sense on brow or cheek,
                        Only by Dumbness adequately speak
                        As favoured mouth could never through the eyes.”

The poem was written for Thomas Woolner, R.A., whose beautiful marble group of two deaf children had touched Browning deeply. Woolner also made a sketch for an imaginary memorial to a deaf child. Of odes to silences there are many, but beyond cursory allusions, there seem to be few verses written on deafness, outside books and journals devoted to the deaf exclusively. It does indeed seem as though art and literature have turned their backs upon us. But then, are not we ourselves to blame for this? If we cannot express ourselves, how can we expect others to do it for us?

“The Silent Zone” is written with the faint hope of bringing some consolation to those who have not yet found that even silence has its own precious beauty and compensation, and also that others may be inspired to revolt. They are surrounded by well-meaning people, too willing, far too willing to counsel patience and resignation, which are not the least of the evils that hinder their progress. The curse of monotony [page 24] under which they live stupefies them. They are, as some one has said, “starved of small talk,” of everyday interests which mean so much to them, and so little to those who suffer from a superabundance of them. Many of them can, of course, enjoy walking, riding, golf and fishing, as well as if their hearing was quite normal; but a great number are debarred from all active pleasures by dizziness, falling down, weakness and the terrible confusion caused by noises in the head, all disabilities which often accompany deafness in varying degrees of severity, and which can be indescribably distressing.

Books and picture-shows are to the deaf what music and conversation are to the blind. For simple rest and diversion the moving-picture is one of heaven’s choicest gifts. Just to enjoy something in common with others is an inspiration to the lonely ones in the silent zone. In earlier days, amusements were few indeed for the deafened. Books are a priceless compensation, but it is not within the power of everyone to live in books. What is needed, above all, for the pathos, the inexplicable pain, of their inward lives, is stimulation, self-expression, revolt. Resignation and inaction, once looked upon as virtues, are now, in the light of scientific knowledge, regarded as foolish if not morally wrong.

The reticence of the deaf is a terrible thing, a slow poison, a living death. I do not wish to labour the point unduly. It is easier for me to write optimistically, and to speak of their many compensations, as others have done before me so ably and courageously; but no evil was yet cured or alleviated by [page 25] giving it a gay cloak, and it is my purpose in this introduction to emphasize the secret suffering, and the stultifying stoicism, with which the great majority of the semi-deaf meet their difficulties.

A different attitude of mind arises from the ascription of evil to God. Marie Bashkirtseff had genius, courage and friends. Anatole France, in his “On Life and Letters,” speaks of her thus: “She became deaf. This infirmity drove her to despair. ‘Why?’ said she, ‘Why does God make us suffer? If it is He who created the world why has He created evil, suffering, wickedness? . . . I shall never get better . . . There will be a veil between me and the rest of the world. The wind in the branches, the murmur of water, the rain dropping on the window-panes, words pronounced in a low voice, I shall hear nothing of all that.”

Perhaps only the deaf who were not born so, can fully understand the agonizing frustration which lies beneath the simple poignancy of her last complaint, “words pronounced in a low voice” which contains the real secret of her unhappiness. So many people, when speaking to one who is deaf, estrange the voice, a method more baffling and exasperating than the stentorian tones or gesticulations affected by others.

Her suffering was great, and many like her ask the same question, “Why does God make us suffer?” J. Anker Larsen says in his profound and adventurous book, “The Philosopher’s Stone,” “He who is strong enough to go willingly to hell because he knows that is God’s will with him, has conquered hell itself and destroyed it.” [page 26]

Ah! But how may any man be sure of that? How often is “God’s will” made the excuse for our own sloth, dislike of innovation, or habitual lack of initiative? We are our own tormentors, much oftener than we know¾God holds no whip in His Hand for us. He has no part in the evils which befal us. He is our Father, and suffers with us.

While so much noble work is being done in every part of the world, it would be invidious to single out any for particular praise. But with all this vast expenditure of time and money, the fringe of the silent zone has not yet been penetrated. Millions are still far out of reach. For most of these there is, and can be, no other help beyond the kind word or action of those with whom they come into casual contact.

In a thoughtful article prepared for “The New Outlook,” by the Canadian Medical Association, it is stated that . . . . “Of 47,192 children so far examined in Ontario for ear defects, by school medical health officers, 1,225 were found with below normal hearing, or a proportion of approximately two and a half percent.

This figure may seem high to parents, most of whom have a terror of blindness for children, but are apt to ignore the possibility of deafness, which is a scarcely less tragic disability in young or old. But we should know that in modern times and civilized countries, deafness is increasing. Some authorities state that one third of all adults are today partially or totally deaf.”

These figures are ore alarming when we remember that the ear cannot be taken out and examined like the eye, [page 27] and consequently little hope of recovery can be given to the newly-deafened, who find it hard in these scientific days to realize that for their trouble alone, has so little alleviation become possible; artificial aid for a number of more fortunate ones being all they can hope for.

There is no patience like that of the neglected deafened, and none more hopeless. In the depths of their souls, in great weariness of the world’s still persistent, and involuntary apotheosis of suffering, they cry,

                        “We have exalted you, O god of sorrow!
                             We have exalted you;
                        Have given you yesterday, today, tomorrow,
                             And all time too.
                        Ah! Old gods with the new forever thronging,
                             The old gods with the new—
                        Great outcast Lord of Joy! We faint with longing,
                             We would know You!” [page 28]

 

POEMS

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A Singing and a Silent Zone

I SEE a zone, a singing zone—
What happy spirit dwelleth there?
Soft, silver clouds around it curl,
And silver larks sing everywhere.
Some fairy in a dancing bubble might
So dance and sing of fairyland’s delight,
     And dancing, singing so,
          To and fro
Under the flashing rainbow go,
     One time to rest	
     Beside the nest
The silver lark has built for love below;
     So might some fairy dare—
     So might the spirit dwelling there—

I see a zone—a silent zone—
What lonely spirit dwelleth there?
And is the world of music bare—
No clouds, no birds are in the air?
A busy spirit dwelleth there,
And all who know her envy her
Weaving music rich and rare
Behind her silent barrier—
Who to pity her shall dare?. . . 
She sings, and with her song,
The silver clouds about her throng, [page 31]
And little birds with swelling breasts,
Warble of their hidden nests,
The rainbow in her hair
Weaves its song-enchanting snare,
The very stars of topmost heaven come down
To set the circle of her singing crown.
    You say she hears not—do we know?
     What hears she not—when singing so?

 

O Wine of Life!

O WINE of life! at other lips
Thy dancing bubbles hiss and foam—
O wine of dreams! no bee-mouth sips
A purer sweet in Ariel’s home,
Than I who at the chalice brim,
Am drinking deep of thy delight:
With all the world remote and dim,
Thy lotus-nectars me requite.

 

Silence

GOD bound about the world a zone
Of haunting music and a moan
Of tender dirge set on the seas;
To His dear earth all ecstasies
He gave of grief and rapture known,
And round her frozen brow was thrown,
The crown of His sublimities,	
His aching, aching silences. [page 32]

 

Wild Larkspur

MAKE me Thy warden
Of beautiful words;
They sing in my garden
Like love-dreaming birds.
The birds and their runnel
     Of rapture I see,
No mole in his tunnel
     Could silenter be—
           To me.

I look into the face
Of this wild larkspur,
     And see a vision,
           A holy place.
I hear in colour, curve, and petal,
     All songs that ever were,
With nought of sweet precision,
      Or rote of chorister;
Nor string, nor reed, nor metal,
Could weave such gossamer.
Not to be told, or tempted
To strangling theme or form,
This flower-music, law-exempted,
Doth take my heart by storm;
And, hearing thus Thy melody,
     O God! I am possessed with Thee. [page 33]

The Bride

HOW still it is! and soon it will be dark,
but I am growing used to being alone;
I wish we had a dog, his cheerful bark
would be good company—this telephone
is worse than useless, mocks me all the day,
just like the bell which never rings for me,
or like the knocker thundering away,
with all the neighbors peeping out to see
if the deaf bride is in or out—they know
just when my callers come and when they go;
they know exactly how much fish I buy,
and if I think the butcher's price too high;
they hear Wu Ling, who shouts and holds me tight,
droning in sing-song, fruits and roots, my fright
must make them laugh sometimes; along the street
what questioning and smiling eyes I meet—
and yet I think they like me, and would tell
their wonder that I manage half so well. [page 34]

 

The Dandelion

SEE! the mown dandelion,
Which, in the very jaws of death,
Pays out dishonoured gold in silver
To every coaxing, passing breath
Of the summer wind,
And lies, and dies resigned,
Beneath its evanescent crown
Of life-insinuating seeds;
It dies, is not, but now, behold!
The waste and guarded places green and gold—
Such courage give to me, my mind
So set on future deeds. [page 35]

 

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THE EAR TRUMPET

A Ryerson Chap Book

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The Ear Trumpet

 

     An answer to the poem, “Solo for
Ear  Trumpet,”   by Edith  Sitwell, in
“Modern   British   Poetry,”  by Louis
Untermeyer.—Harcourt, Brace & Co.

EDITH SITWELL
made a solo
of her auntie,
her rich auntie
and her trumpet,
such a trumpet
as old ladies
give to stranger-
folk to blow in.

Down the trumpet
scornful Edith
sang and chortled
her fine solo
of the Judgment- 
day, and crack of 
DOOM. . . . 

Auntie prattled
of her boy scouts,
Edith roaring
of the Judgment- 
day, still roaring
down the trumpet— [page 39]

Some day Edith
too, may need one.
How she'll shiver
when she knows it,
thinking of that
scornful solo,
thinking of the 
Day of Judgment;
of the solo,
of her laughter;
of her laughter
and the trumpet;
of HER dreadful,
dreadful trumpet
and the crashing
Trump of Doom!

Foolish, foolish 
Edith Sitwell
sang a solo
of her auntie,
her rich auntie
and her trumpet,
such a trumpet
as old ladies 
give to stranger-
folk to blow in. [page 40]

 

To Elizabeth Bibesco

A parody of her poem, “O, I Will Shut My Eyes.”

OPEN thine eyes and gloat upon the moon,
Now, whilst thou canst lest he no more be up there;
Open thine eyes and drink the magic up,
The magic of this world so good and fair.

Oh, speak not of those spectral livid moons,
Of fading moons escaping in their mist,
Red moons, brain-burning through the lurid night,
Searing the mused and hapless exorcist.

Shut not thine ears to each enticing tune,
Lest no bird sang, nor stream on pebble play,
Lest in thy heart such deviltries should ring
As drench and wash thy earth and heaven away.

Seal not thy nostrils to each scented thought
That hides in flowered shade, or sun-lit prison,
Oh, lovely things by senses can be bought:
On perfume souls to Eden have arisen.

If thou wert crippled, deaf and dumb, and blind,
With all the odours of the world turned out,
In that grey emptiness thou then should find
No answer to life's riddle, do not doubt. [page 41]

Hadst thou no eyes, how dimly wouldst thou see,
Hadst thou no ears, how dully wouldst thou hear,
Straining to hold thy waning self, to be
Lost in confusion, phantasy and fear.

Vain as thy moons the words which thou hast said,
Frail as thy moons this fancy thou hast spun,
Nought canst thou know of Living-Death—his dead
Salute and pardon thee, mistaken one!

Ah! could we now but hear as thou canst hear—
And if we could but see as thou canst see—
And if we too could run as thou canst run—
How very far from Hades we would flee!

In austere beauty lives thy lovely song,
(Unholily so wed to barren untruth)
Mournful and sweet, that beauty aches, we long
For our lost usage, splendour, power and youth. [page 42]

 

Marie Bashkirtseff Said—

 

A protest against the action of her reviewers, who, whilst criticizing her conduct severely, usually omit the agony of her growing deafness, and the remarkable account which she gives of it—the most poignant and comprehensive description of partial deafness ever written.

 

MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF said.
(From some dim place she said)
So many years I have been dead
To this dull world, and still,
Good folks are saying with a will,
"Surely, surely Marie was past praying for"
Or,	
"She was wilful, she was wild,
Half a savage, half a child."

"In such a year," they say,
"She threw all decency away,
So and so, thus and thus;
Credulous and mutinous,
Calamitous and amorous,
Were the things she gloried in."
All their humour turned to gall,
One and all
On my reputation fall,
And smack their lips on storied sin.

"Farrago!
Snobbish and selfish farrago!" [page 43]
That is their name for thee,
Beloved diary!
Come, let us make enquiry,
Is that all these Philistines can know?
Then let the true and tragic tale begin,
Of that and this,
Right well I wis,
None ever heard
These say a word.

Of this, the horror that I know,
The serpent grief that coiled and threw
Its small, glittering eyes on me,
Green and snaky eyes that held
All my will, and me compelled
To the numbing misery
Of some fascinated bird—
Of all this,
Well I wis—
Never a word!

Of this the hooded snake that drew
And watched me circle round and round,
Of how I fluttered, fell, and flew
Frantic spaces from the ground;
Of the singing in my ears,
Hideous clamour, mocking jeers,
Of the devastating fears, [page 44]
Dear and familiar things unheard,
Of the awful hope deferred—
Oh, well I wis
Of all this—
Never a word!

Of the hidden, dull despair,
Of the grievous lassitude,
Of the crowning horror where
Blossomed love and plenitude;
Of the odious, choking shame,
Dissimilation, anger, blame,
Embarrassment, I overcame,
Of ridicule, mistakes absurd,
Of all this,
Well I wis—
Not a word!

Of all the anguish borne in secret,
Loss of trust in God and Man,
Of the great ambition shattered,
Budding hope and darling plan;
Of the soundless wind and rain,
Beating on the window-pane;
Of the untruths told in vain;
Of the voiceless bird and beast,
Of the songless, laughless feast,
Of the mind to madness spurred,
Never a word! [page 45]

Of life's last keen extremity,
Fear of laughter, fear of pity,
Of the death that would not smite,
Of my heart pierced—uncontrite,
Living, thrilling, mad-to-live,
Quick, ceremented, splenitive,
Broken heart!
Of my youth so over-yearned,
Of all this,
Too well I wis,
Not a word...
Ah! Never a word.

 

To Viola Meynell

     A poem in two parts: the first one addressed to the author of a striking short story, entitled “We Were Just Saying,” illustrates that phrase, with which a thoughtful person usually begins an explanation of a conversation to one who is partially deaf, and which is always welcome and productive of delight.

 

WE WERE JUST SAYING—I had not thought
That anyone so moving tale could tell
Of those experiences too dearly bought,
That on them knowing hearts should care to dwell.

WE WERE JUST SAYING—Have you thus said
With kindly gesture to a bursting heart?
Have you?—Then, blessing be upon your head!
Like Mary, you have chosen the loving part. [page 46]

WE WERE JUST SAYING—Was that kind word
Once said to you waiting in silent pain?
And did you know the joy of hope deferred—
The joy of having some dear soul explain?

WE WERE JUST SAYING—O simple thing!
But, 'tis the simple things that make life glad;
Deaf through the ears, birds in the heart can sing,
Thrice deafened are the ears when the heart is sad.

WE WERE JUST SAYING—Strange tale well-told—
How many hearts will bless the loving thought?
How many callous ones will fear the bold
Light, you have thrown on the havoc they have wrought!

 

II

THEY WERE JUST SAYING—
But you I may not tell,
'Tis such a dreadful story
It must have been thought out in hell.
The story of your father—
Who died;	
The story of your mother too—
A guiltless homicide;
And you sit there in innocence,
In semi-silence, trustful ignorance, [page 47]
The misery unheard!
Oh, not by a word,
Or ever a glance
Of mine, must pass
To you . . . 
This frightful tragedy that was
Of one, the slain, and one that slew,
Two lovers to each other true.

THEY WERE JUST SAYING—
Nay! but those innocent eyes,
So eloquently praying
To share the eagerness, the great surprise
Upon their animated faces,
Pierce to my very heart—Ah! what sweet lies
Shall I come up to fill the places
Of those grim tales, so grossly nurtured, vile?
Dead lady with the wistful smile!
Ask me no more what the tart tongues say—
Cold, evil, spite their speech debases,
And I—I can but pray,
"Ask me no more!"
Hot is my heart and sore,
Pure is the air without the door . . . 
Ah! come away,
The very furniture grimaces! [page 48]

 

PLUTO’S HORN

[unnumbered page]

[blank page]

 

Pluto’s Horn

AH! the fright, the rout in Hades—
lightning flashed and thunder bellowed;
panic seizing Pluto's ladies,
pandemonium reigned unfellowed.
Pale with passion, Pluto made his
Fates and Furies skip fine capers
round each porphyritic column,
up each grim obsidian cliff;
badly he had got the vapours
and on such occasion solemn,
be he caitiff, king or caliph,
somebody must pay.

All this pother, simple matter—
he, infernal over-lord,
heard no more the teeth of Hades chatter
when Themis whirled her unrelenting sword;
heard no more the Acheronian sighs,
Wirra! werra!
heard no more old Charon's greedy cries,
Wirra! werra!
or the sweet Plutonian terror,
or the Tartarusian dismay.

Proserpina wept,
Pluto leapt,
to and fro began to stalk, [page 51]
jabbing with his two-pronged fork,
as he bawled for some invention
to restore his ravished hearing,
but the Hadic annals made no mention
of any pension
due for trumpet-upkeep, and the tension,
Pluto fleering, jeering, sneering,
soon became beyond all bearing.

Dreadful was his rage,
lip-language
knew he not, and all unlettered
he in finger-language too,
cursed them and in no wise bettered,
beat his fists upon his forehead,
tore his royal curls asunder,
passion-pallid, breathing thunder,
until upstairs the dead men,
white and yellow, bronze, red men,
round the Tartarusian wickets,
spite of Cerberus and his Pickets,
heard him and returned their tickets.

Then, suddenly his red eye flickered
on a bison's broken horn,
rolling at his feet forlorn,
all that was left of Sunday's dinner.
Once it flickered, [page 52]
twice it flickered,
Pluto snickered.
took the horn,
took the horn and tucked the tip,
let it slip
far into his drowsing ear—
listened, listened, listened,
nothing there—
listened,
listened,
listened,
nothing there to cheer.
Then a savage thrust
into smouldering embers must
have pierced a tiny hole in it.
Again with canny wit,
he took the horn,
took the horn and tucked the tip,
let it slip
fear into his other ear,
listened, listened, listened—
and raised a rousing cheer.

A very triumph of a trumpet!
It put all Hades in a fit
to see how prettily he bore it,
to see how finely, too, he wore it
in his royal ear— [page 53]
a triumph of a trumpet it was clear.
Ixion on his wheel
gave a delighted squeal,
Salmoneus and Tityus,
Sisyphus and Tantalus,
(as though it were Horatius)
could not forbear to cheer.

Proud, satisfied,
gratified,
Pluto cried,
to his much-admiring legions,
"Hear me now
make this vow,
for the future in Our Regions,
all who proffered trumpets when
they crawled outside this silly earth of men,
when they shall be dead,
and here deported,
from the rabble have them sorted;
Cerberus shall not bite
nor exercise his rude delight,
Charon without charge must ferry them,
my Furies shall not worry them,
hurt them not— instead,
take them to the coolest tavern
in my own remotest cavern,
and there my Proserpina [page 54]
shall be hostess and convener
to please
these:— 
(with or without trumpets)
buttered toast or crumpets,
tea or ale,
dry and pale,
freely given and none for sale,
trout and truffles, caviare;
brill and mushrooms, oyster-patties,
everything expensive that is
out of reason but in season.

And on Mondays velvet ice,
Tuesdays something rather nice,
Wednesdays, fruit from Paradise,
Thursdays, maids of honour, cake with spice,
Fridays same as Mondays,
Saturdays, delicious sundaes.

Shimmering robes of sarsanet,
coronet; canzonet,
flute and serpent, falgeolet,
Dorian dance and minuet,
they shall have— and something yet— 
do not forget
Proserpina’s fashion journal,
and "The Magazine Infernal" [page 55]
that I edit.
So,
by this fiery Phlegethon,
near this gloomy Acheron,
near this rueful salt Cocytus,
they with laughter will delight us
until blessed Lethe yields
them entreance to the Elysian Fields.
Ah! by the Styx!
My heart with fond impatience pricks— 
Go! . . .
Depart! proceed! move! budge! stir!
Find each one and register,
find them all and duly show
what good times they'll have in Hell,
say that Pluto's deaf as well,
say you have a good time, too,
down the Great Terrestrial Flue— 
these have known too much to dread it,
I have said it— 
GO!" [page 56]

 

REVOLT

[unnumbered page]

 

[blank page]

 

Revolt

OH! this pretending that we do not care— 
My soul is sick of it, I want to say
Just what I think, just what I feel, to tear
This lying veil away.
I have been patient many years and know
Well every patient trick, before I go,
Let me be honest once, and tell the truth,
I have been sick or sorry since my earliest youth;
I have pretended with the great pretenders,
That none might penetrate the thin disguise,
Have patched my soul; with other prudent menders,
Have stood aside from joy and joyous spenders,
Have praised the loathed economy to the skies.

I am so tired of this vain pretence,
That nothing matters if I freely give
The best of me and trust for better hence— 
I want to share life's glorious recompence,
I want to live! . . . 
And now resolved to lie no longer,
(Being so tired of this vain pretending)
I even fancy that I shall be stronger
When I have let this sorry patience have its ending.
Not for mine arrogance or temper's pleasure,
But dreaming that some unsuspected good
May flow to others in abounding measure
From this impassioned, over-mastering flood, [page 59]
Do I release this wild rebellion, caught
With all my dumb endurance come to naught,
Dreaming that drifted from this foaming spate,
Among the rubbish there may lie some treasure
For those discouraged and disconsolate,
Which shall redeem their austere spending,
And their immoderate patience have its ending.
If but one treasure comes to light
To make their inner lives more bright,
And they regard the unregarded,
I, whom with them, the fates are trying,
Our common sentiency denying,
Our common ardours crucifying,
I am rewarded.
Oh! what is life for— is it not to live?
How may we else to one another give,
"All that we have, for Love's sake spend."

 

Chaos

“Nor silence within, nor voice express,
But a deaf noise of sounds that never cease.”

—DRYDEN.

THE wind blows— 
My head is like a dreary cavern
Through which the winds wail,
And the seas moan,
And whose desolate depths re-echo
Drearily, wearily, as for all time—  [page 60]
The wind blows— 
O God, what anguish, what despair! . . .
Could there be harps in hell,
So might I seem to dwell
In some dim cell,
Far from the flickering fires,
With soul-embodied lyres,
While demons tear from sobbing strings
Discords of tormented things,
Jarring crashes, whistling lashes,
Sudden silence, shrilling screams— 

Hark! hark! somewhere lost angels sang!
Far, far away their home-sick longing rang
Clear as a clarion, beating back again
Wandering despair and drowsy thoughts of pain . . .

The wind blows— 
Oh, for some Lethean bed,
Wherein to lay this weary head!

The stately mountains and the rolling seas
Are mirrored placidly within the eye,
And none do wonder; but, could a vision
Of a distorted, topsy-turvy world
Break on the sight— the mountains on their heads.
The seas above, solid and chained, the stars
Set in the shore, the sun and moon, abased, [page 61]
Set lower still in the dark ocean bed,
With clouds, trees, rocks, flying through the passive air,
Then might one wonder, and perhaps perceive,
The chaos of a mind when sound falls dead
Against the outer ear, to spring to life,
To ten-fold life, to burst with ten-fold force,
Upon that tender, shrinking, inner shell,
Where sound breeds sound, and torture, greater torture.

An outer world
Of silent shadows, and a secret world
Of mental chaos and confounding sound;
Waters roaring,
Winds imploring,
Boring through the caves of mind;
Fiends shrieking,
Lost souls wreaking
Vengeance on their weaker kind;
Weird, wild wailing,
Voices railing,
Through grim chambers of the dead;
Booming, booming,
Sound entombing,
Sound—dazed, I hold my aching head,
And my own voice, strange and hollow,
Seeks in vain blindly to follow
Where the bombast-surges roll,
To the gruff where whirls my soul, [page 62]
Like some luckless vessel rocking,
Round her yelling furies mocking,
Flocking to her yawning tomb;
Now dispersing, deeper cursing,
Leave her to her direful doom;
Mountains reeling
Quake, revealing
All the hounds of hell let loose,
Baying, belling, doom-fortelling,
They who seek a madman’s dwelling—

The wind sinks! Ah! . . .
This heavenly, heavenly peace,
That falls upon my spirit.
My soul comes forth,
And spreads her crumpled wings;
The sun shines on tranquilizing waters; soft,
White clouds do lean upon the fallen winds . . .
How good is peace! [page 63]

 

A Simple Thing

A simple thing, to laugh, to smile,
     When others laugh and smile, as though
     We hear and know as others know— 
      A simple thing to reconcile
Ourselves to seeming wise and grave when they
      Have put their lighter moods away— 
      To feel the air vibrating to a song,
To feels its ecstasy, its triumph— ah! to long
      And secretly to sing to thee
           Or thou to me— 	
A simple thing to understand
When strangers take us by the hand,
          And so convey
     A thousand things they cannot say— 
A simple thing— but oh, my heart,
A lonely thing to be a thing apart!

      A simple thing— to hearken and to hear
           The summons clear,
Which others, deafened by the cruder noise
Of spoken words, hear not; on wings to poise,
And at the gates of Faerie to appear;
To feel the secret of all loveliness so near,
And, like a child with some forgotten toy,
Creep through the slow-closing doors to capture joy— 
      A simple thing— but oh, my heart,
      A bitter thing to be a thing apart! [page 64]

 

The Flower

From “The Marriage of Music”.

 

EARTH hid her joys;
Justice was dead;
Life's counterpoise
Did seem unhallowed;
For truth and light
Forsook the right.
In pride and wrath
I paced the garden-path,
And near the mellow ground
A simple sermon found.
There bloomed a lovely flower,
Half broken 'neath a shower
Of crystal dew. Unshed,
The drops bowed down its head
And almost snapped its stem;
Yet, from each tearful gem
The labouring flower so bent
Withdrew sweet nutriment— 
Through parching hours fed
Did blossom comforted. [page 65]

 

On the Beach

HE stands upon the beach alone,
Wrapped in that inner twilight gloom,
Where light is sound, and action's joys atone
      For the silence of a tomb.
His eye watches the curling wave,
So, when its curves are lost in foam,
Snatches the music that the ripples gave,
      Carries the cadence home,	
Where sits the spirit drinking deep within,
Imaginary echoes of the world's hoarse din.

 

A Rebel in Heaven

From “The Marriage of Music.”

 

THE silver trumpets pealed from Heaven,
As through the starry cloud-space sped
The seraphim to whom was given
      The passing of the dead.

And as the souls in hushed suspense
Rose softly to the judgment-place,
Each wore a veil of penitence
      About its stricken face.

But one passed on so proudly stern
The fore-most shining angel fell
Out from the host, and bade her turn
      Unto the shades of hell. [page 66]

"Thou hast not won the pledge," he said,
"That brings thee to Thy Father's Throne;
This is the Pleading of the Dead
      For penitents alone."

She turned upon him, full and fierce,
With splendid passion in her eyes,
"What penitence," she cried, "Can pierce
     The flesh man petrifies?"

Then open wide she threw her breast,
And showed her heart of polished stone,
And round it there was manifest
      A serpent-woven zone.

"These playmates sucked my brain," she said,
"And trifled with their dainty food;
Then, pampered epicures, they fed
      And battened on my blood.

And sloughing here, they too congealed,
And rightly shared the common doom,
When Death in Life's coarse sexton sealed
     My soul's granitic tomb.

Within this stone lie sepulchred
All-glorious Beauty, Love and Truth;
They perished, uninterpreted
     To my misboden youth." [page 67]

She pressed her clenched, white-knuckled hand
Upon her riven bosom hard,
And from the listening seraph-band
     One sigh went up to God.

Again she bared her breast, and cried,
"Let this stone symbol speak for those
Who lashed my spirit ere it died,
     And scourged the heart they froze."

The angel wept, "At whose commands,"
He cried, "was wrought this thing to thee?"
"Fair women, with soft, gentle hands,"
     She said, "did this to me."

I bartered for the right to live,
My heritage of joy divine,
And for that bare prerogative
     A life in death was mine!

Or life— or death— it mattered not— 
Each might have equal claims to me,
But life in death— O God! ye wot
      'Tis bitterest agony!"

She spoke no more; her fingers strayed
About the serpents on her heart;
With one fierce glance to heaven she made
     As if she would depart. [page 68]

She cast her scathing eye along
The souls that stayed in dumb array,
And some there were within that throng
     Who, shivering, shrank away.

With scornful laugh, she turned about, 
As one who shuns a shameful sight;
They went their way, and she passed out
      Into the silent night.

The silver trumpets blared from Heaven,
And through the starry cloud-spaced sped
The seraphim to whom was given
      The passing of the dead.

 

Monotony

NOW life's intolerable tameness,
Subtle and dangerous,
Has smitten into deadly sameness,
These fleeting hours which have no fleetness,
These strong, sweet hours which have no strength nor sweetness.
      Flame and adventure no more,
           Ashes and montony	
      Falling fast to stifle thee,
           Dull is the treeless shore,
           Dull is the waveless sea. [page 69]

 

Melancholy

MORNING breaks the unsmiling,
Noonday sets in cloud,
Evening, unbeguiling,
Spreads her sable shroud.

             *       *       *  

Now look into the silence of this soul,
There, where in emotion rent a hole— 
Nothing but darkness and despair
Sitting by dying embers there.
This is the prison of a soul shut in
From life, and death, from all sweet sounds that bless,
Where desperate longing once to feel akin
To heaven or earth died out in loneliness.

 

Loneliness

IN unutterable loneliness I sit,
And quaff the bitter dregs of my own spirit,
And none may drink with me nor share my vigil;
But, when my drinking's done,
I look into the eyes of pangless death,
He, who forever waits on pain,
And from his hand I take the deadly potion,
That numbs the agony of grim, returning life,
And sends me, calm and sobered, back to men. [page 70]

 

If I Could Hear

IF I could hear
This lovely song,
This silver stream
The trees among,
This song that shakes
The moon-beams white,
I think that I would die
Of such delight.

If I could hear
This mournful dirge,
Whose labouring notes
Tremble and surge
In music none
But masters make,
I fear my heart— 
My heart would break.

 

The Canary

O LITTLE BIRD! pent in thy prison,
How many rapturous songs have risen,
Founts of pure joy, from thy small cell!
Say, were it better thus to dwell
Like thee in endless bondage, or,
Like me to wander far
On crippled wings that weak winds mock,
Wearily flying 'neath the flock? [page 71]

 

[blank page]

 

OF CHILDREN

[unnumbered page]

 

[blank page]

 

Little Ships

SOMETIMES when dangerous weather
Narrows the sea-ways wide,
      Wave and wind together
      Shatter titanic pride.
Splendour and light to darkness hurled,
One piteous wreck appals a world.

Ah! chant her tragic story,
Her gallant struggles, bring
      All honour, praise and glory— 
      'Tis not of her I sing;
The little ships which call to me,
Are tossed in by-lanes of the sea.

They call, but who shall hear them,
Cast in that silent zone?
     Who but the ship-wrecked near them,
      Unanchored, overthrown?
O little ships! yet may not I
To tell your bitter story try?

 

Children’s Dreams

WHAT do you dream, O children dear?
You that are deaf and never may hear,
You that are blind and never may see,
You that are dumb and dumb must be— 
What can you dream of, children dear? [page 75]

When you draw near to the gate of sleep,
Who are those watching, your souls to keep?
What are they, fairies or ghouls,
Waiting to whiten your souls,
Waiting to blanch you with fear— 
Oh, come away! come away, sleep!

Come away, sleep! Listen and wait,
Close and fasten the yawning gate— 
Nay, alas! it were vain to tell
The visions of horror these know so well— 
     Sleep, sleep, be kind!
These are the deaf and dumb and blind,
These are the lambs that death would keep,
Where can you take them, careless sleep?

Sleep! be gentle with these who know
That soft and boisterous winds do blow,
That sunshine is warm, that rain can beat,
That food tastes good, that flowers smell sweet,
That earth can be hard or soft to the feet,
That hands can be cruel or friendly, and oh,
Little besides, untaught, they know . . .
These are the lambs that death would keep,
Where would you take them, gentle sleep?

Sleep! sleep! What do you say? . . .
You'll bring them to meadows all starred with gold,
With rose-tipped daisies to gather and hold—  [page 76]
You'll show them the violet, sweet and lorn,
The dropping bluebell, the green young corn,
The hare-bell that blooms on the hilltop high,
All colours that paint the changing sky— 
And they shall listen to all that sing,
     To each whirring wing,
     And four-footed thing,
To whispering trees and murmuring streams,
And they themselves shall join in the song,
Day shall be jolly the whole night long— 
     Dreams? Dreams?
     Nay! you say?
Take them away then, hand in hand, 
Take them away to fairy-land!

But— when you come to these children dear,
      Open your pack of dreams,
Wherein if you find one only fear,
One thing of horror, one thing that screams,
One thing that causes the eyes to weep,
The blood to chill and the flesh to creep— 
     Steal away . . . steal away, sleep!

 

The Garland

SOME rain must fall, some tears be shed,
And in this rain-soaked wood
Are wind-torn blossoms hanging, dead
Upon a rotting, rustic Rood. [page 77]

But He Who made the ever-glade,
And christened wind and sleet,
Named mountain-boy and meadow-girl,
To bloom about His living Feet.

 

These Children

Birds in the trees, a bird above the clouds,
     All ecstatic, singing;
Down in their playing-fields are happy crowds
     Of children blithely swinging.
Some stand apart and gaze, they know not why,
Up to their quiet trees, their silent sky.

Loud roars the blast—the bitter winter blast
     Round the house is screaming;
Cosily tucked in sheltered beds and fast
     Asleep, are children dreaming.
Roar, blustering winds, and down the chimney blow!
Loud, louder roar—these children will not know.

Redbreasts are chirping in the snow, and sweet
     Christmas bells are ringing,
Children with rosy cheeks and dancing feet
     Breadcrumbs to Robin bringing.
Chime, chime, O Christmas bells! chime loud and clear,
Chirp, Robin, chirp! These children cannot hear. [page 78]

Oh, let us not our easy souls befool—
     Children's hearts are aching;
Sad, self-tormented, in their play, at school,
     These children's hearts are quaking.
Deep are those wounds no word nor look reveals,
Deep are the pangs a silent child conceals.

These, to disarm the might of pity's eyes,
     Awkward, unbeguiling;
These, with their hearts brimful of "wild surmise,"
     So confident and smiling.
Strange are their terrors, blunders and despairs,
Strange are the lonely longings always theirs.

Youth has no morrow, all its grief is cupped
     In one fierce emotion;
Age at its leisure sips, and is never supped
     So maddening a potion.
Age, wise in life, drinks hemlock and is free,
Youth, crippled youth, still treads Gethsemane!

 

And These

GOD in His infinite compassion gives
     Hope and compensation;
Nothing can leave His Bosom, nothing lives
     In utter isolation.
These, deaf and blind, how much they stand alone,
Pent in their silent cage, have seldom known. [page 79]

Infinite patience—infinite, divine,
     Is the love that tends them;
How shall poor words this human love define,
     This love that comprehends them—
Far, far beyond our ruder minds' control,
Reaches and grasps each lonely, loitering soul.

God, in His wonderful compassion gives
     His own consolation;
Godlike, the human spirit still outlives
      This awful desolation.
Godlike, across the sundering gulf it calls,
Leap it in triumph, and in triumph falls.

 

And These

THESE, whose clear souls dawn in frank baby eyes
     On our bosoms nestling—
These, who look up and smile, our lullabies
     Their listening souls arresting—
These, to what night, what silence, shall they come
Drawn by the war-delirium of the drum?

These, crashed in cloud or sea, in cave or wood,
     Masterless, unhoping,
Ears, eyes, and nostrils filled with streaming blood,
     Our sons, our dear ones groping.
Gaily they leave us, march with fife and drum,
Darkened and deafened, home to us they come! [page 80]

God in His infinite compassion—NAY!
     And we scorn our duty—
How shall we ask His pity in that day
     Of mournful squandered beauty?
Oh, mothers! whilst we cry, "Thy Kingdom come,"
Hark! hark! the sad delirium of the drum!

 

To A Child Asleep

THIS body that to man-ship moves in sleep,
May all the powers of God-hood bless and keep,
So these soft limbs be not with fetters bound,
Nor this love-honoured head grow grey uncrowned,
Nor these shell-folded hands, unsceptred, fall
Apart in supplication, robbed of all;
So this fair body to its kingdom come,
And for a fairer soul provide a home;
So they together sail blue air or deep
On spirit-wings awake, as now asleep.

 

Broken Branches

THESE willow branches that have lain
     All winter in the cold,
Put forth their silken buds again,
As if upon the sun and rain
     They had not lost their hold. [page 81]

As gaily as the growing trees
     That fringe the brawling stream.
Invited for no revelries,
And sure of life ephemeral these
      Still bud and blow and dream.

So little children that have been 
     All summer in the cold,
They, who have never heard nor seen
The singing birds and meadows green,
     On life have lost their hold.

Frail severed branches! Fair and still,
     Not uncaressed they lie,
Though careless footsteps have their will,
How many tender hearts they thrill
     Who will not let them die!

 

The Lesson

“Baa, baa, black sheep! Have you any wool?”
“Yes sir! yes sir! three bags full.”
“Baa, baa, black sheep—

 

ONE by one, the strange new words,
Fluttering on the lips are told,
One by one to trembling hands
Half their meaning they unfold:
"Baa, baa, black sheep! have you any wool?" [page 82]

Oh, crimson are her cheeks with joy.
Skipping like a lamb she goes;
This the lesson newly learned,
This, the only song she knows,
"Baa, baa, black sheep! have you any wool?"

Now the life of life has dawned,
Now her soul of earth is shriven,
Angels teach no lovelier song
In the daisy-fields of Heaven,
Than "Baa, baa, black sheep! have you any wool?"
     “Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full."

In the Silence

I AM drugged with the opium of silence,
I am drunk with the galmour of dreams,
And far away, farther than ever,
Is the song that I dreamed of, it seems.

O my children, who dwell in the silence!
It is little enough that I give,
And far away, farther than ever,
Is my song that would help you to live. [page 83]

 

[blank page]

 

THE DEEPER SILENCE

[unnumbered page]

 

[blank page]

 

A Song for Charles Crane

     OF one I sing my song,
     Of one who thinks no wrong,
Though life has wronged, has pierced him to the heart;
     His eyes sweet light put out,
     His ears sweet sound shut out,
And he from man and nature flung apart.

     The Tyrian men of old
     When forth on ventures bold.
A gallant company—no fear they knew;
     But he set sail alone
     To lands, to seas unknown—
One tiny child, launched into night anew.

     The darkness showed no rift;
     For weary years adrift,
A child-derelict on life's sea he lay;
     What though the winds were kind,
     Unto his lonely mind,
What voice could reach, what hand could point the way?

     In many a sea-port town,
     The curious folk come down
To see a battered ship brought home in tow,
     A sight to look upon,
     Her sails and masts all gone,
Yet she again on voyages will go. [page 87]

     So, him of whom I sing,
     An angel fair did bring
Into her sage and much desired haven:
She speaks and he can hear,
     As soul to soul comes near,
Mute thoughts upon his outstretched hand engraven.

     Gold, silver, ivory,
      Peacocks, and apes, may be
Truly to hardy sailors treasure-trove,
      But costlier things than these
      Must his great soul appease—
Light, life and knowledge, fellowship and love.

     No grim Sargasso Sea
     More sinister could be,
Than this strange ocean which he longs to sail,
     But he is near the prime
     Of manhood's golden time—
And youth, with tireless courage, will not quail.

     What silent zone may hold
      A mariner so bold?
A soul so gallant, mind so finely bred?
     O spirit, sweet and proud
     With joyous pride, unbowed
Your smiling face, your bright uplifted head! [page 88]

 

The Dance

LAUGHTER, quick breathing, and night—
Folks who are deafened and dumb,
Lost in a trance of delight,
Dance to the beat of a drum.

Shuffling and dancing they come,
(Drum-led and steady their feet)
All full of laughter, while some
Fun with their fingers repeat.

Flashing, deft fingers, discreet
Repartee, joke and old song—
Oh, where in the world would you meet
So happy, so youthful a throng?

 

A Ruined Shrine

MOURN not for ruined things of stone,
Are they not beautiful in death?
Again they will arise and take thy breath
With beauty; even now the wild birds build
And sing in spring;
And hark! amongst the ruins the rude shouts
Of careless youth—strong winds bring bouts
Of volleying freshness to the mouldering walls;
The workmen's hammers ring,
The workmen sing
Sweet madrigals. [page 89]
But mourn, oh! mourn for this frail thing of bone,
This Daedal labyrinth, this ruined shell,
Wherein delights were wont to dwell—
For them what scapegoat can atone?
These delicate mysteries, divinely spun,
Echo no more to hammer, lute, or gun—
Life at its worst, the dungeon in a tower—
So well the work of hate in man is done.

O lonely, prisoned soul! not heaven nor hell,
Again may build for thee thy aural shell,
Wherein delight and thou were wont to dwell.

 

They Also Served

“During the Great War many of our deaf tried to enlist in H.M. Forces, and in two or three cases succeeded. One man actually went ‘Over the top’ before they found out that he was deaf. A few of the deaf (at home) lost their lives through not hearing the challenges of the sentries when passing them.”¾Selwyn Oxley, Hon. Sec. of the Guild of St. John of Beverley for the Deaf, London England.

 

SOMEWHERE in England, there are quiet graves
No sumptuousness adorns, but they are known:
There, wounded bodies rest in peace—alas!
What had these learned of life but peace alone?
Peace invincible, joy-shattering peace,
Sometimes to semblance of despair outgrown!

Rest, rest and peace—it was not these you sought,
You, whose proud hearts spent agony conceal, 
How should you serve these delicate gods of war? [page 90]
To them the perfect knights alone may kneel,
Or take their bitter sacraments, alone,
March to be broken on the Sacred Wheel!

And sign and countersign being all you knew
Of speech, life's irony must take you thus—
"Halt! who goes there?" and who but death should speak!
Who else give countersign impetuous?
You, whom the gods of war, disdainful, spurned,
Have you not dared? . . . Have you not died for us?

 

The Darkened Room

THE night is old, the moon is clear,
Fallen is the evening star,
All may know how gay we were,
No one knows how sad we are
Sitting here.	
Draw the curtains, dowse the fire,
Darkness shall be our desire,
Speaking of that darkened room
We must sit in kindred gloom.

All the rooms were full of light,
Shaded lamps and pine-knots bright,
Down the dusky corridor,
Lilted lute and dulcimer,
But no flame nor hint of love [page 91]
Lilted to the floor above,
And so on lazy kindness bent,
To the scholar's room we went.

Lightly fastened was the door,
At our touch it opened wide,
Yawning shadows gaped before,
Deeper darkness couched inside.
And sitting there in quietness,
Was a figure doing sums,
Strange, metallic, mystic sums,
With meanings that we could not guess;
A lonely figure, not more lonely then,
Than when
Conversation round him hums.

In the sudden dazzling light
Not an eyelash of him stirred;
All the pitying things we said
Quavered on the air unheard.
Someone touched him; sudden too,
Like smoking sunbeams from a cloud,
A light shone from his face, aloud
His joyous laughter leaping,
Betrayed his thought,
He had been caught
Like one in daytime sleeping . . .
He smiled with pride; his fingers stole [page 92]
Back to their well-beloved task—
They gave to him all he could ask,
Eyes, ears, and manna to his soul.

We pondered long upon his power,
But more upon his generous dower:
His hope that warmed us like a sun,
Courage that solaced everyone,
His faith in love's dominion—
It was a wondrous hour!
But, when the blazing lights were quenched,
Before the swift eclipse we blenched,
Our hearts with shuddering horror wrenched.
Then, as we turned away,
Someone in kindly play,
Returned to spell upon his hand a parting joke,
Again sweet laughter from him broke . . .
We left him laughing in the dark,
Laughing and weaving hands to us—
Simple, fine gentleman! knightly and valorous,
There, in the dark! [page 93]

 

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LISTENING-IN

[unnumbered page]

 

[blank page]

 

Listening-In

MY country! I who may not go
The venturous way thy lovers know,
Who, timid traveller, hath but seen
Green fringes of thy wide demesne,
Know well unfit am I to sing
Of thee, yet my love-lyrics bring.
Half-whispers of thy wandering wind,
Of beauty, stream and bird entwined,
I dare to sing who never heard
The song of water, wind or bird,
Who cons thy strenuous joy or dearth
On garden-seat or flame-lit hearth,
And who would all that comfort give
For strength with thee awhile to live.

 

II

MY country towers from granite hewn,
Snow-purified and purged with fire,
A noble land with Edens strewn,
She can give all men their desire.
High lands and seas her strong sons rove,
In quietness I sing my love.

My love of all her frozen crests
That know no comrade but the stars, [page 97]
Her ever-covered virgin breasts
Hiding a thousand rugged scars.
Knees deep in pine and cedar grove,
She strides her streams and calls for love.

My day is spent, my night half-gone,
And I am given to helpless rage,
If I of all my hopes have none,
What shall illume this heritage?
How vain love's loyalty to prove—
There's nought to do but sing for love.

For love of her, great lonely land!
Whose state and worth are still unknown,
Whose stubborn fastness withstand
Yet claim the strong ones for her own;
But me, how should her heart approve,
Who must sit still and chant for love?

For love of beauty, for the soul
Whose veil the rising sun heath drawn,
The promise and the aureole
Attendant on her star-rimmed morn,
For those heroic ones who strove,
And gave her glory, honour, love.

I sing of all I may not win,
Her dangerous sport, her strenuous task, [page 98]
The friendship, love, and closer kin,
The young and strong alone may ask.
I, who in dreams to all things clove,
In rath renouncement prove my love.

If nothing from my hope is born,
That hope still lives, beloved hand!
And, not entirely forlorn,
Grows green and meadows rainbow-spanned,
Air, land, and sea thy great ones rove,
In quietness I sing my love.

 

III

HOW would I sing if I could fly,
And see thy beauty underspread,
Those ancient trails, thy streams, espy
From ocean-bar to mountain-head—
Tremendous thought! to measure thee
As wild geese do, from sea to sea.

To leave thy green Pacific isles
Fretting the mists of rosy morn,
To fail when changeful Venus smiles,
Fair Madeleine, Atlantic-born;
So crush thy beauty in the cup
Of one short day and drink thee up. [page 99]

But of such intoxicating draught,
Is for Olympian youth alone,
Nor can imaginative craft
Make such rare ecstasy mine own,
But I can sip a simpler wine
While love doth make my heart thy shrine.

 

IV

NO slender wireless tops our roof,
No strange magicians there are found,
Weaving with unseen warp and woof
Their scintillating web of sound;
Though silence takes me in her springe,
Far-reaching thoughts on me impinge.

Here is no care for space or time,
Well-ordered hours no line deploy,
The morning bird and evening chime
Together pour the cup of joy;
And while it's young and lusty day,
Sweet vespers call from Grand Pre.

I hear a song from tossed sea-folk,
From muffled maids at prairie wells—
From where Columbian hot springs smoke
To Labrador's remoter fells,
A song all other songs above,
A song of labour-sweetened love. [page 100]

I hear a glacier creep; a stream
Roars to the torrent-strangled wall;
I hear a hunter, and the scream
Of wounded wild things ere they fall;
Hoarse avalanches, moaning bights,
And whispers born of Northern Lights.

I hear the sawmill's monstrous wheel
And dreadful arm of fate—Oh, see!
That grim, relentless clasp of steel,
Hear the wild shriek of some gripped tree!
Tree! tree! you taste of death again,
As when you first fell down amain.

Night's Sabbath gun to labour calls,
The waiting fishers draw their breath,
From each dark boat the great seine falls,
Life must snare life to cozen death . . .
I thought the shock of life to bring,
And death, and death again, I sing.

Ah! listen to the hum of bees
Building their combs of honey and wax,
Ah! listen to the song of these
Strong, sturdy peasants spinning flax,
Or weaving with grave, Slav delight,
Fair linen and embroideries white. [page 101]

Around a camp-fire Indians sing,
The tom-tom quicker, quicker beat,
One in their midst—his closed hands swing—
La Halle! fast game and joyous feat!
Around, around in laden lines,
The golden-green, perfumed hope vines.

These care-free native children love,
They love but know not half their dower,
The freedom set by cedar grove,
By tropic spring or alpine bower;
By sea-long lake, by rock-girt isle,
In stately fir-cathedral aisle.

Gay songs from river-boats, sweet hymns
From steeple, cupola, or dome,
From mountains, valleys, prairie rims,
Wherever souls may find a home,
And, drowning saint and Lorelei,
Sweet Israfel flutes from the sky.

His flute with witchery overflows,
The rhythm through creation runs,
He sings of Orion's labouring throes,
The splendid wane of dying suns.
Sing! sing! Thy tuneful wonders tell,
My soul can hear thee, Israfel! [page 102]

Oh! now on my Canadian hills,
Michael is girding on his sword,
While Gabriel's horn each valley fills,
Calling the armies of his Lord,
And, marching with the valiant band,
Spirit and god walk through the land.

Their radiance whirls the mists away—
The country's full of secret runes;
At dawn, at noon, at close of day,
The country's full of lovely tunes.
Ah, unsealed ears and opened eyes,
This Canada is Paradise!

                   *      *      *

O God! in spirit I have walked,
And all things sang their song for me;
Deafened and baffled, I have talked
With earth and man, I talk with Thee!
Humbled with joy, my thanks I give
For this divine reparative.

Ah! long ago Thy giants ruled
Their ancient city, fort and fen,
By gold and dwarfs shall we be schooled?
Give us great chiefs! Give us great men!
And that tremendous mother bless,
Who made us heirs of righteousness! [page 103]

 

[blank page]

 

THE SILENT ZONE

[unnumbered page]

 

[blank page]

 

The Silent Zone

 

I

HERE woven loops of silence lie
Upon the waves, a shifting snare,
And none may hear this doomed ship's cry,
For dead to hope, to hope's reply,
The unresponsive air.

The ships come sailing o'er the sea,
And fate has marked one for his own,
How fair they go, exulting, free!
Save one, the chosen one, and she
Rocks in a silent zone.

Her sister-ships sail far away
To some fair port or fabled strand,
But she, a prisoner, must stay,
A stunned, unhappy castaway,
Adrift off fairyland.

 

II

NOT upon the ocean only
Lurks this woe-compelling snare,
We, the deafened ones, the lonely,
Drag our feet in dull despair. [page 107]

Secret bonds of silence bound us,
On our hearts relentless fell,
Zones of desolation found us,
Crushed our ears beneath their spell.

Down the centuries, heroic,
Flame the strong souls all men know,
To our equal trial stoic,
Timid, unconfessed we go.

Dear lost world! how sick with longing,
Happy-seeming hearts may be!
Old, uneasy ghosts come thronging,
Whispering, whispering hopelessly.

 

III

THOUGH this be true,
     And woven loops of silence circle you;
     Though none may know
The secret of your devastating woe,
     If 'tis your fate today,
     Shall it be thus away
To baffle silence with the silent word?
     Your litany unsung,
     No threnody far flung,
No grand heroic verse, your choral hymns unheard?
     Rebel! rebel! [page 108]
The whole, the unacknowledged gospel tell;
     'Twas not so meant
That you should hug this self-given punishment.
     Oh, of your souls absolve
     This terrible resolve
This wayward whim to this out-patience God.
     Cry out, cry out, O speak!
'Tis life itself you seek,
Behold the dreary by-ways you have trod!

     Rebel! this zone
Too long its fetter round your souls had thrown;
     Too long, too long,
Has cut you off from freedom, dance and song.
     Now for each other's sake,
     Arise! arise and take
The moated castle of your heart's desire,
     And for complete delight,
     Will you not venture quite
The full extent, the daring compass you aspire?
     Nor half content
Your prisoned souls with austere ravishment?
     Not one, nor two
Rebuffs, denials, daunt nor make you rue
     This budding hardihood,
     This recklessness that would
Achieve at once the death of recreant shame, [page 109]
     Then shall you no more fear
     To make your title clear,
To tell of secret sacrifice, erroneous blame.

 

To All Men

TO arms! To arms!
Thy dead with thy living are sleeping,
And thy new-born are cradled in graves,
There is sore lamentation and weeping,
For thy sons and thy daughters are slaves.
     They are prisoners of silence,
     They are captives of darkness,
     They are secrets in the dungeons
     Of life in its starkness.	
     To arms! To arms!

There is loveliness born of true silence,
When the soul to its Maker is given;
There is deadliness lives in the silence,
And the heart of its load is unshriven.
There is beauty of stars in the darkness,
And the languorous murmur of birds—
There is rage and despair in the darkness,
And a welter of merciless words,
To arms! To arms! 

Though the dead with the living are sleeping,
Though the new-born are cradled in graves, [page 110]
Concealed is the wailing and weeping
With the patience and courage of slaves,
     Who are prisoners of silence,
     Who are captives of darkness,
     Who are secrets in the dungeon
      Of life in its starkness,
      To arms! To arms!

 

The Sea

THE shallows of bale
Sent their challenge to me;
There is none who can tell the full tale
     Of the sea.

[illustration]

[page 111]

 

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