[4 blank pages]
The Neighing North
[unnumbered page, includes illustration:“He knows not bit nor bridle, his nostrils are flaming.”]
ANNIE CHARLOTTE DALTON
J. W. GALLOWAY MACDONALD
THE RYERSON PRESS
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
The Marriage of Music. Erskine Macdonald, London. 1915.
Flame and Adventure. Macmillans, Toronto. 1924.
The Silent Zone. Privately Printed. 1927.
The Amber-Riders. The Ryerson Press, Toronto. 1929.
Copyright, Canada, 1931,
ANNIE CHARLOTTE DALTON
THE NEIGHING NORTH
All but one of the great Provinces of Canada, each a kingdom in itself, possesses a coat-of-arms individually symbolical, the sole exception being that which comprises the North-West Territories. This Province has no heraldic representation, and yet it is by far the largest kingdom of all, and bids fair in the course of time to become the most important. It is usual to speak of the Beaver or the Maple as generally representative of Canada as a whole, but neither of these symbols can be considered as inclusive of the Farthest North. For the Arctic and the Sub-Arctic, then, there is yet to be found a fitting emblem—for that noble Spirit of Place whose presence even the rough and practical pioneer dimly perceives and jokingly speaks of as the Old Man of the North.
That the fabulous has been freely interwoven with the historic as regards the earliest migrations from the Eastern to the Western Hemisphere does not, I think, call for any apology in this age of incredible assumption and astounding fact.
A. C. D. [unnumbered page]
|THE NEIGHING NORTH||
|A WHITE KINGDOM|
|I Know a White Kingdom||
|Bright Arctic Days||
|Ode to an Eskimo||
|Flowers for Lady Franklin||
|Ode to a Garden||
|BALLADS OF THE SUB-ARCTIC|
|The Sounding Portage||
|John Kelley from the Isle of Wight||
|A Young Boy Singing||
|Came the Great Trek||
|March of Trees||
I laid down wood And prayed for fire, A spark from the North Consumed from the pyre. A voice from the flame My saga told, Quavering higher— Harp-led and old. And some will ask What some words mean, So thick the smoke That curls between. [unnumbered page]
The Neighing North
[illustration: J W G MACDONALD. —]
He knows not bit nor bridle, his nostrils are flaming, He calls—do you hear him—the Ghost of the North? With his hoofs he is pounding the reach and the tundra, With his wings he is shifting the Way of the Stars; He calls—do you hear him—The Neighing North? There where no horse may live, he is calling the horsemen, He stands in tossed splendour and neighs at their world; In his eyes lurk the lightnings, from his teeth rolls the thunder,1 And the wind of his Spirit like a whirlwind is blowing Invincible strength to the “chafferers and chatterers.” [page 1] He calls to the heroes who care not for danger, To the Men of the North who for death have no caring, From the North to the North comes the challenging answer, And he lifts his proud head in his scorn of their weakness, With his beauty he closes the eyes of the ocean, With his lonely wild grace breaks the heart of the sailor. In his youth he would browse through the vale of fair lilies, There where now moose in the stream chew the stems of the lilies; In his youth he would soar—joyously soar with Apollo, There, where now flushed as the sky, the Valkyrior are riding, Seeking to snare brave men’s souls for the banquet of Odin. He calls—do you hear him—the Ghost of the North? From the North to the North comes the challenging answer, [page 2] From the East to the West go the shining Armadas, From the West to the East fly the scarlet Armadas, He calls—do they hear him—they wheel to the North! With his hoofs he is pounding the reach and the tundra, With his wings he is toppling the ships from the skies, But under his feet come new conquerors creeping, And a Voice from the depth of the Kingdom defies him, A Voice that is stronger than his, that is crying— “Thule? Thule? There’s no Ultima Thule for man!”
Time keeps no tally, Kanadiens, of the days when Apollo Drove his fierce steeds from the lily-vales of your Arctic;2 Sulkily they went like wild horses from the sage hills, Slowly the rhythmic echoes of their hoof-beats died away, And the whole land was given over to deep silence and dread. Then wise Apollo, looking backward and jealous of Odin, Sent one White Stallion to that ice-threatened realm of Polaris, Saying, “There he shall keep watch and ward for Apollo, There shall he daunt the might of Odin, the One-eyed Being, There shall he reign and light the whole land with his glory!” [page 4] Snorting and obedient galloped back the White Stallion; Sunlike, his rays brought the wolves from their caverns, Fighting with mad frenzy came the cruel Bear-Sark Wearers, Lassoed the White Stallion and threw him to his haunches; Then was he slaughtered to the lust of One-Eyed Odin. Then was he butchered, with the beard of a bear was he offered, Then was his sacred flesh ceremonially eaten; Then gods immortal and mortal men sitting together, Solemnly glutted their hunger and gave thanks to Odin, Whilst round the red feast hung the Great Ghost of the Stallion. Deep was the grief and the fury of royal Apollo, Deep were the vows of cold vengeance that he uttered, Saying, “There he shall keep watch and ward for Apollo, There shall he daunt the might of Odin, the One-Eyed Being, There shall he reign and blight the whole land with his glory!” [page 5] Then answered Odin, “All the land will I mantle in mourning, White it shall be that the power of the Ghost may be lessened.” Gently mocked Apollo as he drove his creaking chariot Over the frozen tundra, over the frozen highlands, Marshalling the bright gods on his way to far Delos. Gone are the Horse-Eaters to merry Gladsheim with Odin, Few are his scattered worshippers, gloomy and few are his feastings; But round the charmed circle still plunges the tireless Stallion, Neighing with wild defiance across the ruined parklands, One with the bitter blizzard, he tramples and whistles. Time keeps no tally, Kanadiens, of the days ere Apollo Drove his fierce steeds from the lily-vales of your Arctic, Nor can you remember the Unknown Names3 so long forgotten, Neither know you the Transit of the Lost Stars from the Northlands, —Many a Floating Isle ere Delos, has borne Golden Apollo. [page 6] Odin in Joyous Asgard, Apollo on Bright Olympus— Gods happily forgetful mid time-destroying pleasure; Still keeping watch and ward for Apollo, paces the tireless Spirit, Daunting the pride and might of Odin, the One-Eyed Being, Vivid and godlike as they, remote, beautiful and bitter. Fiercely the Spiral Sun4 ascends above him, fiercely descending, Round him rolls riotous desolation on desolation, Hundreds of leagues away rise mournful lingering echoes, There starving wolves go ranging and crying their hunger; Fiercely above him rises the Spiral Sun, fiercely descending.
Thousands of leagues away men shiver and burrow in caverns, Thither they grope, light lamps, and carve their ideals of magic, Then leaving their rude fireplaces, they follow the Mammoth and Musk-Ox Over the broad low valley where now rages the turbulent ocean; So winds the first Folk-Way to your North, so come the first Migrants. [page 8] So came the first Migrants to that desolate region, “The Barrens,”5 Driven by their hunger to wander far from the European meadows, Forced from the hillsides of Gallia, urged by the raging flood-waters, Or by their brothers, the Herdsmen, who shrewdly tamed horses and cattle, Ages before the proud Gauls had given their name to that country. There in “The Barrens” they stayed, in that waste where nothing but lichen, Mosses and heather and cold-warped willows can temper its stretches; And whether they starved awhile, or whether the gods gave them plenty, Happily there they abode till came the clear voice of the Stallion, Turning them Northward to him, to the home and the spoil of the hunter. Thither they went, taking each beautiful lance and harpoon-thrower, Singing harpoon and bird-dart, toys and tools of ivory and deer-horn, Carrying the bow-drill with which they cunningly bored, and made fire, Swinging the small smooth stones with tough thongs tethered together, Whirling them round like chain-shot and smiting the swiftest of wild-fowl.[page 9] Nameless they lived till the Norsemen christened them Skraelings, the Fairies,6 Nameless as those of their sires who hunted the seal and the salmon, Spearing them both in Gaul with their carved and deadly barbed lance-heads; Magdalenians we call them, who chiselled the chase on stone in their houses, Showing that this and that folk were one and the same pleasant people.7 Fiercely he called to these people and made them great hunters, Whether they sailed the summer seas in their kayaks of seal-skin, Chasing the bow-headed whale, the narwhal, and trumpeting walrus, Or crouched on the ice by the blowholes in winter with harpoon uplifted, Or harried the Musk-Ox and Amarok8 over the timberless tundra. Time keeps no tally, Kanadiens, of those years in your Northlands, Thousands of years whose days were uneventful and barren, Gods immortal and myth-men sitting no longer together, Sitting no longer together and sopping in crimson communion, Whilst in the warm South empires were buried and builded. [page 10] When was Odin born—when Apollo—who may declare it? What is the lapse of years, of aeons, in the lives of the Immortals? What care the Skraelings for Apollo and what for the One-Eyed Odin— They who hunt the sea-unicorn, the leviathan, and the sea-lion, Undisturbed by the passions of heaven or its crying. Slyly they play with cat’s cradles, catching the Sun fleeing Southward; Poising the cup and the ball to assist him when Northward returning; Charming the souls of the sea-beasts caught in the reek of the slaughter, Charming the souls of the land-beasts, gently forgiveness imploring— Such is the homelier magic wrought by the need-driven Skraelings. Spirits they fear and miracles wax, but no wonder Breeds in their minds for them, the Awful is ever transcendent, Daily the monstrous is born, impossible marvels surround them, Never assuaging their hunger, but luring and binding a people Free as the sparrows that build in the eaves of a cottage or castle.[page 11] Who like the Skraelings can know how to appease that keen hunger, Born of the treeless waste where hope often with horror goes hunting? Happy and cheerful are they, their substance with poorer ones sharing, Living and spirit-men equally sharing the dolphin and seal-head, Precious, more precious to them than the storied horn of the unicorn. Skirting the frozen coasts they fly, driving their dog-teams before them, Straining, struggling specks of endurance, four-footed heroes; Savage and faithful to death, wolf-blood or dog-blood ascendant, Staining the fair white snow with unwavering, crimsoning footprints, Bringing the hunters home to the village with triumph and gladness.[page 12] Who like the Skraelings love laughter, who hath a heart that is lighter? Who like them bid the weary guests welcome to food and warm shelter, Building for them a snow dance-house, beating the drum in the dance-house, Singing their own peculiar songs, swaying their bodies and dancing. 9 Who like the Skraelings love laughter, who hath a heart that is lighter?
Searching for Michael’s Court, City of Myth,10 come strange, sea-borne hunters, Strong-armed Norsemen, hungry and cold, hunting fur-beasts and fishes; Harking from their snow-burrows rush the shaggy Kanadiens, Slaying the forward Food-stealers or subtily driving them backwards; Fell was the pitiless battle, grievous the fate of the Norsemen. Harshly of Odin their god had boasted the visiting hunters, Blustered of fire and sword, of plunder the glory of Asgard, Vaunted of Odin’s throne and bright spear, that terrible sceptre, Told how he rode his swift steed, tireless Eight-footed Sleipnir, Sung of his ravens and wolves, of glorious wound-healing Valhalla. [page 14] Manfully of Odin and his might sung the death-fated Vikings; Now, ’neath the tender orange light of the wintry moonrise, Sprawled their stiff bodies, like discarded dolls lay grotesquely, Prone on the glittering tundra whilst the Stallion neighed exultation. To and fro he went in stilted trot, defying dead Odin. No man had dared to approach his stronghold,11 none but the Skraelings, Beings whom brave men named Skraelings, the Fairies, beings who had ventured Over the wide lush valley where now rages the turbulent North Sea, Over the icebound countries, Northward tracking Reindeer and Musk-Ox, Beings who sucked life from “The Barrens” and gave death to the Norsemen. Time keeps no tally, Kanadiens, of those days when the Skraelings Drove, greatly daring, brave men to meet their untimely death-throe, Yet it is written in secret runes whereof you can have no caring, Therefore say not that these things should never be spoken, —Many a Floating Isle ere Delos, has borne Golden Apollo. * * * * * [page 15] North from the Euxine shores men sailed, more sea-loving rovers, Haughty, foresighted and fearless, in the Provinces flouting the Romans; Over-running Germania, fighting and harrying the Latins, Sweeping through the great waters from Mikligard to dim Vinland, Joyously riding the storms, harnessing Death to their galleys. Theirs was cool courage, theirs was the chivalrous spirit; Heroes in war; in peace, wholesome and god-favoured Law-Men; Fair and cruel and mighty in gold and bronze armoured warships; Knowing not terror and ruthless, meeting few men of their mettle; Pirates, some called them, who guessed not the wont of the noblest. Creeping through the dark floods in their long black sinister galleys, Came to a fair little Isle those valiant plundering Norsemen, So had their fathers assailed and raped in many a dreadful adventure, Raiding with fire and with sword that green and peace-loving Island, Bending the shipless Brit to the Cross-crazed hate of the Pagan. [page 16] Even again to that Isle sped the swart-black ships of the Vikings; Dauntless and stubborn its tribesmen under the heel of the Roman, Now, fair doom was upon them, for glutted with war and self-conquered, Angle and Dane, Saxon and Jute, foregathered with Briton and Norman, Settling forever and blending their blood in a race of great heroes. To those tried sea-kings, fine flower of a newly-made nation, Fresh from the unwon Northland echoed the voice of the Stallion, And the frost of his breath passing over green England was bitter, Men uneasily stirred in their beds and drew up their cosy blankets, But, those with Norse blood in their veins sat up in the darkness and pondered.
Seaward these sailed having the comfort of gallant Columbus, That, where the land had beginning, there must the sea have its ending; Englishmen first,12 then bold Cabot speedily likewise essaying, Challenged the perilous billows in well-known Bristol-built vessels, Choosing their crews from the town, valiant Viking-bred seamen. Not of a region of ice did they dream, but of Fortunate Islands, Scented with spice; of Cathay, the gems and silks of Cipangu; Sailors’ tales of Atlantis, Isle of Brasyllo and Thule, Spurred their quick minds until restless and burning with visions, Gaily the salt sea wave they sailed to the “Lland of Good Fortun.” [page 18] Not as their fathers went they, brave horned casque and chain armour, Pulling long oars in the warships glittering with shield and gold dragon, Twisting the bright-hued sails fur-lined and much needle-painted; But, as their fathers went they, foot-loose and soul-free, courageous, Skilful, holding high power, wise in the ways of the ocean. Ships’ names there are which exalt and carry the souls of the English; Frobisher’s Gabriel, Sunshine and Moonshine,13 Hudson’s Discovery; Franklin’s Terror and Erebus nipped in the ice and whose sailors, Gallantly struggling, “fell down, and died as they walked” on the tundra; So runs their sorrowful story, the tale of an Eskimo Skraeling.14 Ships’ names there are and deathless the fame of the seamen who manned them; Willoughby’s15 seventy dead men pent in the Port of Arzina;16 Foiled in their search for Cathay, their long-frozen bodies were lifted Into the long-frozen vessels that never again serving England, “Sunk by the way with their dead men, and with them the living that brought them.” [page 19] Great are the fortunate knights who won their knighthood through hazard and hunger, Great are the excellent ships which lie deep in lost lanes of the Arctic, Great are the names of the heroes who made their graves in the Silence, Spending their lives for their brethren, setting out foodless and fearless, Who came not again, who “came not at all” to their comrades. There, where the Vikings, their fathers, fought with the Fairies, the Skraelings, Never in vain have the English struggled and suffered for centuries, There have they founded a Kingdom, given to their kinsmen a Kingdom,17 There where the Stallion unconquered, timeless, in beauty embattled, Calls as of old to the Northmen, calls to the children of freedom. Not from old England alone, sailed men with the blood of the Viking; Forth on the Englishmen’s heels, up through the desolate channels, Followed more dicers for danger, from stale existence estranged, Joyous and doughty, defiant, nothing of failure they reckoned, Fadeless figures of time! with time they tranquilly triumph. [page 20] Bleak are their graves, lonely and bleak as the howe of their fathers— Awful and still is that land in its slow-swift contempt of the graveless— Boldly it harshness enduring, travels the Scarlet-clad Patrol, Reverently burying the pitiful bones his ardour discovers, Bones that the sea, as the iron-cast coast, sternly refuses. Bleak though their graves are and lonely, nothing can bury That which no mouldering bones nor flesh may longer miscarry; Gaily the phantoms of dead men dance through Amazement Auroral, Gaily they glance on the spears and javelins of Odin’s war–maidens, Gently they sing to souls in sleep on the bank of the wakening river. When the late storms ride abroad,18 they are watching the shore line— Groaning and creaking seas, barrier o’er-toppling barrier; Through the faint purple twilight they rise from their ice-grappled galleys, Northward rushing with cries to the coarse waves churning and crunching, Sink through the swollen dome, slipping, sliding, calling, calling. [page 21] Strong is the power of your Arctic, Kanadiens, crushing the humble and splendid, Strong are its ladies and lords, to them vigour and daring are beauty; Mighty power has your Arctic, charming and calling—your nobles Leaning no longer to Southward or wavering no more to the Eastward, Match the Great Dead with their mettle, stubbornly Northward achieving.
Distant and cold seems the bright Horse, but the wild-folk fear not and love him; To him all souls of stricken beasts go home in their thousands, Thither their children return to breed mid the ghosts of their fathers, Strong and secure with him, they bring up their timorous offspring, Raising with innocent joy brave riches for hunter and trapper. Haply men fear him; but the wild-folk love him, the lemmings19 Hearing his call, rush from their covering homes to the stark sea-beaches; Over the ice they go, leaving their bodies behind them Strewn on the drifting floes or piled up in heedless confusion, Plunge through the sea and swim out seeking his holy of holies. [page 23] Men know not his haunt nor guess in what peril-free places Dwell his dear wild-folk with pleasure and nothing of hardship, Though they have followed the Great White Bear to discover its secret, Followed, and followed in vain, till the luck of the truth-seeking traveller Showed them its nursing retreat bright in the breast of grim Greenland.20 Though they have urgently tracked the baffling blue goose to its nesting, Spending lean years in the Arctic patiently scorning all dangers, Though they have gladdened their eyes with the sight of nests in the making,21 Still unknown is his secret lost in that well-hidden Thule, Whither no captain nor “cunning ice-master” has ventured to wander. Never a sailor has dared to plough through that south-surging ice-pack, Through that great Basin where lies, say some, the Northern Atlantis Drowned in the sea with nought but the peaks of its mountains appearing— Fabulous islands, say some, whither the far-flying wild fowl Race, weary and empty in Spring, plump with their fledglings returning. [page 24] Often at Springtide the trapper watches the Cariboo trekking Northward over the icefields, past all the visible islands, Stopping and resting at times, but never once turning heads backward; And, whither they go he knows not, nor dares he their footsteps to follow, Shaking his head as he empties his traps of the dead white foxes. Northward go the smooth seals through the rough Pacific waves pressing, First, the great bulls, then at leisure the females and young ones, Foraging for their food as they glide past the rock-sprinkled coast-lands, Fronting and baffling the spears and the Indian arrows far-darting, Sped by the young brown arm and the skill of the ancient hunter. [page 25] Year after year on the same spring day, the bull seals are climbing Out of the chilly Arctic, to choose the best of the homesteads; Then, trembles the beach with the choosers’ contending and roaring, Till the great harems arrive, through the waters come cheerfully swimming; Loud is the bull-roaring then, fierce is the mating and fighting. Streaming past in faint wedges of wings, come the sharp-crying wild fowl, Song-gifted bunting and he, the loyal true bird of the Arctic,22 Leading the wintering owl and the scantier flocks of the land-birds, Whilst massing behind them in thousands, loom the vast clouds of the sea-birds, Steady, relentless in flight, as one all wheeling and dipping. Living, the white whales go in the open to greet him, blowing and spouting: Dying, they grope, underseas craft to their ultimate harbour; Cold fish of the sea or warm flesh of the tundra, he calls them, Amorous youth and old sages, gloomy and watchful and loveless, Living and dying are his, they are vassals who never escape him. [page 26] There he still lives, symbol of death and immortal renascence; Still are the souls of beasts and of men drawn by the lure of his beauty, Yearning again unto him, and making their frequent submission, Pouring their souls into his, forever with fervour returning; Thus and thus must be born the brooding quick soul of a country. Who are his god-given kindred—mid the green mists of Orion, Rises a grand dark Head23—the awful mate of his wonder; Far in the South, the Centaur,24 swiftly to him men are moving; Pegasus, first of his breed, born of the blood of Medusa— Mystery, magic and mastery, these—these are his god-given kindred.
A WHITE KINGDOM
“A White Kingdom! A White Kingdom!
I know a White Kingdom!”
—Marcel Schwob, in The Book of Monelle. [unnumbered page]
I Know A White Kingdom
“I know a White Kingdom—” Never to go there, Gladly to dream of it all day long, Gladly to plunge through its glory and silence— Ah! what a kingdom for song! But, fiercely to enter its pleasures, Fiercely to battle its pain, Making a friend of a noble foe— Ah! what a kingdom for men! This is no country for weaklings Who husband their breath, Content to await in aimless existence, Their dignity in death! [page 31] Purely the white turrets are rising Over Time’s amaranthine haze— What mirage can be fairer, What prophecy be truer, Than this beautiful vision of future days? Shall we not sing our praise As do the weary sailors, Long ere they reach their harbour, Joyfully beholding on the horizon, Its shipping and bastions, its beacons and bays; And, reading so well that lovely illusion, Shorten their tripled labours With chanty and rough-tongued lays? [page 32]
Bright Arctic Days
Princes and dukes of navigation! we Have matched you, gallant gentlemen and seers, Against the world and matching so, we see Your victories, your agonies, your fears. Envious and proud, the longing soul descries Beauty as well through your far-seeing eyes. * * * * * The moon-attended moon is quickly waning, Bleak silence roars through winter’s tunnelled night, And man, like nature waiting uncomplaining, Hails with deep joy the faint returning light. He sees the sun-encircled sun25 come forth, And worships in his simple heart the North. [page 33] No drowsy sorceries of incense float, Estranging prodigalities of dream, No sound but some stray land-bird’s plaintive note, Or strangled whisper of a melting stream; No flowers but those ensanguining the sky, Flooding its starry fields....so soon they die! Too soon they die. No earthly flowerage surging, So sets alight these tranquil wastes of snow— Ethereal, quivering ecstasy, diverging To bloom one iridescent pearl below. Glory ineffable! O trembling flame! What poet gave you shy Aurora’s name? The banks are thick with Maytime moss; Spring-wise, Gay ptarmigan go cackling on the hills; Snow-buntings chirp; the Polar silence flies Before the song of quickly running rills; Blown are the bitter gales; the sun amain Shining all night dips once and soars again. [page 34] Through marvellous air the ardent geese are sweeping; Like some vast gem intolerably bright, Glitters the snow; far silver hill-tops sleeping, Fade in the glare of devastating light. Groaning and buckling, Titan-like set free In Brobdingnagian rout . . . . crashes the sea. Old igloos rise above the melting snow, And round them, bleached by wind and sun, the bones Of ancient whales, their age can no man know, And toy igloos bright children made from stones In that dim time; who played, and now abide In frozen graves upon the headland’s side. No tall ships ride in these grim riding places, But where the blue ice-lanes yawn to the South, In monstrous mood Dantesque, the fierce orc chases A grand Balaena who with piteous mouth, Tongue-rent and trembling, maddened by his foe, Bursts from the boiling sea in dying throe. [page 35] The hours burn on, and in a cool green sea, The timid narwhal, seal, and porpoise play; On floating ice a white bear sulks; a bee Pounces upon the new-sprung flowers; away Roll the blue lupin fields—their misty bloom, Vague grateful pastures, to the horizon loom. Through calm warm days the silky sea lies gleaming And delicately dappled white with floe; In channels lurk the green ice-tongues; there dreaming Strange folk that love the clear sea-water go. The shore and cliffs pulsate with eager birds, And on the distant slopes browse moving herds. More radiant than Sicilian sulphur cave A blue-green grotto lit with lovely light, Light the thin crusted ceiling thawing gave And all with sparkling icicles bedight; Portals of lilac, pools of turquoise kissed With lavender and rainbowed scarves of mist. [page 36] A lovely world—an island glacier splitting With thunder ’neath the swollen affrighted sea, Deep-riding bergs cascading light, rise flitting Like ghosts from some marine white Arcady, And worrying mariners look up to swear What man could curse an enemy so fair! The freezing fog blots out the heavenly blue, Coating with ice the fixed unwary barque; Or crystal clear, the lucid air askew Twists mountain, berg, and floe, but warped and stark, They rise again with rampart, tower, and spire, And snow-clad forests glinting frozen fire. Around the horizon goes the sun, and seeming To follow, rolls the moon and tops the hills With lustrous gold, their yellowed snow redeeming, And all the sky with rich green colour fills; Beyond the mountains arrows from the sun Silver and gem the icebergs one by one. The brief bright Arctic summer’s on the wane, The hundred days of darkness will be here, Flurries of snow and gales, tempestuous rain, Prepare the way for winter’s season drear. Fleet, inexorably the hours wear on, Soon will the lovely light with them be gone. [page 37] In unimaginable glory dying, The sun shoots out his rare prismatic rays, And none can tell the loneliness soon sighing Through these October and November days, That “solitary horror” sameness binds Upon men’s still and melancholy minds. A silent spotless world! and who can say Where lies the solid land and where the sea? Yonder go tired belated men and they Are specks upon its white immensity. Like specks of sand they roll, like snowdust float, But ah, the power within each moving mote! * * * * * Princes and dukes of navigation! daring Death with gay jests and unexampled pains, On sled, in ship, through deadly clouds far-faring, Till not an unswept corner still remains, Envious and proud, the roving soul descries Beauty and life through your all-seeing eyes. [page 38]
Ode to an Eskimo
Come, let us sing! It is the time for summer,26 Here is no darkness in the noon of night; Bring forth the drum and fetch the skilful drummer, It is the summer and we need no light. Bring forth the drum That eager folk may come And with us sing the grace, The crown and glory of our Northern race, Eatna! [page 39] Fair as the mellow moon is she, Gentle stars attending, Fierce as the summer sun can be From the sky descending, Bright as the river flashing into foam When the ice is broken, Steadfast as he who drives the harpoon home With a word unspoken; Fair, fierce, and bright; steadfast as the bravest— Shine, Golden North! on the queen thou gavest. Our huts are far away; The winter’s hunting done, We come awhile to play Beneath the strengthening sun. Young men, go build the dance-house! Take your knives To cut fair blocks and shape the great snow dome; Too soon the welcome trading-ship arrives And all the goodly company go home. Short is the summer, fretful as the spring, Put on your building-coats and mittens whilst we sing. [page 40] The wild fowl darken now the sun To each other crying, Little rivers to the gulches run, The solid sea is sighing. Soon will the dainty flowers be blooming In the genial air, Soon will the riven ocean booming, Beat beaches bare. Fast, fast the young men work—now we shall go Into the dazzling dance-house built of snow; Now those who may not dance will sing and beat Time for the dancers’ nimble shoeless feet, And all their songs shall be of Eatna’s fame, None but her praises call the dancing game, And she herself twirl round The hollow beaten ground. She is not here, but in this windless calm What woe can threaten her and our undoing? She is not here—what over-hidden harm Can stay the staunch outgoing Of one who would the stricken prey recover From tearing tooth of bear or bitter gale, Of one who will not any task give over, Who cannot fail? She is not here—we know not what we fear— Make no delay, Let us away! [page 41] Stay! O Stay! Eatna! Eatna! She comes! She comes! Beat loud the drums— “Eho! Eho! Eho-o-o!” she’s crying, Over the echoing ice she’s flying— Eho! Eho! Eho-o-o! Hath she not many a beast To grace our dancing feast? Her joyful dogs give voice to us replying, Eatna! Eatna! Fear-denying Death-defying Eatna! [page 42]
Flowers for Lady Franklin
O bring no flowers for this great Lady’s grave Which draws their scornful splendour from the South! No flowers for her but those the Arctic gave, Shy mute companions in her Dear One’s drouth: With him they felt the grinding blizzard blow, With him they slept in peace beneath the snow. [page 43] If you would honour this illustrious dead, Bring daisy, saxifrage, and small sweet fern; The pale anemone whose sudden head Gave ever-failing promise of return, And cones from that old spruce which with a sigh Saw stumbling bands of Franklin’s men go by. Bring trembling Arctic heather-bells of bloom, The lovely lupin rallying sullen skies, And rosy spires whose gracious rare perfume Cheers frozen bumble-bees and starving flies; Bring frosty willow-catkins “white with seed”27 No gaudier blossoms fit her simple need. [page 44] Bring snow-white buttercups and beaten grass From sodden meadows near the Arctic shore; Flowers cannot stop the crushing years which pass, Nor bring again the heart that waits no more; But these, of all of which blow, will likelier prove Emblems of bitter stress and quenchless love. O bring no careless offering to this grave, No scarlet scornful splendour from the South! No flowers for her but these—the strong, the brave, Like them her hope-starred eyes and patient mouth. With him they loved the North Wind long ago, No lesser flowers for Franklin’s lover blow. [page 45]
Ode to a Garden
Shy little garden!28 Few men may know thee, Tucked in the Shadow of Shadow Where no winds may blow thee. Though sweet is thy blossom, Fragile and rare, Who but Arctic-lovers Will seek thee there? [page 46] Thou art no mirage Set in the snow— What sailor planted thee Years ago, Ringing thee round with green mosses, Pleased as a child, Planning a garden like England’s There in the wild? Well did he cherish Thee with his care, When the brief summer Laid thee snow-bare, Watching thy struggling Hard-bitten buds, Dreaming of England And blossoming woods. No bear hath torn thee With ravishing paws, Nor wolves nor sly foxes Scrape thee with their claws. Thy poppy and sorrel Nod to the sea, Where is thy gardener, Garden! Whither went he? [page 47] No bear hath torn him; None left him alone, With a gallant company He marched—with his own! “No bear hath torn him,” Echoes the sea, “Into my fine garden Hither came he.” [page 48]
BALLADS OF THE SUB-ARCTIC
The Sounding Portage
The wind roars and the river roars; Strange footsteps hurrying by, To the roaring wind and the roaring stream Tumultuously reply. The wind sinks and the river sinks; And the footsteps dwindling by, With the fainting wind and the falling stream, Pause, hesitate, and die. [page 51] This is the Sounding Portage where A mort of years ago, Fur-trappers bound for the hunting-ground Came tramping to and fro. The red men first with their birch canoes, The white men next prevail; Together, they in hardship tread An immemorial trail. Here, by the camp-fire, tales are told, And stranger things are said, How the highway then is a by-way now And portage for the dead. The hurrying sounds make a man’s flesh creep; Through he strive to laugh and joke, When the steps draw nigh, none make reply, And the scarlet embers smoke. The steps draw nigh and the rapid roars, The listeners breathe a prayer, They think they hear faint words of cheer From struggling mortals there. [page 52] When the stars come out with a rapturous shout, The nodding campers peer Through the fringe of trees to the ghostly stream, And lose in sleep their fear. But the wind roars and the river roars, And the footsteps hurrying by, To the roaring wind and the roaring stream Tumultuously reply. Then the wind sinks and the river sinks With the footsteps dwindling by, But the fainting wind and the falling stream Like them can never die. It is dawn and the deer are drinking, For the hasty camp is gone; And the wind roars and the stream roars As the tramping dead move on. [page 53]
John Kelley From the Isle of Wight
[illustration; St. Hearne. July 21 1767]
John Kelley from the Isle of Wight
Brave John Kelley from the Isle of Wight!29 When you sailed out to sea, How little you thought a salt snow-goose Would hang you on a tree. [page 54] On a gallows tree, my hearty, In the stormy Hudson’s Bay, Where the walrus plough the soft sea floor, And the spouting white whales play. The King said to his Captains, “’Tis to our Royal shame, None maketh yet the North-West Passage,” His captains swore the same. So out we sailed in two fine sloops, Or ever we sailed away, Brave John Kelley from the Isle of Wight Did bless his natal day. Away and away to the wild white coasts, Over the tumbling main, Till sorely tried, in a cove we bide An spring comes round again. Oh, well for John if he had gone Due South with wit and snipe; Oh, ill for John that he is gone And taken his jolly pipe. [page 55] For John, who sailed in the lovely ship To shake the North Pole loose— We hung him high on a gallows tree, And all for a salt snow-goose. O dreary day! that honest tars Should swing our John so high— But in a land where food grows scarce, A robber needs must die. Up with the anchor! No one thinks To call John Kelley down, So there he hung while all his mates Went back to London Town. Slowly we sailed and saw him swing For none dare cut him loose; And never again did John go home, All for a salt snow-goose. Over his head, so it is said, Summer and winter sits A grisly bird, a salted bird, And pecks poor John to bits. [page 56] “But never shall he forgotten be,” We had vowed or ever we hove The gallant ship through the narrow strait That led from grim Sloops Cove. And there on a great smooth stone you’ll find, For every man to see, Poor John Kelley from the Isle of Wight, All on a gallows tree. Brave John Kelley from the Isle of Wight! When you sailed out to sea, Little you thought a salt snow-goose Would hang you on a tree. On a gallows tree, my hearty, In the stormy Hudson’s Bay, Where the walrus plough the soft sea floor, And the spouting white whales play. [page 57]
A Young Boy Singing
Two and two pace the choristers small, Two and two, Two and two the choristers tall, Two and two; Cheerily chanting plain-song as they go, Reverently slow, Ending their tuneful hymn, Kneeling figures in white, The benedictory chancel dim And solemn with tender light. [page 61] “Dearly Beloved—” From the deep shadowy stall, Furtive fingers are stealing, Sunburned, freckled and small, Boyish malice concealing. Gently the Shepherd looks down From His window of Eastern glory, Gently He smiles, not a frown As He sees the old, old story; Boys will be boys, He knows, And He watches the game as it goes. “Almighty God—” What tiny tumult there Disturbs the hour of prayer? A freckled hand is hidden, A radiant face upturns as Heavenward bidden; With eyes devoid of guile, A small boy thinks he sees the Shepherd smile. “Whosoever will—” Straight in the shadowy stall, A slender figure is standing, withal Holding a fluttering, drooping book, A sunburned face with seraphic look Fixed on the Shepherd up there, Whilst a thousand heads are buried in prayer, And the eyes of the Shepherd caressing the boy, Fill with soft laughter, expectancy, joy. [page 62] Hark! as a lark from its low nest springing, The marvellous sound of a young boy singing! * * * * * Thousands and thousands of miles away, Miles dividing the night and day, Two and two, lone mourners go, Two and two, To an open grave in the tumbled snow, Two and two. The weary hands are still, No more the worn feet roam, The tired eyes are shut, The soul gone home. The herds will hear no more Her welcome call, The wild plums from the tree, Unheeded fall. The vagrant at the door Will miss her smile, The child with stubborn will, Her winning wile. [page 63] In no cathedral nave She lies at rest, The leaking roof of Heaven Becomes her best. No organ peals for her, No sweet voice sings, The shivering mourners think On other things. They have no time for death— The bitter dearth Of life bears down their thoughts To bitter earth. Through the gathering dusk And the falling snow, One by one, The mourners go. The windows of the West Are burning red, They throw a blanket warm Over the lonely dead. [page 64] The house is dark and still, Still as the grave, It caught no crimson warmth The red sun gave. The frosty stars come out A world to charm— A world, and leagues apart, A lonely farm. The farmhouse lights Are twinkling now, The farmer sits With clouded brow. A daughter creeps Down the creaking stair, And she fumbles long In the corner there. What rapture soars Above the gloom! All Heaven comes down To that dull room. [page 65] In the corner there Swift comfort bringing, O marvellous sound— A young boy singing! Oh! like a bird from its low nest springing, The golden voice of a young boy singing! * * * * * Two and two pace the choristers small, Two and two, Two and two glide the choristers tall, Two and two, Softly chanting plain-song as they go, Tunefully, slow. [page 66]
Came the Great Trek
He knows not bit nor bridle, his nostrils are flaming, He calls—do you hear him—the Ghost of the North? With his hoofs he is pounding the reach and the tundra, With his wings he is shifting the Way of the Stars; He calls—do you hear him—the Neighing North? Millions of years ago, he broke the hot mountains; The mountains fled from him, flying South, hesitating, Doubling back to the North like the homesick exile; He, with his glaciers essaying new strength, Pawed down the recreant chain and laid open its riches. [page 67] He brought low the mountains wellnigh to sea level; He spread over their torn wounds a warm covering of grasses, Of shrubs and of trees; so the muskeg and the swamp were born; Pits innumerable were filled up with roots, rocks and rubbish; Lakes and rivers abounded, the dense forest grew. He clasped the moist confusion with a great belt of clay; There, scanty years ago, men were enticed to build houses, To grow clover, and to build “barns bigger than houses”; From such old and new beginnings, came the Great Trek To the North from Ontario. [page 68]
March of Trees
The Trees are marching to the Farthest North! Rarely assembled and aloofly grouped They march, toward the Arctic Prairie swinging, Toward the glacier-shredded Plateau swinging, Toward the Coastal Plain, the solemn Sea. They are tossed, they are smitten, they are piled In torturous confusion overborne— Their march endures. Straitly in thick pure stands, Or intermingling, with each other striving, [page 69] Slim saplings leap above the hoary fallen; They reconnoitre the green river vales, And skirmish on the gravel-sprinkled hills; The Northern blizzard tears them limb from limb, The woodsmen’s wanton axes hew them down, The lightening splits, the forest fire burns, But their shattered ranks resist and triumph. With green penumbra, wavering and serrate, They cast their grateful shadows on a land Dazzling and desolate; they creep around Glacier-bred eskar, moraine, and drumlin; They loop their fringes by the long lagoons, By roaring rapids linking lake to lake, On rocky islets set in swift white waters. The Trees are marching to the Farthest North. Cold-bitten, they lean back, they see in fancy From this stark No-man’s-land, a gay parade Of comfortable Forests, Woods, and Groves, In warm and unmolesting other climes, Yet fret not they. [page 70] They are the pioneers Who covet that Waste Land their forbears held— That Waste where once the Mammoth roamed and tore Sweet branches for his food, where now his tusks Hide in marsh lowlands and the cotton-flowers Blossom above them—past the Musk-Ox meadows, And where the Cariboo crops moss and sedges, To the deep Sea, dreadful asleep or waking, The Sea which hides so well their lost estate Beneath its buckling ice and wandering fogs. From Labrador to Rocky Mountain, North To that great Delta on the Arctic Coast, Where once Mackenzie watched the dolphins play— A milder Cortez gloating on fresh worlds And fresher glory from a friendly hill— Tamarack, Black and White Spruces; the Birch That Indians love; Aspen and Balsam Poplar, To the long Timber-line are stoutly marching. All may not pass. Some think they are immune. Those doughty ones, the Tamarack and Spruce, Press on, wind-shattered clumps; wherever they Find hope, they stand before the blast; but soon The Spruce, battered and dwarfed, fight on alone, A solitary outpost, self-marooned. [page 71] Past its dark drooping form, Ground-Willows creep In lighter garb; with bushes of Black Birch, They closely press and anchor rough stones; Or, bitten and harried by the Arctic hares, With thick gnarled arms they hug the boulders bathed By the small branched streams, or cower with shrubs and grasses— Grovelling, stark in ultimate dismay But not despair. Steadfast meekness, they Profess humility that will not save them, If they creep further to their bitter goal. It is forbidden, but they go—there lurks No resignation in them; their dead limbs Are scattered on the Arctic shores to mix With the bleached bones of their primeval sires, Washed out from aeon-lost primeval groves. Dwarfs, not tall trees, have reached the ancestral land And joined the severed ages with their bones.
“Dark texts need notes.”
(3) “Hyperborean, in Greek mythology, one who lived beyond Boreas, or the North Wind. According to Greek legend, the Hyperboreans lived so far North that they were beyond the cold winds of winter and enjoyed a fruitful land of perpetual sunshine. They were free from care, disease, and war. Life lasted for a thousand years, and was spent in constant enjoyment and the worship of Apollo.
After the age of legend passed away, the Greeks gave the name to the barbarians north of them.
In modern usage, the term is equivalent to Arctic. The Eskimos, for instance, are spoken of as a hyperborean race.”—The Standard Reference Work, Vol. IV.
(4) “At the Poles . . . the apparent path of the sun is an ascending spiral from the vernal equinox to the summer solstice, and then a descending spiral till the autumnal equinox, when the six-months night begins.”—The Polar Regions, p.1.
(5) “In all the history of Canada, one place has stood forth as the most bitter of all districts; death has lurked there eternally. It is ‘The Barrens.’”—COURTNEY RYLEY COOPER, Go North, Young Man, p.251. [page 75]
(6) “Nansen suggests that the lack of mention of them (the Skraelings), in the Sagas may have been due to the superstitious feeling that it was unwise to say anything about supernatural beings, as the Norse name implied.”—The Polar Regions, p.1.
Other have interpreted the word “Skraelings” or “Skrellings” as “Weaklings” or “troll-women,” both of which seem doubtful.
“Skroelingjar are mentioned as having attacked Thorwald, son of Eirek the Red, on his visit to Vinland, and were probably Indians, as Eskimo did not live so far south.”—PAUL B. DU CHAILLU, The Viking Age, Vol. II, p. 525.
(7) “Dr. Henry Marc Ami, one of Canada’s outstanding scientists died Sunday, January 4, 1931, at Mentone, France. Dr. Ami startled the world of science a few years ago by his discovery of the evidence tending to show that the Eskimo races, now found exclusively in the Canadian Arctic, at one time lived in France.”—Canadian Press Dispatch.
(11) “Widespread as were the Norse voyages . . . they did not reveal any route into the polar regions and still less the possibility of lands beyond . . . In this state knowledge remained for many centuries.
(12) “As early as 1480, two Bristol merchants had fitted out an expedition in search of the Island of Brasyllo to the west of Ireland. This expedition was unsuccessful, but it was followed by others, and at length, in 1497, the continent of North America was discovered by John Cabot, the Genoese navigator, in a ship which sailed from Bristol and was manned by Bristol men. The next year he sailed again with a patent granted to himself, with two ships and three hundred men, accompanied by his son Sebastian, who is said to have been born in Bristol. On this voyage, Newfoundland was discovered, and the explorer sailed down the coast of the mainland as far as thirty-six degrees north latitude. These voyages were not at once commercially successful, but the adventurous spirit they encouraged led to greatly increased trade with Spain, the Levant, the Canaries and the West Indies, notably the members of the Thorn family, honourably known in Bristol as the founders of the Grammar School.”—ALFRED HARVEY, M.B., Bristol, p.57.
(14) “An Eskimo woman who saw a remnant of the company on the march told McClintock that ‘they fell down and died as they walked.’ McClintock found one of the skeletons lying face downwards.”—JOHN R. SPEARS, Master Mariners, p.163.
(15) “The first (Arctic) expedition of the kind was sent out by the Merchant Adventurers’ Company of which Sebastian Cabot was Governor. Three ships were built for the work. . . . Sir Hugh Willoughby and Richard Chancellor in command.”—LOUIS FREDERICK ROUQUETTE, The Great White Silence, p. 155. [page 77]
(17) An Imperial Order-in-Council was passed on the 31st of July, 1880, which transferred to the Dominion “all the British possessions on the Northern American Continent not hitherto annexed to any colony,” the Order to come into effect on September 1st, 1880.
(18) “In late autumn, when storms rage over the land and break the icy fetters by which the frozen sea is as yet but slightly bound . . . the Eskimos of Baffin Land fancy they hear the voices of the spirits who people the mischief-laden air”—SIR J. G. FRAZER, F.R.S., F.B.A., The Golden Bough, p. 553.
(19) “Remarkable migration and wholesale self-destruction of lemmings, May, 1888, during the ‘flaw-whaling’ season. Millions of these little creatures came from the interior and passed out upon the ice until the sea was reached, and then plunged into the water and were drowned. For miles and miles along the shore they floated dead in great windrows. Cakes of ice literally covered with their dead bodies drifted to and fro.”—EARL ROSSMAN, Black Sunlight, p. 154.
(26) “Eatna Klengenberg Bolt, wife of an Eskimo, and herself, by blood, half Eskimo, is one of the most extraordinary women in the world. South of the Arctic, not one person in a million has ever heard of her, yet anywhere along the two thousand miles of frozen coast extending from Point Hope, Alaska, to the eastern end of Coronation Gulf, her name is a household word; that is, metaphorically speaking, for few houses adorn the vast background of Eatna’s adventurous career.”—KENNETH MCMILLAN.
(28) In 1850 a great expedition of four vessels was sent out in search of Franklin and his men, the Resolute and the Assistance with their tenders, the Pioneer and the Intrepid. The Pioneer was commanded by Lieutenant Sherard Osborn. On the 29th August he discovered in Franklin`s first winter quarters on Beechey Island, “the remains of a garden, oval in shape, and with a border carefully formed of moss, lichen, poppies and anemones.”
In a further search, seven years later, Captain Allan Young said: “But for their having travelled over the frozen sea we should have found the remains of these gallant men as they fell by the way.”—D. MURRAY SMITH, F.R.G.S., Arctic Expeditions, p. 521 and 692. [page 79]
(29) “In the year 1741 two sloops, the Furnace and the Discovery, were sent out from England in command of Captain Middleton, to search for the long-looked-for North-West Passage, and spent the winter at (what is now known as) Sloops Cove, midway between Churchill and the Prince of Wales Fort.
The ring bolts which held the ships are still attached to the rocks.
Several picture carvings on smooth rocks are still to be seen there, and notably one of a man suspended from a gallows, over which is the inscription, ‘John Kelley from the Isle of Wight.’
According to local tradition, Mr. Kelley was hanged for the theft of a salt goose.”—J. W. TYRRELL, C.E., D.L.S., Across the Sub-Arctics of Canada, p.199. [page 80]
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