The Confederation Poets
New World Lyrics and Ballads
23rd Aug 2013Posted in: The Confederation Poets 0

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NEW WORLD LYRICS AND BALLADS
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THE CANADIAN MAGAZINE
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[unnumbered page, includes illustration: DUNCAN CAMPBELL SCOTT, POET]

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New World Lyrics
and Ballads

BY
DUNCAN CAMPBELL SCOTT
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TORONTO
MORANG & CO., LIMITED
1905
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Entered according to Act of Parliament of Canada in the year nineteen hundred and five by Morang & Co., Limited, in the Department of Agriculture.

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TO
E.A.B.
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CONTENTS

PAGE

THE SEA BY THE WOOD

1

ON THE WAY TO THE MISSION

3

TWIN-FLOWERS ON THE PORTAGE

6

THE MISSION OF THE TREES

7

PEACE

14

THE FORSAKEN

15

ROSES ON THE PORTAGE

19

DOMINIQUE DE GOURGUES

21

INDIAN PLACE-NAMES

36

NIGHT HYMNS OF LAKE NEPIGON

38

A NEST OF HEPATICAS

40

CATNIP JACK

41

THE WOOD PEEWEE

46

LIFE AND A SOUL

48

DULCE GATHERING

50

THE FORGERS

51

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RAPIDS AT NIGHT

53

AT THE END

55

THE BUILDER

56

THE HOUSE OF THE BROKEN-HEARTED

58

THE WOOD BY THE SEA

60

NOTES

65

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THE SEA BY THE WOOD

I dwell in the sea that is wild and deep,
     But afar in a shadow still,
I can see the trees that gather and sleep
     In the wood upon the hill.

The deeps are green as an emerald’s face, 
     The caves are crystal calm,
But I wish the sea were a little trace
     Of moisture in God’s palm.

The waves are weary of hiding pearls,
     Are aweary of smothering gold, 
They would all be air that sweeps and swirls
     In the branches manifold.

They are weary of loving the seaman’s eyes
     With their passion prayer unsaid,
They are weary of sobs and the sudden sighs
     And the movements of the dead.

All the sea is haunted with human lips
     Ashen and sere and gray,
You can hear the sails of the sunken ships
     Stir and shiver and sway, [unnumbered page]

In the weary solitude;
     If mine were the will of God, the main
Should melt away in the rustling wood
     Like a mist that follows the rain.

But I dwell in the sea that is wild and deep
     And afar in the shadow still,
I can see the trees that gather and sleep
     In the wood upon the hill. [page 2]

 

ON THE WAY TO THE MISSION

 

They dogged him all one afternoon,
Through the bright snow, 
Two whitemen servants of greed;
He knew that they were there,
But he turned not his head;
He was an Indian trapper;
He planted his snow-shoes firmly,
He dragged the long toboggan
Without rest.	

The three figures drifted 
Like shadows in the mind of a seer;
The snow-shoes were whisperers
On the threshold of awe;
The toboggan made the sound of wings,
A wood-pigeon sloping to her nest.

The Indian’s face was calm.
He strode with the sorrow of fore-knowledge,
But his eyes were jewels of content
Set in circles of peace.

They would have shot him;
But momently in the deep forest,
They saw something flit by his side:
Their hearts stopped with fear. 
Then the moon rose.
They would have left him to the spirit, [page 3]
But they saw the long toboggan                                                                                                                                
Rounded well with furs,
With many a silver fox-skin,
With the pelts of mink and of otter.
They were the servants of greed;
When the moon grew brighter 
And the spruces were dark with sleep,
They shot him.
When he fell on a shield of moonlight
One of his arms clung to his burden;
The snow was not melted:
The spirit passed away.

Then the servants of greed
Tore off the cover to count their gains;
They shuddered away into the shadows,
Hearing each the loud heart of the other.
Silence was born.

There in the tender moonlight,
     As sweet as they were in life,
Glimmered the ivory features,
     Of the Indian’s wife.

In the manner of Montagnais women
     Her hair was rolled with braid;
Under her waxen fingers
     A crucifix was laid.

He was drawing her down to the Mission,
     To bury her there in the spring
When the bloodroot comes and the windflower
     To silver everything. [page 4]

But as a gift of plunder
     Side by side were they laid,
The moon went on to her setting
     And covered them with the shade. [page 5]

 

TWIN-FLOWERS ON THE PORTAGE

 

They cover in a twinkling host
     The mosses, green and yellow,
One flower would be Titania’s boast
     Without her lovely fellow.

But linked in fragile twos they droop
     Where’er the vines may wander,
Above the hidden loop in loop
     They seem to drowse and ponder.

If form might wake in sound, these cones
     Would haunt the dewy hollow
With tabors taut and golden drones,
     With dancing flutes to follow.

If odours risen from orient wells
     Might don a sea apparel,
The blooms would beam as rosy shells 
     Beneath a flood of beryl.

If thought might form in flowers, these lights
     Would be the gentle seeming 
That virgin fairies bend on knights 
     When they are half adreaming.

Where on the portage now they droop 
     In tint and odour mellow
One flower would grace Titania’s troop
     Without her lovely fellow. [page 6]

 

THE MISSION OF THE TREES

Years ago one cruel winter 
     So the story-makers say,
Were fifteen Ojibeway lodges
     Starving at Negodina.

They had wandered for the hunting
     To their wild ancestral wood,
Left the Mission in the hollow
     Quiet in the solitude.

Now in famine there were faithful
     Only two of all the pack,
Mizigun, the mighty hunter, 
     And his dear son, Matenack.

Then the pagans cried in anger,
     These two Christians bring our woe,
Let us kill them and their spirits,
     They are turning Wendigo.

Mizigun laughed out in scorning 
     When he heard their babble wild;
But he went apart and pondered,
     He was grieving for his child. [page 7]

Matenack was shrunk with hunger
     And a sickness on him fell;
“I will not be better, father,
     Till I hear the chapel bell

And the voice of Father Fafard
     At the Mission of the Trees.”
Then brave Mizigun was thoughtful,
     Then he bent his mighty knees,

Wrapped the boy in his rabbit-blanket,
     Filled a sack with shredded meat,
Drew his capôt round his forehead, 
     Bound the snow-shoes to his feet,

Bore him from the camp at sunrise,
     When the east was all aglow,
Bore him softly down the lakeshore,
     Tracking through the rosy snow.

Colder grew the wind and colder,
     Over ridges came the cloud,
And a storm blew up with anger
     And the air was like a shroud.

Then the snow was flung and hurtled,
     Stinging like a swarm of bees;
Then he breathed the flakes like vapour
     And the drift broke at his knees; [page  8]

The dense cold came through his nostrils
     With the ardent touch of fire;
Mizigun was faint for slumber
     Kept awake by one desire,

Just to see the little Mission,
     With the chapel in its calm,
Like a jewel held and guarded
     In the hollow of the palm.

Matenack was growing weaker,
     His short breath would hardly come;
“Don’t you hear the bell-note, father?”
     Mizigun was stricken dumb.

“I can hear it.”  Surely, never
     Bell-note sounded so forlorn,
Like a plover in the clearing,
     When the frost is in the corn.

“Don’t you hear the bell, dear father?
     Turn and answer, bend your head.”
Mizigun grew faint and shuddered,
     Matenack was fallen dead.

No more would he snare the rabbits,
     Nor for whitefish float the net,
Never would he see the chapel,
     In the birchen hollow set. [page 9]

Mizigun bore his darling body, 
     Down the shifting, hopeless track,
With the cloud of snow before him,
     And the storm-wind at his back.

Then he prayed that he might only
     See the Mission of the Trees
Once, before his heart was silent
     And sore-straightened grew his knees;

Then the cloud was spent at midnight
     And the world so gleamed with snow,
That the frosty moon looked downward
     On a moon that glowed below.

Mizigun paused, chill and weary.
     High above a birchen dell,
His tired heart beat wild and happy,
     For he dreamed he knew it well.

Yes, he knew the little chapel
     Shining like a silver stone
In the hollow of the birches,
     And he heard the mellow tone

Of the vesper bell, swung slowly,
     Sounding keenly with the frost,
Three times three, the mystics warning
     Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. [page 10]

Matenack he took up gently 
     And he closed him to his breast,
“I am very weary, weary,
     For a little I must rest,

Then we’ll go to Father Fafard.”
     Still he heard the calling bell,
And he saw the shining chapel;
     Then a stupor on him fell,

The whole vision shrank and dwindled
     Into something eerie, wan,
The clear bell chirped like a cricket,
     And the church was tiny drawn,

Small as any veinéd agate
     Gathered on the island shore,
Then the vision faltered, fluttered,
     Vanished, and he knew no more.

Matenack was gone for ever
     From his nets and rabbit-snares,
Mizigun had left his province
     To the otters and the bears.

But the hollow in the birches,
     So the story-makers tell,
Every after moves and trembles
     Haunted by a silver bell. [page 11]

Oft when June is lush and stilly
     And the moon is o’er the glade,
Angelique awaits her lover
     Hidden in the cedar shade;

Then instead of Toma’s footstep
     Clear she hears the bell-note break, 
Back she rustles to the wigwams,
     Clustered by the moon-lit lake.

In the wild October evenings,
     With vast voice and inward hum,
When the dead leaves in the forest,
     Gather up, and swirling come

To the hollow in the birches, 
     Where the wind drops them at rest,
And they cover slope and barrow,
     Like the lining of a nest,

Then the weary partridge-hunter
     Hears amid the rustling hush,
One, two, three, the triple tonguing,
     Mellow as a calling thrush.

On clear eves in rud December,
     The lone trapper on the hills, 
As he skirts the haunted hollow
     Where the smouldering shadow fills, [page 12]

Hears above his creaking snow-shoes,
     And the clinking of his traps,
The sweet sound as clear as silver
     Through the silence that enwraps.

Then he strives to hold his heart-beats,
     Like a figure carved in frost;—
Three time three mellow utterance, 
     Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

With a murmur to the Virgin
     He strides through the frosty gloom,
Till he lines the snow with balsam
     And sleeps in his starry room.

So forever lives the legend
     Moulded as a people wills;
The wraith chapel in the hollow 
     Is as real as the hills. [page 13]

 

PEACE

Give me the peace for which I seek
     From the ocean, vale and hill;
The peace that shines from the sea and the pines,
     The peace that is white and still.

The peace mount-still and crystal-white,
     In which all things have part;
It dwells for aye in the earth and the sky,
     But never long in my heart.

I breathe in towns or uplands lone,
     I hold a grail-like quest;
It flows in power one nameless hour,
     Then I have rest, dear God, then I have rest. [page 14]

THE FORSAKEN

I

Once in the winter,
Out on a lake
In the heart of the north-land,
Far from the Fort
And far from the hunters,
A Chippewa woman
With her sick baby,
Crouched in the last hours
Of a great storm.
Frozen and hungry,
She fished through the ice
With a line of the twisted 
Bark of the cedar,
And a rabbit-bone hook
Polished and barbed;
Fished with the bare hook
All through the wild day,
Fished and caught nothing;
While the young chieftain 
Tugged at her breasts,
Or slept in the lacings
Of the warm tikanagan.
All the lake-surface
Streamed with the hissing
Of millions of iceflakes,
Hurled by the wind; [page 15]
Behind her the round                                                                                                                                               
Of a lonely island
Roared like a fire
With the voice of the storm
In the deeps of the cedars.
Valiant, unshaken,
She took of her own flesh,
Baited the fish-hook,
Drew in a gray-trout,
Drew in his fellow,
Heaped them beside her,
Dead in the snow.
Valiant, unshaken,
She faced the long distance,
Wolf-haunted and lonely,
Sure of her goal
And the life of her dear one; 
Tramped for two days,
On the third in the morning,
Saw the strong bulk
Of the Fort by the river,
Saw the wood-smoke
Hang soft in the spruces,
Heard the keen yelp
Of the ravenous huskies
Fighting for whitefish:
Then she had rest.

 

II

Years and years after,
When she was old and withered,
When her son was an old man
And his children filled with vigour, [page 16]
They came in their northern tour on the verge of winter,                                                                                
To an island in a lonely lake.
There one night they camped, and on the morrow
Gathered their kettles and birch-bark
Their rabbit-skin robes and their mink traps,
Launched their canoes and slunk away through the islands,
Left her alone forever,
Without a word of farewell,
Because she was old and useless,
Like a paddle broken and warped,
Or a pole that was splintered.
Then, without a sigh,
Valiant, unshaken,
She smothered her dark locks under her kerchief,
Composed her shawl in state,
Then folded her hands ridged with sinews and corded with veins, 
Folded them across her breasts spent with the nourishing of children,
Gazed at the sky past the tops of the cedars,
Saw two spangled nights arise out of the twilight,
Saw two days go by filled with the tranquil sunshine,
Saw, without pain, or dread, or even a moment of longing:
Then on the third great night there came thronging and thronging
Millions of snowflakes out of windless cloud;
They covered her close with a beautiful crystal shroud,
Covered her deep and silent.
But in the frost of the dawn,
Up from the life below,
Rose a column of breath
Through a tiny cleft in the snow,
Fragile, delicately drawn, [page 17]
Wavering with its own weakness,                                                                                                                         
In the wilderness a sign of the spirit,
Persisting still in the sight of the sun
Till day was done.
Then all light was gathered up by the hand of God and hid in His breast,
Then there was born a silence deeper than silence,
Then she had rest. [page 18]

 

ROSES ON THE PORTAGE

Roses—roses—roses—
     How you glow and burn and beam,
Like lamps in the cave of spruces, 
     That tremble and dance and gleam.

You bloom unheeded, unbidden,
     The Indians pass you by,
Wild Toma and ancient Pierrish,
     Arcange with the gypsy eye.

You might catch in their dusky raiment,
     Strange with the odour of smoke,
Your dew might be shaken  and scattered,
     Your petals all riven and broke.

Even then in the spangled morning,
     They would not heed a whit,
Your virginal tremulous beauty,
     And the innocence of it.

O, if Arcange on the portage,
     With her swarthy cheek and breast,
Could know but a tithe of your beauty,
     As she pauses there to rest, [page 19]

Would she pluck you, and hold you, and kiss you,
     Would she laugh as your loveliness clears,
Would she stand there awe-stricken, silent,
     Would her brown eyes fill with tears? [page 20]

DOMINIQUE DE GOURGUES

Foreword

The story will be found in Parkman’s “Pioneers of France in the New World.” Dominique de Gourgues, a nobleman of France, resolved to revenge the atrocities perpetrated by Menendez upon the Huguenot settlement planted by Ribaut on the coast of Florida. He set out with the ostensible purpose of hunting slaves in Benin, and the real object of the expedition was not made known to his men until he reached Cape San Antonio in Cuba. There he addressed his followers and fired them with his desire for vengeance; then they utterly destroyed the Spaniards and their forts on the River of May.

 

I

O listen to a story of the fierce long ago,
How one hot-hearted Frenchman laid many Spaniards low;
He was born a Gascon dagger, and he grew
Where Mont de Marsan glistens by the Douze and the Maidou;
There he learned to hate the Spanish, as a novice learns his beads,
With the very love of hating;
There were death and Spaniards mating,
With the blessing of his deeds,
Where’er the might of Spain flaunting glowed. [page 21]
But they fought him,                                                                                                                                                
And they caught him,
This wolf of Glascony,
Where Siena smoked like sulphur through all one sultry day.
Then they chained him to the oar,
And wherever water flowed,
He strained him for the Spaniard or the Turk,
And ever more and more,
He loathed them in his freedom and his work,
Till his hate became a wonder,
Taking hold on hell,
Then he gathered up his vengeance in one blasting bolt of thunder,
And it fell.

 

II

In August fifteen sixty-seven, there sailed from Charente,
One hundred and eighty rovers whom nothing alive could daunt,
They had three little sturdy ships the day they sailed away;
They cheered the scud and spindrift and the toss of Biscay Bay,
They were as gallant lovers as the sea had ever seen,
They went to fight for negro slaves in the wilds hot Benin.
Their leader heard their forecast but he dreamed of different wars,
He only talked with his deep soul beneath the quiet stars;
His heart was a nest of tempests, his tongue a ready sword,
But his mind burned bright and steady for the glory of the Lord,
Dominique de Gourgues. [page 22]

 

III

They trimmed their sails and coasted down the rocky shore of Spain,
And many pleasant sights they saw looking landward from the main; 
Until one day at sunset, like a dragon from his lair,
Sprang a wild and livid tempest off the point of Finisterre;
Their sails were ripped and riven, their timbers scarcely stood,
They were like three frightened partridge a wolf drives through the wood,
They called to one another through the bursting of the foam,
They tried to keep their lanterns lit and each man thought of home,
Till they tugged at oars in cadence to a sort of rowing chant,
“There’s a safe and merry haven at the mouth of the Charente.” 
But they stooped their coward chorus when the dawn struck full on him,
Silent, proud and grim,
Dominique de Gourgues.

 

IV

But when the sun was risen a fair wind began to blow,
And they bore away for Africa and the Rio del Oro;
There they paused and gathered heart;
Then they ventured on the leagues of sea that part
The coast from the first islands of the west,
And after many mornings they saw them on the lea, [page 23]
All lush with tangled verdure and crowned with rosy snow                                                                             
Uplifted from the sea.	
Then like three veering seabirds they dipped from isle to isle,
Till the coast of Hispaniola gathered in the haze;
Then it made a green horizon, and for many a mile on mile
They fought with Spain for water down all her ports and bays.
Even after even when the broad sun went down,
Lurid as the sack and searing of a golden Spanish town,
Where the ashes of the ruins were the cinders of burnt pearls,
Where the charred hearts of great rubies in the blistered coffers lay 
Heaped like dead rose-leaves in a jar,
They leaned upon the gunwales and wiled the hours away,
With many a marvel-tale of hazard and of war.
Then off the coast of Cuba they lay becalmed for days,
All dizzy in the sun-heat that fell through the dead haze.
Often were they pestered by little lingering gales,
That rippled in the water but hardly swayed their sails,
Often in the moonlight under the low white stars,
They beat the heavy water with their oars,
And saw it break in silver and part in crystal spars
In the shadow of the shores.
Once, for all one day,
They rested in the charméd ring,
Drawn round a haunted bay;
All life a bubble seemed,
A floating, pictured thing,
And each man dreamed:
There is a lucent spring [page 24]
They found sweet water, and lazily                                                                                                                       
They filled their casks and jars,
When the great sun dropped hazily,
They waited for the stars,
Before they sailed away:
And on the morrow morning a large wind began to flow,
That lifted them From Corrientes to San Antonio.

 

V

There, while ships lay anchored out in the road
He mustered the men on shore;
They formed in a crescent that smouldered and glowed 
Like a heap of wind-blown brands on the tawny beach;
Their leader waded in through the shallow reach
Strong and free;
As he strode,
Tufts of sun-fire sprang from his corselet and casque;
He stood with his back to the sea,
And threw off the mask.

“Frenchmen!” he said,
“Thus far have I led;
“I have come your way and that was a lie,
“For I think no more of your slaves than I think to die
“In a palace of Spain on perfumed bed;
“But I have a sword in my hand, a torch in my head,
“The torch is bright and dry, and the blade is keen;
“Hear me, Frenchmen, I have a fighting name.
“If I lead as I led
“I lead you to glory, to fame,
“But not to Benin.” [page 25]
Aflare was the crowd                                                                                                                                               
Like flame that waxes in wind,
And wanes when the wind goes by;
There was a curse and a cry,———
“Traitor!” not loud,
But sharp as a dirk rammed down in its sheath,
Or the grind of an arquebuse on the stones beneath.
“That sword,” he cried again,
“Is the Host for Spaniards dead;
“That torch that flames in my head
“Is the hate of Spain.
“You ask why———
“You that have fought them from island to island!
“My score began before I was sword-high:
“This breast that is branded deep,
“This cracked wrist set awry,
“This fever that burns my sleep,
“Bred in their curséd ships,
“Under the lashes of whips,
“You ask why!”

Then a voice from the crowd outbroke,
Like flame from smoke,
“What care we for your private wrong?
“Not a song,
“We have come here for gold and for gain,
“As for Spain,———
“As well fight God who struck us with tempests,
“Or the devils of Portuguese,
“Who fought us with negroes at Blanco.”
The speech left his mouth as fire leaves a brand,
And he glowed, and on either hand 
Two swords leaped out:
“Traitor!” again was the shout. [page 26]
But he gathered them up with his eye,                                                                                                                
And held them like hounds in a leash;
“Those who fight,” he said,
“Draw swords in a flash;
“If ‘traitor’ lives in the head
“’Tis but a small word for the tongue;
“As for my private wrong,
“Let it count as a song
“With what you have suffered for chorus;
“But here there is o’er us
“Sky that saw treachery,
“Sky that saw murder foul,
“Sky that saw ———— Frenchmen!
“You have heard of Menendez,
“The name gives a hiss to the breath;
“François, where is your brother Jean,
“Gaston, where did your father die,
“Mersac where is young Giradin,
“Where do the sons of Le Simon lie?
“Ask not me,—ask Menendez.
“These were each of them Ribaut’s men
“And a hundred more that all of you know
“Slaughtered like lions caught in a pen,
“All of them dead with Ribaut;
“You ask me why they were slain,
“I cry ——— Spain.’”
They sprang to the word as a charger leaps to the spur;
They bit their beards and their lips went wan like ash;
From each man’s memory a blur
Rolled, and he saw in a lightning flash
Some face that was lost to fame.
Then up n their cavern-hearts, bitter and salt and free
Dashed the tide of hate from the terrible outer sea, [page 27]
White with the crests of rage and the weltering hollows of change.                                                              
Then were they ware
How their leader’s face grew strange,
How he stretched his dagger aloft in the air
Held by the point.
His eyes were the eyes of a seer
Eager and rapt and solemn,
As he looked up wonderingly 
To the cross of his dagger-hilt
And saw a vision go by:
He spake like one in a dream.
“’They, who had suffered the seas,
“He, — this Menendez, brother Hell, ———
“Bound with cords;
“The salt was dry in their hair,
“Gaunt were they for meat,
“They stood in the blood from their feet,
“Wild with the hope that kills
“That this stern way was the Lord’s:
“He gave them his faith and an oath on the body of God;
“But when they had marched to a lonely place in the hills,
“Where the sunset flood
“Lay red as ghost of blood,
“He had drawn a line in the sand with his cane,
“That his Captains saw with a callous nod:
“There they were slain ——!”
The dagger dropped to the sand;
He wrapped his head with his arms 
And shivered low down on the shore,
As if he were cold to the core
With horror.
Slowly the men sank down, [page 28]
With never a cry or moan,                                                                                                                                      
With only the sound of the sand,
That whispered about their knees;
Awed to the trembling lips,
As if the body of Christ went by
Between the shore and the ships.

Not long did he cower,
Like a bow when the frayed string breaks
He sprang to his height;
Vibrant he seemed to soar,
Glowing with withering ire;
His eyes were beacons of light 
Below the great crag of his brows;
Held aloft in the burning air,
Point down, alive with power,
The dagger flashed back their fire.
“Frenchmen,” he cried,
“This we avenge,
“Over twelve that he hanged,
“He branded this legend,
“‘Not as to Frenchmen,
“‘But as to Lutherans.’
“I too will brand him
“Twelve good Spaniards,
“Hanged with a French rope.
“You that I trusted,
“Will you betray me?
“Gold have I given,
“Now I give blood;
“I, who will lead you, 
“Front every danger, [page 29]
“I have a fighting name,———                                                                                                                               
“Do you forget it?
“Follow me.”

Then a sound went out to the deepest sea,
That startled the sailors aboard the ships
As they dozed by the water-casks in the shade;
They sprang to the anchor-chains and gazed to the land,
Fearing the giants who dwelt in the hills were at hand,
Or a Spanish ambuscade.
Astonied they watched the rout
Charge over the margent,
With flashing arquebuses, and poinards and pikes 
Brandished, with scarfs leaping like flags as they drave
Down, partizan clashing with glave;
With the leader aloft shoulder-high;
Tossing one name to the sea,
On they came with a triumphing shout;
The water roared gloriously
As they trampled it out,
Tossing one name to the sky;
It was mingled and riven, hurled from a hundred throats,
It fell like a scourge of cords,
Like a dagger driven home,———
Dominique de Gourgues, Dominique de Gourgues.

Deep in the night when the ships had left the lagoon,
And the white sands floated the palm-shadows cast by the moon, 
There came in the silence a sound that shuddered and fell,
Fell and shuddered and the beat like an ominous knell [page 30]
In the plangent wash of the ripple that reached the shore,                                                                            
For the roves fore-doomed who should home no more,
For mariners buried on highland or land-folk smothered in sea,
Weary one for the upland, weary one for the sea.
Dominique de Gourgues, Dominique de Gourgues.

 

VI

Then lo, on a sultry day
When the Spaniards dozed in their forts on the River of May,
They heard the wild French shout and the Indian yell:
(Forever the action’s done and the tale’s to tell.)
Before they could turn to hide, or stand to see,
The foe swept out of the woods and up the glacis,
Stormed the dry moat, right in the cannon’s throat,
The Spaniards quailed and fled and crowded the gate;
But they saw too late,
The awful wing of the French wheel round from the wood,
And knew they were caught in the trap, where they stood.
Then a few that were warned at the first alarms
Rushed out from the armory door with pikes in their arms,
Rallied the crowd with the cry “Santiago, Santiago!” 
Their blood burst back to their shrunken hearts in full spate,
They broke within and onward and out through the gate,
They stood like lions where they had meant to flee.
The French hurled on and the Indians clouded the rear,
“Santiago” was drowned with “de Gourgues and St. Denis!” 
The pikes clashed down with a roar of hate and a shout of fear, [page 31]
And then began a slaughter grisly and great.                                                                                                      
But wherever the fight was hottest and the blows were heavy and dire,
The leader remembered the vow he had made at San Antonio,
And plucked a Spaniard here and a Spaniard there, like brands from the fire
Until they were twelve in the pines strongly bound in a row.
They hewed in joy as the wood-man hews on the hill,
And hears the long pines roar down the hollows of dawn;
The Spaniards fought with a terrible venomous will,
Till those that were left were ringed about by the foe;
The glaivemen hacked at the clump like axemen that girdle an oak,
And whenever a Spaniard went down or the circle broke,
Rose up their waning cry “Santiago, Santiago.” 
Then the French who had no foe left to slay,
Leaned on their pikes and mocked, like critics who scoff at a play,
And over the Spaniards alive in the crushing ring
Hung the sneering lips and the ravening eyes,
One after one went down mid the shouts and the taunting cries,
Till one alone was left in the circle of dead.
He fought with a dirk and uncovered head
And a long Toledo blade.
There at the end of the fight a small truce was made,
And for a moment he stood,
Clouted and marred with blood;
Then he threw up his arms to their topmost height,
Brandished his blades red from the fight,
Drew a hard deep breath, deep and slow, [page 32]
And with one great cry, “Santiago!”                                                                                                                      
Clanged down from his loftiest reach on the heap of the slain,
The last of fighting Spain.

 

VII

Down on the lonely solitude
     The moonlight fell from half the sphere;
The shadow from the silvered wood
     Filled half the space and half was clear
          As the moon’s self with cloudless light;
          A little smoke stole dead and white,
     Across the black and crystal bars
          Cast by the pines from the pure height
     Where the cloud-branches held the stars.

Two only waked while the host dreamed;
     A Spanish lad from Cordova
Bound in the pines, to him it seemed
     That all the magic moonlight lay
          Deep o’er a hamlet on a hill;
          Crisp the wild mule-bells jangled still
     At the road-bend where the olives bask;—
          Some soldier restless in the chill,
     His vauntbrace clashing on his casque.
And one whose joy was at full flood
     The ruthless leader of the fray,
Like some old wolf-hound rolled in blood,
     Felt his wounds stiffen where he lay;
          But gloated over God’s behest,  [page 33]
          Plain from the night of his first quest,                                                                                                       
     When by a bastion masked with rain
          He stabbed a guard, till in the west
     He tramped upon the neck of Spain.

 

 

VIII

Now when the morn was come and the fires were aglow,
He gathered the handful left of the foe;
They stood ’neath the pines in the air and the sun,
Each with his corselet and grieves and morion,
No man asked his life with a craven breath,
Twelve good friends with death!
He preached them a sermon on Fate and Law,
Told them of heaven for true men and traitors for hell,
Then he hanged them well,
With a rope that was twisted in Oleron.
They heated a pike red hot in the coals of the fort,
And burned deep down on a slab of pine,
This legend, trenched in remembrance, line upon line:
“Not as to Spaniards, but as to Murderers, Traitors and Rogues.” 
They swung it above the men who had met in the trees,
Left them turn in the idle breeze,
And then by the sea where the river disembogues,
They clambered into the ships with a cry and a cheer;
Then watched the Indians fade, the coast-line dwindle, the forest disappear.
But once before they sank in the sea
A mirage swept them on wings of faery,
Back to the low, long shore;	
The Indians saw once more [page 34]
The wind break out the rippling pennon of France,                                                                                           
The sailors haul the sheet and the soldiers dance,
The surgeons cool the wounds in the shade of the sail,
The armourers turn the dint in the battered mail,
And one on the deck with his cloak about him drawn,
Gaze to the west and the mouth of the river of May;
Last of the vision he lingered, and faded away,
And forever was gone.

 

IX

Still his name
And his fame,
Ring with the sound of terror and the shout of desperate hordes;
Still his memory lifts and fills,
Like a wind that soars and streams above a torrent in the hills,
Where two hosts clash in slaughter,
Now it chokes with strangled water,
Now it gluts the iron gorges with the sound of shattered swords,
Dominique de Gourgues! [page 35]

 

INDIAN PLACE-NAMES

 

The race has waned and left but tales of ghosts,
That hover in the world like fading smoke
About the lodges: gone are the dusky folk
That once were cunning with the thong and snare
And mighty with the paddle and the bow;
They lured the silver salmon from his lair,
They drove the buffalo in trampling hosts,
And gambled in the teepees until dawn,
But now their vaunted prowess all is gone,
Gone like a moose-track in the April snow.
But all the land is murmurous with the call 
Of their wild names that haunt the lovely glens
Where lonely water falls, or where the street 
Sounds all day with the tramp of myriad feet;
Toronto triumphs; Winnipeg flows free,
And clangs the iron height where gaunt Quebec
Lies like a lion in a lily bed,
And Restigouche takes the whelmed sound of sea
Meductic falls, and flutes the Mirimichi;
Kiskisink where the shy mallard breeds
Breaks into pearls beneath his whirling wings,
And Manitowapah sings;
They flow like water, or like wind they flow,
Waymoucheeching, loon-haunted Manowan, [page 36]
Far Mistassini by her frozen wells,                                                                                                                        
Gold-hued Wayagamac brimming her wooded dells:
Lone Kamouraska, Metepedia,
And Metlakahtla ring a round of bells. [page 37]

NIGHT HYMNS ON LAKE NEPIGON

Here in the midnight, where the dark mainland and island 
Shadows mingle in shadow deeper, profounder,
Sing we the hymns of the churches, while the dead water
               Whispers before us.	

Thunder is travelling slow on the path of the lightning;
One after one the stars and the beaming planets
Look serene in the lake from the edge of the storm-cloud,
               Then have they vanished.

While our canoe, that floats dumb in the bursting thunder,
Gathers her voice in the quiet and thrills and whispers,
Presses her prow in the star-gleam, and all her ripple
               Lapses in blackness.

Sing we the sacred ancient hymns of the churches,
Chanted first in old-world nooks of the desert,
While in the wild, pellucid Nepigon reaches
               Hunted the savage.

Now have the ages met in the Northern midnight,
And on the lonely, loon-haunted Nepigon reaches
Rises the hymn of triumph and courage and comfort,
               Adeste Fideles.

Tones that were fashioned when the faith brooded in darkness,
Joined with sonorous vowels in the noble Latin,
Now are married with the long-drawn Ojibeway,
               Uncouth and mournful. [page 38]

Soft with the silver drip of the regular paddles                                                                                                   
Falling in rhythm, timed with the liquid, plangent
Sounds from the blades where the whirlpools break and are carried
               Down into darkness;

Each long cadence, flying like a dove from her shelter
Deep in the shadow, wheels for a throbbing moment,
Poises in utterance, returning in circles of silver
               To nest in the silence.

All wild nature stirs with the infinite, tender
Plaint of a bygone age whose soul is eternal,
Bound in the lonely phrases that thrill and falter
               Back into quiet.

Back they falter as the deep storm overtakes them,
Whelms them in splendid hollows of booming thunder,
Wraps them in rain, that, sweeping, breaks and onrushes
               Ringing like cymbals. [page 39]

A NEST OF HEPATICAS

O Passion of the coming of the spring!
When the light love has captured everything,
When all the winter of the year’s dry prose
Is rhymed to rapture, rhythmed to the rose,
When all the heart’s desire is fondly set
Just to remember never to forget;
O season of the mild and misty eves,
With the deep sky seen through the growing leaves!
Where in the crocus west the evening star
Grows distant from the moon, and sinks afar
As she grows lovelier; when the willow wands
Burst their brown buds in gray and gleaming bands
And score the surface of the amber pool
With little motes of silver beautiful;
When the hepatica, with her flushing crest,
Blooms in the leaves above the secret nest,
Where all her sisters, fairer far than she,
Lie curled in a frail silken galaxy:
Like a young girl’s first, timid thought of love
That blossoms in her liquid eyes, above
A nest of hopes so secret and so fair
She hardly knows herself that they are there. [page 40]

CATNIP JACK

Yes, they call me “Herbe-à-chat Jack!”
     You wonder at the name!
Why, sir, I’ll tell you the story,	
     And how the legend came.

I was a sturdy English lad,
     I worked in this parish a week,
I liked the French and their homely ways;—
     And fortune is far to seek.

The countryside was new and wild;
     I bade my wandering cease,
For all the wooded virgin land 
     Was full of lonely peace.

Ah! Then I loved a French lass,
     It seems like yesterday,
I saw her first in the beaver-meadow
     Gathering in the hay.

Half a dozen of common words
     Was all the French I knew;
But the tongue has little to do with love,
     If it be deep and true. [page 41]

She had but one short English word,                                                                                                                     
     For me the best of the pack,
One of my words was Olivine,
     Her only word was Jack.

On an August day we walked where the road 
     Was sheltered from the sun;
Our hearts met where our hands met,
     We knew that we were one.

Then we saw at a bend of the road,
     Where the sun fell full and strong,
Two men that strained like weary beasts,
     When the way is heavy and long.

They cried out hoarsely as they toiled
     From the shadow into the glare;
The thing they dragged raised a cloud of dust
     In the trembling sunny air.

“Picotte,” they cried, “Picotte, Picotte,”
     No other word did they say;
They lashed their heads with balsam boughs,
     To scare the flies away.

Olivine cried out in fear
     And fled deep into the wood,
She called me there like a mating thrush.
     But I laughed back and stood. [page 42]

I did not know the language well,                                                                                                                          
     For I was an English lad,
So I stopped in the way and let them go by
     And saw the thing they had.

A body covered with maple boughs
     They dragged on a rough stone-boat,
This word they cried as if to try
     Which was the hoarsest throat.

The stone-boat growled as it tore the road,
     It seemed to understand;
A bit of chain trailed out behind
     And worked like a snake in the sand.

Olivine came out of the wood,
     Her face was as pale as ash;
They had hardly gone by in the middle road,
     When this vision grew in a flash.

She was a haggard, tottering thing
     With a flame-like rise and fall,
That first seemed hard as any stone,
     Then not to be at all.

“Picotte,” she shrieked, and shook her staff,
     She was foul to the finger tips.
“Picotte,” she shrieked and two black teeth
     Fell out from her yellow lips. [page 43]

She was crowned with a halo of fiery flies                                                                                                           
     That seemed to take no rest,
So thick she was with filth and mould 
     A toadstool grew in her breast.

We shrank from the road down into the ditch,
     Where the catnip grew rank and tall,
And we crushed it out beneath our feet,
     As we struggled not to fall.

We had to look on the shrieking hag
     Whether we would or no;
But where the balsams grew at the bend 
     She vanished,—and we could go.

Olivine held me at arm’s length,
     Her eyes were as large as a doe’s;
I covered her hands to the tender wrists
     And felt them as they froze.

“That was old Mother Picotte,” she said,
     She clung to me and cried;——
Two weeks after she sickened and failed,
     Then the fifth day she died.

I was the one who did not know,——
     See! I am old and grey:
She was the one who knew and feared,——
     She has gone her way. [page 44]

Catnip! the boys shout after me;                                                                                                                          
     Now I know the language well,
But I thank God in mine own tongue,
     For the weed saved me from hell.

For many mortals know not love,
     They change as the days go by,
But we were two with but one soul 
     Olivine and I.

When she died I should have died;
     I was going slowly mad,
When I smelt this weed by a heap of stones,
     Then something made me glad.

For somehow in its keen wild smell
     God sent a thought from above,
How we came to be that dreadful day
     Closer in death than in love.

So I gather it up and crush it hard,
     I wear it here in my breast;
There is a spirit in weeds, I think,
     This one gives me rest.

What is to be must be, they say, 
     What is past is past,
So I work hard and sleep like the dead,—
     I love on to the last. [page 45]

THE WOOD PEEWEE

 

He comes in Springtime with the breeze
     That shakes the flowering maples,
He builds his nest in greening trees
     Where shower and sunshine dapples;
When all the woods are tranced and still,
     Amid the virgin leaves
His pensive note he sounds at will,
     He grieves.	

At dawning when the cool air floats,
     When dove-wing tints are streaming,
He, earliest of the early throats,
     Begins his song adreaming;
While round his nest still clings the night,
     He pipes in wistful flushes,
But when the wind lets in the light ,
     He hushes.

Yet is his heart with joyance filled
     And not with brooding sadness;
If he might utter as he willed
     His strain would mount in gladness; [page 46] 
It meaneth joy in simple trust,                                                                                                                               
     Though pensively it rings;
Not as he would but as he must
     He sings. [page 47]

LIFE AND A SOUL

Let it pass like a breath,
Said the soul,
Let it pass like a breath:
What I am I control:
The world is not anything 
But a pebble hurled from a sling,
The soul saith 
Let it pass like a breath,

For love is naught,
Said the soul,
Love is naught;
Life is a vacant scroll;
The past but seems;
The future is sought
As a drug to charm dreams;
Death is a vaunt—Great Death!
The soul saith.

Then said the Lord,
Let it pass like a breath:
The angel lifted the sword
Of two-edged death,
And there drifted out with a sigh
From the life it had never lived [page 48]

The soul that can never die,                                                                                                                                   
To wander for aye:
For Life is the first great prize,
The soul that mocks is not wise,
The Lord God saith,
Let it pass like a breath. [page 49]

DULCE GATHERING

We watched the tide with the current fight,
     And the shingle clash before
And the wild floods of fugitive light 
     Play on the pale south-shore.

We gathered dulce that the sea had cast, 
     In many a glistening heap; 
We bore it back to the farm on the hill
     Where the corn and the flax-fields sleep.

There in the loft of an upland barn,
     A league from its tossing bed,
It gathered salt and shriveled with age
     To a parchment purple and red.

But still it holds the soul of the tide—
     This rag of wizened dulce;
The keen free scent and the tang of the salt
     Brings the sea into the pulse.

And memories lone on the heart are hurled,
     Like the waves on the shingle flung,
When the sun was young, and young was the world,
     When we were young. [page 50]

THE FORGERS

In the smithy it began:
Let’s make something for a man!
Hear the bellows belch and roar,
Splashing light on roof and floor:
From their nest the feathery sparks 
Fly like little golden larks:
Hear each forger’s taunting yell,
Tell—tell—tell—tell—
Tell us what we make, my master!
Hear the tenor hammers sound,
Ring-a-round, ring-a-round;
Hear the treble hammers sing,
Ding-a-ring, ding-a-ring;
Hear the forger’s taunting yell,
Tell—tell—tell—tell—
Though the guess be right or wrong
You must wear it all life long!
How it glows as it grows,
Ding-a-ring-a-derry-down,
Into something—Is’t a crown?

Hear them half in death with laughter,
Shaking soot from roof and rafter;
Tell—tell—tell—tell—
Ding-a-ring, ding-a-ring,
See them round the royal thing,
See it fade to ruby rose,
As it glows and grows, [page 51]
Guess, they shout, for worse or better:                                                                                                                
Not a crown!
Is’t a fetter?
Hear them shout demonic mirth:
Here’s a guesser something worth;
Make it solid, round, and fine,
Fashioned on a cunning plan,
For the riddle-reader Man;
Ho—ho—ho—ho!
Hear the bellows heave and blow:
Heat dries up their tears of mirth;
Let the marvel come to birth,
Though his guess be right or wrong
He must wear it all life long!
Sullen flakes of golden fire
Fawn about the dinning choir,
They’re a dusky pack of thieves
Shaking rubies from their sleeves,
Hear them wield their vaunting yell,
Tell—tell—tell—tell!
Forging faster—taunting faster—
Guess, my master— Guess, my master!
Grows the enigmatic thing!
Ruddy joyance—Deep disaster?
Ding-a-ring, ding-a-ring,
Ding-a-ring-a-derry-down!
Is’t a fetter—I’st a crown? [page 52]

RAPIDS AT NIGHT

Here at the roots of the mountains,
Between the somber legions of cedars and tamaracks,
The rapids charge the ravine:
A little light, cast by foam under starlight,
Wavers about the shimmering stems of the birches:
Here rise up the clangorous sounds of battle,
Immense and mournful.
Far above curves the great dome of darkness
Drawn with the limitless lines of the stars and the planets.
Deep at the core of the tumult,
Deeper than all the voices that cry at the surface,
Dwells one fathomless sound,
Under the hiss and cry, the stroke and the plangent clamour.

O human heart that sleeps,
Wild with rushing dreams and deep with sadness!

The abysmal roar drops into almost silence,
While over its sleep play in various cadence
Innumerous voices crashing in laughter;
Then rising calm, overwhelming,
Slow in power,
Rising supreme in utterance,
It sways, and reconquers and floods all the spaces of silence,
One voice, deep with the sadness,
That dwells at the core of all things. [page 53]
There by a nest in the glimmering birches,                                                                                                          
Speaks a thrush as if startled from slumber,
Dreaming of Southern ricefields,
The moted glow of the amber sunlight,
Where the long ripple roves among the reeds.

Above curves the great dome of darkness,
Scored with the limitless lines of the stars and the planets;
Like the strong palm of God,
Veined with the ancient laws,
Holding a human heart that sleeps,
Wild with rushing dreams and deep with the sadness,
That dwells at the core of all things. [page 54]

AT THE END

I have learned well, —a child I’ve grown by knowing;
     I have taught well, —I know not why;
A few have garnered well my careless sowing,
     And one sound kernel fills the granary.

I have fought well, —have turned and dared disaster;
     I’ve been well vanquished —and I know not why;
Well have I suffered and called no man master,
     But have wrought sleepless for the mastery.

I have loved well, —and that’s the best of living;
     I’ve been well loved, —I know not why;
But O, the rapture of the giving!
     And of the taking —the wild ecstasy!

I boast too well, you say, a noisy scandal
     Vexing the hearing of the scornful gods:
But life, —yes, life was worth the candle,
     So what’s the odds;	

He that cowers now is not the less a varlet,
     I know I’ll brave them well, —I know not why;
Toss me my proudest cloak of green and scarlet,
     Fellows, —old friends, —good bye. [page 55]

THE BUILDER

When the deep cunning architect
Had the great minster planned,
They worked in faith for twice two hundred years
And reared the building grand;
War came and famine and they did not falter,
But held his line,	
And filled the space divine
With carvings meet for the soul’s eye;
And not alone the chantry and thereby
The snowy altar,
But in every part
They carved the minster after his own heart,
And made the humblest places fair, 
Even the dimmest cloister-way and stair,
With vineyard tendrils,
With ocean-seeming shells,
With filmy weeds from sea,
With bell-flowers delicate and bells,
All done minute with excellent tracery.

Come, O my soul, 
And let me build thee like the minster fair,
Deep based and large as air,
And full of hidden graces wrought
In faith and infinite thought,
Till all thy dimmest ways,
Shall gleam with little vines and fruits of praise.
So that one day [page 56]
The consummate Architect                                                                                                                                     
Who planned the souls that we are set to build,
May pause and say:
How curiously wrought is this!
The builder followed well My chart
And worked for Me, not for the world’s wild heart:
Here are the outward virtues, true!
But see how all the inner parts are filled
With singular bliss:
Set it aside
I shall come here again at eventide. [page 57]

THE HOUSE OF THE BROKEN-HEARTED

 

It is dark to the outward seeming,
     Wherever its walls may rise,
Where the meadows are adreaming,
     Under the open skies,
     Where at ebb the great world lies,
          Dim as a sea unchartered,
     Round the house of sorrow,
          The house of the broken-hearted.

It is dark in the midst of the city,
     Where the world flows deep and strong,
Where the coldest thing is pity,
     Where the heart wears out ere long,
     Where the plough-share of wrath and of wrong
          Trenches a ragged furrow,
     Round the house of the broken-hearted,
          The house of sorrow.

But while the world goes unheeding 
     The tenant that holds the lease,
Or fancies him grieving and pleading
     For the thing which it calls peace,
     There has come what shall never cease
          Till there shall come no morrow
     To the house of the broken-hearted
          The house of sorrow. [page 58]

There is peace no pleasure can jeopard,
     It is so sure and deep,
And there, in the guise of a shepherd,
     God doth him keep,
     He leads His belovéd sleep,
          To fold when the day is departed,
     In the house of sorrow
          The house of the broken-hearted. [page 59]

 

THE WOOD BY THE SEA

I dwell in the wood that is dark and kind
     But afar off tolls the main,
Afar, far off I hear the wind,
     And the roving of the rain. 

The shade is dark as a palmer’s hood,
     The air with balm is bland:
But I wish the trees that breathe in the wood
     Were ashes in God’s hand.

The pines are weary of holding nests,
     Are aweary of casting shade;
Wearily smoulder the resin crests
     In the pungent gloom of the glade.

Weary are all the birds of sleep,
     The nests are weary of wings,
The whole wood yearns to the swaying deep,
     The mother of restful things.

The wood is very old and still,
     So still when the dead cones fall,
Near in the vale or away on the hill,
     You can hear them one and all,[page 60]

And their falling wearies me;                                                                                                                                  
     If mine were the will of God, —O, then
The wood should tramp to the sounding sea,
     Like a marching army of men!

But I dwell in the wood that is dark and kind, 
     Afar off tolls the main;
Afar, far off I hear the wind
     And the roving of the rain. [page 61]

 

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NOTES

[page 63]

 

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NOTES

——

THE MISSION OF THE TREES

     In the Ojibeway tongue “Wendigo” signifies an insane person with a homicidal mania and sometime with a tendency to cannibalism.

 

THE FORSAKEN

     This story is true. The fact may be of interest and value, perhaps, as proof of a well-known Indian characteristic, although the incident, as material for poetry, gains nothing in value from its truth. It was told me by the Hudson’s Bay Company’s factor at Nepigon House. “Tikanagan” is the Ojibeway word for the Indian cradle, about the construction and uses of which a little chapter might be written. Huskies are sledge dogs, a corruption of Eskimo.

 

DOMINIQUE DE GOURGUES

     My attention was drawn to this story by my friend Dr. Pelham Edgar who was then working on “The Romance of Canadian History.” He thought it a good subject for a ballad. Anyone so minded may compare the incidents given by Parkman with their development in the poem. But I read widely the noble books of the old navigators when I was writing it, and pored over many forgotten sailing charts and ancient maps. I conveyed one line from John Hawkins’ account of his second voyage, but I will not say which as someone may be led thereby to read that and other publications of the Hakluyt Society, a very diverting business. [unnumbered page]

CATNIP JACK

     The incidents in this ballad are imaginary; but a friend of mine once met two men drawing a dead body in the way described and shouting “Picotte” (smallpox) to warn the unsuspecting traveller. The ballad grew up around that fact and the psychology is natural enough, I think.

D. C. S. [page 66]

 

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