Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets
The Celtic Heart
26th Feb 2014Posted in: Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets 0

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THE CELTIC HEART
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The Celtic Heart
By
Constance Davies Woodrow

Toronto
THE RYERSON PRESS
MCMXXIX
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THE CELTIC HEART
BY CONSTANCE DAVIES WOODROW
Author of The Captive Gypsy and The Children’s Caravan;
and Authorized Translator of Nipsya, by Georges Bugnet.
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

   Thanks are due the editors of America, Today’s Housewife, American Motherhood, The Bookman (Eng.), Saturday Night, The Canadian Bookman, The Canadian Home Journal, The Western Home Monthly, The Canadian Mercury, The New Outlook, The Calgary–Albertan, and The Toronto Star; also to The Singer Sewing Machine Company, of New York; to M. Paul Claudel for permission to include my translation his “L’Enfant Jésus de Prague”; and to the Poetry Group of the Canadian Authors Association, Montreal Branch, for permission to reprint “Afterthought”, which appeared in their anthology of 1928 under the title of “And Is It So?” [unnumbered page]

DEDICATION

To M.

If Death should take but one of us,
   And one of us be left,
May Heaven console that one of us
   Who is so sore bereft!

For if you, first, should go the way
   Of lovely Autumn things,
Who then would love my wildling ways,
   Or bind my broken wings?

And if my dust should mingle first
   With all the ancient wild,
Who would so need your threefold love
   Of father, lover, child? [unnumbered page]

CONTENTS

PAGE

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

v

DEDICATION

vi

FEY

9

WHEN WE ARE OLD

10

THE POOL

11

OH, MOURN HER NOT

12

THE COMING OF LOVE

13

THE INNER FLAME

14

RENUNCIATION

15

THE FUGITIVE

16

THE CLOAK

17

APRIL SONG

18

HAUNTED

19

THE TRYST

20

SONG OF ENCHANTMENT

21

VIA DOLOROSA

22

CHRIST IN EXILE (I)

23

CHRIST IN EXILE (II)

24

CHRIST IN EXILE (III)

25

CHRIST IN EXILE (IV)

26

YOUTH AND THE CRUCIFIX

28

LIADAN AND KURITHIR (I)

29

LIADAN AND KURITHIR (II)

30

LIADAN AND KURITHIR (III)

31

THE ANSWER

33

YOUTH TO AGE

34

IMMORTALITY

35

[unnumbered page]
THE SANDMAN

36

THE LITTLE MAID, MARY

37

A MOTHER SPEAKS

38

MOTHERHOOD DEFEATED

39

TO THE UNKNOWN CHILD

40

A SPINSTER DREAMS

41

THE CHILDREN OF THE PAST

42

LAST HOUR

43

SPRING IN LONDON TOWN

44

CANADA

45

TO VANCOUVER

46

CATHEDRAL MOUNTAIN, B.C.

47

“THE SLEEPING BEAUTY”

47

THE CHILD IMMIGRANT

49

I LAID MY CHEEK TO   ENGLAND’S

50

OUT OF THE DUST

51

THE FOUNDLING

52

MY HEART’S A DOVE

53

THE ROMANY WAY

54

“PARADISE ENOW”

55

SONG OF A SEWING MACHINE

56

HEART’S DESIRE

57

ACADIAN IDYLL

58

ROSEMARY

59

LINES TO A LITTLE HOUSE

60

THE EAVESDROPPER

61

TO THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER

62

THE CHILD JESUS OF PRAGUE

63

ON THE GRAVE OF CADIEUX

64

AFTERTHOUGHT

66

VALE, BLISS CARMAN

67

WORSHIP

68

DUST

69

[page viii]

FEY

OH, I have walked too long with Loveliness!
   My eyes are dim
With the smoke–blue haze of the hills;
   My ears grown dull
With the infinite music of rills––
Oh, none should walk too long with Loveliness!

Oh, I have lain too long with Loneliness!
   And sleep has fled;
I am one with the hills, lone and stark,
   And my heart contracts
At the sea’s low sob in the dark––
Oh, none should lie too long with Loneliness! [page 9]

WHEN WE ARE OLD

WHEN we are old, and weary of our dreaming,
   Some swift–approaching day,
What will it matter then that stars are gleaming
   Above the hilltop way?
When mocking Age has bound our vagrant feet,
Little we’ll care that gypsying is sweet.

When we are old, and tired of all but sleeping,
   Or making idle moan,
Little we’ll care that lyric winds are creeping
   Among the flowers fresh–blown;
Then love will pass, and youth, and bright desire,
And wake within us no responsive fire. [page 10]

So let us,––while we yet have heart for caring
   That Spring is on the way,
While youth and love add sweetness to our faring,––
   Go gypsying today!
The fires of life will all too swiftly burn;
The Springtide of the heart knows no return.

THE POOL

IO TE AMO!––Through the sweet, cool night
Your lyric words fell, one by one, apart,
Into the dreaming waters of my heart,
Starting a thousand ripples of delight.

The echoes die, the ripples fade afar;
The shadowed pool is tranquil as before;
But in its must lie forevermore
Three shining pebbles and a pale, drowned star. [page 11]

OH, MOURN HER NOT

OH, mourn her not as if, in death, she lay
Forever out of sight!
For what had she to do with endless night,
Who was so young and gay?

Look kindly where the dandelions glow:
There, surely she is there,
Flinging gold laughter on the April air––
She who loved laughter so!

Go seek her in the dewy, dappled shade,
Where shy, sweet violets dream
Beneath the willows, where the Springtide stream
Goes singing through the glade.

Look tenderly upon the fresh, sweet grass
That grows beside the lane:
Who knows?––She may be waiting once again
To see her lover pass.

For she is one with all this loveliness,
And doubt not, you and she
Will mingle in a thousand Springs to be,
With mutual caress. [page 12]

THE COMING OF LOVE

I DREAMED that Love would come in gypsy guise––
A pagan youth, with laughter in his eyes––
To woo me with a minstrel’s magic art
And banish peace forever from my heart.

And then, one day, I knew that Love had come. 
My heart was strangely still; my lips were dumb;
I hid my face before his holy eyes:
I had no dreamed of Love in angel’s guise.

No searing memory of a pagan kiss
Love left to me that day, but only this:
The shadow of his wings on all my years,
And in my heart a small, still pool of tears. [page 13]

THE INNER FLAME

ALL other loves have moulded me
   That you might think me fair,
That you might find within my heart
   A love mature and rare,
Compact of mingled flower and flame,
   And reverent as a prayer. 

My soul attains its fullest height
   In this awaited hour:
I sense the mystery of growth,
   The quickening of power,––
An inward, radiant Eastertide,
   And all my world’s in flower. [page 14]

RENUNCIATION

O VIRGIN Mother of the Holy One,
Of what avail this strife ’twixt thee and me?
Lo, in this hour I give him back to thee:
Deal gently with thine erring human son.

I give him back, his spirit–wings release,
That he may rise beyond my yearning reach,
Beyond the faintest echoes of my speech,
And find, near thee, forgetfulness and peace. 

Of alien creed, to thee I breathe one prayer:
Touch, if thou wilt, each letter of my name
Which Love has graven on his heart in flame,
And leave the imprint of thine image there! [page 15]

THE FUGITIVE

OVER the mountains
   The dawn comes creeping:
What can I leave you,
   Love, for your keeping?––
Only my heart
   Beside you sleeping. 

Why should I wake you
   Now I am leaving?
Mine be the parting!
   Mine be the grieving!––
You will forget
   My love’s deceiving.

So, love, I leave you
   Happily sleeping,
Pressing a pillow
   Wet with my weeping––
Only my heart
   Is for your keeping. [page 16]

THE CLOAK

YOUR love is as a cloak of rarest sheen
   Which I may wear from morning until night,
And is it strange that when I hear you praised,
   I wear it proudly as a beggar might?

As quiet nuns, who, garbed in sober grey,
   Move through the world with meditative air,
Naught seeing save the omnipresent Cross,
   Naught hearing save their own scarce-whispered prayer,––

So, in my cloak of woven grey and gold,
   I walk the crowded ways, withdrawn, apart,
Before my eyes one far, belovèd face,
   And one thrice-holy prayer within my heart. [page 17]

APRIL SONG

COME, give me your hand, sweet Romany maid,
   And let us away together!
The world is fair and the world is wide,
The day will be long ere eventide,
   And blithe is the April weather.

Come, let us away, sweet Romany maid!
   This day was made for roaming;
And never a star will glance our way,
And never a flower will whisper nay
   To love in the April gloaming. 

When Romany lad meets Romany maid
   In the magical April weather,
Who knows where the end of the trail may lie?
Ere the April moon ascends the sky
   They may stumble on heaven together. [page 18]

HAUNTED

AH, whither can I flee,
That even your shadow may be lost to me?
Where can I find the sound
Wherein your voice would be forever drowned?
Whether to north, or south, or east, or west
I flee, this haunted heart can find no rest. 

I dread each dawn that brings
Fresh grief for lost and unforgotten things;
I fear each dusk that holds
Such bitter memories in its shadowed folds;
Unpitying Day and unrelenting Night
Conspire to mock me in my futile flight. 

Ah, whither can I flee?
Never the traitorous Earth will shelter me:
She loves your shadow so,
It falls before me everywhere I go,
Across the newborn grass and budding trees,
Darkening all my heart with memories. [page 19]

What of the fathomless deep?
There, surely, might the haunted spirit sleep!
Dear God! That I were free
To merge my grief in the ageless grief of the sea!
Nor voice nor shadow could pursue me there,
Nor even a fleeting memory of despair.

THE TRYST

THE wind of death blows cold upon my cheek,
   And all my heart is chilled with sudden fear:
I listen long, yet cannot hear you speak;
   My groping fingers fail to find you near.

The far, faint stars are growing fainter still
   And paler grows the mist-encircled moon,
As Night, awakened on the eastern hill, 
   Flees the approach of Morning’s golden shoon. [page 20]

This surely was the chosen hour, and yet
   You give no sign, by touch, or voice or breath.
Alas! And can it be that you forget
   The hour, the place, remembering only death?

SONG OF ENCHANTMENT

GRIEF to the day that a fairy went wooing;
   Grief to the lad that was hearing his name
Lilted with music of harps in his dreaming,
   Kindling within him an answering flame. 

Always she came as she sank into slumber,
   Gliding unseen through the shadows of night,
Weaving a spell with her white arms about him,
   Filling his dreams with desire and delight.

Strange were her words that he heard in his dreaming,
   Falling like music of harps on the air:
Soft was her breast as the petals of roses,
   Touching his cheek ’neath the veil of her hair.  [page 21]

Night with her coming was sweet beyond telling,
   Dawn with her leaving brought hours of despair;
Always he sought for the maid of his dreaming,
   Lured by the music of harps on the air.

Grief to the day that a fairy goes wooing;
   Grief to the lad that is witched with her charms:
Never for him is there peace or forgetting,
   Never for him are an earth–maiden’s arms.

VIA DOLOROSA

TWO thousand years are dust and dream;
   The world grows wiser now;
Yet still Love walks the dolorous way,
   With thorn-encircled brow.

He passes through the marts of men,
   ’Mid talk of gain and loss,
An old, old sorrow in his eyes,
   Beneath a nail-worn cross. [page 22]

CHRIST IN EXILE

A Fantasy

(I)

MARY, THE MOTHER

MARY, the Mother, prayed apart,
   Her eyes upon a blood-red sky,
But through the holy hush of dawn
   No brooding angel breathed reply.

The rhythmic hammer rose and fell
   As Joseph labored at his trade;
A tree stirred softly in the wind;
   And Mary heard, and was afraid.

The hammer beat upon her heart,
   And at the stirring of the tree
Her eyes were dark with sudden pain––
   Fore-shadowing  of Calvary. 

Adown the vista of the years
   She glimpsed the bitter guerdon won,
Beheld His sweat of agony,
   And cried aloud: My Son! My Son! [page 23]

CHRIST IN EXILE

(II)

MARY’S LULLABY

Sleep, little Jesus!
   There is Thy star
Steadfastly burning:
   Sorrow lies far.

Sleep, little Jesus!
   Childhood is fleet;
Strange are the pathways
   Waiting Thy feet.

Sleep, little Jesus!
   Long may my heart,
Bearing Thy secret,
   Suffer Thy smart! [page 24]

CHRIST IN EXILE

(III)

FOREKNOWLEDGE

Three crosses standing lonely on a hill,
   Dark in the waning gloom,
And Magdalene, alone, in bitter grief
   Beside an empty tomb.

And the One spake, Whose voice she did not know:
   Woman, why weepest thou?
She turned and looked, but knew Him not Who said:
  Woman, whom seekest thou?

Sir, tell me: Is it thou who from this place
   Hast borne my Lord away?
The Stranger looked at her with tender smile
   And answered: Mary, nay!

And Mary knew Him and was comforted;
   But Christ, with brooding eyes,
Beyond the three lone crosses on the hill
   Beheld strange visions rise.... [page 25]

CHRIST IN EXILE

(IV)

DEEP IN A GLADE…

Deep in a glade, upon a couch of flowers,
The drowsy Pan lay dreaming, half a-swoon,
Unmindful of his scattered flock of goats,
Deaf to the luring laughter of a nymph,
His fingers idly curled about a flute,
New-fashioned but untried. His eyes, half-closed,
Beheld the other gods devising sport.
Sudden he stirred. Adown the drowsy glade
There walked a Man of melancholy mien,
His figure bowed with grief, upon His brown
Deep, crimson scars that ancient thorns had left.
Pan rose, and called his comrades from their play,
And silence fell upon that watchful group.
The man drew near, and lifted mournful eyes,
Grown dark with piercing pain, and dim with tears.
And is it Thou? cried Pan, in unbelief. [page 26]

Art Thou the Christ, that comest to this glade?

Yea, Pan, ’tis I! the Man of Griefs replied.
The world grows swiftly old; the heart of man
Is fixed on gold, and Love is crucified;
The race of Cain stalks, boastful, through all lands
And heaven is darkened with a crimson mist;
Through which no pealing organs call to prayer
The gay, indifferent multitudes that pass;
The little winds that haunt the vacant aisles
Bewail the exile of the banished Christ
And stir the pungent dust of withered flowers
Upon the faded, mouldering altar-cloths.
Man finds no further need to sue for aid
Of deities whose power he has usurped. 

* * *

The ancient gods stood silent; not even a leaf
Stirred on its branch, and every bird was dumb:
There are no griefs to match a fallen god’s. [page 27]

YOUTH AND THE CRUCIFIX

(I)

“COME, let us away from so mournful a place!
Let us look not again on His suffering face!
There is that in His eyes––
Heed it not: it is lies.
The piper is piping us back to our play:
Leave the Cross to the old; Let us dance while we may!”

(II)

Where still the piper’s tune is glad and gay, 
And merry feet are dancing while they may,
A shadowed cross upholds one newly-hung,
And lo, the eyes-those tortured eyes-are young. [page 28]

LIADAN AND KURITHIR

(From a Celtic Legend)

(I)

PRELUDE

THE room recedes, as fragments of a dream;
   Out of the dust of centuries arise
Forgotten cloisters, battlemented halls,
   And Druid temples open to the skies. 

The setting sun has left the moon of May,
   A slender, golden crescent, in the sky;
One trembling star shines high above the sea;
   The wind of twilight wakens with a sigh.

Across a dreaming garden, grey with dusk
   And sweet with fragrance of the hawthorn bough,
The last sweet song of Liadan is heard,
   For Kurithir, who breaks his trysting-vow: [page 29]

LIADAN AND KURITHIR

(II)

LIADAN’S FAREWELL

Kurithir! Kurithir!
Grey dusk is falling
Over my heart
As it shadows the sea.
Kurithir! Kurithir!
Leave not thy greyling! *
Leave not thy Liadan!
Turn thou to me!

Kurithir! Kurithir!
Sadly the thrushes
Since in the dusk
‘Mid roses of May.
Kurithir! Kurithir!
Grief of the thy greyling,
Grief of thy Liadan
Shadows this day.

* “Little grey bird”––a term of endearment. [page 30]

Kurithir! Kurithir!
Long is our parting;
Wide is the way
Between cloister and sea!
This the last song
Of the harp of thy greyling:
Kurithir! Kurithir!
Farewell to thee!
                          (Breaks harp)

LIADAN AND KURITHIR

(III)

THE VISION OF KURITHIR

WHAT mean the thrushes singing on the sea?
   The wheeling flight of birds as white as snow?
The scent of hawthorn in the flying spray?
   And is it, then, the madman’s way I go?

The golden moon of May is growing warm:
   What Druid magic is upon me now?
I see the outline of a broken harp,
   Beside a maiden sitting in the prow. [page 31]

And is it, then, that Liadan is dead?
   And is it thus that she returns to me,
With scent of hawthorn and the rose of May,
   And white birds wheeling low above the sea?

The grey of sorrow’s veil is on the sea, 
   O Liadan! O lost grey bird of mine!
And yet, my heart grows warm with growing hope:
   A dead maid’s eyes were ne’er so bright as thine!

Oh, strange sweet magic of this night of May!
   A dead maid’s cheek was ne’er so warm as this!
Warm is the rose-leaf body in my arms,
   And warm the lips that tremble at my kiss!

O Liadan! O dear grey bird of mine!
   The haunting song of thrushes on the sea,
The hawthorn scent, and white birds wheeling low
   Now guide me back to Erin and thee. [page 32]

THE ANSWER

(Man speaks)
   Who art Thou, God?
(God replies)
   Sun, moon, and stars have shed their light
      Upon My naked breast;
   Against My heart, since time began,
      All men have lain for rest;

   Through countless Springs, unrecognized,
      In meadows I have stood,
   And felt the clasp of children’s hands
      In many a fragrant wood;

   Æons of suns have seen Me stoop     
      To taste unnumbered rills,
   And I have found the grasses sweet
      On April’s rain-washed hills;

   This hour, within thy wondering face,
      Myself again I see;
   And yet––O undiscerning Man!––
      Thy spirit questions Me:

      “Who art Thou, God?” [page 33]

YOUTH TO AGE

O YOU whose feet descend the twilight hills,
   What message have you for the heart of Youth,
Whose path still winds beneath the morning skies?
   Have you yet seen the flashing wing of Truth?

Is the way clear despite the gathering dusk?
   Can you glimpse aught beyond the valley’s gloom?
Is there a star again, to guide men’s feet
   Unto a living Christ beyond the tomb?

What sound comes stealing through the falling night,
   Above the tolling of Life’s vesper bell?––
Is Death’s derisive laughter in your ears?
   Or can you hear God’s whispered:
      All is well?  [page 34]

IMMORTALITY

THEY are not dead, those singers of the past,
   Who feel no more the stab of beauty’s pain
At song of bird, or sunset’s irised flame,
   Or drifting scent of lilacs after rain.

The fleet enchantments of their mortal hours,
   The lambent flares of passion and regret,
The laurels that were wreathed about their brows,
   Are one with all the vanished past, and yet:

Singer nor song shall perish utterly
   Though future worlds despise the poet’s art:
Who knows what scented summer wind may bear
   The lyric dust of Sappho’s broken heart? [page 35]

THE SANDMAN

COME, little Sleepy-eyes, weary of play,
Soon will the Sandman come stealing this way!
The wee flowers are wise:
They are hiding their eyes.
Oh, hushabye, hushabye-loo.

He creeps from the shadows of Sleepy-Time Town,
To see if the children have all nestled down;
He bears in each hand
A bagful of sand.
Oh, hushabye, hushabye-loo.

Soon through the keyhole he slyly will peep
To see if my baby is fast, fast asleep;
So kiss me “goodnight,”
Then close your eyes tight.
Oh, hushabye, hushabye-loo. [page 36]

THE LITTLE MAID, MARY,

(To Mary-Elizabeth Merkel)

DARLING of my heart is the little maid, Mary,
   All the moods of April in her lovely eyes of brown––
Wistful, shy, or tearful, mischievous, or happy,
   Or very softly darkened with the shadow of a frown.

Like the Little People is the little maid, Mary,
   Swift on loving ministries the long day through;
Sorrow flees before her, as frost before the sunlight,
   For strangely sweet and tender are the things she finds to do. 

Life, be very gentle with the little maid, Mary!
   Let no cruel thorn surprise her little dancing feet!
Leave to her forever her fairy world of dreaming!
   Oh, shadow not her singing heart, so flower-like and sweet! [page 37]

A MOTHER SPEAKS

(A LITTLE son!... How glad I am, how glad!
   Oh, I had feared the dream might not come true!)
You are so small and fragile, little lad,
   I scarcely dare to creep too close to you. 

How soft and round you are! Unclose your eyes,
   That I may see if they be just as blue
As tiny speedwells, or the sunlit skies
   Of early June when first I dreamed of you. 

Enfolded in my arms, how still you lie,
   Upcurled against my heart your tiny feet!
I almost want to wake you, make you cry,
   To know the joy of soothing you, my sweet. 

(A little son! How happy he will be!
   ’Twas what he wanted most, my heart well knew.)
How wonderful it is that I can see
   In you my son and my beloved, too! [page 38]

MOTHERHOOD DEFEATED

O CRUEL DEATH!

To lurk within the shadows of the tomb
And snatch my firstborn even from the womb!
What matters it to thee that still thine ears
Can hear the sound of Rachel’s olden tears
And David’s anguished cry across the years?

O MOCKING DEATH!

Who find’st our human agony so sweet
That myriad hearts are broken at thy feet;
The suns and moons of waiting were in vain;
In vain the hours of unimagined pain:
My bitter loss is thy long looked-for gain.

REMORSELESS DEATH!

My dreams have flowered and perished in a night;
My fairest hopes have felt thy withering blight;
My aching arms are clasped on empty air;
My heart is cold and desolate and bare––
The tears of all my life lie frozen there. [page 39]

TO THE UNKNOWN CHILD

YOUR way must be a weary one,
   For Earth lies far, my sweet,
And chill must be the asphodel
   Beneath your baby feet,
Small hands must ache that clasp so long
Those far-grown blossoms of your song.

Yet why you stumble through my door
   I cannot tell, my sweet,
Nor why you lay your blossoms down
   At these unworthy feet:
I only know––and I alone––
The songs I sing are not my own. [page 40]

A SPINSTER DREAMS

I WAS a mother in the long ago:
   This fancy is more sweet than any other.
My children’s native tongue I do not know,
   But I am sure their sweetest word meant “Mother.” 

They lay beside me on the desert sands,
   Their little bare, brown bodies next each other;
I kissed each little sleeper’s dimpled hands:
   It was my heaven to know I was their mother. 

Of shining stars, of birds and flowers and trees
   I wove them stories at the long day’s ending;
I crooned sweet, long–forgotten melodies
   By moonlight, o’er their dusky bodies bending.  [page 41]

These fancies (Are they memories?) that cling
   About my heart, make lonely days less lonely;
I once held little warm brown babes, I sing,
   Though now I live with shadow-children only.

THE CHILDREN OF THE PAST

WHERE are the children of the past,
Earth’s lovely, laughing children?––
Romping over flowery meads
Upon some far-off star?
Or sitting in some temple dim
And gazing, starry-eyed, at Him?
Or are they––could that One be so unkind?––
But petal dust...
          adrift...
               upon...
                    the wind? [page 42]

LAST HOUR

LET there be only gladness in my going,
   Though late or soon the inevitable call!
And if there be no future for my knowing,
   Such sorry jest will touch me not at all.

For I shall be beyond the jesters’ seeking,
   Beyond the spite and slander of my foes––
Ah, grief to them, that all their idle speaking
   Should be as breath on every wind that blows!

Be mine the joy of birds that, tired of flying,
   Behold at last the portals of the South!
Be mine nor prayers nor sorrow for the dying,
   But lovers’ kisses warm upon my mouth!

Fill my last hour with song and lightest laughter;
   My lovers, all your sweetest lies re-tell;
Then Death, your hand into the dark Hereafter!
   Then, lovers, friends, and foes, a gay farewell! [page 43]

SPRING IN LONDON TOWN

WHEN Spring comes back to London Town
   The world’s on holiday;
There’s subtle magic in the cry:
Fresh daffodils! Who’ll buy? Who’ll buy?––
Then, oh, to be in London Town,
   For Spring is there today! 

When Spring comes back to London Town
   The hurdy-gurdies play
A magic tune in every street:
The pavements ring with dancing feet––
Then, oh, to be in London Town,
   For Spring is there today!

When Spring comes back to London Town
   The world is glad and gay;
There’s madness in the very air;
Romance may meet you anywhere––
Then, oh, to be in London Town,
   For Spring is there today!  [page 44]

CANADA

FAIREST of all the sister-lands is she,
   Enthroned among her pines and maple trees,
Her eyes, dream-lighted, level with the stars,
   And at her feet the foam of breaking seas. 

In far-off valleys, under alien skies,
   The toiling dreamers glimpse her sunlit face: 
With reverent voices, in the quiet hours,
   They breathe her name in many a holy place.

To these, she is the glory and the gleam,
   The rainbow through a mist of crimson tears,
The Promised Land, the haven after storm,
   The recompense for all the shadowed years. 

For these she waits and turns expectant eyes
   Across the eastern and the western sea,
Beholding, down the avenue of years,
   Their children’s children gathered at her knee. [page 45]

TO VANCOUVER

SO loath am I to leave your loveliness,
   That this last hour has torn my heart in twain:
One half returns to its accustomed haunts;
   The other half forever must remain.

My spirit-self will haunt your forest ways,
   The birds will sense my presence ’neath your trees,
The wind will find faint footprints on your sand
   Where I have dreamed beside your murmuring seas.

Chill-fingered clouds will touch me as they pass
   Like ghosts across your highest mountain crest,
And God may find me, at the end of time,
   Upcurled in sleep upon your sun-warmed breast. [page 46]

CATHEDRAL MOUNTAIN, B.C.

BENEATH those spires of Time’s own fashioning,
   Where man may not intrude,
God walks alone––since even He
   Has need of solitude.

His heart grown weary of man’s blasphemies,
   Man’s murmured plaints and fears,
God seeks that solitary steep––
   Since even He has tears.

Within those vast cathedral walls are hid
   Earth’s ancient mysteries:
Those cloud–roofed aisles alone may hear
   God’s long soliloquies.

“THE SLEEPING BEAUTY,”

VANCOUVER

COMPANIONED by the quiet stars, she lies
   In ageless slumber on the mountain crest,
While ageless dreams lie heavy on her eyes
   And stir beneath her rounded virgin breast. [page 47]

With every rising sun and rising moon
   New dreams are born, of things that are to be:
She sees the barren prairie acres strewn
   With sheaves, and hears the groaning axle-tree. 

She sees the eastern gateways standing wide
   And hears the ceaseless march of eager feet;
She sees the men and women, dreamy-eyed,
   Whose hearts can hear the wind among the wheat. 

She hears the axes in the forest gloom
   And sees the smoke-wreaths mounting to the skies;
She sees the babe enfolded in the womb,
   In whose small hands a nation’s future lies. 

These are the ageless dreams that touch her eyes
   And stir beneath her rounded virgin breast,
As there among the stars she lies,
   In ageless slumber on the mountain crest. [page 48]

THE CHILD IMMIGRANT

THE eyes of men turn backward,
   Beyond the trailing foam;
The women’s hearts are mourning yet
   The vanished hills of home.

The child looks ever westward,
   Along the sunset track:
So soon forgot, the homeland trails
   Will never lure him back.

Who knows what paths await him,
   Or what his heart may find?
So young he is, and so alone:
   O Canada, be kind!

The men may bring you glory,
   The women give their dole
Of service and of sacrifice:
   The child will give his soul. 

He comes to you so bravely,
   Unknowing and unknown:
Deal gently with him, Canada:
   His future is your own! [page 49]

I LAID MY CHEEK TO ENGLAND’S

I LAID my cheek to England’s
   And felt upon my face
The sorrowing tears of England
   For all her scattered race;
Alas, in that same hour I knew
That I was false to England, too!

For even as I was leaning
   Against my England’s breast,
My heart and eyes were turning
   Toward the golden West;
And I could scarcely understand
My yearning for my foster-land.

Blue were the skies of England
   And oh, her woods were sweet
With scent of rain–washed hyacinths
   That nodded at my feet!
Then why should I so long to see
One solitary maple tree?

I laid my cheek to England’s;
   There fell upon her face
My sorrowing tears for England,
   Who mourned her scattered race,
For oh, in that same hour I knew
That I was false to England, too! [page 50]

OUT OF THE DUST

OUT of the dust of all the past I came:
   My body is compact of memories
Of other lives in other forms than this,
   And I am kin to birds and beasts and trees.

Out of the dust of fairer things I came––
   Some ancient flower whose name we do not know,
Some fallen tree that saw strange altars lit
   With sacrificial fires of long ago. 

Some humble moth that scorned the candle’s flame
   And dared to set the far-off moon its goal,
Has left to me the lure of moonlit skies
   And all the futile yearning of its soul. 

And what is now my heart was once a shell
   Upon the sands and heard the sea complain
From hour to hour in murmurous monotone,
   And holds remembrance of its ageless pain. [page 51]

Unto the dust I shall again return,
   Even as the faded flower, the fallen tree,
The moth that faltered in its moon-ward flight,
   The shell that crumbled by the plangent sea.

THE FOUNDLING

I COME to thee, Madonna, not to pray,
   And break thy holy silence with my needs,
Since mine, Madonna, is a foundling-heart,
   That knows not how to tell thy holy beads.

The shadows of the world are on my heart,
   And so I seek thy brightness undefiled;
And though I come with quiet lips and hands,
   Yet thou dost understand thy foundling-child. 

For thou canst see the flock of little prayers,
   Like shy, small birds, that from my heart arise,
And all the sacred, silent solitude
   Is vibrant with compassionate replies. [page 52]

I come to thee, Madonna, not to pray,
   But just to spend an hour with thee, apart,
My lips at rest my fingers idly clasped,
   Since mine, Madonna, is a foundling-heart.

MY HEART’S A DOVE…

MY heart’s a dove of restless wing,
   That frets at prison bars,
Forever sighing for the sun
   Or yearning for the stars,
A shy, wild thing that needs must roam
Beyond the dovecote doors of home.

But now, I am in sorry plight:
   My hearts remains away,
And––what is stranger still than that––
   It seems content to stay,
Forsaking every starry quest
For shelter in an alien breast. [page 53]

THE ROMANY WAY

ON the open road ’neath a summer sky,
Oh, never a care in the world have I!
I whistle a tune as I trudge along,
My Romany soul in a Romany song.

By turbulent rivers and murmuring rills,
Through flower-fragrant valleys and over green hills,
My roaming feet follow the Romany way
Till the set of the sun marks the end of the day. 

Then sweet is my rest on a green earth-bed,
With a star-broidered canopy over my head;
Around me the tall grasses drowsily sigh,
While a blossom-sweet breeze croons a soft lullaby. 

And glad is my heart at the dawning of day,
As I follow, still follow the Romany way,
For well do I know at the trail’s far end
Wait the hand and the heart of a Romany friend.  [page 54]

“PARADISE ENOW”

THEY sing of walls of jasper;
   Of cities paved with gold;
Of harps and white-robed angels––
   “The half was never told.”

Be theirs the gold-paved cities,
   Who sing so heartfully!
The sunny earth’s green grasses
   Are heaven enough for me.

Be theirs the crystal waters
   Within the jasper walls!
Be mine earth’s singing rivers,
   Her brooks and waterfalls!

Be theirs the angel-comrades,
   Their greetings strange and cold;
Be mine the earth to love in,
   And warm earth-hands to hold! [page 55]

SONG OF A SEWING MACHINE

OH, the happiest worker of all am I,
As my wheel and my needle so merrily fly;
With a spool full of thread and a heart full of song,
I am ready and willing to work the day long.

Oh, faster and faster my glad wheel flies
When it catches the light in a young maid’s eyes;
The dearest and tenderest girlhood dreams
I stitch into gossamer hems and seams.

But slower my wheel and softer my song
When fairy-like fragments are guided along––
I am stitching the dreams most sacred of all
Into dear little gowns and a wee silken shawl. [page 56]

HEART’S DESIRE

AN old-world cottage in a sheltered nook
   Where sombre pines would whisper all day long;
Not far away a little murmuring brook,
   And birds to fill my little world with song.

An old-world garden, gay with hollyhocks,
   Aflame with poppies, sweet with mignonette,
Alyssum, roses, and night-scented stocks
   That yield their fragrance when the sun has set. 

A cosy den with windows low and wide,
   A row of books, some well-loved pictures, too,
A deep armchair where I at eventide
   Might nestle down, and by the fireside––you! [page 57]

ACADIAN IDYLL

THE gypsy spell is broken,
   The dreaming days are done,
Where lyric fields of Acadie
   Lie golden in the sun.

Through solitary morrows,
   Along a lonely shore,
The grey of grief will touch the sea
   For two who come no more. 

Beside a dappled pathway
   The pines will wait in vain:
No more, when June is on the world,
   These two may pass again.

Through all the fragrant twilights
   Aeolian winds will tell
Of two who loved in Acadie
   And two who said Farewell! [page 58]

 

ROSEMARY

WHAT though the morrow bring to us no song
   Of birds that now are nesting in our eaves?
What though our hearts must hear the whole day long
   The dreary drip of raindrops from the leaves?

What though the violets we cull today
   Before the morrow’s dawning droop and die?
What though the roses, shaken from the spray,
   Within our garden bruised and broken lie?

Grieve not, though we must lose each precious thing,
   For sweet remembrance will forever stay.
Through all the grey tomorrows we can sing:
   The world was lit with glory for a day. [page 59]

LINES TO A LITTLE HOUSE

O LITTLE house of quiet,
   Upon the far lake shore,
When life gives pause for dreaming
   I seek your beckoning door.

O little house of friendship,
   Where else could wanderers find
Such largesse of refreshment
   For body, soul, and mind?

O little house of sunshine,
   There, shadows only fall
Like sweetest benediction
   On window, roof, and wall.

O little house of music,
   Though birds forget their song,
The murmurous winds and waters
   Are yours the whole day long. 

O little house of dreaming,
   O little house of prayer,
If even God were weary,
   He well might tarry there! [page 60]

THE EAVESDROPPER

I BUILT a little house for Love
   And circled it with prayer,
Nor dreamed that Death had set his foot
   Already on the stair.

I made a fire upon the hearth
   And set the kettle there,
And all the house was filled with dreams
   That only two might share. 

Ah, dear! If we had only known
   Death listened on the stair!...
For now that house is like my heart,
   Left sorrowful and bare. [page 61]

TO THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER

AFTER the cannons’ roar, the trumpets’ blare,
   How sweet should be the silence of the tomb!
No faintest echo of the after-strife
   Can penetrate its cool and restful gloom.

O happy heart, whose slumber is so deep!––
   So deep, you cannot see your brother’s plight;
You cannot hear his murmured bitterness,
   His children’s hungry cries that haunt the night!

He stands apart, with torment in his eyes,
   To watch them bring strange tribute to the dead:
His little children’s milk is at your feet,
   And at your head his little children’s bread.

O heart forever quiet, Death was kind:
   Your eyes have looked their last on human pain;
Your brother’s wrongs, his children’s hungry tears
   Can neither stir no trouble you again! [page 62]

THE CHILD JESUS OF PRAGUE

(From the French of Paul Claudel)

Beneath a shroud of woven dusk and snow
The wan December world lies dead below;
But snug indeed the little chamber seems,
Its ceiling bathed in firelight’s slumberous gleams,
While though the hush the kettle’s voice alone
Is singing in a murmurous monotone!
Above two beds where sleeping children lie,
There is a shelf, whereon, with loving eye,
The Christ of Prague keeps vigil ’neath a globe.
So gentle-seeming in his regal robe,
His curious yellow hate, and crown withal,
One hand outstretched lest any harm befall
Those little ones, his other fingers curled
About a sculptured model of the world,
He watches till the dawn––alone, arcane,
As is the hidden host within the fane.
Eternal life fills all the room, its flow
As soundless as the breaths that come and go,
And one with all those simple things and poor! [page 63]
With Brother Jesus, they can sleep secure
From every harmful thing, and while they sleep
He is their own; so, also, are the sheep,
The wondrous doll, the wooden horse––all three!
The blinds are drawn... A clock chimes distantly
Across the darkening snow... The little lad,
Aware of warmth and sleep, is vaguely glad.
He stirs and murmurs, seems to understand
That Love is near, and, putting our his hand,
Gropes vainly at the gates of Slumberland.

ON THE GRAVE OF CADIEUX

(From the French of Louis Fréchette)

Along the savage Ottawa is found
A lonely isle, and near its shore a mound
O’ergrown with briers the traveller will descry;
For, long ago, one lingered here to die.
Nor gate nor marble marks this lowly place,
But, ere he died, the simple bard did trace [page 64]
Upon a tree the secrets of his mind,
And told his sorrow to the forest wind.
Thus legend gilds this touching tale: the tree
No longer stands, but often, mournfully,
The voices of some lowly cottage torn
Still chant the dying Cadieux’ plaintive song.

* * *

What tragic dramas God has writ between
Thy billows and upon thy ridges keen,
O ill-starred Ottawa! When shadows fall,
How many vague, lamenting voices call?
How many long-drawn sobs and plaintful cries
Are mingled with thy billows’ fall and rise?
Alas! beneath thy waves and eddies, deep
In thy soft sands, forsaken bodies sleep!
Oblivion is their only winding-sheet:
And never had they even their few feet
Of earth; a mystery is their burial-place;
Nor ever on some swaying birch tree’s face,
Deep in the forest-heart, will any man
In pensive mood their farewell writings scan.

* * *

[page 65]

And by the fireside, at the long day’s end,
No voice of Spring their long-lost names will blend
With cottage songs. No tender memories
And no belovèd footsteps are for these...
In scattered burial-places, hidden deep,
O poor, forgotten bodies, take your sleep!

AFTERTHOUGHT

And is it so, that someday I shall lie
   Beneath the quickening grasses, still and stark,
While joyous winds go crooning overhead
   And flowers push softly past me in the dark?

And shall I miss the dawn, nor yet behold
   The mellow moon of April wax and wane,
Nor hear across the darkling April world
   The little fluted sorrows of the rain?

Will robins still be singing in the dawn
   And calling through the dusk, and I not know?
Will waves of sunlight ripple on the grass,
   And I be lying heedless just below? [page 66]

But nay! The heart of God grows never old;
   He, too, must feel our Springtide ecstasies:
At this glad thought, my heart half-breaks with song:
   There will be other Aprils after these!

VALE, BLISS CARMAN!

The shadow of a poignant grief
   Is on the ancient hills;
The keening of the little winds
   The warm green woodland fills.

For Nature walks with stricken face
   Her solitary wild,
And searches in the dewy grass
   For footprints of her child.

He heard the witching pipes of Death
   And could no longer stay;
Beyond the twilight and the dawn
   He took his singing way.

The trees outstretched their pleading hands,
   The thrushes’ song was sweet,
The wayside flowers were wistful-eyed,
   But none could stay his feet.  [page 67]

WORSHIP

I SOMETIMES think that Nature, too, may share
Man’s sense of wonder and his need for prayer;
That Nature, too, may have her deities
As awesome and inscrutable as his.

When gentle twilight broods upon the land,
The trees in quiet contemplation stand,
Their branches raised in worship to the sky,
As if they felt a Presence passing by.

Who knows what sense of awe may stir the grass
When overhead the winds of springtime pass?
Or what vague rapture thrills the opening flower
When first it feels the sun’s mysterious power?

Who knows what thoughts of bitterness or dread
May touch the stumbling ant that drags its dead
Beyond the reach of human feet who joy
Seems ever to oppress or to destroy? [page 68]

For even we, to lowlier lives that creep,
Or prowl, or fly in air, or swim the deep,
May be as gods whose dire, mysterious ways
Awake vague fear or inarticulate praise.

DUST

Out of the dust, and unto dust again!––
And when my prisoned songs shall break, at last,
The all-too-fragile phial of my heart,
Let me be one with all the deathless past:
Scatter my ashes far and wide, that I
May drift forever ’twixt the earth and sky!

How could I brook the cramped and sunless tomb,
I who have worshipped Beauty all my days?
Far sweeter to be borne upon the winds
Along this lovely world’s most lovely ways,
One with the rainbow arched across the skies,
One with the flaming pyre when daylight dies. [page 69]

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