NOËL H. WILCOX
[2 blank pages]
[unnumbered page, includes illustration]
By NOEL H. WILCOX
Contents copyright, Canada, 1930.
500 copies printed.
Weeks Printing Co., Ltd., Halifax.
Also “Piper of Dreams”, 1927.
Beneath the trees of April I am searching everywhere For pixie birds that pounce on leaves And kick them in the air. I know I’ll know the birds from leaves— All fluttering on the ground— For leaves can never hope to give Such silvery April sound. And when there falls around me A flight of silver arrows, My heart is taken captive By the song of the fox sparrows. [page 5]
THE WOODLAND TRAIL
Tired of this trail shall I never be That leads to the land of old, grey boulders: The smell of the woods incredibly Lightens the pack to my burdened shoulders. The leaf-green lane goes quietly on, But every care in the world is gone. So softly the fronds of fern unfold The snap of a twig invades the hush, And the moose that tracks this damp leaf-mould May hear the song of that hermit thrush, While the scarlet buds of each maple tree Enhance the sky-blue canopy. Airily now by a glimmering brook Sweet brooklet music enchants the air; Whisking out from a mossy nook A cascade goes dancing down a stair. The trail is fey with its wild caprice, But I love it best for the gift of peace. [page 6]
When hardwood flames into gold And the soft blue smoke clouds come, A camp, depressing and cold, A fire transforms to a home. The quick sparks wander away And lose themselves in the woods, Like thoughts that love to stray Among the solitudes. Away to the streams they fly Alit by the little embers, To the lake and the evening sky And the beauty the heart remembers. [page 7]
Once upon a time when The world seemed worlds away, I heard a little fairy bird Singing to the day. Where sunlight, sifting through the trees, Made pools of sunny air, Blithe notes as light as thistledown Went floating everywhere. All the other woodland birds Were stilled to ecstasies While waiting for the fluting sounds To curve around the trees. I looked up with the violets— And looked, and looked again, And once I thought I saw the bird That sang the sweet refrain. But when I feared that nothing real Could thus entrance my ear, “See me? I see you.” Came magically clear. If all the silken floss were mine Which all the spiders do, I’d catch the fairy’s fleeting song And bring it home to you. [page 8]
Fish as scarce as hen’s teeth— Woods-birds silent underneath Clouds ash-grey and ominous That shroud the hills around us; Air refreshing, though it chills— Rain in sudden, fitful spills, Pattering on the trilliums; Camp to make before it comes. When the forest cracks like thunder And an easterly drives under, (poison to every fish that swims Says a guide who knows their whims), Bunks are snug in a fishing-camp Lit by the glow of a candle-lamp, Listening to teeming, rapid rain Breaking its crystal spears on the pane. With our log walls nogged with moss What care we if the forest toss! Let the winds go roaring by, Night-long inky be the sky! If the morning dawns in gold and blue And the lake be dimpled too, Luck will hold in its lucky way, Trout for breakfast! Trout today! [page 9]
A FISH STORY
With sporty rod and waders And tackle extra fine, I found a likely-looking lake In the proper fishing time. A rock well-placed—a famous stand— Was waiting there for me, But the first exciting cast I made I hooked a maple tree. While I was swearing up the branch That held my leader firm, I saw a little coloured boy Fishing with a worm. Every time his cork would bob He’d give it a mighty yank And out would come a speckled trout To wriggle on the bank. I am a dry-fly fisherman, I thought my technique right, But when it came to catching fish They wouldn’t even bite. All the flies that seemed so fine, I tried them one by one, But thought I knew just what to do, The boy had all the fun. So with an artful silver hook My creel caught all his trout, Then back to town, to show my fare, And settle any doubt. [page 10]
Do bumble-bees bend down the blooms To make themselves a swing? Are butterflies all muddled up When they fly staggering? I never ever hear a worm, They seem to me quite quiet; But robins often listen for them, Have you thought to try it? A tree can make the wind by shaking, Though I forget what shakes it. And when you hear the grasses sing Of course you know what makes it. Why does the sun when I have looked, Put green ones all around? And where do great big shadows go When they have left the ground. [page 11]
THE OLD MILL
In the dip of the dell An old mill hides, And memories cling To its weathered sides And mossy roof. As shadows deepen, I come once more, By a leafy road, From the sounding shore Of a summer sea. The wheel is still, For the long flume waits Till a rain may loosen The pent flood-gates, And freshen the stream. No thunder of logs, Nor screaming saw, No rumbling belts, Nor sawdust raw From new-cut boards. I listen awhile On the doorless sill, And seem to hear, All hushed and still, Muted voices. [page 12] If my call is heard It brings no reply; But a bat coming out Swoops silently by Twitching the sky. Eerie and cold The silences creep; I’m glad to hear singing Himself to sleep A brave little bird.
What snowy peaks The clouds have piled Against the blue, That a little child May look at mountains Built of dream, And far Vancouver Suddenly seem With all its lovely Distant hills A dream Come true. [page 13]
THE MOON LADY
Swift as a driven cloud is blown, The vibrant motor sped; The moon, delightful chaperone, Her net of lovelight spread. I wonder what the moon-lady Imagined, as she smiled to me? For often when I glanced her way, She hid behind a tree; But quickly peeked, as if to say— “I’m watching, dear, you see!” The moon-lady was very bright And kept me closely in her sight. I loved the road that seemed to wind Itself into my heart, While fields and trees were left behind, And still the hills spread apart; But all the way the moon-lady Kept following my love and me. [page 14]
Very fair were the fields The Acadians won From the sway of the forest— From shade to sun; While the old French potter Down by the bay Worked to his wheel Pliable clay. Time with his noiseless foot Still wanders on, Men who have loved the fields Have come and gone. Today a hale farmer Fallows by toil With plough and harrow, Arable soil. Very fair are the fields Sundrenched and sweet, Which yield to his labour Clover and wheat. [page 15]
Here on this quiet half-tide stone I thought to be awhile alone, But with a swish and a startled cheep The whole sky seemed awhirr with birds Brushing with wings the very air I breathe, and thick as drifted stars, But darkened stars across the blue. Then all, as one, I see them swerve, The stars are white and twinkle too. White as foam they flutter and curve Over the old wave-bitten rocks. I watch them alight upon the mud And run with little eager feet, Searching for some lost precious thing They cannot find; so away they chase To dry their feet in the easy air, Before they search some other place And leave their little footprints there. [page 16]
Red the cliffs of Cobequid— Red as porphyry— Glow beneath the low sun Dipping to the sea. Tenecape and Portapique, Rosy as romance, Stain the Bay of Cobequid, Colchester and Hants. Blue the cliffs of Blomidon, (Glooscap’s naive whim) Rise above the blue bay, Tameless, old and grim; Across from hills of Cumberland His traprock rampart flings, Shielding from the north wind Orchard vales of Kings. White the cliffs of Lunenburg Watch the seagulls soar, White as where the long surf Gaily leaps ashore; Headlands heaped with granite, Brittle white they gleam, As the eye roves seaward Sentinels they seem. [page 17]
A memory sails again my little boat That first taught me the wonder of the sea; Aslant the spray-drenched air once more we tack, And fling a foaming furrow down the lee. The bending canvas draws the breath of heavens; The splashing bow intones a chanty song; Adventure holds the tiller in its grip, While happy clouds sweep carelessly along. The wind-ript waves of tameless tides we counter— White horses of the waters leaping high; My little boat and I are boon companions, And vagabonds of every sea and sky. Serene within my heart that friendship lingers Like the beauty of a seagull’s wing Sailing into the salt air it remembers, Instant at youth’s quick beckoning. [page 18]
The forest holds its breath Through the shivering gulfs of night; The moon like some old hollow ghost Half hides a pallid light. A few leaves fidget and are still; The hushed pines heave a sigh; Above the stark and ebony trees An owl wing brushes by. Then slow upon the wizard air Where night-frosts wrap the fall, There cuts the dark like agony A long-drawn hunter’s call. And hope and fear are mingled, And still hearts scarcely beat, Lest some proud moose be cheated— Whose roving days are sweet. But silence answers silence, Far wilds the wildlings keep, The world turns over on its side And quietly goes to sleep. [page 19]
The moon’s ice mountains dip where west winds sigh, The summer stars have vanished from the night, Before the dawn glows in the orient sky To turn the tingling silence into light. But now the winter’s glinting stars begem The east above the tranced and pointing firs, Aldebaran and Sirius with them— Orion and Pleiades are hers. All these that quiver from infinity, And burn beyond the boundaries of thought, And echo tones of deep divinity, Pale when the first bird’s morning lilt is caught; And day, slight as some cloud, drifts over hills, And all the east with silvery curtains fills. [page 20]
Here are some primitive ashlars, Built by the old pioneers, Grim, undisturbed and enduring, Grey with the lichen of years; Rocks that would hinder their ploughing, Close-piled in rambling walls, Dividing the pastures and meadows And riddling the land of its spalls. Walls that were meant not for beauty, But beauty rewarding the toil Laid her lovely wand on the rockpiles And blossoms sprang up from the soil: Here with an artless profusion Wild-cherry, goldenrod, ferns, Daphne, rhodora, sweetbrier, Each in its season returns. Here is a dwelling for beauty Close to the arable fields, Shelter and happy protection For all which the wildwood yields; And on through the coming ages, As long as these walls endure, Beauty need never be homeless, A place for her children is sure. [page 21]
CHILDREN OF EARTH
When sunset colours stain October hills, There comes a time to tuck my daffodils And other precious bulbs in cosy beds, And snuggle down their sleepy little heads. Secure, while sleepless snowstorms howl around, They’ll weave a web of dreams about the ground; But when some springbird banishes the night, Gaily they’ll rise—a vision of delight.
Right in the midst of life’s small work and play I hear a gentle patter come my way; I turn, but ere I spy the curls’ red gold These words betray the youngest of the fold— “Ginkie water Mum.” The house is still and Bobs and all the rest Are cuddled down, like birdies in a nest; But when the dawn peers through the window-pane Will come those same words confident again— “Ginkie water Mum.” N. K. W. [page 22]
THE SPIRIT OF THE BELL
Time out of mind a clear-tone bell Among Ionian pillars moved, And hour by hour called out to tell Its rule to all who learned and loved. Swift the sweet years have come and gone, Leaving strong links of loyalty; And metal mixed with myrrh rings on Vibrating in the memory. When younger sons with pride can feel What binds us to our heritage, A fellowship is forged like steel— The forging welds both youth and age. What recks we of the bitter flame! The spirit of the bell lives on: And King’s arising guards the name And spirit of the King’s that’s gone. [page 23]
ÆNEAS AND ANCHISES
High in a gable wall there long remained A time-worn token of some craftsman’s art— Æneas’ far-famed flight from burning Troy. Many forget this finely chiselled stone, A few recalled great Vergil’s epic song, And happy years moved quietly along. Was it fell chance of bodeful oracle That set a prophecy of future fate High in a gable wall where casual eyes Returned anon with wondering surprise? For time unleashed a day when we beheld The topless towers of Ilion alit With lurid glare, and all about beset By fire devouring slow but ruthlessly; And through an avenue of stately elms The classic scene of meadowland and mountain Draped with a sombre pall of baleful smoke. Then seemed a prophecy indeed fulfilled— Then forth Æneas with Anchises wandered— Æneas with a heart now turned to stone, His aged father on his shoulder borne, Whilst by his side his son Iulus strode Forsaking Troy to seek some new abode. [page 24] Of King’s I sing, and of the men whom Fate First drove from Troy to the Lavinian shore. And like the Bard of Mantua’s deathless hero Forth have we fared, our ancient fane destroyed, To meet vicissitude with level eye Firmly resolved to brook adversity.
The shade of Hector to Æneas came Bidding him rise from sleep and haste away For Troy was burning and would be destroyed: Nor could the hand of man ever rebuild Its walls, except in some far distant land Wherein a greater Troy in time would stand. He woke to find the old ancestral walls Enveloped in a mass of sheeting flames That cut the crackling air like very swords. Gone was the time of studious quietude Which once was only broken by applause Betokening the prowess of an athlete; Instead wild clamour and commotion. [page 25] He rushed upon the melancholy scene, Revenge and bitterness searing his mind. Tradition said that Troy could not be burned. Was this some false, unfounded faith? It seemed Impossible that this event could be— Great Troy burning, and he so powerless! A bell fell somewhere with a sobbing sound, And when its melting metal struck the ground At once immortal Venus straight appeared Who showed him all the Gods were with the Greeks And called to mind an ancient prophecy That “Troy the gods would once destroy.” Persuaded of the sad futility Of saving Troy, or even being avenged Because of its complete destruction, he Resolved to leave at once and having found His father, urged him to select a few Small household gods, and then prepare for flight. Anchises trenchantly refused to go. [page 26] To disregard the unpropitious fates And linger now in fire-enveloped Troy Æneas knew would be to perish there. Perchance calamity conceals, within Itself, a rich and unforseen reward. The mountains beckon their security. These he must cross and seek another place Where he could build a new and nobler state And there his sons would dwell inviolate.
Anchises is the spirit of the past— Of loyalty to proud tradition. Dear are his memories of vanished days. The home he cherished long and loyally Is gone. The very soil is sacred still And every tree a friend. The long outline Of Academic hills he will not leave. Surely he may remain and build in time A peaceful habitation here again In such a suitable and broad domain. [page 27] Iulus is the hope of future years— The youth of all the ages yet to be. It is for him Æneas volunteers To sacrifice with equanimity. A lambent flame above his boyish head Is understood to augur well success,— “Old Troy may be by flame destroyed, But flame shall light the lamp of truth, And flame shall never conquer youth But shall by youth be conquered.” Anchises hails the protent and entreats Æneas now to carry him away Towards the dayspring of a greater day.
The Trojans after fateful wandering For seven adventurous years and more, Decide to build their permanent abode Beside the old Atlantic’s sounding shore, Where from foundations deeply laid and strong Arises now that new and nobler home, Wherein the sons of King’s may proudly dwell, And praise Æneas and his story tell. [page 28]
Deep through the silent night Stars wheeling slowly— Watch keeping in the fields Shepherds lone and lowly— Hear the song the angels sing, Tidings of great joy they bring, Glory to the new-born King Of Israel. God’s glory from on high Cleaves night asunder, Peace, peace, an angel cries— Shepherds rapt in wonder Hear the song the angels sing, Tidings of great joy they bring, Glory to the new-born King Of Israel. Christ, Saviour of the world, (Can sign be stranger?) Born now in Bethlehem Cradled in a manger; Hear the song the angels sing, Tidings of great joy they bring, Glory to the new-born King Of Israel. [page 29]
AN EVENING HYMN
“He departed into a mountain to pray . . . when evening was come.”
Come ye apart and rest awhile— We hear the Master say: Come gather strength of many a trial As evening crowns the day. Come where the path oft used before Leads on beside the sea, Whose gleaming ripples lave the shore Of holy Galilee. Come to the mountain wilderness, Where quiet sounds subdue, And leafy zephyr’s cool caress Moves grasses bowed with dew. Come ye to Me—receive the power To help along life’s way; Will ye not watch with Me one hour? I bid you—watch and pray. We come Lord Jesus, at Thy word, For help and strength we long; Forgive if we have careless heard Thy call at evensong. [page 30]
[2 blank pages]