Modernist Canadian Poets
Under Country Skies
17th Oct 2014Posted in: Modernist Canadian Poets 0

UNDER COUNTRY SKIES

by Helen B. Anderson

[illustration]

Published at Toronto, 1933 by THE WRITER’S STUDIO
[unnumbered page]

To the Memory of My Husband [unnumbered page]

Contents

The First Ploughing 5
In Memory 7
Hepaticas 9
I Wonder 11
They Will Come Back 12
Weaver 13
Easter 14
April Days 15
To a Rose 16
A Tryst with Youth 17
A Summer Day 19
Summer’s Passing 19
The Bob-o-link 20
Late Summer Days 21
The Lure of Autumn 22
The Ploughman 23
Autumn Memories 24
Aspirations 25
Thanksgiving 27
Bells Across the Snow 28
Christmas 30
The New Year 31
Looking Forward 32

[page 4]

The First Ploughing

The sun shines bring on this fair April noon,
The crow’s dark shadow drift across the lea.
The robin’s song—our heart’s with it atune—
Falls on the ear—a welcome melody.

The damp, dark mould a mist of incense flings—
A subtle fragrance on the April air—
The ploughman to the field this horses brings,
No satin sheen can with their coats compare.

With patient step they haul the sturdy plough
And turn the furrows from their winter’s dream;
The sky o’ercast—the rain is falling now—
And in the silver rain the furrows gleam. [page 5]

With hope the ploughman plods ‘neath sun and gale,
Firm in the faith in which his fatherstrod—
That seeding time and harvest shall not fail—
The ploughman’s promise from his fathers’ God. [page 6]

In Memory

The day is clear, the summer sun is shining,
The birds are busy through the sunny hours.
All nature smiles and decks the earth with beauty,
In glorious robes of foliage and flowers.

But tho’ the sunshine glows with rays refulgent,
Tho’ summer birds are heard in sweetest song,
A shadow dark broods o’er the old home portal;
For he is gone—the one beloved so long.

We miss the voice, the words so true and kindly,
We miss the touch of a dear, vanished hand.
The days are long, the quietness appalling
Sometime, some day, perhaps we’ll understand.

For, could we look beyond our earthly vision,
Beyond the opening of the sunset gate, [page 7]
We’d see him in the house of many mansions
Where all the glorified for us await.

Tho’ bitter are the tears, the storm of sorrow,
Tho’ sadly day by day we miss him here,
We’ll meet again upon a bright to-morrow
When God shall wipe away the lingering tear. [page 8]

Hepaticas

I know a wood, a winsome wood, and easy ‘tis to find it,
Just down a fresh, green country lane that climbs the old home hill,
Then winds beneath the trailing trees, beyond a field you’ll find it—
The old, old wood of childhood, that beckons to me still.

Tho’ April winds are wailing, and April rains are falling,
Tho’ frost lays icy fingers upon the leafy mould,
Hepaticas are waking, for now the Spring is calling,
And they face the April tempest, all unmindful of the cold.

How fair they look, and airy, in their gauzy summer dresses,
Lifting faces, bright and happy, to the sunshine to be kist,
And they waft the sweetest perfume in response to wind’s caresses,
And we catch its subtle fragrance floating through the April mist. [page 9]

So when April comes to greet us with its sunshine and its shadows,
Then I know that spring is calling to my heart, that longs to roam,
And in spirit I shall wander far across the misty meadows
To gather bright hepaticas in the old, old wood at home. [page 10]

I Wonder

I wonder, when the grass of June shall wave
Above me, in my last unbroken sleep,
When winds shall whisper still of pulsing life,
And stars above their watchful vigils keep—
Shall I who loved the grass, the stars, the wind,
Unmindful be of these joys left behind?

And when the birds their sweetest carols sing
Shall I not hear the music once so deaf?
And to the singing of the silver rain
Shall I, unheeding, turn a deafened ear?
When June in beauty paints the perfumed rose
Will naught of earth awake my calm repose? [page 11]

They Will Come Back

From a high bough, an empty nest is swinging.
Lonely it sways through all the winter day.
When Spring returns, the welkin will be ringing
To the glad notes of the oriole’s roundelay.

Empty the nest where once the cat-bird brooded,
The mate on guard through all the summer hours,
Silent the spot where robins gaily carolled
‘Mid the young leafage and the fragrant flowers.

Nor more across the summer’s radiant glory
Flashes in flight the golden bird of blue,
Across the mead, no more the age-old story
Tells that the bob-o-link to his name is true.

Though winter reigns and birds have left the northland,
They will come back and gladden us again.
They’ll hasten home from the far, languorous Southland,
And flood with life our hills and vales and plain. [page 12]

Weavers

Nature is weaving a web of light,
     Moving the shuttle with hand unseen,
Silently wrought the colours bright—
     Crimson stain and gold and green;
Noiselessly, as the days go by, 
     Making the pattern most complete,
She weaves the blue of the Maytime sky,
     And daisy patterns beneath our feet.

With fairy fingers the thread she throws,
     Pattern of cowslip by the stream;
Like living magic the colour shows
     In the purple light of the hills of dream.
Careless is she of frost and cold,
     Weaving away ‘neath shade and sun,
The pattern perfect the web unrolled,
     And Nature’s springtime work is done.

Weavers are we in life’s short span,
     Moving the shuttle day by day,
Weaving the web as best we can—
     Threads of gold and dullest gray;
So often marred is the pattern planned
     By threads of hate and sin and strife,
But oh: the guide of the Master hand
     Makes a thread of love in the web of life. [page 13]

Easter

“Because I live, ye shall live also.”

Life, life renewed we see in all about us,
The grass grows green, the maple buds show red,
Hepaticas are blooming in the wild wood,
The world of nature is no longer dead.

And down across the years we catch the message,
The words of that far distant Easter Day,
“He is not here, the Lord indeed is risen.
Come, see the place where Christ the Saviour lay.”

O weary heart, we, too, may catch the message,
The word that Death no longer holds a sting,
For lo! He burst the bonds of Death forever,
And lives for aye, our risen Lord and King.

“Because I live,” He said, “ye shall live also.”
O blessed words to soothe life’s pain and strife.
We need not fear to pass Death’s dreaded portal;
Risen with Him, we’ll enter into life. [page 14]

April Days

Misty the greening meadow,
     Shining the silver rain,
Fitful the flash of sunlight
     Parting the clouds again;
Pensive the call of the blue-bird,
     Breaking the twilight hush,
Clamorous the call of the torrent
     Where the spring waters rush.

Signs and symbols of April—
     Indian willows that burn,
Blossoms that deck the woodland
     Heralding Spring’s return;
Whirring wings in the tree-tops
     Where the bright wind goes through,
And haunting the cry of the killdeer
     That tells that the earth is new. [page 15]

To a Rose

Fair, fragrant flower, words can but half express
Thy dainty grace, thy silken loveliness—
Unfolding bud, that in the summer hour,
Gives promise of the perfect, opened flower;
Elusive colors paint thy petals rare.
Oh, what can with a budding rose compare?

I prize thee, too, since long, ah, long ago
The bush was planted where thy flowers grow, 
By one whose life was fragrant but so brief,
Who left us with a great heartache and grief,
But whose fair memory, like thy fragrant flower,
Is with us with each summer’s fleeting hour,
Whose fair, sweet face, so like thy petals bright
Remains with us to gladden and delight—

For oh! the fragrance of a life lives on
When life is past and earthly days are done. [page 16]

A Tryst With Youth

To-day, as the November light grows dim,
My thoughts are vagrant, wandering afar,
Leaping beyond the years all past grim
Toward the portal of a distant star,
That lures me on with restless flying feet
Where youth and joy were wont to make retreat.

I wonder as the fleeting snow-flakes fall,
Do you recall the time so long ago,
When in the grey and grim old college hall
We reckless were of winter’s frost and snow?
When all the future seemed like summer bright
With not a cloud to shadow or to blight?

And when at last the college days were past
We filled the train that night with laugh and cheer,
A merry crowd, destined to part at last
To sever friendship’s ties now grown so dear,
How tender were the goodbyes that we said,
The lingering hand-clasp and the tears unshed. [page 17]

I left the train that through the winter night
Went roaring onward like a maddened thing,
And I was left beneath the cold starlight
To follow you afar on spirit wing.
Ah! little recked we that the future years
Would find so large a place for toil and tears!

And now, as the November light grows dim,
I wonder if your thoughts are vagrant too,
And from the earth’s remote and distant rim
They seek again a friend once tried and true
Alas! the years have taught a bitter truth,
He seeks in vain, who seeks a tryst with youth. [page 18]

A Summer Day

A whispering wind the meadow grasses stirring,
A fleeting fragrance wafted on the air,
The leafy branches ‘gainst the blue dome showing—
Oh! what can with a summer day compare?

A drowsy note from nests all snugly hidden,
The quail’s weird call across the meadow land—
All nature seems to bow in benediction,
With Love’s sweet symbols seen on every hand.

Summer’s Passing

Days of golden, mellow sunlight,
     Nights with just a hint of frost,
Leaves turned brown, and south wind whispering
     Of a summer loved and lost—
But at eve around the fireside
     With the crickets’ song to cheer,
Grieve we not for passing summer
     When bright Autumn’s joys are here. [page 19]

The Bob-o-link

Down in the clover meadow,
     Lush in the green of June,
Robert of Lincoln is singing,
     List to his merry tune!
Nearer and clearer are swelling
     The notes of his joyous strain,
As he swings on the swaying grasses,
     Cheering our hearts again.

Oh! but his heart is happy.
     List to his bubbling song—
A shower of liquid music,
     Jubilant, clear and strong.
A welcome to thee, bold singer,
     A comrade so bright and gay,
A part of the merry June time,
     A sprite of the summer day!

Hope in thy song is breathing
     For the far days to be,
Joy in thy song is welling
     And a glad ecstasy!
Oh! deep in the heart may we cherish
     The thrills that thy glad notes bring,
With ever the heart and spirit
     A part of thy song and spring. [page 20]

Late Summer Days

Lightly the wind stirs all the swaying tree-tops,
Brightly the sun lights up each vale and hill,
And through the days wild birds are southward,
     With all their music still.

Gayly the sumach flaunts its robes of crimson,
Bright as the dawn that heralds the new day.
Oh! how the heart rejoices in the summer
     That it might last for aye!

Lord of the earth, Who gives the changing season.
Lord of the harvest with its gifts of gold,
Grant that Thy peace—the harvest’s full fruition—
     Our hearts may e’er enfold. [page 21]

The Lure of Autumn

When gorgeous Autumn haunts the wood and plain,
And flaunts her robes on every hill of flame,
I like to roam where bright the sunlight streams
Through crimson leaves where Nature idly dreams.
I like to follow where with trappings gay
She leads her train o’er an enchanted way;
And dream with her beside the sunlit shore
Where summer trails her robes of light no more.

I fain would follow where the silence broods
O’er field and plain and woodland solitudes,
Where purple grapes adorn the clambering vine,
Where shadows lengthen in the day’s decline;
And where the nuts drop one by one to earth—
The sound conducive to the chipmunk’s mirth,
Where Autumn’s spirit thrills us as we pass
And fairy foot-prints mark the greening grass. [page 22]

The Ploughman

In the grey light of the November morn
He guides his team across the silent field,
With steady hands he holds his trusty plough
That the dark furrows to the share may yield;
And as he toils throughout the dull, drab day
Who knows what visions o’er his heart hold sway?

His team keeps time to the dull hours’ slow pace,
The brown leaves whirl before the freshening gale,
The shadows lengthen and the night drops down
Showing the stars at first all dim and pale.
Then homeward turning from the furrowed sod
He feels himself a partner with his God. [page 23]

Autumn Memories

As the autumn days are nearing, there’s a wood where I would wander,
Where the glinting sunshine glistens through the gentle wind-stirred leaves,
Casting ever shifting shadows at my feet the while I ponder
On the beauty of the carpet that the sun and shadows weave.

There’s a glint of shining stubble in the sunlight over yonder,
There’s a clump of alders growing by the waters of the spring;
There is a golden-rod a-gleaming, and the while my heart grows fonder
Of the glorious days of autumn and the subtle joy they bring.

There are grape-vines clinging, climbing to the tree-tops old and hoary,
Freighted with their fragrant fruitage—sweet the memories of the years!
Ah! the golden Autumn sunlight brings again the old-time glory
Of the distant days of childhood which I glimpse through mist of tears. [page 24]

Aspirations

I began the day with a high resolve
Some service for Him to do,
A valorous deed to fill men’s hearts 
With a purpose, sublime and true;
And I looked about for some mighty task
My Master’s praise to bring—
A sermon grand to stir men’s souls,
A song that was mine to sing.

Then there came to my door a little child
From my neighbor’s across the way—
A little one with tear-stained face
And wind-tossed curls at play.
I bound up her injured hand, and then
Brushed kindly the tousled head,
And in the midst of my petty task
My grand resolves had fled.

I went about my household tasks
When I heard a timid knock,
And there at my door stood a poor blind man—
The sight gave a painful shock.
He was weary and footsore and travel-stained
And I gave him food and rest,
And I forgot the great things I had planned to do
In the cares that the day infest. [page 25]

At night, all weary and worn with care,
I came to my Lord in prayer,
And I told of the failures the day had wrought,
For nothing of worth was there;
But a still small voice spoke to my soul
As plain as plain could be—
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto these
Ye have done it unto Me.” [page 26]

Thanksgiving

The common things of every day,
The sunrise and the morning dew,
The south wind whispering on its way,
The fleecy clouds in skies of blue,
The singing stream, the limpid lake,
The autumn trees in radiant dress—
All these in thoughtful hearts awake
A spirit of true thankfulness.

For, God has made the mountains high,
The streams that sing unto the sea,
And every wind that wanders by
Proclaims his matchless majesty;
His glory, too, the skies declare,
The morning stars sing forth His praise—
Then for His love and wondrous care
Let us our thankful voices raise.

For strength to do the daily task,
For love of home and kindred, too,
For gifts beyond we think or ask
We bring to Him our thanks anew;
And for the days when we have bent
Beneath His wise and chastening rod—
For all life’s lessons He has sent
We humbly give our thanks to God. [page 27]

Bells Across the Snow

When winter rules with rigor our wide Canadian land,
And summer yields the sceptre to his all-conquering hand;
When nothing but a world of white is seen where’er we go,
We still have something to atone—the bells across the snow.

Tho’ voiceless is the streamlet, and no more the robins sing
To give us hope and courages—dear harbingers of spring!
Although the storm clouds gather, and the tempests round us blow,
Above the dine we hear again—the bells across the snow.

We hear their merry music through the city’s rush and roar,
Their pealing cheers the lonely road along the pine-clad shre,
And the aged, sitting dreaming, by the firelight’s ruddy glow,
Catch echoes of the days gone by, in—the bells across the snow. [page 28]

And if in years to come we’re called in other lands to roam,
In memory we’ll come back to thee, our own Canadian home;
And when the shadows lengthen and life’s lights are burning low,
In dreams we’ll hear the music of—the bells across the snow. [page 29]

Christmas

Now in hall and cottage, holly wreaths are hanging,
Homes are bright and cheery with the Christmas glow;
Back to home and fireside wayward feet are trending,
Once again they’re children, as in the long ago.

Every care and worry to the wind they’re flinging,
Careless of the sorrows that the years have brought.
Oh! the happy spirit of good-will they’re bringing,
Counting all the passions of the years as nought.

Gladsome is the greeting, free the joyous giving,
In it does the semblance of our Lord appear.
Oh! the Christmas Spirit makes a joy of living
That its tender token might last throughout the year. [page 30]

The New Year

Upon the threshold of the New Year, Lord,
We leave the wasted moments of the past,
Our griefs, our sins, our deep contrition, Lord,
Relying on Thy mercy, sure and vast.

The New Year dawns, a gift, O Lord, from Thee.
What it will bring we cannot now discern, 
But from its broken days of grief and pain
A song of prayer and praise be ours to learn.

That through the changes that the days may bring, 
Through all the toil and travail of the years,
We may be able in our hearts to sing
And make a shining rainbow of our tears. [page 31]

Looking Forward

An untried path before us,
     A road we cannot see,
That leads us ever onward
Into the days to be; 
The path, though dark and dreary,
And to the heart unknown,
May prove all bright and cheery—
Since God walks with His own. [page 32]
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