Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets
20th Jan 2014Posted in: Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets 0
Autumn Leaves

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Original Poems

Rev. Hamilton Wigle
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IT seems to me that leaves can talk:
I hear them whisper as I walk
Along and crunch them ‘neath my feet;
Their very death-notes rise to greet
Me with their plaintive wails and sighs,—
So like the swan that, singing, dies.

We say they’re dead and now must find
A lonely grave, perhaps behind
Some rotten log or old board fence;
Alas, poor leaves, vain recompense!
I watched them grow as thick as spawn,
And silent as the op’ning dawn.
They caught the sunbeams as they flew,
And sipped the gases from the dew.

They looked like phantoms in the sky,
Or fledgings, trying hard to fly.
I walked beneath them in the glade,
Where little children romped and played [unnumbered page]
Upon the green, and chased chipmunks
Around the stumps or hollow trunks.
How proudly perched upon the trees,
These leaves sat, swinging in the breeze.

Some on the elm o’er lovers hung
Like beads upon a neck-lace strung.
Some graced the maple, high and grand,—
The emblem of our native land
Beach, oak, and poplar, bore their share,
But now, mixed up by frenzied air,
They hurry scurry o’er the ground,
Or nestle by a new-made mound.
I see them crouching in the grass,
Or circle round the feet that pass
Below the boughs, where yesterday,
The dew-drop on their bosom lay.

Ah, leaves, sarcophagi of rare
And glorious life! I wonder where
Your spirit now has flown;
Or were you just a bubble blown
To let more life invest the tree,
And is no future waiting thee?
Or will you in some far off year
Rejuvenate and re-appear [unnumbered page]

In pale or brown, or gold or green,
And from your sepulchre unseen
Crawl through the fibre of the tree,
And claim eternity with me?
But I can’t leave you in the cold,
I’ll pick up all my arms will hold,
And tell to you my thoughts, and see
That none shall know but you and me.

I’ll name you all and give you dates,
In mem’ry of some old schoolmates;
For fellowships in God’s mute sphere
Are next to human friendships here.
Methinks I’ll spread them on the floor,
And sort them out and look them o’er,
This tiny little pink will look
Just lovely in my kodak book.

These brown ones here were so opaque,
I thought at first I wouldn’t take
Them, but they somehow made me think
They’d look so sweet besides the pink, [unnumbered page]
I’ll take them out to mother’s grave;
They seem so full of thought, ‘Twill save
Them from a premature decay,—
I hope they won’t all blow away.
This crimson one with golden rim,
I’ll send it overseas to Jim.
He picked up one like this last fall
And pinned it on my scarlet shawl.

Well, Leaves! I’ve learned a lot from you
Of friendship, sympathy, and true
Fond love, and yet I feel you are
But one small note, in the long bar
Which goes to make the music swell
In the larger life in which I dwell.
But through the cycles of the spheres
I’ll not forget these joys and tears.
One part of that Eternity
Will be what leaves awoke in me.
The mem’ry of our earthly bond
Will live with me in Worlds Beyond. [unnumbered page]


THIS Poem was suggested by the parting scenes witnessed at Glasgow, August 2nd, when forty-one Scotch girls embarked on the S. S. Letitia, to find homes and employment in Canada.

Sae we’re aboot tae pairt, lassie,
Ye’regangin’ o’er the sea;
And may the God O’ Jacob, lassie,
Hae watch ‘twixt thee and me.

We’re laith tae let ye gae, lassie,
Though it’s better for ye’r sake;
For the fauld is full o’bairns, lassie,
And the livin’ is hard tae make.

And noo tae say guid-by, lassie,
Maiststairtsmaehert tae bleed;
It’s like that awfu’ day, lassie,
When Bobbie waned and deed.

They’re singin’ “Auld Lang Syne” lassie,
I ken it’s time tae stairt;
I’ll lead ye tae the gang, lassie
And bless thee ere we pairt.

Ye’ll keep the Lord’s commands, lassie,
And trust Him for his grace;
Ye’ll join us in the prayer, lassie,
Aboot the chimney-place. [unnumbered page]

Just tak’ this little book, lassie,
‘Twill help ye when ye’re sad;
Mae father did the same, lassie,
When I was but a lad.

Ye’ll ne’er forget us a’ lassie—
Ye’r dead auld Heelandhame—
But while ye bide awa’, lassie,
‘Twill never be the same.

Mind there’ll be lovin’ herts, lassie,
Awaitin’ here for thee,
When ye come back again, lassie,
Tae ye’r ain countrie.

This was the Prize Poem in a contest held on ship-board, under the direction of a hundred
delegates returning to America from the world’s Sunday School Convention at Zurich,
Switzerland, July 1913.


No witch of Endor can conjure
Such prophets, bards, or connoisseur,
As can be raised at your command,
From ev’ry age and ev’ry land.

In thee I felt great Plato’s mind,
And thoughts from Shakespeare oft would find,
Which put me in succession fast
With all the culture of the past. [unnumbered page]

And as my eye ran o’er each page,
I had communion with the sage,
Till in my fancy, on the wall,
I saw the portraits of them all. 

And thus in Latin, French, or Greek,
I heard those ancient sages speak.
Dear Books, what faithful comrades all
As, year by year, you grace the wall!

The same soft air and mellow light,
Which made you brown, have turned me white.
When I am gone, I fear that none
Will care for you as I have done.

No one can love you like myself.
I ‘ranged you there in reg’lar rows,
And kept you dusted like my clothes.
What will become of my old books?

I did not choose them just for looks;
They lured me by their wealth of lore.
For all the lofty themes they bore
Awoke in me a rapture sweet, [unnumbered page]
That made their pages my retreat.
So these dear books may not reveal
A charm that other hearts will feel.

They’ve been to me just what they would
Not be to others if they could.
Ah, Masters of refining Art,
Who stored my brain and stirred my heart!

How often you have had to wait
Till my vagaries would abate:
Then this mixed mind to you was turned,
And there the larger truths were learned.

When Faith had lost her self-control,
You tranquilized my billowed soul
With thoughts, that often made me feel
A life-throb, o’er my spirit steal.

And when my tears streamed on the mat;
Or when I stroked the knowing cat;
You stood as mourners all about,
And watched the cup of grief run out. [unnumbered page]

My deepest secrets thus are hid
Right there inside your coverlid
It sends a shudder through the heart
To think that we shall ever part.

I hope, when I am under ground,
They won’t leave you to lie around
Some musty loft or cellar floor,
And let your pages all get tore.

Well books, dear books, adieu!
I’ll take one more fond look at you,
And run my eye along the line
Of my old friends; yes mine, all mine.

I trust, whenever you may be,
Your keepers wont, for sake of me,
Scratch out the names I wrote in tears,
Far back in unforgotten years,
Nor rase the marks I made in you,
when first I read your pages through.


IF you meet fellows on the road,
Who can’t manipulate their load,
Don’t start to judge and then condemn, [unnumbered page]
And say you won’t take stock in them,
Because they don’t look sleek like you,
Or act as pious as a Jew;
For they’ve been living in a place
Where people never say the grace:
The highest ethics of their school
Is measured by “The Golden Rule.”

Don’t knock the fellow who gets drunk,
And say his pledges all were punk.
If you feel hot, just kick yourself
For letting any man, for pelf,
Sell bottled Hell to that poor soul,
Which made him lose his self control.

What Christian took him by the hand?
What deacon tried to help him stand?
Who took him to the Sunday School?
Or read to him “The Golden Rule?”
Don’t spurn that miner on the street,
Or gauge the ditcher by his feet.
When you are in the House of Prayer, [unnumbered page]

They’re in the muck, God knows just where,
While they build sew’rs and mine our coal,
We act as if they had no soul.
Don’t say these toilers have no friend;
That God will drop them in the end;
Though you may think them rough or cru’l,
Still they may keep “The Golden Rule.”

Don’t shy that fellow sued for rent,
Or that poor beggar, blind and bent.
Who knows what sweat-shop broke him down.
Or landlord drove him from the town.
Perhaps, if all the truth were known,
Some grafter robbed him of his own.
Don’t say there can’t be any good
In those who hav’nt funds or food,
For Laz’rus at old Dives’ stool
Somehow had kept “The Golden Rule.”

Don’t thump that lubber on the deck,
Or yank that gaffer by the neck; [unnumbered page]
They live the best they understand,
In such a life on sea and land.
The only Christ those men can find
Is in the sunshine or the wind.
Perhaps the holiest shrine they see
Is ‘mongst the trees or in the lee,
They celebrate no Christmas-Yule:
Their faith lies in “The Golden Rule.”


WHAT modern notion can it be
   Has changed the public mind toward me?
Once I was told if I left here,
   The village couldn’t live a year.
But now they turn around and say,
   “Take that old nuisance away”.

Tuber’clar germs some seem to think,
Are in the water that I drink.
They say I’m dirty, foul and bad;
   And call me names as if they’re mad.
I’ve seen them turning up their nose,
   Because I smelled queer, I suppose. [unnumbered page]

One can’t be always clean and sweet
   When men dump refuse at your feet.
Upon my banks they heap the muck.
   Of barnyard pens, and all the truck
That gathers round the wood-shed doors,
And sweepings from the greasy floors.

Then people loathe me, curse me o’er,
   And claim I’m spreading germs galore.
Some say the children I may kill,
   And fill the grave-yard on the hill.
When folks plant flower-beds and trees,
   They’ll have no trouble with disease.

I’m like the river to the sea—
   I give them back what they give me.
In all the world there’s not a clod
   Can mirror back the works of God;
But every form that passes by
   Can see its image where I lie.

Just stand beside me and see how
   I’ll photograph you on my brow. [unnumbered page]
Your noble features I’ll express;
   Your hidden vices I’ll suppress;
I hold the blade of mossy grass,
   And catch the butterflies that pass.

Then I portray the swallows too,
   And ev’ry thorn-bush tipped with dew;
The little lambs that near me play
   And gambol through the live-long day
I take; and herds that stand and drink,
   Or chew their cud beside my brink.

The pic-nic groups sit on my bank,
   And sail across me on a plank.
Some bridal parties here I’ve seen;
   I took them sitting on the green.
At ev’ning in the hot July
   My water-lilies they would spy:
A raft of boards they’d improvise
   And ‘mid the shouts and screams and cries,
Each lover stretched his very best
To pluck a flower for his guest.

The broken-hearted oft have crept
   Close to my side and there have wept;
And when they brought to me their tears [unnumbered page]
   I held them sacred through the years.
My comfort I would sacrifice,
   And groan beneath a sheet of ice,
So all the people in the place,
   Could skate and slide and pony-race.

Those folks now say that I’m a curse,
   And claim that nothing could be worse
Around the village and the school,
Than that polluted water-pool.
Some say, I hear, they’ll dig a trench
   “To put an end to all that stench”.

I’ve furnished them with mirth and glee,
   But now, I’m ordered out to sea;
For though a friend, once prized so high,
   They’ll let me leave without a sigh.
If I must go I’ll steal away;
   You’ll miss me at the break of day.
So like the dear old dying year
   I’ll in the gloaming disappear.


Thou symbol of the soul’s domain!
What far off regions do you drain?
Were you condensed from ambient air?
Or were you born of dark despair?
Did some fierce fire far within,
From ardent love or sudden sin,
Burn outward from the very core?
Or did a foeman break the door

Of faith? And did the tempter bold,
Thy timid soul attempt to hold?
Then does that tear give silent vent
To all the strength thy soul hath spent?
Is it the sign of overflow
Of love for truth’s relentless foe?

I know how it can carry hence
The venom of some sore offence.
Ah, tear! you are a lake to drown
A care, disintegrate a frown.

And on the mercy of your shore
I find a resting-place, far more
Secure, than on the river-sands,
Flushed by a hundred shake-of-hands.

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