Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets
Sonnets in Memory of my Mother

“It is a proud thing to be a man and to feel the stir of beauty: but it is more wonderful to be a woman, and to have or to be the touch calling beauty in life.”

— John Masefield.

Sonnets in Memory of My Mother
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Arthur S. Bourinot
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Copyright Canada 1931
By Arthur S. Bourinot
Limited Edition of Fifty Copies
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LONG had my muse been silent, like a stream 
Frozen and bound by fetters of the frost, 
So was pent up the wonder and the dream
When all the loveliness of you was lost. 
But Spring must come; the freshet of my grief
Released in song emotions tempest tossed,
And whirling doubts, holding a lawyer’s brief
For death, went to defeat; the chasmic void was crossed. 
And so I weave these sonnets in the trust
Perchance the faltering numbers may ring true
And bring to mind the one her friends well knew
Until the day God raises from the dust; 
I sing as one who sings because he must, 
These sonnets are my monument to you. [page 1]

YOU fell asleep just as the day was breaking 
And little drowsy birds began to sing; 
You fell asleep when all the world was waking
Triumphant rode the red sun, morning’s king, 
The dear familiar sounds of that dread morning
Are voluble forever in my ears, 
The day was beautiful, O past adorning, 
But Beauty visioned through a mist of tears. 
You fell asleep when the great sun was lifting
His heavy head long pillowed on the hills, 
You fell asleep with beauty slowly drifting
Across the world’s innumerable window sills.
When the great sun was rousing every land, 
O Beauty came and took you by the hand. [page 2]

YOU said to me “how beautiful is night,”
Lying in pain and gazing at the stars, 
And in your eyes I saw that inner light
That this our flesh from mortals ever bars.
You lay there patient as the stars above,
Calmly fulfilling their eternal task, 
You lay there trusting in God’s unfailing love
And never deemed to question or to ask. 
And now for me the sorcery of night
These stars that wheel relentlessly along
Take on a deeper beauty in my sight
And lend a deeper loveliness to song.
“How beautiful is night,” to me you said;
I only know your spirit is not dead. [page 3]

HOW sweet to you the roses that I brought
One morning from the garden wet with dew,
Their beauty with life’s joyousness was fraught 
And lovely as the loveliness of you.
And yet their beauty was deep touched with sorrow, 
As every joy has counter-part of grief, 
For with them lived the thought, perchance the morrow
Will see you sleep as sleeps the autumn leaf.
And now no more you’ll watch the garden roses,
I’ll bring them to you wet with dew no more,
An unknown world your spirit soft encloses
Envelopes all the graciousness you wore.
And life at every turn to me discloses
The love I lost when Death had closed the door. [page 4]
[handwritten: Kingsman, P.Q.]
HERE to the hills you loved I came once more, 
Those old blue hills, ageless, serene from strife,
And years long past returned, as though a door
Had opened on the corridors of life.
A great hearth glowed with an autumn heat, 
Casting its shimmerings in the quiet room,
A little lad sat nestled at your feet
Comforted by your presence in the gloom.
And then you turned to him with laughing eyes
And witchery of firelight on your hair
Telling him tales of Fairyland which lies
Beyond the turning of life’s farthest stair.
And sleep with shuttering silence, love that stills
Unlocked the age old secret of the hills. [page 5]

HERE on the hill still stands the little home
Unchanging as the hill that hem it round, 
Where bird song was the first awakening sound
And notes of thrushes through the gloam.
Beside the house the apple trees still grow,
[handwritten:  Raising gnarled arms in supplication, prayer,]
Asking of life that they may ever share
Beauty of burgeoning blossom, scarf of snow.
Still sleeps below the house the little lake
You loved to watch at twilight and at dawn,
And seeing it I know you are not gone,
Your living presence every object fills,
Your spirit lives eternal, sleeps to wake, 
Immortal as the wisdom of the hills. [page 6]
THE grim old mountain looms above the mere,
Bearing on his brow a cold white galaxy
Not for him awaits death’s dread mystery, 
Inscrutable he stands, untouched by mortal fear. 
Just so he stood when in those past years
With you I watched the sunset’s panoply,
Just so he’ll stand when death inexorably 
Harvests my life and earthly vision clears.
The moon’s orb halos the old mountain’s brow, 
Loitering in the heavens, loath to join the night,
So, oft we saw her slipping into sight,
Sailing, a galleon, silvered at the prow, 
Can I doubt somewhere you are watching now
Or the night’s beauty captures your delight? [page 7]

THE Pine Grove stands a temple on the hill
Where we were wont to go mute worshippers,
Threading the aisled gloom so cool and still
Where no sound comes and only the wind stirs.
The temple sleeps in beauty while the moon
Gazes down for a moment, then is gone, 
And the great shadow pillars lift and loom
Tall as the pillars of the Parthenon.
All is unchanged despite the passing years,
O beauty such as this must stir the soul,
Beauty who raised this temple will enroll
Your name amongst her banners and her spears.
All is unchanged I said; Ah no, my ears
Will never hear you footfall on the knoll. [page 8]

WELL I recall how much you loved the earth,
Admiring every little thing that grows,
And how you loved great books, the quiet mirth
Of friends, soft firelight at the long days close.
The Trilliums dancing in the leaf strewn wood
Nodding their pale white faces as you passed,
And the strange, pale Indian-Pipes that stood
Like sentinels, were loved until the last.
The loveliness of earth was dear to you;
The beauty of good pictures, music’s voice
And the myriad coloured wings that flew
Gladdened your heart, making it swift rejoice.
And now the loved earth folds you to her breast
And the deep silence of imperishable rest. [page 9]

HOW brave the face you turned towards the world,
Smiling, laughing, to stem the starting tears,
And courage like a banner was unfurled,
Triumphantly you bore it all the years.
Great sorrow never daunted you, nor pain, 
The loss of loved ones found you greatly strong, 
Life struck you but you always rose again
And sadness turned to laughter, tears to song.
And when Death came for you there was no fear, 
You welcomed him as you would greet a friend,
Or little children when they gathered near
To hear the story read at daylight’s end.
Facing them both you lived courageously,
Life had no triumph, Death no victory. [page 10]

UNFORGOTTEN are the countless things
You taught me in those days now long, long gone;
To see lost beauty in the Blue-Bird’s wing
And a miracle in each renascent dawn;
The wonder and awakening that swift April brings, 
The magic of frail cob-webs on the lawn, 
And the iridescent colour the cloud wrack flings
Across the heavens where the red sun shone.
To watch for Beauty in all walks of life,
Never to lose her in the toil for gain,
To seek her ever mid the stress and strife,
Never to see her by opponents slain, 
But with the unwearying patience of the sea
Seek to the dim portals of eternity. [page 11]

THE leaves are falling in the woods to-day,
Falling, falling, like rain drops from the eaves, 
And the wing, the old earth mother, moans and grieves
Through the trees that solemnly toss and sway
Their branches where the deft frost quietly weaves
A coat of many colours to array
The procreant earth for the ultimate day
When winter comes and victory achieves.
Upon the earth the leaves life soft and deep; 
Often you watched them whirl in Dervish bands
And gathered them and held them in your hands
Loving the way their beauty passed Death’s keep.
And lest you feel a stranger in strange lands
To-day they come to cover you asleep. [page 12]

GLORIOUS winter morning when the sun
Touches the earth with magic, how my eyes
Feast on the beauty universally won
From travail and adventurous emprise.
How lovely lies the snow upon the hills
To which you turned with lifted weary gaze;
And now you sleep content, deep silence stills
The heart that loved to follow beauty’s ways.
The hills you loved will rouse at Spring’s behest
Will wake and shrug their shoulders from the snow
And life once more will swiftly ebb and flow
Upon the earth where you are now at rest.
If hills must feel the urge of April’s rain 
How can I doubt that we shall meet again? [page 13]

THEY are not dead our loved ones they but sleep
Muted and silent like some instrument
Long untouched; let a master’s fingers sweep
The strings and melodies in silence pent
Break forth anew; the muffled unresponsive thing 
Thrills and throbs to the touch, revivifies,
Until it seems the very wood does sing
Praises of him who bade its soul arise.
They are not dead our loved ones they but wait, 
The wakening by the master hand of God, 
Whose touch will rouse them, at whose nod
Love will unbolt death’s impregnable gate
And they will no more lie inanimate
But singing rise immortal from the soul. [page 14]

SOME say the dead are lonely where they lie
Deep in the earth far from the wind and rain;
Over their heads the friendly feet go by,
They do not know that they come again.
And lost to them life’s laughter and the pain
Which strikes at those they left upon the earth
And past for them life’s anguish, falls no dearth, 
The sorrows and the sadness all are slain.
How can the dead be lonely when they rest
Amongst the innumerable hosts of earth?
The grave’s unutterable silence holds them lest
They miss their friends above and friendship’s mirth;
How can the dead be lonely when they sleep
Lost in a dream beyond a boundless deep? [page 15]

HOW like a mighty mother doth the earth
Receive into her arms her children who
After long years of labour and of mirth
Of weariness with having much to do, 
Return once more to her from whome they drew
The breath of life, who gave them suck at birth, 
Who folds them in her beasts gigantic girth
And seals their eyes with darkness and the dew.
No favourites hath the earth; the poor and spent,
The little child who died upon the breast,
And they who strode the world magnificent 
High blazoned with the pride of princely crest
Must lay them down together when they rest
And only Love will stand omnipotent. [page 16]

BEAUTIFUL ‘neath the bosom of the night
Sleeps the phantom city, lost in a dram
Of greatness yet to be; the tall sires seem
To touch the distant stars; beneath their light
Beats the strong, pulsing heart whose growing might
Feeds with its current half a continent
And the whirling spheres of the firmament
Circle above in ecstacy of flight.
How often in the evening from your bed
You watched the twilight in profusion fling
Her colours round the one huge star who led
His hosts against the city like a king;
To-night they throng to give you welcoming
As Lazarus was welcomed from the dead. [page 17]

I TURN unto the hills for comforting,
That watch the world yet sleep so tranquilly,
Dreamers of dreams to whose sanctuary
Comes all mankind, the pauper and the king.
Through countless aeons man has loved to bring
His sorrows to the understanding hills, 
Whose wisdom rests the weary, silence stills
The doubts that ever rise up questioning.
Dreamers of dreams that dower the earth with song,
Whose arms reach out to clutch the fading light,
Wide-eyed do watch the wonders of the night, 
I know from you Death’s darkness lasts not long, 
That Love shall never perish, but rise strong
Immortal in her glory and her might. [page 18]

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