Modernist Canadian Poets
28th Jun 2016Posted in: Modernist Canadian Poets, Uncategorized 0
Outward Bound


The Ryerson Press

Edith Beatrice Henderson, whose little craft “Outward Bound” leaves the ways on its maiden voyage, was born in Orillia, Ontario. Her verse and short stories have been appearing from time to time in Canadian periodicals. Poetry is her first love, since the days of “the little red school house,” where she transmuted dull history into stirring rhyme. [inside cover]

Outward Bound

Edith Beatrice Henderson


I watch them as they sail away
Adown the harbour one by one,
Each on its outward journey sped,
Dark lined against the setting sun.
There one is bound for Mandalay
And one the marts of old Cathay.

Schooner and barque and brigantine,
Out of the harbour swinging free,
Stately liner and ocean tramp,
Bearing out to the pathless sea—
While storm wreaths shadow the eastern sky,
And chained to an office chair am I.

It’s oh! for the feel of a lifting deck,
The sharp salt tang of the leaping spray!
The foam-flecked chargers rush and roar,
Riding the waters dull and gray;
But bound by four grim walls am I,
Watching the ships of the line pass by. [page 1]

Over the far horizon’s rim,
In a red-gold path to the setting sun,
My dream ship sails for the distant shores,
Hailing her comrades one by one.
The storm wrack hangs in the evening sky,
But master and crew of my ship am I.


There's a red light again’ us, Lads,
The wind’s shifting over;
They’re sending out a message that it’s brewing hell to-night.
We’re snug within the harbour, Lads,
We could ride it out till morning,
But the Captain says he’s sailin’, and the Captain’s word is right.

We’re on our bloomin’ way, Men,
The signal lights are fading;
We’er heading down the basin with our plimsoll ridin’ low.
There’s a scared moon a-showin’,
An’ a dirty easter blowin’,
But the Captain says he’s goin’, an’ the Captain ought to know.

We’re a-holdin’ of our own, Boys,
The pumps are workin’ steady,
But the old tub’s leakin’, and the engine’s on the blink.
We’ve rode through hell to-night, Lads,
But we’re bound to make the harbour,
For the Captain says we’re goin’, and we haven’t time to sink.


Once Jonas Worldlyman did sleep and dream,
     And in that dream to a far land did go;
A pleasant land it was and good to see,
     Where plenty dwelt and none grim care did know. [page 2]

Such happy homes were here!   On every hand
     Grew luscious fruit and gardens bright and fair;
Here men did work and sing the hours away,
     And only peace and sweet content were there.

Through this fair land old Jonas made his way,
     A bag of golden ducats on his back,
But never inn or tavern met his eye,
     Till faint he grew and irksome was the sack.

At last he stopped, and with a golden coin
     Begged meat and drink, for hunger made him bold.
To one who passed that way he made his plea;
     The stranger answered:   “What, O man, is gold?”

“Gold!” Jonas cried—“The key to all desire!
     ’Tis food and drink and all that men hold dear.
’Twill buy king’s favours, raiment rich and rare.”
     The other smiled:   “We do not know it here.”

“If thou art hungry, friend, go ask for bread;
     What thou hast given, here we now repay.
For much or little, thine the hand that gave,
     And thine the store laid up for thee to-day.

Those who on earth thy gracious bounty shared
     Shall gladly share with thee an hundredfold.”
Old Jonas trembled, for right well he knew
     That never had he given of his gold.

“This is the land of Recompense; herein
     All good or ill shall full requited be;
And no man judges but thy naked soul,
     Thine is the hand that writes thy destiny.”

Perish he must!   But stay!   Was there no more?
     Some kindly word or deed he might recall?
Nay, gold had been his life, his very God;
     The yellow coins from trembling fingers fall.

If he had known!   The waves of dark despair
     Rolled o’er his soul and hid the last faint gleam.
He woke and found the sun upon his face
     And thanked his Maker that ’twas but a dream. [page 3]


A robin sang on a bough to-day,
     A bare brown bough that the wind was shaking;
His flute-like notes rang true and sweet,
     Sounding the call for the spring’s awaking.

The hard earth lay in a frozen slumber,
     Not a bud nor leaf in the garden sere?
Still Robin-redbreast, with heart undaunted,
     Sings to the world his song of cheer.

What if the nest that his love had builded
     No longer swings in the old oak tree?
What if his wings are stiff and weary
     And winter tarries and will not flee?

He sings, for he knows that the buds are swelling,
     The flowers are stirring beneath the sod.
He sings, and his joyous song is telling
     A message straight from the lips of God.


Deep in the swales are the white wreaths lying,
O’er the sad skies are the gray clouds flying,
And the north wind round the eaves is sighing:
“Does spring return again?”

The pines, snow shrouded, have hushed their singing,
Fairy caps to the crags are clinging,
Out of the dusk of the forest winging,
A bluebird flashes by.

Out on the hill are the children playing
Close to the cot where old age is praying,
Whose wistful thoughts to the past are straying:
“Does youth return no more?” [page 4]


Close to the busy highway, where the cars whirl swiftly by,
The old gray house stands idly, under the soft spring sky.
Its vacant staring windows, like wistful eyes, look down,
Over the greening meadows to the cluttered noisy town.

Yearning, it seems, for the children who come no more to its door,
Waiting, so grimly silent, for the sound of their feet on the floor;
Calling them back to its shelter, to the garden of tangled flowers,
To the clean sweet breath of the hillside, the joy of the summer hours.

But never a sound of laughter or pipe of a whistle clear
Comes over the greening meadows this many a lonely year.
And yet, in the busy city, where the walls rise grim and high,
A child looks up and is thankful for a small blue patch of sky.


Oh, once my dreams were all of love,
     All rosy hued they seemed and sweet;
The haven of my lover’s arms,
     The joy of life had made complete.

And once I longed for place and power
     Within the storied halls of fame;
The world should listen with respect
     And bow in homage at my name.

But now I long for simpler things,
     Some sheltered haven from the blast,
A friend, a book, a bird that sings,
     And dreamless sleep when all is past.


East wind! east wind! singing down the valley!
     East wind, east wind, how the chimneys roar—
Searching in the snowdrifts, waking up the violets,
     Bringing back the rainclouds from the far south shore. [page 5]

South wind! south wind! breezes soft and gentle!
     South wind, south wind, stir the drowsy noon—
Stealing o’er the wheat fields, breathing on the clover,
     Shaking down the raindrops to a glad gay tune.

West wind! west wind! bustling through the cornfields!
     West wind, west wind, sighing round the eaves—
Tossing the birds’ nests in the ravaged garden,
     Hurrying and scurrying the dead, brown leaves.

North wind! north wind! bringing down the snowflakes!
     North wind, north wind, clear and crystal bright—
Roaring o’er the waters, singing through the forests,
     Painting all the windowpanes the first cold night.


Each morn he comes to me
     From that far land beyond the mountain’s crest,
And, creeping to my window, softly lays
     His gentle golden fingers on my breast.

Though dark the night and lone,
     And slow and heavy pass the shadowed hours,
The morn shall bring him quickly to my side,
     Keeping his tryst amid the budding flowers.

Soon shall my vigil cease, no more alone,
     But in fair company shall I take my rest;
Yet I shall feel, when breaks the summer morn,
     The touch of golden fingers on my breast.


I went to church the other morn
And wore my brand-new Easter bonnet;
Oh! what a joyous thrill was mine,
When envious eyes were fixed upon it.
For it had come from gay Paree
To make a lady out of me. [page 6]

So light my heart that Easter morning,
I sang as sweetly as a linnet;
That bonnet was a perfect love,
And Oh! I looked so charming in it.
The preacher spoke of vanity—
I saw him gazing straight at me.

The lady in the corner pew
(She’s rolling rich, but very narrow)
Considers that I am too gay
For such a common garden sparrow.
The diamonds in her chubby ears
Would dry a multitude of tears.

Oh! largely she her wealth dispenses,
In sombre homespun dull and gray,
But if I had her gifts to scatter
’Tis only joy I’d give away—
That all might wear an Easter bonnet
And feast their starving souls upon it.


Grandmother flounced and ringleted,
Grandmother young and fair,
Wearing a locket upon her breast,
Wearing a rose in her hair,
Laughing and sweet in the soft moonlight
Of that far-off Jack O’Lantern night.

Waiting there at the garden gate,
Heart like a frightened bird,
Mirror and candle and ancient rune,
Was it a step she heard?
And did she there in the magic glass
See the form of her lover pass?

Grandmother sleeping the hours away,
Tresses as white as snow,
Dreaming again of the mystic night
And the love of the long ago,
While down in the moonlight, slim and straight,
Granddaughter stands by the garden gate. [page 7]


A GLEAMING sail on a sea of gold,
     A path to the setting sun,
And my good man comes home to me,
     Home when the day is done.

Home to the cot in the sheltered cove,
     To the wife and the little ones there,
Home to the lips all sweet with love
     That whisper his name in prayer.

A tiny speck on a sullen sea,
     A sky that was dull and gray,
And far o’er the brim of the ocean’s rim
     My good man sailed away—

Sailed away on his rocking craft,
     With a heart that was light and free,
But never again o’er the laughing wave
     Did my sailor return to me. [page 8]

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