Modernist Canadian Poets
28th Jun 2016Posted in: Modernist Canadian Poets, Uncategorized 0
Songs of the West


The Ryerson Press

Born in the city of Quebec, of Scottish-English descent, Miss Marion E. Moodie went west to Calgary, with her family, in 1891. Seven years later she graduated from the Calgary Hospital, the first fully trained nurse to receive her diploma in the province of Alberta. For five years she engaged in private nursing and hospital work in central and southern Alberta, and later in Manitoba. During the war Miss Moodie was nursing sister, and later matron, at Ogden Military Hospital, Calgary.

A keen student and lover of nature, Miss Moodie found time, in her busy pioneer life, to make botanical collections of the flora of Alberta for the provincial government at Edmonton, as well as for such well-known American institutions as the Smithsonian, the New York Botanical Gardens, Harvard University, and the Field Museum, Chicago.

An earlier book of poems appeared some years ago under the title Songs of the West, and a fairy-tale book, The Legend of Dryas, in addition to which Miss Moodie has been a frequent contributor to Canadian periodicals of articles on pioneer nursing, children’s stories and articles reflecting her interest in and love for the out-of-doors. [inside cover]

Songs of the West and Other Poems
By Marion E. Moodie


Oh! wind that comes out of the West,
   The land of the sunset skies,
Where far o’er yon mountains’ crest
   Those glorious colors rise;

You bring me the fragrance of pine,
   The coolness of mountain snow,
The music of falling streams
   By hills where the lilies grow.

Oh! wind that comes out of the West,
   You sigh on your way to the plain,
“The mountain land is best,
   Will you not come back again?”

Glow, skies, with your golden light,
   Blow softly, dear wind from the hill,
For my heart has a longing to-night
   That only the West can fill. [page 1]


There's a murmuring in the trees,
   And a sighing on the breeze;
There’s a calling from the robins on the hill;
   And it fills my heart with pain
   And a longing — that is vain —
To be up and out, a-wandering at my will.

   There are wildflowers everywhere
   Shedding fragrance on the air,
The butterflies are hurrying to and fro;
   The squirrels and the bees
   Are busy as you please,
Out there among the hills where I would go.

   For it’s there that one can rest,
   Lying close to Nature’s breast,
And the breeze’s lullaby is low and sweet,
   So I turn my longing eyes
   Where the stately mountains rise,
And the wooded hills are nestling at their feet.


Oh! Western winds that softly blow
   From dear lands far away,
O’er mountains white with spotless snow,
O’er prairies where the wildflowers grow,
   And rippling waters play.

Bring us the sound of rushing streams,
   The scent of blossoms gay,
Mem’ries to mingle with our dreams 
Of mountains bright with rosy gleams
   That cheer the dying day.

For though we wander far, to thee
   Our hearts turn back always,
Dear Western land, and thou shalt be
Enshrined in tender memory
   Wherever we may stray. [page 2]


I have been in wonderland,
   Wist you where it lies?
There the arching branches meet
   Under Autumn skies.

All its ways are roofed with gold
   Set with jewels green,
Carpeted with leaf designs
   Fit for Faerie’s queen.

Wreathèd branches make the walls,
   Draped in colours gay,
And the purple aster stars
   Shine the livelong day.

Earth, and leaves, and flowers blend
   In a perfume rare, 
Wafting by each passing breeze
   Fragrance everywhere.

Snowberries all waxy-white,
   Honeysuckle red,
Make the beads the fairies tell
   Ere they go to bed.

Mossy cushions for their rest,
   Hush of charmèd air,
Oh! this world of Wonderland
   Is so sweet and fair!


Is it from you the fairies drink,
   Oh! painted cups of scarlet hue,
As nightly on the hills you lift
   Your fragile blossoms filled with dew? [page 3]

And do the dewdrops turn to wine
   When gathered in a cup so fair,
Sweetened with honey which the sun
   Through the long day has garnered there?

Oh! cheerily your flowers lift
   Their scarlet heads among the grass,
By foot-hill roads and mountain trails
   You beckon to us as we pass,

And greet us in the meadow fair,
   To which we climb through sun and shade,
Where, circled by the snow-crowned peaks,
   Are gardens that the Lord has made.


Orange and russet, crimson and green,
   Draping the wall in this wonderful way,
Glimpses of old grey stone between —
Sprays of such coloring never were seen
   In the garden’s wealth of a summer’s day.

Richest of browns, and palest of gold,
   Flames of the after-glow’s wonderful red;
The tale of the summer’s sweet story is told,
But these five-parted leaves all their richness unfold
   In a grand after-glow of the days that are dead. [page 4]


How they hurry and they skurry,
   How they flutter and they fly,
These red and yellow leaf elves
   as the jocund wind goes by.

Oh! they rush along before him,
   And they fly up in his face,
They hurry round a corner
   Now, to rest a little space.

They are very, very busy, 
   And they’ll never stop until 
The wind gets tired of playing
   And goes down behind the hill.


Oh! that I could show you where the Selkirk lilies grow
   By a winding stream whose fountains head lies in the mountain snow,
Where spruce and pine so tall and dark, and slender poplar trees,
Are whispering sweetest secrets to every passing breeze.

Beyond us still the mountains in solemn grandeur rise,
But here what wealth of living gold would greet you wondering eyes!
The gold that Nature’s hand has made and scattered all around,
Making these hills and valleys a very treasure-ground.

How thickly ’mid the glossy leaves the slender stems uprear
Their crowns of gold above them as the dainty flowers appear!
The sweetest perfume ever breathed they keep for those who know
And seek them, in their woodland haunts, dear “Lilies of the Snow.” [page 5]


There's a wild little canyon in the mountains far away,
Where the foaming waters tumble o’er their rock-strewn course to-day,
From spray-wet ferns about their feet the cliffs rise, grim and grey,
And the harebells on the hillside with the breezes are at play.

There are squirrel-haunted pathways in the mountains far away,
Where the pines are watching gently in the scented air to-day,
Where fragrant flowers are hiding, and wherever you may stray
There are butterflies a-flitting through the sunny summer day.

There’s a lovely, lonely lake in the mountains far away,
Whose breast the water-crowfoot decks in dainty white array,
Where the wild duck leads her nestlings in the dawning of the day,
And the everlasting hills look down like guardians old and grey.

Oh! to wander once again in the mountains far away,
To watch the foaming waters, and the squirrels at their play,
To paddle o’er that lonely lake at the closing of the day
When golden haloes crown the peaks ere fades the sun’s last ray.


Oh! the green and the fold of the Autumn woods,
   The haze o’er the Autumn sky,
The carpet of leaves on the soft brown earth,
   And the warms wind’s trembling sigh.

They are full of the glory of vanished days,
   Of the peace of the ripened year, 
Of the mystery deep of their coming sleep
   When the winter snows appear. [page 6]


Where does luck come from? Who can tell!
   Does it fall from the sky, is it found in the deep?
Nay, climb for it, dig for it, never so well,
   You will find no trace on the mountain steep,
You will gain no hint from the depths below
   Of where the treasure is lying hid;
You may weary of toil, and hope may go,
   Luck will not come to you when bid.
Yet climb again, and with patient aim,
   Open your heart to life’s joys and cares,
You may wake some morn to a gleam of fame,
   Luck will have come to you — unawares.


No claim has she to beauty or grace,
   Position, or power, nor is she strong,
   Yet I count her rich among the throng
That pass by my door in life’s weary race.

Some to their work, and some to their play,
   With empty purses, or full, they go, 
   And how little hers holds I may not know,
But she greets me still with a smile that’s gay.

Humble her home, but I know ’tis joy
   That brightens her face, and wings her feet
   As she hastens there, for fair and sweet
Lies her wealth, in the cradle, her baby boy.


When Faith’s glad dawn aroused us we were ready
   On eagle’s wings of hope and joy to rise,
To gain with sweep of pinions strong and steady,
   The home and crown that wait us in the skies.

The sky grew overcast, our courage faltered,
   With folded wings we sought a footing sure,
Joining in that great race where patient striving
   Fits for the task, and arms us to endure. [page 7]

Trudge on , trudge on, the path lies before us,
   The buoyant step of youth and morn has fled,
The noontide heat has sapped our strength , and o’er us
   Loom the dark storm clouds, and filling us with dread.

Trudge on, trudge on, the daily strength we’re needing
   Waits but our asking all along life’s way,
And we shall run, shall walk, nor faint nor weary,
   Claiming His promise, if we watch and pray.

“Wait on the Lord.” Oh! Lord, our strength renewing,
   Hear ere we call, and answer while we pray,
That we may rise on eagle’s wings triumphant,
   And reach Thy land of calm and cloudless day.


“Where  shall I find my Lord, the King,
Help to a wounded soul to bring?

“I have been asked of the castle guards, but they
Seem not to know where their Lord doth stay.

“I have searched in every hall and mart
Where a man might ply the Healer’s art —

“For they say He can cure each earthly woe,
My friend is ill, and ’tis far to go —

“But sign of purple, or doctor’s gown
I could not find in all the town.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Friend, have you looked where the ways are steep,
The paths are narrow, the fords are deep;

“Where the tired and the care-worn travellers pass,
And the dust lies thick on the wayside grass? [page 8]

“Have you looked where the home-sick wanderer tries
To quench his thirst where the waters rise

“In the desert spring, while his head bends low
With its weight of shame, and want, and woe?

“For ’tis ’mid the sick of sin and strife
You will find, if you seek Him, the Lord of Life,

“But not in purple, or kingly crown,
His robe is a toil-worn, dust-stained gown.”


The night-wind sweeps from snow-capped hills
   O’er rolling prairies, dry and brown,
Bringing its message strong and true
   To cagèd souls in the busy town.

The moonlight falls on hill and plain,
   On roof and spire, and dusty street,
Till by its magic power they seem
   To grow more fair, and life more sweet

And to the lonely heart that waits, 
   The peaceful spirits of the night
Speak of Eternal love, that sends
   The cleansing winds, the feeling light. [page 9]


The burning bush which startled Moses’ eyes,
And drew him out of self-planned ways
To closer walk with God,
Is not the only one which sacred fires
Have lit for eyes intent on daily cares.
But as for us —how seldom do we say
“I will go up and see what this may mean”?
And going, find that there is holy ground
Within our reach, and hidden blessings stored.
Instead, we pass unheeding by, or say
“ ’Tis a strange sight, but I have not the time
To turn aside, there is so much to do
And I am tired with all the weary road
That I have come. Perchance some other day
I may go up, if I should pass again.”
But ah! the vision never bides our time, and so
We miss the knowledge, and the blessing lose.


Rush and roar of a foamy rapid,
   Shadowy depths of a clear green pool,
By high cliff walls with fern-decked ledges,
   And gravel banks ’neath the cedars cool,

Soft green moss where a hill spring trickles,
   Leap of a fish where the waters foam,
Calls of the birds as they flock together,
   And rest on their way to a southern home.

Grey is the sky with Autumn rain clouds,
    Dark is the forest that crowns the hill,
 But crimson the frost-kissed maple branches
   That stir and bow at the west wind’s will. [page 10]


Deep  in the forest wandering,
   From life’s noise and stain apart,
Seeking the comfort of Nature
   To quiet a restless heart.

There came in the shade and silence,
   The calm of a presence near,
That stilled my pulse’s throbbing,
   While my soul drew close to hear.

How that Mother Spirit brooded
   Over all things, small and great,
O’er each fragile fern and flower,
   And the pines in lofty state.

Strengthened the tender seedlings,
   The tempest-torn and scarred,
And clothed with strange new beauty
   The fallen trees, and marred.

Then dark sorrow fled before her
   For instead of sting and smart,
She gave to my troubled spirit
   New peace from her own great heart.


Two  eyes of bonny blue, a laughing mouth
Where pearly teeth come into view,
A tender little heart that turns her smile
To consolation, if you grieve a while.
Two restless feet that bear her all the day,
Two little hands that pull, and point, and lead
To tell you all she has not words to say.
A bird-like baby voice that calls in glee,
Or softly croons in loving sympathy. [page 11]


All day though mountain passes have we moved,
Watched mountain streams flow westward to the sea,
And lofty peaks tower upward to the skies.
From far-off snows, like sheets of silvery spray,
Down fell o’er cliff and gorge the clear cascades
Telling of wonder yet unseen by man.
And in the valleys shy wild things peeped forth,
A bluebird fluttered o’er a lilied pool,
And butterflies above the ripening weeds.
For once again has Autumn decked the land
With purple, red, and gold among the green
Of mountain glades and glens, enriching all.
The bracken fronds to russet-brown have changed,
And scarlet berries of the mountain ash
Gleam by the wayside, bidding all “good cheer.”


This is my garland of song, 
Gathered for those who care
For the wave-swept shore,
And the mountain heights,
And the prairies wide and fair.

Whether in East or West,
I would weave their spell anew,
That the forest aisles,
And the singing streams,
And the birds, may call to you. [page 12]


“Baby Blue-eyes”

Little “Blue-eyes” looking up to the skies,
Full of such innocent, sweet surprise,
Life is just dawning for you, baby flower,
Born of the spring-time sun and shower.

Nestling low in your green leafy bed,
The meadow-lark singing overhead,
Does he sing you to sleep as night draws nigh
That your petals close o’er each blue eye?

When the robin’s call and the sun’s bright ray,
Shall rouse us again to welcome day,
Will you lift your face to the sunny skies
And shyly smile on us, sweet “Blue-eyes”?


Come away, come away, where the winds are blowing
   All among the grassy hills ’neath the sky so blue,
Come away, come away, prairie flowers are growing,
   May-time blossoms sweet and fair waiting there for you.

Come away, come away, to the wooded hillside,
   Where the dainty columbine hides among the trees,
All the shy flowers of June deck the glens and brookside,
   Roses fill the thickets and scent the evening breeze.

Come away, come away, summer days are flying,
   Follow on her flowery trail by the sunflower’s gleam,
Come away, come away, gentians blue are vying
   With the purple aster stars where the foot-hills dream.

Come away, come away, Autumn dips her brushes,
   Painting vine, and shrub, and tree with her colors gay.
Golden-brown and russet are the marshland rushes,
   And scarlet hang the berries on the hawthorn spray. [page 13]


Pacific Grove, California

Oh! wild white dunes, mysterious dunes,
   What memories haunt your shore?
What giants sleep beneath your hills,
   To see the light no more?

What strong, wild souls of olden days
   Were chained by wizard spell,
And doomed in these great tortured trees
   On your cold wastes to dwell?

What spirits of the seas and shore
   At dawn, or twilight dim,
Wail with the winds across your heights,
   Or haunt your shadows grim?

And when beneath the silvery moon
   Your sands lie ghostly white,
What forms from out yon silent woods
   Come forth into the night?

What lonely heart from far-off lands
   Was laid beside this tree,
Which, in his stead, holds longing arms
    Outstretched across the sea?

And what strange spell is this you weave
   O’er mind and heart to-day,
That we should love your hills that roll
   To meet the ocean spray?

That we should love your tortured trees
   As grim and gnarled they stand,
In sun or storm still feel your spell?
   Oh! wild white dunes of sand! [page 14]


June! and the ferns uncurling
   Soft green-blown mysteries,
Oak, and moon-wort, and maiden hair,
    Under the forest trees.

Blossoms there are a-plenty,
   Snow-like their petals fall,
Where Indian pear and cherry trees
   Stand by a ruined wall.

What of the flowers of the woodland?
   Ginseng, and violets blue,
Pink spring-beauties, and adder’s tongue
   Lilies of golden hue.

Here, where the cliff towers steeply,
   Crowned with sweet cedar trees,
The scarlet flowers of the columbine
   Dance with the wayward breeze.

Saxifrage tufts in the crannies,
   Wood mignonette below,
Ferns, white violets and pepper-root,
   So Nature’s gardens grow.

June! and the ferns and blossoms,
   The dainty woodland flowers,
Fill heart and mind with their beauty
   Enriching all life’s hours.


The stately pines like faithful sentinels stand,
Guarding the entrance to the enchanted woods,
Where, scarcely showing o’er the tangled screen
Of bramble, brake, and bay, a cottage gleams
Through morning mists that drop in the dewy tears,
While the far trees are veiled in violet haze
As dawn gives place, once more, to coming day. [page 15]


Lay not your armour down, nor let your soul
   Discouraged stand before the daily task,
You have not yet attained unto the goal,
   Nor found the rest you ask.

Not in your strength alone must you endure,
   Courage and faith must arm, but God will give
Power for the work He sends, Oh! fainting heart
   Trust, and look up, and live.


Come, let us go fern hunting
   Through clearing, swamp and wood
Till we shall find the moon-wort,
   If that to you seems good.
And then we’ll find a lady fern,
   Both sensitive and fair,
And just beyond, beneath a tree,
   A mass of maiden-hair.
Look! I can see a sword there
   And here’s a fine shield near,
A princely knight once owned them,
   A Royal Osmund, dear!
He met a lady ’neath the oak,
   Or where the beech grows high,
But their talk was interrupted
   By an ostrich walking by.
So now she’s seeking cinnamon
   Where the sweet-scenteds grow,
While he looks for a Christmas fern
   In Polypody Row.

Note: This poem contains the names of nineteen ferns, each italicized word being the name of a fern, and all with the exception of the “walking fern” growing in the neighborhood of a small lake in the Laurentian Mountains, where this was composed. [page 16]


Swift to and fro,
   Under and over,
Dance the white butterflies
   O’er the red clover.

Two in the air
   Mounting and mounting,
Then dropping to join with 
   Others past counting.

Flit they and whirl,
   Wheeling and glancing,
Life is the measure they
   Tread in their dancing.

Taking their part
   In the world’s working,
Even white butterflies
   May not live shirking.

. . . . . .

Summer is past,
   Life’s brief day over,
Gone are the butterflies,
   Ripened the clover.

Still in my memory
   Lingers their beauty,
Clover and butterflies,
   Love, joy, and duty.


Softly the daylight fades, the azure sky
   Changes to opal tints, the clouds that drift
Filmy and fleeting o’er the forest spires,
   Seems like the smoke of incense passing swift.

The shadows deepen o’er this rocky shore,
   On the still lake the heavens reflected lie
In  peaceful beauty, while from forest aisles
   The robins’ vesper hymn ascends on high. [page 17]


Sea-green ’mid the salt marsh grasses,
   Beside the sheltering bar,
Grows Rosemary — for remembrance,
   Ah! the tides, they travel far.

Sea-grey on the shell-strewn beaches,
   Grow the bluebells of the sea,
And many a tide will ring their bells
   Ere your ship comes back to me.

Then take this sprig of rosemary,
   And the bluebells wet with spray
And dream of the hearts in the ports of home
   When you are far away.


Ring out again, oh! Christmas bells,
   Your songs of love and cheer,
And call us from earth’s bustling ways
   To watch the Star appear.

And, as of old the Wise Men watched
   To take the Star as guide,
May we, with hearts uplifted wait
   The blessed Christmas-tide.

Oh! may our easy have hearing,
   Our eyes have power to see,
The message that the Christ-child brings
   Again to you and me.

That where His troubled peoples,
   The sick and sad abide,
New songs of hope, and joy, and love
   May come at Christmas-tide. [page 18]


There are roses whose perfume we never forget,
   There are roses with beauty alone,
And both have their thorns which may wound us, but yet
   With their beauty and fragrance atone.

So in memory’s garden ever will bloom,
   True friendships of days that are past,
Their beauty and fragrance remains in our hearts,
   When the thorns are forgotten, at last.


Over  the hard dark reefs they flow,
   The little waves, the dancing waves,
O’er the cruel reefs that bring us woe
   Come the gentle, soothing waves.

And the Chapel bell rings clear and sweet,
   “Peace be to thee, peace be to thee.”
As the tide rolls softly to the feet
   Of the Mission by the sea.

Over the hard dark reefs they go,
   The angry waves, the hungry waves,
Dashing the boats toward the rocks below,
   Oh! bitter, cruel waves!

And the Chapel bell calls through the night
   “Whoe’er you be, where’er you be,
Lift hearts and eyes to the guiding light
   Of Him who rules the sea.”

And day by day as the sweet bell rings, 
   O’er peaceful sea, or troubled sea,
Rise prayers for those who go out in ships,
   From the Mission by the sea. [page 19]


   The tide is out.
The stately herons stalking in the shallows,
   Send their harsh calls across the lonely bay,
They peer through floating weeds, and, long beaks darting,
   Seize swiftly on their prey.

   The tide is out.
The noisy crows have come again to gather
   Their food, where strewn o’er stranded weeds, and rocks,
The ebbing tide has left the shell-fish lying,
   To feed these chattering flocks.

   The tide is out.
The snowy sea-gulls through the warm noon resting,
   On sandy beach, or green weed-covered shore,
Wait for the whisper of the tide that calls them
   To roam the sea once more.

   The tide is in.
The long waves lap the shore, and shadows lengthen,
   Herons and crows in sheltering woods find rest,
Out o’er the sea the circling gulls are flying,
   Or cradled on its breast.


How much joy a stump can give,
   A mossy stump,
   A fern-decked stump.
A cool green castle where elves live,
With draperies so sweet and fine,
Of dainty, pink-bellied twin-flower vine.

How much joy a stump can give,
   A cedar stump,
   An old fir stump.
Where squirrels hide, or bush wrens live,
A stump with scarlet berries crowned,
And brambles trailing to the ground.

And all around, the light and shade,
And peace by sun-lit forests made. [page 20]


The  sky is bright, the air is clear,
   But keen the north winds blow,
The sumach, ash, and maple trees
   Have lost their vivid glow,
But still their beauty crowns the hills
   And sheltered glades below,
Where brown leaves like big butterflies
   Are fluttering to and fro.

And Autumn’s peaceful spirit broods
   O’er lake and wooded height,
No more the loon’s wild laughter rends
   The silence of the night,
No bittern’s hollow note is heard
   At dawning of the light,
Far from their summer haunts they wing
   O’er hill and plain their flight.

The chorus of the frogs is hushed,
   No blackbirds whistle clear,
Only the friendly chickadee
   Repeats his song of cheer,
Only a roving fox’s bark
   Comes faintly to the ear,
Or soft splash ’mid the lily-pads
   Where browse the quiet deer.


There blew a wind from the North, the North,
And the sky grew clear, the sun shone forth,
But the boats were driven out of other bay,
And the kingfishers caught the fish that day,
   While we looked sadly on!

There came a wind from the East, the East,
A wind that troubled both man and beast,
Oily and sullen, dark and cold,
Over the lake the long waves rolled.
   The fish lay low that day! [page 21]

There roared a wind from the South, the South,
But it blew no bait in the fishes’ mouth
For the fishermen stayed on the shore that day,
While the wild waves thundered across the bay,
   And the angleworms slept on!

There breathed a wind from the West, the West,
And ripples ran o’er the lake’s blue breast,
The fishers were happy, and so were we,
For they brought home some nice fresh perch for tea,
   From that lovely, quiet bay.


You sing of your roses and lilies
   Your pansies of marvelous hue,
The flower-bordered walked of your gardens
   Their lavender, lilac, and rue.

But mine are the gardens more wondrous
   Than e’er by your gardeners planned,
Their blossoms and berries await me
   Wherever I roam through the land.

They cover the floor of the forest,
   The rock bordered shores of the lake,
All trails are the paths to my gardens
   I meadow, or marshland, or brake.

I know where the white rhododendron,
   The heath, and forget-me-nots grow,
Tall larkspurs, and rose of the mountains,
   The lilies that bloom by the snow.

Where wolf-willow perfumes the breezes,
   And shy purple clematis dwells,
Where violets grow, blue, white, or yellow,
   And sprays of the blue lungwort bells. [page 22]

Each season fresh beauty is bringing
   Where flower spangled prairies roll wide,
With pasque flowers, or lupines and roses,
   And harebells a shimmering tide. 

All, all are a part of my gardens —
   Though never an acre I own,
I can share in the joy of the Gardener
   In the beauty of flowers He has sown. [page 23]

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