Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets
29th Jun 2016Posted in: Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets 0
The Rose of the Sea

Of this edition of Twelve Poems, by Esme Isles-Brown, two hundred and fifty copies have been printed. This Chap-book is a product of The Ryerson Press, Toronto, Canada.

Copies of this Chap-book may be secured from The Ryerson Press, Toronto.

The Ryerson Press
[unnumbered page]

This is the second offering by Mr. Lionel Stevenson, Professor of English, State Teachers College, Tempe, Arizona. His former collection, A Pool of Stars, also appeared as a Ryerson Poetry Chap-Book. [unnumbered page]

The Rose of the Sea
By Lionel Stevenson

For two slow undulating days of wide
Bright space, the crimson rose’s glow defied 
The ocean’s green light on the cabin wall,
With its warm garden breath suffusing all
The mordant air that tasted of the sea.
Then, as our landfall neared, regretfully
I brooded on the inevitable end
Soon to befall my guileless glorious friend—
The silent lapse of every ardent petal 
From that humiliated crest, to settle
Into a withering heap that swiftly must
Become a wisp of brown ignoble dust. 
Smouldering with revolt at such a doom
I took the still-unviolated bloom
Out to the windy stern and let it fall
With brief and secret ceremonial 
Into the heart of the froth-marbled wake. 
The ice-green surges bore it like a flake
Of living blood amid the white-foam roses,
Brave as a cottage light when evening closes 
Across a snow-bound moor.   And now I know
That in my memory the rose will glow
Transcending all our mortal pains and fears,
Undaunted, lovely, deathless, through the years. [page 1]


Life, give me no apocalyptic power
   To know the sombre caverns of the soul,
   Or read man’s destiny secure and whole
Traced in the ordered petals of a flower.
Withhold foreknowledge of the ultimate hour
   When all the worlds win their supernal goal
   And the unfettered floods of chaos roll
Over the rubble of our crumbled tower.

But grant me, life, capacity to see
   All beauty—upstart weed or hoary elm—
      Along the glamorous road by which we fare, 
Grant joy and loving fellowship to me,
   The rapture which all living creatures share,
And no foreboding gloom to overwhelm [page 2]


All wisdom and renown are worth 
   Less than the goal that I have won—
To lie upon unyielding earth
   And steep in golden drifts of sun.

Tense fibres now can all unloose,
   For faithful earth sustains me well; 
Sinew and brain have sworn a truce
   To halt their warfare for a spell.

Life is a distant droning bee,
   Faith is the sun’s warm unseen shower, 
And love itself becomes for me 
   The fragrance of a trodden flower.

I merge with earth as if I grew
   Deep in her breast; yet from the sun
The bright rays penetrate me through
   Till they and I dissolve in one. [page 3]
As homeward through the dark
   He rides with slackened rein,
No bush or boulder looms to mark
   The trail across the plain.

Trusting his horse to know
   The homeward-tending trail,
He lets the flame of thought burn low
   While rhythm and faith prevail. 

Before him and behind
   The distant hills are dim,
But near and clear and unconfined
   The stars are over him.


Tho’ I were bred in some unhallow’d land
   Where no birds sing
Nor random petals flutter from the hand
   Of timid daring spring;

Tho’ never had I seen the regal sun
   Invade the skies
But dwelt in livid darkness till it spun
   A web athwart my eyes;

Tho’ all my life had been a wintry night 
   Gloomy and dense, 
Yet loving you I should know spring’s delight
   And dawn’s magnificence. [page 4]


They dream no longer of their hallowed places, 
   Nor mourn a banishment,
But gaze with tranquil unreluctant faces
From lordlier hills, over more lucent spaces,
   And are content. 

Their vain regrets for ancient glory, fading
   From memory at last—
Time’s insults, to their dignity degrading—
Give place to joy, new veneration aiding
   To dim the past.

For here a valley that is Tempe’s rival
   And green Arcadian slopes
Have waited centuries for their arrival, 
And welcome their beneficent revival
   With rapturous hopes.

And so the gods exult in restoration
   To lovely living fanes, 
Bestowing in return the exaltation
Of mortal artistry’s supreme creation
   That never wanes. [page 5]


[NOTE—The arbutus tree of the British Columbia coast resembles the madrone of California. Twice each year it sheds its bark, revealing a smooth, dusky-red surface. Growing near the sea-shore, it always bends toward the water, often at a very acute angle, in its persistence curving around obstacles.]


FAR from all tumult of tempest,
   The haven is drowsy with air,
And legions of lambent arbutus
   Have chosen to congregate there. 

They do not turn themselves landward
   Nor cravenly cower from the sea,
But reach yearning arms to the water
   And writhe in the strain to be free.

Flushed as the flame of the sunset,
   With garments drawn shyly aside,
They wait in a tremulous ardour
   The kiss of their lover, the tide.


Three strange virtues has the wood—
Wisdom, feeling, fortitude. 
Wise it is to read the lure
Sent through harbingers obscure
From its mighty friend, the sea,
Laying claim to fealty;
Wise to know the seasons, too,
When to garb itself anew,
Sheltering array to spin
For its dusky gypsy skin. 
Sentient feeling it displays
If the lightest sapling lays
Fingers on its questing stem,—
Gently it recoils from them, 
And enduringly inclines,
Fettered by long-perished vines. 
Yet in valiant hardihood
Every fibre of the wood [page 6]
Lends indomitable aid
To repel the grievous raid
Of the keenest axe’s blade.
Then the wise and gentle tree
Shows its intrepidity.


In some far-off enchanted year,
   The Indian legends say,
A maiden watched her lover steer
   His gaunt canoe away
To toil with fishing-net and spear
   Till close of day. 

But never did his paddle stir
   The calm lagoon again; 
His labour’s end was lonelier
   Than that of prudent men;
And bird-song and sunbeam for her
   Were banished then. 

Whether the rain of winter beat
   Upon its forest drum
Or summer’s minstrelsy of heat 
   Entuned a drowsy hum, 
She waited on a rocky seat
   For him to come. 

The gods approved her constancy,
   In pity looking down; 
They changed her to a mourning tree,
   Still lovely rosy brown,
Who twice a year by their decree
   Renews her gown. [page 7]


Till the end, without endeavour,
   Let me love the gay and bold; 
Let me cherish youth forever
   Lest the world grow old.

Doubt and care are unavailing 
   Logic is precious time misspent,
Wisdom constantly is paling
   In bewilderment.

Youth alone through all the ages
   Never falters, never fears; 
Youth is wiser than the sages,
   Lovelier than the spheres.


To space the hours apart
   A flock of birds I send 
From cages in my heart,
   Each winging to a friend. 

A rook with mellow tales,
   A perky wren for fun,
A gull to ride the gales,
   A lark to greet the sun. 

Their flight is swift and true,
   Their song like golden chimes; 
So from your heart won’t you
   Send me a bird sometimes? [page 8]


The wizards of science will turn
   From the marvels of planets and seas;
In the hearts of us all they will learn
   To find miracles greater than these. 

Below and around and above 
   They will mesh us in webs of their schemes,
Computing the voltage of love,
   Recording the wave-length of dreams. 

For my love is attuned to my friends,
   No matter how distant they are; 
And in dreaming my mindsight extends
   To summon them all from afar.


My home is where slim palms applaud the sun,
   Yet under pines mist-canopied no less;
With troops of dominant mountains, or with none:
   Places do not determine happiness.

The spirit’s avarice will not be bribed
   With transient charms that any scene can lend; 
So my allegiance is not circumscribed,
   My home is anywhere I have a friend. [page 9]


[Being the legendary origin of the Cowichan tribe of Indians.]

When Stut-zen was sent down to earth
   A friendless man was he;
The elder tribe of heaven-born
   Refused him company.

Sadly he built his lonely lodge,
   Tended his lonely fire,
While all his soul was inly seared
   With one intense desire. 

He sound a block of yew-tree wood
   And wrought with patient care
Until three moons had waned above
   His silent long despair. 

He rudely carved a woman’s form—
   In his eyes beautiful—
And set a spindle in her hand
   Enwound with wild-goat’s wool. 

Beyond the hills Tee-com-it ruled,
   A chief of noble race,
Whose daughter conquered all men’s hearts
   By her surpassing grace;
Yet not a brave had ever won
   A smile from that proud face, 

She scorned their courtship, one and all;
   But when the news she heard
That sons of God had come to earth
   She rose without a word.

She crossed the hills, she reached the grove
   Where Stut-zen’s dwelling stood;
She flung the image in the flame
   And straight-way anguished moanings came
Out of the scorching wood. 

She sat her down where it had sat 
   And set herself to spin
Till Stut-zen from the chase returned,
   Called by the mournful din. [page 10]

“Who art thou?” faltered he, amazed,
   And quietly she said,
“Thy wooden wife, transformed by God
   To flesh and blood instead.” 

“Not so!   I loved the wife I wrought, 
   So beautiful and mild,
But thou art hideous. Fiend, avaunt!”
   Gazing at him, she smiled.

“If I be not thine ugly stick,
   I am no fiend, I trow;
And . . . I will be thy wife instead . . .”
   Growled Stut-zen, “Be it so.”


After three years to see the snow
   By moonlight, in the mountain ranges,
Gives me the certitude to know
   Beauty that never changes.

The black rigidity of pines
   With grim and rigid shadows under
More truly than all art defines 
   The sorcery of wonder.

For time-disdaining certainties 
   Henceforth my symbol can be only
The snow-befriended sombre trees
   In silence there, and lonely. [page 11]


Why linger with the shades to hold the phantom hand
Of some departed joy that impotently fades
Despite your wild command to be your comrade still?
Why recklessly employ your treasured hour so ill,
Dejected and dismayed, consorting with a shade?

And why become a thrall to tyrannous events,
Determining to fall before their brutal feet
In menial reverence? the helots who entreat
Such insolent oppression through agony and fear
Surrender man’s most dear and glorious possession.

Defy the arrogance by which the present rules 
And shun the past’s dark pools where futile spectres dance;
Your birthright is to rove untrammeled and serene
On the supernal hill that dominates the world, 
Visit the poles at will and all the zones between
And claim each dawn’s impearled array as treasure trove.


All the world’s dominions render less delight
Than the ardent pinions of her spirit’s flight;
Undeterred by danger of dismay or grief,
Holding gloom a stranger creed than unbelief,
Gaily she will travel where the mystery lures
With adoring cavalcades of troubadours
Till a last capricious venture summon her 
Into more delicious dreams and loftier,
Goal of her converging roads, with star above,
Ecstasies all merging in one ecstasy of love. [page 12]

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