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
By Esme Isles-Brown
Trailing o’er yon ivied arch, With your clinging, eager reach; “There are worlds yet to explore” Seems the homily you preach. Yet while you exploring go, ’Tis not on selfish quest — You have spread a banquet where Bird or bee is welcome guest. Butterflies sip daintily Of your scented, sweet repast, Happy with delights that be — They care not for sweets that last. Comes the droning bumblebee, Drinks deep of thy honeyed hoard, Not for him the dainty sip — He would dine like Saxon lord. But in ev’ning’s perfumed hush, Comes an Ancient, worldly-wise, Well he knows for him are stored, Of thy banquet’s best supplies. [page 1] Comes he with attendant hum, Wearing rubies at his throat; Comes with satin-sheen of vest — Olive green his velvet coat. Versed is he in ancient lore, And your banquet ne’er hath missed, Drinks with joy of connoisseur, From thy cup of amethyst.
MY WEE BIT LADDIE
There's a wee bit laddie In his cradle sleepin’, There’s a wee bit laddie To be loo’d and kissed; To be cared and tendit And frae fear defendit, And my he’rt he’s haudin In his wee bit fist. There’s a wee bit laddie In his high-chair reignin’; There’s a wee bit laddie; King o’ he’rts he’s wearin’, Croon o’ gold he’s wearin’, But he’s little carin’, For this wee bit laddie Scorneth royalty. There’s a wee bit laddie Fu’ o’ fun an’ frolic; There’s a wee bit laddie Aff for schule the day, Soon he’ll feel that sages Ha’ been fules for ages, And the world’s awaitin’ What he has to say. There’s a wee bit laddie Grown to manhood, gladly Facin’ life, an’ eager For his chance to win — But he’s still my laddie — Just my wee bit laddie — And my he’rt gaes ever Through the world wi’ him. [page 2]
When the world in rags and tatters from his long trek o’er the plain, Sets his foot upon the trail that leads into the hills again — Then he shifts his pack and leaves it ’neath the willows by the rill, For he hears the blackbird whistle—and the wind upon the hill. All his tatters are forsaken—left beneath the willows too, For the pack he long has carried held a change of raiment new. The tune he hums so blithely breaks in little runs and trills— For there’s gold in sun-warmed corners—and the wind is on the hills. The blackbird whistles from the hedge, the crow caws from the tree, And glad his heart breaks forth in song that sets his spirit free — For joy that knows no boundary—no soul too mean to thrill— Calls from each sun-warmed corner to the wind upon the hill.
Oft aches my heart with longing, A longing I cannot express— An ache that pains like tears unshed Or wrongs without redress. A rose that fell too soon perhaps, A little bird that died: A sigh that all unbidden swelled Yet would not be denied. The refrain of a song at twilight, As mist creeps up the hill; The whisper of dawn winds early When all the world is still. A field of wind-blown spaces, Where goldenrod blows wide: A lone cliff washed by breakers, The lap of the outflowing tide. These fill my breast with a longing— A longing I cannot explain— For something I’ve lost somewhere—somehow— Nor ever shall find it again. [page 3]
IRISH LOVE SONG
Grey clouds may veil the blue, Rains drench the clover— But in the eyes of you Lovely lights hover. From lute and harp the strings Unkind may sever— But in the voice of you Song lingers ever. Unleashed by storms the deep Wreckage dark up-throws— But in the heart of you Pearls fair repose. Temple and minaret Soon shall Time decay— But at thy shrine Love’s flame Burneth—and for aye.
THE HIDDEN SPRING
Why criticize the thought of any man, Or with conceit of wisdom fix its worth To backward trace its origin a span Would lead us often far beyond his birth. ’Tis tributary, doubtless, of a source Submerged for decades; by Time’s rock a-seam, Drained and diverted from the parent course, And deeply held—like to an undreamed dream. Then heated by the weight of countless Time, Ore-freighted through the creviced rock of years, Swift-pleading like an unexpected shrine, Where nothing was before—a spring appears. And who shall gauge its value—who shall say Less of the wayside spring where Need may sup, Than, borne from thence a long and devious way, ’Twere served at last to kings in golden cup? [page 4]
A beautiful world was created In the ages of long ago, By a Master of every science And all the arts that we know With alchemy formed He the mountains, With majesty clothed them replete, Then unrolled the rivers about them Like ribbons entwining their feet. The oceans He called from their limbo, And cradled them deep in the sand, And over the valleys and hillsides Spread forests with generous hand. He painted it all with the colors That only a Master could blend, Yet deep in His chalice lay treasures Awaiting His wisdom to send. The Master then stayed from His labors And looked from the place where He stood; He saw that the world he had fashioned Was beautiful as it was good. But all of its beauty was soundless, Though perfect in form was the whole; So God from His chalice took MUSIC And gave it to the world for its soul.
When Diva Day bows low “Adieu” Across The footlights Ere dusk enters with her stars, That gleam like beads of dew On beds of moss— There comes a moment’s stay between the bars Of earth’s grand choral symphony— Where evening clings; God then holds low His baton in the West, Until day’s orchestra with muted strings Glides into night’s credo Finale—Rest. [page 5]
He walks apart, and reads from out a book Of ancient vellum, held with hasps of gold; The symbolled Sanskrit writ therein, to him A language of all time, and new as old. The language of the stars, in terms of lights Interpreting the mysteries of night; The tongues of day in songs attuned new By each fresh dawn, each morn’s transparent dew. The sea to him a chapter grand—sublime, Read o’er and o’er unwearied—fresh as brine And old as ages, yielding more and more The while he studies, store on boundless store Of knowledge, joy and fancy, wrought in one— To be but finished and again begun. A mighty friendship all the world contains And known to him by strange and secret names: No need to tell him where to look for joy— Joy called him comrade when but still a boy: And from each flower, each leaf, each tuft of grass, Hands stretch in welcome wheresoe’er he pass. All Nature is to him an active verb— The literature of Gods, unspoiled, superb. He knows not loneliness and fears it not— A golden glory mellows all his thought.
The sky is grey, and mistily The rain comes sifting down; In dwingling heaps soiled snow persists— Earth wears a sulky frown. Drops hang from branch-tips, where dead leaves Like hopes forlorn still cling And wave wet flags of dull despair To long departed Spring. Brown bracken droops with sodden weight Of plumes that waved breast-high, When queenly Mother Earth held court In her grandeur last July. The rose she wore upon her breast On that same festal day Has been distilled to fairies’ breath— And by them borne away. [page 6] And stems that bore the bravest blooms Now sway across the pane— Lank skeletons with arms outstretched, That seek for love in vain. Whilst berries white and ghastly On bushes bare and tall, Despised of birds, forlornly As ghosts’ tears, mutely fall. Oh, where’s the hope of April, And where, the song of May? Have they flown forever from us Through those weeping skies of grey? Lo! Back they come to music That rejuvenates the world — For the motif God has chosen Is a snowdrop—just unfurled.
White world! When early dawn finds thee Fresh robed, serene, Awaiting calmly, like unwritten page, Unmarred and clean, What impress man shall leave thereon Of ill or worth, My soul seems then up-caught and held ’Twixt heaven and earth, With awe and wonder, breath abating, At Beauty’s birth! And from this altitude of soul-suspension And fair perspective, Thoughts swarm and swirl and surge In mood reflective. Yon trellised arch, like brow of bride, white-wreathed, Its load supporting, Hath intercepted in their light-winged flight Flakes swift cavorting Earthward. And e’en so doth Fate divert Our plans ambitious, And, for a season, gives us heart-fret sore And hatreds vicious. [page 7] Yet could we rend the veil so thinly woven That mists our destiny, What seemed a fate unkind, with sting and smart, But yesterday, To-day would seem a guardian hand protecting What dear we hold, And e’er fulfilling God’s own plan outlined In thread of gold. Yon bush with slender branches interlacing And brown-leaf happed, Snow-weighted now bows low like vestal maiden In worship wrapped; And everywhere God’s sheet of white is thrown Like Mercy hiding With cloak of Charity where man has erred— The scars abiding. Thus, as the world bows low as at the chancel Of God’s cathedral white, Yon tall, up-reaching, white-robed, priestly cedar Beseeches light; While from white mounds of homes,—like monks meek kneeling At matin prayer,— Grey smoke from chimney incense-burners Spirals the air.
A presence walks beside me Day by day, And oft with me holds converse, Often smiles, Yet sometimes, furtive, wipes a tear away, — But deals not in pretense no e’er beguiles. Sometimes I think to flatter him— He’s gone! I’ll live this one day free of him— He’s there. He’s ever with me when I’m most alone, And meekly bows whene’er I kneel in prayer. I asked, one day, his name— He turned away To where a beggar asked an alms Of bread; First gave the crust I’d shared with him that day, Then: “I’m Your Better Self,” he humbly said. [page 8]