Herbert Thomas John (H. T. J.) Coleman
The Far Hills and Other Poems

THE FAR HILLS

And Other Poems

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THE FAR HILLS

and Other Poems

H. T. J. COLEMAN

[illustration: RP 1829]

THE RYERSON PRESS – TORONTO

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COPYRIGHT CANADA, 1958, BY

THE RYERSON PRESS, TORONTO

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form (except by reviewers for the public press) without permission in writing from the publishers.

Published 1958

PRINTED AND BOUND IN CANADA

BY THE RYERSON PRESS, TORONTO

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CONTENTS

PAGE

THE FAR HILLS

1

TO THE SONNET

2

AN AEROPLANE

3

THE POET

4

THE VOICE OF SPRING

4

WEEDS

5

ILLUMINATION

5

A FARM-HOUSE KITCHEN

6

TO A TEACHER

6

THE MOTHER

7

ON A CHILD DANCING

7

A SPADE

8

SYMPHONY

8

AN OLD SKID-ROAD, VANCOUVER, B.C.

9

THROUGH A CABIN WINDOW

9

A HUMMING-BIRD’S NEST

10

MOSAIC

10

TWO SONNETS

11

A MEADOWLARK

12

[page v]

ON A QUILL PEN

13

THE WILD SPIRAEA

14

THE UNFORESEEN

15

THE WORKERS

16

NEPENTHE

17

I SAW FIVE PEAKS

18

TO A FUTURE GENERATION

19

THE VOYAGE

20

LILAC BUDS

21

RHYTHM

22

AUGUST RAIN

23

IN MEMORIAM: MAJORIE L.C. PICKTHALL

24

ICICLES

25

GARGOYLES

26

CONTENTMENT

27

A SHIP PASSES

28

BLISS CARMAN

29

THE DARK ANGEL

30

THE STRENGTH OF THE HILLS

31

THANKSGIVING

32

BIRD MUSIC

33

PROMETHEUS

34

A PRAYER FOR EASTER DAY

35

[page vi]

MAN AND THE INFINITE

36

IF DAY SHOULD CLOSE

37

EBB-TIDE

38

FLOOD-TIDE

39

PANSIES

40

TOOLS

41

A TALL SHIP

42

TO A SAXOPHONE

43

TO THE HIGHLAND BAGPIPE

44

THE WIND

45

TO A LOOKING GLASS

46

UNTO THE HILLS

47

OUTWARD BOUND

48

[page vii]

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THE FAR HILLS

and Other Poems


THE FAR HILLS

THE near hills, beneath the sun,

Stand clear and green and high,

But the far hills lie faint and blue

Along the western sky.

One well might climb the near hills

Within a single day,

But the summits of the far hills

Are unknown miles away.

Yet thither would my fancy fare

On feet that never tire,

Until at length they gain the peaks

That guard the sunset fire.

The near hills give happiness

Without a hint of dole,

But it is the call of the far hills

That echoes in my soul. [page 1]

TO THE SONNET

“As dead as the sonnet” —quoted from an article in a recent number of a leading literary magazine.

SO you are gone

That in the dawn

Of modern poetry so brightly shone,

The solace and delight of men

Whose worth was by their age confessed,

Who turned to you by instinct when

The cares of life too sorely pressed

Upon their spirits, and were comforted.

Now you are dead,

Slain by a critic’s pen.

Petrarch will mourn

And lay aside his laurel crown;

’Tis faded now; and Shakespeare’s glory

Will seem an old and tedious story

Of undeserved renown;

Milton and Wordsworth sit forlorn

Among the failures of their times.

They should have scorned your rhymes.

Has not a modern critic said

That you are dead? [page 2]

AN AEROPLANE

A silver fish that swims the central blue,

A vessel voyaging uncharted seas

More wonderful than those Columbus knew

In times long past, where to the Atlantic breeze

He loosed his darling sail for unknown shores,

A mighty bird that scorns to be confined

To narrow limits but exultant soars

Upward and leaves this little earth behind.

Familiar fancies these, and now again

I look and see in the bright depths above

The gleaming pinions of an aeroplane

So distant that it scarcely seems to move.

I know it travels still on resolute wing,

Triumph and type of man’s adventuring. [page 3]

THE POET

I am a peddler knocking at your door

Daily with wares of curious artistry.

I do not ask of you that you should buy;

If you should deign to pause and look them o’er

I shall be satisfied. Among my store

Are pretty trifles that may please you eye—

The prattle of a child, a lover’s sigh,

And memories of days that are no more.

Perhaps, encouraged by your sympathy,

I may delve deep within my pack and bring

To light and place within your hand a thing

I would not care for everyone to see.

Mark as you hold it how the colours start

As if it were a sun—it is my heart.

THE VOICE OF SPRING

THIS afternoon I heard the voice of Spring,

Not the full-throated chorus April knows

When daffodils have wakened, and the rose

Waits on the threshold of her blossoming—

Nor yet the call of March when violets bring

Their first shy tokens and the willow shows

Its silver tassels and the sunlight grows

Each day more golden and the robins sing.

’Tis February and the snow still lies

In many a sheltered spot, yet, as I pass

I see an added greenness in the grass,

A softer blue within the southern skies,

And in the silence falls upon my ear

Spring’s reassuring whisper, “I am near.” [page 4]

WEEDS

THEY are indifferent to man’s disdain

As with Spring’s growing warmth they seek a place

In field and garden, often with a grace

Unrecognized. The humble and the plain

Among God’s creatures were not set in vain

Though of His purpose we may find no trace.

With confidence they stand before His face

And seek their portion of His sun and rain.

Though they are outlaw, for the needs of life,

Imperious with us all, have placed a ban

Upon their presence and industrious man

Wages with them a never-ending strife,

The wilderness is glad because of them

And wears them proudly as a diadem.

ILLUMINATION

I looked abroad and saw among mankind,

Or seemed to see, the might of ancient wrong,

Virtue abased and arrogance made strong,

Folly advanced in state and, far behind,

Truth’s flickering torch held forth to light the blind;

And Mammon’s train with revelry and song

Sweeping the highways of the world along

With victory’s banner streaming in the wind.

I looked again and saw a human soul

That held itself erect against the power

Of utmost fate in life’s most evil hour

And in a higher self found self-control;

And then I knew that I had read amiss,

That those were but a shadow matched with this. [page 5]

A FARM-HOUSE KITCHEN

A worn plank walk conducts me to the door,

And, as I open it, the pleasant smell

Of cooking greets me. Here the family dwell

Throughout the day. For fifty years and more

Rough toil-worn shoes have passed across the floor.

If boards could speak what stories might they tell

Of simple joys and sorrows, and the spell

Of home and warmth when the day’s work was o’er.

Before, the farther window, where the light

Of summer sunshine enters in a flood

There stands a rough-hewn table with the food

That marks the midday meal. The room is bright

For me with tender memories that shine

From boyhood days that long ago were mine.

TO A TEACHER

YOU may not ask for fame as if your worth

Could be compressed into a single phrase

To make a headline. You must scorn the praise

Of those who eyes are fixed upon the earth

So that they miss the eternal stars, for dearth

Is all the wages such ambition pays.

Fate on the selfish pride of power lays

Oblivion’s ashes even from its birth.

Other reward the future has in keeping

For you who bear the conscience of the race.

Because you sought not you shall find your place

When kings and princes in the dust are sleeping,

Whose fadeless emblem is a little child. [page 6]

THE MOTHER

SHE has the utmost known of joy and pain

So she might bind within a living chain

The future and the past. Upon her gaze

Has shone resplendent all the brighter days

The race shall see; and ever she has kept

Deep in her heart while still the young life slept

Within her body all the hopes and fears

Mankind has known throughout uncounted years.

And should there come to earth at last a day

When cruelty and hate are put away,

When love and duty breathe one common air

And beauty has dominion everywhere,

Her hands shall open wide the gates of morn

Who dreamed man’s dreams for him eye he was born.

ON A CHILD DANCING

A flower of its beauty unaware,

An autumn leaf that eddies round and round,

A joyous butterfly that late has found

Its shining wings and flutters here and there,

A ray of light, a breath of springtime fair,

A dandelion tuft that with no sound

Rises aloft or sinks toward the ground

A snowflake falling through the wintry air;

I think of these as you are borne along

In graceful movement upon music’s stream,

You are the spirit of a happy dream,

You are the echo of a wordless song;

Like sunshine or the carolling of birds

You bring a gladness far too deep for words. [page 7]

A SPADE

THIS humble instrument of industry,

With which I overturn the garden mould

Now that spring’s warmth has banished winter cold,

More ancient is than human history.

Early it stands in the long ancestry

Of those devices, curious, manifold,

By which intelligence contrives to hold

Nature with all her hidden wealth in fee.

What daring spirit smelted first the ore,

And shaped the yielding metal to his will,

And laboured with the stubborn earth until

It brought forth bounty never guessed before,

I know not, yet I give him foremost place

Among the benefactors of the race.

SYMPHONY

TODAY a castle out of viewless air

Is builded by musicians’ artistry;

Rooms hung with many a gorgeous tapestry

And corridors adorned with pictures rare.

Beneath are rayless dungeons, grim and bare,

The home of tears and hopeless misery,

Sorrows more ancient than humanity

And clanking chains and eyeless ghosts are there.

But soaring far above are turrets fair

From which in widening prospect one may see

The happy sunlit land of faery

The heart rejoices, and all nature sings

In unison with wood, and brass, and strings. [page 8]

AN OLD SKID-ROAD, VANCOUVER, B.C.

DESERTED now it lies that was the scene

Of busy life in days not long ago.

Between the rottings logs the alders grow,

Lifting in summer shafts of living green.

I trace it, stooping under boughs that lean

To check my steps, and wish that I might know

Some of the story that now sleeps below,

Across the silent years that intervene.

I fain would see the toiling oxen press

Along this narrow track, patient and strong,

Between tall trees that stand the way along;

But as I seek in fancy to complete

This picture of a vanished wilderness

I come to houses and a city street.

THROUGH A CABIN WINDOW

I see the noisy sea-gulls as they pass

In wheeling flight beneath a sunlit sky,

Tempered with mists of autumn, and I try

To catch their figures etched upon the glass

For one brief moment. Now a whirling mass

Of flashing wings, they hurry swiftly by.

Again, above the sea, now low, now high,

They soar like clouds above the summer grass.

And as the vessel goes unheeding on,

Leaving their petty tumult far behind,

I turn and ponder on our human kind.

How quickly into silence fades the strife

Of busy thoughts that circle and are gone

Above the mighty thing that we call life. [page 9]

A HUMMING-BIRD’S NEST

HERE is fresh joy for beauty-loving eyes;

Upon a branch where one would scarce expect

To find such treasure, carefully bedecked

With lichens gray and brown, one may espy

A tiny cup of wondrous symmetry,

And, noting all its features, may reflect

Upon the skill with which the architect

All but archives invisibility.

Here is a wisdom that is man’s despair;

Patience that puts his industry to shame.

This creature made to woo the light and air

With restless wings and throat of living flame

Has shaped its nest as if it fain would prove

All fairest building is the work of love.

MOSAIC

SOME bits of marble, glass and coloured clay

Devoid of beauty or significance,

To be regarded with contemptuous glance

By all except the master: Trifles play

So small a part in life, the careless say;

And yet it is through casual circumstance,

Slender at times as motes that idly dance

Within the sunbeam, genius makes its way.

O Master of all faithful souls, I pray

Give me the courage and the skill to use

The things which ease and selfishness refuse;

The tedious moments of my tedious day,

So that from out the pattern there may shine

A loveliness that love has made divine. [page 10]

TWO SONNETS

On viewing the portrait of Michelangelo by himself.

I

INEFFABLE sadness dwells within those eyes

As if their owner since his life began

Had viewed the age-long tragedy of man,

Man’s struggles, man’s defeats, man’s agonies,

And not as with the casual sympathies

Of that beholder who, aloof, may scan

The arena’s dust and toil; he also ran

An eager athlete straining for the prize.

The pangs of too much living he has known,

Of love that might not find content on earth,

Of princely favour languishing into dearth,

A part he grasped who fain would grasp the whole,

And now, perchance, those things to him are shown

Which vindicate the travail of his soul.

II

THESE are the hands which from the marble wrought

Heroic forms that speak to us today

With eloquence which may not pass away

Until man’s proudest works to dust are brought;

And when the daring mind the vision caught

They held the magic brush which bade it stay,

Toiling from morning dawn till evening gray

To give embodiment to noble thought.

All that mankind has dreamed throughout the years

These hands essayed to hold within their scope;

The Christian promise and the pagan hope

The saint’s desires, the prophet’s ecstasies,

And the mysterious terror that appears

In the rapt Delphian Sibyl’s staring eyes. [page 11]

A MEADOWLARK

A few clear notes like silver drops of rain

That follow in the wake of April showers,

Or like the morning dew on opening flowers

Have spoken springtime to the world again.

Ethereal joy dwells in the brief refrain,

Indomitable courage that the hours

Of darkness may not quench, nor all the powers

That mask behind the mystery of pain.

Out of the crystal fount of Nature’s gladness

Whose source eludes the farthest reach of thought,

Flowing forevermore, there has been brought

Unto my soul a drought to banish sadness.

My sorrows now are unregarded things—

A meadowlark beside the roadway sings. [page 12]

ON A QUILL PEN

WITH such a pen as this in days agone

Shakespeare his sonnets wrote, and Spenser paid

His tribute to his Faerie Queene. Its aid

Attended Chaucer in the gracious dawn

Of English verse when he set out upon

His Canterbury journey, and it played

Its needful part when Magna Carta stayed

The tyrant might of the usurper, John.

The regal swan, the humble barnyard goose

Gave freely of their quills. The art of man

Trimmed them with care and shaped them to his use

And writing made secure what thought began.

What once had served to speed the flight of birds

Found nobler mission in the flight of words. [page 13]

THE WILD SPIRAEA

THE wild spiraea grows along the shore

And in the nearby woodlands, and when June

Comes with her long bright days she brings a boon

That I would gladly treasure evermore.

The snowy blossoms open wide a door

To Beauty’s presence as they shine at noon

Or hang all ghostly white beneath the moon,

A wonder that I had not dreamt before.

The heart is filled with longing and can stay

A moment only, yet it cherishes

The memory of that which perishes

When it has added joy to one brief day;

And when, in winter, withered clusters cling

To naked boughs, it dares to dream of Spring. [page 14]

THE UNFORESEEN

A Pharaoh built a pyramid

Beneath the blue Egyptian skies

That he might rest forever hid

From curious strangers’ prying eyes:

And when three thousand years had gone

And strangers idly gazed upon

A royal mummy’s shrunken face:

For Egypt’s pomp and majesty

Had vanished quite beyond recall:

He had his immortality,

He was a mummy, that was all.

King David built a fortress strong

To make his throne forever sure,

And fought and schemed and laboured long

All that his glory might endure.

And all the cities that he took,

And all the triumphs that he wrought

Are set down in an ancient book

That says his glory came to naught.

King David sang a simple song

Nor cared he if it lived or perished,

’Twas by the breezes borne along,

’Twas by each casual listener cherished.

And though the centuries have flown

And of the fortress on the hill

There may be seen no single stone

King David’s song is living still. [page 15]

THE WORKERS

ONE laboured with his brain, and brought

As gift unto the Master’s hand

The product of his ordered thought,

Knowing that he would understand.

Another trod the countryside

And laboured daily in the field,

Trusting there would not be denied

The bounty of the harvest yield.

And others still by strength of arm

Or patient skill of hard brought grace

Unto the home, or added charm

To shop and street and marketplace.

And which had wrought the greater good

Was secret with the Master hid

Who in his wisdom understood

The soul behind the things they did. [page 16]

NEPENTHE

THE mountains are my friends.

With open arms they greet

Me where the roadway ends,

And I set my willing feet

To the well-known trails that sweep

Up from the valley far;

For I have a tryst to keep

With the moon and a midnight star,

Where the winds in the passes call,

And my campfire throws its light,

And the trees’ long shadows fall,

Across the silent night.

For all of man’s despite

The earth shall make amends,

And care be forgotten quite,

For the mountains are my friends. [page 17]

I SAW FIVE PEAKS

I saw five peaks against the rosy sunset,

Austere and far.

The lesser hills were all in deepest shadow,

And one pale star

Gave to the glory of the day’s declining

The magic of its shining.

The rosy light upon the placid waters

Was borne along

On tideless rivers like to those that wander

The fields of sleep among;

Fields far too fair for earthly sun’s caressing

Or waking moments guessing.

And when the sunset colours all had faded,

And the bright moon

Brought night with all her stars in solemn order

Until night’s noon,

Above the shadows I could still descry

Five peaks against the sky. [page 18]

TO A FUTURE GENERATION

YOU that shall stand in our place

When we are gone and forgot,

Who are the hope of the race

As we were once, we thought,—

I ask not if you can span

The earth between the sun and sun,

Or what wonders inventive man

Through the passing years has done;

For though your cities be vast

And their towers reach to the sky

Their greatness may not last

If they are built on a lie;

On the mischievous logic of old—

Child of a monstrous birth—

That the proud and arrogant hold
Prescriptive right to the earth.

Rather, I ask does the light

Of reason rule your world.

Has war long ceased to affright?

Are its flags all faded and furled?

Does brotherhood bring your strength,

As streams to the ocean run?

Have you found the secret at length

That labour and joy are one? [page 19]

THE VOYAGE

LAUNCHED on that ocean vast which men call Time,

Our lives, like ships, freighted with precious hopes,

Seek for their harbour in that unknown clime

We call the future. Pulling at the ropes

Are countless spirits summoned from the past,

The long past of the race that gave us birth,

Us that are latest born, though not the last,

Of all the generations of the earth.

That which hath been shall not return again,

With all our sorrow over vanished hours;

Its loss shall be our loss, its gain, our gain.

Now turn we with the remnant of our powers

To do the work which waits for us to do:

To hold our course despite the tempest’s roar.

The harbour beckons, and beyond the blue

Of far horizons lies that other shore

No man hath seen, save as his faith has caught

Some glimpse of distant harbour-lights he be brought

Who serves his Master in the coming days. [page 20]

LILAC BUDS

ALTHOUGH upon the maple tree

No springtime growth is seen

Along the sunny garden side

The lilac buds are green,

A brighter green if such may be

Than I saw yesterday

As if dull April dared to hint

The splendour of the May.

The South wind touched the naked boughs,

And banished wintry fear,

And in the vanguard of the spring

Each twig became a spear,

Close-folded buds that safely hide

As in a narrow cell,

The wealth of fragrance and of bloom

The garden knows so well.

O South wind blow upon my heart

That it may feel anew.

There is no wonder under heaven

Too lovely to be true. [page 21]

RHYTHM

I am the mistress of the souls of men,

For by my magic all their thoughts are bound.

I bring them to the skies and then again

They sink with me below the plummet’s sound.

Their bodies are but breath by me sent forth;

It rises or it falls as I ordain.

Without me there were neither south or north,

Nor summer sunshine nor the summer rain.

The morning stars which at creation sang

Obeyed by mild behest; and when the sea

With all its billows into being sprang

Its lightest motion was decreed by me.

I am the mistress of the souls of men,

Without me they were clods without a spark,

And words were discord, and the world were vain,

Sunk in the chaos of the primal dark. [page 22]

AUGUST RAIN

I hear the rain on the roof today,

“Summer is passing,” it seems to say.

But a note of joy in the steady refrain

Tells of the grass that is green again,

Of the listless flowers that had not stirred

If the rain’s soft summons had not been heard.

And now I shall see in the blossoming fall

Michaelmas daisies and asters tall.

Autumn roses will surely come

Along with the stately chrysanthemum.

Woodland colours will charm the eye

As the golden hours and days drift by,

And the heavens be filled with a softer blue

Than the skies of summer ever knew. [page 23]

IN MEMORIAM

MARJORIE L. C. PICKTHALL

TWO lands she loved of all the lands of earth,

And which she loved the most ’twere hard to say.

One was the little country of her birth,

The other, far away,

Rock-ribbed and forest-crowned,

Fronted the western ocean. Thus her lay

Had something of the tenderness that rests

On English landscapes, with their drowsy streams,

And peaceful hamlets where the swallow nests

Under the cottage eaves, and the sunlight gleams

On hedgerows all abloom with May,

And the sky-lark sings at break of day.

Another island home

Claimed her in womanhood; from it have come

Songs as wonderful as those by Sappho sung

In those far centuries when Greece was young.

The spell of summer twilight on the hills

Is in them, and the mystery

Of inlets which the rainy autumn fills

With rolling cloud-wrack piled in mountain masses,

Where naught is heard save the sound of the tide as it passes

With the surge of the sea.

And hers were other graces,

Caught from no land earth’s sun has shined upon,

Hint of the glory of the heavenly places

Whither her spirit has gone,

And we who walk stumblingly often in sadness,

Hoping for light ere the journey shall end,

Cling to the faith that she sang in her gladness,

That life is a friend. [page 24]

ICICLES

MY cottage is a lamp whose shade

Is hung about with crystals made

—Gems of beauty every one—

By the frost and by the sun.

While the cold outside is keen

They catch and hold the rainbow-sheen

That in the sunbeam hidden lies;

And when the wintry daylight dies,

And the hours of dark begin,

They take the lamp-light from within

And sow its cheerful radiance wide

Over all my garden side.

I would have my thoughts to be

Like the crystals I see;

Sun of joy and frost of pain

Fashioning life’s snow and rain

Unto beauty that shall shine

Into other hearts—and mine. [page 25]

GARGOYLES

I see above me in a row,

Impassive, and grotesque or quaint,

The carven lineaments which show

The satyr or perchance the saint.

How strange that oft a single stroke,

The fancy of the sculptor’s mind,

Half serious and half a joke,

Should leave such eloquence behind!

Throughout the passing years they speak

Their silent comment on the race:

The strong, the arrogant, the weak,

The good, the noble and the base—

A cryptic wisdom that derides

The foibles we so highly prize,

The beast that still in man resides

And looks at times from out his eyes. [page 26]

CONTENTMENT

I lie upon the grass today

With nothing on my mind,

And in the trees above I hear

The low note of the wind.

The sunlight filters through the leaves,

My dog is sitting by,

And there is not a single cloud

Within the summer sky.

I am a king for one brief hour

A king without a care

Beyond a fly upon my face

Or burrs within my hair—

And though my Kingdom vanish quite,

Somehow, there shall remain

Things, Alexander never owned

And Cæsar sought in vain. [page 27]

A SHIP PASSES

IDLY I stood beside a little bay,

The tiny ripples breaking at my feet.

The mists of night still on the waters lay

And made my solitude the more complete.

And while the sky was flecked with morning gold,

And silence brooded over sea and shore,

Huge rounded billows slowly landward rolled

And smote upon the rocks with wild uproar.

And then I knew a mighty ship had passed

Outward so far I might not hear the beat

Of throbbing engines, and the ocean vast

Had brought the message surely to my feet.

And so, I thought, the mists of life conceal

Great souls who, passing, may not speak a word

Yet while we stand in idleness we feel

An unseen presence and are strangely stirred. [page 28]

BLISS CARMAN

Ob. June 8, 1929

YOU were as gentle soul as ever breathed,

Kindly and patient, so to you there came

The choicest gift that Nature has bequeathed

To human kind, the clear poetic flame.

You were content that dynasties might fall

And the great march of history thunder on

So you might chant at Nature’s festival

The tender glories of the April dawn.

For Nature was to you the burning bush

At sight of which the prophet stood unshod,

The vesper sparrow in the evening hush

The presence and the voice of Nature’s God.

Though long an exile from your native land

You lived, your muse was ever glad to turn

To hillsides where Canadian maples stand

And over which the northern sunsets burn.

And now the veil is lifted from your eyes,

You know the truth of early good and ill,

And sing, perchance, in nobler harmonies

Another and a fairer homeland still. [page 29]

THE DARK ANGEL

INVISIBLE I walk the ways of men

And none may hear my footsteps, for I pass

More softly than cloud shadows on the grass

Or mists that float above the tree-tops when

The springtime showers have passed. The ancient earth

Has known me as a guest since time began,

Ere mountain reared its head or river ran,

I am as old as either death or birth.

Fair are the flowers that bloom beneath my hand

Watered by dews of gracious tenderness

And tears that flow at sight of man’s distress.

Their perfume has been born to every land

Upon my dusky wings, and never morrow

Has risen on the earth in storm or calm

But I have watched its dawning, for I am

Mankind’s dark angel and my name is sorrow. [page 30]

THE STRENGTH OF THE HILLS

THE hills are strong, I know,

     And I would have them give

Some of their strength to me

      While I among them live.

How old the hills may be,

      My wisdom may not say

A million years perhaps

      To my life’s little day.

The hills are strong, I know

      Yet not so strong as I

Although I change and fade

      Like cloud in summer sky.

For when the hills shall pass

      And earth’s stout fabric fail,

A million years from now,

      Somehow, I shall prevail. [page 31]

THANKSGIVING

I would give thanks before I go

      For all the joys my heart has felt,

That have not scorned the threshold low

      Of the clay cottage where it dwelt.

For mourning sunshine glancing through

      My eastward-looking window pane.

And for those moments when I knew

      The benediction of the rain;

For homely scents the evening breeze

      Has wafted o’er my window sill.

For the night wind among the trees,

      And for the moonlight on the hill;

For cheerful smile, for laughter gay,

      For kindly word, for friendship true,

For love that came at close of day

      And whispered, “May I stay with you?”;

For spring and summer all too brief,

      For autumn’s frost, for winter’s snow

For every unremembered grief,

      I would give thanks before I go. [page 32]

BIRD MUSIC

BIRD songs resemble not the songs we sing;

At early morn a single note is heard;

Some feathered troubadour has found a word

Whose eloquence expresses everything

That life can mean; and so to it he must cling

Until the quiet woodland depths are stirred,

And on the heart receptive is conferred

The mystic happiness that song can bring.

And birds have only songs that tell of joy,

The wood-dove and the pensive whippoorwill

Speak not of pains that pierce, of griefs that kill,

Although their art may mournful sounds employ.

Of love and summer must they sing always,

Nor can they guess that summer may not stay. [page 33]

PROMETHEUS

FROM the gods’ high altar

On Olympus he

Stole the sacred fire

Guarded jealously.

To his fellow-mortals

Came he then with speed

Cherishing his treasure

In a hollow reed.

To his fellow-mortals

Brought he warmth and light,

Comforting their sorrow,

Banishing their night.

Though the gods in punishment

Sent him direst woe,

He could sing of triumph

In his overthrow.

So throughout the ages

There has come to men

Joy and warmth and gladness

From the poet’s pen.

He has scaled Olympus

Seen the fire glow

Brought it by his magic

To the vale below.

Therefore through the ages

Must to him remain,

Mingled with his ecstasy

Loneliness and pain. [page 34]

A PRAYER FOR EASTER DAY

O Lord of life who with the changing year

Brings back to earth the miracle of spring,

Who makes the flowers to bloom, the birds to sing,

Cleanse Thou my heart this day from craven fear.

Shine on my wintry spirit with the sun

Bright with the radiance of Easter morn

Till by its quickening rays the hope is born

That what to me seems death is life begun.

Help me to follow through I may not see,

To sing in labour and be glad in pain

Through faith in Him who out of loss brought gain

Out of defeat eternal victory. [page 35]

MAN AND THE INFINITE

I stood upon a height and saw below

A city where a million people dwelt.

I watched the endless streams of traffic flow,

Silent, it seemed, along its streets and felt

How wonderful must be the mind of man

To see such things in vision, and how great

Must be the compass of his powers who can

Within a few short years such things create.

And as I further gazed, the lights flashed out,

Mile upon mile, and busy streets became

The paths of fairyland and round about

The palaces and towers were rings of flame.

And then I turned and saw in the west afar

The tender glow with which the sunset fills

The summer twilight, and the evening star

Low-cradled in a hollow of the hills. [page 36]

IF DAY SHOULD CLOSE . . .

IF day should close for me ere eventide

With sunset colours flaming in the West,

And lengthening shadows, bad me think of rest,

Would I beseech the daylight to abide?

I do not know, but I at least would pray

That I might face the darkness without fear,

Knowing within my heart that Love was near

To turn the terrors of the night away.

If at life’s feast, when jest and song were rife

And friend clasped hand with friend, should come the call

For me to rise and leave the banquet-hall,

Would I lament the brevity of life?

A backward look perhaps, a vague surprise

That now my place were vacant evermore,

But I would know that Love was at the door

With the eternal morning in her eyes. [page 37]

EBB-TIDE

THIS morn how strangely shrunken seems the bay

From that which yester-eve I gazed upon.

Within the night the waters have withdrawn

And now upon the ocean far away

They mount in billows or they toss in spray,

Waiting the westward movement of the dawn.

And so my fancy follows on and on

To reach at length the shores of far Cathay.

My soul at times is like a lonely beach

From which the tide has flown. I hear afar

Under the morning or the evening star

The jubilant billows calling each to each

And yet the nearer prospect nothing brings

Save naked rocks where dripping seaweed clings. [page 38]

FLOOD-TIDE

SLOWLY the waters creep along the sand

With froth and seaweed edged, and here and there

They lap against the rocks which, grim and bare,

Beside the bay in rugged masses stand,

Wave-worn yet strong, the rampart of the land

Against the ocean’s power which may not dare

To mount above these ancient limits where

Its flood was stayed as by some giant hand.

From out the ocean’s fulness day by day

While seasons wax and wane the waters flow

Then back again to the great deep they go.

And as I watch in quietness I pray

That the great deep of which I am a part

May fill the empty reached of my heart. [page 39]

PANSIES

A pansy is a thought, our Shakespeare says.

“Whose thought?” I wonder. Surely not of man,

For who with open eye and heart could scan

The garden borders in these April days

With pansy blossoms starred, and find no trace

Of some great artist soul within whose plan

A varied beauty far beyond the span

Of human intellect has foremost place?

Our halting minds must ever work by measure

That thought devises, save when, unforeseen,

A flash of insight seems to intervene.

It is these golden moments that we treasure.

And so I dare to call this little flower

God’s pleasant fancy in an April hour. [page 40]

TOOLS

I love to look at tools that workmen use,

Set in some shop in orderly array.

Though in my ignorance I may not say

The name of any one, they do not lose

Their charm thereby. How can the mind refuse

Tribute unfeigned to things that day by day,

The ever-growing power of mind display,

And give to feeble man a giant’s thews?

I can find Beauty in their lines austere

That match the hard, unyielding facts of life;

Beauty that lives in fitness for the strife

Of man with Nature, and that does not fear

The stern demand of Fate that she shall be

The glad companion of Utility. [page 41]

A TALL SHIP

YOUTH asks for a tall ship

To sail the wide seas over,

And the charms that wait in distant lands

To greet the carefree rover.

For the youthful foot is the wandering foot

That will not stay at home,

And the youthful heart is the restless heart

That sighs for joys to come.

I, too, have dreamt of a tall ship

And palm-fringed tropic isles.

Exotic smells, and temple bells,

And dusky maidens’ smiles.

But when day’s o’er I think more,

Now that the years are ripe,

Of a cozy chair by the fireplace,

A good yarn, and a pipe. [page 42]

TO A SAXOPHONE

YOU are the soul of longing and of tears,

And memories of the woes of vanished years

Speak in your tones. What curious circumstance

Made you a partner of the giddy dance?

Banjo, piano, violin,

Trombone’s blare and cymbal’s din,

Big drum, little drum, Chinese gong,

Triangles’ tinkle and banal song

Have their place, but ’tis hard to see

What made you one in such company.

You are the snarl of a fiend in hell,

You are the solemn funeral bell,

You are a sob and you are a shriek,

But the voice of joy you seldom speak.

And yet it must be there remains

Your presence where our human kind

Most seek to leave all care behind.

The meaning of the mystery

Is surely not perversity.

But that we feel that, somehow, sadness

Is at the root of all our gladness. [page 43]

TO THE HIGHLAND BAGPIPE

I heard you late upon a city street

While curious people thronged the sidewalk near.

Above the obedient tread of marching feet

Your notes sang high and clear.

And long ago within a cabin rude

Your music made for me the rafters ring,

While round the walls and eager dancers stood

To watch the Highland Fling.

I heard you once sound from a quiet vale

As lone I stood upon a hillside far,

You to the listening eve told the old tale

Of love gone forth to war.

And in those moments when my head was bowed

Before Death’s shadowy presence you have lent

A voice of grief to match the funeral shroud,

The wail of your lament. [page 44]

THE WIND

THE wind that follows the open sea,

     And hurries the ships along

Is a bluff wind, and a hearty wind

     With a voice that is loud and strong.

The wind that tumbles the waves on shore

     And bustles across the land,

Is a brisk wind and a busy wind

     With plenty of work to its hand.

The wind that rouses the sleeping flowers

     And bends the meadow grasses

Is a glad wind and a kindly wind

     That hails me as it passes.

But the wind that comes from the open moor

     To my door at the close of day

Is a sad wind and a tired wind

     That has somehow lost its way [page 45]

TO A LOOKING GLASS

YOUR polished surface day by day has shown

Faces of many unto me unknown.

No trace remains, and yet had you but kept

The looks of those who smiled or those who wept,

Laughter and tears had both been mine unsought,

And pensive recollection at the thought

Of what these were and what I too have been

In moments when I felt I was not seen

By any save yourself. I too have smiled

And by your quick response have been beguiled

Into the fancy that you smiled at me;

And when I have been sad your sympathy

Brought half-belief that in you lay the gift

Some of the burden from my heart to lift.

And yet the virtue I would wish to set

Above all others is—you can forget. [page 46]

UNTO THE HILLS

WITHIN my daily view a mountain range

Rise from out the sea: it knows no change,

Regarded from afar, save that the snow,

When winter comes, lies low and still more low

Upon its sides until from base to height

It stands respendent, robed in spotless white.

The morning sunshine gleams upon its crest;

It holds the glory of the glowing west;

The moon and solemn stars within the deep

Of heaven above it nightly vigil keep.

Its slopes the purple mists of autumn shroud;

In spring its summits tower crystal clear

Above the greenness of the opening year.

Throughout life’s chance and change it is for me

Symbol and witness of Eternity. [page 47]

OUTWARD BOUND

A big grey freighter that the seven seas have known

Comes sailing down the inlet proudly and alone.

Upon the hills behind her the sunset light abides.

And gives a shining glory that flashes from her sides.

Her decks are piled with lumber to build the homes of man

Perhaps in far Australia, perhaps in old Japan.

With scarce a sense of motion she follows with the tide

Till out beyond the headland she seeks the ocean wide.

And long before this sheltered spot her form again shall greet.

She’ll look on crowded cities where alien races meet.

Her northward course shall take her where the bleak Aleutians lie,

And tropic isles shall wake from sleep to see her passing by.

Across Pacific billows, amidst Atlantic gales

She’ll hold a deep sea fellowship with porpoises and whales.

Her lights shall keep their vigil beneath the Southern Cross.

Athwart her restless prow shall dip the lonely albatross.

Whatever winds shall call to her, whatever be their song,

She takes, a willing passenger, my roving heart along. [page 48]

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