Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets
Beyond the Road’s End

[handwritten: Elsie H. Clarkson]

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London & Toronto


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All rights reserved

FIRST PUBLISHED   .   .   .   1929


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TO ITALY, 1918












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    SPIRIT of God, whose breath

Down all the capes of chaos poured

    Action and life and death,

    And from their leash let slip

The radiance of the molten clouds

    To praise Thee heart and lip,

    Up shot the Sun, the World

Dropped off like fruit, and all the Stars

    Had rapture to be hurled,

    O Thou whose joyful choice

Made of this windy World the lyre

    Of Thy prophetic voice,

    When in our morning dim

Thou didst the uptoiling brute befriend

    And breathe Thy soul on him,

    It was Thyself that trod

Thenceforward with man’s bleeding feet,

    Thou brooding thought of God; [page 7]

    Thy patience filled his rest,

Thou breath of every better thing

    Till man desire the best,

    Else had there been no Sun,
No wrathful earth, no perilous dooms,

    No tears, and nothing done,

    But God disdained the length

Of weary sweetness, hoping naught,

    And peace unwinged of strength.

    Something achieved He sought,

Yea, imperfection, if thereby

    Perfection might be wrought.

    So time began, and space

Enwrapt Thy soul, and mystery

    Had pain for dwelling place.

    But Thou, oh, how Thy tears,

More terrible than man’s, were wept

    Upon the piercing years!

    That wilderness to be

Transfixed Thy dream, whose body bled

    A thousand deaths in Thee.

    Imagined, lifted high,

And still impossibly good, and still

    Inevitably to die! [page 8]

    But Thou didst bring men hope.

The magic of the night began

    To tell their horoscope.

    The seas had songs for them.

The haunted forest laid aside

    Its heathen diadem.

    Thou wast the very heart

Of all their quest, and leddest them

    By wonder and by art.

    And some in wisdom saw,

And some in lovely forms, and some

    In visions learned Thy law.

    Beauty beset them, bright

From Thy hill-hidden shores, and faint

    With Thine unborn delight.

    Thine overshadowing

Troubled the mountains, urging forth

    The feet of them that sing.

    Till, the ardent dream compelling,

For one sweet hour life’s final form

    Made man himself His dwelling.

    And man’s content and Thine

Was looked on, talked with, wandered with.

    Our very bread and wine [page 9]

    He shared, till they too were

Part of His glory, and His way

    As plain as they to share.

    Earth’s loveliest hour! and then—

O still impossible possible!

    O lost desire of men!

    So longed for, and when nigh

So utterly rejected, so

    Inevitably to die!

    O wine of life, that we

Spilled out, how long shall that which is

    Kill that which is to be?

    Thou Spirit, Thou alone,

Thou knowest! Therefore grief and joy

    Labour in Thee as one.

    All separateness, all death,

All life, all fellowship, alike

    Burn in us at Thy breath;

    Whose quickening we receive

In those unquiet glories drawn

    Around the quiet eve;

    Whose comfort is to be

Along the coast of life a surf

    Incessant as the sea, [page 10]

    Restless forever, till

From those triumphant deeps at last

    Thy dream becomes out will,

    And we forget no more,

And keep our love, and our Love finds

    His children by the shore. [page 11]


TELL me, what is Maia doing? Ah, be still

    Thou memory from the hill!

The hedges and their pipings now no bitterness distil.

    And careless lads and lasses

    That ramble through the passes

And whistle down to silence are gathering their fill,

    As seeming free of rue

    As once was Maia too. [page 12]


BEHOLD a marvel!—He that stay

At the utmost fringes of his days,

He only a centre hath always.

Who at his ghostly frontier waits

To open, not to guard his gates

Unto the untimely potentates,

And to their bright invading bands

Makes glad surrender of his lands,

He only unconquerable stands.

Who builds, but sits not on his throne,

Lest the King come, to him alone

The immortal Kingdoms shall be known.

All that we are not, all is ours!

Then make us, you eternal powers,

Your paths, your sentinels, your towers! [page 13]


WHAT solace has thy scapeless march, O Soul,

From the unchosen to the unknown goal?

What—though thy star beyond the road’s end hides

Still, still, until grim faith alone abides—

What keeps thee sure, though visions fail the earth?

What makes thee right, though wither every worth?

This, this alone—let thy proud answer go:

I trust my good because I will it so!

Let God and all His first and best be lies,

Less than His best I in myself despise!

Still let Him hide, year upon broadening year:

The harder He for capture, the more near

My pride shall match Him, till His power take shape

In my pursuing more than His escape!

Till, strengthening so, I see through my dark hours

His own vast glooms; and matched, not with His powers,

But, prouder, with His patience and His pain,

I march the scapeless road again, again,

Till I no longer seek Him, nay, nor find!

But He in triumph sees, Who of old was blind. [page 14]


TRIUMPH I bring, and a song for the lords of the lands and the sea,

And a cheer for the strength of the strong that brought that lordship to be.

For the ruddy hearts that make bigger the bounds of an onsetting race

Till the world be whirled to their vigour, and beat to the pride of their pace.

For a leaper, a tosser of might, a runner first of the first

When they bend their knees in the light, and hearken, and rise and burst.

He has brought you the top of the glory of conquering hands and feet,

He has carved you a cup with a story that none shall hope to repeat.

Hail to his ways and his days! Thrice hail again and again!

For this pæan to praise a prince of the princes of men.

When the kings of the South sank down, and the kingdoms died in the dust

And Hope was a tree turned brown, and the wheels of the world were rust; [page 15]

And there grew not anything bold, not anything hardy, no force;

The gods took scorn of the old, and gave their wills to the Norse.

The wind and the surf began to crash the rocks with a shout

And there rose a spirit in a man, and a thousand hearts leapt out.

Hearts that were fresh! great hearts! sudden of deeds and designs

That caught and covered those parts as the drift-snow covers the pines.

In the might of their hands and feet, and the honour of arms and of thighs,

They girded them, and were fleet, and the world was fair for a prize.

They gat them axes and swords, shields and terrible helms;

And launched their barks from the fiords to harry the sluggard realms.

Oh, they were the chosen ones, in the goodly prancing ships!

The sea was proud of her sons, and kissed them with masterful lips.

They came to an isle in the West, an isle that was yearning for men;

They fought, and they were the best, and the isle made merry again. [page 16]

And slept they slothfully there? Or waiting waxed they fat,

To shun the bite of the air, or wither away thereat?

When the runners made ready to run, when the hammers were held to be hurled,

A new light broke in the sun, a new might woke in the world.

They arose, they kept not still, they made their Britain to be

A lord of a land at will, and they took their rent of the sea.

Fifty horizons before, and they left them all behind,

There was not a brink but they bore their sails to the song of its wind.

In the lands of night, in the lands of a scalding noon-day drouth,

By jungles or snows or sands, they have stalked with a stern-set mouth.

When the Cold cried out in the North, and the Icebergs shrieked in the tide,

If they could no more march forth they have shovelled their homes and died.

Their blood is everywhere spilt, it brought ten buds to the birth;

And ten Great Britains are built to join and stablish the earth; [page 17]

They are waiting now for the word. Do they loll their arms and sleep?

They run and the shouts are heard as they hurl the hammers and leap.

And he, the broad and the tall, the hardy of arm and the fast,

He has tossed it beyond them all, he has run the best of them last.

And thrice the Silver has spoken, for thrice in the ripe of the year

Has he taken the goodly token, the crowning of eyes, and the cheer.

Oh, legs that were found so fleet! Oh, the arms so sure with the shot!

Oh, glory of hands and feet, there are no more palms to be got.

Hail to his deeds and his days! Thrice hail! again and again!

And shout with a pæan to praise a prince of the princes of men.

To P.M., 5TH JULY, 1917.

And the word went forth, and the vow led him to the utter end.

Dear hero of old, how now heroic! dear smile! dear friend! [page 18]


ENOUGH! We flash a whit too free

    The accusing tempest of our stings.

Truth needs no clamours, rather she

    May turn upon our clamourings

        And bite more deep than we.

In every street a Kaiser stands:

    Whoever held the creed accursed

That of his country’s high commands

    Her service of herself was first,

        This war is at his hands.

Who thought expediency sufficed

    To speed his nation to her goal,

Who at a meaner value priced

    The human than the patriot soul,

        He is this anti-Christ,

Whose loftiest aim was power and place,

    Deaf to the inner kingdom’s needs;

Who prated of a chosen race

    Outstanding from the lesser breeds;

        Till God turned back his face. [page 19]

Nay we, we also wrought the wrong:

    All we that unprotesting stood,

We armed the foe, we made him strong;

    We, tardy servants of the good,

        What are we but one throng?

One throng to suffer one defeat

    Ere we for Thee can win the day,

When, one before Thy judgment seat,

    Thy broken children, Lord, shall lay

        Their kingdoms at Thy feet. [page 20]


BEAUTY of sight, strange beauty of scent and sound,

    Its breath is separation. To and fro

    It travails from the fields where sweet-briers grow

Or from the mountains, restless, homeless, bound

For some forgotten, some far holier ground,

    Till suddenly, as now, a sunset glow

    Points with a shock of meaning, and we know

The soul of beauty is a lost thing found.

That dear circumference of an hundred hills,

    Those woods descending, under whose dark shores

        These valleys nest the climbing kine, and we

        Whose hearts so rarely take our peace—Oh see,

    How upon each that rosy secret pours,

And all in one remembering touch fulfils! [page 21]


I SPEAK of Beauty, Beauty that is sad

    The more that she is lovely; lovelier

    The more that she is sad. I speak of her

Whose guise is all disguise—a cobweb clad

In sunny dew—a sudden haunting had

    In a valley of sleeping elms—a gleam, a stir,

    A glory, half time’s brooding prisoner,

Half timeless joy, too royal to be glad.

And still I say—not we that stand and look

    Judge Beauty; but we stand at her assize

    And are arraigned by her imperious eyes.

And every rapture is an ageless book

Wherein they are writ who never once forsook

    Her summons, or the kingdom where she lies. [page 22]


REMOTE upon a sunny ledge below

    Twin banks of cedar in a broad ravine

    Three maples front the valley. All between,

Blue shadows and the blazing April snow,

And the black wells of the first waterflow:

    Beyond, the hills, vast carpets of pale green

    And rocky pits of lavender, serene

And separate as a tale of long ago.

Oh! not the lust of the eyes and the pride of life

    This beauty! Not the world that passes! Not

    Its glances! but the deep reminding gaze

Of peace with less than peace ever at strife,

    And loveliness that never yet forgot

    The discipline that magnifies our days. [page 23]


THERE is a gleam along the river bend

    That is not in the river; and within

    Each loveliness a stranger. Who would win

The soul of beauty must forever spend

His all to count that stranger as his friend,

    His waiting prince, his nearest care and kin,

    Shaper and critic, maker, discipline,

His way and star, his journey and its end.

For beauty is no other than the good

    Of all the world, claiming and answering

Its want and wonder; often on the road

    Unknown, and yet before its vanishing

    So near, so still, so fond for all its sting,

Our hearts that burned within us understood. [page 24]


SO many times my poplar by the shore

    Has reddened in the sunset, and her leaves

    Have felt and air no creature else receives,

Dancing to secret music. And my oar

So often passed, yet always I forebore

    To ponder on that ritual. Now these eves

    Are numbered unto autumn, and the sheaves

Of these communicable hours, the store

Of summer’s flaunting, will be garnered soon,

    And the last bird be stilled. Then seek, oh seek

    The deep exultant source whereof they speak!

    That stains their web with colours of its dream,

And even our unconcern can importune

    With interruptions, casual yet supreme! [page 25]


OH, what a bank! mocking the South with hues

    Keener than April’s towering canopy!

    Crocus and scyllas lapt in green, a sea

Of saffrons, purples, gleaming whites, and blues

Crowding your feet. But stare as you may choose

    You cannot make them yours, you cannot be

    More than the lover of their mystery,

That giving much, yet so much more refuse.

But you can follow sterner loves than they;

    And loyalties far harder to be known;

Beauty still more withholding, lest you stay.

    And, at the end, not your stern love alone,

But all the uncaptured hauntings of your day

    Shall claim you with one greeting for their own. [page 26]


NO little, private, casual pursuit

    Is freedom, or to be chosen as we please.

    Her motions are as ancient as the seas

Around the earth, her ends as absolute.

And still she says, her grandest voices mute

    To our deaf ears, her holiest harmonies

    Unheard, save only when some sudden breeze

Brings incense long forgotten, and the acute

Remembering of those green waters far

    Beyond our hills, and swift communion then

    To join us to our steadfast soul again,

And to the secret beauty whose cool star

    Smiles on the sad alternatives of men,

So busy where their waiting treasures are. [page 27]


SURELY that warble has outstripped all need,

    And is so lovely for sheer loveliness!

    Such ecstasy as we too might express

Were we but outlaws from the human creed

That schools the flood of bounty! But the breed

    That most loves freedom, most the days oppress.

    What nature takes for nothing we distress

Our lives to earn, and seldom then succeed.

Strange citizens of worlds unreconciled,

    Whose nobler joy, when we can heed, outsings

The wilderness, with music yet more wild

And lovely! But whose age-long discipline

    Teaches so few to heed, and often clings

So closely that we choke the power within! [page 28]


INCESSANT as the crowding surf at play

    The thoughts of freedom march upon the heart.

    Swift as the arrows of the surf that dart

Athwart the sand-bars breaking spray with spray

These thoughts must with your freedom flash away,

    The mood of exaltation must depart,

    The inner ear be closing, and the mart

Of tangled aims possess your pauseless day.

Yet if this deep division of your thought

No coward will, no mean refusal wrought,

    Shame is not due. Our Master may be served

More than one way. ’Tis loyalty He asks,

Rather than anxious choosing of His tasks,

    And has a world of service yet reserved. [page 29]


THE cause of freedom is twice threatened: those

    Betray it first who compass for their state

    No noble river bearing up a freight

Of high adventure, but a flood that knows

No purpose but its own, and overflows

    Till none can wear against it. Yet to abate

    That evil by the fear of being great

Is worse despite; and freedom’s equal foes

Are those mean spirits who forever teach

    A narrow safety, who abhor the rôle

    Of chivalry, and for their country’s goal

Not service but a but a hermitage must preach.

Their waters never to the ocean reach

    But stagnate in a marsh that rots the soul. [page 30]


ARE these your boasts, Democracy, and these?

    Having no reverence but to hold in awe

    All men’s opinion? Hot to make a law

Whenever prudes may fear or prigs may please?

Abject to count the year ill-spent that sees

    No novel tyrant, no new pert bashaw

    Capped to prescribe your goings, and to draw

The lines around your dearest liberties?

This is no virtue; this is no advance.

This toleration of intolerance

    Betrays your faith. There is one Absolute

Alone to serve, and freedom serves Him best,

And patient climbing to His law. The rest,

    Oh, for some tonic anger to confute! [page 31]


LOVE, we entreat thee, O Lordly One, come not near to our roads!

Leave thou the woods and the maidens! And wake them not with thine odes!

Twenty years and more have we all of us laughed together.

Twenty years have we lingered by water and radiant weather.

And never a jot we cared for beauty, only to give

Another sisterly grace to the joy that seeks but to live.

But see, we have heard, O Love, that a sadness waits on the bough

Sooner or later for all! O Love, we have heard it is thou!

And see, we have learned an utterance newly, stupidly soft!

And silence creeps in the fields of our gathering now too oft.

And one there is that has lost the soul that steeps river.

Now he stands by night where star-eyed gossamers quiver.

What! is it thou hast deftly, thou hast deftly, thou that severest all,

Broken the flock of our peace? Ah, may it never befall! [page 32]

O bring thou not here to the eyes a gleam that is more than light,

When hardly we know if we love, or only answer the light!

For these are sacred places, and well-remembered abodes.

Therefore, O Love, I entreat thee, keep thou afar from our roads! [page 33]



O THAT Mazzini from his grave could come

    To wake the sleeping beauty of your soul,

Italy, unto all our asking dumb,

    Though Bissolati calls you to the goal

Of such redemption that no hearth is wronged,

    No other hope enslaved, no cause blashphemed,

No outer court with bitter helots thronged

    When our true Italy stands forth redeemed.

O that Mazzini, blasting with his scorn

    All “sacro egoismo,” spoke for you;

Not that mock Dante once to love forsworn,

    And now to holiest chivalry untrue,

And to that star men followed to your birth

Shining to-day the only hope of earth! [page 34]


ONCE more the all-hoping sun diminished!

    And flat beneath the blackened the West

Another million crawlings finished

    Of nameless hasters faint for rest!

What phœnix did their embers utter?

    The hot indignant stars receive

Vain smoke of smothered wills that flutter

    Alive and dead from morn to eve!

These clouding into countless days,

    They swarming into years on years,

To give how seldom from the maze

    Some noble laughter, or nobler tears!

To give, and then again to creep

Blind waves upon a brooding deep! [page 35]


OH, we poor creatures, grovelling, forspent!

    Whose best ambition, if for one brave season

We see our highest, is to be content

    To preach that highest for the lowest reason,

And so to lose it! And to lose the power

    To see it! Power that only in courage stands,

And in the pride that serves from hour to hour

    One Kingdom only, never made with hands!

Thus reasonable, till we make reason sick

    With our safe speech, and practical until

The wheels of doing in that quagmire stick

    Past any hope, we face the Sovereign hill

Whose top so soars into the misty sky,

“There is no substance there at all,” we cry! [page 36]


STRANGE years ago you grudged to say: “Before

    You are citizens or fathers, you are men!”

And we that at your beck laid store to store,

    Little had we for our allegiance then.

But that brave day when from beyond your seas

    Claims heard you far above your native good,

And gave your instant loyalty to these—

    Then felt we first your sovereign Motherhood.

Therefore for these, dear country, found at last,

    Spend of our best, and still be strong to spend!

Life, freedom, all our harvest of the past—

    What are they but as ransom for that end

In whose triumph your true pride disdains

That you should gain save as the whole world gains! [page 37]


AND, after this, what is our faith to find?

    For morning what more solid hope have we

Of haven from this shipwreck of mankind,

    Who lie at evening chartless on the sea?

Unchanging, unpreparing, halting still,

    Oh, what strange magic trust we then to unfold

Glad harvest of the fields we never till,

    Fruit of no purpose ever sown of old?

What seek we to repair this piteous time?

    What shape we to compel the thing we seek?

Brothers, the good we plan not is the crime

    That mothers all this ruin. Ere we speak

Our answer lies within us, and our star:

We have to-morrow what to-day we are. [page 38]


O MY children, wake!

Choose you which you take—

On the right side birchen groves

And leafy fronds for happy loves

Then a dip

And coasts of green

And seamanship

Such a lazy seamanship

Of fire-weed through the ferns between

Choose you this and you shall keep

A joy, a story, and a sleep.

Ah but children, yonder, lo

Very skies of fire-weed glow!

And the stairy lakes lead on

Pine-wards to oblivion

And the hills that no men know!

Only, beyond the hooded aisle

Where the peering cedars wait

And the stealing glooms awhile

Spread a carpet at the gate

Of the utmost silver eve

With a wonder old and lowly

If at last their temple holy

Shall its retinue receive,

There if you too watch the star,

If you send your soul afar,

Many a year shall pass in vain

Ere you shall find your soul again! [page 39]

My acknowledgments are due to the former editor of the University Magazine and to the Committee in charge of the Poetry Year Book of the Montreal Poetry Group, for permission to reprint some of the poems appearing in this volume.


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