[unnumbered page, includes illustration: THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS]
Petals from the Flower of Song
Herbert E. Collins
Edward Morrison, B. A.
Cover Design and Frontispiece
It is after some days of misgiving in regard to the wisdom of the venture, that Mr. Collins has been induced to collect into a small volume his lyrics, which have brought so much delight to his friends during the past few years.
“Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.”
After all, the real root of all poetry is in the human heart. The mind is cold and critical. It plans and plots; it examines and sifts. Man with the mind alone is but a mean creature. It is man the hoper, man the dreamer, the eternal child of delight and despair, who is the hero of nature and the darling of the ages. Because of this, true poetry will always be to him a language speaking to him from the highest levels of his being, and a translation from a divine tongue emanating from the mystery and will of God.
The author brings this little book of verse as a votive [page III] offering into the Temple of Friendship. He trusts that all will read it, not with the keenest glasses in the world, but read it leniently, and forgive all its trespasses.
“For if of these fallen petals
One to you seem fair,
Love will waft till it settles
On your hair.
And when wind and winter harden
All the loveless land,
It will whisper of the garden,
You will understand.”
Hamilton, Ont., Edward Morrison
Sept. 20th, 1916 [page IV]
To My Readers
The message of the violets
Comes not more deeply true
Than these few tender thoughts of love
Go from my heart to you. [page 1]
To those who are leaving this School to enter the larger School of Life.
(Written for the Graduates of the Hamilton Collegiate of the Spring of 1914.)
You who leave these halls of learning
After some few years of strife,
To assume the sterner duties
In the larger School of Life;
Who are standing on the threshold,
May I speak a word to you,
That will help you fight the battle,
Give you courage, see you through.
There’s a maxim old and trusted
You should ever bear in mind—
Sow a thought and reap an action,
Sow an act and you will find
That a habit you’ve created,
Which you’d better watch with care;
Sow the habit—though so gently—
There’s the character you bear: [page 2]
Sow the character, and as surely
As the gray dawn follows night,
You will reap in time your destiny,—
Be sure you have it right.
Let Endeavour be your watchword,
And let Honour be your guide,
Trust her, she will lead you safely,
You’ll have nought to fear beside.
Let Ambition—worthy motive—
Serve you only in the good
It may help you do to others,
Work for self has never stood.
Let your aim be high as heaven,
Mind not if you miss your goal;
Though you fail ’mid honest striving
This be yours—a noble soul. [page 3]
AT THE FRONT
On a foreign shore, ’neath an alien sky, our brave boys nobly stand,
Shoulder to shoulder, arm to arm, with rifle and with brand;
Onward they march to meet the foe, so dauntless and so brave,
Onward—many to victory, but some—some to the grave.
The Englishmen, the Scotchmen, the Irishmen are there,
Brave Hindus and Australians, too, are bound to do their share;
But the loyal lads from Canada are equal to them all,
And they’ll show them that Canadians, too, are not afraid to fall.
The Lion is aroused and her cubs have gone along
To assist her in the overthrow of tyranny and wrong;
To lay the vile oppressor low, and break his power of might,
And establish firm and steadfast there the principles of right. [page 4]
Though bullets whizz around their heads, our boys will never flinch,
Though bayonets and sabres gleam, they will not yield an inch;
They’ll march and fight through blinding rain or ’neath the blazing sun,
And they’ll keep it up, too, mind you, until our cause is won.
And often in the evening, when the camp-fire smoulders low,
And the struggling moon gleams fitfully on the snow-white tents below,
Then the tired and wounded soldier, in the token from his breast,
Sees visions of home so far away, and mother, and—the rest. [page 5]
THE PASSING OF MYTHOLOGY
“There is something sad in the extinction of a really fine mythology. Together with much worthless superstition, a certain element of poetry is thereby taken from the world, never to be replaced.”—John L. Stoddard.
The gods have left Olympus high,
The gods our fathers knew,
The realms where fairies used to dwell
Are disenchanted, too.
Our lives are bare without them all,
We lose them with regret;
Our world is now too workaday,
We read them—then forget.
The Nymphs are driven from the streams,
The Dryads from the trees,
On mountain sides no Oreads dwell,
Nor Neptune in the seas.
The sun is robb’d of Phoebus, too,
No more a god he seems;
Fierce Odin and Valhalla’s halls
Are fainter than our dreams. [page 6]
No more through air, o’er battle’s din,
The fair Valkyries ride;
No more sits Jupiter in heaven
With Juno by his side.
The moon was fair Diana once,
Now just the cold, white moon;
The winds are dead since Aeolus
Has left them—all too soon.
The souls, that leave earth now, pass o’er
Without old Charon’s aid;
The gods might still their nectar sip
If Ganymede had stay’d.
Sad, is it not, that these must pass
And never come again?
The world is poorer by their loss:
Why could they not remain?
They’ve left a void within our midst,
Their voices now are still’d;
The place they held in lives of old
Can never be refill’d. [page 7]
WE WERE ALWAYS OLD CHUMS, MOTHER DEAR
An aged man was sitting by the firelight’s evening glow,
Thinking of the days beyond recall;
As he gazed into the embers, ’mid the scenes of long ago,
His fancy saw his sainted mother’s face.
She looked as sweet and fair as when she left him,
And his heart with inexpressive [illegible word] yearned,
For long years had passed since they’d been chums together.
And he murmured, as his cheeks the teardrops burned:
“We were always old chums, Mother dear,
And I never was sad with you near me;
So again when we meet, will my joy be complete,
For we’ll still be old chums, Mother dear.” [page 8]
He lived again in fancy all those well-remembered days,
Seated by his loving mother’s knee;
As he looked into her fond eyes with his honest, boyish gaze
He though that they could never parted be,
For they had always been such chums together,
And their lives were bound together heart to heart;
And he’d say: “I could not live without you, Mother,
If the time should come when we would have to part,
For we’re always old chums, Mother dear,
And my heart’s always glad when you’re near me.
My joy is complete while I sit at your feet,
For we’re always old chums, Mother dear.” [page 9]
TO MY BELOVED
Oh bright is yon evening star, Dear,
The brightest in all the sky,
But higher far than any star
Is the twinkle in your eye.
The rippling rill runs laughing along,
And the sunshine laughs all day,
But sunshine or rill a thousand times, still
You are merrier far than they.
The dew in the chalice of lily fair,
The nectar that Venus sips,—
Oh the gods and the bee may envy me
The sweetness of your sweet lips.
The zephyr of Summer may gently caress
The leaf, or the flower, or vine,
But no fairy’s wand e’er so soft as your hand
As it lovingly rests in mine.
Day fades and the deepening twilight falls
Like the tender breath of a sigh,
But more tender and deep than the twilight’s sleep
Is the love-light in your eye. [page 10]
There’s a Fairy dwells in our home, and I wish that you could see
Just how much this little Fairy means in this old world to me;
She plays upon my heart-strings with the touch of a master hand,
And there comes most wondrous music only love can understand.
And often when I’m weary at the closing of the day,
As I sit there in the gloaming by the firelight’s flickering ray,
Then she’ll steal up, Oh! so softly, and she’ll climb upon my knee,
And the touch of her fairy fingers makes this earth a heaven to me.
Then she’ll say, “Now tell a story.” And again a tale is told
Of fairies, and of witches, and of bears, and robbers hold.
Of the world and all it’s sorrows very little do I reck
With her soft cheek pressing mine, and her arms about my neck.
Her childish prattle thrills my heart throughout the livelong day,
And I love her merry laughter as I watch her at her play.
You haven’t one in your home? Then I’m sure as I can be,
That, because of this one Fairy, you wish that you were me. [page 11]
Helen of the hazel eyes,
Laughing as the summer skies,
Ready, aye, for any fun,
Play or ramble, swim or run;
Ever busy as a bee,
Never sitting idle, she,
Watch, see how her needles go,—
Three score pairs of socks, you know;
Says that they will be a treat
For the soldiers’ weary feet.
Quite at home most anywhere,
Kitchen, parlour, camping-chair.
Winsome, witching, wondrous wise,
Helen of the hazel eyes. [page 12]
Come with me and let us wander to the golden days of childhood,
Wander back along the dimly-stretching avenues of time,
For I fain would be a boy again, so careless, free and happy,
And with all a boy’s ambitions, all his plans and hopes sublime.
Once again I see the old home with its orchard and its meadows,
Never have been blossoms sweeter, never sky so clear above,
Every nook and every cranny made a thousand times the dearer
By the gleam and consecration of a wondrous motherlove.
Oft I lay upon the hearth rug on the stormy winter evenings,
And with vision fix’d, enraptured, read loved volumes through and through
In the dim, uncertain glimmer of the fitful beech log burning,
As it sparkled and it crackled and went roaring up the flute. [page 13]
I was one with Robin Crusoe in his trials and his triumphs,
Ali Baba and his Forty Thieves were good enough for me,
I journeyed far with Christian, step by step I trod beside him,
And I supp’d with merry Robin Hood beneath the greenwood tree.
Oh, the dream is all so real, and I know the vision’s splendid,
Now, as ever, vain illusion, far-off fields look green and bright;
But when I scan the sorrows of the wide years intervening,
I wish I were a boy again—but only for tonight. [page 14]
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Flakes of downy whitness
Sifting through the air,
Merry ring of sleighbells
Ruddy squares of brightness
Gleaming through the night,
Happy hearts of children
Round the hearthstone bright;
Eager faces glisten,
Anxious voices hum:—
“Will old Santa fail us?”
“Do you think he’ll come?”
Later, as the evening
Deepens into night,
Mother earth is sleeping,
Coverlet of white;
Watchful eyes grown weary,
Restless little heads
Dreaming of their stockings
In their little beds.
You and I once more, Dear,
Filling heel and toe,
As they did for us, Dear,
Many years ago.
Christmas is the happiest time,
Always will be, too,
While the God of Christmas
Leaves me them and you. [page 15]
THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS.
KINDNESS AND LOVE
When the church bells usher in Christmas Day
The wind may be bitter, the skies be gray,
And there may be many that are in need:
But someone can brighten their sky; indeed
They will not feel the biting wind,
If only somebody will be kind.
When the morning star fades on Christmas morn
There may be envy, and hate, and scorn;
And these will darken the Christmas cheer:
But open your hearts, and, never fear,
They will vanish like ghosts, for they cannot stay
If love dwells within on Christmas Day. [page 16]
Behold yon shadowy grove, a temple fair,
Cathedral old, with richest tapestries
Of woven green from Nature’s [illegible word] loom;
Whose long-drawn aisles invite the worshipper
Amid their tender twilight to commune
There with the Infinite; whose pillar’d pines
Majestic columns, stately and severe,
Uphold the glorious dome of heaven;
Whose incense is the perfume of the pines
From breathing censer swung by unseen hands;
Whose solemn, warbled anthems, from soft throats
Of hidden, feather’d songsters, gently steal
Upon the silence, like the breath of prayer;
Whose altar is the green and mossy knoll
With delicately-flowered drapery,
And many a tinted chalice, from whose rim
The wine of priestly service oft is sipp’d;
And in the corridors a holy hush
And dim religious light pervading all.
O heart, o’ercharged with grief, bowed down by woe,
What blessed peace to find in this retreat
Of leafy nooks and sylvan solitudes,
A sanctuary in the forest dim,
Far, far removed from envy, care and strife!
Leave all, dear heart, flee from the haunts of men,
Where jealous greed each nobler passion kills,
Seek refuge in yon fane not made by hands,
And peace, O God, what peace discover there. [page 17]
THE RESURRECTION OF LIFE
When I see the lilacs blooming in the merry month of Spring,
When I scent the locust-perfume and I hear the bluebirds sing,
When I see the bright-eyed daisies sprinkled o’er the meadow vale,
And the showers of snow-white blossoms sifting through the evening gale,
When I see the golden jonquils to each other nod and nod,
And the dainty purple violets nestling in the emerald sod,
To my heart is borne this fancy, old as time, yet ever new,
Life is once more resurrected, and it lives for me and you. [page 18]
Sweet little songster, warbler fair,
Vestal virgin, thou of song,
The joy of every morning, yea,
And through the whole day long.
O rapturous minstrel, blithe and gay,
When I hear thy notes divine
All my being thrills with ecstasy
As the heart is stirred with wine.
Thy slender pinions ne’er were tried,
A prisoner all thy days,
Yet pour’st thy floods of melody
In uncomplaining lays.
What is the burden of thy song?
Glad thoughts of far-off things?
No, from thy prison’s barren past
No recollection springs.
Hast ever known the fond delights
Or forest, hill and stream?
To thee all nature has been, is,
And must remain a dream.
Then what impels the gladsome strains
That from thy bosom start?
It is the secret, mystic power
Of love within thy heart. [page 19]
Blest emblem of happiness, bird of the sea,
Thrice blessed one, bird of the air,
The gleam of your flight draws my envious heart,
And it’s Oh to soar with you up there!
As light as June clouds in the glow of the west,
As wanton as waves on the strand,
As free as the bloom-scented zephyr of Spring,—
Yet in fancy you’re mine to command.
With graceful and steady and languorous sweep
You glide on your pinions fair
Far, far through the infinite sun-kissed blue
To the heart of the sunset rare.
And there do you glean what no earthling may know
Of the clouds and the sky and the sea,
You bring back rich tales from the Land of My Dreams,
And you whisper them only to me. [page 20]
Oh then you may ride with the wild waves at play,
And sport with the Nereids there,
Or watch the fair Mermaidens sitting below
Acombing their golden hair.
You may soar to such heights as you will, and be one
With the sun and the moon and the stars,
You may wing your swift flight where the rose-color’d dawn
Softly creeps through the Orient bars.
On wondrous bird, blest spirit of light,
I would fain keep you near, for it seems
That my spirit through you lives the life of the sky,
The life of the Land of My Dreams. [page 21]
Fallen leaves that wither’d lie
’Neath the tender Autumn sky,
Everywhere, through field and town,
Ragged, jagged, golden, brown,
Blown about in many a swirl
By October’s gusty whirl;
We may deem you useless, dead,
Scurrying in the rabbit’s tread,
In the lynx’s lonely lair,
Or the forest, bleak and bare,
But, a covering soft and warm,
You are shielding earth from harm,
When the Storm King’s chill embrace
Blasts each fairy woodland place;
Nature’s kind protector, you,
Till soft April’s breath shall woo
Leaf and bud and everything
With the gentlest kiss of Spring.
Yours a part, since time began,
In the great Eternal Plan.
Fallen leaves that wither’d lie,
You shall triumph by and by. [page 22]
The day is done; the sun’s last rays are streaming
Across the sky;
On forest, lake, and distant hilltop gleaming,
And cloudlets high.
The night is come, and stars are shining brightly,
Their vigils keep;
The crickets sing, the dews are falling lightly
Through darkness deep.
Diana now has drawn within her bower,
Fair Queen of Even;
Sweet sleep steals o’er each tree and every flower,
Earth’s boon from heaven. [page 23]
When the shadows of life’s fleeting day fall eastward,
And the hush of evening steals upon the world,
When through the twilight deep
Comes the call to rest and sleep,
And life’s sun is set and every breeze is furl’d;
After toiling in the scorching heat of noontide,
Often fainting ’neath the heavy, heavy load,
When with hearts unstain’d by sin,
We’ve the harvest garner’d in,
And we reach at last the ending of the road;
Then may each of us be found in calm contentment,
And with record clear as when our life begun,
And may He who waits us there
Give us joy beyond compare
With the gladdest words of welcoming, “Well done!” [page 24]
SUNSET IN MUSKOKA
The broad, red sun sinks slowly to his rest
And o’er the heaven sends many a twilight ray
To tinge each fleecy cloud and wooded crest
And mark the closing of another day.
What wonderment, what rapture to behold
The infinite glories of each roseate hue!
Through in its day’s declining ages old,
Yet in its varied splendour ever new.
Oh had I but an artist’s touch to paint
The glad, mad riot of the afterglow,
Ethereal, translucent, flaming, faint,
Surpassing far earth’s richest, fairest show!
Such scenes come only from the Master’s hand,
Which all can sense, but none can understand. [page 25]
MOONLIGHT IN MUSKOKA
The sun in splendour bids farewell to day,
The star of evening ushers in the night,
The full-orb’d moon in radiance holds sway,
And earth is steep’d in silentness and light.
What floods of brightness bathe all things of even,
Each rock and bay, each bush, and tree, and flower,
The fairest, rarest gift to earth from heaven
From set of sun until the dawning hour!
And Oh! the peace, the calmness of it all,
The utter silence that around us lies,
Save for the distant whippoor-will’s sad call,
Or e’en the soaring nighthawk’s plaintive cries!
The while the moon, through infinite spaces whirl’d,
Keeps tender watch above a slumbering world. [page 26]
[unnumbered page, includes illustration: MOONLIGHT IN MUSKOKA]