Mary Elizabeth Colman
The Immigrants
30th Aug 2022Posted in: Mary Elizabeth Colman, Modernist Poets 0

OF THIS EDITION OF THE IMMIGRANTS, BY MARIE ZIBETH COLMAN, TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY COPIES HAVE BEEN PRINTED. THIS CHAP-BOOK IS A PRODUCT OF THE RYERSON PRESS, TORONTO, CANADA.

Copyright, Canada, 1929

by The Ryerson Press

Of these poems “Jehovah Shalom” was published in the Canadian Bookman, and “Tearless” was the 1929 winner of the MacDougall Prize.

Mary Elizabeth Colman was born in Victoria, B.C., of mingled English and French descent. She received her education at the Central Collegiate, Winnipeg, Man.; at the College de Rolle, Switzerland, and at the University of British Columbia. At present she is a teacher in the Vancouver schools, and a contributor of short stories, poems and articles to various periodicals. Her work, whether in fiction or in poetry, is marked throughout by an alert and broad sympathy, especially towards childhood, and towards those “strangers within our gates,” of which this chap-book mainly treats.

—A. Ermalinger Fraser

[inside front cover]

[illustration:  The RYERSON POETRY CHAP-BOOKS]

To

All Canadians by choice,

and to the dearest of them all:

MY MOTHER


The Immigrants

By Marie Zibeth Colman

◊◊◊◊

PIONEER HOME

O FRIENDLY land, where thy deep bosom swells

To meet the sea’s embrace I build my home.

The coursing blood that throbs with rhythmic beat

Attuned to this hoarse wind and champing sea

Is English blood, and I am England’s son—

But thou, fair land, art mine by choice, my bride;

Thy generous breast shall suckle all my sons;

And in thine arms at length I’ll close my eyes,

Content to know my dust a part of thine.

O glorious land, where upflung hills have plucked

The evening star from heaven I build my home. [page 1]

JEHOVAH SHALOM*

THE opal plumes of smoke from shop and mill

Are tinged with gold upon the rim of heaven;

The fecund smell from my small plot of earth

Speaks of returning spring. Where is my spade?

I must prepare the ground for Lena’s peas

And lettuces. Hail, Mother Earth, to thee,

Thou fertile nurse! Bless now thy children’s toil.

How still the air—there is no sound to break

The pregnant hush—I am oppressed with fear,

For I have lived this hour before…

A tramping in the streets—the soldiery!

Lena! Ivan!…’Tis naught…see, I laugh too…

But for an instant I was far away;

Old terrors clutched at me with deathly hands…

A merry song that dances on the lips,

For I would live new hours, forget the old…

Lena forgets. Only sometimes I see

A flame in her when she cuts the bread and meat

Slice upon slice, and gives the children more

Than even their young bellies would demand,

And once I saw her clutch Ivan and hold

The startled lad to her with arms of steel

When a Salvation Army bugle call

Shattered the Sabbath calm…

                                This land is good,

It has fed me and mine, and here I find

Content—and peace—Ah, God! To fear no more,!

To come and go, to sleep and wake, to laugh

(Dear God, to laugh, and hear my children laugh)

In all security!

                                Oh, blessed land,

Where children eat their fill and sleep in peace;

Twice blessed land where men may live as men,

Thrice blessed land where fearless laughter dwells!

Adonoy!† in thy mercy now erase

The tortured years—let me begin anew!


     *The Lord give Peace.

     †The spoken form of “Jaweh,” to the Hebrew a word too sacred for utterance.


[page 2]

FUBUKI*

THEY laugh! They make a mock of me

Because I cannot speak their barbarous tongue—

My lips are used to gentler sounds.

The ancient language of my mother land

Is musical; the words are drops

Of summer rain upon a lily pool.

They laugh at me! Their ancestors

Were painted, shrieking savages when mine

Wrote verses to an opening bud

And carved love lyrics on an ivory fan!

I have found bread here, and to spare;

Who drew my coat about my hungry middle

As surely as the sun went down,

And tossed the cold night through, to wake again

And greet another hungry day.

Nor did aught ever stand ’twixt me and death

Save only that scant bowl of rice

That I might earn, or beg before the night…

But friendly eyes met mine and smiled;

Life sparkled in the cup, a heady wine.

Above these towering, cloud-wreathed peaks

Is spread a leaden sky that melts away

Into a leaden foam-wracked sea;

The biting wind has torn away to death

The last remaining leaves, and now

The naked trees are cowering ’neath his lash.

Unfriendly faces hedge me in;

Cold looks and mocking stares, derisive taunts

And jeers—they scourge my frozen heart

And all my love for this new land is ice.

Oh Canada! Thou givest bread

With lavish hand—my body walks erect,

Well fed and sleek, for labour apt—

But my soul is a mendicant, kneeling for alms;

My heart is a leaf snatched by the wind,

Untimely done to death, and thou the tree.

But what is a leaf? Or why should the sound

Of a beggar’s cry clutch at the heart and blanch

The cheek?

                       Oh, blind! The beggar’s hands

Are heavy with the gifts he bears for thee!


     *Literally, “The Snowstorm”; figuratively, the facing of adverse circumstances courageously, with love of home in the heart.”


[page 3]

ALIEN

I AM afraid. This land is strange to me,

So new, so fierce, so large, with noisy folk

Who speak with strange, harsh tongue, and move so fast

In unexpected ways that my head whirls,

So I can only stand and gaze at them

In a bewildered maze—as stared our cow

The day we sold her on the market place.

How long ago that was…how far away…

Dear hills of home, why did I leave your arms?

How can I love this vast, this clamorous land

Whose noisy people hold me in contempt?

Oh, hills of home, in all this clattering haste

My feet are weary for your cool brown soil,

My ears athirst to hear your gentle streams…

Ah, would to God I were at home again!

*   *   *

LAVRAN’S WIFE

I FEAR night least…

When all the raucous voices of the day

Retreat before the cohorts of the stars—

When all the strangeness of this land is hid,

And every landmark (raw and newly set)

Is blotted out by friendly darkness, old

As time—

              When that old kindly mistress, sleep,

Has gathered to her bosom all my sons,

Wiping from each young face the toil and fret,

The eager commerce of the day, and I,

The lamp held high and shaded by my hand,

Go softly in to draw their blankets up—

When cold as snow I creep into the bed

And Lavran’s arms are a warm nest again—

When this great city lies forgotten, drowned

In deep forgetfulness—

              Then I am glad.

I take against the coming clamorous day

A firmer hold on love—lest all too soon

My wearied hands let fall the precious grail…

Ah yes, I fear night least. [page 4]

TEARLESS

I WEEP no more. Why should I weep?

This house is his, these fertile fields that stretch

In molten glory to the west;

I wear a silken dress, a hat and shoes

On Sunday morning to the church…

Last night when there were none but friendly stars

To see my unbound hair, barefoot

I stole away to feel the honest coolth

Of soil beneath my tired feet.

A piping wind sang canticles of home

And all the earth lay still to hear…

The pool is deep beyond the meadow gate.

I weep no more—the blazing sun

That drinks up every pool—save only one—

Hath ravished me of all my tears.

Dimly I see my children come and go,

They are no longer mine. They live

Remote as though a sea divided us;

And when I speak the gentle words

Of my loved motherland they laugh at me

And answer with a rush of words

Of this new tongue that I can never learn—

I am bereft—but all my babes

Sleep sound and safe beneath the meadow pool.

I weep no more. I have folded my tears

With my wedding gown, and none but the stars know where.

For love is false, and love is dead,

And this new land has stolen my man from me.

When we were poor he kissed my breast

As hand in hand we came to build our home

In faith of this new land where none

Need hunger any more—

                                            My love was lured

By wanton fields away from me;

But I shall wear my wedding dress to-night

And go to darkness as a bride—

And he shall kiss my breast in the meadow pool. [page 5]

BEWILDERMENT

WHEN all the cherry blossoms fell

Like perfumed snow upon the grass,

Barefoot among the hills

I watched our herd of goats.

I carried little bleating kids

And drank their mothers’ creamy milk,

I shared their bed upon the golden straw,

As free and wild as they.

And, oh! ’twas heavenly quiet there; I heard

No sound at all save lilt of brook or bird.

And now the first chill flakes of snow,

Like frozen cherry blossoms, fall

Upon a noisy street…

And I must sit in school

All day, with shoes upon my feet;

I must not walk about the room,

Nor speak at all but when I’m spoken to.

And thus all children do.

It is the custom here, in this new land,

And far too strange a thing to understand.

*   *   *

ROSITA

TICHER, please,

Rosita comes no more

    To school. She keel himself

Last night. Above her fader store

    She keel her with a gun.

She love dat Pedro: say

    She want to marry heem;

Her fader say, mebbe, some day,

    But now she ees too young.

So now she lie in bed

    In ’ospital. She say

Nex’ time for sure she keel her dead

    If no geeve her dat boy. [page 6]

And so her fader say,

    “All ri’, you take dat boy

An’ only say you weel not die.”

    So now Rosita smile.

*     *     *     *

Ticher, please,

Rosita say to geeve

    To you her kind regar’.

She’s very happy where she leeve;

    She’s marry now one year.

Her man he’s work at night

    And make good money, too.

Rosita’s love dat boy all right,

    And Pedro he love her.

Rosita, now she’s fat

    An’ laughing all de time;

She’s live in pretty little flat

    An’ keep it very clean.

She’s got one baby girl

    So leetle an’ so pink!

So sof’ and warm weeth de black curl

    Like feathers on hee’s head.

An’ when Rosita look

    Upon dat babe an’ smile

She’s like Madonna in de book

    Of saints that’s read in church.

*   *   *

KAZUKO SINGS

GENTLE child of an alien race,

What strange words are these,

And whence this yearning melody

You sing?

The music pours from your brown young throat

Like the cry of a mateless lark

That pleads at the very throne of God. [page 7]

Little one, how can you know

Such depths of loneliness?

What dim remembrances

Of bluer skies and rosier dawns

Haunt you in this land of mist,

Painting upon your childish face

That age-old smile of grief?

Has all the loneliness and grief

Of every aching heart

That in far lands has longed for home,

Like crystal beads ablaze,

Been strung, a rosary of tears

For your young soul to wear,

O wistful daughter of the Sun?

*   *   *

SLAVES

YE DO not dream, who only know

The surface rhythm of speeding days—

Their little loss and lesser gain—

Of life that hidden lied, ablaze,

With crimson splendour and with pain

In common folk who come and go

All meek and dumb, in common ways.

Oh, we are slaves, for that we see,

But ye—ye blind—perforce go free.

Yea, slaves are we, forever bound

To suffer for their pain, and moan

For all their woe—cry it abroad

Until it reach the very throne

And heart of an all-pitying God—

Yea, slaves of sorrow are we crowned—

Of common folk who grieve alone.

For ever slaves because we see—

Yet I would not, if I might, go free. [page 8]

THE RYERSON POETRY CHAP-BOOKS

Lorne Pierce—Editor

~ ~

*THE SWEET O’ THE YEAR

By Charles G. D. Roberts

COMPANIONSHIP AND THE CROWD

By W. H. F. Tenny

FORFEIT AND OTHER POEMS

By Kathryn Munro

*THE EAR TRUMPET

By Annie C. Dalton

*A VALE IN LUXOR

By W. V. Newson

*THE PROPHET’S MAN

By Geoffrey B. Riddehough

SHEEP-FOLD

By Leo Cox

*THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS

By Agnes Joynes

BY COBEQUID BAY

By Alexander Louis Fraser

TWELVE POEMS

By Esme Isles-Brown

SONGS FOR SWIFT FEET

By Gostwick Roberts

ECSTASY AND OTHER POEMS

By Elaine M. Catley

*BITS O’ VERSE IN SCOTS

By William P. McKenzie

*DESTINY AND OTHER POEMS

By Mary Matheson

FOWLS O’ THE AIR AND OTHER VERSES IN SCOTS

By William P. McKenzie

*THE BATTLE OF ST. JULIEN

By Kate Colquhoun

SPENDTHRIFTS

By Guy Mason

THE TIDE OF LOVE

By Thomas O’Hagan

FRAGMENTS OF FANTASY

By Nelda MacKinnon Sage

*XII POEMS

By F. Elsie Laurence

COSMIC ORATORY

By “Regis”

THE VIKING’S BRIDE

By Winifred Stevens

*THE BLUE-WALLED VALLEY

By May P. Judge

IN MY GARDEN

By Jean Kilby Rorison

THE IMMIGRANTS

By Marie Zibeth Colman

Fifty cents

————————

*A POOL OF STARS

By Lionel Stevenson

*SPRING IN SAVARY

By Alice Brewer

*THE CAPTIVE GYPSY

By Constance Davies-Woodrow

THE LOST SHIPMATE

By Theodore Goodridge Roberts

*A BREATH OF THE WOODS

By Lilian Leveridge

VAGRANT

By Frederick B. Wall

WHAT-NOTS

By Geoffrey Warburton Cox

*TWENTY AND AFTER

By Nathaniel A. Benson

THE CRY OF INSURGENT YOUTH

By Guy Mason

THE POET CONFIDES

By H. T. J. Coleman

LATER POEMS AND NEW VILLANELLES

S. Frances Harrison (Seranus)

THE FOUNTAIN (A Dramatic Fantasy)

By H. L. Huxlable

MAGIC HILL AND OTHER POEMS

By Mary Matheson

Sixty cents

————————

*SONGS

By John Hanlon

*OTHER SONGS

By John Hanlon

COCKLE-SHELL AND SANDAL-SHOON

By H. T. J. Coleman

*WAIFS OF THE MIND

By W. V. Newson

Seventy-five cents

————————

PAUL PERO

By R. D. Cumming

One Dollar

*The Chap-Books marked with an asterisk are now out of print.

[inside back cover]

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