Poems and Essays

by Joseph Howe




My Birth-day is it? Take a kiss,
    Thou junior of my line;
The thirteenth! yes, by George it is;
    And I am fifty-nine. [Page 132]

Come hither, Boy, and let us dream
    Of birth-days long gone by;
Cloudless and merry many seem,
    And some that make me sigh.

My first was stormy, wind North-west
    The gathering snow-drifts piled;
But cosy was the Mother’s breast,
    Where lay the new-born child.

And ever kind and ever true
    That Mother was to me,
As yours has ever been to you,
    And will for ever be.

And thirteen times the day came round,
    Within that happy home;
The “North West Arm’s” enchanted ground,
    Ere I began to roam.

’Midst Trees, and Birds, and Summer Flowers,
    Those fleeting years went by;
With sports and books the joyous hours,
    Like lightning seemed to fly.

The Rod, the Gun, the Spear, the Oar,
    I plied by Lake and Sea—
Happy to swim from shore to shore,
    Or rove the Woodlands free.

To skim the Pond in Winter time,
    To pluck the flowers of Spring,
’Twas then I first began to rhyme,
    And verses crude to string. [Page 133]

You see the Picture o’er the fire,
    That smiles upon us now,
The pleasant face we still admire—
    The broad and noble brow

Stamp’d by the Maker’s hand with lines,
    That he who runs may read,
The Christian Patriarch, there he shines,
    In thought, in word, in deed.

He was my playmate in those years,
    My Father, friend, and guide,
I shared his smiles, and dried his tears,
    Was ever at his side.

And oh! my boy, when Death shall come
    And close my eyelids dim,
May you, where’er your footsteps roam,
    Love me as I loved him.

My next ten Birth-days Labor claimed,
    And hard I work’d, my son;
But still at something higher aimed
    Whene’er my toil was done.

I work’d the Press from morn till night,
    And learn’d the types to set,
And earn’d my bread with young delight,
    As you will earn it yet.

In the dull metal that I moved
    For many a weary hour,
I found the Knowledge that I loved,
    The Life, the Light, the Power. [Page 134]

But something more turned those young days
    Of steady toil to joy—
Something we both may kindly praise,
    Your Mother’s smile, my Boy.

And now that I am growing old,
    My Lyre but loosely strung,
For God’s best gift my thanks be told,
    I loved while I was young.

For five-and-thirty years that love
    My varied life has cheer’d,
Through all its mazes deftly wove,
    The light by which I steer’d.

Each birth-day brought its glad increase,
    Whatever fortune came;
In storm or sunshine—war or peace,
    That smile was still the same.

Birth-days there were when both were sad,
    When loved ones went to Heaven;
On this, thank God, our hearts are glad,
    To Joy let this be given.

And, youngster, when in after years,
    Your son sits on your knee,
Half smiling through the starting tears,
    Then think of ’63.

Dec. 13, 1863. [Page 135]