Poems and Essays

by Joseph Howe




    [While rambling through the County of Sydney, I was forced, by heavy rains, to seek shelter in a Log House, with a family who had seen better days, but who, from the pressure of misfortune, had been obliged to settle in the forest. From the old lady, who was at her wheel, I learned the family history. Three of her daughters had married within a few months after the clearing was begun. “While we were all together,” said she, “we were company for each other—but when the girls were married, the old man began to lose heart—for he thought the others would go too, and we should be left alone in the wilderness. But Agnes cheered him up, and promised to stay with him three years at least. That time is past—but she has kept her word, though she might, if she chose, have been married long since.” There was something to my mind, exceedingly touching in this voluntary surrender of the [Page 139] prospects and pleasures of youth, for the solace and support of age; and if I have not done justice to the subject, it is certainly not because it is unpoetical. I had passed the place some years before, about the time when it is probable the promise had been made. On my second visit, the hopes which I have attributed to the girl had been partially realized, and a few years more will probably place the family in a situation of great comfort and independence.]

        Nay, do not droop, my Father, I will stay,
Though all should leave thee midst the black’ning trees;
I will not go, though better prospects tempt
To homes where less of hardship and of toil
Perchance await me. I will not forsake
The hut, which Age and Fortune’s sad decline
Forced thee within the Wilderness to rear.
Then do not droop, my Father—check the sigh
That o’erwrought feelings, woven from former wrecks
And present desolation, vainly prompt.
We may be happy here—and that which seems
A curse, may yet o’erflow with lasting joys.
Trust me it shall—though now our clearing wears
A dreary aspect—though burnt logs and stumps
Deform the scene, and leave but scanty space
On which the grain its treasures may unfold,
(Our only hope when Summer’s past away;)
Though our Log Hut but poor defence affords
Against the rain, or Winter’s searching blast,
(Unlike the ample home of other days,)
Yet never droop, my Father; we will toil
With steady aim, and meek undaunted hearts,
Until the Wild shall “blossom as the rose,”
And plenty crown our hospitable board. [Page 140]

        From morn till eve shall Agnes at your side
Your spirit soothe and every labor share;
Attentive still, each step, each thought to save,
And chase the shadows from thy anxious brow.
Over the wounds that Poverty inflicts
Upon the noble mind, I’ll pour the balm
That from youth’s sanguine disposition springs,
And catch each fugitive delight, and bid
It nestle where Despair so lately dwelt.

        Though no society, nor books, nor friends,
Here in the Wilderness their pleasures strew,
We’ll have no lonely hours—nor ever sigh
For what, by Providence, has been denied.
The sense of mutual cares, and toils, and hopes,
Our hearts shall knit, with an enduring tie
Promiscuous friendships never yet could boast;
And as we meet beside the Winter fire,
You shall dispense, from out your ample stores,
Instruction to your daughter; by whose smile
All that you’ve seen and read, shall be revived.
Thus I shall grow in knowledge, while you learn
In turning o’er the leaves of Mem’ry’s tome
To sweeten every bitter thought they yield,
By glad recurrence to the present joy.
        Then do not droop, my Father. [Page 141]