Poems and Essays

by Joseph Howe




    [The River Stewiacke takes its rise in the high lands to the southward of Mount Tom, and flowing for a distance of 40 miles through one of our finest Agricultural settlements, empties into the Shubenacadie at Fort Ellis. The Inhabitants like those of Musquodoboit, whom they nearly resemble, are off-shoots from the Truro and Onslow stock—but preserve greater simplicity in dress, and manners, than the present Inhabitants of those older Townships. The writer of these lines has done but very imperfect justice to the beauty of the Vale, or the sterling qualities of its Inhabitants; but, believing that there are not wanting in this Country, the materials for poetry, he would fain stimulate other by a few rude illustrations of that opinion.]  
Flow on bright spirit of a pleasant vale—
Type of the social life its fruits sustain:
With steady strength thy noiseless waves prevail
O’er links that check, and fret, but ne’er restrain
Thy gentle passage through the smiling plain;
  Till, blent with other streams, thy beauties fade,
Thy folds are lost within the boundless main:
As they who tread thy banks, in smiles arrayed,
Shall, mingling with their God, forget the forms he made.
Sweet River—’tis not that the sunbeams rest
  Like Lovers’ thoughts upon thy swelling tide,
Catching and shedding beauty—nor that blest
By gushing streamlets from the mountain side,
Thou roll’st along in loveliness and pride,
That I, with such delight am ling’ring here;
  Not e’en the Elms that gracefully preside
Thy banks above, could start the grateful tear,
Nor all the emotions prompt that render thee so dear. [Page 46]
The fruitful fields that spread on either hand,
Won from the forest, by a hardy race;
  The Cottage Homes that near them meekly stand,
Where all my Country’s features I can trace—
Where life’s best feelings have their dwelling place,
Its sterner virtues and endearments sweet,
Where health sits blooming upon every face,
  And hearts with conscious independence beat,
These make me love, fair stream, thy sparkling wave to greet.
Tho’ richer harvests crown the slimy Nile,
A race of slaves are there the fruits to reap;
Tho’ clearer skies above the Tagus smile,
  Let the degenerate hounds their river keep,
And make it still, with tears of blood to weep;
Beside thy banks, Stewiacke, let me recline,
And in thy rural charms my senses steep,
For Freedom, Peace, Industry, all are thine,
And here Religion guards her meek and holy shrine. 
Here dwell the gray haired Sires, who pleased, survey
Their children scattered o’er the fruitful soil;
Who, looking back to many a weary day,
Yet feel themselves repaid for all their toil,
  They know, when e’er they quit this “mortal coil,”
A numerous progeny their steps shall tread,
Whose birthright, lawless power can ne’er despoil,
But who in peace will earn their daily bread,
And hallow in their lives the memories of the dead. [Page 47]
Here dwell the fruitful mothers, who supply
The tide of life that swells along the vale,
On whose chaste beds no blighting curses lie,
Whose hands ne’er tire—whose spirits rarely fail.
Unlike the wretched beings, worn and pale,
  Who, in the crowded city’s poor retreats,
Hear with dismay, the newborn infant’s wail,
And ill can spare the scanty food it eats,
While luxury’s pamper’d steeds go prancing through the streets.
Here buoyant youths their hardy nurture speak,
  With brows erect, and manners frank and free;
The well knit frame, and ruddy sunburnt cheek,
Shew that the sons of sloth they scorn to be.
With grateful thoughts thy pleasant fields they see,
And, as their fathers sink into the grave,
  Resting, sweet stream, their time worn forms by thee,
They think of all they dared—of all they gave,
And go with cheerful hearts their lighter cares to brave.
And few there are in loneliness that ply
The varied labors that their hands employ;
  There’s many a rosy lip and beaming eye,
And many a face all radiant with joy,
To catch the fancy of the sanguine boy,
And lure to love-walks by the River side.
No maidens these with idle fools to toy,
  The slaves of fashion, or the dupes of pride,
But form’d true hearts to prize, and poor men’s households               guide. [Page 48]
Oh! mighty Father, whose judicious hand
Taught this sweet Vale to “blossom as the rose,”
Still bless with scenes like this my native land;
  Where’er a sparkling River onward flows,
Foster the habits that ensure repose,
And strike the gen’rous roots of virtue deep;
O’er Luxury, and all its train of woes.
Let not my Country e’er have cause to weep,
But still its nerves of steel, and graceful vigor keep. [Page 49]