Poems and Essays

by Joseph Howe




[Written at Musquodoboit, after the elections, in 1847.]

Sister mine, I’m home at last,
     Life’s severest conflict’s o’er,
The seals are set upon the past,
And, like a tempest-shaken mast,
That press of sail, and shot, and blast,
     Have spared to reach the friendly shore,
Conscious of neither warp nor strain,
And draped with bunting once again;
Be mine, the task, my dearest Jane,
Forgetting ocean’s helter-skelter,
To deck the port I’ve toiled to shelter.

Sister mine, when April showers
     Strewed with buds each woodland glade,
Our hearts expanding like the flowers,
     A tryst betwixt us two was made,
How kept, you know; or, by this token,
You rather know how it was broken.
When summer came, and you were free,
     No hour had I to call my own;
And now the sunny hours have flown,
The cares of life environ thee.
Another year must pass, ere we,
With tearful eyes and full hearts yearning,
Our steps to keep that tryst are turning.
Would we had kept it, sister mine,
     And looked into each other’s faces,
For I would mark, with jealous care, [Page 96]
     The slightest touch, the faintest traces
That Time, upon that form of thine
     Has left, and miser-like, compare
The treasure spared, with what I knew
When first his light wing o’er us flew.
We cannot meet, but yet our souls
     Ever commingle day and night,
The past our current thoughts controls,
     Our hearts are mutual in our dreams,
At times how somber, then how bright,
     We climb the hills, and trace the streams
In which we used to take delight,
Recalling scenes receding ever,
And forms, to be forgotten—never!

     That circle first, beside the sea,
So dearly loved by you and me,
On which, as in Art’s grandest themes,
The light of love divinely beams,
From one whose gracious presence seems
To bless the Earth, and charm the Air,
And shed effulgence everywhere.
Oh! how we loved him, love him now,
Our noble Father. By his side
My Mother, who my faults would chide,
With cares domestic on her brow,
More wayward, and of sterner mood,
But ever provident and good;
Hating all shams, and looking through
The Beautiful, to find the True, [Page 97]
Sits knitting by the window pane,
Can you not see her, dearest Jane?

     The Cottage too, its ashes now
     Are borne on every idle wind,
The walls are down, and not a tree
     We loved remains, but yet how soon
We can replace it on the brow
     Of that sweet knoll, and, if reclined,
Restore it all, as you and me
     Prized it all earthly piles aboon.

     The dear old place, so quaint and queer,
Our home for many a pleasant year.
By Pine Groves from the world shut out,
And battlemented round about
With rude stone walls, that cleared the soil,
     And shelter to the bushes yielded,
Where grew our treasures, precious spoil,
     From cutting winds securely shielded.
The Lilac Hedge, rememberest thou,
     That wandering lovers used to rifle.
The Barn, and then the old red Cow
     That gave us syllabubs, and trifle?
See’st thou the Apple Trees in bloom,
     Or leaves with Cherries gaily braided?
The stiff old Poplars grim and high,
Like sentinels dropped from the sky,
     To guard the door they never shaded.

         Half hid ’neath Blackberries and Roses,
The crystal Spring is yet o’erflowing; [Page 98]
Unlike Narcissus, we can gaze,
And by the light of other days,
Find in its depths vain thoughts to smother,
And still more dearly love—each other.

     The Lawn, with Oak trees round the edges,
     Sister mine, how oft we’ve trod,
North the Currants formed the hedges,
     South the Maples worshipped God;
Lovely when the sap was flowing,
Lovelier still in Autumn glowing,
Smiling when the Sun caressed them,
When the Frosts in purple dressed them,
Smiling still as we should smile,
Looking heavenward all the while,
Though the Frosts have sometimes found us
With our kindred falling round us.

         The “Arm,” upon it be my blessing,
     Yet in beauty ebbs and flows;
Labor’s hands its shores are dressing,
Crime, upon its margin pressing,
     Sad purgation undergoes.
Carriage drives are formed and forming,
     Where our feet but pathways found,
And the Boutelliers* are storming
     With the pick our berry ground.
But the water yet remaineth
     Blue and cheery as before,
Not a cove but still retaineth
     Wavelets that we loved of yore, [Page 99]
Lightly up the rock-weeds lifting,
     Gently murmuring o’er the sand,
Like romping girls each other chasing,
     Ever brilliant, ever shifting,
Interlaced and interlacing,
     Till they sink upon the strand.
     Sweet the voice of music sounds

On that lovely bay at night
When, as the oar the water wounds,
     ’Tis bathed with phosphorescent light.
And the Indian’s torch, afar
Glimmers like a fallen star.
Pleasant was it to behold
The veil of fog, at morning roll’d
By the sun from off that bay,
While it like a mirror lay;
Bridal vesture drawn aside,
Never lovelier looked the bride.

Pleasant was it, Sister mine,
When the evening sun would shine
     Down the “Arm” in all his splendor,
Like a lover, warmer growing,
As the hour approached for going;
     Then, as grew the tints more tender,—
Pleasant ’twas to see him fade
In rosy bowers his beams had made,
Lighting with his sweetest smile,
What appeared his funeral pile,
As the Monarch we are told
Midst “barbaric pearls and gold,” [Page 100]
On the couch his hand had fired,
Like a reveller expired.

Could we have kept our treasures round us
     Till the parting hour, dear Jane,
Oh how rich the year had found us,
     How exulting then the strain;
But of loving, count the cost
In the treasures we have lost.

Nearly all that stood around us
     In the sunlight on that shore,
All that to that Cottage bound us,
     To the grave have gone before.
As we gaze upon the Ocean,
     Calm and tranquil as it lies,
Who can check our souls’ emotion?
     Who shall dry our tearful eyes?

      The sea has pictures, Art might sigh for,
     Grand and terrible and true,
Tableaux that our thoughts enthrall,
Scenes that Memory can recall,
Vividly each tint retaining
Till our senses, over-straining
     Clutch the very forms we view.
         Those we’ve nestled and would die for.
Two such pictures hang, unfading,
     In our hearts, my dearest Jane;
How intense the depth of shading,
     Every ray of light is pain;
But the pleasant faces round us, [Page 101]
     And the happy homes we share
Win us from the thoughts that wound us,
     And forbid us to despair.

Sacred are the dead who’ve perished
     On the land and on the main,
Be their mem’ries ever cherished,
     But to Joy let’s turn again;
Good, and dutiful, and true,
Toil your girls to comfort you,
And my children full of grace
Make my Home a holy place,
Where work and study, thought and play,
Alternate, wile the hours away.
Come and see us, Sister mine,
     Welcome shall your footsteps be
Merry eyes will brighter shine,
     Eager arms be stretched for thee—
Come, and she, who, by my side,
From the hour I claimed my bride
Has bred my chicks, and made the nest
Ever jocund, ever blest,
Shall strain you to the heart I’ve proved,
And tell you how your brother loved. [Page 102]  

* A family living in the neighbourhood. [back]