Frederick Philip Grove 's "The Dirge"

(Edited and with an Introduction by Terrence Craig)

The first two and the fourth parts of Grove's typescript entitled "Poems" have been published in the tenth number of Canadian Poetry (Spring/Summer, 1982).  Below are the remainder, the third quarter from page 26 to 62, entitled "The Dirge."  In my introduction to the other poems I pointed out that most of this typescript could be dated with some certainty to the months following the death of Grove's daughter in July, 1927:  "The Dirge" poems all refer to this event in one way or another.

     I have made no emendations and present the poems as in the typescript, although I have numbered the lines.  The poems themselves are numbered 1-33, but there is no #32.  This may be the typist's error, as it seems likely that the lines on p. 61 constitute a separate poem that should have been numbered #32.  Nevertheless, I have retained the numbering system of the typescript, omitting #32.

     In April, 1932 the Canadian Forum published 14 of "The Dirge" poems under the title "From THE DIRGE," and with 7 other poems.  This selection was introduced by an overblown and misdirected essay by Robert Ayre, which in two full pages made no mention of Grove's poems or even poetry in general, but concentrated instead on the novels.  The selection of the poems was astute, whether done by Grove, Ayre, or the journal's editors:  redundancy was avoided as much as possible, given the limited topic and range of expression, and the best poems in the whole typescript were singled out.  However, the poetry in the Canadian Forum is not "The Dirge" of the typescript, but is rather a selection of 21 of the best poems in the first three quarters of the typescript.  In the typescript only "The Dirge" poems were numbered instead of titled, but the 21 poems in the Canadian Forum selection have no titles.  The following chart identifies each of these 21 poems, referring either to the titled poems of Parts 1 and 2 of the typescript, or to the untitled but numbered poems of Part 3, "The Dirge."

CF            ts.
1          The Spectral Past (minus 4th stanza)
2          #2
3          The Gods
4          After the Blow
5          #4 (minus 2nd stanza)
6          #5
7          #7
8          #10
9          #17
10        #18
11        #19
12        #23 (minus 2nd stanza)
13        #24
14        #26
15        #28 (1st 6 stanzas)
16        #28 (last 4 stanzas)
17        #30 (minus 4th stanza)
18        The Dunes
19        Fall (October changed to November)
20        Indian Summer
21        Preface

The unity of "The Dirge" is not seriously damaged by this new arrangement, as the titled poems that have been added are still on the same topic, and the final poem is the preface to the entire typescript, summarizing Grove's efforts

To tell posterity in accents terse
How one man felt whom God had bent and rent.

Indeed this arrangement can be seen as an improvement on the tediously long and repetitive typescript arrangement.

     Alterations to punctuation and single words make up most of the variants in the Canadian Forum text.  These variants are listed in the notes.

     I would like to express my appreciation to Richard Bennett of the Elizabeth Dafoe Library, the University of Manitoba, and to Beth Miller of the D.B. Weldon Library, the University of Western Ontario, for their help in the preparation of this material for publication.  I also thank Mr. L. Grove for his permission to publish these poems.


The Dirge




Beauty was shine and slender-bodied grace
Which from within thy spirit had inspired;
And wonder at the dawn lived in thy face,
Preceding knowledge eagerly desired.

Thus all who saw thee marvelled; for thy smile
Flashed forth thy soul, lovely beyond compare,
Disarming ill-will, mall guilt, and guile:
The sight made goodness spring forth everywhere.


Yet wert thou but a child, a step to thee
Was every hop-and-skip; and every word
A laugh that echoed from the wood or lea
Kin wart thou to the colt, the fawn, the bird.


Beauty was thine and slender-bodied grace
Till flew across thy path a blighting breath:
Then, rigid suddenly gleamed thy tender face,
Paled in the stark solemnity of death.





To C.G.

The blow fell; we stood stunned — forced to accept
A world subverted and crepuscular
Which darkness from its core had overcrept;

As if an earthquake, with upheaving jar
Had rocked to light creation's depth which spins
With things unknown and spread them wide and far —

Chaotic things, as when a world begins
Convulsive — things which should unsounded lie:
The hideous tremours of our origins.

And we stood sightless; impotent to try
Where we could find, with bleeding tentacles,
Some token known to orient us by.
Yet, not to understand and know still spells
Some sort of not-unhappiness to man,
Some sort of haven amid surging hells.

For, as the blow was dulled, and as a span
Of time stole in between us and that day
Then only was't that true torment began.


We looked about us then — looked as they may
Who from some nightmare tremblingly awake —
And saw the sun still holding ancient sway;

We saw the moon rise, saw from slough and brake
The mists thread and disperse, the river still
The thirsty bottoms of its valley slake:

And we saw man, contented in his hill
Hurrying to and fro, ant in smug glee
Ant-like, heap treasure against the coming chill!
Then knew we, nought on earth had changed but we
Who stood alone, we two, and grasped at last
What blow had wrenched the present from the past:
That we were two who had but now been three!




This house has grown; I pass from room to room,
And each sound empty, vast, and dully stilled;
Instead of sunshine it is lit with gloom;
My eyes seek dumbly but remain unfilled.

This house has grown; and it surrounds me now
Like to a garment for my limbs too wide.
I pass from room to room; but no more thou,
My child and future, runnest to my side.
This house has grown; and grown, too, has this heart:
Its chambers echo with their thud and ache —
The fierce, dull ache of those who had to part
With all they loved.  O chambers, shake and break!




So this is where you sleep, my tender child?
Here on this hill — the woods press from all sides;
The road loops by; it is the ancient wild:
The raven croaks, wolves bark, a squirrel chides.

And this is where you sleep who never were
Alone in life but there was someone near
As you ran round the bush to worry ere
In play and frolic you did reappear?
So this is where you sleep?  Here will I sit
And, pondering, still will bear you company.
The flowered mound, the carven stone are fit,
Commemorating that you used to be.
Yes, this is where you sleep!  And you are merged
In that vast host of whom these crosses tell;
For more are dead than live; if they all surged
Back into life, they would fill plain and dell.
Sleep without fear, my child, not long alone:
For there is room for me, too, in that throng.
Some quarry even now grows my own stone.
Here will I come; nor will I tarry long.




They tell us that the world is still afoot,
That kings still pose, and parliaments debate;
That nations clamour, blinded by their hate;
That so-called thinkers ancient questions moot.

But younger folk, they say, more passionate,
Do now arise to strike the gnarled root
Of evil in the world; guilt shall no loot
From innocence exact in the new state!
And we remember that we used to take —
(Old stories these of times long long ago) —
In all such things a passing interest.

But now, uncomprehending, do we shake
Our heads at them. They would not clamour so
Had death been their as our unbidden guest.




When infants die, then dies what might have been
But never was; as if the nascent day
In his first midnight hour, as yet unseen,
Expired; and with him time were laid away.

When old men die, then dies that which has been
And leaves its substance; as the dying day
At evenfall becomes a memory, seen
In sunset glory, not to pass away.
But she that left us died in the same hour
When day breaks and rose-fingered clouds suffuse
A green and amber sky, the airy bower
From which steps morning, gallant to persue.
Dawn-eyed she stood at life's forth-jutting edge,
Just reaching out to gather that ripe gift
Which only those who are themselves a pledge
To high endeavour can discern and lift.




(Dance Music Down the Street)

How can they dare to live when she is dead
And not bow down with sorrow to the earth?
How can they laugh and still the boards betread
That underfoot sound hollow with their mirth?

Let silence reign and everlasting dark!
Let not the sun rise, let the moon not wax!
Let no more tides the distant hours mark,
The earth stand still and all in death relax!
Let this sphere crack fitly to mourn its child!
Let ancient chaos reinvade this world,
Abyss bestride abyss, confusedly piled!
And through it let, from upper cycles hurled,
Some poor, lost spirit search as I search now
For some sense in this show. Let him dream still,
With burning eye and with erratic brow,
That he is here some mission to fulfil.
Then will I cry and laugh and raise my voice.
"Hark! Hear the violin strumming to in bow!
"They dance on other planets and rejoice!
"Yet wait! Their end will come, though all too slow!"




We go about and look at all the signs
Which still remind us of her playful day.
Here hangs her swing: the grass is worn away
Beneath the trees. These are the hempen lines

With which she stretched and braced her playhouse tent;
And these the steps down to the river's bank
Which no one trod but she; that is the plank
On which she stood, above the water bent.
And in the house of her one room still tells
Just as she left it: pictures on the wall
Of countries she had seen; coat, shoes, and ball;
Her skates and ribbons, books and stones and shells.
All these remain; and she alone does not;
And they with her, as we, have lost their soul.
We go about and pay the bitter toll
Of hearts too sore but to bemoan their lot.




And do you sleep, my child, eternal sleep,
Dreamless and not disquiet, in your grave?
If so, I envy you. We must still weep
And search and question what we lost or have.

Dreamless and not disquiet — is it true?
Then must it be that there is rest from strife.
And if there is, what was your life to you?
Heroic was it and with greatness rife:
Early you knew what severance is and care
And often ceased to laugh and ceased to smile:
Thus grew your understanding heart, aware
Too poignantly that joys last but awhile.
Yet sprang that smile again as smiles the field,
Caressed by summer breezes at the dawn
Of some yet perfect day to come and yield
Frolic and gladness to the forest fawn.
Sleep, sleep, my child! Lie motionless and still!
Then will I, as I think of you, renew
The memory of your smile and trust no ill
Outbalanced life's due gift of joy to you.




How much more easy were it could be but
Accept all things encrusted in belief !
Then could like others we, with eyes half shut,
Welcome pain, suffering, loss, distress, and grief.

If we could see this life as but a bridge
That spans the gulf from nothingness to all-
Or as a valley whence to scale the ridge
Where glory sits enthroned and gives its call!
Death were a portal then through which we pass
From one life to another, not to die
But to behold what now as in a glass
We dimly see reflected eye to eye.
Alas that such a creed cannot be ours!
We doubt and sorrow, groping with blind heart
For some such thought as that these budding flowers
May symbolise that which thou wert and art.




There is no day on which some do not die;
And all leave gaps. Yet, if all gaps were such,
Man would no longer at life's phantom clutch.
Bare and abandoned would this planet lie,

Washed by a callous sun, a cold, white moon
That shed a barren light on sea and land.
No more would ploughs be guided by man's hand,
No more sails furled beneath the homeward dune.
For who would choose to live when he could cease
To suffer thus? What woman would still bear,
Fearing to lose them, children of dispair?
What man would trust life's fickly promised lease?
Or are your tears sweet balm to those that went
Ahead of us where all of us are bound?
If so, then let us sit upon the ground
And water graves till these our tears be spent!




They come and speak to us, a long, long line.
"Ah," says one, "she is happy! She is saved
"From this world's misery; she will never pine
"In disappointments such as we have braved.

"For what is life?  Does not this very thing
"Unveil its essence?  Does not this thing teach
"That but to live is sorrow — is to fling
"A hand into a void beyond its reach?"
They come to comfort, many, many a one.
"Yes," says another, "happy to be spared
"All evil suffered and all evil done,
"temptations to be shunned or to be dared.
"For she was pure; such was she taken hence,
"Not knowimg sin; who stands immaculate
"Before your memory in her innocence:
"That memory nought can touch! Blessed her fate!"
And others come reproving, many they.
"Why do you stand and stare, despairing so?
"Come and look up!"  Thus does a third one say.
"The stuff that life is made of we all know.
"A short term yet to live remains your lot.
"And life's commandments must you still obey.
"To stand and linger idly profits not.
"Come, find new courage, hard and grim and grey!"



O yes, we know.  Yet she who lived is dead.
And shall we measure grief not to exceed,
In desolation for so dear a head
A meed permitted by some stoic creed?
O yes, we know.  Life is all may beset
By evil running in with force and stress;
And guilt and sin, our common lot, beget
Repentance and remorse as the years press.
O yes, we know.  Dire suffering comes to all,
The deeper it, the greater our own worth.
That laughter turns to tears, and joy to gall,
We know, for we, too, live upon this earth.
Yet she who lived is dead!  We stand and stare,
For we lived in her.  With her in her grave
Lies that of us which made us true and rare:
With her lies all that she unwitting gave.
These hills are green; the meadows slope away;
The sky is blue; softly the tree-tops stir;
We look and see it all; yet not a ray
Of this sun gladdens since it warms not her.
What can we say, what do but with bent brow
That which is left to bear sternly abide?
We had a child, and we have no child now;
And silence has engulfed us like a tide.




No!  Never shall I live again as though
This earth were my legitimate abode
As once I used to live.  At last I know
That this our life is but a winding road

From sea to sea.  At birth we step ashore
We know not whence.  We harvest joy and grief
And glean things left by them that went before
And ween, although they told the journey brief
That youth must last for us though not for all.
Poor fools we!  For the future is even now.
Even now we tire; the vaunted pleasures pall:
We sight the sea; and on our staff we bow.
This is the end and goal; we must embark;
The skiff is waiting; and its sail is bent.
Before us curves the sea; that sea is dark
Though still and smooth as if all storms were spent.
Such is our common lot; we know it well.
But ah that gulfs and bays indent the shore!
And to their heads slopes many a luring dell;
They, too, lead out to sea through straight or bore.

Thus thou, my child, didst still unwearied go
When to an inlet led thy sudden road!
No, never shall I live again as though
This earth were my legitimate abode.




To C.G.

You look at me with anguish in your eye,
Mutely imploring that I boldly speak
From out of my composure what you seek:
The answer to the ancient question, Why.

Stern grow your features that but now were meek.
"You are a man.  Give comfort!" thus they cry.
"You are a man.  Give strength! Your eyes are dry.
"You are a man.  Give, give. . . . .For I am weak."
Alas, I have no comfort.  Man or not,
What matters it?  My strength is but a mask
To hide my weakness from intruding looks.

I have no answer.  Surgings long forgot
Rise up and clamour that I, too, shall ask
What yet, I know too well, no answer brooks.




She lives in me and henceforth am I but
A sacred vessel or a holy shrine
In which, inviolate, mysteries are shut
Such as, unseen, give power to divine

That which is worthy, not of me, but her.
Once did she look on me as on her guide:
But if I led, it was but to confer
Selfhood upon her, hardly yet espied
By her own soul, though clearly seen by me.
Even then I often weighed what I should do
So that, in retrospection, one day she,
Remembering, might approve and find me true.
She is no more; and I was left alone
To mirror what, alas, she might have been.
Mine is the office of him who has known:
I am a priest, initiate, who has seen.




Oh my dear child, much of my life was pain,
And saddened much of yours because of it.
Who would have ever thought that of us twain
It should be I who must thus lonely sit

And spin sad dreams, uncheered by that clear light
That kindles from the contact of two souls.
Fearful we often hovered within sight
Of yonder shore which death, our lord, controls.
But never did we deem it might be you
Who first would cross the darkly gurgling stream
That borders life.  We sighed to think how few
At best the days in common!  Then the gleam
Of tears would I discover in your look
And knew you tried to grasp what loneliness
My death would mean to you; too great to brook.
And I would stroke your hair, tress upon tress.
Still do I speak to you and dimly think
That, somewhere near, you linger, just beyond;
Thus, in a fog, a man might, at the brink
Of some still water, speak across a pond

And hear no answer.  Fastened to my chair
And baffled to perceive that days gone by,
I hold vain converse with the empty air.
Forgive me!  But I wish it had been I.




Tulips, scillas, peonies,
Crocus, snowdrops, hyacinths
Mingle all their riotous tints
With sombre green of cedar trees.

While you lived, my dear, dear child,
Loved you all such gorgeous bloom
In garden, grove, yea, on the tomb —
Grew they planted, grew they wild.
How you wished that you could have
Beds of flowers and window plants
To brighten all your transient haunts!
Now we put them on your grave.
What in life you were denied —
Vagrants have no fixed abode —
On your grave we heap and load
And hope you love it though you died.




I sometimes think when I go up the hill
That I should like to take you by the hand,
If but once more, my child — to go and stand
Together where you lie, forever still.

And I should point to bedded plants and flowers
Such as you loved before you vanished hence;
They hide the mound and trail along the fence
To be an emblem of once happy hours.
Then would you say, "O look at this bright bloom!
"How beautiful!  For whom was all this done?"
And I should answer, "All this is for one
"Who lived and died. Woe me, this is her tomb!"
Together then should by the mound we kneel
And you would fade into your phantom norm
While I remain in this my earthly form
A little longer. Both should then we feel
That where you are I, too, would fain, fain be;
And till I am, I could within me keep
The memory of how I heard you weep,
As you dissolved, not for yourself but me.




I grow a sacred lily on my desk
And watch it, as it grows, from day to day
And think of you who, cold and statuesque
Yet beautiful, within your coffin lay.

This lily grows and dies and grows again.
Do not the ancients tell a touching tale
Of one who went below, a buried grain,
And rose in spring, the Daughter of the Vale,
Leaving the god, her husband, king of shades,
To gladden human hearts with gifts of fruit.
All know the lot of beauty:  that it fades:
Let me accept that story which they bruit,
If but for moments and as but a dream!
Then may the care with which the lily's growth
I daily watch and tend to me still seem
A living bond of love which links us both.




"Why should you toil and strive and know not rest
"When all we come to is but this dark door?
"Why should you search and delve to gather lore
Who opening. shutting this door ends all quest?

"Were it not better done heap up store
"And, while you can, obey the gay behest
"Of fleeting time which offers of its best
"If only you forget what went before?"
I would if I but could.  No.  I would not.
She lives in me; and if I did forget,
Then must she die forever as she died

In time and space but lives in this one spot:
The chamber of my soul where I have set
Her image as she was, but deified.




No country, so far, claimed me all her own;
My emblem was the sail; I touched at best,
When sighting land, by airy tumults blown,
At dented shores and stayed, a lingering guest.

And ever lay the skiff, moored in some cove,
Its oars drawn in, its idle canvas furled,
While I delayed in city or in grove
Till called again my boundless home, the world.
Now has that world lost all its potent charm
To lure with distance or with mirrored coasts
Or with atolls where palms thrill with alarm
At fabled stories, as the haunts of ghosts.
Now am I anchored; and forever now
Must here I tarry.  For a woman gave
A child to me; and to the ground I bow:
My roots are growing down into a grave.




We cannot grasp it yet; the memories
Of all her tender ways are still too fresh;
Too often still we think these agonies
To brush aside — a loathsome spider's mesh

In which the head is caught.  Thus do we start
Out of some torturing dream, aghast that things
Unreal should have power to wring the heart
And fold the mind in dread that chokes and clings.
But no!  A wave of sudden consciousness
That it did happen sends us to our feet
Questioning all; and life seems less and less
Designed our human patterings to meet.
Then speak in whispers we, revive the past,
And smile at visions of things that have been;
Till we remember that they did not last,
A silence falls; and shadows close us in.
And we lie down anew — to sleep and spin
More dreams; to wake and listen for the sounds
That haunt a house at night, sounds weird and thin,
As tapping winds tiptoe their stealthy rounds.

And once again, as we sink deep away,
The very air is breathing with her breath.
She is with us!  Could we but with her stay!
Resolved were then the mystery of death.




Yes, as I ruminate her brief, brief years
And spell the days firm birth to burial,
It seems perhaps as when a dull day clears;
For, were there shadows, there was light withal.

And this the brighter since it was so oft
Obscured by clouds; as on the hillside there
The emerald meadow glows more brightly sof
Set off by a black torrent's gullied tear.
Thus do I dote on comfort's sorry dross
And pick up crumbs my hungry heart to feed,
Yet know that I am beggared by her loss
And that a jagged wound must bleed and bleed.
And beggared is the world that knows it not;
For what is it, unmirrored by her eye?
Hill valley, field, and forest — dot by dot
They are all there; lacks but their inner tie.




I wish I had a voice to sing your praise;
Or a hand skilled to wake the mournful lyre;
Or thought to write the story of your days;
Or fingers fit to mould your shape entire;

Or had the power to reconstruct the world
In ways our earthly pattern to excel
Where minutes should be crystal drops that purled
From out a fountain, balanced ere they fell.
For such a world, reconstituted, would
Provide for you a never-dying fame;
In gratitude its future dwellers should,
Commemorating, name it by your name.
I wish I could one particle preserve
Of what you were; could speak or sing or be
As looked your eye, as bent the telling curve
Of perfect lips parting to smile at me.
Then could I feel I had not lived in vain
Nor wept in vain at that which I had lost:
That you have lived, would be a lasting gain
For all mankind to be, though at my cost.




In life thou grewest; and it was thy aim
To embody that conception of high worth
Which lived in me of thee.  But when death came
And bore thee to the bosom of the earth,

The image which of me lived in thy soul
Assumed such features stern, immutable
That it became my task to make it whole
And live it till me, too, release death's knell.




Faith, so they say, has power to move the hills
And to deflect great rivers from their course.
Faith grants our wishes, guards us from all ills,
And is of every strength the potent source.

But did not the apostle name these three,
Faith, Hope, and Love, proclaiming that of these
Love is the greatest? Fain would I decree
Him right in that. Then could on love I seize
As on a magic key to unseal a grave.
For, though I lacked perhaps in faith and hope,
I had such love as willingly would brave
The gates of hell, could I, like Orpheus, grope
My way into the nether world to plead
With Hades there, the god of steely eyes.
With love I called and knew in very deed
If love could waken her, she would arise.
But Love, the greatest, proving destitute
Of power to lift the lid from off a tomb,
The wanton Hope lay gasping; Faith was mute
And mocked itself by shrugging, Faith in whom?




My child, if from the circumambient air
With eyes unseen thou seest — if thou still
Such as thou wert — and thou wert ever fair —
Hover'st amid these trees, above this hill —

Or if thy spirit, recaught in that broad stream
Whence life flows, steadily mirrors yet,
Dispersed into its elements, a gleam
Of this unquiet earth where we still fret —
Or if, in everlasting slumber cast,
The dead still dream of what was once their lot,
In summer nights perhaps when things long past
Revive at evenfall, things long forgot —
No matter how, if in some unthought way
We are not lost to thee as thou to us,
If that which lived in thee was not all clay
And thou perceiv'st:  Then wilt thou know us thus:
Where once we roamed, we linger now and stand;
Where once we looked ahead, we now look back.
Thus does a wanderer from some height of land
Through fields and orchards still survey his track;

Because he knows that he must leave the vales
And thread the desert through a lurid dusk;
There will his memories serve for camp-fire tales:
The fruit is lost; but love retains in husk.

For thou wert all in all to us; and we
Can hope but for a day when once again
What thou once wert, transfigured, thou wilt be:
A beacon light to steer by on life's main.




What will this mean ten thousand years from now
When we are dead and gone and quite forgotten,
When bones are dust and our firm flesh is rotten,
And this world lives without us anyhow;

When changes such as we cannot conceive
Have sculptured plans and mountain chains eroded;
When all our superstitions are exploded,
And people laugh at what we still believe;
When souls, with a new eagerness instinct,
Communicate perhaps in closer fashion,
When sympathy is more than pale compassion,
When even language is perhaps extinct;
When there no longer are grim murder bars
Dividing us from weaker sister races;
When converse through the intermundane spaces
This planet holds with all the reeling stars?

*   *   *

What does it mean to us that long ago,
In the abyss of time, where man emerges,
A sorrowing greybeard muttered broken dirges
And stared as blind, on Asia's great plateau?



Or that an inarticulate Eskimo
With wide-flung gesture, silent, shrugged his shoulder
As in the ice, so that it would not moulder,
He laid his child upon an arctic floe?

Oh, why should I be fearful of the night
That summons from the grave and coffin oaken
The shape unseen, the speech long, long unspoken
Of one who lived in day's intenser light?
Wide lies the past at night, with many a token
That it is truth, not dream which wiles my sight —
As if for disappointment to requite
When, with the rise of day, my sleep is broken.
If I could sleep and sleep and never waken
And dream and dream of what is not but was
Then would both hope and faith remain unshaken.

But ah, there comes a point when shadows pause,
And when I wake and find myself forsaken
And doubly feel the grief that bores and gnaws.




Who would have told me but a year ago
That I upon a stone, should read her name
I should have answered him, such utter woe
I could not grasp in thought and live the same.

But live I do and go about my tasks
In silence, and composedly, as deems
He who, upon an hour's acquaintance, asks
"And how are you?" — surmising, "Well, it seems!"
Yet passes not a minute but I am
Poignantly conscious of a hidden ache.
Life is, without her, but a sorry sham,
Not worth what we upon in dicings stake.
And from my secret musings I distil
Reflections on the dignity of death
Which so pervadingly my being fill
That sacrilege seems every living breath.




No, do not speak to me of healing time!
Time is a murderer that eats his issue:
Time weaves and spins and frays and wastes his tissue
And covers all his wreck with oozy slime.

The healing which he brings is but forgetting
Of what the ruin which he buried meant:
What boots it that the sun his colour lent
If he himself goes blind in his own setting?
That she who was is not: this wearing sorrow
Is, while it lives, a last gift of her day.
No, do not tell me it will pass away:
Such comfort casts no glamour on the morrow.
And if it did, I should not want it so —
But rather join the long line of dead singers
Whose grief, engraved in words, endures and lingers,
A symbol of the universal woe.




I know a valley in these plaited hills,
Untrod by man, where wanded willows bow
Above the murmur of secretive rills,
And where the sedge sweeps higher than your brow.

There shall we go, Cathleen, and build of stone
A rustic throne which solitude embays.
This is the summer we must face alone —
A sunlit waste of leaf-embowered days
And of such nights as set the soul astir
With dark desire and death-enamoured thought
Which, owl-like, circles, padded wings awhir,
Till reels resolve, from firmest aims distraught.
We must not yield.  Look, then, into mine eye
To find a mood akin.  Hear, then, my speech
In which each word is winged with a sigh,
And every cadence with a poignant reach.
We must not yield.  Lean, then, upon my arm
To turn from this our death-engendered quest,
To face a summer stripped of summer's charm
Which promises submission at the best.
We must not yield.  Descend into this vale
To see the essence of the things that are:
Death comes in time; for death will no one fail;
But life remains and is death's avatar.
Life must be suffered.  Sublimated pain
Becomes at last transcendent fortitude.
Come, lean on me; down threads this winding lane.
Composure must in solitude be wooed.



She who has given life and seen it die
Wears a madonna's more than regal crown;
She is enthroned among the clouds on high
And looks at birth awl death; and she looks down.
Then let us speak of her who lies at rest
And yet is with us:  in the hour of dusk
When shadows rise and bow like spectres blest,
And nightshade scents the air with sweet of musk.
For what she was she is; she cannot fade.
See, in our sleep she glides into our dream
And fans our temples with her breath!  That glade
Shall be her sacred haunt when glow-worms gleam.

And we must learn to think, not that she died
but that she lived was our alloted gift —
Must stem the overfoaming, rushing tide
Of under-thoughts with their down-sucking drift.

For we are human.  Wreckage hurls in spate
About our feet and knees, resistance spent
And overhead a cloud, the hue of slate,
Bears menace unexplored and imminent
Such is the mortal lot.  He is a child
Who knows it not.  At best we can accept
And bear what is imposed, unreconciled,
And proudly point and say, We have not wept!
See, yonder, where the brook its river joins:
That is the place, embedded in the sedge:
The fall will come; then shall we gird our loins
To wander once again along life's edge.




"nought we know dies."

What wafts the wind upon its midnight breath?
It whispers tidings in its silken tune:
To nought we know comes such a thing as death;
Air, water, soil — these are from death immune.

And that from which thy laughter sprang and mirth,
Thy searching thought which knew yet had to learn
To adapt itself to strange ways on this earth,
Thy heart which clearly did our hearts discern —
That should, because a mechanism broke
And would no longed function, cease to be?
Was it a mechanism which awoke
In me the love in which I harboured thee?
What wafts the wind upon its midnight breath?
It bears, transformed, soft rain from out the sea
And spins a message that there is no death,
That what once was, transformed, must ever be.


Following is a list of variants found in the Canadian Forum versions of those poems selected from "The Dirge" in typescript.


1.10      And we stood sightless, impotent to try
1.16      For as the blow was dulled, and as a span
1.28      Then knew we nought on earth had changed but we
1.31      That we were two who had but now been three.


1.5-8     [Second stanza omitted]
1.12      Commemorating what you used to be.


1.7        Of evil in the world: guilt shall no loot


             (Dance Music Down-Street)
1.17      Then will I cry and laugh and raise my voice:
1.18-20  [no quotation marks ]


1.14     We doubt and sorrow, groping with wild heart
1.16     May symbolize that which thou wert and art.


1.7        In garden, grove, yea, on the tomb,


1.3       If but once more, my child, to go and stand
1.9-12  Then would you say, 'O, look at this bright bloom!
            How beautiful!   For whom was all this done?'
            And I should answer, 'All this is for one
            Who lived and died.  Woe me, this is her tomb!'
1.15     While I remained in this my earthly form


1.2       And watch it as it grows from day to day
1.3       And think of you who, cold and statuesque,
1.8       And rose in spring, the daughter of the vale,
1.10     To gladden human hearts with gifts of fruit?
1.11     All know the lot of beauty, that it fades;
1.16     A living bond of love that links us both.


1.5-8    [Second stanza omitted]
1.13     And beggared is the world and knows it not:


1.9       As on a magic key, to unseal a grave.
1.20     And mocked herself by shrugging, Faith in whom?


1.3       When bones are dust and our soft flesh is rotten,
1.14     Dividing us from weaker sister races:
1.21     Or that an inarticulate Eskimo,
1.24     He laid his child upon an Arctic floe?
1.36     Abut ah, there comes a point when shadows pause


1.2       Time is a murderer that eats his issue.
1.3       Time spins and weaves and frays and wastes his tissue
1.13-16 [Fourth stanza omitted ]