The Green Cloister

by Duncan Campbell Scott

© Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1935.


Reality   At Gull Lake: August 1810
The Fields of Earth   At Sunset
A Blackbird Rhapsody   The Faithful  
Como   By the Sea  
Evening at Ravello   Under Stars  
Chiostro Verde   On a Drawing of a Hand 
Kensington Gardens   A Fancy 
On Ragleth Hill   By the Sea Shore 
At Lodore   Enigma 
At Palma   The Bells  
At East Gloucester   Earliest Morning  
In the Rocky Mountains   Imogen's Wish 
Compline   Time, the Victor 
The Dreaming Eagle   Spring in the Valley
A Prairie Water Colour   Twilight
En Route   A Secret
In Algonquin Park   A Song
Autumn Evening   Past and Present
The Touch of Winter   A Group of Lyrics
From the Headland   The Wise Men from the East
January Evening   The Spider and the Rose
A Scene at Lake Manitou   The Nightwatchman




AT the Inn by the flowing road,
Where the shadow merges with sun,
There is lodging for everyone,
And plenty of food in store,—
Bread with a flavour of mould,
Wine that is cloudy and rough.
No one asks for gold;
But the service is brisk enough
For the folk that frequent the Inn.
The courtyard rings and rattles
With the chaffering and the din;
For all the guests are merchants
Who all have dreams to sell;
Nothing but dreams they proffer,—
"Dreams,—fine dreams!" they cry.
But you have your dreams to offer,
So why should you buy
Inferior dreams. Your own
Are lovely beyond compare;
You unfold their tremulous tissues
And free them to float in the air,
But nobody seems to care.

And as Time grows slow,
Like the ivy along the wall
Of the Inn, you fancy you know
That the only things that are real
In all the moving show
Are the wine and the bread.
So the taste comes to be loathly,
And you loathe the streams
Of simple, importunate merchants
Hawking the dreams
That no one will buy.
Hope goes out with a sigh,
For nobody heeds the beauty
You spread in the sun;
And you fold the dream-tissues
When the day is done.
Then though you make no sign,
They bring you the bread and the wine.
Yea, the service is quick to please;
You may sit at your ease,
Even beyond the even,
Watching the small gray stars
Drift in the shallow heaven;
You may linger till Time is dead,
With those delicate dreams of thine,
Eating the bitter bread,
And drinking the harsh wine!

But when night deepens in flood
Floating the greater stars,
When silence falls, and the blood
Slows in the aching heart,
All sudden you are aware
Of a mystical light in the air;
For the unsold dreams, transfigured,
Have peopled the void
With a flutter of angels;
Over each wondering merchant
Glimmers an angel guest;
You have your angel of angels,
Whose radiance surpasses the rest;
Your hands are your angel's hands,
His soul is your soul, and you know
That the only things that were real

In all that moving show
Were the dreams.

Then though you make no sign,
They bring you viands divine;—
You may linger till Time is dead

With those realized dreams of thine,
Eating the honeyed bread,
And drinking the rich wine.


The Fields of Earth



DELIGHT is the fruit of the Tree of Joy 



On the fields of Earth,
Youth plunders the loaded lower branches


With shouts of mirth.

Their hands are stained with the blood-red juice


From the golden rind;  
They scatter the seed with prodigal gestures  


To the careless wind.  

The trees spring up with a fountain-rush


In the fragrant night;
There in the first rose-flush of the morning


Are the globes of Delight

Youth sets tooth in the peerless flesh


Untroubled by thought,
"It is naught", says Youth, the glorious spendthrift,

"Delight!—it is naught!"
They weary and wander away before noon,


None left at last:
Silence flows in a tide of old tenderness

Out of the past.
Then the Others come as daylight fails;


With trembling fingers
They gather Delight from the highest branches

While the light lingers.
The finest fruit from the branches of dusk

Neglected by Youth,
Delight with the honey-core of Beauty

And the seed of Truth.
They eat of the sovereign core that stills  


The yearning of years,  
They bury the seed in fullness of knowledge 30

And with secret fears.  
For naught ever grows from the seed they plant  


On the upland cold;  
But Delight is alive in the morning valley  


With the globes of gold. 35

They see the revelers with careless mirth


Plundering the trees,  
They hark to the mingled music and laughter  

Till the sounds cease.  
Then they venture down to the Trees of Joy, 40


Deserted by Youth,  
To gather Delight with the core of Beauty  

And the seed of Truth.  


A Blackbird Rhapsody


ON the heights of Oberhofen
Where the woods are interwoven
With the gardens and the orchards,
First I heard the blackbird singing
Through a shower of rain at dawn,
Ringing, ringing, ringing,
Till the rain was gone.

Dante called you Merlo,
Chaucer called you Merle,
In Surrey lands and Umbrian valleys
They overheard your witty sallies;
Now you whistle in the swirled
Current of our modern world,
Blackbird by the Lake of Thun
In the Bernese Oberland.

All day long I hear you giving
Comments on the joy of living;
You, a mote of bright black feathers
With a sparkling dot of yellow,
Seem to sum up and pervade
All the sunshine, all the shade,
Greeting with a blithe, "Hail fellow!"
Everything beneath the sun,—
From the enamelled garden-beds
Set around the painted chalets,
From the lake's pellucid lights,
Up the torrents in the valleys
To the frigid Alpine heights;
Calling to the rooted mountains
"Why are you at rest so long,
Shake your snowy pinions,
Why not fly and sing a song?"
When a wind-wing on the lake
Leaves a track upon the water
Like a quick grey snake;
When the ripples on the pebbles
Running in like silver rebels
From the level leaden surface
Make him mad with joy;—
"Come, you cold and heavy water
Rise in mist and be a cloud,
Float aloft and sing aloud!"

The clear gem-tints of the flowers
Caught up from the pansy-beds
And the drooping dahlia heads,
Topaz light and ruby shimmer,
Emeralds of a leafy glimmer,
Sapphire-flame and turquoise mould
In a setting of green-gold,—
Flicker in your spangled notes
As if your voice was in their throats.

Did Wagner build the wild Valkyrie
War-cry on that valiant phrase?
Did Bach tangle in the maze
Of a fugue those six notes, bold
As six bells of beaten gold?
Then I hear from out the clustered
Thicket of a sycamore
A few unctuous notes satirical,
In the manner rapt and lyrical,
Of the famous nightingale;
Followed by a cheery hail
In your native idiom;—
Contrast sly between the noise
Of premeditated passion
And legendary strife,
And the wild impromptu voice
Of the simple love of life.

Through the lingering gradual light,
I seem to hear a dauntless sprite
Who lives without the need of rest,
Without a mate, without a nest.
Yet, for just an instant
As the light begins to minish
Do you take to dreaming,
With your parted golden bill,
Half-spread wings, rapt and still,
Poising like an ebon finish
To the apex of a fir-tree?

After all this whirl of winging
Is your vision a vale of rest;
Is your dream a dream of silence
Of a day too rich for singing
By a brooding shadow-nest,
Far beyond the mountains of the west?
Silence for an instant long;—
Then you charge upon the gardens
With a rush of song;
Fluting the last light away
From the embers of the day.

Earth turns into night and quiet;
After such a day-long riot
Silence also cometh to the Merle.
An ethereal film of rose
Sudden flushes the pale snows
Of the Jungfrau range,
And as soon begins to change
To a cloud of ghostly light,
Strewing all the breathless height
With ashes of dead silver.
Through the lustrous Alpine twilight
Rises up from Italy
The Immortal Pearl, (so Dante called her,)
The Immortal Pearl, The Moon,
Drifts along the Lake of Thun,
Driven ever with the cosmic urge,
Striving to escape beyond the verge
To the veiled mountains of the imagined West
Where She and all Immortal Spirits hope for rest.




LAKE Como, rippled with light airs  


Or crossed with silver showers,  
Lay trembling in her opulence  

Of olives and of flowers.  
Below the clustered villages 5


And villas on the height  
We saw the shadowed water turn  

To turquoise in the light.  
The lindens murmured, full of bees;  


Around the cypress spires 10
Wandered wreaths of oakwood smoke  

Drawn from the peasant fires.  
Where the gardens and the hayfields  


Hung in terraced lines  
Girls were singing in the vineyards 15

As they sprayed the vines.  
When early night infused the air  


With a warm flush of gray  
It seemed as if the veil of light  


Would never wear away. 20

Yet colour in the diaphanous air


Deepened from change to change,  
Till the familiar shore-line grew  

Far, far off and strange.  
Across the transfigured scene a barge, 25


With ochre sail half-furled,  
Drifted like a shrivelled ghost  

From the ancient world;  
With freight intangible as sleep,—  


The passion of old wars, 30
Early dreams on Love and Death,  

The Ocean and the Stars.  
It drifted past the enchanted shore  


Like a withered husk,  
Drifted and disappeared beyond 35


Bellano in the dusk.  


Evening at Ravello


FROM the gray shadow of the olive hill
The mellow Angelus bell lends to the sea
Its silver tone; the sea that lies so far
Below, entranced with its own fathomless beauty,
Has no voice; the still crystal surge
Clings like a fringe of snow along the shore
Silent;—no movement, only change from deep
To deeper sapphire; and a wayward air
Carries away the cadence of a song.
The fisher draws his boat upon the beach;
The vine-dresser who tied the vine to the trellis
A long day, climbs the last terrace and the lights
Find the lost houses in the deepest gorge.
If there is music now it is not heard
Only imagined, even the mellow bell
Is mute. If there are stars in heaven
They give no sign. In the silence the worn heart
Takes a deep draught of peace. How far away
Seems all the malice of this turbulent world.
A vain desire flows from the tranquil beauty
To share the sorrow and delight of life
With simple men who take their meat
From the vine the olive and the sea.


Chiostro Verde


HERE in the old Green Cloister
At Santa Maria Novella
The grey well in the centre
Is dry to the granite curb;
No splashing will ever disturb
The cool depth of the shaft.
In the stone-bordered quadrangle
Daisies, in galaxy, spangle
The vivid cloud of grass.
Four young cypresses fold
Themselves in their mantles of shadow
Away from the sun's hot gold;
And roses revel in the light,
Hundreds of roses; if one could gather
The flush that fades over the Arno
Under Venus at sundown
And dye a snow-rose with the colour,
The ghost of the flame on the snow
Might give to a painter the glow
Of these roses.
Above the roof of the cloister
Rises the rough church wall
Worn with the tides of Time.
The burnished pigeons climb
And slide in the shadowed air,
Wing-whispering everywhere,
Coo and murmur and call
From their nooks in the crannied wall.
Then on the rustling space,
Falling with delicate grace,
Boys' voices from the far off choir,
The full close of a phrase,
A cadence of Palestrina
Or something of even older days,
No words—
only the tune.
It dies now—too soon.
Will music forever die,
The soul bereft of its cry,
And no young throats
Vibrate to clear new notes?
While the cadence was hovering in air
The pigeons were flying
In front of the seasoned stone,
Visiting here and there,
Cooing from the cool shade
Of their nooks in the wall;
Who taught the pigeons their call
Their murmurous music?

Under the roof of the cloister
A few frescoes are clinging
Made by Paolo Uccello,
Once they were clear and mellow
Now they have fallen away
To a dull green-gray,
What has not fallen will fall;
Of all colour bereft
Will nothing at last be left
But a waste wall?
Will painting forever perish,
Will no one be left to cherish
The beauty of life and the world,
Will the soul go blind of the vision?
Who painted those silver lights in the daisies
That sheen in the grass-cloud
That hides their stars or discloses,
Who stained the bronze-green shroud
Wrapping the cypress
Who painted the roses?


Kensington Gardens


WHEN sun is over the Gardens  


The gulls are bright as snow,  
They move like arctic lightning  


And rush in a tangled glow;  
The Pond flashes beneath them, 5


And the roar of the troubled town  
Sounds with the force of a freshet  


When the ice is crashing down.  

When night is over the Gardens


The gulls have flown to rest; 10
He knows where who has the sway  


Of the sea within his breast;  
The Pond is dead in the darkness,  


And the city's muted roar  
Sounds like a secret water 15


By an unknown shore.  


On Ragleth Hill


A BROKEN line of trees on the hill-crest
Stands clear against the luminous sky. It seems
A caravan of traders come to rest,
Their camels weary, laden down with dreams;
For when the first stars in the twilight shine
The leaders of the march begin to sway,
Then all the others tremble into line
And tread the sands of sleep and fade away.
Where is the market for the fragile stuff
Enfolded in the gossamer bales they bear;
Where are the ghostly merchants frail enough
To come and barter in the phantom fair?
For in their tents with sighs the dreams are bought,
And beauty is sold for shadows of lovely thought.


At Lodore


FALLING from a leafy heaven,
With no tumult and no roar,
Came the water at Lodore;
Slipping down from level to level,
Shining down in burnished lustres,
Hanging almost still in clusters,
Quartz-like on the rocks;
Sliding out between the boulders
With fern forests on their shoulders
Always moving to the rhythm
Of a measured, dulcet drumming,
Underneath the melody coming
From the slender strings of water
Fretted by the stones.
The little pools of beryl

Flecked with bells of broken bubbles
Hold their breath and bear away

To tease the golden gravel
With a moil of tiny troubles
To ravel and unravel

As in play.

When the wind in wilfull rushes
Carries away the liquid flushes
To the homes of the thrushes
In the sycamore,
The water-murmurs dwindle
To the whisper of a spindle
When the wheel turns slow
And slower.
Then the almost silence seeming
Moves the spirit into dreaming
If the water were not there,
If the gorge of rock uprisen
Were alone a shadowy prison
For the air;
Yet would moonlight fall in clusters,
Crystal forms of water-lustres
Moving on the stones,
And the sycamore would shiver
Murmur ripples like the river


At Palma


SHELTERED under the cliffside  


There lies in this sunny land  
A miniature Mediterranean  


Harbour of rock and sand.  

Over the wall of a garden


The mimosa holds on high  
A flame of sulphur-yellow  


Against the sapphire sky.  

Air-tremors flow or idle


Under the ilex shade 10
Bearing the rustle of sheep-bells  


From the far olive glade.


The rock cove holds in its setting


A jewel of mystery—  
The light in the heart of an emerald— 15


A secret of the sea.  

Sudden the water rises


As if it must share  
This secret of the ocean  


Alone too great to bear. 20

And heaving a tiny wavelet


Comes with a mimic shock  
To lose its emerald lustre  


In ripple round the rock,  

Runs on with an ebbing burden


And reaches the waiting shore,  
With only the strength to whisper  


"I will return once more."


But no one can tell to the moment


How long the sun shall burn, 30
Who will go forth with a message  


Or who will return.



At East Gloucester


MIST has thickened the air
And darkened the morning hour,
Is a tree or a house or a tower;
Even the near things seem
Unreal, the sea and the shore,
The margin of earth and the edge of the deep,
Ruins of dream
In a land of sleep.
Sounds are astray in the mist,
The bells of Gloucester town,
The bell on the sunken reef,
Thridding their way in the gray
Gloom of the day.
Two strokes from the bell on the reef
Confirm the ancient belief
Of the bells in the towers of the town,
The town-bells tell the truth
To the lonely bell on the reef;
Silvern spirits and pure
In knowledge made perfect and sure
Repeating their mastered lessons
In beautiful acquiesence.
"Let them say as they say
We know better than they,
To the hearts that hover between
But nearer to Heaven than Earth,
Sounds that were heard are dearer
Than scenes that were seen."


In the Rocky Mountains





O LOVELY light endure the growing splendour,
Until the noon endure,
Endure when shades invade the lofty valleys,
Gradual and sure;

O light that trembled first upon the mountains,
Radiant and pure,
Even when all the peaks are dark with midnight,
Tremble but still endure.



Rooted with death in darkness,
Crowned with death in snow,
Height beyond height, the mountains,
Stand in the frigid glow
Of desolate moonlight.

The folds of the dense forest
Cling to the granite slopes,
Like the pall of a sombre ceremonial
Rigid with shadows.

The community of mountains,
Established in ancient beauty,
Are passionless and secure in death. 
Why then does the soul hear
Circling between the summits,
That affirmation without sound,
As one mountain to another saith,
There is no death?




It was there my heart was lonely in the mountains:
For the mist had cloaked the range
Hiding the vista and the flowing sky-line;
Almost silence there, but strange—
Came a water-sound, a far-off crying;
All the ferns and firs
Held the mist till they could bear no more,
Then shed their store
Of tears with sudden sighing;
It was there my heart was lonely in the mountains.




Hold thy line of song, O mountains,
Up to heaven's deep,
Marching to a soundless cadence,
On from steep to steep.
Nothing but the light and lightning
Knows thy song,
Naught but avalanche and tempest
And the starry throng:
Darkness nourishes and dawns renew
Thy still line of beauty in the blue.
Beauty born of pressure and fire,
When the molten heart of earth
Fixed its wild desire
In thy granite melody:
Silent as the end of Time,
Silent as Eternity,
Hold, O mountains, to the sky,
Hold thy line of song.




Lifted up from the heart of Earth,   


And held to the skies, 55
The purest beauty of this world  


On the mountain lies.  
There, in a shrine of crystal,


Builded far off on the height,  
Dwells the spirit of radiant 60

Ineffable light.  
The glory is veiled with darkness,  


The stars alone are aware,  
Dawn restores the wonder  


To the trembling air. 65

No music descends with the meaning


Of the mystical glow;  
The torrent dissolves in vapour,  

The avalanche in snow;  
The pines like weary pilgrims 70


Stand line above line;  
But the heart of man strains onward  

To the far off shrine.

He would possess the secret  


Of the light in the crystal air, 75
For the purest beauty of this world  


He knows is there.  




There are no mountains in the world
But only driving storm,
Silent, so high in air; 
In the valley all is still—
But the fierce rush of the master-will
Of the wild tempest
Is told by the speed of the flying crowd
Of fugitive snow-flakes
Escaping from the under-cloud that drifts
Where the dark tree-line breaks
And merges in the upper cloud.

But now the storm is over
The mountains hold the sky,
Their own unconquered realm of air
In changeless majesty,
Bearing serene and unaware,
The ancient message, fresh unfurled,
Of beauty, fallen on the world
From vanished tempest:—Lo!
In the remote and tranquil height
Burning with pure and lonely light
The glory of the snow.




All day long the valiant mountains 100


With their victory won,  
Stand secure in pride and triumph  

Listening to the sun.  
All night long the desolate mountains  


Brooding on their scars, 105
Stand in doubt, austere and lonely  


Listening to the stars.  




WE are resting here in the twilight,
Watching the progress of a cloudless sunset,
The colour moving away from yellow to a deeper gold.
High on the hillside
Across the sunset the telegraph wires are drawn,
Black on the yellow.
Upward we look through the strands
To the delicate colour infinitely beyond
At the world's end.

The swallows flash in the air
And light on the wires,
They range themselves there
Side by side in lines,
Forming impromptu designs,
Black on the yellow.
An odour rises out of the earth
From dead grass cooling in the dew,
From the fragrance of pine needles
That smouldered all day in the heat.

Love in our hearts is quiet,
Tranquil as light reflected in water
That trembles only when the water trembles.

As gold ages to ivory,
As up from a hidden source there wells
The fragile colour of deep-sea shells,
Ivory is flushed with rose
At the day's close.
And as the present sometimes calls up the past
I see the wires as the old music-staff,
Four lines and three spaces,
The swallows clinging there,
The notes of an ancient air,
The sunset glow—a vellum page
In an old Mass book:—
A vellum page yellow as old ivory,
The fading gems of a rose-window,
The odour of incense—
And a voice out of the past
Imploring in a vault of shadow—

Sancta MariaMater Dei
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus
Nunc et in hora
Mortis nostrae.
The golden melody of an old faith
Lingering ethereal in the shadow,
The prayer of the past—
Ora pro nobis.

Pray for us, you swallows,
Now and in the hour of our death;
Now when we are fulfilled in the promise of life
When love is quiet in the heart;
And when we fall like autumn leaves and their shadows;
The colour of the leaves,—the garnered beauty of life,—
With their shadows on the future,
Falling together to the unknown—
Ora pro nobis.
May we remember then all of life's loveliest things,
This evening and the swallows wings,
When infinite love was reflected in the heart
And trembled only when the heart trembled.

We will pray for you bright swallows,
Now and in the hour of your death;
Now when you fly aloft in the dry air
Rushing together in a storm of wings,
Grasping the wires;
And when you fall secretly in the wilderness,
Where,—none knoweth—
Ora pro nobis.
May you remember then this northern beauty,
The pure lake surface,
And after a long light-day,
Wing-weary, the rest
Of a night by the nestlings and the nest.

The sunset failed in ivory and rose,
All that is left of light is the early moonlight
That trembles in the lake-water
Only when the water trembles;
And the lustre of life alone is left at the long day's close,—
The radiance of love in the heart
That trembles only when the heart trembles.


The Dreaming Eagle


MOVELESS is the clear air of heaven from the height
Down to the floor of the gorge where in its groove
The glacial water rushes to the sea,—
Space filled with clear moon-brilliance
And pointed with a few brave stars.
Secure upon his secret crag the eagle sleeps
Driven by a dream-tempest;
Beaten far off from his eyrie and his hour of rest
By the great buffet of the squall
That hurls the hard sleet on the granite;
Blown aslant over a desert pattern
Of jagged peaks against a brazen sky.
He wakes a moment from his dream,
Flutters the feathers on his breast,
Loosens his pinions and looks out upon the night.
He sees the mountain, buttressed with glaciers,
Guardian of the pass; and, clear beyond,
A few most valiant stars flashing against the moon.
In scorn of peaceful things he shuts his brain
Off from the gleaming distance
And seeks once more the wildness of his dream.
He cares not whether mountains move or stars be still
Content if he can fight the force that sweeps the air
To fan his wing-gold to a fiercer flame,
If he can turn his talons closer to the rock
And feel upon the shoulders of his wings
The Power.


A Prairie Water Colour


BESIDE the slew the poplars play
In double lines of silver-grey:—
A trembling in the silver trees
A shadow-trembling in the slew.
Standing clear above the hill
The snow-grey clouds are still,
Floating there idle as light;
Beyond, the sky is almost white
Under the pure deep zenith-blue.
Acres of summer-fallow meet

Acres of growing gold-green wheat
That ripen in the heat.

Where a disc-harrow tears the soil,
Up the long slope six horses toil,
The driver, one with the machine;—

The group is dimly seen
For as they go a cloud of dust
Comes like a spirit out of earth
And follows where they go.
Upward they labour, drifting slow,
The disc-rims sparkle through the veil;
Now upon the topmost height
The dust grows pale,
The group springs up in vivid light
And, dipping below the line of sight,
Is lost to view.
Yet still the little cloud is there,
All dusky-luminous in air,
Then thins and settles on the land
And lets the sunlight through.
All is content. The fallow field
Is waiting there till next year's yield
Shall top the rise with ripening grain,
When the green-gold harvest plain
Shall break beneath the harrow.
Still-purple, growing-gold they lie,
The crop and summer-fallow. The vast sky
Holds all in one pure round of blue—
And nothing moves except the play
Of silver-grey in the poplar trees
Of shadow in the slew.  


En Route


THE train has stopped for no apparent reason
In the wilds;
A frozen lake is level and fretted over
With rippled wind lines;
The sun is burning in the South; the season
Is winter trembling at a touch of spring.
A little hill with birches and a ring
Of cedars—all so still, so pure with snow—
It seems a tiny landscape in the moon.
Long wisps of shadow from the naked birches
Lie on the white in lines of cobweb-grey;
From the cedar roots the snow has shrunk away,
One almost hears it tinkle as it thaws.
Traces there are of wild things in the snow—
Partridge at play, tracks of the foxes' paws
That broke a path to sun them in the trees.
They're going fast where all impressions go
On a frail substance—images like these,
Vagaries the unconcious mind receives
From nowhere, and lets go to nothingness
With the lost flush of last year's autumn leaves.  


In Algonquin Park


NESTLING in the high woods the tranquil bay
Mirrors the margin-trees and the clear grey
Of idle clouds, moveless and clear as they.
It seems as if, with all her fears upfurled,
Ultimate peace has settled on the world.
Springs from the air, moved by its own volition
A silver shower, bent on some secret mission,
Murmurs her liquid secret to the trees,
Trembles it in the water and then flees,—
Leaving her light, last whisper in the brush
At the cliff's edge below the pinewood. Hush!

Love looks on heaven with her tranquil eyes
Calm with the depth of all love's certainties,
And when the calm is blurred with fleeting pain
Takes the light shower of sorrow as surprise.
Love hears it drift from spirit shore to shore,
Trembles beneath the lash of the doubtful rain
Till it is gone,—and steadfast once again
Love looks on heaven more tranquil than before.


Autumn Evening



GO, lovely hour with the rushing of leaves,
With the proud swift wind and the glory in the west,
Call the chill stars that close the autumn eves
And bring the day to rest.
Leave us the memory of the walk beside the water,

With the fugitive leaves rushing away from the wind,
The wild light on the towers and the eastern border
Where the stars are venturing.
Then rest in the low-lit room
By the maple-fire on the hearth
Breathing as if with delight in its life, and after
Music rich-motived with sighs and with laughter.
These are the real, the native things
The heart remembers;
Long after the passions of the world have taken wings
Memory retrieves the whisper of fugitive leaves,
The flow of water, the flow of stars,
The fall of the wind at night-fall,
The flutter of flame on the embers,
The murmur of music.


The Touch of Winter


IN the early morning with magic overnight
Frost has rimed the garden with lines of crystal light—
All the leaning hollyhocks have beaten-silver stems,
The ruins of their seed-pods are rounded diadems,
The asters all are taken with a jewelled surprise
Every withered blossom has diamonds in her eyes.

In the later morning with the warm and hazy sun
The crystals, thawed and loosened, in fairly rillets run,
The hollyhocks, unsilvered, have a brown-ivory glow,
Like little leather buttons the seed-pods show,
The asters all are taken with a dewy surprise,
Every withered blossom has tears in her eyes.


From the Headland


ALL day long the stormy gulls
Fought for plunder in the bay,
Rushing down upon the floating things,
Rising swift with cries and angry wings,
Wheeling up and away.

Tide went wandering out and tide came wandering in
With idle fall and rise;
Nothing seemed in trouble of its breath or living
Of its death or ending,
Underneath the skies.

All the morning long the heaven was silver
And the sun crossed over towards his rest;
And at middle afternoon the film-clouds
Seemed to come from nowhere,
Gathering in the west.

When the sun had touched them, all the air
Flowed with colour like a chanting stream,
And a distant mountain range, revealed in gray,
Wavered like the wall transparent of a land of dream.

Then the gulls went flying singly from the bay,

Messengers of battle and defeat,
To a breathless waiting bird-land far away,

Beating air with wingstroke wearily,—
Black against triumphant colour,
Black against the mountains' sheer enchantment,

Black against the sea.  


January Evening


ROSE-BREASTED birds appear
In the highest branches of the winter maple
Burning all with the rose-light of the sunset.
The birds are restless in the delicate tangle of the rose-



Songless, abstract as thoughts in a dream 5
Of rose-breasted birds in rose-branches of a winter maple.
Dreamlike invocation is in the air;
The tree is Priest and Song,
Offering the birds to the Spirit of Night,
Holding aloft the fluttering sacrifice,
Imploring to be absolved from the faint blood-stain
In the rose-branches, and the rose-breasted birds.
Then of a sudden the birds are gone,
And the rose-light fades and is gone,
The Spirit of Night,
Grown manifest in cool beauty,
Absolves the maple with touches of tender silver.
Where fluttered the rose-breasted birds
Silver filters through the maple,
Silver water-colored from the west,
Silver hinting of early starlight;
Purified, the priestly maple loses his melody,
In the darkness deepening
He wraps him in silver air,
In the quiet ecstasy of silver frost and silver starlight.


A Scene at Lake Manitou


IN front of the fur-traders house at Lake Manitou
Indian girls were gathering the hay,
Half labour and half play;
So small the stony field
And light the yield
They gathered it up in their aprons,
Racing and chasing,
And laughing loud with the fun
Of building the tiny cocks.
The sun was hot on the rocks.
The lake was all shimmer and tremble
To the bronze-green islands of cedars and pines;
In the channel between the water shone
Like an inset of polished stone;
Beyond them a shadowy trace
Of the shore of the lake
Was lost in the veil of haze.

Above the field on the rocky point
Was a cluster of canvas tents,
Nearly deserted, for the women had gone
Berry-picking at dawn
With most of the children.

Under the shade of a cedar screen
Between the heat of the rock and the heat of the sun,
The Widow Frederick
Whose Indian name means Stormy Sky,
Was watching her son Matanack
In the sunlight die,
As she had watched his father die in the sunlight.
Worn out with watching,
She gazed at the far-off islands
That seemed in a mirage to float
Moored in the sultry air.
She had ceased to hear the breath in Matanack's throat
Or the joy of the children gathering the hay.
Death, so near, had taken all sound from the day,
And she sat like one that grieves
Unconscious of grief.

With a branch of poplar leaves
She kept the flies from his face,
And her mind wandered in space
With the difficult past
When her husband had faded away;
How she had struggled to live
For Matanack four years old;
Triumphant at last!

She had taught him how and where
To lay the rabbit snare,
And how to set
Under the ice, the net,
The habits of shy wild things
Of the forest and marsh;
To his inherited store
She had added all her lore;
He was just sixteen years old
A hunter crafty and bold;
But there he lay,
And his life with its useless cunning
Was ebbing out with the day.
Fitfully visions rose in her tired brain,
Faded away, and came again and again.
She remembered the first day
He had gone the round of the traps alone,
She saw him stand in the frosty light
Two silver-foxes over his shoulder.
She heard the wolves howl,
Or the hoot of a hunting owl,
Or saw in a sunlit gap
In the woods, a mink in the trap;
Mingled with thoughts of Nanabojou
And the powerful Manitou
That lived in the lake;
Mingled with thoughts of Jesus
Who raised a man from the dead,
So Father Pacifique said.

Suddenly something broke in her heart.
To save him, to keep him forever!
She had prayed to their Jesus,
She had called on Mary His mother
To save him, to keep him forever!
The Holy Water and the Scapular!
She had used all the Holy Water
Father Pacifique had given her;
He had worn his Scapular
Always, and for months had worn hers too;
There was nothing more to be done
That Christians could do.

Now she would call on the Powers of the Earth and the Air,
The Powers of the Water;
She would give to the Manitou
That lived in the lake
All her treasured possessions,
And He would give her the lad.
The children heard her scream,
The trader and the loafing Indians
Saw her rush into her tent and bring out her blankets
And throw them into the lake,
Screaming demented screams,
Dragging her treasures into the light,
Scattering them far on the water.
First of them all, her gramophone,
She hurled like a stone;
And they caught her and held her
Just as she swung aloft the next of her treasures
Her little hand-sewing-machine.
They threw her down on the rock
And five men held her until,
Not conquered by them,
But subdued by her will
She lay still.

The trader looked at the boy,
"He's done for," he said.
He covered the head
And went down to the Post;
The Indians, never glancing,
Afraid of the ghost,
Slouched away to their loafing.
After a curious quiet
The girls began the play
Of gathering the last of the hay.

She knew it was all in vain;
He was slain by the foe
That had slain his father.
She put up her hair that had fallen over her eyes,
And with movements, weary and listless,
Tidied her dress.
He had gone to his father
To hunt in the Spirit Land
And to be with Jesus and Mary.

She was alone now and knew

What she would do:
The Trader would debit her winter goods,
She would go into the woods
And gather the fur,
Live alone with the stir

Alone with the silence;
Revisit the Post,
Return to hunt in September;
So had she done as long as she could remember.

She sat on the rock beside Matanack
Resolute as of old,
Her strength and her spirit came back.
Someone began to hammer down at the Trader's house.
The late August air was cold
With a presage of frost.
The islands had lost
Their mirage-mooring in air
And lay dark on the burnished water
Against the sunset flare—
Standing ruins of blackened spires

Charred by the fury of fires
That had passed that way,
That were smouldering and dying out in the West
At the end of the day.



At Gull Lake: August, 1810


GULL LAKE set in the rolling prairie—
Still there are reeds on the shore,
As of old the poplars shimmer
As summer passes;
Winter freezes the shallow lake to the core;

Storm passes,
Heat parches the sedges and grasses,
Night comes with moon-glimmer,

Dawn with the morning-star;
All proceeds in the flow of Time

As a hundred years ago.

Then two camps were pitched on the shore,
The clustered teepees
Of Tabashaw Chief of the Saulteaux.
And on a knoll tufted with poplars
Two gray tents of a trader—
Nairne of the Orkneys.
Before his tents under the shade of the poplars
Sat Keejigo, third of the wives
Of Tabashaw Chief of the Saulteaux;
Clad in the skins of antelopes
Broidered with porcupine quills
Coloured with vivid dyes,
Vermilion here and there
In the roots of her hair,
A half-moon of powder-blue
On her brow, her cheeks
Scored with light ochre streaks.
Keejigo daughter of Launay
The Normandy hunter
And Oshawan of the Saulteaux,
Troubled by fugitive visions
In the smoke of the camp-fires,
In the close dark of the teepee,
Flutterings of colour
Along the flow of the prairies,
Spangles of flower tints
Caught in the wonder of dawn,
Dreams of sounds unheard—
The echoes of echo,
Star she was named for
Keejigo, star of the morning,
Voices of storm—
Wind-rush and lightning,—
The beauty of terror;
The twilight moon
Coloured like a prairie lily,
The round moon of pure snow,
The beauty of peace;
Premonitions of love and of beauty
Vague as shadows cast by a shadow.
Now she had found her hero,
And offered her body and spirit
With abject unreasoning passion,
As Earth abandons herself
To the sun and the thrust of the lightning.
Quiet were all the leaves of the poplars,
Breathless the air under their shadow,
As Keejigo spoke of these things to her heart
In the beautiful speech of the Saulteaux.

The flower lives on the
The wind in the sky,
I am here my beloved;
The wind and the flower.

The crane hides in the sand-hills,

Where does the wolverine hide?
I am here my beloved,
Heart's-blood on the feathers
The foot caught in the trap.

Take the flower in your hand,

The wind in your nostrils;
I am here my beloved;
Release the captive
Heal the wound under the feathers.

A storm-cloud was marching
Vast on the prairie,
Scored with livid ropes of hail,
Quick with nervous vines of lightning—
Twice had Nairne turned her away
Afraid of the venom of Tabashaw,
Twice had the Chief fired at his tents
And now when two bullets
Whistled above the encampment
He yelled "Drive this bitch to her master."

Keejigo went down a path by the lake;
Thick at the tangled edges,
The reeds and the sedges
Were gray as ashes
Against the death-black water;
The lightning scored with double flashes
The dark lake-mirror and loud
Came the instant thunder.
Her lips still moved to the words of her music,
"Release the captive,
Heal the wound under the feathers."

At the top of the bank
The old wives caught her and cast her down
Where Tabashaw crouched by his camp-fire.
He snatched a live brand from the embers,
Seared her cheeks,

Blinded her eyes,
Destroyed her beauty with fire,

Screaming, "Take that face to your lover."
Keejigo held her face to the fury
And made no sound.

The old wives dragged her away
And threw her over the bank
Like a dead dog.

Then burst the storm—
The Indians' screams and the howls of the dogs
Lost in the crash of hail
That smashed the sedges and reeds,
Stripped the poplars of leaves,
Tore and blazed onwards,
Wasting itself with riot and tumult—
Supreme in the beauty of terror.
The setting sun struck the retreating cloud
With a rainbow, not an arc but a column
Built with the glory of seven metals;
Beyond in the purple deeps of the vortex
Fell the quivering vines of the lightning.
The wind withdrew the veil from the shrine of the moon,
She rose changing her dusky shade for the glow
Of the prairie lily, till free of all blemish of colour
She came to her zenith without a cloud or a star,
A lovely perfection, snow-pure in the heaven of midnight.
After the beauty of terror the beauty of peace.

But Keejigo came no more to the camps of her people;
Only the midnight moon knew where she felt her way,
Only the leaves of autumn, the snows of winter
Knew where she lay.  


At Sunset



LET us draw closer now; the clouds are riven
With flying shadow and shafts of vivid gold,
The dew shall fall with windfall, and in heaven
There shall be myriad starshine as of old.
Like a great nest the woodland warm and deep

Holds the wild lives drowsy and half at rest,
Till they are comforted with perfect sleep
When night has settled down upon the nest.
Let us tell over now in rich reflection
Our finite love treasured in Time's despite,
Infinite Love instinct with all perfection
Is settling close around us with the night.
Our two, wild hearts have suffered grievous things,
Let us be comforted beneath His wings.


The Faithful


WHY stands that star so brilliant in the West,
Burning without a tremor above the shield
Of the bronze hill? Has earth begun to yield
To infinite weariness and think it best
To turn no more upon a fruitless quest,
Only that men may laugh and love in the sun,
Taste grief in the shadow and when all is done
Sleep and forget life's failure in long rest?
No! 'Tis the magic of that shining heart
Which has no shade of doubt, that fixed it there
Commanding it her purpose to fulfil,
Neither to wane, nor tremble nor depart,
Till I should know in darkness and despair
Steadfast her star of love is burning still.


By the Sea


WHY comes this sorrow from the outer void
To check my heart with a vague agony
When it would dance in pleasure unalloyed
Or dream without desire or memory?
Thus have I known the tide turn on a bench
Of quiet rocks with loud, exultant sound,
The sun-warm golden seaweed toss and wrench
And triumph over them when they are drowned.
Yet would I not command the tide to be
Motionless water, nor by will restrain
The current of vague sorrow, nor decree
Peace to my heart from this reviving pain.
No, I would cleave it open to the core
For the remorseless surge to flood once more.


Under Stars



CAUGHT in the dew-drop surface of the mere,
The pure, high stars pursue their primal courses,
Dwarfed to pale points of fire their ancient forces
Where the curved shore-line, trembling silver clear,
Meets the dark mountain shadow, the wood-seer,

The hermit thrush, draws from its limpid sources,
Alien to all our passions and remorses,
The song that has no yearning and no fear.
Time thus enchanted, Fate can make no move.
My heart has mirrored on this matchless night
The highest things that men have ever thought;
And through the tranquil silence it has caught
The terrene song of some celestial sprite,
Floating in mingled moods of death and love.


On a Drawing of a Hand


THE flowing forms of the round arm
End in the hand's elusive charm:
The yearning eyes will linger less
Along the lines of loveliness,
Where every curve is a caress,
Than pore upon the shadowed place
Where Beauty holds a hidden grace
Within the hollow of the palm.
Here there is imaged the deep calm,
The perfect joy, unknown, the soul
Longs after, the clear Truth-in-Whole
Of Beauty, captive and concealed,
Never to be in round revealed,
Only to pursued uncaught,
Beyond dreaming, beyond thought,
Where Beauty leads in a caress
Along the lines of loveliness.


A Fancy


IF clouds were made for freighting  


The burden of the heart,  
I'd charter one and load it  

And send it to the mart.  

Where you come down at morning,


Before the heat of the day,  
From your poplars on the hillside  


To idle an hour away.  

Her feathery keel all glowing


With the sun's last light, 10
Stars shaken through her rigging  


With the cool of early night.  

My cloud would come to harbour

In the airy stream,  
Caught with cables of cobweb 15


To the sea-wall of dream.  

The mariners would lighten


The wealth of the hold,  
With air-drawn music,  


When the moon was gold. 20

And when the dawn was silvern

On poplar and pier,  
The market-folk would whisper  


"Look! wonder is here!"  

Then a rumour would reach you


That a cloud was at the quay,  
With a shy and subtle merchant  


And bales from fancy free.  

You would come like charmed sea-water


That follows the mood of the moon; 30
Or like the flow of a cadence  


In an old, slow tune.  

With your delicate ivory eyelids


Laving the sea-green eyes,  
With the long slender fingers 35


And the breast of sighs;  

Companioned by your maidens,


One dark and one fair,  
Theirs would be famous beauty  


If your beauty were not there. 40

You would drift down the tangle


And colour of the booths;  
Your glance would drop and linger  


On the beauties that are truths.  

You would pick up something tender


That in fancy you might buy,  
You would falter over something  


That was made with a sigh.  

You would hesitate and ponder,


All fluttered and confused, 50
Then you would choose a jewel  


And murmur as if bemused—  

"I'll take this tremulous trifle


Made of moonlit dew."  
(It was my least of fancies 55


Made from the love of you.)  

"Go, Sorrow, find this merchant


You tell me is subtle and shy,  
Pay him for his frail jewel  


With a glance of your eye; 60

"Come, Joy, the booths are sultry,


Leave all the splendid rest,  
But catch this fluid fancy up  


And pin it on my breast."  


By the Seashore


THERE on the desolate seashore at the end of day
Someone has lighted a fire as the tide and the sunlight are


ebbing away;  
The rocks are an altar fronting the coming night and the  


naked shingle.  
He is burning the letters (he promised to burn them) and  


He crushes them close and lays them along the fire. 5
He feels as if each were a martyr burning there for a  


deathless name,  
As if he, of the faith, were a coward afraid of the flame.

The tide flows out to a deep sea darkness,
The sunlight streams away from the deeps of midnight,
A finite sorrow is seeking the Infinite sorrow.

Slowly he gives to the fire his desire and his treasure;
The fire takes all with an ancient and passionate pleasure
That eats of diverse fuel with careless grace

Be it heart of man or leaves in an autumn place.

Men have likened desire to a fire,

But it bears no final likeness to fire;
The desire of the heart leaves sorrow that lives in a scar,
But fire when it dies is nought.

The flame flutters and vanishes.
Here and there the word 'love' shines and expires in gold
The word 'forever' lives a moment in grey on the cinder,
A shrinking of all the char in a brittle heap—
It is done, nothing remains but the scar of a sorrow.
Sunlight deserts the shadow and leaves no message at


The stars flock into the shadow without a greeting, 25
From the Infinite sorrow, sought and not found,
Comes no sound.

But the tide throws back a ripple
That whispers and sighs as if there was something forgotten,
The ripple says, "Give me the embers

"'Tis the sea that remembers"
The ripple plashes and whispers
"Give me the ashes
For the sea is the Mother of Sorrow"
So the only voice is the sea's voice

Receding and dying in darkness.
Sorrow is answered there by the whispering, the sighing—
The sea is the Mother of Sorrow
And She will remember."




SOME men are born to gather women's tears,
To give a harbour to their timorous fears,
To take them as the dry earth takes the rain,
As the dark wood the warm wind from the plain;
Yet their own tears remain unshed,
Their own tumultuous fears unsaid,
And, seeming steadfast as the forest and the earth,
Shaken are they with pain.
They cry for voice as earth might cry for the sea
Or the wood for consuming fire;
Unanswered they remain
Subject to the sorrows of women utterly—
Heart and mind,
Subject as the dry earth to the rain
Or the dark wood to the wind.


The Bells



NOT on this night of sullen rain
And on a tormented wind,
But on a bland, still night
Filled with the ancient starlight;
Then the bell notes float on the surface of silence
Like the fabled flower of Lotus on a stream
Whose sources are the secret wells of Sleep.
The air, like the air in a shell,
Is drowsy with murmur;
The ear in fancy hears the after-murmur of the bells
(The ripple around the Lotus when the stream
Is ruffled by the movement of a dream.)
The flawless night is fluent and bemused
With fusion of flower and tone and overtone.
Time is entranced,
Entranced thyself and led by enchanted Sleep
Into the Country where the Real is Dream.

Not on this night of sullen rain
And a tormented wind
That torture one another;
If the wind screams the rain is still as death,
If the rain sobs the wild wind holds its breath;
But both conspire against the rule of silence
And the sanctuary of Sleep.
Once a clear note escaping the wind
Calls like a wounded bird at the window;
Once a faint note free of the rain
Falls broken on the pane.
The hours go unrecorded;
Even the death of midnight goes untolled.
The frantic night is full of violence and of lamentation;
Time is distraught, silence is blinded—
Blinded thyself and led by the blind ghost
Of Sleep seeking the Country he has lost.


Earliest Morning


LITTLE awns of sunlight,  


Dancing on the dusky floor  
Of the world: the one bright  


Angel at the dawn's door  

Holds it open to the vista


Of the grey-dew on the hills  
Tranced with memories of the misty  


Moonlight and the whippoorwills;  

While in leagues of airy lightness,


Cooled by clear, ethereal gales, 10
The great seraphs, dark with brightness,  


Tossing up their whirling flails,  

Thresh the golden sheaf of the Sun;


Till the pure candescent kernel  
(Multifold, quintillion), 15


Showers upon the vivid, vernal.  

Face of the earth, so cool, so tender,


From the moonlight and the dew,  
As it turns through gradual splendour  


Back to moonlight and dew. 20

But as yet the awns of sunlight


Dance alone on the dusky floor,  
Idly drifting by the one bright  


Angel at the dawn's door.  


Imogen's Wish


WHEN I have spent my little life,  


I pray you of your grace  
Lay me in some secluded spot  


A maple-shadowed place;  

Where spring shall gently green the grass,


Where silver snow had lain,  
Where only tempered sun shall fall,  


After a soothing rain.  

For mine own flower I would prefer,


Leaving the world the rest, 10
A brood of the wood-daffodil,  


To tremble on my breast,  

Then you might say if wandered there,


Far from your light and power,  
"She must have lived with lovely thought 15


To choose so pure a flower".  


Time the Victor


THE graves are in the moonlight  


Clustered on the hill,  
The shadows of the headstones  


Move with the moon's will.  

Upon the silvered marble


Are traced in fading dust  
Words of Hope and Triumph  


Of Sorrow and of Trust.  

One proclaims all virtue


Another prays for rest, 10
And all declare immortal  


The Soul upon her quest.  

Clouds will march with thunder,


Moons will glow and wane,  
Men will write their hearts out, 15


And ask for truth in vain;  

And Time the careless Victor,


In spite of hopes and tears  
Will crush the stones of memory  


With the falling years. 20


Spring in the Valley


SPRING has caught up the eager earth  


With her enchanted power;  
In rounded drifts of ashy white


The plum-trees are in flower.  

The light is like a fluttering bird


Caught in a cage of blue;  
The warmth is like a beating heart  


Flooding the world through.  

No leaves are full upon the woods


Only a dream of leaves; 10
The sun, from the hollow to the height,  


A wave of colour weaves.  

Groups of black pines like builded piers


Stand solid in the glow,  
As if they held the shimmering tide 15


Back from an overflow.  

Only two sounds are on the air,


A snow-brook babbles free,  
A blue-bird tries his early note  


In an old apple-tree. 20

Under the pines, in the brown shade,


Two lovers are at rest;  
No thoughts disturb the pools of joy  


Tranquil in either breast.  

The mist of evening in his eyes,


The dew of morns in hers,  
Between them in the fluttering light  


The breath of beauty stirs.  




WHEN twilight walks in the west,  


Meeting the night with a sigh,  
When the wild bird comes to her nest  


And a star to the open sky,  
Tenderness flows on the air,


In full tide deep and still;  
It frees the mind of care  


And quiet the restless will.  
The soul enters her own


Home of delight long sought, 10
The heaven of feeling strown  


With nebulous stars of thought.  
Beauty stirs in the breast,


Ecstasy trembles there—  
When twilight walks in the west 15


And tenderness flows on the air.  


A Secret


THE rain rustled to fall  


In the garden by the wall,  
Whispered a secret say,  


And rustled away.  

Then when the light grew stronger,


A great rain fell  
And talked for an hour longer  


With nothing to tell.  

For the rain had whispered all


In the garden by the wall, 10
All it was sent to say  


Ere the break of the day.  


A Song


MOMENTS fall from the hour,  


Hours from the day,  
They say as they fall,  


Flee awayflee away.  

Flee away colour of life;


Action and power  
Come quiet to end  


As the death of a flower.  

Leave us beauty and love


Longing to stay; 10
The moments say and the hours  


Flee awayflee away.  


Past and Present


IT seems how long ago
How far away it seems,
Since Time was free of delusions and of dreams,
And Life a story of enchanted hours
Told in the idiom of happy trees,
In the wind's idiom, and the flower's,
Natural as these.
Yet Time will linger to repeat
The murmur of a sound so moving sweet,
The shadow of a scene coloured so fair;
Till memory shall grow
More real than the actual day
And come to be the substance, not the show,
Of past enchantment, till that seems
Not very far away nor long ago.


A Group of Lyrics






O WAVE that breaks far out at sea!
Too far, far off for any sound
To come to me, but only sight
Of the green curve, the crest of light
The flash—and then the level of the sea.

O Soul that lifts this level life!
Too far, far off for any love
To come to me, but only sight
Of the great heart's motion, and the light
Of beauty—and then the level of this life.




Where there was sea the mountains stand
On rift and ridge are shells and sand
Change has enriched the moving air;
Then why should not thy lover dare
To touch thy lips and eyes divine
And lay his heart to thine?

Where there was land the ocean rolls
And fields are gulfed in deeps and shoals
Change has enriched the gleaming sea;
Then why not change and come to me
With trembling lips and eyes divine
And lay thy heart to mine?




Twilight had formed a lovely rose,  


A flower of film and fire;  
It seemed as if the throbbing west 25


Had found our heart's desire.  

Then Shadow, from the breathless void


Where rest and silence are,  
Gathered the lovely rose for Death  


And left us with a star. 30




The rose shall fade  


The dew shall dry  
There shall be no more sea  


And no more sky.  

How swift the fatal thought


Towards the sure ending falls,  
Forgetting all the throbbing life  


Of the sweet intervals.  

Yet Fate has not the power


To rob the rose of scent, 40
Or steal the rapture from the hour  


Of Love's content.  


The Wise Men From the East



TO Bethlehem beneath the Star,
The wise men from the outlands far


Came clad in silk and vair;  
Christ Jesus in His Mother's hold
Stared at the jewels and the gold,


The three made wondrous fair.  

Then first the swarthy Baltasar,
Whose glance was like a scimitar,


Stood forth before the rest:  
Although he bore the fragrant myrrh, 10
Christ Jesus turned from him to her  


And hid within her breast.  

Behind him was the youth Gaspar,
Who held a shining crystal jar,


His face was merry and red; 15
Although he bore the frankincense
And was of debonair presence,


Christ Jesus turned His head.  

The third was haughty Melchoir,
Dark with spoil of mart and war,


He bore the crusted gold;  
Christ Jesus gave a cry of pain,
And looked not on them once again


But nestled in His fold.  

For they had brought Him treasure-trove,
But had not any little love  


For one they thought a King:  
Christ Jesus gave to Mary then
His first mild message unto men,


Love is the precious thing. 30


The Spider and the Rose


FILMS and flashes—
Music came in careless crashes
On the shore of silence.
I heard a voice declare
This is the famous Fair,
The Fair of Moods and Passions,
Of Follies and of Fashions
Triumphant in the sea.
Light fell with a blasting glare
There were no blue shadows there.
Music made the shadow;
Pouring from a grey pavilion
That sparkled with a million
Lustres, and a leader made of bones
Hurled the trombone tones
To the dancers far below.
All around them a gigantic,
Vast and vertical Atlantic;
Walls as clear as emerald,
Emerald hard and emerald green;
The bright burning fish were seen
Before a tapestry of weeds and shells,
Woven of tangled seeds and bells
Shimmering with the glamour of the sea.
Dancers under the music flail
Whirled and dashed along the floor;
"Wont you deign to dance with me?"
I had known that face before;
Not the Beauty I adore
I had come there to see:
She was gypsy-dark and free,
Naked to the waist and wild,
A changeling, a fairy child;
Spiders lived in her dusk hair,
I could see them ambushed there.
As we danced she bent away—
Far away, and backward bent;
Down and ever down we went,
Outcasts from a honied moon,
At the nadir of the swoon
Her remote and fairy features
Gleamed like some illfated creature's
Floating in a pool.
Drifting slow I heard her singing
Far, far off a silver cool
Old and passionless ditty
Simple with a touch of pity.

Leave the roses on the rose-tree
Day after day
Leave them, let them linger
Till they fade away
Let them know the joy of dying
Ungathered after all
With fragrance sighing
As they fall.

I saw her ruby eyelids flare
Through the spider-haunted hair.
They wove her hair in subtle strands,
Linked them up with branch-like bands,
Spread the web across the lands,
Hid the sea and Fair.
From infinity of height
I saw white roses lie in light
On the web of woven hair:
It was changing I was ware,
It was nothing but a rose-tree
With its moonlight-load
Of blossom by the border of a road.

Then there fell a Shadow,
A Shadow without form,
Like the core of a storm.
The music stopped,
Away the dancing dropped,
The sea-wall flickered like green flame.
He was not a solid being
That one knows by touch or seeing,
That one calls by any name,
Just the Shadow of a feeling
Drifting down and stealing
Down the Midway.
The dancers rushed and crowded
Towards the Shadow that enshrouded
All the sea and air,
Their swift action was a prayer
For something precious, peerless
That made them fierce and fearless
Of the Shadow.
I could not hear their questions
But I swear I heard him say
"No Dancers, no,
I'm not taking any lives today."
Then they melted away
Like children denied,
The sea even sighed;
When the music throbbed and ached
It was ancient pain unslaked
Or a sorrow that had died and lived again.

Then I saw one coming through the crowd,
If a star could be a sound,
If a moving line of melody
Could be a woman's grace,
If a rose could be a face,
That was she, the darling Beauty
I had come there to see.
She seemed all astray

Lost and lonely,
To be seeking one soul only;
But she never looked my way.
Then she floated near the Shadow
As the music-stream ran shallow,

The rhythm slack and meagre,
She murmured something eager,
Anxious and slow,
A question that would brook no delay;
And again I heard him say
This time, this way,
"No Beauty, no,
I am claiming only one life today".
Tears of wild dismay
Dashed across her vivid face;
I saw her anguished beauty
Move with a haunting grace
To the measure of a song I heard
Once in another place,
"Let them know the joy of dying"
Then a far-off call,
Like a sweeter voice replying,
"With fragrance sighing
As they fall".
O to have given something I had brought
Pure as gathered moonlight,
The fragrance of a thought,
Before she went away;
But the music sprang and crashed
And she winced as if lashed
By the trumpets stinging loud;
She was taken by the crowd.
So I only heard her murmur,
Anxious and low,
And I heard the Shadow say,
"No Beauty, no."

Then I thought to venture nearer,
To see the Shadow clearer,
But I found myself surrounded
With dim fringes bounded
By nothing. Then a wonder!
A pigeon white as silver
Hanging on a cloud of thunder,
Hanging on the vacant air;
Not a pigeon but a hand carven fair
Out of ivory—
Perfect, so I dreamed, a hand
A mad princess might command
Her Chief Carver to make
For a false lover's sake.

(She had strangled him and cut off a hand).
The hand hung at her side,

She played with it and cried,—
"This is good luck", she said,
"My good luck," she sighed.


The ivory hand was dead
Carven without flaw,
But I shivered when I saw
That between the thumb and finger
Was a living white rose.

Then I remembered:
I had lingered on the road
By a rose-tree with its load
Of blossom, and had chosen
One whose beauty was like frozen
Moonlight; as I plucked it
Rushed a spider from his lair;
He was armed and ambushed there
To protect the virgin rose-tree from her foes.
But I thought no more

When I robbed the rose-tree of a rose
Than, "This will be a beauty
For the Beauty I adore
Who is waiting at the Fair."

I remembered and I knew the hand was my hand,

I knew it by the rose,
And upon the index finger,
For a ring, the spider clinging
In malign repose.

Then the whole Fair's evil riot
Fell into a fatal quiet
To hearken while I questioned
And to hear the Shadow say,—
"Yea—you who robbed the rose-tree
You must come today."

Darkness in a rain of ashes
Broken through with films and flashes,
Dancers wrenched apart and flying,
Music blown away and dying
With the roar of the falling sea.

Then the Beauty I adore
Rushing from the ruined Fair
Paused a moment in her flight,
Frantic when she saw me there,
Whispering, faint and brokenhearted,
"I had sought you everywhere",
Kissed me once before we parted
On the forehead and the hair.


The Nightwatchman


ONE of my father's flock was Alfred Mee,
To my young mind a man of mystery;
His habits and appearance were so strange,
Unusual, and far beyond my range;
He slept throughout the day and worked at night;
So I would wait all breathless for the sight
Of the tall, fragile form of Mister Mee,
The afternoons that we were asked for tea.
A shadow—he was always clad in gray—
His face and hands were pallid like dry clay,
Hair shaggy, dark and sleepless-looking eyes
That blinked at light; then the enormous size
Of the long hand that bore the curious thing
That charmed and held me—a great mourning-ring
Of heavy gold surrounding a black stone
That made a blot upon the skin and bone
Of his long finger. (Mistress Mee's aside
"'Twas give him by his sister when she died").

His wife, he always called her Mistress Mee,
Unlike her husband as she well could be,
Was bustling, bright, and sure and serviceable
As water in a river or a well;
With a large bosom and a florid face
She was the happy genius of the place.
She never called him Alfred, Alf. or Dear,

But always mister Mee. With slow, and queer
And sleep-like motion he would range
About the little garden, vague and strange.

I watched him wander with a kind of awe,
For floating round his cloudy form I saw

The foundry where he worked as nightwatchman,
The sprawling buildings, the bewildering plan
Of corridors, and workshops, and machines,
Where I was led and lectured on the scenes
By daylight; but the moulding-shop by far
Was weirdest; no clanging noises there to jar
But only space, and gloom in the raftered roof,
Grey light through grimy panes almost sun-proof,
With flags of cobwebs hanging in many a shred,
Laden with dust, and all the shadowy shed
Filled with the smell of the charred moulding-earth
On a cool air; I thought it must be worth
Millions to be a man like Mister Mee
To watch for fires and thieves and tramps and be
Alone all night, wandering about, to hark

For noise, and eat at midnight in the dark.
My fears were draped around the lean pale head
That peered amongst the flowers, and my dread
Of darkness and of every frightening thing
Was focused on the solemn mourning-ring.


His garden-gem I never can forget—
The hen-and-chickens in the border set
And over them the clubs of mignonette;
Rooted in stones upon a sunny slope,
Sweetest of all sweet things the heliotrope;

Spears of dust-purple lavender,
And many another flower to make a blur
Of colour and design, of dark and light,
In memory now a tangle of scent and sight;
And plants of pungent leaf, and one of those

Weird Mister Mee would crush beneath my nose
And say, "Now sniff this hard and you will be
Someday a tall and strong OLD MAN like me".
Then Mistress Mee would laugh and say, "For sure
O Mister Mee, you are a perfect cure:"
A pair of garden scissors he would bring
In the lean hand that wore the mourning-ring,
And the pale fingers would disturb and cull
Of all the blossoms the most beautiful;
When they were blended into a bouquet
He'd drift along the path and dreamily say,
"Take these to Mother when you go away."
But to my timid heart the day was rife
With shadows from his other hidden life,
And as he floated about and came and went,
Flower-scent was mingled with the acrid scent
Of the burnt soil; and close, a paler man
Clad in blue overalls, bearing a can
Of secret food, near him there seemed to lurk;
(Thus had I seen him slouching to his work).

When the time came, in the crab-apple shade
Kind Mistress Mee would have the table laid,
Spreading a dainty, checkered linen cover
And smothering it with wonder-things all over,
Silver and glass and china, blue and gold,

Things that were frail and precious I was told,
Brought from a distant land that she called "Home".
Cool milk for drink and honey in the comb,
Thin bread-and-butter, and flour-dusted scones,
Rich damson plums, preserved without the stones,

Luscious soft-custard in long glasses shrined,
Light layer-cake with lemon jelly lined.
"Now sit you down and eat, my duckies, do
Never dont stop until you're rightly through."
None of these dainties Mister Mee would eat

He sat apart upon a garden-seat.
From Mistress Mee, "He's breakfasted before,"
Breakfast! on what strange food at that uncanny hour?
Then after tea I had to stand and say,
"It was a summer evening", Casabianca,

And, "I remember," out of Ingoldsby,
Enjoyed with many a chuckle by Mister Mee.
Then she would say, "Now Mister Mee repeat
Sexton's Lament, and give the lambs a treat".
Then he would murmur, as if under a spell,

Sexton's Lament in which he bade farewell
To the crypt, the graves, the belfry and the bell.
"He made it up himself" (whispered aside),

She smoothed her satin apron in her pride.
Even as we looked he vanished out of sight

And went away to stay awake all night.
Then we must go and bare our gifts away—
The flowers for Mother, Mistress Mee would say,
"Now take this to your Auntie", a small pot
Of bear's grease, scented sweet with bergamot.

Why have I dreamed and started up this show
Of things that happened many a year ago?
For gentle, buxom Mistress Mee is gone
All her treasures to the four winds strown;
And Mister Mee they found one morning dead
Clutching his lantern in the moulding-shed.
Searching a desk for treasure I unbound
An old portfolio and there I found
Written with formal flourish on a half
Sheet of blue note-paper this EPITAPH.

Kind friend pause here a moment for you see
The humble grave of MR. ALFRED MEE.
He was nightwatchman in a moulding-shop
And died resigned but full of hope.
He often mentioned in his quiet way
That when he got to heaven he would say
To some great herald-angel—HARK—
I wish you'd put me in the dark.
I cannot bear this glaring light
For down below I turned the day to night,
I kept a watch for fires and wicked men
And up in heaven I'd do that work again.
You hope he got his wish? then do agree
To say a prayer for him where'er you be
For when you pray for him you pray for ME.

Who wrote the lines and are they on the stone
Where Mister and Mistress Mee lie all alone?
Someday I must adventure to the spot
And search amid the maples for their plot;
When I approach the headstone I should hope
To know it by the scent of heliotrope,
And rooted firm within their tiny span,
To find the pungent herb that's called OLD MAN.