Selected Poems of
Theodore Goodridge Roberts
by Martin Ware
Shooting of the Moose”: the earlier version
is preferred to the LB poem “The
Moose” in which the fourth stanza is omitted,
and other revisions have the effect of mitigating
the poem’s tone.
Flight”: an early version of this was entitled
“The Honk of the Geese,” and published
in The Criterion (New Series), 2 (April
1901-March 1902), p.5. A rearranged and revised
version was published in LS, and this
version with very minor changes was published
in Songs of the Maritimes. I have preferred
the latter to the LB version. In the
LB version “winter’s fled”
is substituted for “winter’s dead”;
a line “In the star mist there” is
added to the third stanza; and “cronk”
Over”: the date 1902 is conjectural, based
on parallels with “Spring Flight,”
and the fact that Theodore was in New York in
the Spring of 1902.
Angler”: the last two stanzas of this poem,
which are much inferior to the other three, have
Desolate Cabin”: a three verse poem with
this title was published in Ainslie’s
Magazine, 12 (1905), p. 109. The later version,
printed here, is a much revised and expanded version
of this. According to a handwritten note in the
margin of a UNB typescript, “The Desolate
Cabin” was revised on 20th November, 1931.
Apart from the pointing, the TS and LB
versions are identical.
Song for Isoud”: the conjectural date of
1900 is based on Theodore’s
preoccupation with knight errantry at this time,
as evidenced by his prose work The House
of Isstens (Boston: Page, 1900). “Palamides
at the Well,” a poem on much the same theme
as “A Song for Isoud,” appeared in
print in Literary World, vol. 34 in 1903.
Day’s Grief”: the conjectural date
of 1900 is based only on parallels of mood and
motif with other poems written at about this [Page
Players”: probably takes as its point of
departure Theodore’s battle to survive during
his bouts with complications of malaria in 1898.
Vigil”: conjectural date of 1904 would be
consistent with the serene mood of the first year
of Theodore’s marriage.
Epitaph”: some of the images and ideas in
this poem are found in Theodore’s “The
Vagabond,” Century Magazine, 56
(1898), p. 685. The first known version of the
actual poem is entitled “A Vagrant’s
Epitaph,” Scribner’s Magazine,
6 (1904), p. 204. This was revised as “Epitaph
for a Voyageur,” and published in The
Oxford Book of Canadian Verse (1913). Further
revisions were made before the poem appeared as
“An Epitaph” in LB.
of a Lost Heart”: the allusion to the pink-walled
house is almost certainly to the house in the
Barbados that Theodore and his family lived in
(mentioned in “Christmas in Alurio”).
“The grey-walled house / In veiled London
town” might be the house on Charing Cross
Road to which Theodore went on leave in 1917-18;
and “the grey-roofed house between the wood
and the stream” is likely to have been a
house in backwoods New Brunswick. The most likely
date for the poem is 1918-19, before Theodore
returned home from the war.
Love Were Only These Things”: the strong
romanticism here might tend to suggest that the
poem was written at about the same time as “The
Fiddler”: probably belongs to the years
1899-1901 spent in Newfoundland. The first five
numbers of the Newfoundland Magazine,
of which Theodore was the editor, and in which
the poem probably first appeared, have disappeared
Wrecker’s Prayer”: another poem best
ascribed to the Newfound-land years.
Carey’s Chickens”: the early version
given here appeared in The
Independent, 53 (1901), p. 2532. The
poem was reprinted in a virtually identical form
in an undated, unidentified newspaper, a clipping
from which is in the editor’s possession.
The early version has a rhythmic vigour lacking
in the LB version.
in May”: the headnote “Pernambuco”
in LB indicates that the poem was written
in this Brazilian port. Theodore visited it [Page
110] once in 1901. According to an undated
newspaper clipping giving an account of a talk
he gave to the Commercial Club of Halifax (Nova
Scotia), he sailed as supercargo from Newfoundland
to Pernambuco on the barquentine the Flora. In
his reported words “the captain never drank
a drop while at sea…But he soon caught
up with me when he went ashore.”
North”: the Independent version
has a note “off Pernambuco.” Hence,
a date of 1901.
Green”: according to the undated clipping
mentioned above, the poem was written during the
five month voyage to Pernambuco and back in 1901.
One of Theodore’s notebooks refers to “Fiddler’s
Green” as the title poem of a collection
submitted for possible publication in 1908. It
is not known what happened to this submission
nor to the typescript (which may have been lost
when the Saint John river in the spring of 1919
flooded Dr. A.G.F. Wainwright’s basement
where many of Theodore’s papers had been
stored for the duration of the war).
Shark”: the poem first appeared in The
Independent, 70 (1911), p. 141, and was subsequently
very substantially revised before it appeared
in The Halifax Herald. This has been
preferred to the LB version. The final
line in LB is “‘That’s
that,’ the skipper said.”
Blind Sailor”: the first known version appeared
in The Canadian Magazine, 38 (1911-12),
p. 421. I have preferred it to the LB
version on the grounds that revisions in the latter
to two of the lines of the seventh verse read
“Fountains in the garden and oxen in the
street / Black men selling parrots, and brown
girls selling sweets.”
Hamadryad”: in the LB text, the
last two stanzas are run together. In earlier
versions of the poem (Ind; SP;
LS;) the last eight lines take the form
of two quatrains. In all likelihood, the running
together of the two quatrains was simply an editorial
Complaint of the Olivette”: the Olivette
was the ship that carried thirty-eight war correspondents
from Florida to Cuba where they would cover the
Spanish War (spring, 1898).
Torpedo Boat”: a surprisingly early poem
on this subject, published in the Kit Bag,
2 (1902), pp. 27-28. The poem was datelined “Cuba
Fifes of Valcartier”: the title of an early
version was “The Fifes [Page 111]
at Valcartier,” published in The Windsor
Magazine, 42 (1915), p. 118. A later version
“The Fifes” was published in Touchstone,
1 (July 1917), p. 284. This has the dateline “Valcartier
Camp, Canada; 9th September, 1914.” The
camp was a temporary base for the troops of the
Canadian Expeditionary Force before they sailed
for the battlefields of Europe.
Cook-House at Reveillé”: the UNB
TS. has been preferred to the LB version.
There is a tougher tone to the former. The TS.
is annotated with a dateline of “November
1914” in Theodore’s hand.
Billet in Flanders”: the date 1915 is bracketed
below the title in LB.
River”: according to Charles Bruce’s
account of a poetry reading given by Theodore
(“Streams Sparkle,” Expositor,
16th January, 1935), the latter said that this
was first published in The Listening Post,
the magazine of the 7th battalion. It was probably
written in reaction to the horrors of trench warfare—;most
likely in 1915 when Theodore was often at the
White Water Boy”: the conjectural date of
1917 is based on the fact, amongst others, that
in this year Theodore published a prose piece
about Archie Douglas, “Old Archie,”
Canadian Magazine, 50 (1917).
Morning”: a TS. of this poem, probably dating
to 1923-6, exists in the Mary Fanton Roberts papers.
It is typed on the same sheet as “The Sandbar”
and “The Blue Heron.” According to
Dorothy Roberts Leisner, Theodore’s daughter,
“The Blue Heron” was written in 1923,
which may indicate a comparable date for “River
Sandbar”: see “River Morning”
above. Probably written in about 1923.
Blue Heron”: “‘The Blue Heron’
was written in 1923. I remember the very day.
Dad was walking on the St. John River back from
our camp five miles above Fredericton—;and
came back with that poem.” Extract of a
letter from Dorothy Roberts Leisner to the editor
(1st June, 1984).
according to one of Theodore’s notebooks,
written in 1931.
Dying Pirate’s Prayer”: the LS
version is preferred to the LB version,
because the seaman’s language is more consistent
in the [Page 112] former. One
is inclined to suspect a heavy editorial hand
in the case of the latter.
Lower Bridge Bath”: written in 1932 according
to one of Theodore’s
notebooks. It was almost certainly written during
or shortly after Theodore’s last major sea
voyage, made in that year to the Caribbean and
then by way of the Panama Canal to Vancouver and
a much worked over TS. of this is dated 4th March,
1933. [Page 113]
Life of Theodore Goodridge
July—;birth at Fredericton. Lived
at George Street Rectory, his father,
Goodridge Roberts, being rector of St. Anne’s
childhood. Summer visits to the Smith farm
at Crock’s Point, North of Fredericton.
Much canoeing on the Nashwaak and Saint
John Rivers. The old loyalist house, Belmont,
of his maternal grandfather, George Pigeon
Bliss, becomes etched in his mind as he
frequently glides past it.
publication of one of his poems in a major
New York magazine, The Century,
Theodore being aged eleven.
to join the navy as a midshipman.
at the University of New Brunswick.
Manages Rectory glebe farm, Aldergarth,
in backwoods country near Stanley. Commences
continual publication of poems in major
reviews and magazines.
sub-editor with The Independent
of New York. Lives with his brothers Charles
correspondent to cover the Cuban conflict
for The Independent. Spring: lives
in the tent city at Tampa, Florida, and
then sails to Cuba on the S.S. Olivette—;38
war correspondents aboard. Lands with Gen.
Shafter’s army at Baiquiri, Province
of Santiago; stricken with malaria—;6th
July—;returning to Tampa. Autumn—;in
New York, suffering from serious complications
of malaria, he sees New York specialists,
who diagnose him as chronically consumptive
and send him home to die.
seriously ill. Taken in hand by an unnamed
Fredericton surgeon who operates several
times, and thus saves his life. Nursed through
the crisis by Frances Seymour Allen, [Page
115] whom he subsequently marries.
May—;moves to St. John’s, Newfoundland
to establish and edit The Newfoundland
Magazine, which is to be “a first-rate
illustrated magazine to represent England’s
oldest colony in the magazine world.”
Publishes with his brother William Carman
Roberts and his sister Jane Elizabeth Roberts
a joint collection of verse, North-land
around the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador,
and journeys into the interior. 1900: publication
of The House of Isstens (Boston:
Page), a prose romance about a Knight errant.
month voyage from St. John’s to Pernambuco,
Brazil, and back on a full-rigged barkentine,
The Flora, commanded by Capt. Tizarra.
On Crew list as ‘supercargo.’
Autumn—;moves to New York, and lives
with his brothers Charles and Will. Described
by a girlfriend as “one of the three
cavaliers of 9th Street.”
to Fredericton. November—;establishes
a small magazine, The Kit Bag,
to publish verse and prose.
to Frances Seymour Allen. They live at Elgin,
months—;honeymoon passage to the West
Indies. They settle at Elberton, Bathsheba,
Barbados (“the pink-walled house on
a surfy and windy coast”). September
birth of Goodridge. Publication of Hemming,
the Adventurer (Boston: Page).
to New York. (in a letter, Theodore wrote
“the tropics is no place for…kids…too
hot, too enervating”). In September
makes explicit decision not to
live in the U.S. close to his literary markets,
but to make his permanent base Fredericton.
Publication of Brothers of Peril
certain pattern of life is established,
involving frequent moves between farms (one
of them an abandoned hill farm), houses,
flats, and summer cottages. It also includes
a writer’s routine of typing 2000
words in a morning so that he will have
the rest of the day free for fishing, rambling,
reading, etc. Books constantly to hand include
Malory, Morte d’Arthur; Tolstoy,
Tales; Sam Johnson, The Rambler;
and various books by R.L. Stevenson, Captain
Marryat, and R.M. Ballantyne. [Page
Lieutenant in the Princess Louise New Brunswick
Hussars, a militia regiment. Enjoys the
officers’ mess, an important centre
of social life in Fredericton. July—;birth
of The Red Feathers (Boston: Page),
a book with a Newfoundland setting.
of a TS. of poetry, entitled Fiddler’s
Green to Scribner’s. Not clear
what happened to this TS.
to England (London and Berkshire Country)
where T.G.R. has a series of short stories
to do for Pearson’s Magazine
of New York. March—;birth of Theodora.
Publication of Flying Plover: His Stories
Told by Squat-by-the-Fire (Boston:
Page), a series of stories set in Newfoundland.
his brother Charles’ urging, moves
to Hotel de l’École, Pontlevoy,
France in February. Neighbours of Charles
and of the American writer Frank Norris,
author of The Octopus (1901) etc.
Writing The Harbour Master. Publication
of Comrades of the Trails (Boston:
Page); and A Cavalier of Virginia
Return to Canada. Will write under the name
Theodore Goodridge Roberts “because
some piratical author has been trading on
his name.” Settles for the summer
at a farmhouse where the Oromocto flows
into the Saint John. Publication of A
Captain of Raleigh’s. Joint publication
with Robert Neilson Stephens of A Soldier
of Valley Forge (Boston: Page).
of Rayton: A Backwoods Mystery
(Boston: Page), set in New Brunswick.
of Loveday. Publication of The Harbour
Master—;also published under
the title, The Toll of the Tides
(London: Laurie); publication also of Two
Shall Be Born (New York: Cassell);
and Love on SmokeyRiver (London:
of Loveday. Commissioned lieutenant in the
12th Battalion, the Canadian Expeditionary
Force. Stationed briefly at Valcartier,
Quebec. Then with the dirty dozen on Salisbury
Plain for the autumn and winter of 1914.
Publication of Jess of the River
(New York: Dillingham); The Wasp
(London: Hodder); and Blessington’s
Folly (London: Long).
family follows him to England on a camouflaged
[Page 117] ship, sailing
through submarine infested waters. His family
lives at Folkestone. September 1915-April
1916 on the staff of Max Aitken (later Lord
Beaverbrook), representative of Canadian
H.Q. at First Canadian Division headquarters
on the Western Front in France. December—;dines
with Winston Churchill and Aitken at the
latter’s house at St. Omer.
at the Canadian war records office, London.
Author of Patrols and French
Raids. Shares flat with his brother
Charles and with Edward Platt (who wrote
under the nom de plume Paul Trent) at 27
Charing Cross Rd. 1916—;published
In the High Woods (London: Long).
a headquarters aide-de-camp on the staff
of General Currie, G.O.C. Canadian Corps
on the Western Front. Involved in planning
the operations of the Canadian Corps at
the battle of Passchendaele. 1917—;publication
of Forest Fugitives (Toronto: McClelland).
to the Canadian War Records Office as O.I.C.
Canadian Military Publications. 30 Canadian
V.C.s is the only book published by
this office after the war to bear his name,
but several others are largely written by
him (e.g. Battalion Histories and
the three volumes of Canada in Flanders).
Return to Canada for Christmas, spent with
his wife’s family, the Allens, at
Petitcodiac, New Brunswick. One of his best
books, The Wasp, reprinted in an
English edition, The Islands of Adventure
of moves—;lives at Rose Hall, Waterloo
Row, Fredericton in 1919; then to Ottawa,
Kingsmere, the Gatineau Hills in 1920; and
after this (until 1922) to the Dominion
Experimental Farm below Fredericton. Many
manuscripts and papers lost in the Fredericton
flood of 1919.
of The Master of the Moose Horn and
Other Backcountry Stories (London:
Hodder); also Exiled Lover (London:
of Moonshine (Toronto: Hodder).
of The Lure of Piper’s Glen
(New York: Doubleday).
of The Fighting Starkleys (Boston:
Page); and Muskrat House (New York:
Doubleday). [Page 118]
of a poetry TS. Not clear what happened
to this compilation. Beginning of a stable
period in Fredericton. Publication of Tom
Akerley: His Adventure in the Tall
Timber and at Gaspard’s Clearing.
of The Stranger from Up-Along (Garden
City: Doubleday/Page); The Oxbow Wizard
(New York: Garden City Publishing); Green
Timber Thoroughbreads (New
York: Garden City); The Red Pirogue
the preface to his Seven Poems
(privately printed) Theodore writes: “From
time to time I shall issue for my friends
six or seven little pieces, as I retrieve
them from old magazines, anthologies, and
the bottom of trunks” (from “the
author’s preface”). Also published
Honest Fool (London: Hodder).
The Lost Shipmate (Toronto: Ryerson
Chapbook), Verse; also Prize
Money (Boston: Page).
a regular column “Under the Sun”:
for The Saint John Telegraph Journal.
Publishes The Golden Highlander: or
the Romantic Adventures of Alasdair
MacIver (Boston: Page).
the magazine Acadie which runs
for seven months between April and September.
Receives an honorary D. Litt. at the University
of New Brunswick Spring Convocation. Starts
extensive revision of a number of his earlier
major sea voyage. Caribbean, Panama Canal,
Vancouver and back. Cross Canada reading
tour, culminating in festivities in Vancouver.
a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
Publication of The Leather Bottle
(Toronto: Ryerson), the most important collection
of his verse, though it only contains between
a quarter and a fifth of all the poems that
to Toronto. Present at his brother Charles’
seventy-fifth birthday party.
a small magazine, Spotlights, which
runs briefly. Publication of Loyalists:
a Compilation of Histories, Biographies,
and Genealogies of the United Empire
Loyalists and their Descendants (privately
to Aylmer, Quebec. Establishment of another
ephemeral magazine, Swizzles.
to publish new defiant war poems in The
Ottawa Journal [Page 119]
to New Brunswick—;living variously
at Chatham, Fredericton, Saint John.
at Halifax on “an inadequate salary”.
to Digby, Nova Scotia—;living on the
second floor of a house owned by T.S. Matheson,
overlooking the harbour. Theodore remarks
in a letter, “I write every day. The
salt air is good for me—;but in the
words of the prophet “Heaven (Digby)
for climate, hell (Fredericton) for company.”
on an Arthurian verse romance Quenchless
Flames. First two hundred lines completed
which present the story of the birth of
Tristram (viz three
sections of “Book 1: Gramarye in the
February—;death. 28th February—;interment
at Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredericton.
Two of Theodore’s novels are undated:
The Master of Circumstance (Boston:
Page) and The Intruder, as yet unpublished.