Beyond the Hills of Dream

by William Wilfred Campbell


How One Winter Came



FOR weeks and weeks the autumn world stood still,
     Clothed in the shadow of a smoky haze;
The fields were dead, the wind had lost its will,
And all the lands were hushed by wood and hill,
     In those gray, withered days.

Behind a mist the blear sun rose and set,
     At night the moon would nestle in a cloud;
The fisherman, a ghost, did cast his net;
The lake its shores forgot to chafe and fret,
     And hushed its caverns loud.

Far in the smoky woods the birds were mute,
     Save that from blackened tree a jay would scream,
Or far in swamps the lizard’s lonesome lute
Would pipe in thirst, or by some gnarlèd root
     The tree-toad trilled his dream.

From day to day still hushed the season’s mood,
     The streams stayed in their runnels shrunk and dry;
Suns rose aghast by wave and shore and wood,
And all the world, with ominous silence, stood
     In weird expectancy:

When one strange night the sun like blood went down,
     Flooding the heavens in a ruddy hue;
Red grew the lake, the sere fields parched and brown,
Red grew the marshes where the creeks stole down,
     But never a wind-breath blew.

That night I felt the winter in my veins,
     A joyous tremor of the icy glow;
And woke to hear the north’s wild vibrant strains,
While far and wide, by withered woods and plains,
     Fast fell the driving snow.