The Dread Voyage Poems

by William Wilfred Campbell




WHEN snows melt out and Winter breaks his chain,
      And earth, released from her shrivelled woe,
Wakens beneath the warm suns come again,
      And thawed streams widen in their overflow,
And woods with song and buddings gladder grow;
      ‘Tis then I love to loose me from this life,
Its cares, its gridings, and its sordid strife,
And roam, kin-child with all earth’s souls that glow.

Far out in the great north woods, wind-rocked and swung,
      When the soft south has warmed the wintry earth,

In those glad days when lusty life is young,
      To bloom with waxen petals, spring’s new birth,
And brawling brooklets haste in murmurous mirth;
      I slip life’s leash with freedom of the spring,
      While the young year in its first love doth fling
New joys, new beauties, round the grey world’s girth.

Here in hushed dells, by mossy crags and steeps,
      Where silent pools stand moorèd in the air,
Under the shade of woodlands, shy, cool deeps,
      Loved by lone creatures stealing to loiter there:

The timid fawn, the loping, shadowy hare,
      The wily lynx, who secret haunts his prey;
      Here flutter of wings, athwart the drowsed day,
Wakes Solitude from out her hidden lair.

Big swollen rivers, haunting still, deep woods,

      Where dawn is midnight and faint dawn at noon,
Sing under shadows, pausing in shimmering moods
      Of inky silence, glimmering like the moon
In midnight’s heaven; the while a drowsy tune
      The singing shallows make to shine and shade,
      While through the budding boughs the warm winds wade,
Sowing in petals white the year’s first rune.

The low of kine comes in from farms afar,
      The chopper’s axe rings blithely down the wind,
And here at even comes the first pale star,

      In the soft heaven over the woods behind
Where the warm south hath blown in, bland and kind;
      ‘Tis here I love to be; to feel my heart
      Wake with the season’s in its first glad start,
When the young year gropes slow for heart and mind.

Far out in maple woods, with laugh and song,
      The jocund sugar-makers ease their toil
With mirth, the sunny, melting hours along,
      Where, brim with sap, the great iron kettles boil,
And troughs spill over with their amber spoil
      Of generous maples; evening skies loom soft
      With veil of stars, in heaven’s deep wells aloft,
Where great mossed branches lift and spread and coil.

Out in far wastes and under sun-pierced glades,
      Where naked boughs put forth their misty buds,

The snows are rotting, and the thin ice fades
      Like wasting steel; alone in gloom of woods,
The soilèd drifts still lift their shrunken hoods
      In storm-swathed hollows; by far river shores
      The sun-warmed wind hath eaten the ice in cores,
Winnowing with warmth the frosty solitudes.

The year hath draped his mantle of beauty on,
      And tuned his pipe to melody once more;
All weazened faces put new youth upon,
      And I am fain to learn the young year’s lore;

His wisdom taught of heaven and wood and shore;
      To drink anew life’s fresh ecstasy,
      To dream new love in sky and field and tree,
Where Spring’s first footsteps blossom the forest floor.