On his First Visit to France


MOTHER, my book I carry, before ’t is wholly done,
To the mound where thou dost tarry beneath the grass and sun;
Mother, I bring devotion; a bird sings clear to-day;
Dost thou feel, in my step, emotion of the perfume of May?

Mother, dost thou in slumbers my accents comprehend?


Before I give my numbers to the Heights I would ascend,
I come to thee, to render the verses that I wreathe,—
Surely you listen tender, surely you see me breathe.

Mother, remove a minute the shroud that hides thy face,
The beams that shone within it illumed my path with grace;


Unclose thine eyes; thy finger may search my written sheaves,
Thy touch, where’er it linger, find naught that stains the leaves.

Though strong with all my spirit my verse hath been outpoured,
No Innocent need fear it, for I have feared the Lord;
My work was sometimes written with midnight tapers by,


But nearly all was litten from the great blue shining sky.

In solitude I labored a book austere and chaste,
For Christ I wrought unneighbored, His truth my spirit braced,
Ever thy soul was ringing in mine a holy sound,
That fashioned all my singing in probity profound. [Page 146]


I sing for Art all purely, I sing for holy fanes,
Though lost in deafness surely an evil time remains;
I sing the notes supernal our history awoke,
My chants of deeds eternal the ancestors evoke.

I boast with pride the glories that deck our native earth,—


Thou, artist soul, thy stories so taught me from my birth;
I boast th’ imperial mazes where shadowy forests rise,
And sing what pureness gazes from Winter’s sparkling eyes.

Vanquished and victors, fairly I deal to each their meed;
Smiles I profess but rarely, and many tears I plead,


To aid of souls in trouble my lyric music starts,
And often I knock double upon the doors of hearts.

If in my poems truly I set what pleaseth thee,
Then, mother, kiss them duly,—yea, stoop to blessing me,
That they may live forever, and tell to future days


How I adore thee ever, Oh, mother of my praise!


And thou, my mother nation, hear’st thou my accents bless,
Across the Sea’s elation that springtime airs caress?—
I come to tread the flowers of thy enchanting ways,
And quaff the sparkling showers of Art thy fountains raise.


France that I ever cherish, whose name my heart reveres,
Remote my voice might perish, failing to reach thine ears;
I cross the barrier ocean, a thrall to thy renown.
Bearing my book’s devotion, to lay the tribute down.

In worship have I striven to celebrate thy pride,


Exalt the triumphs given to spread thy fame world-wide,
The holy works enacted thy forceful zeal to prove,
For Jesus’ sake exacted, and human nature’s love. [Page 147]

I lack the lute all golden thy bards, O France, possess,
Their speech sonorous, olden, of piercing tenderness;—


Indulge my rustic chaunting, upon my knees I crave,
Forgive me all that’s wanting, and all that pleaseth save.

My singing is the singing that trembles all sincere
From artless worship ringing in holy places dear;
It is the singing river, it is the singing breeze,


It is the songbirds’ quiver to the Maker of the trees.

If gold be gleaming surely within my mass of ore,
I might not work it purely though I wrought forevermore,
And the humble poet merits nothing, save that he has sung
With the passion he inherits for the glory of thy tongue.


In my pages, if thou readest, there is proof shall glad thy heart,
That the children whom thou breedest, though by oceans set             apart,
While thy vital sap preserving in a world so far from thee,
O my France, are never swerving from thy sacred memory.

Despite the victors’ ruling, and despite the blow of Fate,


Mother, we make no puling, and our patient hearts are great;
By the green St. Lawrence River, with the English flag above,
Oh, forever and forever thy children give thee love. [Page 148]