Susanna Moodie

by Wanda Campbell


Susanna Moodie

Susanna (Strickland) Moodie was born near Bungay, Suffolk, England, Son December 6, 1803, into a middle class family in which six of eight children developed literary aspirations. In 1822, Susanna Moodie’s romantic historical novel Spartacus was published in London, to be followed by fiction for young adults and a book of poetry, Enthusiasm, and Other Poems, published in 1831, the year in which she married John Dunbar Moodie. The following year she and her husband emigrated to Canada and she lived the rest of her life in Ontario. She died in Toronto in 1885 and was buried in Belleville.

    Primarily because of Roughing It in the Bush; or, Life in Canada (1852), an account of her arrival and settlement in Upper Canada, Susanna Moodie has become one of the central figures of nineteenth-century Canadian literature, attracting considerable critical attention and achieving reincarnation in such texts as Margaret Atwood’s Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970) and Carol Shields’ Small Ceremonies (1976). Both Roughing It in the Bush and Life in the Clearings Versus the Bush (1853) contain a substantial number of poems that Moodie included “in order to diversify [her] subject and make it as amusing as possible” (Introduction to Roughing It xiii). Most of these poems had previously appeared in newspapers and periodicals including the Albion (New York), the Literary Garland (Montreal), the Palladium (Toronto), and the North American Magazine (Philadelphia). In 1833, she complained to the editor of the Albion of Canada’s “chilly atmosphere” that was “little favourable to the spirit of Poesy” (Letters of a Lifetime 90), but her poems were, in fact, warmly received. In March, 1833, R.D. Chatterton, the editor of the Cobourg Star, reprinted two poems that had just appeared in the Albion:

With us the beauty and chief attraction of Mrs. Moodie’s Poetry arises from the delicacy of sentiment and the enthusiastic feelings, that pervade it. We [Page 3] meet not the lofty, gaudy, oriental language, which so illuminates the poetry of Mrs. Hemans, but a simple and energetic language which cannot fail to reach the hearts of every true lover of poetry.                (Letters of a Lifetime 75)

Until recently, with the exception of various articles by Carl Ballstadt, little attention has been paid to Moodie’s poetry, probably because much of it was excised from reprints of her books. In 1991, Susan Glickman explored the religious impetus behind Moodie’s Enthusiasm, and Other Poems and, in 1997, Elizabeth Thompson revealed how the topic and placement of the poems in Roughing It in the Bush provide a “textual commentary” (58) on the prose. The poems, Thompson argues, though “unexceptional in structure and style,” are “textually significant” because they reveal Moodie’s shifting perspectives on emigration and settlement (67). John Thurston’s Work of Words (1996) provides details of publication history for many of her poems.

    As Carole Gerson points out in Canada’s Early Women Writers: Texts in English to 1859 and elsewhere, there are many “shadowy sisters” whose work has been obscured by the emphasis on those like Moodie who spent only part of their lives in Canada, but her work nonetheless stands as an “embryo blossom” (“The future flower…” 27) signalling more accomplished poetry to come. Like many of the Canadian poets to follow, Moodie addresses the emigrant experience, unique aspects of the Canadian landscape, the aboriginal encounter, and various patriotic themes, in addition to more didactic explorations of temptation and domestic strife. She argues that, though “illustrious names and incidents are perhaps better suited to the splendid language of poetry,” the “sweet charities of domestic life…which unite us more closely with our kind” are also fit subjects for poetic treatment.

    Some of her finest poems, such as “The Otonabee,” reveal an intriguing subtext of longing for a vanishing wilderness. Though that poem ends by celebrating the maternal bounty of a tamed river, it also laments “the hand on [the] mane” of the “rash, unbridled steed.” At the age of sixty-six, Moodie wrote to a friend in England, “I look and feel a very old woman ….You would not know the wild Suffolk girl so full of romance in me” (Letters of a Lifetime 254). [Page 4]

Selected Bibliography

Enthusiasm, and Other Poems (London: Smith, Elder, 1831)
“The Apostate.” Literary Garland 4 (1842): 55-57, 113-16,     157-
60, 210-14.
Roughing It in the Bush; or Life in Canada (London: Bentley,     1852)
Life in the Clearings versus the Bush (London: Bentley, 1853)

John Moir, “Four Poems on the Rebellion of 1837,” Ontario History 57.1 (1965): 47-52; Margaret Atwood, The Journals of Susanna Moodie (Toronto: Oxford UP, 1970); Carl Ballstadt, “Proficient in the Gentle Craft,” Copperfield 5 (1974): 101-09; Carol Shields, Susanna Moodie: Voice and Vision (Ottawa: Borealis, 1977); Carl Ballstadt, Elizabeth Hopkins, and Michael Peterman, eds. Susanna Moodie: Letters of a Lifetime (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1985); Carl Ballstadt, “Secure in Conscious Worth: Susanna Moodie and the Rebellion of 1837,” Canadian Poetry 18 (Spring/Summer 1986): 88-98; Carl Ballstadt, “Introduction.” Roughing It in the Bush; or, Life in Canada (Ottawa: Carleton UP, 1988): xvii-lx; Carl Ballstadt, “Susanna Moodie,” Dictionary of Literary Biography 99 (1990): 247-55; Susan Glickman, “The Waxing and Waning of Susanna Moodie’s ‘Enthusiasm,’” Canadian Literature 130 (Autumn 1991): 7-26; Michael Peterman, “Susanna Moodie,” Canadian Writers and Their Works: Fiction Series (Toronto: ECW, 1983) 1:63-104; Carl Ballstadt, Elizabeth Hopkins and Michael Peterman, eds. Letters of Love and Duty: the Correspondence of Susanna and John Moodie (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1993); John Thurston, “‘The Casket of Truth’: the Social Significance of Susanna Moodie’s Spiritual Dilemmas,” Canadian Poetry 35 (Fall/Winter 1994): 31-62; John Thurston, The Work of Words: the Writing of Susanna Strickland Moodie (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1996); Elizabeth Thompson, “Roughing It in the Bush: Patterns of Emigration and Settlement in Susanna Moodie’s Poetry,” Canadian Poetry 40 (Spring/Summer 1997): 58-73. [Page 5]


Oh! Can You Leave Your Native Land?
A Canadian Song


Oh! can you leave your native land
An exile’s bride to be;
Your mother’s home, and cheerful hearth,
To tempt the main with me;
Across the wide and stormy sea
To trace our foaming track,
And know the wave that heaves us on
Will never bear us back?

And can you in Canadian woods
With me the harvest bind,

Nor feel one lingering, sad regret
For all you leave behind?
Can those dear hands, unused to toil,
The woodman’s wants supply,
Not shrink beneath the chilly blast
When wintry storms are nigh?

Amid the shades of forests dark,
Our loved isle will appear
An Eden, whose delicious bloom
Will make the wild more drear.

And you in solitude will weep
O’er scenes beloved in vain,
And pine away your life to view
Once more your native plain.

Then pause, dear girl! ere those fond lips

Your wanderer’s fate decide;
My spirit spurns the selfish wish—
You must not be my bride. [Page 6]
But oh, that smile—those tearful eyes,
My firmer purpose move—
Our hearts are one, and we will dare
All perils thus to love!


Canadian Literary                                                     Roughing It in
Magazine 1833 (1:56)                                             the Bush 1852



The Sleigh-Bells*


’Tis merry to hear, at evening time,
By the blazing hearth the sleigh-bells’ chime;
To know the bounding steeds bring near
The loved one to our bosoms dear.
Ah, lightly we spring the fire to raise,
Till the rafters glow with the ruddy blaze;
Those merry sleigh-bells, our hearts keep time
Responsive to their fairy chime.
Ding-dong, ding-dong, o’er vale and hill,
Their welcome notes are trembling still.

’Tis he, and blithely the gay bells sound,
As his sleigh glides over the frozen ground;
Hark! he has pass’d the dark pine wood,
He crosses now the ice-bound flood,
And hails the light at the open door
That tells his toilsome journey’s o’er.
The merry sleigh-bells! My fond heart swells
And throbs to hear the welcome bells;
Ding-dong, ding-dong, o’er ice and snow,
A voice of gladness, on they go.

Our hut is small, and rude our cheer,
But love has spread the banquet here; [Page 7]
And childhood springs to be caress’d
By our beloved and welcome guest.
With a smiling brow his tale he tells,
The urchins ring the merry sleigh-bells;
The merry sleigh-bells, with shout and song
They drag the noisy string along;
Ding-dong, ding-dong, the father’s come,
The gay bells ring his welcome home.

From the cedar swamp the gaunt wolves howl,
From the oak loud whoops the felon owl;
The snow-storm sweeps in thunder past,
The forest creaks beneath the blast;
No more I list, with boding fear,
The sleigh-bells’ distant chime to hear.
The merry sleigh-bells with soothing power
Shed gladness on the evening hour.
Ding-dong, ding-dong, what rapture swells
The music of those joyous bells!


* Many versions have been given of this song, and it has been set to music in the States. I here give the original copy, written whilst leaning on the open door of my shanty, and watching for the return of my husband.[back]



Albion 2 March                                                             Roughing It in
1833 (72)                                                                     the Bush 1852



The Back-Woodsman


Son of the isles! rave not to me
Of the old world’s pride and luxury;
Why did you cross the western deep,
Thus like a love-lorn maid to weep
O’er comforts gone and pleasures fled,
’Mid forests wild to earn your bread?

Did you expect that Art would vie
With Nature here, to please the eye;
That stately tower, and fancy cot,
Would grace each rude concession lot;

That, independent of your hearth,
Men would admit your claims to birth? [Page 8]

No tyrant’s fetter binds the soul,
The mind of man’s above control;
Necessity, that makes the slave,

Has taught the free a course more brave.
With bold, determined heart to dare
The ills that all are born to share.

Believe me, youth, the truly great
Stoop not to mourn o’er fallen state;

They make their wants and wishes less,
And rise superior to distress;
The glebe they break—the sheaf they bind—
But elevates a noble mind.

Contented in my rugged cot,

Your lordly towers I envy not;
Though rude our clime and coarse our cheer,
True independence greets you here;
Amid these forests dark and wild,
Dwells honest labour’s hardy child.

His happy lot I gladly share,
And breathe a purer, freer air;
No more by wealthy upstarts spurn’d,
The bread is sweet by labour earn’d;
Indulgent heaven has bless’d the soil,
And plenty crowns the woodman’s toil.

Beneath his axe, the forest yields
Its thorny maze to fertile fields;
This goodly breadth of well-till’d land,
Well purchased by his own right hand,

With conscience clear, he can bequeath
His children, when he sleeps in death. [Page 9]


Kingston Spectator                                                     Roughing It in
10 July 1833 (1)                                                           the Bush 1852



The Poet


“Who can read the Poet’s dream,
Shadow forth his glorious theme,
And in written language tell
The workings of the potent spell,
Whose mysterious tones impart
Life and vigour to his heart?
’Tis an emanation bright,
Shooting from the fount of light;
Flowing in upon the mind,
Like sudden dayspring on the blind;
Gilding with immortal dyes
Scenes unknown to common eyes;
Revealing to the mental sight
Visions of untold delight.
’Tis the key by fancy brought,
That opens up the world of thought;
A sense of power, a pleasing madness,
A hope in grief, a joy in sadness,
A taste for beauty unalloyed,
A love of nature never cloyed;
The upward soaring of a soul
Unfettr’d by the world’s control,
Onward, heavenward ever tending,
Its essence with the Eternal blending;
Till, from ‘mortal coil’ shook free,
It shares the seraph’s ecstasy.”  


North American Quarterly                               Life in the Clearings
1836 (2:262)                                 versus the Bush 1853



Oh Canada! Thy Gloomy Woods
A Song


Oh Canada! thy gloomy woods
    Will never cheer the heart; [Page 10]
The murmur of thy mighty floods
    But cause fresh tears to start
From those whose fondest wishes rest
    Beyond the distant main;
Who, ’mid the forests of the West,
    Sigh for their homes again.

I, too, have felt the chilling blight
    Their shadows cast on me,

My thought by day—my dream by night—
    Was of my own country.
But independent souls will brave
    All hardships to be free;
No more I weep to cross the wave,
    My native land to see.

But ever as a thought most bless’d,
    Her distant shores will rise.
In all their spring-tide beauty dress’d,
    To cheer my mental eyes.

And, treasured in my inmost heart,
    The friends I left behind;
But reason’s voice, that bade us part,
    Now bids me be resign’d.

I see my children round me play,

    My husband’s smiles approve;
I dash regretful tears away,
    And lift my thoughts above:
In humble gratitude to bless
    The Almighty hand that spread
Our table in the wilderness,
    And gave my infants bread. [Page 11]


North American Quarterly                                         Roughing It in
1836 (8:198)                                             the Bush 1852



The Lament of a Canadian Emigrant


Though distant, in spirit still present to me,
My best thoughts, my country, still linger with thee;
My fond heart beats quick, and my dim eyes run o’er,
When I muse on the last glance I gave to thy shore.
The chill mists of night round thy white cliffs were curl’d,
But I felt there was no spot like thee in the world—
No home to which memory so fondly would turn,
No thought that within me so madly would burn.

But one stood beside me whose presence repress’d
The deep pang of sorrow that troubled my breast;

And the babe on my bosom so calmly reclining,
Check’d the tears as they rose, and all useless repining.
The stern voice of duty compell’d me to roam,
From country and friends—the enjoyments of home;
But faith in the future my anguish restrain’d
And my soul in that dark hour of parting sustain’d.

Bless’d Isle of the Free! I must view thee no more;
My fortunes are cast on this far distant shore;
In the depths of dark forests my soul droops her wings;
In tall boughs above me no merry bird sings;

The sigh of the wild winds—the rush of the floods—
Is the only sad music that wakens the woods.

In dreams, lovely England! my spirit still hails
Thy soft waving woodlands, thy green, daisied vales.
When my heart shall grow cold to the mother that bore me,

When my soul, dearest Nature! shall cease to adore thee,
And beauty and virtue no longer impart
Delight to my bosom, and warmth to my heart,
Then the love I have cherish’d, my country, for thee,
In the breast of thy daughter extinguish’d shall be. [Page 12]


North American Quarterly                                         Roughing It in
1836 (8:366)                                             the Bush 1852



The Otonabee


Dark, rushing, foaming river!
    I love the solemn sound
    That shakes thy shores around,
And hoarsely murmurs, ever,
    As thy waters onward bound,
    Like a rash, unbridled steed
Flying madly on its course;
That shakes with thundering force
    The vale and trembling mead.
So thy billows downward sweep,
    Nor rock nor tree can stay
    Their fierce, impetuous way;
Now in eddies whirling deep,
    Now in rapids white with spray.

I love thee, lonely river!

    Thy hollow restless roar,
    Thy cedar-girded* shore;
The rocky isles that sever
    The waves that round them pour.
        Katchawanook basks in light,
But thy currents woo the shade
By thy lofty pine-trees made,
    That cast a gloom like night,
Ere day’s last glories fade.
    Thy solitary voice
The same bold anthem sung
When Nature’s frame was young.
    No longer shall rejoice
The woods where erst it rung. [Page 13]

Lament, lament, wild river!

    A hand is on thy mane*
    That will bind thee in a chain
No force of thine can sever.
    Thy furious headlong tide,
In murmurs soft and low,
    Is destined yet to glide
To meet the lake below;
    And many a bark shall ride
Securely on thy breast,
    To waft across the main
    Rich stores of golden grain
From the valleys of the West.


* The banks of the river have since been denuded of trees. The rocks that formed the falls and rapids have been blasted out. It is tame enough now.[back]



This is the Indian name for one of the many expansions of this beautiful river.[back]



* Some idea of the rapidity of this river may be formed from the fact that heavy rafts of timber are floated down from Herriot’s Falls, a distance of nine miles from Peterborough, in less than an hour. The shores are bold and rocky, and abound in beautiful and picturesque views.[back]



Literary Garland                                                         Roughing It in
February 1843 (1:63)                                                 the Bush 1852



The Indian Fisherman’s Light


The air is still, the night is dark,
    No ripple breaks the dusky tide;
From isle to isle the fisher’s bark
    Like fairy meteor seems to glide;
Now lost in shade—now flashing bright
    On sleeping wave and forest tree;
We hail with joy the ruddy light,
Which far into the darksome night
    Shines red and cheerily!

With spear high poised, and steady hand,

    The centre of that fiery ray,
Behold the Indian fisher stand
    Prepared to strike the finny ray,
Hurrah! the shaft has sped below— [Page 14]
    Transfix’d the shining prize I see;
On swiftly darts the birch canoe;
Yon black rock shrouding from my view
    Its red light gleaming cheerily!

Around yon bluff, whose pine crest hides
    The noisy rapids from our sight,

Another bark—another glides—
    Red meteors of the murky night.
The bosom of the silent stream
    With mimic stars is dotted free;
The waves reflect the double gleam,
The tall woods lighten in the beam,
    Through darkness shining cheerily!


Literary Garland                                                         Roughing It in
February 1843 (1:63)                                                 the Bush 1852



Written Upon The Prospect Of A War With The American States; A Result Which It Is To Be Devoutly Hoped, Will Only Exist In The Dreams Of The Poet


Canadians! start not, at the gathering cry,
    Of warring nations hurled across the deep;
    The British Lion, roused from peaceful sleep,
With mane erect, and death-denouncing eye,
    Prepares once more to take a fatal leap,
To crush the vaunting foe!
    Vain, vain Columbia’s hopes of victory,—
He strikes no second blow.

Canadians! tremble not—while over-head,
    The gorgeous folds of Britain’s standard floats;

    While drum and trumpet tell in thrilling notes;
That ‘neath its shade your fathers fought and bled—
    Behold it wanton in your free fresh air,
Soon shall it wave triumphant o’er the dead—
    Nor to the world with shrinking hearts declare
The ancient spirit from the land is fled. [Page 15]

‘Arise! in England’s might, for England’s right,’
    And drive the invader from your happy land—
    With hearts united, and with fearless hand;
Strong in a righteous cause, prepare to fight—

    Columbia’s stars shall pale before the ray,
The bright outgushing of the glorious sun—
    Her slavish stripes, may cowards chase away,
To the determined brave; the word is, “On!”—

Columbia’s hand the thunderbolt has hurl’d,

    To force an unjust war upon the brave,—
    Her own rash act unchains the soil-bound slave;
Degraded Helot of the western world—
    The native chief awaits the unholy strife,
With eager vengeance burning in his brain;
He grasps the hatchet, whets the murd’rous knife,
And the fierce war-whoop peals along the plain.

America, beware! Retreat in time—
    The stern decree, which dooms to sword and flame
    Thy prosperous cities, blots the proud free name,

That erst thy children bore in ev’ry clime;
    Serenely great—lay down the sword, and find
A mark more fitting than a parent’s breast;
    Still be the friend and teacher of mankind,
In moral excellence supremely blessed.


Literary Garland
July 1846 (4:297)



The Drunkard’s Return


“Oh! ask not of my morn of life,
    How dark and dull it gloom’d o’er me;
Sharp words and fierce domestic strife,
    Robb’d my young heart of all its glee—
The sobs of one heart-broken wife, [Page 16]
    Low, stifled moans of agony,
That fell upon my shrinking ear,
    In hollow tones of woe and fear;
As crouching, weeping, at her side,
    I felt my soul with sorrow swell,
In pity begg’d her not to hide
    The cause of grief I knew too well;
Then wept afresh to hear her pray
That death might take us both away!

“Away from whom? Alas! what ill

    Press’d the warm life-hopes from her heart?
Was she not young and lovely still?
    What made the frequent tear-drops start
From eyes, whose light of love could fill
    My inmost soul, and bade me part
    From noisy comrades in the street,
To kiss her cheek, so cold and pale,
    To clasp her neck, and hold her hand,
And list the oft-repeated tale
    Of woes I could not understand;
Yet felt their force, as, day by day,
I watch’d her fade from life away.

“And he, the cause of all this woe,
     Her mate—the father of her child,
In dread I saw him come and go,

    With many an awful oath reviled;
And from harsh word, and harsher blow,
    (In answer to her pleadings mild)
I shrank in terror, till I caught
From her meek eyes th’ unwhisper’d thought—
    ‘Bear it, my Edward, for thy mother’s sake!
He cares not, in his sullen mood,
    If this poor heart with anguish break.’
That look was felt, and understood
    By her young son, thus school’d to bear
    His wrongs, to soothe her deep despair. [Page 17]

“Oh, how I loath’d him!—how I scorn’d
    His idiot laugh, or demon frown—
His features bloated and deform’d;
    The jests with which he sought to drown

The consciousness of sin, or storm’d,
    To put reproof or anger down.
Oh, ’tis a fearful thing to feel
Stern, sullen hate, the bosom steel
    ’Gainst one whom nature bids us prize,
The first link in her mystic chain;
    Which binds in strong and tender ties
The heart, while reason rules the brain,
    And mingling love with holy fear,
    Renders the parent doubly dear.

“I cannot bear to think how deep
    The hatred was I bore him then;
But he has slept his last long sleep,
    And I have trod the haunts of men;
Have felt the tide of passion sweep
    Through manhood’s fiery heart, and when
By strong temptation toss’d and tried,
I thought how that lost father died;
    Unwept, unpitied, in his sin;
Then tears of burning shame would rise,
    And stern remorse awake within
A host of mental agonies.
    He fell—by one dark vice defiled;
    Was I more pure—his erring child?

“Yes—erring child; but to my tale.

    My mother loved that lost one still,
From the deep fount which could not fail
    (Through changes dark, from good to ill)
Her woman’s heart—and sad and pale,
    She yielded to his stubborn will;
Perchance she felt remonstrance vain— [Page 18]
The effort to resist gave pain.
    But carefully she hid her grief
From him, the idol of her youth;
And fondly hoped, against belief
    That her deep love and stedfast truth
Would touch his heart, and win him back
From Folly’s dark and devious track.

“Vain hope! the drunkard’s heart is hard as stone,
    No grief disturbs his selfish, sensual joy;

His wife may weep, his starving children groan,
    And Poverty with cruel gripe annoy:
He neither hears, nor heeds their famish’d moan,
    The glorious wine-cup owns no base alloy.
Surrounded by a low, degraded train,
His fiendish laugh defiance bids to pain;
    He hugs the cup—more dear than friends to him—
Nor sees stern ruin from the goblet rise,
    Nor flames of hell careering o’er the brim—
The lava flood that glads his bloodshot eyes
    Poisons alike his body and his soul,
    Till reason lies self-murder’d in the bowl.

“It was a dark and fearful winter night,
    Loud roar’d the tempest round our hovel home;
Cold, hungry, wet, and weary was our plight,

    And still we listen’d for his step to come.
My poor sick mother!—’twas a piteous sight
    To see her shrink and shiver, as our dome
Shook to the rattling blast; and to the door
She crept, to look along the bleak, black moor.
    He comes—he comes!—and, quivering all with dread,
She spoke kind welcome to that sinful man.
    His sole reply—‘Get supper—give me bread!’
Then, with a sneer, he tauntingly began
    To mock the want that stared him in the face,
Her bitter sorrow, and his own disgrace. [Page 19]

“‘I have no money to procure you food,
    No wood, no coal, to raise a cheerful fire;
The madd’ning cup may warm your frozen blood—
    We die, for lack of that which you desire!’

She ceased—erect one moment there he stood,
    The foam upon his lip; with fiendish ire
He seized a knife which glitter’d in his way,
And rush’d with fury on his helpless prey.
    Then from a dusky nook I fiercely sprung,
The strength of manhood in that single bound:
    Around his bloated form I tightly clung,
And headlong brought the murderer to the ground
    We fell—his temples struck the cold hearth-stone,
    The blood gush’d forth—he died without a moan!

“Yes—by my hand he died! one frantic cry
    Of mortal anguish thrill’d my madden’d brain,
Recalling sense and mem’ry. Desperately
    I strove to raise my fallen sire again,
And call’d upon my mother; but her eye
    Was closed alike to sorrow, want, and pain.
Oh, what a night was that!—when all alone
I watch’d my dead beside the cold hearth-stone.
    I thought myself a monster—that the deed
To save my mother was too promptly done.
    I could not see her gentle bosom bleed,
And quite forgot the father, in the son;
    For her I mourn’d—for her, through bitter years,
    Pour’d forth my soul in unavailing tears.

“The world approved the act; but on my soul

    There lay a gnawing consciousness of guilt,
A biting sense of crime, beyond control:
    By my rash hand a father’s blood was spilt,
And I abjured for aye the death-drugg’d bowl.
    This is my tale of woe; and if thou wilt
Be warn’d by me, the sparkling cup resign;
A serpent lurks within the ruby wine, [Page 20]
    Guileful and strong as him who erst betray’d
The world’s first parents in their bowers of joy.
    Let not the tempting draught your soul pervade;
It shines to kill, and sparkles to destroy.
    The drunkard’s sentence has been seal’d above—
    Exiled for ever from the heaven of love!”


Literary Garland                                             Life in the Clearings
February 1847 (5:87-88)                             versus the Bush 1853



The Nautical Philosophers
A Sketch from Life


Dear merry reader, did you ever hear,
    Whilst travelling on the world’s wide beaten road,
The curious reasoning and opinions queer,
    Of men, who never in their lives bestowed
One hour on study,—whose existence seems
    A thing of course, a practical delusion;
A day of frowning clouds, and sunny gleams,
    Of pain and pleasure mixed in strange confusion,
Who feel they move and breathe, they know not why—
    Are born to eat, and drink, and sleep and die

Who judge internal from external things,
    And will not look one inch beyond their nose;
Who yet believe that angel forms have wings,
    Because such shapes some dirty sign post shows,
Though they such birds on earth have never seen,
    The painter must have known the wondrous vision,
Or how could he array in blue and green,
    The grinning ape that wakens arts’ derision;
Yet seems to these deluded sons of sin,
The etherial type of spirits, rum and gin.

It was my chance upon a summer’s day,
    Within a close packed omnibus, to meet
Two of these learned Athenians, who betray [Page 21]
    Their folly at each turning of the street;
Who grin and stare, and talk in accents loud,
    Stunning to right and left, each luckless neighbour,
To draw the attention of the gaping crowd
    To their own ignorant and rude behaviour,
Of taxes, kings, and ministers, they chatter,
    And seldom know one word about the matter.

My fellow travellers were a grade above
    The hungry loafer, even bawling treason:
Though constantly they sought their oar to shove
    In each discourse, without a rhyme or reason;
Giving unasked advice, opinions, broaching,
    Making remarks, unawed by time or place,
On each man’s mental manor boldly poaching,
    Then laughing in the angry listener’s face—
Two of old Neptune’s rough, untutored sons,
    Cracking coarse jokes, and murdering viler puns.

Stern time had furrowed with his iron plough,
    The elder seaman’s tanned and homely face,
Tracing strange hieroglyphics on a brow,
    Peculiar to his bold amphibious race,
Broad and erect, as though the sun and storm
    Against its native strength their force had tried,
Failing to bend the stout herculean form,
    That wind and wave from boyhood had defied,—
A child in knowledge, though his hairs were white,
    Called by his country not to think, but fight.

Such was the elder of the twain. His mate
    A youth, with scarce the down upon his chin,
With ruddy cheeks and merry brow elate,
    And oh, what depths of mischief lurked within
The clear, blue, roguish, laughter-loving eye,
    From right to left, in quick succession glancing,
Nodding to each fair damsel passing by,
    Giving the lie to his own wild romancing, [Page 22]
By the shrewd covert look, which told each man,
    You may believe me, messmate—if you can.

Such were the twain, whose portraits I would draw,
    Digressing sadly in my rambling rhyme,
But entertained with all I heard and saw,
    Their features did impress me at the time,
And by my sex protected, I enjoyed
    Their varied traits of character to mark,
And the wild reckless nonsense that annoyed
    Our living cargo, woke in me no spark
Of vain resentment, for the men were but
    What nature from the rugged block had cut.

At Islington we made a sudden pause—
    Which threw our seamen nose and knees together,
And after laughing loudly at the cause,
    They turned their conversation on the weather;
‘For July, Jack, methinks ’tis wondrous cold,
    These wet, dull summers, scarce can warm a flea;
In my young days—for now I’m growing old—
    The dog-days were as hot as days could be;
I’ve gathered cherries, red and ripe in May,
    And helped the lassies ted the new-mown hay.

‘Each year, methinks the sun’s been growing dimmer,
    Winking upon us with a drowsy eye,
As though he scorned upon the earth to glimmer,
    Reserving all his good looks for the sky;
The red-faced varlet!—I should like to know
    What we have done to merit his disdain;
We soon shall see in summer frost and snow,
    For ever drench’d with this eternal rain;
A ship might sail along this street of mud,
    As well as did the ark on Noah’s flood!’

‘I never knew a letter in the book,’
    Returned his comrade, with a waggish leer; [Page 23]
‘Nor climbed a ladder in the skies to look,
    But I can tell the cause, though some may sneer.
The sun do ye see, is sinking fast in years,
    And age, you know, the warmest blood will chill,
As time creeps on, more dull his lamp appears,
    And so ’twill be, till nature’s pulse stands still;
This is the reason why his rays are cold;
    The sun, like you, old boy! is growing old!’


Victoria Magazine
1847 (1:88-89)



Brian, the Still-Hunter


O’er memory’s glass I see his shadow flit,
Though he was gathered to the silent dust
Long years ago. A strange and wayward man,
That shunn’d companionship, and lived apart;
The leafy covert of the dark brown woods,
The gleamy lakes, hid in their gloomy depths,
Whose still, deep waters never knew the stroke
Of cleaving oar, or echoed to the sound
Of social life, contained for him the sum
Of human happiness. With dog and gun
Day after day he track’d the nimble deer
Through all the tangled mazes of the forest.


Literary Garland                                                         Roughing It in
October 1847 (5:640)                                             vthe Bush 1852



The Maple Tree
A Canadian Song


Hail to the pride of the forest—hail
    To the maple, tall and green;
It yields a treasure which ne’er shall fail
    While leaves on its boughs are seen.
        When the moon shines bright, [Page 24]
        On the wintry night,
And silvers the frozen snow;
        And echo dwells
        On the jingling bells
As the sleighs dart to and fro;
        Then it brightens the mirth
        Of the social hearth
With its red and cheery glow.

Afar, ’mid the bosky forest shades,
    It lifts its tall head on high;

When the crimson-tinted evening fades
    From the glowing saffron sky;
        When the sun’s last beams
        Light up woods and streams,
And brighten the gloom below;
        And the deer springs by
        With his flashing eye,
And the shy, swift-footed doe;
        And the sad winds chide
        In the branches wide,
With a tender plaint of woe.

The Indian leans on its ragged trunk,
    With the bow in his red right-hand,
And mourns that his race, like a stream, has sunk
    From the glorious forest land.

        But, blythe and free,
        The maple-tree,
Still tosses to sun and air
        Its thousand arms,
        While in countless swarms
The wild bee revels there;
        But soon not a trace
        Of the red man’s race
Shall be found in the landscape fair. [Page 25]

When the snows of winter are melting fast,

    And the sap begins to rise,
And the biting breath of the frozen blast
        Yields to the spring’s soft sighs,
        Then away to the wood,
        For the maple, good,
Shall unlock its honied store;
        And boys and girls,
With their sunny curls,
Bring their vessels brimmming o’er
        With the luscious flood
        Of the brave tree’s blood,
Into cauldrons deep to pour.

The blaze from the sugar-bush gleams red;
    Far down in the forest dark,
A ruddy glow on the tree is shed,

    That lights up the rugged bark;
        And with merry shout,
        The busy rout
Watch the sap as it bubbles high;
And they talk of the cheer
        Of the coming year,
And the jest and the song pass by;
        And brave tales of old
        Round the fire are told,
That kindle youth’s beaming eye.

Hurrah! for the sturdy maple-tree!
    Long may its green branches wave;
In native strength sublime and free,
    Meet emblem for the brave.
        May the nation’s peace
        With its growth increase,
    And its worth be widely spread;
        For it lifts not in vain
        To the sun and rain
    Its tall, majestic head. [Page 26]
        May it grace our soil,
        And reward our toil,
    Till the nation’s heart is dead.


Literary Garland                                                         Roughing It in
October 1847 (5:460)                                                 the Bush 1852



The future flower…


The future flower lies folded in the bud,—
Its beauty, colour, fragrance, graceful form,
Carefully shrouded in that tiny cell;
Till time and circumstance, and sun and shower,
Expand the embryo blossom—and it bursts
Its narrow cerements, lifts its blushing head,
Rejoicing in the light and dew of heaven.
But if the canker-worm lies coil’d around
The heart o’ the bud, the summer sun and dew
Visit in vain the sear’d and blighted flower.


Roughing It in
the Bush



Indian Summer


By the purple haze that lies
    On the distant rocky height,
By the deep blue of the skies,
    By the smoky amber light,
Through the forest arches streaming,
Where nature on her throne sits dreaming,
And the sun is scarcely gleaming
    Through the cloudlet’s snowy white,
Winter’s lovely herald greets us,
Ere the ice crown’d tyrant meets us.

A mellow softness fills the air—
    No breeze on wanton wing steals by,
To break the holy quiet there, [Page 27]
    Or make the waters fret and sigh,
Or the golden alders shiver,
That bend to kiss the placid river,
Flowing on and on for ever;
    But the little waves seem sleeping,
    O’er the pebbles slowly creeping,
    That last night were flashing, leaping,
Driven by the restless breeze,
In lines of foam beneath yon trees.

Dress’d in robes of gorgeous hue—
    Brown and gold with crimson blent,
The forest to the waters blue

    Its own enchanting tints has lent.
In their dark depths, life-like glowing,
We see a second forest growing,
Each pictur’d leaf and branch bestowing
    A fairy grace on that twin wood,
    Mirror’d within the crystal flood.

’Tis pleasant now in forest shades—
    The Indian hunter strings his bow
To track, through dark entangled glades,
    The antler’d deer and bounding doe;

Or launch at night his birch canoe,
    To spear the finny tribes that dwell
On sandy bank, in weedy cell,
    Or pool the fisher knows right well—
Seen by the red and livid glow
Of pine-torch at his vessel’s bow.

This dreamy Indian summer-day
    Attunes the soul to tender sadness:
We love, but joy not in the ray—
    It is not summer’s fervid gladness,

But a melancholy glory
    Hov’ring brightly round decay,
Like swan that sings her own sad story, [Page 28]
    Ere she floats in death away.

The day declines. What splendid dyes,

    In flicker’d waves of crimson driven,
Float o’er the saffron sea, that lies
    Glowing within the western heaven!
    Ah, it is a peerless even!
See, the broad red sun has set,
But his rays are quivering yet
Through nature’s veil of violet,
Streaming bright o’er lake and hill;
But earth and forest lie so still—
We start, and check the rising tear,
’Tis beauty sleeping on her bier.  


Life in the Clearings
versus the Bush



Grace Marks


“I DARE not think—I cannot pray;
    To name the name of God were sin:
No grief of mine can wash away
    The consciousness of guilt within.
The stain of blood is on my hand,
    The curse of Cain is on my brow;
I see that ghastly phantom stand
    Between me and the sunshine now!
That mocking face still haunts my dreams,
    That blood-shot eye that never sleeps,
In night and darkness—oh, it gleams,
    Like red-hot steel—but never weeps!
And still it bends its burning gaze
    On mine, till drops of terror start
From my hot brow, and hell’s fierce blaze
    Is kindled in my brain and heart.
I long for death, yet dare not die,
    Though life is now a weary curse; [Page 29]
But oh, that dread eternity
    May bring a punishment far worse!”


Life in the Clearings
versus the Bush





The inspiration which by God is given,
Born of the light, like light belongs to heaven;
The eagle soaring to the noon of day,
Meets with unblenching gaze the solar ray,
His light of life, and, basking in its sheen,
Sweeps on strong wing along the blue serene.
The inky billows of the storm may rise,
And roll a gloom of terror through the skies,
Onward and upward still he proudly cleaves,
And far below the murky vapour leaves;
The thunders crashing through the shadows dun,
Vainly impede his progress to the sun;
Sailing through heaven’s wide space on pinions free,
He only feels the present Deity,
The thrilling ecstasy absorbs his sight,
And bathes his spirit in the fount of light. [Page 30]  


Canadian Monthly
and National Review

April 1872 (1:353)