Port Talbot Poems in the Montreal Scribbler

By Adam Hood Burwell



    Now lingers twilight on the verge of heaven
In sober dappled grey the peeping stars
Shine out and gem the azure firmament
With countless specks of ruddy flame, while round
The evening sighs its latest breeze, and boats


On silenced wing the roaring of the surge,
That, restless, beats on Erie’s rugged rocks,
Roused by the gale of noon, or tumbles rough
Round the projecting point where Huron’s shores,
Winding along, stretch with indentures deep;


Or where Ontario spreads his blue expanse,
Begirt with rugged stones. The listening ear
Pays willing homage to the soothing sound
That breaks at intervals the solemn pause
Of sober evening — first abrupt, then low,


Retreating, dying, till succeeding waves
Waken afresh the melancholy roar,
Half slumbering on the bosom of the night;
And the hoarse bull-frog from his stagnant pool
Chimes to its murmur, solemn, deep, and grave;


While with his note acute, the whipper-will
Begins his night-song ’neath the spreading bush,
And rouses echo from the neighbouring wood
To whistle back his uncouth melody,
That ceases not till morn. The fire-fly starts


Out from his sedgy covert where he lay
Secure while Phoebus shew’d his golden eye,
And flies abroad, and lights his tiny lamp,
Ambitious to be seen. Along the stream
Smooth gliding ’twixt its peaceful banks, he shews


His little ray, or where the marshy soil
Shoots up its reedy burthen. All the air
Is presently illumined with the sparks
Of insect flame, that, like a shooting star
Dart in a train of fire, and disappear


But to be seen again. When the evening comes
With clustering stars, how pleasant ’tis to walk
Beside the river’s brink — the surface smooth
And mirror faced, reflects th’ empyrean vault
And seems a heaven below, the counterpart


Of that above; — to hear the dashing oar
That breaks the glassy bosom of the wave,
Which not a zephyr dimples, whole the barge [Page 21]
Is passing by with music; half obscured
Behind the whitish mist that hovers low


Upon the placid surface of the stream;
Harmonic numbers swell the trembling air
That wafts the breathing melody of flute
And dulcet voice, rich, soft, deep, full, and sweet;
The balanced oar keeps time, and marks the bars,


With downward stroke vibrating, and the blade
Dips true. Now brisk the bolder numbers rise,
Now sunk in cadence sweet, pathetic now,
And now they die away in murmuring strains,
Mellow’d by distance till th’ attentive ear


Listens in vain.


Port Talbot, September 1821.

[A note by the Editor of The Scribbler]: “Sound Judgement himself could not avoid allowing that this was ut pictura poesis, a picture in verse. Its imagery is true to nature, whilst it breathes the essence of poetry. The word vibrating is however wrongly accentuated; would not “With downward quick vibration” be better? [Page 22]


* This poem appeared in The Scribbler (Montreal), I, 118-120 (4 October, 1821). [back]