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Best Famous Duncan Campbell Scott Poems

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Written by Duncan Campbell Scott |

From Shadow

 Now the November skies,
And the clouds that are thin and gray,
That drop with the wind away;
A flood of sunlight rolls,
In a tide of shallow light,
Gold on the land and white
On the water, dim and warm in the wood;
Then it is gone, and the wan
Clear of the shade
Covers fields and barren and glade.
The peace of labor done, Is wide in the gracious earth; The harvest is won; Past are the tears and the mirth; And we feel in the tenuous air How far beyond thought or prayer Is the grace of silent things, That work for the world alway, Neither for fear nor for pay, And when labor is over, rest.
The moil of our fretted life Is borne anew to the soul, Borne with its cark and strife, Its burden of care and dread, Its glories elusive and strange; And the weight of the weary whole Presses it down, till we cry: Where is the fruit of our deeds? Why should we struggle to build Towers against death on the plain? All things possess their lives Save man, whose task and desire Transcend his power and his will.
The question is over and still; Nothing replies: but the earth Takes on a lovelier hue From a cloud that neighbored the sun, That the sun burned down and through, Till it glowed like a seraph's wing; The fields that were gray and dun Are warm in the flowing light; Fair in the west the night Strikes in with vibrant star.
Something has stirred afar In the shadow that winter flings; A message comes up to the soul From the soul of inanimate things: A message that widens and grows Till it touches the deeds of man, Till we see in the torturous throes Some dawning glimmer of plan; Till we feel in the deepening night The hand of the angel Content, That stranger of calmness and light, With his brow over us bent, Who moves with his eyes on the earth, Whose robe of lambent green, A tissue of herb and its sheen, Tells the mother who gave him birth.
The message plays through his power, Till it flames exultant in thought, As the quince-tree triumphs in flower.
The fruit that is checked and marred Goes under the sod: The good lives here in the world; It persists,-- it is God.

Written by Duncan Campbell Scott |

The Onondaga Madonna

 She stands full-throated and with careless pose,
This woman of a weird and waning race,
The tragic savage lurking in her face,
Where all her pagan passion burns and glows;
Her blood is mingled with her ancient foes,
And thrills with war and wildness in her veins;
Her rebel lips are dabbled with the stains
Of feuds and forays and her father's woes.
And closer in the shawl about her breast, The latest promise of her nation's doom, Paler than she her baby clings and lies, The primal warrior gleaming from his eyes; He sulks, and burdened with his infant gloom, He draws his heavy brows and will not rest.

Written by Duncan Campbell Scott |

The Half-breed Girl

 She is free of the trap and the paddle,
The portage and the trail,
But something behind her savage life
Shines like a fragile veil.
Her dreams are undiscovered, Shadows trouble her breast, When the time for resting cometh Then least is she at rest.
Oft in the morns of winter, When she visits the rabbit snares, An appearance floats in the crystal air Beyond the balsam firs.
Oft in the summer mornings When she strips the nets of fish, The smell of the dripping net-twine Gives to her heart a wish.
But she cannot learn the meaning Of the shadows in her soul, The lights that break and gather, The clouds that part and roll, The reek of rock-built cities, Where her fathers dwelt of yore, The gleam of loch and shealing, The mist on the moor, Frail traces of kindred kindness, Of feud by hill and strand, The heritage of an age-long life In a legendary land.
She wakes in the stifling wigwam, Where the air is heavy and wild, She fears for something or nothing With the heart of a frightened child.
She sees the stars turn slowly Past the tangle of the poles, Through the smoke of the dying embers, Like the eyes of dead souls.
Her heart is shaken with longing For the strange, still years, For what she knows and knows not, For the wells of ancient tears.
A voice calls from the rapids, Deep, careless and free, A voice that is larger than her life Or than her death shall be.
She covers her face with her blanket, Her fierce soul hates her breath, As it cries with a sudden passion For life or death.

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Written by Duncan Campbell Scott |

To a Canadian Aviator Who Died for his Country in France

 Tossed like a falcon from the hunter's wrist,
A sweeping plunge, a sudden shattering noise,
And thou hast dared, with a long spiral twist,
The elastic stairway to the rising sun.
Peril below thee and above, peril Within thy car; but peril cannot daunt Thy peerless heart: gathering wing and poise, Thy plane transfigured, and thy motor-chant Subduéd to a whisper -- then a silence, -- And thou art but a disembodied venture In the void.
But Death, who has learned to fly, Still matchless when his work is to be done, Met thee between the armies and the sun; Thy speck of shadow faltered in the sky; Then thy dead engine and thy broken wings Drooped through the arc and passed in fire, A wreath of smoke -- a breathless exhalation.
But ere that came a vision sealed thine eyes, Lulling thy senses with oblivion; And from its sliding station in the skies Thy dauntless soul upward in circles soared To the sublime and purest radiance whence it sprang.
In all their eyries, eagles shall mourn thy fate, And leaving on the lonely crags and scaurs Their unprotected young, shall congregate High in the tenuous heaven and anger the sun With screams, and with a wild audacity Dare all the battle danger of thy flight; Till weary with combat one shall desert the light, Fall like a bolt of thunder and check his fall On the high ledge, smoky with mist and cloud, Where his neglected eaglets shriek aloud, And drawing the film across his sovereign sight Shall dream of thy swift soul immortal Mounting in circles, faithful beyond death.

Written by Duncan Campbell Scott |

Night Hymns on Lake Nipigon

 Here in the midnight, where the dark mainland and island
Shadows mingle in shadow deeper, profounder,
Sing we the hymns of the churches, while the dead water
Whispers before us.
Thunder is travelling slow on the path of the lightning; One after one the stars and the beaming planets Look serene in the lake from the edge of the storm-cloud, Then have they vanished.
While our canoe, that floats dumb in the bursting thunder, Gathers her voice in the quiet and thrills and whispers, Presses her prow in the star-gleam, and all her ripple Lapses in blackness.
Sing we the sacred ancient hymns of the churches, Chanted first in old-world nooks of the desert, While in the wild, pellucid Nipigon reaches Hunted the savage.
Now have the ages met in the Northern midnight, And on the lonely, loon-haunted Nipigon reaches Rises the hymn of triumph and courage and comfort, Adeste Fideles.
Tones that were fashioned when the faith brooded in darkness, Joined with sonorous vowels in the noble Latin, Now are married with the long-drawn Ojibwa, Uncouth and mournful.
Soft with the silver drip of the regular paddles Falling in rhythm, timed with the liquid, plangent Sounds from the blades where the whirlpools break and are carried Down into darkness; Each long cadence, flying like a dove from her shelter Deep in the shadow, wheels for a throbbing moment, Poises in utterance, returning in circles of silver To nest in the silence.
All wild nature stirs with the infinite, tender Plaint of a bygone age whose soul is eternal, Bound in the lonely phrases that thrill and falter Back into quiet.
Back they falter as the deep storm overtakes them, Whelms them in splendid hollows of booming thunder, Wraps them in rain, that, sweeping, breaks and onrushes Ringing like cymbals.

Written by Duncan Campbell Scott |

The Forsaken

Once in the winter
Out on a lake
In the heart of the north-land,
Far from the Fort
And far from the hunters,
A Chippewa woman
With her sick baby,
Crouched in the last hours
Of a great storm.
Frozen and hungry, She fished through the ice With a line of the twisted Bark of the cedar, And a rabbit-bone hook Polished and barbed; Fished with the bare hook All through the wild day, Fished and caught nothing; While the young chieftain Tugged at her breasts, Or slept in the lacings Of the warm tikanagan.
All the lake-surface Streamed with the hissing Of millions of iceflakes Hurled by the wind; Behind her the round Of a lonely island Roared like a fire With the voice of the storm In the deeps of the cedars.
Valiant, unshaken, She took of her own flesh, Baited the fish-hook, Drew in a gray-trout, Drew in his fellows, Heaped them beside her, Dead in the snow.
Valiant, unshaken, She faced the long distance, Wolf-haunted and lonely, Sure of her goal And the life of her dear one: Tramped for two days, On the third in the morning, Saw the strong bulk Of the Fort by the river, Saw the wood-smoke Hand soft in the spruces, Heard the keen yelp Of the ravenous huskies Fighting for whitefish: Then she had rest.
II Years and years after, When she was old and withered, When her son was an old man And his children filled with vigour, They came in their northern tour on the verge of winter, To an island in a lonely lake.
There one night they camped, and on the morrow Gathered their kettles and birch-bark Their rabbit-skin robes and their mink-traps, Launched their canoes and slunk away through the islands, Left her alone forever, Without a word of farewell, Because she was old and useless, Like a paddle broken and warped, Or a pole that was splintered.
Then, without a sigh, Valiant, unshaken, She smoothed her dark locks under her kerchief, Composed her shawl in state, Then folded her hands ridged with sinews and corded with veins, Folded them across her breasts spent with the nourishment of children, Gazed at the sky past the tops of the cedars, Saw two spangled nights arise out of the twilight, Saw two days go by filled with the tranquil sunshine, Saw, without pain, or dread, or even a moment of longing: Then on the third great night there came thronging and thronging Millions of snowflakes out of a windless cloud; They covered her close with a beautiful crystal shroud, Covered her deep and silent.
But in the frost of the dawn, Up from the life below, Rose a column of breath Through a tiny cleft in the snow, Fragile, delicately drawn, Wavering with its own weakness, In the wilderness a sign of the spirit, Persisting still in the sight of the sun Till day was done.
Then all light was gathered up by the hand of God and hid in His breast, Then there was born a silence deeper than silence, Then she had rest.

Written by Duncan Campbell Scott |

The Violet Pressed in a Copy of Shakespeare

 Here in the inmost of the master's heart
This violet crisp with early dew
Has come to leave her beauty and to part
With all her vivid hue.
And while in hollow glades and dells of musk, Her fellows will reflower in bands, Clasping the deeps of shade and emerald dusk, With sweet inviolate hands, She will lie here, a ghost of their delight, Their lucent stems all ashen gray, Their purples fallen into pulvil white, Dull as the bluebird's alula.
But her where human passions pulse in power, She will transcend our Shakespeare's art, From Desdemona to a smothered flower, Will leap the tragic heart.
And memory will recall in keener mood The precinct fair where passion grew, The stars within the water in the wood, The moonlit grove, the odorous dew.
The voice that throbbed along the summer dark Will float and pause and thrill, In lonely cadence silvern as the lark, To fail below the hill.
The reader will grow weary of the play, Finding his hearts half understood, And with the young moon in the early dusk will stray Beside the starry water in the wood.

Written by Duncan Campbell Scott |


 A deep bell that links the downs
To the drowsy air;
Every loop of sound that swoons,
Finds a circle fair,
Whereon it doth rest and fade;
Every stroke that dins is laid
Like a node,
Spinning out the quivering, fine,
Vibrant tendrils of a vine:
(Bim - bim - bim.
) How they wreathe and run, Silvern as a filmy light, Filtered from the sun: The god of sound is out of sight, And the bell is like a cloud, Humming to the outer rim, Low and loud: (Bim - bim - bim.
) Throwing down the tempered lull, Fragile, beautiful: Married drones and overtones, How we fancy them to swim, Spreading into shapes that shine, With the aura of the metals, Prisoned in the bell, Fulvous tinted as a shell, Dreamy, dim, Deep in amber hyaline: (Bim - bim - bim.

Written by Duncan Campbell Scott |


 Set within a desert lone,
Circled by an arid sea,
Stands a figure carved in stone,
Where a fountain used to be.
Two abraded, pleading hands Held below a shapeless mouth, Human-like the fragment stands, Tortured by perpetual drouth.
Once the form was drenched with spray, Deluged with the rainbow flushes; Surplus water dashed away To the lotus and the rushes.
Time was clothed in rippling fashion,.
Opulence of light and air, Beauty changing into passion Every hour and everywhere.
And the yearning of that race Was for something deep and tender, Life replete with power, with grace, Touched with vision and with splendour.
Now no rain dissolves and cools, Dew is even as a dream, The enticing far-off pools In a mirage only seem.
All the traces that remain, Of the longings of that land, Are two hands that plead in vain Filled with burning sand.

Written by Duncan Campbell Scott |

Rain and the Robin

 A ROBIN in the morning,
In the morning early,
Sang a song of warning,
"There'll be rain, there'll be rain.
" Very,very clearly From the orchard Came the gentle horning, "There'll be rain.
" But the hasty farmer Cut his hay down, Did not heed the charmer From the orchard, And the mower's clatter Ceased at noontide, For with drip and spatter Down came the rain.
Then the prophet robin Hidden in the crab-tree Railed upon the farmer, "I told you so, I told you so.
" As the rain grew stronger, And his heart grew prouder, Notes so full and slow Coming blither, louder, "I told you so, I told you so," "I told you so.

Written by Duncan Campbell Scott |


 Her life was touched with early frost,
About the April of her day,
Her hold on earth was lightly lost,
And like a leaf she went away.
Her soul was chartered for great deeds, For gentle war unwonted here: Her spirit sought her clearer needs, An Empyrean atmosphere.
At hush of eve we hear her still Say with her clear, her perfect smile, And with her silver-throated thrill: "A little while - a little while.

Written by Duncan Campbell Scott |

At the Cedars

 You had two girls -- Baptiste -- 
One is Virginie --
Hold hard -- Baptiste!
Listen to me.
The whole drive was jammed In that bend at the Cedars, The rapids were dammed With the logs tight rammed And crammed; you might know The Devil had clinched them below.
We worked three days -- not a budge, 'She's as tight as a wedge, on the ledge,' Says our foreman; 'Mon Dieu! boys, look here, We must get this thing clear.
' He cursed at the men And we went for it then; With our cant-dogs arow, We just gave he-yo-ho; When she gave a big shove From above.
The gang yelled and tore For the shore, The logs gave a grind Like a wolf's jaws behind, And as quick as a flash, With a shove and a crash, They were down in a mash, But I and ten more, All but Isaàc Dufour, Were ashore.
He leaped on a log in the front of the rush, And shot out from the bind While the jam roared behind; As he floated along He balanced his pole And tossed us a song.
But just as we cheered, Up darted a log from the bottom, Leaped thirty feet square and fair, And came down on his own.
He went up like a block With the shock, And when he was there In the air, Kissed his hand To the land; When he dropped My heart stopped, For the first logs had caught him And crushed him; When he rose in his place There was blood on his face.
There were some girls, Baptiste, Picking berries on the hillside, Where the river curls, Baptiste, You know -- on the still side One was down by the water, She saw Isaàc Fall back.
She did not scream, Baptiste, She launched her canoe; It did seem, Baptiste, That she wanted to die too, For before you could think The birch cracked like a shell In that rush of hell, And I saw them both sink -- Baptiste ! -- He had two girls, One is Virginie, What God calls the other Is not known to me.

Written by Duncan Campbell Scott |

Stone Breaking

 March wind rough
Clashed the trees,
Flung the snow;
Breaking stones,
In the cold,
Germans slow
Toiled and toiled;
Arrowy sun
Glanced and sprang,
One right blithe
German sang:
Songs of home, 
Syenite hard,
Weary lot,
Callous hand,
All forgot:
Hammers pound,
Ringing round;
Rise the heaps,
To his voice,
Bounds and leaps
Toise on toise:
Toil is long,
But dear God
Gives us song,
At the end
Gives us test, 
Toil is best.

Written by Duncan Campbell Scott |

Rapids at Night

 Here at the roots of the mountains,
Between the sombre legions of cedars and tamaracks,
The rapids charge the ravine:
A little light, cast by foam under starlight,
Wavers about the shimmering stems of the birches:
Here rise up the clangorous sounds of battle,
Immense and mournful.
Far above curves the great dome of darkness Drawn with the limitless lines of the stars and the planets.
Deep at the core of the tumult, Deeper than all the voices that cry at the surface, Dwells one fathomless sound, Under the hiss and cry, the stroke and the plangent clamour.
O human heart that sleeps, Wild with rushing dreams and deep with sadness! The abysmal roar drops into almost silence, While over its sleep play in various cadence Innumerous voices crashing in laughter; Then rising calm, overwhelming, Slow in power, Rising supreme in utterance, It sways, and reconquers and floods all the spaces of silence, One voice, deep with the sadness, That dwells at the core of all things.
There by a nest in the glimmering birches, Speaks a thrush as if startled from slumber, Dreaming of Southern ricefields, The moted glow of the amber sunlight, Where the long ripple roves among the reeds.
Above curves the great dome of darkness, Scored with the limitless lines of the stars and the planets; Like the strong palm of God, Veined with the ancient laws, Holding a human heart that sleeps, Wild with rushing dreams and deep with the sadness, That dwells at the core of all things.

Written by Duncan Campbell Scott |


 With a golden rolling sound 
Booming came a bell,
From the aery in the tower
Eagles fell;
So with regal wings 
Hurled, and gleaming sound and power, 
Sprang the fatal spell.
Ten a storm of burnished doves Gleaming from the cote Flurried by the almonry O'er the moat,-- Fell and soared and fell With the arc and iris eye Burning breast and throat.
Avis heard the beaten bell Break the quiet space, Gathering softly in the room Round her face; And the sound of wings From the deeps of rosy gloom Rustled in the place.
Nothing moved along the wall, Weltered on the floor; Only in the purple deep, Streaming o'er, Came the dream of sound Silent as the dale of sleep, Where the dreams are four.
(One of love without a word, Wan to look upon, One of fear without a cry, Cowering stone, And the dower of life, Grief without a single sigh, Pain without a moan.
) "Avis-Avis!" Cried a voice; Then the voice was mute.
"Avis!" Soft the echo lay As the lute.
Where she was she fell, Drowsy as mandragora, Trancèd to the root.
Then she heard her mother's voice, Tender as a dove; Then her lover plain and sigh, "Avis--Love!" Like the mavis bird Calling, calling lonelily From the eerie grove.
Then she heard within the vast Closure of the spell, Rolled and moulded into one Rounded swell, All the sounds that ever were Uttered underneath the sun, Heard in heaven or hell.
In the arras moved the wind, And the window cloth Rippled like a serpent barred, Gray with wrath; In the brazier gold The wan ghost of a rose charred Fluttered like a moth.
Tranquil lay her darkened eyes As the pools that keep Auras dim of fern and frond Dappled, deep, Dreamy as the map of Nod; Moveless was she as a wand In the wind of sleep.
Then the birds began to cry From the crannied wall, Piping as the morning rose Mystical, Gray with whistling rain, Silver with the light that flows In the interval.
Pallid poplars cast a shade, Twinkling gray and dun, Where the wind and water wove Into one All the linnet leaves, Greening from the mere and grove In the undern sun.
Night fell with the ferny dusk, Planets paled and grew, Up, with lily and clarid turns Throbbing through, Rose the robin's song, Heart of home and love that burns beating in the dew.
But she neither moved nor heard, Trancèd was her breath; Lip on charmèd lip was laid (One who saith "Love-Undone" and falls).
Silent was she as a shade In the dells of death.