Bliss Carman |
TO the assembled folk
At great St.
Young Brother Amiel on Christmas Eve;
I give you joy, my friends,
That as the round year ends,
We meet once more for gladness by God’s leave.
On other festal days
For penitence or praise
Or prayer we meet, or fullness of thanksgiving;
To-night we calendar
The rising of that star
Which lit the old world with new joy of living.
Ah, we disparage still
The Tidings of Good Will,
Discrediting Love’s gospel now as then!
And with the verbal creed
That God is love indeed,
Who dares make Love his god before all men?
Shall we not, therefore, friends,
Resolve to make amends
To that glad inspiration of the heart;
To grudge not, to cast out
Selfishness, malice, doubt,
Anger and fear; and for the better part,
To love so much, so well,
The spirit cannot tell
The range and sweep of her own boundary!
There is no period
Between the soul and God;
Love is the tide, God the eternal sea.
To-day we walk by love;
To strive is not enough,
Save against greed and ignorance and might.
We apprehend peace comes
Not with the roll of drums,
But in the still processions of the night.
And we perceive, not awe
But love is the great law
That binds the world together safe and whole.
The splendid planets run
Their courses in the sun;
Love is the gravitation of the soul.
In the profound unknown,
Illumined, fair, and lone,
Each star is set to shimmer in its place.
In the profound divine
Each soul is set to shine,
And its unique appointed orbit trace.
There is no near nor far,
Where glorious Algebar
Swings round his mighty circuit through the night,
Yet where without a sound
The winged seed comes to ground,
And the red leaf seems hardly to alight.
One force, one lore, one need
For satellite and seed,
In the serene benignity for all.
Letting her time-glass run
With star-dust, sun by sun,
In Nature’s thought there is no great nor small.
There is no far nor near
Within the spirit’s sphere.
The summer sunset’s scarlet-yellow wings
Are tinged with the same dye
That paints the tulip’s ply.
And what is colour but the soul of things?
(The earth was without form;
God moulded it with storm,
Ice, flood, and tempest, gleaming tint and hue;
Lest it should come to ill
For lack of spirit still,
He gave it colour,—let the love shine through.
Of old, men said, ‘Sin not;
By every line and jot
Ye shall abide; man’s heart is false and vile.
Christ said, ‘By love alone
In man’s heart is God known;
Obey the word no falsehood can defile.
And since that day we prove
Only how great is love,
Nor to this hour its greatness half believe.
For to what other power
Will life give equal dower,
Or chaos grant one moment of reprieve!
Look down the ages’ line,
Where slowly the divine
Evinces energy, puts forth control;
See mighty love alone
Transmuting stock and stone,
Infusing being, helping sense and soul.
And what is energy,
In-working, which bids be
The starry pageant and the life of earth?
What is the genesis
Of every joy and bliss,
Each action dared, each beauty brought to birth?
What hangs the sun on high?
What swells the growing rye?
What bids the loons cry on the Northern lake?
What stirs in swamp and swale,
When April winds prevail,
And all the dwellers of the ground awake?…
What lurks in the deep gaze
Of the old wolf? Amaze,
Hope, recognition, gladness, anger, fear.
But deeper than all these
Love muses, yearns, and sees,
And is the self that does not change nor veer.
Not love of self alone,
Struggle for lair and bone,
But self-denying love of mate and young,
Love that is kind and wise,
Knows trust and sacrifice,
And croons the old dark universal tongue.
And who has understood
Our brothers of the wood,
Save he who puts off guile and every guise
Of violence,—made truce
With panther, bear, and moose,
As beings like ourselves whom love makes wise?
For they, too, do love’s will,
Our lesser clansmen still;
The House of Many Mansions holds us all;
Courageous, glad and hale,
They go forth on the trail,
Hearing the message, hearkening to the call.
Open the door to-night
Within your heart, and light
The lantern of love there to shine afar.
On a tumultuous sea
Some straining craft, maybe,
With bearings lost, shall sight love’s silver star.
Bliss Carman |
The rutted roads are all like iron; skies
Are keen and brilliant; only the oak-leaves cling
In the bare woods, or the hardy bitter-sweet;
Drivers have put their sheepskin jackets on;
And all the ponds are sealed with sheeted ice
That rings with stroke of skate and hockey-stick,
Or in the twilight cracks with running whoop.
Bring in the logs of oak and hickory,
And make an ample blaze on the wide hearth.
Now is the time, with winter o'er the world,
For books and friends and yellow candle-light,
And timeless lingering by the settling fire.
While all the shuddering stars are keen with cold.
Out from the silent portal of the hours,
When frosts are come and all the hosts put on.
Their burnished gear to march across the night
And o'er a darkened earth in splendor shine,
Slowly above the world Orion wheels
His glittering square, while on the shadowy hill
And throbbing like a sea-light through the dusk,
Great Sirius rises in his flashing blue.
Lord of the winter night, august and pure,
Returning year on year untouched by time,
To hearten faith with thine unfaltering fire,
There are no hurts that beauty cannot ease,
No ills that love cannot at last repair,
In the victorious progress of the soul.
Russet and white and gray is the oak wood
In the great snow.
Still from the North it comes,
Whispering, settling, sifting through the trees,
O'erloading branch and twig.
The road is lost.
Clearing and meadow, stream and ice-bound pond
Are made once more a trackless wilderness
In the white hush where not a creature stirs;
And the pale sun is blotted from the sky.
In that strange twilight the lone traveller halts
To listen to the stealthy snowflakes fall.
And then far off toward the Stamford shore,
Where through the storm the coastwise liners go,
Faint and recurrent on the muffled air,
A foghorn booming through the Smother--hark!
When the day changed and the mad wind died down,
The powdery drifts that all day long had blown
Across the meadows and the open fields,
Or whirled like diamond dust in the bright sun,
Settled to rest, and for a tranquil hour
The lengthening bluish shadows on the snow
Stole down the orchard slope, and a rose light
Flooded the earth with beauty and with peace.
Then in the west behind the cedars black
The sinking sun stained red the winter dusk
With sullen flare upon the snowy ridge,--
As in a masterpiece by Hokusai,
Where on a background gray, with flaming breath
A scarlet dragon dies in dusky gold.
Bliss Carman |
O all the little rivers that run to Hudson's Bay,
They call me and call me to follow them away.
Missinaibi, Abitibi, Little Current--where they run
Dancing and sparkling I see them in the sun.
I hear the brawling rapid, the thunder of the fall,
And when I think upon them I cannot stay at all.
At the far end of the carry, where the wilderness begins,
Set me down with my canoe-load--and forgiveness of my sins.
O all the mighty rivers beneath the Polar Star,
They call me and call me to follow them afar.
Peace and Athabasca and Coppermine and Slave,
And Yukon and Mackenzie--the highroads of the brave.
Saskatchewan, Assiniboine, the Bow and the Qu'Appelle,
And many a prairie river whose name is like a spell.
They rumor through the twilight at the edge of the unknown,
"There's a message waiting for you, and a kingdom all your own.
"The wilderness shall feed you, her gleam shall be your guide.
Come out from desolations, our path of hope is wide.
O all the headlong rivers that hurry to the West,
They call me and lure me with the joy of their unrest.
Columbia and Fraser and Bear and Kootenay,
I love their fearless reaches where winds untarnished play--
The rush of glacial water across the pebbly bar
To polished pools of azure where the hidden boulders are.
Just there, with heaven smiling, any morning I would be,
Where all the silver rivers go racing to the sea.
O well remembered rivers that sing of long ago,
Ajourneying through summer or dreaming under snow.
Among their meadow islands through placid days they glide,
And where the peaceful orchards are diked against the tide.
Tobique and Madawaska and shining Gaspereaux,
Croix and Nashwaak and St.
John whose haunts I used to know.
And all the pleasant rivers that seek the Fundy foam,
They call me and call me to follow them home.
Bliss Carman |
When I was just a little boy,
Before I went to school,
I had a fleet of forty sail
I called the Ships of Yule;
Of every rig, from rakish brig
And gallant barkentine,
To little Fundy fishing boats
With gunwales painted green.
They used to go on trading trips
Around the world for me,
For though I had to stay on shore
My heart was on the sea.
They stopped at every port to call
From Babylon to Rome,
To load with all the lovely things
We never had at home;
With elephants and ivory
Bought from the King of Tyre,
And shells and silks and sandal-wood
That sailor men admire;
With figs and dates from Samarcand,
And squatty ginger-jars,
And scented silver amulets
From Indian bazaars;
With sugar-cane from Port of Spain,
And monkeys from Ceylon,
And paper lanterns from Pekin
With painted dragons on;
With cocoanuts from Zanzibar,
And pines from Singapore;
And when they had unloaded these
They could go back for more.
And even after I was big
And had to go to school,
My mind was often far away
Aboard the Ships of Yule.
Bliss Carman |
Love's of itself too sweet; the best of all
Is, when love's honey has a dash of gall.
Bliss Carman |
The lover of child Marjory
Had one white hour of life brim full;
Now the old nurse, the rocking sea,
Hath him to lull.
The daughter of child Marjory
Hath in her veins, to beat and run,
The glad indomitable sea,
The strong white sun.
Bliss Carman |
In Memory of John Keats
By the Aurelian Wall,
Where the long shadows of the centuries fall
From Caius Cestius' tomb,
A weary mortal seeking rest found room
For quiet burial,
Leaving among his friends
A book of lyrics.
Such untold amends
A traveller might make
In a strange country, bidden to partake
Before he farther wends;
Who slyly should bestow
The foreign reed-flute they had seen him blow
And finger cunningly,
On one of the dark children standing by,
Then lift his cloak and go.
The years pass.
And the child
Thoughtful beyond his fellows, grave and mild,
Treasures the rough-made toy,
Until one day he blows it for clear joy,
And wakes the music wild.
His fondness makes it seem
A thing first fashioned in delirious dream,
Some god had cut and tried,
And filled with yearning passion, and cast aside
On some far woodland stream,--
After long years to be
Found by the stranger and brought over sea,
A marvel and delight
To ease the noon and pierce the dark blue night,
For children such as he.
He learns the silver strain
Wherewith the ghostly houses of gray rain
And lonely valleys ring,
When the untroubled whitethroats make the spring
A world without a stain;
Then on his river reed,
With strange and unsuspected notes that plead
Of their own wild accord
For utterances no bird's throat could afford,
Lifts it to human need.
His comrades leave their play,
When calling and compelling far away
By river-slope and hill,
He pipes their wayward footsteps where he will,
All the long lovely day.
Even his elders come.
"Surely the child is elvish," murmur some,
And shake the knowing head;
"Give us the good old simple things instead,
Our fathers used to hum.
Others at open door
Smile when they hear what they have hearkened for
These many summers now,
Believing they should live to learn somehow
Things never known before.
But he can only tell
How the flute's whisper lures him with a spell,
Yet always just eludes
The lost perfection over which he broods;
And how he loves it well.
Till all the country-side,
Familiar with his piping far and wide,
Has taken for its own
That weird enchantment down the evening blown,--
Its glory and its pride.
And so his splendid name,
Who left the book of lyrics and small fame
Among his fellows then,
Spreads through the world like autumn--who knows when?--
Till all the hillsides flame.
Grand Pré and Margaree
Hear it upbruited from the unresting sea;
And the small Gaspereau,
Whose yellow leaves repeat it, seems to know
A new felicity.
Even the shadows tall,
Walking at sundown through the plain, recall
A mound the grasses keep,
Where once a mortal came and found long sleep
By the Aurelian Wall.
Bliss Carman |
Wind of the dead men's feet,
Blow down the empty street
Of this old city by the sea
With news for me!
Blow me beyond the grime
And pestilence of time!
I am too sick at heart to war
With failure any more.
Thy chill is in my bones;
The moonlight on the stones
Is pale, and palpable, and cold;
I am as one grown old.
I call from room to room
Through the deserted gloom;
The echoes are all words I know,
Lost in some long ago.
I prowl from door to door,
And find no comrade more.
The wolfish fear that children feel
Is snuffing at my heel.
I hear the hollow sound
Of a great ship coming round,
The thunder of tackle and the tread
Of sailors overhead.
That stormy-blown hulloo
Has orders for me, too.
I see thee, hand at mouth, and hark,
My captain of the dark.
O wind of the great East,
By whom we are released
From this strange dusty port to sail
Beyond our fellows' hail,
Under the stars that keep
The entry of the deep,
Thy somber voice brings up the sea's
And I have no more need
Of bread, or wine, or creed,
Bound for the colonies of time
Beyond the farthest prime.
Wind of the dead men's feet,
Blow through the empty street;
The last adventurer am I,
Then, world, goodby!
Bliss Carman |
The sun goes down, and over all
These barren reaches by the tide
Such unelusive glories fall,
I almost dream they yet will bide
Until the coming of the tide.
And yet I know that not for us,
By any ecstasy of dream,
He lingers to keep luminous
A little while the grievous stream,
Which frets, uncomforted of dream--
A grievous stream, that to and fro
Athrough the fields of Acadie
Goes wandering, as if to know
Why one beloved face should be
So long from home and Acadie.
Was it a year or lives ago
We took the grasses in our hands,
And caught the summer flying low
Over the waving meadow lands,
And held it there between our hands?
The while the river at our feet--
A drowsy inland meadow stream--
At set of sun the after-heat
Made running gold, and in the gleam
We freed our birch upon the stream.
There down along the elms at dusk
We lifted dripping blade to drift,
Through twilight scented fine like musk,
Where night and gloom awhile uplift,
Nor sunder soul and soul adrift.
And that we took into our hands
Spirit of life or subtler thing--
Breathed on us there, and loosed the bands
Of death, and taught us, whispering,
The secret of some wonder-thing.
Then all your face grew light, and seemed
To hold the shadow of the sun;
The evening faltered, and I deemed
That time was ripe, and years had done
Their wheeling underneath the sun.
So all desire and all regret,
And fear and memory, were naught;
One to remember or forget
The keen delight our hands had caught;
Morrow and yesterday were naught.
The night has fallen, and the tide .
Now and again comes drifting home,
Across these aching barrens wide,
A sigh like driven wind or foam:
In grief the flood is bursting home.
Bliss Carman |
Where are the ships I used to know,
That came to port on the Fundy tide
Half a century ago,
In beauty and stately pride?
In they would come past the beacon light,
With the sun on gleaming sail and spar,
Folding their wings like birds in flight
From countries strange and far.
Schooner and brig and barkentine,
I watched them slow as the sails were furled,
And wondered what cities they must have seen
On the other side of the world.
Frenchman and Britisher and Dane,
Yankee, Spaniard and Portugee,
And many a home ship back again
With her stories of the sea.
Calm and victorious, at rest
From the relentless, rough sea-play,
The wild duck on the river's breast
Was not more sure than they.
The creatures of a passing race,
The dark spruce forests made them strong,
The sea's lore gave them magic grace,
The great winds taught them song.
And God endowed them each with life--
His blessing on the craftsman's skill--
To meet the blind unreasoned strife
And dare the risk of ill.
Not mere insensate wood and paint
Obedient to the helm's command,
But often restive as a saint
Beneath the Heavenly hand.
All the beauty and mystery
Of life were there, adventure bold,
Youth, and the glamour of the sea
And all its sorrows old.
And many a time I saw them go
Out on the flood at morning brave,
As the little tugs had them in tow,
And the sunlight danced on the wave.
There all day long you could hear the sound
Of the caulking iron, the ship's bronze bell,
And the clank of the capstan going round
As the great tides rose and fell.
The sailors' songs, the Captain's shout,
The boatswain's whistle piping shrill,
And the roar as the anchor chain runs out,--
I often hear them still.
I can see them still, the sun on their gear,
The shining streak as the hulls careen,
And the flag at the peak unfurling,--clear
As a picture on a screen.
The fog still hangs on the long tide-rips,
The gulls go wavering to and fro,
But where are all the beautiful ships
I knew so long ago?