AmblesideOnline in Canada: Poets

Canadian Poetry for AmblesideOnline Students

Isabella Whiteford Rogerson

Archibald Lampman

Isabella Whiteford Rogerson (1835-1905)

Biographical Sketch

Isabella Whiteford, later known as Mrs. Rogerson, was very much a product of her time. She wrote in fancy and fanciful language, often in quite long poems, with never a rhyme out of place. Many of her subjects were typical of Victorian poetry: the beauties of nature, the need for social welfare, and death--quite a lot of death. However, her broad interests in science and technology (such as electric cables, daguerreotypes, and "The Comet of 1858"); her originality in word use; and her sense of humour make her someone worth getting to know better.

As a very young girl in Northern Ireland, Isabella was already writing poetry (her first book includes a group of ballad-type verses "written in childhood"). When she was fifteen, she came with the rest of her family to live in Newfoundland, probably because of the Great Famine that had already taken many lives in Ireland. (Newfoundland was then a British colony, and would not become a province of Canada for another ninety years.) She kept many of her Irish connections, though, and her first book of poems was published in Belfast. She prefaced Poems with these modest words:

At the request of my friends I submit to the public this little volume. I am fully aware, in so doing, it is open to public criticism, and I feel very sensibly, without any affectation, its defects are neither few nor small. But as it makes no pretensions to poetry of a higher order than what might possess interest from its purely local character, or serve to while away a twilight hour, or bring back the sunny memory of childhood s early associations, I would claim for it, kind reader, your indulgence and consideration.

Although Isabella did not publish another book of poetry for forty years, she became a much-admired "poetess" in her adopted home. Like Anne Shirley Blythe in L.M. Montgomery's later novels, she seems to have been the go-to person when people wanted poetic tributes to loved ones, or even an "Advertisement for the Ladies' Bazaar," which was an event held to raise funds for a poor children's Sunday school. She often wrote about life in Newfoundland, such as the ocean (and sailors), the wildflowers, and the frosty winters. When she died at the age of seventy, the St John's Evening Telegram called her "one of the foremost of the ladies of this country in good and charitable works, and her gifted pen has added not a little to her fame."


Note on the selection of poems: The poems here have been chosen as those with the most timeless themes, and the most appeal to children. In some cases it seemed important to include an entire poem rather than just an extract; younger students may want to keep those more difficult or longer poems for later years.

The original formatting included spaces around marks such as colons and exclamation points; these have been omitted.

Isabella's language style, as already mentioned, echoes the tradition of poets such as Wordsworth and Keats, even in a thank-you note for wax flowers ("To Mrs. S--, In Acknowledgement . . . "). A few vocabulary and explanatory notes have been included, but as teachers should not explain "too much" and spoil the poem, many words must remain undefined. As Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch once wrote on "Children's Reading":

Go on: just read it to them. They won't know who Hebe was [in Milton's L'Allegro], but you can tell them later. The metre is taking hold of them (in my experience the metre of L'Allegro can be relied upon to grip children) and anyway they can see ‘Laughter holding both his sides': they recognise it as if they saw the picture. Go on steadily . . . (The Art of Reading)


01. from To Mrs. S--, In Acknowledgement of her Exquisite Bouquet of Wax Flowers

from Poems, 1859/1860

Bunchberry is a member of the dogwood family.

Wild flowers immortalised the valley's Queen,
With tiny, trembling cups and leaves of green,
And May-flowers fair as those I culled erewhile,
Radiant with beauty, in our own Green Isle;
And golden ball, and bunch-berry, fruit, and flower.
The fragile children of a summer hour:
I bless the Power that cheats our ardent gaze,
And gives you fadeless thro' dark winter's days.

I am a worshipper -- I fear, too much;
Wherever beauty is, with magic touch,
A strange attraction draws and keeps me there;
I never learned to couple "false and fair."
Altho' it may be so, still in my dreams,
Whate'er is good, that beautiful still seems;
Till beautiful and good become so one,
That I have never either met alone.


02. The Polar Star

from Poems, 1859/1860

The Polar Star is Polaris, also called the North Star. This poem is written as a conversation between the poet and the Polar Star itself.

Isabella refers often to the Northern Lights or aurora borealis, a natural light display most often seen in the Arctic region.

Thou glorious star of night!
      In thy pure and regal splendour,
There's a calmness in thy light,
      That no moonbeams e'er could render.
For changeless art thou still,
      Though all may change about thee;
Go to what clime we will,
      It were not bright without thee.
Answer me -- hast thou seen,
      In all thy steady gaze,
More than our fickle moon
      Through every varying phase?

I have -- when the sun was gone
      And the moon had hid her light,
I have led some trav'ller on
      Through the dark and cheerless night.
Perchance some friend of thine,
      Has been gladdened by my ray,
For I told, though brighter beams decline,
      There's love can ne'er decay.

I have marked, when the Northern Light has thrown
      Its fitful gleams around thee,
And with a bright and circling zone
      Of regal splendour bound thee.
But it was not this had caught my eye:
      Though its arrows were bright and gleaming,
Too soon they fled from the glowing sky,
      Like memorials of infant's dreaming.
But thou, o'er the waters' blue expanse,
What hast thou seen, in thy piercing glance?

I have seen the mariner tempest toss'd
      Afar on the trackless deep,
And I was his guide when all hope was lost--
      When the friends he loved were asleep.
I have marked the starting tear,
      As his eye was turned on me:
He knew that a friend was near
      On the dark and trackless sea;
For I breathed of hope, I whispered a tale
      Of rapturous joys to come;
I told of meeting with friends again,
      Afar from the ocean's foam.

I have kept my vigils o'er the grave
      Of each friend of thine early youth;
The loved, the beautiful, and the brave,
      I have watched with ceaseless truth.
Wouldst thou know still more? Not a spot of earth
      Thou hast loved in thy childhood's days,
In joy or sorrow, in woe or mirth,
      But has met my nightly gaze.
And in future, tho' thou and the world may change,
      Thou shalt meet me as before:
I ne'er shall move, I ne'er shall range,
      Till time itself be o'er.

It is enough, thou glorious star!
      Oh! who would wish for morning,
Whilst the sun and moon are veiled afar,
      And thou art the skies adorning;
Whilst thou art guiding the traveller on,
      Or lighting a friend's lone tomb;
Whilst the sailor's heart is homeward drawn
      Through the darkness and the gloom?
Still sparkle on -- I know thy worth:
      Where'er through earth I roam,
When my eye shall meet thee in the North,
      I will think of my happy home.


03. Advertisement for the Ladies' Bazaar

from Poems, 1859/1860

Come and purchase our fancy ware;
Here are things beautiful, rich, and rare --
Many a little gem of art;
Buy from us even a trifling part.
Fairy fingers at work have been
To furnish forth this varied scene,
Come, buy a purse! -- we'll charm it to hold
A wealth for thee of uncounted gold --
A wealth like his who, though reckon'd mad,
The more he bestowed, the more he had.
Lovest thou flowers? We have them as fair
As ever were twined in a lady's hair:
If not for thyself, buy something to prove
There is still a being on earth to love:
If thou hast not such, then think 'tis given
To teach poor children the way to heaven.


04. "Excelsior"

from Poems, 1859/1860

"Excelsior" is Latin for "Higher." This poem refers to several famous inventors: Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, and Robert Fulton, as well as prison reformer John Howard.

Always keep some end in view;
      Never let your life be aimless,
Though the object you pursue
      Should even by your lips be nameless:
Rest not satisfied you've done
      All your fathers did before ye:
Not thus the great and good have won
      Honour, power, fame, and glory.

Had Howard tracked his father's course --
      Been as good and nothing better --
Never tried what gentle force
      Could do to ease the suffering debtor --
We had never heard his name
      Linked with all that's good and holy;
Never felt, for once, that Fame
      Had not spoken aught but truly.

Had Newton gazed on day and night,
      Chasing each one from their portal,
Satisfied he knew of light
      Quite as much as any mortal,
His genius might have soared away,
      Like a comet, wild-- erratic;
Science ne'er had gained a ray
      From light so pure and so prismatic.

Had Franklin watched the lightning's glare
      Tremblingly as did his mother,
We had never talked through air,
      Quick as thought, to one another.
Had Fulton watched the kettle boil --
      Studied not what made it shiver --
Steam had never saved man toil.
      Sped him o'er earth, sea, and river!

If your fathers gained a name.
      Study ye to make it greater;
If it was unknown to fame,
      Resolve to leave it so no later.
Be your post how low soever--
      Toil at anvil, loom, or mill --
Every chain that binds you, sever,
      Till the highest post you fill.

Study not what others think;
      Seek not what you can't attain;
From toil and danger never shrink,
      There is a point which you can gain;
By God's blessing, if you ask it,
      And with stern endeavour joined
If there be indolence, then task it,
      With a firm and steady mind.

No one ever yet could climb well
      If he did not still look higher;
Fix a point and mind your time well --
      You'll gain to what you now aspire.
Never yield, though oft defeated;
      Keep your eye upon your aim;
In the end, though worn and heated.
      You'll obtain a place and name.


05. from Welcome to Spring

from Poems, 1859/1860

Holy and pure, unsaddened by tears
Is the merry laugh of those sunny years,
Recalling dreams of our own sweet home --
Of our childhood's hours, when we loved to roam.
Away where the rocks, majestic piled,
Hid in each crevice the flow'ret wild --
The delicate primrose of modest hue --
The graceful hyacinth's deep rich blue --
The violet hiding in ferny bowers.
The meadow-sweet with its starry showers . . .

Thou art calling forth beauty, and life, and grace
In forests untrod by the human race;
Thou art kissing the ice, and the waters leap
In joyful haste to their parent deep;
Thou art sending our sealers and proud ships home
With their precious freights o'er the ocean's foam.
Then, Springtime, we greet thee with outstretched hand
To our home by adoption -- to Newfoundland.


06. from Solitude Not Loneliness

from Poems, 1859/1860

A laurel chaplet was the leafy crown given to champions and heroes in ancient times.

There is no loneliness in solitude,
Where all around is beautiful and good:
Earth's great Creator -- GOD -- the only Wise --
Saw, at His word, its vales and mountains rise;
River and lake, sweet flower and spreading wood;
Gazed on it all -- pronounced it "very good."

      Is thy lot cast among the common herd?
Study to raise them by each look and word;
To virtue, beauty's richest colouring give;
Show them 'tis for eternity they live.
Clothe real Good with most attractive grace,
And tear the softening veil from Evil's face;
Acknowledge sterling worth, however lowly--
Let thine esteem be won by merit solely;
Labour to make thyself a source of good,
Then fear not loneliness in solitude,
Although no kindred heart respond to thine--
No laurel chaplet round thy brows entwine.


07. from Winter

from Poems, 1859/1860

In this poem it is Winter who speaks (seemingly a bit put out at being called "stern" and "old"). A stripling is a youth.

I saw all this, and I soothed the stream,
'Neath my magic wand, to a pleasant dream;
And I breathed on it yet, till its waters froze,
As marble founts 'neath my hand arose,
So rich and so varied in form and mould,
That they charmed like flowers of green and gold.
      I swept o'er the lake, with a kingly tread
And a crystal carpet was o'er it spread;
And happy children, on skate or sleigh,
Rejoiced in my merry holiday;
And I made the air more ethereal still,
And echoed their laugh from hill to hill;
I fanned the stars till they burned more bright,
And seemed to dance in the Northern light.
I made moonlight beauty more serene,
And daguerreotyped many a bygone scene
To the old and feeble, the changed and sad,
Of days of yore when their hearts were glad --
When their song rang out with the sleigh-bell's tone,
As they sped away through the forests lone . . .

With liberal hand the bright snowflake
O'er the leafless boughs of the wood I shake;
I know that your eyes will miss the flowers
That bloomed erewhile in your garden bowers;
So I breathe on your windows and crust them o'er
With leaves and blossoms a glistening store,
Fantastic in form-- as if fairy wand
Had touched the pane with a painter's hand.

      Why call me "old?" Merry Christmas I own,
And the happy New Year is mine alone.
How can I be old, when I call to play
The gleesome child and the stripling gay?
Why call me stern? I plead for the poor,
And whisper their wants from door to door.
Why call me gloomy? What smiles so bright,
As fireside faces on Winter's night?
'Tis only in fancy that Winter has been
To so many soft eyes a sombre scene:
The darkest cloud has a silvery speck
Which the sun is gilding behind its back.


08. The Pansy

from Poems, 1859/1860

The name "pansy" comes from the French word pensée, "thought," and therefore it has often symbolized remembrance, along with love.
Heart's-ease is the viola tricolor, or wild pansy.
"Meet" means suitable.

Well may thy name and thought be one,
      Sweet sombre-tinted flower,
That lov'st the vulgar gaze to shun,
      Hidden by tree or flower;
Never closing thy velvet petals fair
      In soft and dreamy sleep,
But spreading them out to the balmy air,
      Thought's sleepless watch to keep.

I have loved thee much since my childhood's day
      By each different hue and name,
From the violet wild we sought in play
      To the heart's-ease of world-wide fame;
And thought and thee seem still entwined
      By many a sad, sweet theme--
By memory softened, and time refined,
      Till it seemed to us all a dream.

Thou art meet for childhood, flow'ret fair,
      When thought has just begun;
And fit for laughing youth to wear,
Where thought and hope are one;
      Meet, too, for grave and hopeful age,
When the mind clings less to clay,
      And, heavenward tending, fills life's page
With thoughts that ne'er decay.

Thou art meet to be sent to absent friend,
      With gentle assurance fraught
That old faces, and names, and mem'ries blend
      With each tender passing thought.
And the graves of the loved and lonely dead
      Are fitly strewed with thee,
In proof that, although from earth long fled,
      They should unforgotten be.


09. from Farewell

from Poems, 1859/1860

A cot is a small house or cottage. "Foretel" is an unusual spelling of "foretell," to predict.

The soldier leaves his humble cot.
Where poverty was all his lot:
Do victory's laurels crown his brow,
Or dire defeat attend him now?
Or does the trumpet war foretel?
Still lingers that sad word -- farewell!

The sailor leaves his own dear home,
To track the ocean's flashing foam:
How is it that the starting tear
Comes when no storm or danger's near?
It is, that o'er the billow's swell
Comes back that sound of home -- farewell!

The young bride leaves the bowers of youth,
For promised honour, love, and truth;
But, oh! can after years e'er bring
Back to her heart its laughing spring?
Around her heart is thrown a spell,
By that fond parting word -- farewell!

Our first farewell is sealed by tears,
Which haunt us long through other years;
Yet something still forbids to mourn:
There is another word -- "Return!"
An antidote with poison dwells,
And glad RETURNS drown sad FAREWELLS!


10. from To Spring

from Poems, 1859/1860

The leaflets shelter with dimpled hand,
      And colour with every dye,
Till they are out o'er all the land,
      A thousand Spring flowers lie;
Then call for the butterfly and bee
      To revel amid the bloom,
And twine a wreath now for thy fair young brow,
      From flowers of the sweetest perfume.


11. from Our Unforgotten

from Poems, 1859/1860

What marvel, then, we miss heart-fellowship like this,
      As rare on earth as diamonds in a mine --
Sending out all around rays through the gloom profound,
      Gladdening the heart and eye where'er they shine.
Again for Absent ones a household scene,
      With twilight stealing o'er a firelit room,
      Throwing bright glances o'er the deepening gloom,
Whilst many a shadowy figure falls between --
      Fills each remembered place with a familiar face;
We love to see them where they once have been.


12. from To Jane, On Receiving her Daguerreotype

from Poems, 1859/1860

A daguerreotype is one of the earliest forms of photography, popular in the 1840's and 1850's. Its usual American pronunciation is "Da-GAIR-uh-type."

I bless thee for it, though thou art
Daguerreotyped upon my heart,
By that bright, glowing sunshine known
But to life's radiant morn alone.
Every feature of thy face,
And more-- each sweet, peculiar grace---
Requires not thus to be recalled
In that heart where thou art installed.


13. from A Winter's Scene

from Poems, 1859/1860

Winter's breath sweeps, chill as death,
      O'er the blue lake's rippling waves.
And charms asleep the haughty deep,
      O'er its thousand unseen caves.
The fir-tree's deathless robe of green
Is glistening with its silvery sheen,
From the frost king's regalia flung,
Like starry gems, its leaves among;
And the laugh and song are borne along
      The pure, unsullied air,
From the young and gay, who keep holiday,
      With the merry skaters there.
Away! away! through each graceful turn
      Of that strange, exciting scene.
See how their fair cheeks glow and burn,
      As they wheel and glide between,
With the soft fur coat up round each throat --
      The thoughtful mother's care;
And the gloves so warm -- they repel like a charm
      The chilling frosty air.


14. On Fragments of Stone from the Giant's Causeway

from Poems, 1859/1860

The Giant's Causeway is a famous place in County Antrim, Isabella's birthplace. It is made up of thousands of interlocking basalt columns, which look like stepping stones going down into the sea. Legends say that the hero Fingal (or Fionn mac Cumhaill) built the causeway between Ireland and Scotland.

Where those grand, wild rocks arose
O'er the waters' stern repose,
Mortals gazed with solemn dread,
Hushing e'en their footsteps tread,
Lest one sound should break the spell
That around them seemed to dwell;
Rocks tow'ring high, in calm or storm.
In many a wild, fantastic form;
Echoing back the seamew's wail.
Borne fitfully upon the gale.
Or the curlew's shrill, lone note,
Like music from a distant boat.
Here olden Ivy twines and clings
To hoary, fragile, crumbling things,
Throwing its trembling bands of green
So soothingly o'er each dark scene.
Giant's Causeway!--Nature's own!
Reared by Nature's God alone --
Who could look unmoved on thee,
Marvel of the Western sea --
Stretching thy pillars 'neath the wave.
To Staffa, and to Fingal's cave,
Where rolls for aye the sounding main,
In surges thou roll'st back again?
Fare-thee-well, belov'd home Isle,
Where nature wears her brightest smile;
Though memory still will treasure thee,
Would thou could'st forgotten be!


15. Electricity

from Poems, 1859/1860

We usually think of electricity as that powers our machines and creates light. At this time, however, the most exciting application for electricity was the electric telegraph, made possible by undersea cables. The poem "The Atlantic Telegraph" also describes this amazing piece of technology, "Bringing ever new tidings of living or dead."

Terra Nova is the Latin name for Newfoundland. Erin is Ireland.

To lour is to frown, scowl.

Mysterious power! thou art everywhere --
      Giving beauty to all things beneath;
Thou art swift as the light -- and free as the air.
      Impulsive as Liberty's breath:
Thy strength is condensed in the cloud and the storm,
And scattered again in the lightning's dread form.

We oft see thee here in Terra Nova's cold clime,
      In the arrowy Northern light,
As, radiant with beauty, it flashes sublime
      In the depth of the clear winter's night.
What fanciful visions its presence inspires,
As it shoots into castles, and turrets, and spires!

But, stranger than all, man has grasped thy strange power,
      And made thee the slave of his will;
And from merchant, and senate, and fair lady's bower,
      Thy couriers are speeding on still,
Down far 'neath our feet, or aloft o'er our head,
Bringing ever new tidings of living or dead.

Lonely, indeed, is thy pathway oft-times,
      Strange sprite with the voiceless words;
And sorrow and joy, and blessings and crimes,
      Are told by thy silent chords:
From man to man, with the speed of thought,
From realm to realm, are thy tidings brought.

Away through the depth of the stormy waves,
      Where the tempests lour [sic] in wrath --
Away through thy ice-bound arctic caves --
      Rush on in thy wondrous path!
Unheeded the tempests above thee sweep:
Though art filling thy course through the mighty deep.

Away where the mountains mock the skies
      Thy slender lines are seen;
Away where the olden forests rise,
      Where man has seldom been;
Away through the crowded city's hum,
Untired and untiring, thy messengers come.

Silently, secretly, onward it goes,
      Its trust betraying never;
Unchanging in heat or in Northern snows,
      Through mountain, wood, or river;
Adding to science one link more --
Joining together each foreign shore:

Bringing green Erin, the home of my childhood,
      Nearer and dearer -- oh! that I may see
The hour when, harmonious as sounds in the wildwood,
      Our Isles of the ocean in union may be,
And wishes and blessings, so often exchanged,
Shall keep hearts that are parted from being estranged!

May He who upholds the earth in its course,
      And binds with electric chain.
Forbid that a foeman should ever force
      That power for our country's pain;
But keep our Electric Telegraph free,
In its service of peace by land and by sea!


16. from To Mary, On Receiving a Cabbage Rose from Home

from Poems, 1859/1860

Faded flower! thou hast brought back
All my childhood's bygone track--
Its joys and sorrows, smiles and tears,
Rainbow hopes, and shadowy fears;
Something like April's gentle flowers,
Blooming in sunshine or in showers.
      I cannot say I would recall
The years gone past--time gilds them all;
Heightens their pleasure, soothes their pain:
Could we but view them all again,
As at the present hour, 'twould show
Their joy unequal to their woe.


17. Memories and Mementoes

from Poems, 1859/1860

Miniatures are small portraits which, before the days of photographs, were a special gift for loved ones, especially those who were going to be separated for a time.

Memories and mementoes,
      In miniatures or hair,
Or pencillings in favourite books --
      They meet us everywhere.
Dead leaves, or withered flowers,
      That, perchance, with jest or song,
Had been left to mark the hours,
      Time with pleasure sped along.

The miniatures alone are left
      Of all we thought most fair,
And in the dust are lying
      The kindred locks of hair.
The fingers ne'er may leave a trace
      Of pleasure or of pain,
In note upon a favourite place,
      Or leaf, or flower again.


18. The Atlantic Telegraph

from Poems, 1859/1860

Thought's bridge is laid 'neath ocean's waves -- the
mighty work is done,
And we greet them well as conquerors after a victory won.
Flash out from lowly window -- flash out from lofty spire --
A gleam to tell how proudly we hail that spark of fire,
That quick as thought its language breathes, in mighty voiceless words,
And thrills with strangest sympathy our old world's hidden chords.

A glorious victory surely, unbought by strife or blood--
The victory of the human mind o'er time, and space, and flood:
No tears o'er fallen greatness -- no wailing sound comes in,
To still the heart's glad throbbing, as 'mid the battle's din;
All godlike in its mission, may its first glad words of peace
Be but the glorious augury of what shall never cease!

Thoughts messenger! the fleetest -- all hail, we say, to thee
A calm and peaceful resting-place down 'neath the troubled sea,
Where thine iron nerve, deep hidden, yields but to man's control,
And flashes answering thought to thought-- soul's intercourse with soul.
Strange -- strange -- that human power should e'er bear deathless words through thee.
Whose might hath ever quenched man's life, in speechless agony!

Hail to the victors every one-- toilers with arm or brain,
Who planned at first, or sped at last, the wondrous speaking chain!
We own them worthy of the wreath that crowns the conqueror's brow,
And trust that Fame will give each name a niche where all may bow.
May craft, and cruelty, and crime fall powerless on that day,
And, awe-struck, fear to ever bring thy chords beneath their sway,
When, Genius, at thy holy shrine our homage meet we pay!


19. To the Comet of 1858

from Poems, 1859/1860

This poem describes Donati's Comet, named for the Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Donati, who first observed it in June, 1858. This especially bright and beautiful comet was seen through the summer and fall of that year, and, in September, was the first ever to be photographed.

Sweep on!-- before the wondering gaze
Of thousands through thine orbit blaze;
Let thy eccentric race be run
Above, beneath, or round the sun.
Nearer, yet nearer to our earth,
Till eyes grow dim that flashed with mirth;
Still onward in thy fiery haste.
Dread chronicler of ages past,
When awe-struck nations saw in thee
Of future ills dire prophecy --
War, famine, plague, Almighty wrath,
Deemed following in thy fearful path.
Sweep on! -- let star-seers speculate
Upon thy course-- our planet's fate;
Proud Science, with heaven's roll unfurled.
Tell when thou last swept past our world;
Weigh what the thousand chances are
Of contact with our humbler star:
Chances! -- the mightiest master-mind
That scans the spheres were better blind,
Than not to see the Arm Divine
That points the wandering Comet's line;
That named the stars before frail man
His changeful course on earth began.
How good to know a Father's hand
Doth heaven's impetuous orbs command!
Calmly we see them burn and glow,
And own His power who formed them so --
Who, when they've run their trackless race.
At wondrous speed, through boundless space --
When, pile on pile, our mother earth
Lies heaped on those of mortal birth
Who've watched them to their mighty goal,
With straining eye and kindling soul --
When they, and thousands such as they,
Have, long forgotten, passed away --
With eye Omniscient, still undimm'd,
Marks them as when His praise they hymn'd,
Rejoicing in His glorious might
Whose word created spheres and light --
Who gave the universe His laws,
And stood proclaimed its GREAT FIRST CAUSE.


20. from The Picnic--A Memory

from Poems, 1859/1860

'Twas noontide of a bright mid summer's day;
      A pleasure-loving party sought the shade,
Not of old trees, but giant rocks that lay
In rude magnificence around a bay --
      Rocks clothed with verdure in each sloping glade,
Where roses wild and tufts of primrose sweet,
Harebell and violet, clustered at their feet.

Above them rose the sea-bird's wailing cry;
      Beside them -- ocean slumbered calmly there;
No city's sound to break the harmony
      Of nature's empire-- wild that scene, yet fair,
By faithful memory mirrored back as true
As if no other change of place it knew.


21. What I Would Not

from Poems, 1859/1860

I would not move a leaf or flower
      By love or friendship placed,
E'en though its perfume, hue, and form
      Were utterly defaced.

I would not deem a castle fair,
      Built where a cot had stood,
If childhood's memories mingled there
      The beautiful and good.

I would not give a face beloved
      More glowing lip or cheek;
I would not loose from raven locks
      A single silvery streak.

I would not praise the painter's skill
      Who well could hide a scar
In the loved likeness of a friend,
      Dreading its grace to mar.

Let life be true-- no false shade owned,
      E'en though it look less fair;
For nature's loss art ne'er atoned,
      Though costlier and more rare.


22. from By the River

from Poems, 1859/1860

How sweet is solitude!--beside a brook
To sit at glowing noon, with some old book.
Beneath the shade of green, o'erarching trees
Where e'en the quivering aspen is at ease! . . .

Bright, ever and anon, with some stray beam
Of sparkling sunlight through the woodland shade,
Till book and vision indistinctly fade,
And, lost in labyrinths of luxurious ease.
You scarce can tell which most your senses please.
As distant music from a numerous band
Comes softly mellowed -- none seems to command --
And, all intent, the ear drinks in the strain,
And trembles lest the notes be lost again --
So seems this little hallowed spot to me,
Akin to distance-softened melody.
Say, what makes solitude so doubly dear?
The knowledge that we seldom meet it here:
Oh! After three hours spent by such a brook
In such a noontide and with such a book--
With such entrancing dreams of things ideal
What feelings have we greeting things life real!
With double zest we turn to home again--
With double pleasure track life's maze amain . . .


23. Indian Summer

from The Victorian Triumph and Other Poems 1898

"Indian Summer" is a term for unusually warm, dry weather in the late autumn.
A "glamor" is an old word for enchantment.
"Cumbrous" is cumbersome, heavy.

Over headland, cape and bay
Veiled autumnal sunshine lay
      Like a dream,
Softening rock and stream and hill,
Baffling all earth's artist skill.
      To catch the gleam.

What is it ? Who may tell?
A glamor or a spell
      In the air?
Look, each cottage in the woods
A whole paradise includes,
      Soft and fair.

Spruce and birch and mountain ash
Stand in state and burn and flash,
      Many-hued;
Whilst the rocks, once bare and stern,
Moss-clad hide 'neath fairy fern,
      Grace-endued.

Just a brown frond here and there,
Whispering Autumn's in the air,
      On berries red,
Telling with mute comforting
Summer flowers are vanishing;
      We come instead.

The birds are mute, save whir of wing,
When startled by the rifle's ping.
      Here man appears.
And amid this loveliness
We feel that Nature's smiles no less
      Have Nature's tears.

In vain we struggle to forget --
No charm can cure the sad regret,
      With sorrow rife;
Until, freed from cumbrous clay,
We rise into a cloudless day,
      The perfect life.


24. Topsail

from The Victorian Triumph and Other Poems 1898

A topsail is the sail set on a ship's top mast, or above the other sails.

Belle Isle: There is an island called Belle Isle (above the northern tip of Newfoundland), but it seems likely she was referring to Bell Island in Conception Bay (especially with the mention of the "noble headland to the east"). In any case, it seems to have been a peaceful spot to escape the busy everyday life in St. John's.

Past flashing lake, through wood and wild,
      By humble home and cosy cot,
We left the city smoke-defiled
            For this sweet spot;

This sweetest spot, where dreaming lie
      In sunlit glory isles so fair
That morn and evening's splendors vie
            In beauty rare;

So simply grand in storm or calm,
      We scarce know which we love the best;
On careworn souls comes down like balm
            Its perfect rest.

Beyond the bounds of lone Belle Isle
      We see afar Conception Bay
In softened hazy beauty smile
            Out "far away."

That noble headland to the east,
      In glorious, glowing, glimmering haze,
The Atlantic billows foam like yeast
            Around its base!

From age to age, since Hand Divine
      Has set the hungry sea its bounds.
It vainly strives to undermine
            What it surrounds.

Serene and calm, the rooted rock
      Flings back the breakers from its shore,
To sweep with heavier swell and shock,
            And futile roar.

'Neath sheltering arms of noble hills,
      Verdant with ash and birch and fir,
And flashing with unnumbered rills,
            In ceaseless stir;

And carpeted with daintiest moss,
      And hung with thousand trailing vines,
And wild-flowers' fragrance -- some count loss --
            No art confines.

Farewell, sweet spot, a sad farewell!
      Unchanged, unchanging, year by year,
Fond memory ne'er can on you dwell
            Without a tear.


25. Written for Anna's Album

from The Victorian Triumph and Other Poems 1898

Even accomplished poets may hesitate over what to write in someone's autograph album!

The poet Alexander Pope used the phrase "Amaranthine bowers" in his poem "Ode for Music on St. Cecelia's Day." Its meaning is a bit complicated, but it seems to refer here to Heaven, a place of eternal flowers.

Rhodora, mentioned here and in the poem "Terra Nova", is Rhododendron canadense, or Canada rosebay, a flowering shrub that grows in the eastern parts of North America.

What is an album meant for but to write
Quaint sayings, loving wishes, axioms trite;
Carefully written just to leave a name,
Without the slightest wish for future fame.
But pause -- fair Anna warns you this must be
A book kept sacred for Queen Poesy.
Sit with your finger on your eye, or lip,
And guard your brain lest one choice thought should slip,
And weave all into garlands of sweet words,
To soothe the listening ear like well-struck chords;
Words that may call up to the 'raptured eye
All the rich flowers of this most fair July;
Lilies and roses bursting into bloom,
Hyacinths and rockets laden with perfume;
And meek-eyed pansies, bending richly fraught
With all their serious wealth of loving thought;
And noble lilacs, with their plumy flowers;
Golden laburnums, gracing fairy bowers;
Cowslips and daisies, loved since childhood's days
For wreaths and chaplets, dearer far than bays;
And then what glorious flowers our woods among,
Fairer than any bard hath ever sung!
Matchless in beauty, waiting but a name
And a good voice to sing them into fame.
White starry flowers and faint pink dancing bells.
Round which a wave of perfume sinks and swells;
Rhodora venturous flowers its leaves before,
And Lauristinas, glossy evermore.
But, really, I've forgotten! Back, sweet dream;
And yet I think sweet flowers this book beseem;
May they surround thy long life to the tomb,
And lend thine Amaranthine bowers perfume.


26. Time

from The Victorian Triumph and Other Poems 1898

A dream, a flash, a breath,
      A moment gone;
Swift as a thought you may not
      Dwell upon;
And yet God-given to man.
      That he may be
Prepared for God's own great eternity.


27. from Snow-Storm

from The Victorian Triumph and Other Poems 1898

Who can paint it in its beauty,
      In its softness and delight,
With its gleaming pearly whiteness.
      As it breaks upon our sight ?
Softly, softly, softly falling,
      As its bridal robe it weaves,
Till our old world stands unrivalled,
      E'en by springtime's flowers and leaves;
For it falls where leaves come never--
      On unsightliness and gloom.
Soft and radiant, fair and lovely,
      Pure as lilies in full bloom.

Covering where the roses come not,
      Charming woodsheds into bowers.
With such wondrous grace and beauty
      That we quite forget the flowers;
Quite forget the rarest sculpture,
      As such forms of grace arise,
Forms that none save the Creator
      E'er could fashion or devise:
Fold on fold so softly rounded.
      Curving into graceful sweep.
Wreathing huge unsightly houses
      Into turret, tower, and keep.

All of purest, daintiest, whitest, --
      Marble, fairest of the fair,
Never with our snow-clad mansions
      For a moment could compare;
Never trees in summer splendor,
      Clad in emerald green, outshone
All the delicate diamonds flashing
      From trees snow-clad in the sun;
But words fail to tell its sweetness,
      Only those who see it know
All the fairy grace and glamour
      Of the softly falling snow.


28. Christmas

from The Victorian Triumph and Other Poems 1898

Seraphim are angels.

      Low swept the wondrous star,
      O'er Orient fields afar,
And led the seeking kings to where He lay;
      The Lord of life and light.
      In lowliest mortal plight,
Cradled amid the sweetly-scented hay.

      Exchanged for heaven His home,
      He chose no palace dome.
And yet those Orient kings proclaimed Him King.
      They worshipped Him as Lord,
      As God supreme adored.
Not as to earthly peer the gifts they bring.

      The shepherds in affright
      Beheld a wondrous light,
God's angel with good news allayed their fear;.
      Messiah promised long
      In seer and Psalmist's song,
Stood heaven-proclaimed by angel voices clear.

      Saviour alike of all,
      King, shepherd, great and small;
Only the sinless could for sin atone;
      And so the King above,
      Pure, holy, full of love,
Came down to die for sin -- sin not His own.

      What wonder we should raise
      Our loftiest hymns of praise,
And keep with sacred joy this Christmas day!
      What wonder earthly grief
      Through Him should find relief,
And like the snow in summer pass away!

      Hail, blessed Christmas morn,
      On which our Lord was born!
We want more love and loyalty to Him,
      Who paid our ransom down,
      A kingdom and a crown --
Our love should soar beyond the Seraphim.


29. On Making Cape Race

from The Victorian Triumph and Other Poems 1898

Cape Race is a point of land on the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland, and the location of a well-known lighthouse. Beginning in 1859, ocean liners were met there by a newsboat, which then telegraphed important news stories to New York. The first wireless station in Newfoundland was also built at Cape Race.

Lo! on the first faint streak of day,
      Like morning star o'er billows borne,
To greet the good ship on her way
      And make the sea-scape less forlorn,

It flashes out, now faint and far,
      The welcome beacon on Cape Race,
And thousands bless that signal star
      That guides, and saves from death's embrace.

Like diamond on an index hand,
      It flashes brighter, brighter still.
Until it rises high and grand,
      A coronet on rock-bound hill.

And flag greets flag, the good ship's name
      Like magic rushes o'er the wires
To loving friends, whose glad acclaim
      Attest their grateful hearts' desires.

And voyagers, weary now no more,
      Look radiant with the hope of home,
And greet the wild lone reach of shore
      That breaks the billows into foam.

Ah, me, how many a weary one
      Was dashed to death in days of yore.
Before that glorious beacon shone
      To guard them from the deathful shore.

God shield the ships, and bless the men
      Whose faithful watch makes sure the light,
Until they reach that haven where
      They need no lighthouse-- there's no night.


30. Terra Nova

from The Victorian Triumph and Other Poems 1898

The Rose, Shamrock, and Thistle are symbols of England, Ireland, and Scotland. Since those plants are already "taken," the poet suggests some suitable native flowers to offer the Queen instead (perhaps for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897).

Kalmia is an evergreen shrub. A "silver thaw" is an ice storm.

Rose, Shamrock and Thistle are wreathed for our Queen,
We must cull from our wild flowers some tribute, I ween,
And what shall it be? The Rhodora is fair,
The Kalmia is wondrously lovely and rare,
And we've Orchids with perfume as soothing as balm.
As we roam by our lakes in the summer's sweet calm;
And I sigh, in my lack of the botanist's lore.
To tell all the wealth our wild-woods have in store.

O the daintiest blooms, which as yet have no name,
Are waiting to make some new botanist's fame --
Some kindly explorer whose soul and whose eye
Could the wealth of our land and our Flora descry;
With the zeal which explorers to minerals give
He might honestly tell to the world how we live;
Tell of rivers and mountains, lake, forest, and field.
And the riches and charms which our country can yield.

How our winters for grandeur in snow-laden storms
Surpass all the tales told in weirdest of forms;
And our Frost King, oh, would I could bring to your view
A tithe of the feats our great Frost King can do!
He can bind up our rivers and lakes with his breath.
And with crystal and pearl can give beauty to death..
Our cliff sides through glaciers and icicles seen
Seem in Winter more fair than in Summer's sweet green.

But our Winter's great charm and our Frost King's great feat
Is the rare "Silver thaw," Winter's triumph complete,
When the whole land is deluged with soft-falling rain.
And the Frost King, indignant, his sway would regain.
Then he breathes on old ruins and trees, and, behold!
There is nothing around that is common or old:
Pearl and crystal envelop blade, leaflet, and tree.
Till the humblest of homesteads a palace might be.

Transformed by a touch nothing less than divine,
When through morning's deep azure the sunbeams first shine;
And the ice crystal's sheen flashes diamond and gem.
As the radiance falls gleaming and flashing on them,
So dazzlingly bright. Oh, how weak and how faint
Are the words which its wonderful glories would paint!
We sigh in despair for the language to come,
And what marvel ? We see it, and, lo, we are dumb!

And is this my fair chaplet of fair summer flowers ?
We're embarrassed with wealth in this new land of ours:
Earth has nothing more fair than our rich Summer green;
Earth has nothing more grand than our wild Winter's scene.
As we dream of them both in their beauty so rare
We feel the Sublime and the Beautiful there!
And with Summer so sweet, and with Winter so grand.
We have pride and delight in our own Newfoundland.

Archibald Lampman (1861-1899)

Biographical Sketch

How did a young man born in Morpeth, Ontario, become one of Canada's most important nineteenth-century poets?

A better question, perhaps, is how he could have done or been anything else.

Archibald Lampman's father was a poetry-loving Anglican priest, whose varying church positions caused the family to move fairly often. His mother, according to Lampman himself, was a woman of "valiant will, / Battling long ago" for the well-being and education of her children. At the age of seven, young Archibald contracted rheumatic fever, reportedly because of the damp rectory (priest's house) they were living in at the time. This illness damaged his heart and also caused him to need crutches to walk for several years.

Lampman was taught at home until he was nine, and he was then sent to private English-style prep schools. When he first began school, he was still recovering from his illness and was not able to participate in sports and games. He did regain much of his physical strength, but it seems that his identity before college was mostly one of a gentle, kind, scholarly boy. When he began studying Classics at Trinity College, however, strange reports started to filter back to those who had known him previously. According to Duncan Campbell Scott's memoir, Lampman had become a popular fellow, "and was to be found foremost in any innocent wildness that was afoot . . . He did not work as hard as many, nor did he play so successfully, but he was accepted without reserve." Archibald Lampman had suddenly discovered how to have fun; and while he did work hard at college (including editing the student newspaper, and writing for a literary journal), his penchant for "innocent wildness," along with his own reading and writing interests that sometimes took priority over assigned books, meant that his grades sometimes suffered. But he did earn his degree, with what were then called second-class honours.

After college, Lampman tried teaching in a high school, but found he was unable to keep order in the classroom. Fortunately, a college friend used his family influence to get Lampman a clerk's position in the federal Post Office Department in Ottawa. That might have sounded dull to some, but for Lampman it was the perfect job, in the perfect place. His friend and co-worker Scott (who was also a poet) wrote:

He found in the strenuous climate of the growing city all that is characteristic of Canadian summers and winters. He was on the borders of the wild nature that he loved, and in the midst of a congenial society. To some extent, if not to the limit, he might now follow his inclination. The result was that he began to apply himself steadily to composition . . . His poems were principally composed as he walked either to and from his ordinary employment in the city, upon excursions into the country, or as he paced about his writing-room. Lines invented under these conditions would be transferred to manuscript books, and finally after they had been perfected, would be written out carefully in his clear, strong handwriting in volumes of a permanent kind.

And for the next sixteen years Lampman worked, got married and started a family; his life was "full of high endeavour and of fine accomplishment, but . . . outwardly placid and uneventful." His annual vacation was usually spent camping in some wild spot. Scott wrote:

The only existence he coveted was that of a bushman, to be constantly hidden in the heart of the woods. There he would neither be solitary nor lonely, for the clear distance and the tangled undergrowth were peopled with companionships known to few men nurtured as he was.

Scott also wrote about Lampman's fascination with nature:

He did not win his knowledge of nature from books, but from actual observation and from conversations with men who had studied the science of the special subjects. Without a thought of literature he would intently observe a landscape, a flower or a bird, until its true spirit was revealed to him. Afterwards, it may have been days, weeks or months, he called upon his knowledge, striving to revive his impression and transcribe it.

For several years, Lampman's poems were published mostly in magazines; but in 1888 he used some of his wife's money to self-publish his first book, Among the Millet. His reputation as a poet grew, and in 1895 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In all, he wrote three books of poems, the last of which (Alcyone) was about to go to press at the time of his death. Duncan Campbell Scott used his influence to hold Alcyone back from publication, because he wanted to publish a larger book which would also contain poems not included in the others; this was published in 1900 as The Poems of Archibald Lampman.

In the autumn of 1896, Lampman and two of his brothers-in-law took a canoe trip "into Lake Temagami by Lake Nipissing down the Metabechawan River to the Ottawa." He seems to have pushed himself unusually hard during that journey; as with so many things he did in his life, he tried to ignore his physical limitations. Scott wrote,

For heavy burdens and tasks requiring great endurance his physique was ill-fitted, yet there was in the man that robustness of will and tenacity of purpose that prompted him to lift as if he were a giant and paddle as if he were a trapper.

After his return home, Lampman began to experience severe chest pains. For the last two and a half years of his life, he was sometimes able to work at his job, to finish work on a new self-published book of poetry, and even to go camping again; but at other times he was not well, and he began to realize that his time was getting short. He died in February, 1899, leaving his wife Maud and two young children (another son had died in infancy).

In his memoir of Lampman, Duncan Campbell Scott said that his friend was not at all photogenic; that it was impossible to capture "the fascination of his personality" and his "deep, bright, lucid glance" in a still photograph. This short biography has the same limitations; but if Lampman's spirit cannot be captured in a few words, we still have the delight of getting to know him through his poems.


The Sonnet Form

Archibald Lampman enjoyed using the sonnet form of poetry; of his own sonnets he said, "Here after all is my best work."

But what is a sonnet? It is a type of poem that follows several strict rules about length and rhyme. Sonnets ("little songs") were first written several hundred years ago in Italian, but they became popular in other languages as well, including English. They were originally written to express romantic love, but that is one rule that has changed: they can now be written about any subject (such as "The Dog"). Poets writing about nature (such as Lampman) often choose the sonnet form.

English-language sonnets are usually written in iambic pentameter, which is a fancy way of saying that each line of the poem has ten syllables, with the beat or accent on every other syllable. Try reading these lines from Lampman's "Knowledge" out loud as an example:

      To wander like the bee among the flowers
            Till old age find us weary, feet and wings
                  Grown heavy with the gold of many thoughts.

Lampman often uses iambic pentameter in other poems that are not sonnets (such as "An October Sunset"). But what else makes a sonnet, a sonnet? First of all, the first line should state the theme, or the big question or problem, that the rest of the poem is going to be about. The sonnet must (almost always) have fourteen lines, which can be divided (Italian style, think of pizza) into eight lines which might ask a question or present a problem, plus six that try to answer the question. Another type of sonnet (English style, also called Shakespearean because he liked to write them) has three four-line stanzas, plus two lines at the end that form a conclusion. To make things more confusing, many sonnets are printed with all fourteen lines together, so if you want to know what type of sonnet it is, you might have to examine the rhyme scheme (what lines rhyme with what others).

Sonnets have gone in and out of fashion over the years; for instance, in the eighteenth century hardly anyone was writing sonnets in English. The nineteenth-century Romantics such as Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats helped bring the sonnet back to popularity; and since Keats was one of Lampman's favourite poets, it is not surprising that he also wrote in sonnet form. Other poets known for their sonnets include Helen Hunt Jackson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Robert Frost, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Lampman's "The Loons" is a legend-in-a-sonnet, similar to stories like "Why the Robin Has a Red Breast," which involves the legendary figure Glooscap (a sort of caretaker of creation). It begins with an eight-line stanza that introduces a situation ("Once ye were happy"), tells about what happened to change that (Glooscap left), and then moves to a six-line stanza that shows how things are now (the birds "search and wander querulously," looking for their friend). You may want to examine it to see how closely he followed iambic pentameter (you might have to run syllables together), and look at its rhyme scheme. (Do sonnets need to rhyme? The answer is yes, usually; but the American poet Robert Lowell wrote unrhymed sonnets, and won a Pulitzer Prize for them.)


The Loons

Once ye were happy, once by many a shore,
      Wherever Glooscap's gentle feet might stray,
      Lulled by his presence like a dream, ye lay
Floating at rest; but that was long of yore.
He was too good for earthly men; he bore
      Their bitter deeds for many a patient day,
      And then at last he took his unseen way.
He was your friend, and ye might rest no more:

And now, though many hundred altering years
Have passed, among the desolate northern meres
      Still must ye search and wander querulously,
            Crying for Glooscap, still bemoan the light
      With weird entreaties, and in agony
            With awful laughter pierce the lonely night.


01. Among the Millet

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

Millet is a small-seeded grass. Sward is an expanse of short grass, in this case a place where sheep can graze.

The dew is gleaming in the grass,
      The morning hours are seven,
And I am fain to watch you pass,
      Ye soft white clouds of heaven.

Ye stray and gather, part and fold;
      The wind alone can tame you;
I think of what in time of old
      The poets loved to name you.

They called you sheep, the sky your sward,
      A field without a reaper;
They called the shining sun your lord,
      The shepherd wind your keeper.

Your sweetest poets I will deem
      The men of old for moulding
In simple beauty such a dream,
      And I could lie beholding,

Where daisies in the meadow toss,
      The wind from morn till even,
Forever shepherd you across
      The shining field of heaven.


02. from April

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

The grey song-sparrows full of spring have sung
Their clear thin silvery tunes in leafless trees;
The robin hops, and whistles, and among
The silver-tasseled poplars the brown bees
Murmur faint dreams of summer harvestries;
The creamy sun at even scatters down
A gold-green mist across the murmuring town.

By the slow streams the frogs all day and night
Dream without thought of pain or heed of ill,
Watching the long warm silent hours take flight,
And ever with soft throats that pulse and thrill,
From the pale-weeded shallows trill and trill,
Tremulous sweet voices, flute-like, answering
One to another glorying in the spring.


03. An October Sunset

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

An aureole is a circle of light or brightness surrounding something. "Acold" means to grow cold or chilled.

One moment the slim cloudflakes seem to lean
With their sad sunward faces aureoled,
And longing lips set downward brightening
To take the last sweet hand kiss of the king,
Gone down beyond the closing west acold;
Paying no reverence to the slender queen,
That like a curvèd olive leaf of gold
Hangs low in heaven, rounded toward sun,
Or the small stars that one by one unfold
Down the gray border of the night begun.


04. Spring on the River

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

Eddies are circular movements of water, like whirlpools.

O sun, shine hot on the river;
      For the ice is turning an ashen hue,
      And the still bright water is looking through,
      And the myriad streams are greeting you
With a ballad of life to the giver,
      From forest and field and sunny town,
      Meeting and running and tripping down,
With laughter and song to the river.

Oh! the din on the boats by the river;
      The barges are ringing while day avails,
      With sound of hewing and hammering nails,
      Planing and painting and swinging pails,
All day in their shrill endeavour;
      For the waters brim over their wintry cup,
      And the grinding ice is breaking up,
And we must away down the river.

Oh! the hum and the toil of the river;
      The ridge of the rapid sprays and skips:
      Loud and low by the water's lips,
      Tearing the wet pines into strips,
The saw mill is moaning ever.
      The little grey sparrow skips and calls
      On the rocks in the rain of the water falls,
And the logs are adrift in the river.

Oh! restlessly whirls the river;
      The rivulets run and the cataract drones:
      The spiders are flitting over the stones:
      Summer winds float and the cedar moans;
And the eddies gleam and quiver.
      O sun, shine hot, shine long and abide
      In the glory and power of thy summer tide
On the swift longing face of the river.


05. Why Do Ye Call the Poet Lonely

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

Why do ye call the poet lonely,
      Because he dreams in lonely places?
He is not desolate, but only
      Sees, where ye cannot, hidden faces.


06. Morning on the Lièvre

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

The Lièvre River flows through western Quebec and empties into the Ottawa River. Its earlier name in French was Rivière aux Lièvres, "River of the Hares."

Matins are morning prayers.

In 1961, filmmaker David Bairstow brought this and three other Lampman poems to life in a short film, Morning on the Lièvre, which can be found online (it was produced by the National Film Board). The film shows two men paddling down the river, and the beautiful fall landscape around them, as the poems are read aloud.

Far above us where a jay
Screams his matins to the day,
Capped with gold and amethyst,
Like a vapour from the forge
Of a giant somewhere hid,
Out of hearing of the clang
Of his hammer, skirts of mist
Slowly up the woody gorge
Lift and hang.

Softly as a cloud we go,
Sky above and sky below,
Down the river, and the dip
Of the paddles scarcely breaks,
With the little silvery drip
Of the water as it shakes
From the blades, the crystal deep
Of the silence of the morn,
Of the forest yet asleep,
And the river reaches borne
In a mirror, purple grey,
Sheer away
To the misty line of light,
Where the forest and the stream
In the shadow meet and plight,
Like a dream.

From amid a stretch of reeds,
Where the lazy river sucks
All the water as it bleeds
From a little curling creek,
And the muskrats peer and sneak
In around the sunken wrecks
Of a tree that swept the skies
Long ago,
On a sudden seven ducks
With a splashy rustle rise,
Stretching out their seven necks,
One before, and two behind,
And the others all arow,
And as steady as the wind
With a swivelling whistle go,
Through the purple shadow led,
Till we only hear their whir
In behind a rocky spur,
Just ahead.


07. from The Passing of Autumn

from The Poems of Archibald Lampman, 1900

A censer is a holder for incense, often used by a priest.

Silvery-soft by the forest side--
Wine-red, yellow, rose--
The wizard of Autumn, faint, blue-eyed--
Swinging his censer, goes.


08. Nesting Time

from The Poems of Archibald Lampman, 1900

The bees are busy in their murmurous search,
The birds are putting up their woven frames,
And all the twigs and branches of the birch
Are shooting into tiny emerald flames:
The maple leaves are spreading slowly out
Like small red hats, or pointed parasols.
The high-ho flings abroad his merry shout,
The veery from the inner brushwood calls;
The gold-green poplar, jocund as may be,
The sunshine in its laughing heart receives,
And shimmers in the wind innumerably
Through all its host of little lacquered leaves.
And lo! the bob-a-link--he soars and sings,
With all the heart of summer in his wings.


09. Across the Pea-Fields

from The Poems of Archibald Lampman, 1900

Field upon field to westward hum and shine
The gray-green sun-drenched mists of blossoming peas;
Beyond them are great elms and poplar trees
That guard the noon-stilled farm-yards, groves of pine,
And long dark fences muffled thick with vine;
Then the high city, murmurous with mills;
And last, upon the sultry west, blue hills,
Misty, far-lifted, a mere filmy line.
Across these blackening rails into the light
I lean and listen, lolling drowsily;
On the fence corner, yonder to the right,
A red squirrel whisks and chatters; nearer by
A little old brown woman on her knees
Searches the deep hot grass for strawberries.


10. Song of the Stream-Drops

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

By silent forest and field and mossy stone,
      We come from the wooded hill, and we go to the sea.
We labour, and sing sweet songs, but we never moan,
      For our mother, the sea, is calling us cheerily.
We have heard her calling us many and many a day
From the cool grey stones and the white sands far away.

      The way is long, and winding and slow is the track,
            The sharp rocks fret us, the eddies bring us delay,
      But we sing sweet songs to our mother, and answer her back;
            Gladly we answer our mother, sweetly repay.
Oh, we hear, we hear her singing wherever we roam,
Far, far away in the silence, calling us home.

      Poor mortal, your ears are dull, and you cannot hear;
            But we, we hear it, the breast of our mother abeat;
      Low, far away, sweet and solemn and clear,
            Under the hush of the night, under the noontide heat:
And we sing sweet songs to our mother, for so we shall please her best,
Songs of beauty and peace, freedom and infinite rest.

      We sing, and sing, through the grass and the stones and the reeds,
            And we never grow tired, though we journey ever and aye,
      Dreaming, and dreaming, wherever the long way leads,
            Of the far cool rocks and the rush of the wind and the spray.
Under the sun and the stars we murmur and dance and are free,
And we dream and dream of our mother, the width of the sheltering sea.


11. Between the Rapids

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

Although this poem is longer than others, it has extra relevance for Canadian Year Three students who will be reading about the Voyageurs, those who transported furs by canoe. We hear one man's thoughts about how much he misses his home and loved ones.

The point is turned; the twilight shadow fills
      The wheeling stream, the soft receding shore,
And on our ears from deep among the hills
      Breaks now the rapid's sudden quickening roar.
Ah yet the same, or have they changed their face,
      The fair green fields, and can it still be seen,
The white log cottage near the mountain's base,
      So bright and quiet, so home-like and serene?
Ah, well I question, for as five years go,
How many blessings fall, and how much woe.

Aye there they are, nor have they changed their cheer,
      The fields, the hut, the leafy mountain brows;
Across the lonely dusk again I hear
      The loitering bells, the lowing of the cows,
The bleat of many sheep, the stilly rush
      Of the low whispering river, and through all,
Soft human tongues that break the deepening hush
      With faint-heard song or desultory call:
Oh comrades hold; the longest reach is past;
The stream runs swift, and we are flying fast.

The shore, the fields, the cottage just the same,
      But how with them whose memory makes them sweet?
Oh if I called them, hailing name by name,
      Would the same lips the same old shouts repeat?
Have the rough years, so big with death and ill,
      Gone lightly by and left them smiling yet?
Wild black-eyed Jeanne whose tongue was never still,
      Old wrinkled Picaud, Pierre and pale Lisette,
The homely hearts that never cared to range,
While life's wide fields were filled with rush and change.

And where is Jacques, and where is Virginie?
      I cannot tell; the fields are all a blur.
The lowing cows whose shapes I scarcely see,
      Oh do they wait and do they call for her?
And is she changed, or is her heart still clear
      As wind or morning, light as river foam?
Or have life's changes borne her far from here,
      And far from rest, and far from help and home?
Ah comrades, soft, and let us rest awhile,
For arms grow tired with paddling many a mile.

The woods grow wild, and from the rising shore
      The cool wind creeps, the faint wood odours steal;
Like ghosts adown the river's blackening floor
      The misty fumes begin to creep and reel.
Once more I leave you, wandering toward the night,
      Sweet home, sweet heart, that would have held me in;
Whither I go I know not, and the light
      Is faint before, and rest is hard to win.
Ah sweet ye were and near to heaven's gate;
But youth is blind and wisdom comes too late.

Blacker and loftier grow the woods, and hark!
      The freshening roar! The chute is near us now,
And dim the canyon grows, and inky dark
      The water whispering from the birchen prow.
One long last look, and many a sad adieu,
      While eyes can see and heart can feel you yet,
I leave sweet home and sweeter hearts to you,
      A prayer for Picaud, one for pale Lisette,
A kiss for Pierre, my little Jacques, and thee,
A sigh for Jeanne, a sob for Virginie.

Oh, does she still remember? Is the dream
       Now dead, or has she found another mate?
So near, so dear; and ah, so swift the stream;
      Even now perhaps it were not yet too late.
But oh, what matter; for before the night
      Has reached its middle, we have far to go:
Bend to your paddles, comrades; see, the light
      Ebbs off apace; we must not linger so.
Aye thus it is! Heaven gleams and then is gone
Once, twice, it smiles, and still we wander on.


12. Knowledge

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

What is more large than knowledge and more sweet;
      Knowledge of thoughts and deeds, of rights and wrongs,
      Of passions and of beauties and of songs;
Knowledge of life; to feel its great heart beat
Through all the soul upon her crystal seat;
      To see, to feel, and evermore to know;
      To till the old world's wisdom till it grow
A garden for the wandering of our feet.

Oh for a life of leisure and broad hours,
      To think and dream, to put away small things,
            This world's perpetual leaguer of dull naughts;
To wander like the bee among the flowers
      Till old age find us weary, feet and wings
            Grown heavy with the gold of many thoughts.


13. In November

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

The hills and leafless forests slowly yield
      To the thick-driving snow. A little while
      And night shall darken down. In shouting file
The woodmen's carts go by me homeward-wheeled,
Past the thin fading stubbles, half concealed,
      Now golden-grey, sowed softly through with snow,
      Where the last ploughman follows still his row,
Turning black furrows through the whitening field.

Far off the village lamps begin to gleam,
      Fast drives the snow, and no man comes this way;
            The hills grow wintery white, and bleak winds moan
            About the naked uplands. I alone
      Am neither sad, nor shelterless, nor grey,
Wrapped round with thought, content to watch and dream.


14. The Loons

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

Glooscap is a legendary figure of Mi'kmaw culture who cares for creation and restores balance.

Loons are the provincial bird of Ontario, and they are pictured on Canada's one-dollar coin. They are known for their eerie cries.

Meres are lakes or ponds.

Once ye were happy, once by many a shore,
      Wherever Glooscap's gentle feet might stray,
      Lulled by his presence like a dream, ye lay
Floating at rest; but that was long of yore.
He was too good for earthly men; he bore
      Their bitter deeds for many a patient day,
      And then at last he took his unseen way.
He was your friend, and ye might rest no more:

And now, though many hundred altering years
Have passed, among the desolate northern meres
      Still must ye search and wander querulously,
            Crying for Glooscap, still bemoan the light
      With weird entreaties, and in agony
            With awful laughter pierce the lonely night.


15. Solitude

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

How still it is here in the woods. The trees
      Stand motionless, as if they did not dare
      To stir, lest it should break the spell. The air
Hangs quiet as spaces in a marble frieze.
Even this little brook, that runs at ease,
      Whispering and gurgling in its knotted bed,
      Seems but to deepen with its curling thread
Of sound the shadowy sun-pierced silences.

Sometimes a hawk screams or a woodpecker
      Startles the stillness from its fixèd mood
With his loud careless tap. Sometimes I hear
            The dreamy white-throat from some far off tree
      Pipe slowly on the listening solitude
            His five pure notes succeeding pensively.


16. The Dog

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

      "Grotesque!" we said, the moment we espied him,
      For there he stood, supreme in his conceit,
      With short ears close together and queer feet
Planted irregularly: first we tried him
With jokes, but they were lost; we then defied him
      With bantering questions and loose criticism:
      He did not like, I'm sure, our catechism,
But whisked and snuffed a little as we eyed him.

Then flung we balls, and out and clear away,
      Up the white slope, across the crusted snow,
To where a broken fence stands in the way,
      Against the sky-line, a mere row of pegs,
Quicker than thought we saw him flash and go,
      A straight mad scuttling of four crooked legs.


17. April in the Hills

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

To-day the world is wide and fair
With sunny fields of lucid air,
And waters dancing everywhere;
      The snow is almost gone;
The noon is builded high with light,
And over heaven's liquid height,
In steady fleets serene and white,
      The happy clouds go on.

The channels run, the bare earth steams,
And every hollow rings and gleams
With jetting falls and dashing streams;
      The rivers burst and fill;
The fields are full of little lakes,
And when the romping wind awakes
The water ruffles blue and shakes,
      And the pines roar on the hill.

The crows go by, a noisy throng;
About the meadows all day long
The shore-lark drops his brittle song;
      And up the leafless tree
The nut-hatch runs, and nods, and clings;
The bluebird dips with flashing wings,
The robin flutes, the sparrow sings,
      And the swallows float and flee.

I break the spirit's cloudy bands,
A wanderer in enchanted lands,
I feel the sun upon my hands;
      And far from care and strife
The broad earth bids me forth. I rise
With lifted brow and upward eyes.
I bathe my spirit in blue skies,
      And taste the springs of life.

I feel the tumult of new birth;
I waken with the wakening earth;
I match the bluebird in her mirth;
      And wild with wind and sun,
A treasurer of immortal days,
I roam the glorious world with praise,
The hillsides and the woodland ways,
      Till earth and I are one.


18. Forest Moods

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

There is singing of birds in the deep wet woods,
In the heart of the listening solitudes,
Pewees, and thrushes, and sparrows, not few,
And all the notes of their throats are true.

The thrush from the innermost ash takes on
A tender dream of the treasured and gone;
But the sparrow singeth with pride and cheer
Of the might and light of the present and here.

There is shining of flowers in the deep wet woods,
In the heart of the sensitive solitudes,
The roseate bell and the lily are there,
And every leaf of their sheaf is fair.

Careless and bold, without dream of woe,
The trilliums scatter their flags of snow;
But the pale wood-daffodil covers her face,
Agloom with the doom of a sorrowful race.


19. from Favorites of Pan

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

Pan is the Greek god of the wild, and also of rustic music (such as, Lampman suggests, the croaking of frogs).

A fane is a temple or shrine.

For, long ago, when the new strains
      Of hostile hymns and conquering faiths grew keen,
And the old gods from their deserted fanes,
      Fled silent and unseen,

So, too, the goat-foot Pan, not less
      Sadly obedient to the mightier hand,
Cut him new reeds, and in a sore distress
      Passed out from land to land;

And lingering by each haunt he knew,
      Of fount or sinuous stream or grassy marge,
He set the syrinx to his lips, and blew
      A note divinely large;

And all around him on the wet
      Cool earth the frogs came up, and with a smile
He took them in his hairy hands, and set
      His mouth to theirs awhile,

And blew into their velvet throats;
      And ever from that hour the frogs repeat
The murmur of Pan's pipes, the notes,
      And answers strange and sweet;

And they that hear them are renewed
      By knowledge in some god-like touch conveyed,
Entering again into the eternal mood,
      Wherein the world was made.


20. from The Meadow

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

Here when the cloudless April days begin,
      And the quaint crows flock thicker day by day,
Filling the forests with a pleasant din,
      And the soiled snow creeps secretly away,
Comes the small busy sparrow, primed with glee,
      First preacher in the naked wilderness,
      Piping an end to all the long distress
From every fence and every leafless tree.

Now with soft slight and viewless artifice
      Winter's iron work is wondrously undone;
In all the little hollows cored with ice
      The clear brown pools stand simmering in the sun,
Frail lucid worlds, upon whose tremulous floors
      All day the wandering water-bugs at will,
      Shy mariners whose oars are never still,
Voyage and dream about the heightening shores.


21. In May

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

Tambours are small drums.

Grief was my master yesternight;
      To-morrow I may grieve again;
      But now along the windy plain
            The clouds have taken flight.

The sowers in the furrows go;
      The lusty river brimmeth on;
      The curtains from the hills are gone;
            The leaves are out; and lo,

The silvery distance of the day,
      The light horizons, and between
      The glory of the perfect green,
            The tumult of the May.

The bobolinks at noonday sing
      More softly than the softest flute,
      And lightlier than the lightest lute
            Their fairy tambours ring.

The roads far off are towered with dust;
      The cherry-blooms are swept and thinned;
      In yonder swaying elms the wind
            Is charging gust on gust.

But here there is no stir at all;
      The ministers of sun and shadow
      Horde all the perfumes of the meadow
            Behind a grassy wall.

An infant rivulet wind-free
      Adown the guarded hollow sets,
      Over whose brink the violets
            Are nodding peacefully.

From pool to pool it prattles by;
      The flashing swallows dip and pass,
      Above the tufted marish grass,
            And here at rest am I.

I care not for the old distress,
      Nor if to-morrow bid me moan;
      To-day is mine, and I have known
            An hour of blessedness.


22. The Bird and the Hour

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

The sun looks over a little hill
      And floods the valley with gold--
            A torrent of gold;
And the hither field is green and still;
      Beyond it a cloud outrolled,
      Is glowing molten and bright;
And soon the hill, and the valley and all,
            With a quiet fall,
Shall be gathered into the night.
And yet a moment more,
            Out of the silent wood,
      As if from the closing door
Of another world and another lovelier mood,
      Hear'st thou the hermit pour--
            So sweet! so magical! --
His golden music, ghostly beautiful.


23. from After Rain

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

A sough is a rushing or murmuring sound, like that made by the wind in tree branches. A rillet is a small stream.

For three whole days across the sky,
In sullen packs that loomed and broke,
With flying fringes dim as smoke,
The columns of the rain went by;
At every hour the wind awoke;
      The darkness passed upon the plain;
      The great drops rattled at the pane.

Now piped the wind, or far aloof
Fell to a sough remote and dull;
And all night long with rush and lull
The rain kept drumming on the roof:
I heard till ear and sense were full
      The clash or silence of the leaves,
      The gurgle in the creaking eaves.

But when the fourth day came--at noon,
The darkness and the rain were by;
The sunward roofs were steaming dry;
And all the world was flecked and strewn
With shadows from a fleecy sky.
      The haymakers were forth and gone,
      And every rillet laughed and shone.


24. from At the Ferry

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

The Gatineau River flows through western Quebec and then joins the Ottawa River at the city of Gatineau.

I watch the swinging currents go
      Far down to where, enclosed and piled,
The logs crowd, and the Gatineau
      Comes rushing from the northern wild.
I see the long low point, where close
      The shore-lines, and the waters end,
I watch the barges pass in rows
      That vanish at the tapering bend.

I see as at the noon's pale core--
      A shadow that lifts clear and floats--
The cabin'd village round the shore,
      The landing and the fringe of boats;
Faint films of smoke that curl and wreathe,
      And upward with the like desire
The vast gray church that seems to breathe
      In heaven with its dreaming spire.

And there the last blue boundaries rise,
      That guard within their compass furled
This plot of earth: beyond them lies
      The mystery of the echoing world;
And still my thought goes on, and yields
      New vision and new joy to me,
Far peopled hills, and ancient fields,
      And cities by the crested sea.

I see no more the barges pass,
      Nor mark the ripple round the pier,
And all the uproar, mass on mass,
      Falls dead upon a vacant ear.
Beyond the tumult of the mills,
      And all the city's sound and strife,
Beyond the waste, beyond the hills,
      I look far out and dream of life.


25. from September

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

An elixir is a medicine or potion.

In far-off russet corn-fields, where the dry
      Gray shocks stand peaked and withering, half concealed
In the rough earth, the orange pumpkins lie,
      Full-ribbed; and in the windless pasture-field
The sleek red horses o'er the sun-warmed ground
      Stand pensively about in companies,
      While all around them from the motionless trees
The long clean shadows sleep without a sound.

Under cool elm-trees floats the distant stream,
      Moveless as air; and o'er the vast warm earth
The fathomless daylight seems to stand and dream,
      A liquid cool elixir--all its girth
Bound with faint haze, a frail transparency,
      Whose lucid purple barely veils and fills
      The utmost valleys and the thin last hills,
Nor mars one whit their perfect clarity.

Thus without grief the golden days go by,
      So soft we scarcely notice how they wend,
And like a smile half happy, or a sigh,
      The summer passes to her quiet end;
And soon, too soon, around the cumbered eaves
      Sly frosts shall take the creepers by surprise,
      And through the wind-touched reddening woods shall rise
October with the rain of ruined leaves.


26. A Re-assurance

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

Yarrow is a plant of the daisy family.

With what doubting eyes, oh sparrow,
      Thou regardest me,
Underneath yon spray of yarrow,
      Dipping cautiously.

Fear me not, oh little sparrow,
      Bathe and never fear,
For to me both pool and yarrow
      And thyself are dear.


27. By an Autumn Stream

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

Mullein is a wild, flowering plant. A gorget is something that covers the throat--sometimes a piece of jewelry or armour, or just a patch of colour.

Now overhead,
Where the rivulet loiters and stops,
The bittersweet hangs from the tops
Of the alders and cherries
Its bunches of beautiful berries,
Orange and red.

And the snowbirds flee,
Tossing up on the far brown field,
Now flashing and now concealed,
Like fringes of spray
That vanish and gleam on the gray
Field of the sea.

Flickering light,
Come the last of the leaves down borne,
And patches of pale white corn
In the wind complain,
Like the slow rustle of rain
Noticed by night.

Withered and thinned,
The sentinel mullein looms,
With the pale gray shadowy plumes
Of the goldenrod;
And the milkweed opens its pod,
Tempting the wind.

Aloft on the hill,
A cloudrift opens and shines
Through a break in its gorget of pines,
And it dreams at my feet
In a sad, silvery sheet,
Utterly still.

All things that be
Seem plunged into silence, distraught,
By some stern, some necessitous thought:
It wraps and enthralls
Marsh, meadow, and forest; and falls
Also on me.


28. Snow

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

White are the far-off plains, and white
      The fading forests grow;
The wind dies out along the height,
      And denser still the snow,
A gathering weight on roof and tree,
      Falls down scarce audibly.

The road before me smooths and fills
      Apace, and all about
The fences dwindle, and the hills
      Are blotted slowly out;
The naked trees loom spectrally
      Into the dim white sky.

The meadows and far-sheeted streams
      Lie still without a sound;
Like some soft minister of dreams
      The snow-fall hoods me round;
In wood and water, earth and air,
      A silence everywhere.

Save when at lonely intervals
      Some farmer's sleigh, urged on,
With rustling runners and sharp bells,
      Swings by me and is gone;
Or from the empty waste I hear
      A sound remote and clear;

The barking of a dog, or call
      To cattle, sharply pealed,
Borne echoing from some wayside stall
      Or barnyard far a-field;
Then all is silent, and the snow
      Falls, settling soft and slow.

The evening deepens, and the gray
      Folds closer earth and sky;
The world seems shrouded far away;
      Its noises sleep, and I,
As secret as yon buried stream,
      Plod dumbly on, and dream.


29. In March

from Alcyone, 1899

To sunder is to split apart.

The sun falls warm: the southern winds awake:
The air seethes upward with a steamy shiver:
Each dip of the road is now a crystal lake,
And every rut a little dancing river.
Through great soft clouds that sunder overhead
The deep sky breaks as pearly blue as summer:
Out of a cleft beside the river's bed
Flaps the black crow, the first demure newcomer.
The last seared drifts are eating fast away
With glassy tinkle into glittering laces:
Dogs lie asleep, and little children play
With tops and marbles in the sunbare places;
And I that stroll with many a thoughtful pause
Almost forget that winter ever was.


30. To the Cricket

from Alcyone, 1899

Didst thou not tease and fret me to and fro,
Sweet spirit of this summer-circled field,
With that quiet voice of thine that would not yield
Its meaning, though I mused and sought it so?
But now I am content to let it go,
To lie at length and watch the swallows pass,
As blithe and restful as this quiet grass,
Content only to listen and to know
That years shall turn, and summers yet shall shine,
And I shall lie beneath these swaying trees,
Still listening thus; haply at last to seize,
And render in some happier verse divine
That friendly, homely, haunting speech of thine,
That perfect utterance of content and ease.


31. A Thunderstorm

from Alcyone, 1899

A moment the wild swallows like a flight
Of withered gust-caught leaves, serenely high,
Toss in the windrack up the muttering sky.
The leaves hang still. Above the weird twilight,
The hurrying centres of the storm unite
And spreading with huge trunk and rolling fringe,
Each wheeled upon its own tremendous hinge
Tower darkening on. And now from heaven's height
With the long roar of elm-trees swept and swayed,
And pelted waters, on the vanished plain
Plunges the blast. Behind the wild white flash
That splits abroad the pealing thunder-crash,
Over bleared fields and gardens disarrayed,
Column on column comes the drenching rain.


32. Indian Summer

from Alcyone, 1899

"Indian Summer" is a period of warm, dry weather in autumn.

The old grey year is near his term in sooth,
And now with backward eye and soft-laid palm
Awakens to a golden dream of youth,
A second childhood lovely and most calm,
And the smooth hour about his misty head
An awning of enchanted splendour weaves,
Of maples, amber, purple and rose-red,
And droop-limbed elms down-dropping golden leaves.
With still half-fallen lids he sits and dreams
Far in a hollow of the sunlit wood,
Lulled by the murmur of thin-threading streams,
Nor sees the polar armies overflood
The darkening barriers of the hills, nor hears
The north-wind ringing with a thousand spears.


33. Good Speech

from Alcyone, 1899

Think not, because thine inmost heart means well,
Thou hast the freedom of rude speech: sweet words
Are like the voices of returning birds
Filling the soul with summer, or a bell
That calls the weary and the sick to prayer.
Even as thy thought, so let thy speech be fair.


34. White Pansies

from Alcyone, 1899

In 1892, Archibald and Maud Lampman had their first child, a daughter named Natalie; their next child, Arnold, was born in 1894, but he died in infancy. His father wrote this poem in remembrance of his son.

Day and night pass over, rounding,
      Star and cloud and sun,
Things of drift and shadow, empty
      Of my dearest one.

Soft as slumber was my baby,
      Beaming bright and sweet;
Daintier than bloom or jewel
      Were his hands and feet.

He was mine, mine all, mine only,
      Mine and his the debt;
Earth and Life and Time are changers;
      I shall not forget.

Pansies for my dear one--heartsease--
      Set them gently so;
For his stainless lips and forehead,
      Pansies white as snow.

Would that in the flower-grown little
      Grave they dug so deep,
I might rest beside him, dreamless,
      Smile no more, nor weep.


35. Winter Uplands

from The Poems of Archibald Lampman, 1900

This is the last poem Lampman wrote, about a week before his death.

The frost that stings like fire upon my cheek,
The loneliness of this forsaken ground,
The long white drift upon whose powdered peak
I sit in the great silence as one bound;
The rippled sheet of snow where the wind blew
Across the open fields for miles ahead;
The far-off city towered and roofed in blue
A tender line upon the western red;
The stars that singly, then in flocks appear,
Like jets of silver from the violet dome,
So wonderful, so many and so near,
And then the golden moon to light me home--
The crunching snowshoes and the stinging air,
And silence, frost, and beauty everywhere.


36. The Sweetness of Life

From Lyrics of Earth and Alcyone

Marguerites are daisies.

It fell on a day I was happy,
      And the winds, the concave sky,
The flowers and the beasts in the meadow
      Seemed happy even as I;
And I stretched my hands to the meadow,
      To the bird, the beast, the tree:
"Why are ye all so happy?"
      I cried, and they answered me.

What sayest thou, Oh meadow,
      That stretches so wide, so far,
That none can say how many
      Thy misty marguerites are?
And what say ye, red roses,
      That o'er the sun-blanched wall
From your high black-shadowed trellis
      Like flame or blood-drops fall?
            "We are born, we are reared, and we linger
            A various space and die;
      We dream, and are bright and happy,
            But we cannot answer why."

What sayest thou, Oh shadow,
      That from the dreaming hill
All down the broadening valley
      Liest so sharp and still?
And thou, Oh murmuring brooklet,
      Whereby in the noonday gleam
The loosestrife burns like ruby,
      And the branchèd asters dream?
            "We are born, we are reared, and we linger
            A various space and die;
      We dream and are very happy,
            But we cannot answer why."

And then of myself I questioned,
      That like a ghost the while
Stood from me and calmly answered,
      With slow and curious smile:
"Thou art born as the flowers, and wilt linger
      Thine own short space and die;
Thou dream'st and art strangely happy,
      But thou canst not answer why."

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