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SONGS OF THE COMMON DAY AND AVE! ***




Produced by Larry B. Harrison, Chuck Greif and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive)










SONGS OF THE COMMON DAY

_By the same Author_


ORION, AND OTHER POEMS [_Out of print_

IN DIVERS TONES [_D. Lothrop Company_

THE CANADIANS OF OLD
(From the French of PHILIPPE AUBERT DE GASPE)

_D. Appleton & Co._

THE CANADIAN GUIDE-BOOK

_New York: D. Appleton & Co._




SONGS

OF THE COMMON DAY

AND

AVE!

AN ODE FOR THE SHELLEY CENTENARY

BY

CHARLES G. D. ROBERTS

TORONTO
WILLIAM BRIGGS
MONTREAL: C. W. COATES. HALIFAX: S. F. HUESTIS

1893




TO

BLISS CARMAN

FRIEND, KINSMAN, AND FELLOW CRAFTSMAN




PREFATORY NOTE


By the kind courtesy of Messrs. D. Lothrop Company, I am permitted to
reprint in this collection seven sonnets from my volume entitled ‘In
Divers Tones.’ This is done to complete the series of sonnets dealing
with aspects of common outdoor life. The sonnets reprinted are ‘The
Sower,’ ‘The Potato Harvest,’ ‘Tides,’ ‘In September,’ ‘Dark,’ ‘Rain,’
and ‘Mist.’ The Ode for the Centenary of Shelley’s Birth was first
published by the Williamson Book Company, of Toronto, in December 1892,
in a limited edition of two hundred copies.

C. G. D. R,


KINGSCROFT, WINDSOR, N.S., CANADA:

_May 1893_.




CONTENTS


PAGE

‘ACROSS THE FOG THE MOON LIES FAIR’ 1


_SONNETS_

THE FURROW 2

THE SOWER 3

THE WAKING EARTH 4

THE COW PASTURE 5

WHEN MILKING-TIME IS DONE 6

FROGS 7

THE SALT FLATS 8

THE FIR WOODS 9

THE PEA-FIELDS 10

THE MOWING 11

BURNT LANDS 12

THE CLEARING 13

THE SUMMER POOL 14

BUCKWHEAT 15

THE CICADA IN THE FIRS 16

IN SEPTEMBER 17

A VESPER SONNET 18

THE POTATO HARVEST 19

THE OAT-THRESHING 20

THE AUTUMN THISTLES 21

INDIAN SUMMER 22

THE PUMPKINS IN THE CORN 23

THE WINTER FIELDS 24

IN AN OLD BARN 25

MIDWINTER THAW 26

THE FLIGHT OF THE GEESE 27

IN THE WIDE AWE AND WISDOM OF THE NIGHT 28

THE HERRING WEIR 29

BLOMIDON 30

THE NIGHT SKY 31

TIDES 32

THE DESERTED CITY 33

DARK 34

RAIN 35

MIST 36

MOONLIGHT 37

O SOLITARY OF THE AUSTERE SKY 38


_POEMS_

AUTOCHTHON 39

THE TIDE ON TANTRAMAR 42

THE VALLEY OF THE WINDING WATER 51

MARSYAS 52

THE FORTRESS 54

SEVERANCE 55

EPITAPH FOR A SAILOR BURIED ASHORE 56

THE SILVER THAW 57

THE LILY OF THE VALLEY 60

THE NIGHT-HAWK 61

THE HERMIT-THRUSH 63

THE WILD-ROSE THICKET 65

MY TREES 66

THE HAWKBIT 67

GREY ROCKS AND GREYER SEA 68

A SONG OF CHEER 69

A SONG OF GROWTH 71

TO G. B. R. 73

THE BIRD’S SONG, THE SUN, AND THE WIND 74

OH, PURPLE HANG THE PODS 75

BRINGING HOME THE COWS 76

THE KEEPERS OF THE PASS 78

NEW YEAR’S EVE (_After the French of Fréchette_) 81

A CHRISTMAS-EVE COURTIN’ 84

THE SUCCOUR OF GLUSKÂP 91

HOW THE MOHAWKS SET OUT FOR MEDOCTEC 95

THE WOOD FROLIC 100

CANADIAN STREAMS 105

* * * * *

AVE! AN ODE FOR THE CENTENARY OF SHELLEY’S BIRTH 111




ACROSS THE FOG THE MOON LIES FAIR


Across the fog the moon lies fair.
Transfused with ghostly amethyst,
O white Night, charm to wonderment
The cattle in the mist!

Thy touch, O grave Mysteriarch,
Makes dull, familiar things divine.
O grant of thy revealing gift
Be some small portion mine!

Make thou my vision sane and clear,
That I may see what beauty clings
In common forms, and find the soul
Of unregarded things!




_THE FURROW_


How sombre slope these acres to the sea
And to the breaking sun! The sun-rise deeps
Of rose and crocus, whence the far dawn leaps,
Gild but with scorn their grey monotony.
The glebe rests patient for its joy to be.
Past the salt field-foot many a dim wing sweeps;
And down the field a first slow furrow creeps,
Pledge of near harvests to the unverdured lea.

With clank of harness tramps the serious team -
The sea air thrills their nostrils. Some wise crows
Feed confidently behind the ploughman’s feet.
In the early chill the clods fresh cloven steam,
And down its griding path the keen share goes:
So, from a scar, best flowers the future’s sweet.




_THE SOWER_


A brown, sad-coloured hillside, where the soil
Fresh from the frequent harrow, deep and fine,
Lies bare; no break in the remote sky-line,
Save where a flock of pigeons streams aloft,
Startled from feed in some low-lying croft,
Or far-off spires with yellow of sunset shine;
And here the Sower, unwittingly divine,
Exerts the silent forethought of his toil.

Alone he treads the glebe, his measured stride
Dumb in the yielding soil; and though small joy
Dwell in his heavy face, as spreads the blind
Pale grain from his dispensing palm aside,
This plodding churl grows great in his employ; -
Godlike, he makes provision for mankind.




_THE WAKING EARTH_


With shy bright clamour the live brooks sparkle and run.
Freed flocks confer about the farmstead ways.
The air’s a wine of dreams and shining haze,
Beaded with bird-notes thin, - for Spring’s begun!
The sap flies upward. Death is over and done.
The glad earth wakes; the glad light breaks; the days
Grow round, grow radiant. Praise for the new life!
Praise
For bliss of breath and blood beneath the sun!

What potent wizardry the wise earth wields,
To conjure with a perfume! From bare fields
The sense drinks in a breath of furrow and sod.
And lo, the bound of days and distance yields;
And fetterless the soul is flown abroad,
Lord of desire and beauty, like a God!




_THE COW PASTURE_


I see the harsh, wind-ridden, eastward hill,
By the red cattle pastured, blanched with dew;
The small, mossed hillocks where the clay gets through;
The grey webs woven on milkweed tops at will.
The sparse, pale grasses flicker, and are still.
The empty flats yearn seaward. All the view
Is naked to the horizon’s utmost blue;
And the bleak spaces stir me with strange thrill.

Not in perfection dwells the subtler power
To pierce our mean content, but rather works
Through incompletion, and the need that irks, -
Not in the flower, but effort toward the flower.
When the want stirs, when the soul’s cravings urge,
The strong earth strengthens, and the clean heavens purge.




_WHEN MILKING-TIME IS DONE_


When milking-time is done, and over all
This quiet Canadian inland forest home
And wide rough pasture-lots the shadows come,
And dews, with peace and twilight voices, fall,
From moss-cooled watering-trough to foddered stall
The tired plough-horses turn, - the barnyard loam
Soft to their feet, - and in the sky’s pale dome
Like resonant chords the swooping night-jars call.

The frogs, cool-fluting ministers of dream,
Make shrill the slow brook’s borders; pasture bars
Down clatter, and the cattle wander through, -
Vague shapes amid the thickets; gleam by gleam
Above the wet grey wilds emerge the stars,
And through the dusk the farmstead fades from view.




_FROGS_


Here in the red heart of the sunset lying,
My rest an islet of brown weeds blown dry,
I watch the wide bright heavens, hovering nigh,
My plain and pools in lucent splendours dyeing.
My view dreams over the rosy wastes, descrying
The reed-tops fret the solitary sky;
And all the air is tremulous to the cry
Of myriad frogs on mellow pipes replying.

For the unrest of passion here is peace,
And eve’s cool drench for midday soil and taint.
To tired ears how sweetly brings release
This limpid babble from life’s unstilled complaint;
While under tired eyelids lapse and faint
The noon’s derisive visions - fade and cease.




_THE SALT FLATS_


Here clove the keels of centuries ago
Where now unvisited the flats lie bare.
Here seethed the sweep of journeying waters, where
No more the tumbling floods of Fundy flow,
And only in the samphire pipes creep slow
The salty currents of the sap. The air
Hums desolately with wings that seaward fare,
Over the lonely reaches beating low.

The wastes of hard and meagre weeds are thronged
With murmurs of a past that time has wronged;
And ghosts of many an ancient memory
Dwell by the brackish pools and ditches blind,
In these low-lying pastures of the wind,
These marshes pale and meadows by the sea.




_THE FIR WOODS_


The wash of endless waves is in their tops,
Endlessly swaying, and the long winds stream
Athwart them from the far-off shores of dream.
Through the stirred branches filtering, faintly drops
Mystic dream-dust of isle, and palm, and cave,
Coral and sapphire, realms of rose, that seem
More radiant than ever earthly gleam
Revealed of fairy mead or haunted wave.

A cloud of gold, a cleft of blue profound, -
These are my gates of wonder, surged about
By tumult of tossed bough and rocking crest:
The vision lures. The spirit spurns her bound,
Spreads her unprisoned wing, and drifts from out
This green and humming gloom that wraps my rest.




_THE PEA-FIELDS_


These are the fields of light, and laughing air,
And yellow butterflies, and foraging bees,
And whitish, wayward blossoms winged as these,
And pale green tangles like a seamaid’s hair.
Pale, pale the blue, but pure beyond compare,
And pale the sparkle of the far-off seas,
A-shimmer like these fluttering slopes of peas,
And pale the open landscape everywhere.

From fence to fence a perfumed breath exhales
O’er the bright pallor of the well-loved fields, -
My fields of Tantramar in summer-time;
And, scorning the poor feed their pasture yields,
Up from the bushy lots the cattle climb,
To gaze with longing through the grey, mossed rails.




_THE MOWING_


This is the voice of high midsummer’s heat.
The rasping vibrant clamour soars and shrills
O’er all the meadowy range of shadeless hills,
As if a host of giant cicadae beat
The cymbals of their wings with tireless feet,
Or brazen grasshoppers with triumphing note
From the long swath proclaimed the fate that smote
The clover and timothy-tops and meadowsweet.

The crying knives glide on; the green swath lies.
And all noon long the sun, with chemic ray,
Seals up each cordial essence in its cell,
That in the dusky stalls, some winter’s day,
The spirit of June, here prisoned by his spell,
May cheer the herds with pasture memories.




_BURNT LANDS_


On other fields and other scenes the morn
Laughs from her blue, - but not such fields are these,
Where comes no cheer of summer leaves and bees,
And no shade mitigates the day’s white scorn.
These serious acres vast no groves adorn;
But giant trunks, bleak shapes that once were trees,
Tower naked, unassuaged of rain or breeze,
Their stern grey isolation grimly borne.

The months roll over them, and mark no change.
But when Spring stirs, or Autumn stills, the year,
Perchance some phantom leafage rustles faint
Through their parched dreams, - some old-time notes ring strange,
When in his slender treble, far and clear,
Reiterates the rain-bird his complaint.




_THE CLEARING_


Stumps, and harsh rocks, and prostrate trunks all charred,
And gnarled roots naked to the sun and rain, -
They seem in their grim stillness to complain,
And by their plaint the evening peace is jarred.
These ragged acres fire and the axe have scarred,
And many summers not assuaged their pain.
In vain the pink and saffron light, in vain
The pale dew on the hillocks stripped and marred!

But here and there the waste is touched with cheer
Where spreads the fire-weed like a crimson flood
And venturous plumes of golden-rod appear;
And round the blackened fence the great boughs lean
With comfort; and across the solitude
The hermit’s holy transport peals serene.




_THE SUMMER POOL_


This is a wonder-cup in Summer’s hand.
Sombre, impenetrable, round its rim
The fir-trees bend and brood. The noons o’erbrim
The windless hollow of its iris’d strand
With mote-thick sun and water-breathings bland.
Under a veil of lilies lurk and swim
Strange shapes of presage in a twilight dim,
Unwitting heirs of light and life’s command.

Blind in their bondage, of no change they dream,
But the trees watch in grave expectancy
The spell fulfils, - and swarms of radiant flame,
Live jewels, above the crystal dart and gleam,
Nor guess the sheen beneath their wings to be
The dark and narrow regions whence they came.




_BUCKWHEAT_


This smell of home and honey on the breeze,
This shimmer of sunshine woven in white and pink
That comes, a dream from memory’s visioned brink,
Sweet, sweet and strange across the ancient trees, -
It is the buckwheat, boon of the later bees,
Its breadths of heavy-headed bloom appearing
Amid the blackened stumps of this high clearing,
Freighted with cheer of comforting auguries.

But when the blunt, brown grain and red-ripe sheaves,
Brimming the low log barn beyond the eaves,
Crisped by the first frost, feel the thresher’s flail,
Then flock the blue wild-pigeons in shy haste
All silently down Autumn’s amber trail,
To glean at dawn the chill and whitening waste.




_THE CICADA IN THE FIRS_


Charm of the vibrant, white September sun -
How tower the firs to take it, tranced and still!
Their scant ranks crown the pale, round, pasture-hill,
And watch, far down, the austere waters run
Their circuit thro’ the serious marshes dun.
No bird-call stirs the blue; but strangely thrill
The blunt-faced, brown cicada’s wing-notes shrill,
A web of silver o’er the silence spun.

O zithern-winged musician, whence it came,
I wonder, this insistent song of thine!
Did once the highest string of Summer’s lyre,
Snapt on some tense chord slender as a flame,
Take form again in these vibrations fine
That o’er the tranquil spheres of noon aspire?




_IN SEPTEMBER_


This windy, bright September afternoon
My heart is wide awake, yet full of dreams.
The air, alive with hushed confusion, teems
With scent of grain-fields, and a mystic rune,
Foreboding of the fall of Summer soon,
Keeps swelling and subsiding; till there seems
O’er all the world of valleys, hills, and streams,
Only the wind’s inexplicable tune.

My heart is full of dreams, yet wide awake.
I lie and watch the topmost tossing boughs
Of tall elms, pale against the vaulted blue;
But even now some yellowing branches shake,
Some hue of death the living green endows: -
If beauty flies, fain would I vanish too.




_A VESPER SONNET_


This violet eve is like a waveless stream
Celestial, from the rapt horizon’s brink,
Assuaging day with the diviner drink
Of temperate ecstasy, and dews, and dream.
The wine-warm dusks, that brim the valley, gleam
With here and there a lonely casement. Cease
The impetuous purples from the sky of peace,
Like God’s mood in tranquillity supreme.

The encircling uplands east and west lie clear
In thin aërial amber, threaded fine, -
Where bush-fires gnaw the bramble-thickets sere, -
With furtive scarlet. Through the hush benign
One white-throat voices, till the stars appear,
The benediction of the Thought Divine.




_THE POTATO HARVEST_


A high bare field, brown from the plough, and borne
Aslant from sunset; amber wastes of sky
Washing the ridge; a clamour of crows that fly
In from the wide flats where the spent tides mourn
To yon their rocking roosts in pines wind-torn;
A line of grey snake-fence, that zigzags by
A pond, and cattle; from the homestead nigh
The long deep summonings of the supper horn.

Black on the ridge, against that lonely flush,
A cart, and stoop-necked oxen; ranged beside
Some barrels; and the day-worn harvest-folk,
Here emptying their baskets, jar the hush
With hollow thunders. Down the dusk hillside
Lumbers the wain; and day fades out like smoke.




_THE OAT-THRESHING_


A little brown old homestead, bowered in trees
That o’er the Autumn landscape shine afar,
Burning with amber and with cinnabar.
A yellow hillside washed in airy seas
Of azure, where the swallow drops and flees.
Midway the slope, clear in the beaming day,
A barn by many seasons beaten grey,
Big with the gain of prospering husbandries.

In billows round the wide red welcoming doors
High piles the golden straw; while from within,
Where plods the team amid the chaffy din,
The loud pulsation of the thresher soars,
Persistent as if earth could not let cease
This happy proclamation of her peace.




_THE AUTUMN THISTLES_


The morning sky is white with mist, the earth
White with the inspiration of the dew.
The harvest light is on the hills anew,
And cheer in the grave acres’ fruitful girth.
Only in this high pasture is there dearth,
Where the gray thistles crowd in ranks austere,
As if the sod, close-cropt for many a year,
Brought only bane and bitterness to birth.

But in the crisp air’s amethystine wave
How the harsh stalks are washed with radiance now,
How gleams the harsh turf where the crickets lie
Dew-freshened in their burnished armour brave!
Since earth could not endure nor heaven allow
Aught of unlovely in the morn’s clear eye.




_INDIAN SUMMER_


What touch hath set the breathing hills afire
With amethyst, to quench them with a tear
Of ecstasy? These common fields appear
The consecrated home of hopes past number.
So many visions, so entranced a slumber,
Such dreams possess the noonday’s luminous sphere,
That earth, content with knowing Heaven so near,
Hath done with aspiration and desire.

In these unlooked-for hours of Truth’s clear reign
Unjarring fitness hath surprised our strife.
This radiance, that might seem to cheat the view
With loveliness too perfect to be true,
But shows this vexed and self-delusive life
Ideals whereto our Real must attain.




_THE PUMPKINS IN THE CORN_


Amber and blue, the smoke behind the hill,
Where in the glow fades out the Morning Star,
Curtains the Autumn cornfield, sloped afar,
And strikes an acrid savour on the chill.
The hilltop fence shines saffron o’er the still
Unbending ranks of bunched and bleaching corn
And every pallid stalk is crisp with morn,
Crisp with the silver Autumn morn’s distil.

Purple the narrowing alleys stretched between
The spectral shooks, a purple harsh and cold,
But spotted, where the gadding pumpkins run,
With bursts of blaze that startle the serene
Like sudden voices, - globes of orange bold,
Elate to mimic the unrisen sun.




_THE WINTER FIELDS_


Winds here, and sleet, and frost that bites like steel.
The low bleak hill rounds under the low sky.
Naked of flock and fold the fallows lie,
Thin streaked with meagre drift. The gusts reveal
By fits the dim grey snakes of fence, that steal


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Online LibraryCharles G. D. RobertsSongs of the Common Day and Ave! → online text (page 1 of 4)