The Song of the Prairie Land

We present this work in honor of Canada Day.

Wilson Pugsley MacDonald
1880 – 1967


They tell of the level sea
And the wind rebukes their word.
I sing of the long and level plain
Which never a storm hath stirred.
I sing of the patient plain;
That drank of the sun and rain
A thousand years, by the burning spheres,
To nourish this wisp of grain.

I sing of the honest plain
Where nothing doth lie concealed:
Where never a branch doth raise her arm;
Or never a leaf her shield.
Where never a lordly pine
Breaks in on the endless line;
Or the silver flakes of a poplar takes
The strength from the sun’s white wine.

The child of the dancing leaf,
Whose laughter sweetens the earth,
Doth never lure, on the barren moor,
The soul, with her winsome mirth.
And the wistful sound I hear
Sweep over the spaces drear
Is the human dole of a childless soul
That mourns in a yearning year.

Let the guilty man depart:
For no cover here shall hide
His conscious brow from the lights that plough
Through the midnight’s mystic tide.
For the plain no mantle hath
To lessen the strong sun’s wrath;
And the tranquil eye of the searching sky
Is ever upon your path.

I’ll walk with the winds to-night;
And under the burnished moon
Shall the white night wake a silver lake
Where the rolling grasses croon.
Shall waken a silken crest
That swings to the night-bird’s breast
As the blue waves swing to the sea-gull’s wing
When the gallant wind blows west.

Ah! easy to hide from truth
In the city’s haunted hole.
But you cannot hide, on the prairies wide,
Where the winds uncloak the soul.
Where the dawn hath pure delight;
And the stars are clean and white;
And sweet and clean is the floor of green
That washes the feet of Night.

Who dwells with me on the Plain
Shall never see spire or bell.
But he too shall miss the traitor’s kiss
And the force that drags to Hell.
And what if the coyotes howl
When the black night draws her cowl!
They have gentler glands than the human bands
That under the arc lamps prowl.

And ours is a creedless land,
Far-flung from a script’s commands.
But we sometimes think at the cold night’s brink
Of the wounded Master’s hands.
Yea, often at eventide,
Our souls through the gloom have cried
For a Guiding Light through the awful night
That sleeps at the hermit’s side.

I opened my cabin door;
And the starry hosts were gone.
And I knew that God hath gathered their sparks
To kindle the flame of dawn:
To kindle a new, white sun
That over the sward should run,
And drink new hope, on the greening slope,
From the dewcups one by one.

Ah! here is the soul’s true sphere:
And here is the mind’s true girth.
If I could bring, on the swallow’s wing,
The sorrowful hosts of earth,
To sit in this vacant room,
And spin on the wind’s fair loom,
What golden bands would their spectral hands
Weave over the wraith of Doom.

For there is a wraith of Doom
That wanders the crowded street.
A heart of care is his pleasant lair,
And a soul his judgment seat.
He comes in a robe of gray,
And stands in the sunbeam’s way.
And a blaze of rings, from an hundred kings,
He wears on his hands to-day.

I loosed me a steed last night,
And plunged in the doleful dusk.
And under the sky I heard no cry
Save that of the widowed husk;
Or a wolf-wail, long and low,
That came with a blare of snow;
And I rode all night, with a mad delight,
‘Till I met the dawn, aglow.

“Strange fool!” cry the men of gold,
“For what could thy wild ride win?
Why woo the woe of the winds that blow
When the fire burns bright within?”
And I said to the men of gold:
“My heart could a tale unfold
Of the truths we learn when the wild winds yearn,
And the kiss of night grows cold.”

So, press on the spurs with me
And drink of a freeman’s joys,
In the endless land, where the gophers stand
With a military poise.
And no more will life seem sweet
On the yellow, flaming street—
A painted shrew, with a changeless hue,
And a heart that loves deceit.

And this is the Prairie Song
As it came from out my heart.
And the winds that moan are its undertone;
And the sullen sky its art.
And only the craven man,
With his rhyming finger span,
Shall sulk and whine at my stinging line
Or rail at its planless plan.

But there is a king whose soul
Hath grown to the Prairie’s girth;
Whose heart delights in the Northern Lights,
On the borderlands of earth.
And when sunset pours her wine,
At the weary day’s decline,
I shall see him stand in the “Unknown Land”
And his lips shall wear my line.

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