Heat

Archibald Lampman
Canadian
1861 – 1899

 

From plains that reel to southward, dim,
The road runs by me white and bare;
Up the steep hill it seems to swim
Beyond, and melt into the glare.
Upward half-way, or it may be
Nearer the summit, slowly steals
A hay-cart, moving dustily
With idly clacking wheels.
By his cart’s side the wagoner
Is slouching slowly at his ease,
Half-hidden in the windless blur
Of white dust puffiing to his knees.
This wagon on the height above,
From sky to sky on either hand,
Is the sole thing that seems to move
In all the heat-held land.

Beyond me in the fields the sun
Soaks in the grass and hath his will;
I count the marguerites one by one;
Even the buttercups are still.
On the brook yonder not a breath
Disturbs the spider or the midge.
The water-bugs draw close beneath
The cool gloom of the bridge.

Where the far elm-tree shadows flood
Dark patches in the burning grass,
The cows, each with her peaceful cud,
Lie waiting for the heat to pass.
From somewhere on the slope near by
Into the pale depth of the noon
A wandering thrush slides leisurely
His thin revolving tune.

In intervals of dreams I hear
The cricket from the droughty ground;
The grasshoppers spin into mine ear
A small innumerable sound.
I lift mine eyes sometimes to gaze:
The burning sky-line blinds my sight:
The woods far off are blue with haze:
The hills are drenched in light.

And yet to me not this or that
Is always sharp or always sweet;
In the sloped shadow of my hat
I lean at rest, and drain the heat;
Nay more, I think some blessèd power
Hath brought me wandering idly here:
In the full furnace of this hour
My thoughts grow keen and clear.

Loyal

We present this work in honor of the Canadian holiday, Civic Day.

Sarah Anne Curzon
Canadian
1833 – 1898

 

O Ye, who with your blood and sweat
Watered the furrows of this land,—
See where upon a nation’s brow
In honour’s front, ye proudly stand!

Who for her pride abased your own,
And gladly on her altar laid
All bounty of the older world,
All memories that your glory made.

And to her service bowed your strength,
Took labour for your shield and crest;
See where upon a nation’s brow
Her diadem, ye proudly test!

The Plains of Abraham

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 200th birthday.

Charles Sangster
Canadian
1822 – 1893

 

I stood upon the Plain,
That had trembled when the slain,
Hurled their proud defiant curses at the battle-hearted foe,
When the steed dashed right and left
Through the bloody gaps he cleft,
When the bridle-rein was broken, and the rider was laid low.

What busy feet had trod
Upon the very sod
Where I marshalled the battalions of my fancy to my aid!
And I saw the combat dire,
Heard the quick, incessant fire,
And the cannons’ echoes startling the reverberating glade.

I saw them one and all,
The banners of the Gaul
In the thickest of the contest, round the resolute Montcalm;
The well-attended Wolfe,
Emerging from the gulf
Of the battle’s fiery furnace, like the swelling of a psalm.

I head the chorus dire,
That jarred along the lyre
On which the hymn of battle rung, like surgings of the wave
When the storm, at blackest night,

Wakes the ocean in affright,
As it shouts its mighty pibroch o’er some shipwrecked vessel’s grave.

I saw the broad claymore
Flash from its scabbard, o’er
The ranks that quailed and shuddered at the close and fierce attack;
When Victory gave the word,
Then Scotland drew the sword,
And with arm that never faltered drove the brave defenders back.

I saw two great chiefs die,
Their last breaths like the sigh
Of the zepher-sprite that wantons on the rosy lips of morn;
No envy-poisoned darts,
No rancour in their hearts,
To unfit them for their triumph over death’s impending scorn.

And as I thought and gazed,
My soul, exultant, praised
The Power to whom each mighty act and victory are due,
For the saint-like Peace that smiled
Like a heaven-gifted child,
And for the air of quietude that steeped the distant view.

The sun looked down with pride,
And scattered far and wide
His beams of whitest glory till they flooded all the Plain;
The hills their veils withdrew,
Of white, and purplish blue,
And reposed all green and smiling ‘neath the shower of golden rain.

Oh, rare, divinest life
Of Peace, compared with Strife!
Yours is the truest splendour, and the most enduring fame;
All the glory ever reaped
Where the fiends of battle leaped,
Is harsh discord to the music of your undertoned acclaim.

Isaac’s Dream

06-24 Rosernfarb
Chava Rosenfarb
Canadian
1923 – 2011

 

As I was standing, all set for my exile,
Doom staring at me from the road’s blinding end,
The door, like a book’s heavy cover, opened,
To bring forth a guest from the biblical land.

His body, half naked, a knife in his loincloth,
In sheep-leather sandals his tanned, bronze-like feet,
A bundle of firewood upon his shoulder—
He said, with a smile very boyish and sweet:

“Good morning, my girl; remember me, dearest?
You’ve waited for me so long—not in vain.
I’m Isaac, your bridegroom, ordained by the Heavens …
Through ages I’ve wandered to you, till I came.

Take off your dress. A sheet of plain linen
Is sufficient to drape round your navel and hips.
Undo your braids and let’s hurry, my sweetheart,
Your hand clasped in mine and a chant on our lips.

Thus will l lead you beyond the horizon,
Between north and south, through the west—to the east,
Until we will reach Mount Moriah, my dearest,
There to be married, to rejoice and to feast.

So come, let us hurry, the distance is calling.
Pray, why do you shiver with anguish and cry?
You’re asking why all that wood on my shoulder,
The glittering knife on my hip—you ask why.

Then turn your soul to my soul, my beloved.
Read your fate in my fate, while I explain:
Out of the wood I will construct an altar
And with love all redeeming set it aflame.

And the knife, my bride, I will file to its sharpest point
Up there, at the peak, on a rough mountain stone.
And who will be offered, you ask me?—then listen:
The offering, my dearest, shall be you, you alone.

A gift of life to the God of All Being,
As Abraham told me, his late-born son:
If you trust in love and love wholly trusting,
Then fear not, nor waver, dear girl, but come.

Though fire will blaze through the wood of the altar,
Flames licking your body, yet you shall see:
The knife will fall from my hand, and a miracle
Will happen to you, as it happened to me.

The rivers and seas shall sing Hallelujah!
The mountain pines, moved, will give praise to all life,
While the Voice Divine will, with thunder and lightning,
Proclaim me your husband, pronounce you my wife.

So hurry, my girl, the sky is already
Spreading its canopy, preparing the rite.
Come to the blue sacrificial fire—
Your last maiden stroll—to the altar, my bride.”

Thus he spoke. I smiled, then said in a whisper,
My eyes not on him, but fixed on the dark night,
Where another road was tracing its outlines
With the red of my blood, with signals of fright:

“Oh leave me, Isaac, you bronzed, sunny man.
This road is not yours, not mine is your day.
I head for those places you never have dreamed of,
Where altars do smolder with their unwilling prey.”

As I spoke a gale swept towards my threshold.
The tempest took hold of my hearth and my house,
Whistling through streets, through the yards of the ghetto,
Hissing with rage: “Juden raus! Juden raus!”

Thus I stepped forward with Abraham, my father,
Who wrapped his arm round me as if with a shawl,
While delicate Isaac, all tremble and flutter,
Pressed his tanned sun-kissed frame to the wall.

“You’re frightened, Isaac?” said I. “I’m your nightmare.
Awake and you’re back in your undying scroll,
Where Rebecca, your true betrothed awaits you,
To be taken with joy on her last maiden stroll.

Make haste, return to the Book that shall save thee.
Hide yourself in the Bible’s fairytale land.
For your God Himself walks with me and my father,
Right now, to the altar; with us—to His end.”

Helen Betty Osborne

We present this work in honor of the Canadian holiday, National Aboriginal Day.

06-21 Dumont
Marilyn Dumont
Canadian
b. 1955

Betty, if I set out to write this poem about you
it might turn out instead
to be about me
or any one of
my female relatives
it might turn out to be
about this young native girl
growing up in rural Alberta
in a town with fewer Indians
than ideas about Indians
in a town just south of the ‘Aryan Nations’

It might turn out to be
about Anna Mae Aquash, Donald Marshall, or Richard Cardinal,
it might even turn out to be
about our grandmothers
beasts of burden in the fur trade
skinning, scraping, pounding, packing
left behind for ‘British Standards of Womanhood,’
left for white-melting-skinned women,
not bits-of-brown women
left here in this wilderness, this colony.

Betty, if I start to write a poem about you
it might turn out to be
about hunting season instead
about ‘open season’ on native women
it might turn out to be
about your face young and hopeful
staring back at me hollow now
from a black and white page
it might be about the ‘townsfolk’ (gentle word)
townsfolk who ‘believed native girls were easy’
and ‘less likely to complain if a sexual proposition led to violence’

Betty, if I write this poem.

Dreams

We present this work in honor of the 115th anniversary of the poet’s death.

04-06 Drummond
William Henry Drummond
Canadian
1854 – 1907

Bord á Plouffe, Bord á Plouffe,
W’at do I see w’en I dream of you?
A shore w’ere de water is racin’ by,
A small boy lookin’, an’ wonderin’ w’y
He can’t get fedder for goin’ fly
Lak de hawk makin’ ring on de summer sky.
Dat ‘s w’at I see.

Bord á Plouffe, Bord á Plouffe,
W’at do I hear w’en i dream of you?
Too many t’ing for sleepin’ well!
De song of de ole tam cariole bell,
De voice of dat girl from Sainte Angèle
(I geev’ her a ring was mark “fidèle”)
Dat ‘s what I hear.

Bord á Plouffe, Bord á Plouffe,
W’at do I smoke w’en I dream of you?
Havana cigar from across de sea,
An’ get dem for not’ing too? No siree!
Dere ‘s only wan kin’ of tabac for me.
An’ it grow on de Rivière des Prairies-
Dat ‘s what I smoke.

Bord á Plouffe, Bord á Plouffe,
How go I feel w’en I t’ink of you?
Sick, sick for the ole place way back dere-
An’ to sleep on ma own leetle room upstair
W’ere de ghos’ on de chimley mak’ me scare
I ‘d geev’ more monee dan I can spare-
Dat ‘s how I feel.

Bord á Plouffe, Bord á Plouffe,
W’at will I do w’en I ‘m back wit’ you?
I ‘ll buy de farm of Bonhomme Martel,
Long tam he ‘s been waitin’ a chance to sell,
Den pass de nex’ morning on Sainte Angèle,
An’ if she ‘s not marry -dat girl- very well,
Dat ‘s w’at I ‘ll do.

The Cripples

We present this work in honor of the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death.

z 02-20-22
A.M. Klein
Canadian
1909 – 1972

Bundled their bones, upon ninety-nine stairs –
St. Joseph’s ladder – the knobs of penance come,
the folded cripples counting up their prayers.

How rich, how plumped with blessing is that dome!
The gourd of Brother André! His sweet days
rounded! Fulfilled! Honeyed to honeycomb!

Whither the heads, upon the ninety-nine trays,
the palsied, who double their aspen selves, the lame,
the unsymmetrical, the dead-limbed, raise

their look, their hope, and the idée fixe of their maim,
knowing their surgery’s in the heart. Are not
the ransomed crutches worshipers? And the fame

of the brother sanatorial to this plot?
God mindful of the sparrows on the stairs?
Oh, to their faith this mountain of stairs, is not!

They know, they know, that suddenly their cares
and orthopedics will fall from them, and they
will stand whole again.
Roll empty away, wheelchairs,
and crutches, without armpits, hop away!

And I who in my own faith once had faith like this,

but now have not, am crippled more than they.

The Canoe

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 175th birthday.

12-25 Crawford
Isabella Valancy Crawford
Canadian
1846 – 1887

 

My masters twain made me a bed
Of pine-boughs resinous, and cedar;
Of moss, a soft and gentle breeder
Of dreams of rest; and me they spread
With furry skins, and laughing said,
‘Now she shall lay her polish’d sides,
As queens do rest, or dainty brides,
Our slender lady of the tides!’

My masters twain their camp-soul lit,
Streamed incense from the hissing cones,
Large, crimson flashes grew and whirl’d
Thin, golden nerves of sly light curl’d
Round the dun camp, and rose faint zones,
Half way about each grim bole knit,
Like a shy child that would bedeck
With its soft clasp a Brave’s red neck;
Yet sees the rough shield on his breast,
The awful plumes shake on his crest,
And fearful drops his timid face,
Nor dares complete the sweet embrace.

Into the hollow hearts of brakes,
Yet warm from sides of does and stags,
Pass’d to the crisp dark river flags;
Sinuous, red as copper snakes,
Sharp-headed serpents, made of light,
Glided and hid themselves in night.

My masters twain, the slaughtered deer
Hung on fork’d boughs—with thongs of leather.
Bound were his stiff, slim feet together—
His eyes like dead stars cold and drear;
The wand’ring firelight drew near
And laid its wide palm, red and anxious,
On the sharp splendor of his branches;
On the white foam grown hard and sere
On flank and shoulder.
Death—hard as breast of granite boulder,
And under his lashes
Peer’d thro’ his eyes at his life’s grey ashes.

My masters twain sang songs that wove
(As they burnish’d hunting blade and rifle)
A golden thread with a cobweb trifle—
Loud of the chase, and low of love.

‘O Love, art thou a silver fish?
Shy of the line and shy of gaffing,
Which we do follow, fierce, yet laughing,
Casting at thee the light-wing’d wish,
And at the last shall we bring thee up
From the crystal darkness under the cup
Of lily folden,
On broad leaves golden?

‘O Love! art thou a silver deer,
Swift thy starr’d feet as wing of swallow,
While we with rushing arrows follow;
And at the last shall we draw near,
And over thy velvet neck cast thongs—
Woven of roses, of stars, of songs?
New chains all moulden
Of rare gems olden!’

They hung the slaughter’d fish like swords
On saplings slender—like scimitars
Bright, and ruddied from new-dead wars,
Blaz’d in the light—the scaly hordes.

They piled up boughs beneath the trees,
Of cedar-web and green fir tassel;
Low did the pointed pine tops rustle,
The camp fire blush’d to the tender breeze.

The hounds laid dew-laps on the ground,
With needles of pine sweet, soft and rusty—
Dream’d of the dead stag stout and lusty;
A bat by the red flames wove its round.

The darkness built its wigwam walls
Close round the camp, and at its curtain
Press’d shapes, thin woven and uncertain,
As white locks of tall waterfalls.

In November

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 160th birthday.

11-17 Lampman
Archibald Lampman
Canadian
1861 – 1899

 

The 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-gray, 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 wintry white, and bleak winds moan
About the naked uplands. I alone
Am neither sad, nor shelterless, nor gray,
Wrapped round with thought, content to watch and dream.