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.

A Breakfast for Barbarians

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 80th birthday.

09-01 MacEwan
Gwendolyn MacEwen
Canadian
1941 – 1987

 

my friends, my sweet barbarians,
there is that hunger which is not for food —
but an eye at the navel turns the appetite
round
with visions of some fabulous sandwich,
the brain’s golden breakfast
eaten with beasts
with books on plates

let us make an anthology of recipes,
let us edit for breakfast
our most unspeakable appetites —
let us pool spoons, knives
and all cutlery in a cosmic cuisine,
let us answer hunger
with boiled chimera
and apocalyptic tea,
an arcane salad of spiced bibles,
tossed dictionaries —
(O my barbarians
we will consume our mysteries)

and can we, can we slake the gaping eye of our desires?
we will sit around our hewn wood table
until our hair is long and our eyes are feeble,
eating, my people, O my insatiates,
eating until we are no more able
to jack up the jaws any longer —

to no more complain of the soul’s vulgar cavities,
to gaze at each other over the rust-heap of cutlery,
drinking a coffee that takes an eternity —
till, bursting, bleary,
we laugh, barbarians, and rock the universe —
and exclaim to each other over the table
over the table of bones and scrap metal
over the gigantic junk-heaped table:

by God that was a meal

Champ de Mars, 1914

We present this work in honor of the 95th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Robert Stanley Weir
Canadian
1856 – 1926

Unscathed as yet by battle-scars,
Trampling the sad December’s snow,
The Khaki lads on Champ de Mars
Are girding for the distant foe.
East with a dream comes marching by;
Each all aflame for England’s fight.
But O presaging heart, say why
That sound of weeping in the night?

The Duke came down one frosty day
And walked between the khaki ranks.
Full grave his look. We heard him say:
“Soldiers, the Empire gives you thanks.
Love live the King! Our foes shall learn
You stand with Him for simple right;
And may God grant you safe return.”
But still that sound all through the night!

O, marching from the Camp de Mars
They cross the seas; they storm the trench,
Fighting beneath the troubled stars
With Belgians brave and valiant French;
Fighting, till victory austere,
Shall crush the Great Betrayer’s might.
But O my beating heart, dost hear

That sound of weeping in the night?

Tiger and Elephant

We present this work in honor of World Elephant Day.

08-12 McIntyre
James McIntyre
Canadian
1828 – 1906

 

On Ganges banks roams the tiger,
And lion rules by the Niger,
Hunder heard shrill cry of peacocks,
In Indian jungles go in flocks.

And he saw tiger crouch and spring,
To crush a bird with beauteous wing,
But the tiger missed his aim,
And he hung his head with shame.

Then there came a mighty crush,
Of elephants rush through the bush,
The tiger cat-like crouched on ground,
And elephants rushed in with bound.

In front was baby elephant,
To crush its bones did tiger want,
But mother saw fierce forest ranger,
And she gave a cry of danger.

Leader of herd he madly rushed,
Resolved the tiger should be crushed,
But tiger strove to run away,
Willing to relinquish prey.

But when he found that he must fight,
On elephant’s back he strove to light,
But elephant struck him with his foot,
And then with tusks he did him root.

So now once more must praise be sung,
To beasts who nobly fight for young,
And grateful feelings were now stirred,
Towards the leader of the herd.

The Golden Ship

In honor of the Canadian holiday, Civic Day, we present this work by one of Canada’s most heartfelt poets.

08-02 Nelligan
Emile Nelligan
Canadian
1879 – 1941

 

She was a massive ship, hewn in heavy gold,
with masts that fingered heaven on seas unknown.
Under redundant sun, with scattered hair,
was prowed outspread Venus, bare;

but then one night she hit the huge reef
in waters where the Sirens sing,
and this ghastly shipwreck tilted its keel
to the depths of the chasm, that immutable

tomb. She was a ship of gold, but her diaphanous
flanks showed treasures over which the blasphemous
sailors Psychosis, Spite and Nausea clashed.

So, what has survived this flash of storm?
What about my heart, abandoned ship?
…O, still it sinks, deep in Dream’s abyss.

Woman Bathing

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 105th birthday.

08-01 Hebert
Anne Hébert
Canadian
1916 – 2000

 

Sun’s rain on the sea
Red sun yellow sun
White noon sun
Blue sun on the sea
Melded water and fire
At noon.

Deep swell I go down
Blue sea green sea
Red agate
Blue green
Depth I go down

From the bed of receded waters
Surging to the surface
Like a daylong bubble
Silver fish
Are on the back on the belly
Riddled with gold shafts

Coming up at leisure
With well-wrought traps
Calm sluices
Eel-nets
To seize the sun
In my soaked fingers.

The Infinite

We present this work in honor of the 145th anniversary of the poet’s death.

07-14 Heavysege
Charles Heavysege
Canadian
1816 – 1876

 

The day was lingering in the pale north-west,
And night was hanging o’er my head—
Night, where a myriad stars were spread;
While down in the east, where the light was least,
Seemed the home of the quiet dead.
And, as I gazed on the field sublime,
To watch the bright, pulsating stars,
Adown the deep where the angels sleep
Came drawn the golden chime
Of those great spheres that sound the years
For the horologe of time.
Millenniums numberless they told,
Millenniums a millionfold
From the ancient hour of prime.

The Song of the Prairie Land

We present this work in honor of Canada Day.

Wilson Pugsley MacDonald
Canadian
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.

Women’s Rights

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 185th birthday.

06-23 Walker
Annie Louisa Walker
Canadian
1836 – 1907

 

You cannot rob us of the rights we cherish,
Nor turn our thoughts away
From the bright picture of a “Woman’s Mission”
Our hearts portray.
We claim to dwell, in quiet and seclusion,
Beneath the household roof,—
From the great world’s harsh strife, and jarring voices,
To stand aloof;—
Not in a dreamy and inane abstraction
To sleep our life away,
But, gathering up the brightness of home sunshine,
To deck our way.

As humble plants by country hedgerows growing,
That treasure up the rain,
And yield in odours, ere the day’s declining,
The gift again;

So let us, unobtrusive and unnoticed,
But happy none the less,
Be privileged to fill the air around us
With happiness;

To live, unknown beyond the cherished circle,
Which we can bless and aid;
To die, and not a heart that does not love us
Know where we’re laid.