The Child of Promise

Evan MacColl
Canadian
1808 – 1898

 

She died — as die the roses
On the ruddy clouds of dawn,
When the envious sun discloses
His flame and morning’s gone.
She died—like waves of sun-glow
By fleeting shadows chased;
She died— like heaven’s rainbow
By gushing showers effaced.
She died—like snow glad-gracing
Some sea-marge fair, when lo!
Rude waves each other chasing,
Quick hide it ‘neath their flow.
She died— as dies the glory
Of music’s sweetest swell:

She died—as dies the story
When the best is still to tell
She died— as dies moon-beaming.
When scowls the rayless main:
She died— like sweetest dreaming
Quick changed to waking pain.
She died— and died she early;
Heaven wearied for its own.
As the dipping sun, my Mary,
Thy morning ray went down!

A Bonus

Elizabeth Smart
Canadian
1913 – 1986

 

That day i finished
A small piece
For an obscure magazine
I popped it in the box

And such a starry elation
Came over me
That I got whistled at in the street
For the first time in a long time.

I was dirty and roughly dressed
And had circles under my eyes
And far far from flirtation
But so full of completion
Of a deed duly done
An act of consummation
That the freedom and force it engendered
Shone and spun
Out of my old raincoat.

It must have looked like love
Or a fabulous free holiday
To the young men sauntering
Down Berwick Street.
I still think this is most mysterious
For while I was writing it
It was gritty it felt like self-abuse
Constipation, desperately unsocial.
But done done done
Everything in the world
Flowed back
Like a huge bonus.

For Dinah, the Adeney’s Cat

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 110th birthday.

Anne Wilkinson
Canadian
1910 – 1961

 

Thirty elongated seconds
By the sun
We stare, the cat and I,
Strangers, cool and crouched
Behind unwinking green

Till flick
Along the spine, a whip
Of recognition cut
Our masks of fur and skin,
Cat-o’-nine-tails with a sting
Neither hinted at
By curl of lip
Or spitting tongue.

Then one cat turned
With poise of air
And washed a spotless paw,
The other took a tortoiseshell comb
And almost yawned
As she combed her tatless hair.

The Bear on the Delhi Road

We present this work in honor of the 25th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Earle Birney
Canadian
1904 – 1995

 

Unreal tall as a myth
by the road the Himalayan bear
is beating the brilliant air
with his crooked arms
About him two men bare
spindly as locusts leap
One pulls on a ring
in the great soft nose His mate
flicks flicks with a stick
up at the rolling eyes

They have not led him here
down from the fabulous hills
to this bald alien plain
and the clamorous world to kill
but simply to teach him to dance

They are peaceful both these spare
men of Kashmir and the bear
alive is their living too
If far on the Delhi way
around him galvanic they dance
it is merely to wear wear
from his shaggy body the tranced
wish forever to stay
only an ambling bear
four-footed in berries

It is no more joyous for them
in this hot dust to prance
out of reach of the praying claws
sharpened to paw for ants
in the shadows of deodars
It is not easy to free
myth from reality
or rear this fellow up
to lurch lurch with them
in the tranced dancing of men

Stone Breaking

In honor of Civic Day, we present this work by a noteworthy Canadian civil servant.

Duncan Campbell Scott
Canadian
1862 – 1947

 

March wind rough
Clashed the trees,
Flung the snow;
Breaking stones,
In the cold,
Germans slow
Toiled and toiled;
Arrowy sun
Glanced and sprang,
One right blithe
German sang:
Songs of home,
Fatherland:
Syenite hard,
Weary lot,
Callous hand,
All forgot:
Hammers pound,
Ringing round;
Rise the heaps,
To his voice,
Bounds and leaps
Toise on toise:
Toil is long,
But dear God
Gives us song,
At the end
Gives us test,
Toil is best.

Le Canada

We present this work in honor of Canada Day.

Octave Crémazie
Canadian
1827 – 1879

 

There is a blessed land under the sun,
Where heaven has poured out its brightest gifts,
Where, responding to its goods, enlarged nature
With its vast forests mingles its giant lakes.

On these enchanted edges, our mother, France,
Has left of its glory an immortal furrow,
Precipitating its waves towards the immense ocean,
The noble Saint-Laurent repeats its name again.

Happy who knows it, happier who lives in it,
And never leaving to seek other heavens
The banks of the great river where happiness invites him,
Knows how to live and knows how to die where his ancestors sleep.

Illumined

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

Tom MacInnes
Canadian
1867 – 1951

 

I woke in the Land of Night,
With a dream of Day at my heart;
Its golden outlines vanished,
But its charm would not depart;
Like music still remaining,
But its meaning–no man can say
In the Land of Night where they know not
Of Day, nor the things of Day.

I dwelt in the chiefest city
Of all the Land of Night;
Where the fires burn ever brighter
That give the people light;
Where the sky above is darkened,
And never a star is seen,
And they think it but children’s fancy
That ever a star hath been.

But out from that city early
I fled by a doubtful way;
And faltering oft and lonely
I sought my dream of Day;
Till I came at last to a Mountain
That rose exceeding high,
And I thought I saw on its summit
A glint as of dawn from the sky.

‘Twas midway on that Mountain
That I found an altar-stone,
Deep-cut with runes forgotten,
And symbols little known;
And scarce could I read the meaning
Of the legends carven there,
But I lay me out on that altar,
Breathing an ancient prayer:

‘By the God of the timeless Sky,
O Saint of the Altar, say
What gift hast thou for me?
For I have dreamed of Day:
But I seek nor gift nor power,
I pray for naught but light;
And only for light to lead me
Out of the Land of Night!’

Long I lay on that altar,
Up-gazing fearfully
Through the awful cold and darkness
That now encompassed me;
Till it seemed as I were lying drowned
Under a lifeless sea.

There shone as a pale blue Star,
Intangible–serene–
And I saw a spark from it fall
As it were a crystal keen;
And it flashed as it fell and pierced
My temples white and cold;
Then round that altar-stone once more
The awful darkness rolled.

But there was light on my brow,
And a calm that steeled me through,
And I was strong with a strength
That never before I knew;
With a strength for the trackless heights,
And scorn of the world below–
But I rose not up from that altar-stone,
I would not leave it so.

‘O Saint of the Altar, say
How may this light redeem?
For though on my brow like a jewel
Its Star hath left a gleam,
O Saint, ‘tis a light too cold and cruel
To be the light of my dream!’

Anon ‘twas a crimson Star
That over the Altar shone,
And there sank as a rose of flame
To my heart ere the Star was gone;
And out from the flames thereof
A subtle fragrance then
Went stealing down the mountain-side
O’er the lowly ways of men.

The Star was gone, but it brought
To light in its crimson glow
The lovely things forgotten
I dreamed of long ago;
And gladly then I had given
My life to all below;
Yet I rose not up from the altar-stone,
I would not leave it so.

And at last was a golden Star;
But I scarce know how nor where;
For it melted all around me,
And the other Stars were there;
And all in one blissful moment
The light of Day had come;
Then I reeled away from that altar-stone,
Old, and blind, and dumb.

I dwell again in the city,
I seek no more for light;
But I go on a mission of silence
To those who would leave the Night;
And for this–and this thing only,
Through the evil streets I stray;
I who am free to the timeless Sky
Illumined forever with Day.

War

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

Lee Maracle
Canadian
b. 1950

 

In my body flows the blood of Gallic
Bastille stormers and the soft, gentle
ways of Salish/Cree womanhood.

Deep throated base tones dissipate,
swallowed by the earth; uproarious
laughter sears, mutilates my voice.

Child of the earth-tear of west
coast rain; dew drop sparkling in
the crisp, clear sun of my home.

Warm woman of the Mediterranean sunscape,
bleaching rough cotton-sweatshop
anniversary.

Thunderous, rude earthquakes that
split my spirit within. Tiny grapes
of wine console me.

Can I deny a heritage blackened by
the toil of billions, conceived in
rape, plunder and butchery?

In the veins, that fight to root themselves
in the wondrous breadth of my
homeland, races the blood of base
humanity.

European thief; liar, bloodsucker.
I deny you not. I fear you not. Your
reality and mine no longer rankles me.

I am moved by my love for human life;
by the firm conviction that all the world
must stop the butchery, stop the slaughter.

I am moved by my scars, by my own filth
to re-write history with my body
to shed the blood of those who betray themselves

To life, world humanity I ascribe
To my people… my history… I address
my vision.

As the Heart Hopes

Lucy Maud Montgomery
Canadian
1874 – 1942

 

It is a year dear one, since you afar
Went out beyond my yearning mortal sight¬
A wondrous year! perchance in many a star
You have sojourned, or basked within the light
Of mightier suns; it may be you have trod
The glittering pathways of the Pleiades,
And through the Milky Way’s white mysteries
Have walked at will, fire-shod.

You may have gazed in the immortal eyes
Of prophets and of martyrs; talked with seers
Learned in all the lore of Paradise,
The infinite wisdom of eternal years;
To you the Sons of Morning may have sung,
The impassioned strophes of their matin hymn,
For you the choirs of the seraphim
Their harpings wild out-flung.

But still I think at eve you come to me
For old, delightsome speech of eye and lip,
Deeming our mutual converse thus to be
Fairer than archangelic comradeship;
Dearer our close communings fondly given
Than all the rainbow dreams a spirit knows,
Sweeter my gathered violets than the rose
Upon the hills of heaven.

Can any exquisite, unearthly morn,
Silverly breaking o’er a starry plain,
Give to your soul the poignant pleasure born
Of virgin moon and sunset’s lustrous stain
When we together watch them ? Oh, apart
A hundred universes you may roam,
But still I know¬I know¬your only home
Is here within my heart!