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Embers
by Gilbert Parker
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Adown the ages there have come the sounds of that first singing, Lifting up the weary-hearted in the fever of the time; And I, who wait and wander far, felt all my soul upspringing, To but touch those ancient forces and the energies sublime,

When I heard you who had heard it—that first song—perhaps in dreaming, Till it filled you with fine fervour and the hopes of its refrain; And I knew that God was gracious and had led me in the gleaming Of a song-shine that is holy and that quiets all my pain.

Though the birds sing in the meadows and fill all the air with sweetness, They sing only in the present, and they sing because they must; They are wanton in their pureness, and in all their fine completeness, They trill out their lives forgotten to the silence of the dust.

But if you should pass to-morrow where your songs could never reach us, There would still be throbbing through us all the music of your voice; And your spirit would speak through the chords, as though it would beseech us To remember that the noblest ends have ever noblest choice.



NEVERTHELESS

In your onward march, O men, White of face, in promise whiter, You unsheathe the sword, and then Blame the wronged as the fighter.

Time, ah, Time, rolls onward o'er All these foetid fields of evil, While hard at the nation's core Eat the burning rust and weevil!

Nathless, out beyond the stars Reigns the Wiser and the Stronger, Seeing in all strifes and wars Who the wronged, who the wronger.



ISHMAEL

"No man cared for my soul."

Blind, Lord, so blind! I wander far From Thee among the haunts of men, Most like some lone, faint, flickering star Gone from its place, nor knoweth when The sun shall give it shining dole Lord! no man careth for my soul.

Blind, Lord, so blind! In loneliness By crowded mart or busy street, I fold my hands and feel how less Am I to any one I meet, Than to Thee one lost billow's roll: Lord! no man careth for my soul.

Blind, Lord, so blind! And I have knelt 'Mong myriads in Thy house of prayer; And still sad desolation felt, Though heavy freighted was the air With litanies of love: one ghoul Cried, "No man careth for thy soul!"

Blind, Lord, so blind! The world is blind; It feeds me, fainting, with a stone: I cry for bread. Before, behind, Are hurrying feet; yet all alone I walk, and no one points the goal Lord! no man careth for my soul.

Blind, Lord, Oh very blind am I! If sin of mine sets up the wall Between my poor sight and Thy sky, O Friend of man, Who cares for all, Send sweet peace ere the last bell toll— Yea, Lord, Thou carest for my soul!



OVER THE HILLS

Over the hills they are waiting to greet us, They who have scanned all the ultimate places, Fathomed the world and the things that defeat us— Evils and graces.

They have no thought for the toiling or spinning, Striving for bread that is dust in the gaining, They have won all that is well worth the winning— Past all distaining.

Now they have done with the pain and the error, Nevermore here shall the dark things assail them, Void man's devices and dreams have no terror— Shall we bewail them?

They have cast off all the strife and derision, They have put on all the joy of our yearning; We falter feebly from vision to vision, Never discerning.

Faint light before us, and shadows to grope in, Stretching out hands to the starbeams to guide us, Finding no place but our life's loves to hope in, Doubt to deride us—

So we climb upward with eyes growing dimmer, Looking back only to sigh through our smiling, Wondering still if the palpitant glimmer Leads past defiling.

They whom we loved have gone over the mountains, Hands beckon to us like wings of the swallow, Voices we knew from delectable fountains Cry to us, "Follow!"

Some were so young when they left us, that morning Seemed to have flashed and then died into gloaming, Leaving us wearier 'neath the world's scorning, Blinder in roaming.

Some, in the time when the manhood is bravest, Strongest to bear and the hands to endeavour, When all the life is the firmest and gravest, Left us for ever.

Some, when the Springtime had grown to December, Said, "It is done: now the last thing befall me; I shall sleep well—ah! dear hearts but remember: Farewell, they call me!"

So the tale runs, and the end, who shall fear it? Is it not better to sleep than to sorrow? Tokens will come from the bourne as we near it— Time's peace, to-morrow.



THE DELIVERER

How has the cloud fallen, and the leaf withered on the tree, The lemontree, that standeth by the door? The melon and the date have gone bitter to the taste, The weevil, it has eaten at the core— The core of my heart, the mildew findeth it; My music, it is but the drip of tears, The garner empty standeth, the oven hath no fire, Night filleth me with fears. O Nile that floweth deeply, hast thou not heard his voice? His footsteps hast thou covered with thy flood? He was as one who lifteth up the yoke, He was as one who taketh off the chain, As one who sheltereth from the rain, As one who scattereth bread to the pigeons flying. His purse was at his side, his mantle was for me, For any who passeth were his mantle and his purse, And now like a gourd is he withered from our eyes. His friendship, it was like a shady wood— Whither has he gone?—Who shall speak for us? Who shall save us from the kourbash and the stripes? Who shall proclaim us in the palace? Who shall contend for us in the gate? The sakkia turneth no more; the oxen they are gone; The young go forth in chains, the old waken in the night, They waken and weep, for the wheel turns backward, And the dark days are come again upon us— Will he return no more? His friendship was like a shady wood, O Nile that floweth deeply, hast thou not heard his voice? Hast thou covered up his footsteps with thy flood? The core of my heart, the mildew findeth it! When his footsteps were among us there was peace; War entered not the village, nor the call of war: Now our homes are as those that have no roofs. As a nest decayed, as a cave forsaken, As a ship that lieth broken on the beach, Is the house where we were born. Out in the desert did we bury our gold, We buried it where no man robbed us, for his arm was strong. Now are the jars empty, gold did not avail To save our young men, to keep them from the chains. God hath swallowed his voice, or the sea hath drowned it, Or the Nile hath covered him with its flood; Else would he come when our voices call. His word was honey in the prince's ear— Will he return no more?



THE DESERT ROAD

In the sands I lived in a hut of palm, There was never a garden to see; There was never a path through the desert calm, Nor a way through its storms for me.

Tenant was I of a lone domain; The far pale caravans wound To the rim of the sky, and vanished again; My call in the waste was drowned.

The vultures came and hovered and fled; And once there stole to my door A white gazelle, but its eyes were dread With the hurt of the wounds it bore.

It passed in the dusk with a foot of fear, And the white cold mists rolled in; And my heart was the heart of a stricken deer, Of a soul in the snare of sin.

My days they withered like rootless things, And the sands rolled on, rolled wide; Like a pelican I, with broken wings, Like a drifting barque on the tide.

But at last, in the light of a rose-red day, In the windless glow of the morn, From over the hills and from far away, You came-ah, the joy of the morn!

And wherever your footsteps fell there crept A path—it was fair and wide; A desert road which no sands have swept, Where never a hope has died.

I followed you forth, and your beauty held My heart like an ancient song, By that desert road to the blossoming plains I came, and the way was long.

So, I set my course by the light of your eyes; I care not what fate may send; On the road I tread shine the love-starred skies, The road with never an end.



A SON OF THE NILE

Oh, the garden where to-day we, sow and to-morrow we reap; Oh, the sakkia turning by the garden walls; Oh, the onion-field and the date-tree growing, And my hand on the plough—by the blessing of God; Strength of my soul, O my brother, all's well!



A FAREWELL FROM THE HAREM

Take thou thy flight, O soul! Thou hast no more The gladness of the morning: ah, the perfumed roses My love laid on my bosom as I slept! How did he wake me with his lips upon mine eyes, How did the singers carol, the singers of my soul, That nest among the thoughts of my beloved! All silent now, the choruses are gone, The windows of my soul are closed; no more Mine eyes look gladly out to see my lover come. There is no more to do, no more to say Take flight, my soul, my love returns no more!



AN ARAB LOVE SONG

The bed of my love I will sprinkle with attar of roses, The face of my love I will touch with the balm, With the balm of the tree from the farthermost wood, From the wood without end, in the world without end. My love holds the cup to my lips, and I drink of the cup, And the attar of roses I sprinkle will soothe like the evening dew, And the balm will be healing and sleep, and the cup I will drink, I will drink of the cup my love holds to my lips.



THE CAMEL-DRIVER TO HIS CAMEL

Fleet is thy foot: thou shalt rest by the etl tree; Water shalt thou drink from the blue-deep well; Allah send his gard'ner with the green bersim, For thy comfort, fleet one, by the etl tree. As the stars fly, have thy footsteps flown— Deep is the well, drink, and be still once more; Till the pursuing winds, panting, have found thee And, defeated, sink still beside thee— By the well and the etl tree.



THE TALL DAKOON

The Tall Dakoon, the bridle rein he shook, and called aloud, His Arab steed sprang down the mists which wrapped them like a shroud; But up there rang the clash of steel, the clanking silver chain, The war-cry of the Tall Dakoon, the moaning of the slain.

And long they fought—the Tall Dakoon, the children of the mist, But he was swift with lance and shield, and supple of the wrist, Yet if he rose, or if he fell, no man hath proof to show— And wide the world beyond the mists, and deep the vales below!

For when a man, because of love, hath wrecked and burned his ships, And when a man for hate of love hath curses on his lips, Though he should be the peasant born, or be the Tall Dakoon, What matters then, of hap, or place, the mist comes none too soon!



THERE IS SORROW ON THE SEA

Our ship is a beautiful lady, Friendly and ready and fine; She runs her race with the storm in her face, Like a sea-bird over the brine.

In her household work no hand does shirk,— No need of belaying-pins,— And the captain dear and the engineer, They both look after the Twins:

The Twins that drive her to do her best Where the Roaring Forties rage From the Fastnet Height to the Liberty Light, And the Customs landing-stage.

Where the crank-shafts pitch in the iron ditch, Where the main-shaft swims and glides, Where the boilers keep, in the sullen deep, A master-hand on the Tides;

Where the reeking shuttle and booming bar Keep time in the hum of the toiling hive,— The men of the deep, while the travellers sleep, Their steel-clad coursers drive.

And Davy Jones' locker is full Of the labour that moves the world; And brave they be who serve the sea To keep our flags unfurled:

The Union Jack and the Stripes and Stars, Gallant and free and true, In a world-wide trade, and a fame well made, And humanity's work to do.

Now list, ye landsmen, as ye roam, To the voice of the men offshore, Who've sailed in the old ship Never Return, With the great First Commodore.

They fitted foreign (God keeps the sea), They stepped aboard (God breaks the wind). And the babe that held by his father's knee, He leaves, with his lass, behind.

And the lad will sail as his father sailed, And a lass she will wait again; And he'll get his scrip in his father's ship, And he'll sail to the Southern Main;

And he'll sail to the North, and he'll make to the East, And he'll overhaul the West; And he'll pass outspent as his father went From his landbirds in the nest.

There are hearts that bleed, there are mouths to feed, (Now one and all, ye landsmen, list) And the rent's to pay on the quarter-day— (What ye give will never be missed)

And you'll never regret, as your whistle you wet, In Avenue Number Five, That you gave your "quid" to the lonely kid And the widow, to keep 'em alive.

So out with your golden shilling, my lad, And your bright bank-note, my dear! We are safe to-night near the Liberty Light, And the mariner says, What Cheer!



THE AUSTRALIAN STOCKRIDER

I ride to the tramp and shuffle of hoofs Away to the wild waste land, I can see the sun on the station roofs, And a stretch of the shifting sand; The forest of horns is a shaking sea, Where white waves tumble and pass; The cockatoo screams in the myall-tree, And the adder-head gleams in the grass.

The clouds swing out from beyond the hills And valance the face of the sky, And the Spirit of Winds creeps up and fills The plains with a plaintive cry; A boundary-rider on lonely beat Creeps round the horizon's rim; He has little to do, and plenty to eat, And the world is a blank to him.

His friends are his pipe, and dog, and tea, His wants, they are soon supplied; And his mind, like the weeping myall-tree, May droop on his weary ride, But he lives his life in his quiet way, Forgetting,—perhaps forgot,— Till another rider will come some day, And he will have ridden, God wot!

To the Wider Plains with the measureless bounds: And I know, if I had my choice, I would rather ride in those pleasant grounds, Than to sit 'neath the spell of the voice Of the sweetest seraph that you could find In all the celestial place; And I hope that the Father, whose heart is kind, When I speak to Him face to face,

Will give me something to do up there Among all the folks that have died, That will give me freedom and change of air, If it's only to boundary ride: For I somehow think, in the Great Stampede, When the world crowds up to the Bar, The unluckiest mortals will be decreed To camp on the luckiest star.



THE BRIDGE OF THE HUNDRED SPANS

It was the time that the Long Divide Blooms and glows like an hour-old bride; It was the days when the cattle come Back from their winter wand'rings home; Time when the Kicking Horse shows its teeth, Snarls and foams with a demon's breath; When the sun with a million levers lifts Abodes of snow from the rocky rifts; When the line-man's eyes, like the lynx's, scans The lofty Bridge of the Hundred Spans.

Round a curve, down a sharp incline, If the red-eyed lantern made no sign, Swept the train, and upon the bridge That binds a canon from ridge to ridge. Never a watchman like old Carew; Knew his duty, and did it, too; Good at scouting when scouting paid, Saved a post from an Indian raid— Trapper, miner, and mountain guide, Less one arm in a lumber slide; Walked the line like a panther's guard, Like a maverick penned in a branding-yard. "Right as rain," said the engineers, "With the old man working his eyes and ears."

"Safe with Carew on the mountain wall," Was how they put it, in Montreal. Right and safe was it East and West Till a demon rose on the mountain crest, And drove at its shoulders angry spears, That it rose from its sleep of a thousand years, That its heaving breast broke free the cords Of imprisoned snow as with flaming swords; And, like a star from its frozen height, An avalanche leaped one spring-tide night; Leaped with a power not God's or man's To smite the Bridge of the Hundred Spans.

It smote a score of the spans; it slew With its icy squadrons old Carew. Asleep he lay in his snow-bound grave, While the train drew on that he could not save; It would drop, doom-deep, through the trap of death, From the light above, to the dark beneath; And town and village both far and near Would mourn the tragedy ended here.

One more hap in a hapless world, One more wreck where the tide is swirled, One more heap in a waste of sand, One more clasp of a palsied hand, One more cry to a soundless Word, One more flight of a wingless bird; The ceaseless falling, the countless groan, The waft of a leaf and the fall of a stone; Ever the cry that a Hand will save, Ever the end in a fast-closed grave; Ever and ever the useless prayer, Beating the walls of a mute despair. Doom, all doom—nay then, not all doom! Rises a hope from the fast-closed tomb. Write not "Lost," with its grinding bans, On life, or the Bridge of the Hundred Spans.

See, on the canon's western ridge, There stands a girl! She beholds the bridge Smitten and broken; she sees the need For a warning swift, and a daring deed. See then the act of a simple girl; Learn from it, thinker, and priest, and churl. See her, the lantern between her teeth, Crossing the quivering trap of death. Hand over hand on a swaying rail, Sharp in her ears and her heart the wail Of a hundred lives; and she has no fear Save that her prayer be not granted her. Cold is the snow on the rail, and chill The wind that comes from the frozen hill. Her hair blows free and her eyes are full Of the look that makes Heaven merciful— Merciful, ah! quick, shut your eyes, Lest you wish to see how a brave girl dies! Dies—not yet; for her firm hands clasped The solid bridge, as the breach out-gasped, And the rail that had held her downward swept, Where old Carew in his snow-grave slept.

Now up and over the steep incline, She speeds with the red light for a sign; She hears the cry of the coming train, it trembles like lanceheads through her brain; And round the curve, with a foot as fleet As a sinner's that flees from the Judgment-seat, She flies; and the signal swings, and then She knows no more; but the enginemen Lifted her, bore her, where women brought The flush to her cheek, and with kisses caught The warm breath back to her pallid lips, The life from lives that were near eclipse; Blessed her, and praised her, and begged her name That all of their kindred should know her fame; Should tell how a girl from a cattle-ranche That night defeated an avalanche. Where is the wonder the engineer Of the train she saved, in half a year Had wooed her and won her? And here they are For their homeward trip in a parlour car! Which goes to show that Old Nature's plans Were wrecked with the Bridge of the Hundred Spans.



NELL LATORE

Rebel? . . . I grant you,—my comrades then Were called Old Pascal Dubois' Men Half-breeds all of us . . . I, a scamp, The best long-shot in the Touchwood Camp; Muscle and nerve like strings of steel, Sound in the game of bit and heel— There's your guide-book. . . . But, Jeanne Amray, Telegraph-clerk at Sturgeon Bay, French and thoroughbred, proud and sweet, Sunshine down to her glancing feet, Sang one song 'neath the northern moon That changed God's world to a tropic noon; And Love burned up on its golden floor Years of passion for Nell Latore— Nell Latore with her tawny hair, Glowing eyes and her reckless air; Lithe as an alder, straight and tall— Pride and sorrow of Rise-and-Fall! Indian blood in her veins ran wild, And a Saxon father called her child; Women feared her, and men soon found When they trod on forbidden ground. Ride! there's never a cayuse knew Saddle slip of her; pistols, too, Seemed to learn in her hands a knack How to travel a dead-sure track. Something in both alike maybe, Something kindred in ancestry, Some warm touch of an ancient pride Drew my feet to her willing side. My comrade, she, in the Touchwood Camp, To ride, hunt, trail by the fire-fly lamp; To track the moose to his moose-yard; pass The bustard's doom through the prairie grass; To hark at night to the crying loon Beat idle wings on the still lagoon; To hide from death in the drifting snow, To slay the last of the buffalo. . . . Ah, well, I speak of the days that were; And I swear to you, I was kind to her. I lost her. How are the best friends lost? The lightning lines of our souls got crossed— Crossed, and could never again be free Till Death should call from his midnight sea.

One spring brought me my wedding day, Brought me my bright-eyed Jeanne Amray; Brought that night to our cabin door My old, lost comrade, Nell Latore. Her eyes swam fire, and her cheek was red, Her full breast heaved as she darkly said: "The coyote hides from the wind and rain, The wild horse flies from the hurricane, But who can flee from the half-breed's hate, That rises soon and that watches late?" Then went; and I laughed Jeanne's fears afar, But I thought that wench was our evil star. Be sure, when a woman's heart gets hard, It works up war like a navy yard.

Half-breed and Indian troubles came— The same old story—land and game; And Dubois' Men were the first to feel The bullet-sting and the clip of steel; And last in battle 'gainst thousands sent, With Gatling guns for our punishment. Every cause has its traitor; then How should it fare with Dubois' Men! Beaten their cause was, and hunted down, Like to a moose in the chase full blown, Panting they stood; and a Judas sold Their hiding-place for a piece of gold. And while scouts searched for us night and day Jeanne telegraphed on at Sturgeon Bay. Picture her there as she stands alone, Cold, in the glow of the afternoon; Picture, I ask you, that patient wife, Numb with fear for her husband's life, When a sharp click-click awakes her brain To life, with the needle-points of pain. A message it was to Camp Pousette— One that the half-breeds think on yet: "Dubois' gang are in Rocky Glen, Take a hundred and fifty men; Go by the next express," it said, "Bring them up here, alive or dead!" . . .

"Go by the next express!" and she, Standing there by the silent key, Said it over and over again, Thinking of one of Dubois' Men Thinking in anguish, heart and head, Of him, brought up there alive or dead. Save him, and perish to save him, yes! But three hours more, and that next express Would thunder by her, and she, alas! Must stand there still and let it pass. Duty was duty, and hers was clear; God seemed far off, and no friend near. But the truest friend and the swiftest horse Must ride that ride on a breakneck course; And with truest horse and swiftest friend, To the fast express was the winning end! And as if one pang was needed more, There stood in the doorway, Nell Latore— Nell Latore, with her mocking face, Restless eyes, and her evil grace; Quick to read in the wife's sad eyes, The deep, strange woe, and the hurt surprise. Slow she said, with piercing breath, "Rebel fighter dies rebel death!" Said, and paused; for she seemed to see Far through the other's misery, Something that stilled her; triumph fled Shamed and fast, as the young wife said— "He keeps his faith with an oath he swore, For the half-breed's freedom, Nell Latore; And, did he lie here, eyes death-dim, You, if you spoke but truth of him, Truth, truth only, should stand and say, 'He never wronged me, Jeanne Amray.'" Then, for a moment, standing there, Hushed and cold as a dead man's prayer, Nell Latore, with the woman now, Scorching the past from her eyes and brow "Trust me," she said, like an angel-call, "Tell me his danger, tell me all."

Quick resolve to a quick-told tale— Nell Latore, to the glistening rail Fled, and on it a hand-car drew, Seized the handles, and backward threw One swift, farewell look, and said, "You shall have him alive, not dead!" Ah, well for her that her arms were strong, And cord and nerve like a knotted thong, And well for Jeanne in her sharp distress, That Nell was racing the fast express Her whole life bent to this one deed, And, like a soul from its prison freed, Rising, dilating, reached across Hills of conquest from plains of loss. Gorges echoed as she passed by, Wild fowl rose with a plaintive cry; On she sped; and the white steel rang— "Save him—save him for her!" it sang. Once, a lad at a worn-out mine Strove to warn her with awe-struck sign— Turned she neither to left nor right,

Strained till the Rock Hills came in sight; "But two miles more," to herself she said, "Then she shall have him alive, not dead!" The merciful gods that moment heard Her promise, and helped her to keep her word; For, when the wheels of the fast express Slowed through the gates of that wilderness, Round a headland and far away Sailed the husband of Jeanne Amray. While all that hundred-and-fifty then, Hot on the trail of the Dubois Men, Knew, as they stood by the pine-girt store, The girl that had foiled them—Nell Latore. Slow she moved from among them, turned Where the sky to the westward burned; Gazed for a moment, set her hands Over her brow, so! drew the strands Loose and rich of her tawny hair, Once through her fingers, standing there; Then again to the rail she passed. One more look to the West she cast, And into the East she drew away: Backwards and forwards her brown arms play, Forwards and backwards, till far and dim, She grew one with the night's dun rim; Backwards and forwards, and then, was gone Into I know not what . . . alone. She came not back, she may never come; But a young wife lives in a cabin home, Who prays each night that, alive or dead, Come God's own rest for her lonely head: And I—shall I see her then no more, My comrade, my old love, Nell Latore?

THE END

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