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Flint and Feather
by E. Pauline Johnson
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He never seemed to take to me nor follow me about, For all I coaxed and petted, for my heart was starving out For want of some companionship,—I thought, if only he Would lick my hand or come and put his head aside my knee, Perhaps his touch would scatter something of the gloom away. But all alone I had to live until there came a day When, tired of the battle, as you'd have tired too, I wished to heaven I'd gone with Ben, 'way up beyond the blue.

. . . . .

One morning I took out Ben's gun, and thought I'd hunt all day, And started through the clearing for the bush that forward lay, When something made me look around—I scarce believed my mind— But, sure enough, the dog was following right close behind. A feeling first of joy, and than a sharper, greater one Of anger came, at knowing 'twas not me, but Ben's old gun, That Rove was after,—well, sir, I just don't mind telling you, But I forgot that moment Ben was up beyond the blue.

Perhaps it was but jealousy—perhaps it was despair, But I just struck him with the gun and broke the bone right there; And then—my very throat seemed choked, for he began to whine With pain—God knows how tenderly I took that dog of mine Up in my arms, and tore my old red necktie into bands To bind the broken leg, while there he lay and licked my hands; And though I cursed my soul, it was the brightest day I knew, Or even cared to live, since Ben went up beyond the blue.

I tell you, Squire, I nursed him just as gently as could be, And now I'm all the world to him, and he's the world to me. Look, sir, at that big, noble soul, right in his faithful eyes, The square, forgiving honesty that deep down in them lies. Eh, Squire? What's that you say? He's got no soul? I tell you, then, He's grander and he's better than the mass of what's called men; And I guess he stands a better chance than many of us do Of seeing Ben some day again, 'way up beyond the blue.



THE MARINER

"Wreck and stray and castaway."—SWINBURNE.

Once more adrift. O'er dappling sea and broad lagoon, O'er frowning cliff and yellow dune, The long, warm lights of afternoon Like jewel dustings sift.

Once more awake. I dreamed an hour of port and quay, Of anchorage not meant for me; The sea, the sea, the hungry sea Came rolling up the break.

Once more afloat. The billows on my moorings press't, They drove me from my moment's rest, And now a portless sea I breast, And shelterless my boat.

Once more away. The harbour lights are growing dim, The shore is but a purple rim, The sea outstretches grey and grim. Away, away, away!

Once more at sea, The old, old sea I used to sail, The battling tide, the blowing gale, The waves with ceaseless under-wail The life that used to be.



LULLABY OF THE IROQUOIS

Little brown baby-bird, lapped in your nest, Wrapped in your nest, Strapped in your nest, Your straight little cradle-board rocks you to rest; Its hands are your nest; Its bands are your nest; It swings from the down-bending branch of the oak; You watch the camp flame, and the curling grey smoke; But, oh, for your pretty black eyes sleep is best,— Little brown baby of mine, go to rest.

Little brown baby-bird swinging to sleep, Winging to sleep, Singing to sleep, Your wonder-black eyes that so wide open keep, Shielding their sleep, Unyielding to sleep, The heron is homing, the plover is still, The night-owl calls from his haunt on the hill, Afar the fox barks, afar the stars peep,— Little brown baby of mine, go to sleep.



THE CORN HUSKER

Hard by the Indian lodges, where the bush Breaks in a clearing, through ill-fashioned fields, She comes to labour, when the first still hush Of autumn follows large and recent yields.

Age in her fingers, hunger in her face, Her shoulders stooped with weight of work and years, But rich in tawny colouring of her race, She comes a-field to strip the purple ears.

And all her thoughts are with the days gone by, Ere might's injustice banished from their lands Her people, that to-day unheeded lie, Like the dead husks that rustle through her hands.



PRAIRIE GREYHOUNDS

C.P.R. "NO. 1," WESTBOUND

I swing to the sunset land— The world of prairie, the world of plain, The world of promise and hope and gain, The world of gold, and the world of grain, And the world of the willing hand.

I carry the brave and bold— The one who works for the nation's bread, The one whose past is a thing that's dead, The one who battles and beats ahead, And the one who goes for gold.

I swing to the "Land to Be," I am the power that laid its floors, I am the guide to its western stores, I am the key to its golden doors, That open alone to me.

C.P.R. "NO. 2," EASTBOUND

I swing to the land of morn; The grey old east with its grey old seas, The land of leisure, the land of ease, The land of flowers and fruits and trees, And the place where we were born.

Freighted with wealth I come; For he who many a moon has spent Far out west on adventure bent, With well-worn pick and a folded tent, Is bringing his bullion home.

I never will be renowned, As my twin that swings to the western marts, For I am she of the humbler parts, But I am the joy of the waiting hearts; For I am the Homeward-bound.



GOLDEN—OF THE SELKIRKS

A trail upwinds from Golden; It leads to a land God only knows, To the land of eternal frozen snows, That trail unknown and olden.

And they tell a tale that is strange and wild— Of a lovely and lonely mountain child That went up the trail from Golden.

A child in the sweet of her womanhood, Beautiful, tender, grave and good As the saints in time long olden.

And the days count not, nor the weeks avail; For the child that went up the mountain trail Came never again to Golden.

And the watchers wept in the midnight gloom, Where the canyons yawn and the Selkirks loom, For the love that they knew of olden.

And April dawned, with its suns aflame, And the eagles wheeled and the vultures came And poised o'er the town of Golden.

God of the white eternal peaks, Guard the dead while the vulture seeks!— God of the days so olden.

For only God in His greatness knows Where the mountain holly above her grows, On the trail that leads from Golden.



THE SONGSTER

Music, music with throb and swing, Of a plaintive note, and long; 'Tis a note no human throat could sing, No harp with its dulcet golden string,— Nor lute, nor lyre with liquid ring, Is sweet as the robin's song.

He sings for love of the season When the days grow warm and long, For the beautiful God-sent reason That his breast was born for song.

Calling, calling so fresh and clear, Through the song-sweet days of May; Warbling there, and whistling here, He swells his voice on the drinking ear, On the great, wide, pulsing atmosphere Till his music drowns the day.

He sings for love of the season When the days grow warm and long, For the beautiful God-sent reason That his breast was born for song.



THISTLE-DOWN

Beyond a ridge of pine with russet tips The west lifts to the sun her longing lips,

Her blushes stain with gold and garnet dye The shore, the river and the wide far sky;

Like floods of wine the waters filter through The reeds that brush our indolent canoe.

I beach the bow where sands in shadows lie; You hold my hand a space, then speak good-bye.

Upwinds your pathway through the yellow plumes Of goldenrod, profuse in August blooms,

And o'er its tossing sprays you toss a kiss; A moment more, and I see only this—

The idle paddle you so lately held, The empty bow your pliant wrist propelled,

Some thistles purpling into violet, Their blossoms with a thousand thorns afret,

And like a cobweb, shadowy and grey, Far floats their down—far drifts my dream away.



THE RIDERS OF THE PLAINS [2]

Who is it lacks the knowledge? Who are the curs that dare To whine and sneer that they do not fear the whelps in the Lion's lair? But we of the North will answer, while life in the North remains, Let the curs beware lest the whelps they dare are the Riders of the Plains; For these are the kind whose muscle makes the power of the Lion's jaw, And they keep the peace of our people and the honour of British law.

A woman has painted a picture,—'tis a neat little bit of art The critics aver, and it roused up for her the love of the big British heart. 'Tis a sketch of an English bulldog that tigers would scarce attack, And round and about and beneath him is painted the Union Jack. With its blaze of colour, and courage, its daring in every fold, And underneath is the title, "What we have we'll hold." 'Tis a picture plain as a mirror, but the reflex it contains Is the counterpart of the life and heart of the Riders of the Plains; For like to that flag and that motto, and the power of that bulldog's jaw, They keep the peace of our people and the honour of British law.

These are the fearless fighters, whose life in the open lies, Who never fail on the prairie trail 'neath the Territorial skies, Who have laughed in the face of the bullets and the edge of the rebels' steel, Who have set their ban on the lawless man with his crime beneath their heel; These are the men who battle the blizzards, the suns, the rains, These are the famed that the North has named the "Riders of the Plains," And theirs is the might and the meaning and the strength of the bulldog's jaw, While they keep the peace of the people and the honour of British law.

These are the men of action, who need not the world's renown, For their valour is known to England's throne as a gem in the British crown; These are the men who face the front, whose courage the world may scan, The men who are feared by the felon, but are loved by the honest man; These are the marrow, the pith, the cream, the best that the blood contains, Who have cast their days in the valiant ways of the Riders of the Plains; And theirs is the kind whose muscle makes the power of old England's jaw, And they keep the peace of her people and the honour of British law.

Then down with the cur that questions,—let him slink to his craven den,— For he daren't deny our hot reply as to "who are our mounted men." He shall honour them east and westward, he shall honour them south and north, He shall bare his head to that coat of red wherever that red rides forth. 'Tis well that he knows the fibre that the great North-West contains, The North-West pride in her men that ride on the Territorial plains,— For of such as these are the muscles and the teeth in the Lion's jaw, And they keep the peace of our people and the honour of British law.

[2] The above is the Territorial pet name for the North-West Mounted Police, and is in general usage throughout Assiniboia, Saskatchewan and Alberta. At a dinner party in Boston the writer was asked, "Who are the North-West Mounted Police?" and when told that they were the pride of Canada's fighting men the questioner sneered and replied, "Ah! then they are only some of British Lion's whelps. We are not afraid of them." His companions applauded the remark.



SILHOUETTE

The sky-line melts from russet into blue, Unbroken the horizon, saving where A wreath of smoke curls up the far, thin air, And points the distant lodges of the Sioux.

Etched where the lands and cloudlands touch and die A solitary Indian tepee stands, The only habitation of these lands, That roll their magnitude from sky to sky.

The tent poles lift and loom in thin relief, The upward floating smoke ascends between, And near the open doorway, gaunt and lean, And shadow-like, there stands an Indian Chief.

With eyes that lost their lustre long ago, With visage fixed and stern as fate's decree, He looks towards the empty west, to see The never-coming herd of buffalo.

Only the bones that bleach upon the plains, Only the fleshless skeletons that lie In ghastly nakedness and silence, cry Out mutely that naught else to him remains.



A PRODIGAL

My heart forgot its God for love of you, And you forgot me, other loves to learn; Now through a wilderness of thorn and rue Back to my God I turn.

And just because my God forgets the past, And in forgetting does not ask to know Why I once left His arms for yours, at last Back to my God I go.



"THROUGH TIME AND BITTER DISTANCE" [3]

Unknown to you, I walk the cheerless shore. The cutting blast, the hurl of biting brine May freeze, and still, and bind the waves at war, Ere you will ever know, O! Heart of mine, That I have sought, reflected in the blue Of these sea depths, some shadow of your eyes; Have hoped the laughing waves would sing of you, But this is all my starving sight descries—

I

Far out at sea a sail Bends to the freshening breeze, Yields to the rising gale That sweeps the seas;

II

Yields, as a bird wind-tossed, To saltish waves that fling Their spray, whose rime and frost Like crystals cling

III

To canvas, mast and spar, Till, gleaming like a gem, She sinks beyond the far Horizon's hem.

IV

Lost to my longing sight, And nothing left to me Save an oncoming night,— An empty sea.

[3] For this title the author is indebted to Mr. Charles G. D. Roberts. It occurs in his sonnet, "Rain."



AT HALF-MAST

You didn't know Billy, did you? Well, Bill was one of the boys, The greatest fellow you ever seen to racket an' raise a noise,— An' sing! say, you never heard singing 'nless you heard Billy sing. I used to say to him, "Billy, that voice that you've got there'd bring A mighty sight more bank-notes to tuck away in your vest, If only you'd go on the concert stage instead of a-ranchin' West." An' Billy he'd jist go laughin', and say as I didn't know A robin's whistle in springtime from a barnyard rooster's crow. But Billy could sing, an' I sometimes think that voice lives anyhow,— That perhaps Bill helps with the music in the place he's gone to now.

The last time that I seen him was the day he rode away; He was goin' acrost the plain to catch the train for the East next day. 'Twas the only time I ever seen poor Bill that he didn't laugh Or sing, an' kick up a rumpus an' racket around, and chaff, For he'd got a letter from his folks that said for to hurry home, For his mother was dyin' away down East an' she wanted Bill to come. Say, but the feller took it hard, but he saddled up right away, An' started across the plains to take the train for the East, next day. Sometimes I lie awake a-nights jist a-thinkin' of the rest, For that was the great big blizzard day, when the wind come down from west, An' the snow piled up like mountains an' we couldn't put foot outside, But jist set into the shack an' talked of Bill on his lonely ride. We talked of the laugh he threw us as he went at the break o' day, An' we talked of the poor old woman dyin' a thousand mile away.

Well, Dan O'Connell an' I went out to search at the end of the week, Fer all of us fellers thought a lot,—a lot that we darsn't speak. We'd been up the trail about forty mile, an' was talkin' of turnin' back, But Dan, well, he wouldn't give in, so we kep' right on to the railroad track. As soon as we sighted them telegraph wires says Dan, "Say, bless my soul! Ain't that there Bill's red handkerchief tied half way up that pole?" Yes, sir, there she was, with her ends a-flippin' an' flyin' in the wind, An' underneath was the envelope of Bill's letter tightly pinned. "Why, he must a-boarded the train right here," says Dan, but I kinder knew That underneath them snowdrifts we would find a thing or two; Fer he'd writ on that there paper, "Been lost fer hours,—all hope is past. You'll find me, boys, where my handkerchief is flyin' at half-mast."



THE SLEEPING GIANT

(THUNDER BAY, LAKE SUPERIOR)

When did you sink to your dreamless sleep Out there in your thunder bed? Where the tempests sweep, And the waters leap, And the storms rage overhead.

Were you lying there on your couch alone Ere Egypt and Rome were born? Ere the Age of Stone, Or the world had known The Man with the Crown of Thorn.

The winds screech down from the open west, And the thunders beat and break On the amethyst Of your rugged breast,— But you never arise or wake.

You have locked your past, and you keep the key In your heart 'neath the westing sun, Where the mighty sea And its shores will be Storm-swept till the world is done.



THE QUILL WORKER

Plains, plains, and the prairie land which the sunlight floods and fills, To the north the open country, southward the Cyprus Hills; Never a bit of woodland, never a rill that flows, Only a stretch of cactus beds, and the wild, sweet prairie rose; Never a habitation, save where in the far south-west A solitary tepee lifts its solitary crest, Where Neykia in the doorway, crouched in the red sunshine, Broiders her buckskin mantle with the quills of the porcupine.

Neykia, the Sioux chief's daughter, she with the foot that flies, She with the hair of midnight and the wondrous midnight eyes, She with the deft brown fingers, she with the soft, slow smile, She with the voice of velvet and the thoughts that dream the while,— "Whence come the vague to-morrows? Where do the yesters fly? What is beyond the border of the prairie and the sky? Does the maid in the Land of Morning sit in the red sunshine, Broidering her buckskin mantle with the quills of the porcupine?"

So Neykia, in the westland, wonders and works away, Far from the fret and folly of the "Land of Waking Day." And many the pale-faced trader who stops at the tepee door For a smile from the sweet, shy worker, and a sigh when the hour is o'er. For they know of a young red hunter who oftentimes has stayed To rest and smoke with her father, tho' his eyes were on the maid; And the moons will not be many ere she in the red sunshine Will broider his buckskin mantle with the quills of the porcupine.



GUARD OF THE EASTERN GATE

Halifax sits on her hills by the sea In the might of her pride,— Invincible, terrible, beautiful, she With a sword at her side.

To right and to left of her, battlements rear And fortresses frown; While she sits on her throne without favour or fear With her cannon as crown.

Coast guard and sentinel, watch of the weal Of a nation she keeps; But her hand is encased in a gauntlet of steel, And her thunder but sleeps.



AT CROW'S NEST PASS

At Crow's Nest Pass the mountains rend Themselves apart, the rivers wend A lawless course about their feet, And breaking into torrents beat In useless fury where they blend At Crow's Nest Pass.

The nesting eagle, wise, discreet, Wings up the gorge's lone retreat And makes some barren crag her friend At Crow's Nest Pass.

Uncertain clouds, half-high, suspend Their shifting vapours, and contend With rocks that suffer not defeat; And snows, and suns, and mad winds meet To battle where the cliffs defend At Crow's Nest Pass.



"GIVE US BARABBAS" [4]

There was a man—a Jew of kingly blood, But of the people—poor and lowly born, Accused of blasphemy of God, He stood Before the Roman Pilate, while in scorn The multitude demanded it was fit That one should suffer for the people, while Another be released, absolved, acquit, To live his life out virtuous or vile.

"Whom will ye have—Barabbas or this Jew?" Pilate made answer to the mob, "The choice Is yours; I wash my hands of this, and you, Do as you will." With one vast ribald voice The populace arose and, shrieking, cried, "Give us Barabbas, we condone his deeds!" And He of Nazareth was crucified— Misjudged, condemned, dishonoured for their needs.

And down these nineteen centuries anew Comes the hoarse-throated, brutalized refrain, "Give us Barabbas, crucify the Jew!" Once more a man must bear a nation's stain,— And that in France, the chivalrous, whose lore Made her the flower of knightly age gone by. Now she lies hideous with a leprous sore No skill can cure—no pardon purify.

And an indignant world, transfixed with hate Of such disease, cries, as in Herod's time, Pointing its finger at her festering state, "Room for the leper, and her leprous crime!" And France, writhing from years of torment, cries Out in her anguish, "Let this Jew endure, Damned and disgraced, vicarious sacrifice. The honour of my army is secure."

And, vampire-like, that army sucks the blood From out a martyr's veins, and strips his crown Of honour from him, and his herohood Flings in the dust, and cuts his manhood down. Hide from your God, O! ye that did this act! With lesser crimes the halls of Hell are paved. Your army's honour may be still intact, Unstained, unsoiled, unspotted,—but unsaved.

[4] Written after Dreyfus was exiled.



YOUR MIRROR FRAME

Methinks I see your mirror frame, Ornate with photographs of them. Place mine therein, for, all the same, I'll have my little laughs at them.

For girls may come, and girls may go, I think I have the best of them; And yet this photograph I know You'll toss among the rest of them.

I cannot even hope that you Will put me in your locket, dear; Nor costly frame will I look through, Nor bide in your breast pocket, dear.

For none your heart monopolize, You favour such a nest of them. So I but hope your roving eyes Seek mine among the rest of them.

For saucy sprite, and noble dame, And many a dainty maid of them Will greet me in your mirror frame, And share your kisses laid on them.

And yet, sometimes I fancy, dear, You hold me as the best of them. So I'm content if I appear To-night with all the rest of them.



THE CITY AND THE SEA

I

To none the city bends a servile knee; Purse-proud and scornful, on her heights she stands, And at her feet the great white moaning sea Shoulders incessantly the grey-gold sands,— One the Almighty's child since time began, And one the might of Mammon, born of clods; For all the city is the work of man, But all the sea is God's.

II

And she—between the ocean and the town— Lies cursed of one and by the other blest: Her staring eyes, her long drenched hair, her gown, Sea-laved and soiled and dank above her breast. She, image of her God since life began, She, but the child of Mammon, born of clods, Her broken body spoiled and spurned of man, But her sweet soul is God's.



FIRE-FLOWERS

And only where the forest fires have sped, Scorching relentlessly the cool north lands, A sweet wild flower lifts its purple head, And, like some gentle spirit sorrow-fed, It hides the scars with almost human hands.

And only to the heart that knows of grief, Of desolating fire, of human pain, There comes some purifying sweet belief, Some fellow-feeling beautiful, if brief. And life revives, and blossoms once again.



A TOAST

There's wine in the cup, Vancouver, And there's warmth in my heart for you, While I drink to your health, your youth, and your wealth, And the things that you yet will do. In a vintage rare and olden, With a flavour fine and keen, Fill the glass to the edge, while I stand up to pledge My faith to my western queen.

Then here's a Ho! Vancouver, in wine of the bonniest hue, With a hand on my hip and the cup at my lip, And a love in my life for you. For you are a jolly good fellow, with a great, big heart, I know; So I drink this toast To the "Queen of the Coast." Vancouver, here's a Ho!

And here's to the days that are coming, And here's to the days that are gone, And here's to your gold and your spirit bold, And your luck that has held its own; And here's to your hands so sturdy, And here's to your hearts so true, And here's to the speed of the day decreed That brings me again to you.

Then here's a Ho! Vancouver, in wine of the bonniest hue, With a hand on my hip and the cup at my lip, And a love in my life for you. For you are a jolly good fellow, with a great, big heart, I know; So I drink this toast To the "Queen of the Coast." Vancouver, here's a Ho!



LADY ICICLE

Little Lady Icicle is dreaming in the north-land And gleaming in the north-land, her pillow all a-glow; For the frost has come and found her With an ermine robe around her Where little Lady Icicle lies dreaming in the snow.

Little Lady Icicle is waking in the north-land, And shaking in the north-land her pillow to and fro; And the hurricane a-skirling Sends the feathers all a-whirling Where little Lady Icicle is waking in the snow.

Little Lady Icicle is laughing in the north-land, And quaffing in the north-land her wines that overflow; All the lakes and rivers crusting That her finger-tips are dusting, Where little Lady Icicle is laughing in the snow.

Little Lady Icicle is singing in the north-land, And bringing from the north-land a music wild and low; And the fairies watch and listen Where her silver slippers glisten, As little Lady Icicle goes singing through the snow.

Little Lady Icicle is coming from the north-land, Benumbing all the north-land where'er her feet may go; With a fringe of frost before her And a crystal garment o'er her, Little Lady Icicle is coming with the snow.



THE LEGEND OF QU'APPELLE VALLEY

I am the one who loved her as my life, Had watched her grow to sweet young womanhood; Won the dear privilege to call her wife, And found the world, because of her, was good. I am the one who heard the spirit voice, Of which the paleface settlers love to tell; From whose strange story they have made their choice Of naming this fair valley the "Qu'Appelle."

She had said fondly in my eager ear— "When Indian summer smiles with dusky lip, Come to the lakes, I will be first to hear The welcome music of thy paddle dip. I will be first to lay in thine my hand, To whisper words of greeting on the shore; And when thou would'st return to thine own land, I'll go with thee, thy wife for evermore."

Not yet a leaf had fallen, not a tone Of frost upon the plain ere I set forth, Impatient to possess her as my own— This queen of all the women of the North. I rested not at even or at dawn, But journeyed all the dark and daylight through— Until I reached the Lakes, and, hurrying on, I launched upon their bosom my canoe.

Of sleep or hunger then I took no heed, But hastened o'er their leagues of waterways; But my hot heart outstripped my paddle's speed And waited not for distance or for days, But flew before me swifter than the blade Of magic paddle ever cleaved the Lake, Eager to lay its love before the maid, And watch the lovelight in her eyes awake.

So the long days went slowly drifting past; It seemed that half my life must intervene Before the morrow, when I said at last— "One more day's journey and I win my queen!" I rested then, and, drifting, dreamed the more Of all the happiness I was to claim,— When suddenly from out the shadowed shore, I heard a voice speak tenderly my name.

"Who calls?" I answered; no reply; and long I stilled my paddle blade and listened. Then Above the night wind's melancholy song I heard distinctly that strange voice again— A woman's voice, that through the twilight came Like to a soul unborn—a song unsung.

I leaned and listened—yes, she spoke my name, And then I answered in the quaint French tongue, "Qu'Appelle? Qu'Appelle?" No answer, and the night Seemed stiller for the sound, till round me fell The far-off echoes from the far-off height— "Qu'Appelle?" my voice came back, "Qu'Appelle? Qu'Appelle?" This—and no more; I called aloud until I shuddered as the gloom of night increased, And, like a pallid spectre wan and chill, The moon arose in silence in the east.

I dare not linger on the moment when My boat I beached beside her tepee door; I heard the wail of women and of men,— I saw the death-fires lighted on the shore. No language tells the torture or the pain, The bitterness that flooded all my life,— When I was led to look on her again, That queen of women pledged to be my wife. To look upon the beauty of her face, The still closed eyes, the lips that knew no breath; To look, to learn,—to realize my place Had been usurped by my one rival—Death. A storm of wrecking sorrow beat and broke About my heart, and life shut out its light Till through my anguish some one gently spoke, And said, "Twice did she call for thee last night."

I started up—and bending o'er my dead, Asked when did her sweet lips in silence close. "She called thy name—then passed away," they said, "Just on the hour whereat the moon arose."

Among the lonely Lakes I go no more, For she who made their beauty is not there; The paleface rears his tepee on the shore And says the vale is fairest of the fair. Full many years have vanished since, but still The voyageurs beside the campfire tell How, when the moonrise tips the distant hill, They hear strange voices through the silence swell. The paleface loves the haunted lakes they say, And journeys far to watch their beauty spread Before his vision; but to me the day, The night, the hour, the seasons are all dead. I listen heartsick, while the hunters tell Why white men named the valley The Qu'Appelle.



THE ART OF ALMA-TADEMA

There is no song his colours cannot sing, For all his art breathes melody, and tunes The fine, keen beauty that his brushes bring To murmuring marbles and to golden Junes.

The music of those marbles you can hear In every crevice, where the deep green stains Have sunken when the grey days of the year Spilled leisurely their warm, incessant rains

That, lingering, forget to leave the ledge, But drenched into the seams, amid the hush Of ages, leaving but the silent pledge To waken to the wonder of his brush.

And at the Master's touch the marbles leap To life, the creamy onyx and the skins Of copper-coloured leopards, and the deep, Cool basins where the whispering water wins

Reflections from the gold and glowing sun, And tints from warm, sweet human flesh, for fair And subtly lithe and beautiful, leans one— A goddess with a wealth of tawny hair.



GOOD-BYE

Sounds of the seas grow fainter, Sounds of the sands have sped; The sweep of gales, The far white sails, Are silent, spent and dead.

Sounds of the days of summer Murmur and die away, And distance hides The long, low tides, As night shuts out the day.



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS

(These miscellaneous poems are all of later date.)



IN GREY DAYS

Measures of oil for others, Oil and red wine, Lips laugh and drink, but never Are the lips mine.

Worlds at the feet of others, Power gods have known, Hearts for the favoured round me Mine beats, alone.

Fame offering to others Chaplets of bays, I with no crown of laurels, Only grey days.

Sweet human love for others, Deep as the sea, God-sent unto my neighbour— But not to me.

Sometime I'll wrest from others More than all this, I shall demand from Heaven Far sweeter bliss.

What profit then to others, Laughter and wine? I'll have what most they covet— Death, will be mine.



BRANDON

(ACROSTIC)

Born on the breast of the prairie, she smiles to her sire—the sun, Robed in the wealth of her wheat-lands, gift of her mothering soil, Affluence knocks at her gateways, opulence waits to be won. Nuggets of gold are her acres, yielding and yellow with spoil, Dream of the hungry millions, dawn of the food-filled age, Over the starving tale of want her fingers have turned the page; Nations will nurse at her storehouse, and God gives her grain for wage.



THE INDIAN CORN PLANTER

He needs must leave the trapping and the chase, For mating game his arrows ne'er despoil, And from the hunter's heaven turn his face, To wring some promise from the dormant soil.

He needs must leave the lodge that wintered him, The enervating fires, the blanket bed— The women's dulcet voices, for the grim Realities of labouring for bread.

So goes he forth beneath the planter's moon With sack of seed that pledges large increase, His simple pagan faith knows night and noon, Heat, cold, seedtime and harvest shall not cease.

And yielding to his needs, this honest sod, Brown as the hand that tills it, moist with rain, Teeming with ripe fulfilment, true as God, With fostering richness, mothers every grain.



THE CATTLE COUNTRY

Up the dusk-enfolded prairie, Foot-falls, soft and sly, Velvet cushioned, wild and wary, Then—the coyote's cry.

Rush of hoofs, and roar and rattle, Beasts of blood and breed, Twenty thousand frightened cattle, Then—the wild stampede.

Pliant lasso circling wider In the frenzied flight— Loping horse and cursing rider, Plunging through the night.

Rim of dawn the darkness losing Trail of blackened soil; Perfume of the sage brush oozing On the air like oil.

Foothills to the Rockies lifting Brown, and blue, and green, Warm Alberta sunlight drifting Over leagues between.

That's the country of the ranges, Plain and prairie land, And the God who never changes Holds it in His hand.



AUTUMN'S ORCHESTRA

(INSCRIBED TO ONE BEYOND SEAS)

Know by the thread of music woven through This fragile web of cadences I spin, That I have only caught these songs since you Voiced them upon your haunting violin.

THE OVERTURE

October's orchestra plays softly on The northern forest with its thousand strings, And Autumn, the conductor wields anon The Golden-rod— The baton that he swings.

THE FIRS

There is a lonely minor chord that sings Faintly and far along the forest ways, When the firs finger faintly on the strings Of that rare violin the night wind plays, Just as it whispered once to you and me Beneath the English pines beyond the sea.

MOSSES

The lost wind wandering, forever grieves Low overhead, Above grey mosses whispering of leaves Fallen and dead. And through the lonely night sweeps their refrain Like Chopin's prelude, sobbing 'neath the rain.

THE VINE

The wild grape mantling the trail and tree, Festoons in graceful veils its drapery, Its tendrils cling, as clings the memory stirred By some evasive haunting tune, twice heard.

THE MAPLE

I

It is the blood-hued maple straight and strong, Voicing abroad its patriotic song.

II

Its daring colours bravely flinging forth The ensign of the Nation of the North.

HARE-BELL

Elfin bell in azure dress, Chiming all day long, Ringing through the wilderness Dulcet notes of song. Daintiest of forest flowers Weaving like a spell— Music through the Autumn hours, Little Elfin bell.

THE GIANT OAK

And then the sound of marching armies 'woke Amid the branches of the soldier oak, And tempests ceased their warring cry, and dumb The lashing storms that muttered, overcome, Choked by the heralding of battle smoke, When these gnarled branches beat their martial drum.

ASPENS

A sweet high treble threads its silvery song, Voice of the restless aspen, fine and thin It trills its pure soprano, light and long— Like the vibretto of a mandolin.

FINALE

The cedar trees have sung their vesper hymn, And now the music sleeps— Its benediction falling where the dim Dusk of the forest creeps. Mute grows the great concerto—and the light Of day is darkening, Good-night, Good-night. But through the night time I shall hear within The murmur of these trees, The calling of your distant violin Sobbing across the seas, And waking wind, and star-reflected light Shall voice my answering. Good-night, Good-night.



THE TRAIL TO LILLOOET

Sob of fall, and song of forest, come you here on haunting quest, Calling through the seas and silence, from God's country of the west. Where the mountain pass is narrow, and the torrent white and strong, Down its rocky-throated canyon, sings its golden-throated song.

You are singing there together through the God-begotten nights, And the leaning stars are listening above the distant heights That lift like points of opal in the crescent coronet About whose golden setting sweeps the trail to Lillooet.

Trail that winds and trail that wanders, like a cobweb hanging high, Just a hazy thread outlining mid-way of the stream and sky, Where the Fraser River canyon yawns its pathway to the sea, But half the world has shouldered up between its song and me.

Here, the placid English August, and the sea-encircled miles, There—God's copper-coloured sunshine beating through the lonely aisles Where the waterfalls and forest voice for ever their duet, And call across the canyon on the trail to Lillooet.



CANADA

(ACROSTIC)

Crown of her, young Vancouver; crest of her, old Quebec; Atlantic and far Pacific sweeping her, keel to deck. North of her, ice and arctics; southward a rival's stealth; Aloft, her Empire's pennant; below, her nation's wealth. Daughter of men and markets, bearing within her hold, Appraised at highest value, cargoes of grain and gold.



THE LIFTING OF THE MIST

All the long day the vapours played At blindfold in the city streets, Their elfin fingers caught and stayed The sunbeams, as they wound their sheets Into a filmy barricade 'Twixt earth and where the sunlight beats.

A vagrant band of mischiefs these, With wings of grey and cobweb gown; They live along the edge of seas, And creeping out on foot of down, They chase and frolic, frisk and tease At blind-man's buff with all the town.

And when at eventide the sun Breaks with a glory through their grey, The vapour-fairies, one by one, Outspread their wings and float away In clouds of colouring, that run Wine-like along the rim of day.

Athwart the beauty and the breast Of purpling airs they twirl and twist, Then float away to some far rest, Leaving the skies all colour-kiss't— A glorious and a golden West That greets the Lifting of the Mist.



THE HOMING BEE

You are belted with gold, little brother of mine, Yellow gold, like the sun That spills in the west, as a chalice of wine When feasting is done.

You are gossamer-winged, little brother of mine, Tissue winged, like the mist That broods where the marshes melt into a line Of vapour sun-kissed.

You are laden with sweets, little brother of mine, Flower sweets, like the touch Of hands we have longed for, of arms that entwine, Of lips that love much.

You are better than I, little brother of mine, Than I, human-souled, For you bring from the blossoms and red summer shine, For others, your gold.



THE LOST LAGOON

It is dusk on the Lost Lagoon, And we two dreaming the dusk away, Beneath the drift of a twilight grey, Beneath the drowse of an ending day, And the curve of a golden moon.

It is dark in the Lost Lagoon, And gone are the depths of haunting blue, The grouping gulls, and the old canoe, The singing firs, and the dusk and—you, And gone is the golden moon.

O! lure of the Lost Lagoon,— I dream to-night that my paddle blurs The purple shade where the seaweed stirs, I hear the call of the singing firs In the hush of the golden moon.



THE TRAIN DOGS

Out of the night and the north; Savage of breed and of bone, Shaggy and swift comes the yelping band, Freighters of fur from the voiceless land That sleeps in the Arctic zone.

Laden with skins from the north, Beaver and bear and raccoon, Marten and mink from the polar belts, Otter and ermine and sable pelts— The spoils of the hunter's moon.

Out of the night and the north, Sinewy, fearless and fleet, Urging the pack through the pathless snow, The Indian driver, calling low, Follows with moccasined feet.

Ships of the night and the north, Freighters on prairies and plains, Carrying cargoes from field and flood They scent the trail through their wild red blood, The wolfish blood in their veins.



THE KING'S CONSORT

I

Love, was it yesternoon, or years agone, You took in yours my hands, And placed me close beside you on the throne Of Oriental lands?

The truant hour came back at dawn to-day, Across the hemispheres, And bade my sleeping soul retrace its way These many hundred years.

And all my wild young life returned, and ceased The years that lie between, When you were King of Egypt, and The East, And I was Egypt's queen.

II

I feel again the lengths of silken gossamer enfold My body and my limbs in robes of emerald and gold. I feel the heavy sunshine, and the weight of languid heat That crowned the day you laid the royal jewels at my feet.

You wound my throat with jacinths, green and glist'ning serpent-wise, My hot, dark throat that pulsed beneath the ardour of your eyes; And centuries have failed to cool the memory of your hands That bound about my arms those massive, pliant golden bands.

You wreathed around my wrists long ropes of coral and of jade, And beaten gold that clung like coils of kisses love-inlaid; About my naked ankles tawny topaz chains you wound, With clasps of carven onyx, ruby-rimmed and golden bound.

But not for me the Royal Pearls to bind about my hair, "Pearls were too passionless," you said, for one like me to wear, I must have all the splendour, all the jewels warm as wine, But pearls so pale and cold were meant for other flesh than mine.

But all the blood-warm beauty of the gems you thought my due Were pallid as a pearl beside the love I gave to you; O! Love of mine come back across the years that lie between, When you were King of Egypt—Dear, and I was Egypt's Queen.



WHEN GEORGE WAS KING

Cards, and swords, and a lady's love, That is a tale worth reading, An insult veiled, a downcast glove, And rapiers leap unheeding. And 'tis O! for the brawl, The thrust, the fall, And the foe at your feet a-bleeding.

Tales of revel at wayside inns, The goblets gaily filling, Braggarts boasting a thousand sins, Though none can boast a shilling. And 'tis O! for the wine, The frothing stein, And the clamour of cups a-spilling.

Tales of maidens in rich brocade, Powder and puff and patches, Gallants lilting a serenade Of old-time trolls and catches. And 'tis O! for the lips And the finger tips, And the kiss that the boldest snatches.

Tales of buckle and big rosette, The slender shoe adorning, Of curtseying through the minuet With laughter, love, or scorning. And 'tis O! for the shout Of the roustabout, As he hies him home in the morning.

Cards and swords, and a lady's love, Give to the tale God-speeding, War and wassail, and perfumed glove, And all that's rare in reading. And 'tis O! for the ways Of the olden days, And a life that was worth the leading.



DAY DAWN

All yesterday the thought of you was resting in my soul, And when sleep wandered o'er the world that very thought she stole To fill my dreams with splendour such as stars could not eclipse, And in the morn I wakened with your name upon my lips.

Awakened, my beloved, to the morning of your eyes, Your splendid eyes, so full of clouds, wherein a shadow tries To overcome the flame that melts into the world of grey, As coming suns dissolve the dark that veils the edge of day.

Cool drifts the air at dawn of day, cool lies the sleeping dew, But all my heart is burning, for it woke from dreams of you; And O! these longing eyes of mine look out and only see A dying night, a waking day, and calm on all but me.

So gently creeps the morning through the heavy air, The dawn grey-garbed and velvet-shod is wandering everywhere To wake the slumber-laden hours that leave their dreamless rest, With outspread, laggard wings to court the pillows of the west.

Up from the earth a moisture steals with odours fresh and soft, A smell of moss and grasses warm with dew, and far aloft The stars are growing colourless, while drooping in the west, A late, wan moon is paling in a sky of amethyst.

The passing of the shadows, as they waft their pinions near, Has stirred a tender wind within the night-hushed atmosphere, That in its homeless wanderings sobs in an undertone An echo to my heart that sobbing calls for you alone.

The night is gone, beloved, and another day set free, Another day of hunger for the one I may not see. What care I for the perfect dawn? the blue and empty skies? The night is always mine without the morning of your eyes.



THE ARCHERS

I

Stripped to the waist, his copper-coloured skin Red from the smouldering heat of hate within, Lean as a wolf in winter, fierce of mood— As all wild things that hunt for foes, or food— War paint adorning breast and thigh and face, Armed with the ancient weapons of his race, A slender ashen bow, deer sinew strung, And flint-tipped arrow each with poisoned tongue,— Thus does the Red man stalk to death his foe, And sighting him strings silently his bow, Takes his unerring aim, and straight and true The arrow cuts in flight the forest through, A flint which never made for mark and missed, And finds the heart of his antagonist. Thus has he warred and won since time began, Thus does the Indian bring to earth his man.

II

Ungarmented, save for a web that lies In fleecy folds across his impish eyes, A tiny archer takes his way intent On mischief, which is his especial bent. Across his shoulder lies a quiver, filled With arrows dipped in honey, thrice distilled From all the roses brides have ever worn Since that first wedding out of Eden born. Beneath a cherub face and dimpled smile This youthful hunter hides a heart of guile; His arrows aimed at random fly in quest Of lodging-place within some blameless breast. But those he wounds die happily, and so Blame not young Cupid with his dart and bow: Thus has he warred and won since time began, Transporting into Heaven both maid and man.



THE WOLF

Like a grey shadow lurking in the light, He ventures forth along the edge of night; With silent foot he scouts the coulie's rim And scents the carrion awaiting him. His savage eyeballs lurid with a flare Seen but in unfed beasts which leave their lair To wrangle with their fellows for a meal Of bones ill-covered. Sets he forth to steal, To search and snarl and forage hungrily; A worthless prairie vagabond is he. Luckless the settler's heifer which astray Falls to his fangs and violence a prey; Useless her blatant calling when his teeth Are fast upon her quivering flank—beneath His fell voracity she falls and dies With inarticulate and piteous cries, Unheard, unheeded in the barren waste, To be devoured with savage greed and haste. Up the horizon once again he prowls And far across its desolation howls; Sneaking and satisfied his lair he gains And leaves her bones to bleach upon the plains.



THE MAN IN CHRYSANTHEMUM LAND

WRITTEN FOR "THE SPECTATOR"

There's a brave little berry-brown man At the opposite side of the earth; Of the White, and the Black, and the Tan, He's the smallest in compass and girth. O! he's little, and lively, and Tan, And he's showing the world what he's worth. For his nation is born, and its birth Is for hardihood, courage, and sand, So you take off your cap To the brave little Jap Who fights for Chrysanthemum Land.

Near the house that the little man keeps, There's a Bug-a-boo building its lair; It prowls, and it growls, and it sleeps At the foot of his tiny back stair. But the little brown man never sleeps, For the Brownie will battle the Bear— He has soldiers and ships to command; So take off you cap To the brave little Jap Who fights for Chrysanthemum Land.

Uncle Sam stands a-watching near by, With his finger aside of his nose— John Bull with a wink in his eye, Looks round to see how the wind blows— O! jolly old John, with his eye Ever set on the East and its woes. More than hoeing their own little rows These wary old wags understand, But they take off their caps To the brave little Japs Who fight for Chrysanthemum Land.

Now he's given us Geishas, and themes For operas, stories, and plays, His silks and his chinas are dreams, And we copy his quaint little ways; O! we look on his land in our dreams, But his value we failed to appraise, For he'll gather his laurels and bays— His Cruisers and Columns are manned, And we take off our caps To the brave little Japs Who fight for Chrysanthemum Land.



CALGARY OF THE PLAINS

Not of the seething cities with their swarming human hives, Their fetid airs, their reeking streets, their dwarfed and poisoned lives, Not of the buried yesterdays, but of the days to be, The glory and the gateway of the yellow West is she.

The Northern Lights dance down her plains with soft and silvery feet, The sunrise gilds her prairies when the dawn and daylight meet; Along her level lands the fitful southern breezes sweep, And beyond her western windows the sublime old mountains sleep.

The Redman haunts her portals, and the Paleface treads her streets, The Indian's stealthy footstep with the course of commerce meets, And hunters whisper vaguely of the half forgotten tales Of phantom herds of bison lurking on her midnight trails.

Not hers the lore of olden lands, their laurels and their bays; But what are these, compared to one of all her perfect days? For naught can buy the jewel that upon her forehead lies— The cloudless sapphire Heaven of her territorial skies.



THE BALLAD OF YAADA [5]

(A LEGEND OF THE PACIFIC COAST)

There are fires on Lulu Island, and the sky is opalescent With the pearl and purple tinting from the smouldering of peat. And the Dream Hills lift their summits in a sweeping, hazy crescent, With the Capilano canyon at their feet.

There are fires on Lulu Island, and the smoke, uplifting, lingers In a faded scarf of fragrance as it creeps across the day, And the Inlet and the Narrows blur beneath its silent fingers, And the canyon is enfolded in its grey.

But the sun its face is veiling like a cloistered nun at vespers; As towards the alter candles of the night a censer swings, And the echo of tradition wakes from slumbering and whispers, Where the Capilano river sobs and sings.

It was Yaada, lovely Yaada, who first taught the stream its sighing, For 'twas silent till her coming, and 'twas voiceless as the shore; But throughout the great forever it will sing the song undying That the lips of lovers sing for evermore.

He was chief of all the Squamish, and he ruled the coastal waters— And he warred upon her people in the distant Charlotte Isles; She, a winsome basket weaver, daintiest of Haida daughters, Made him captive to her singing and her smiles.

Till his hands forgot to havoc and his weapons lost their lusting, Till his stormy eyes allured her from the land of Totem Poles, Till she followed where he called her, followed with a woman's trusting, To the canyon where the Capilano rolls.

And the women of the Haidas plied in vain their magic power, Wailed for many moons her absence, wailed for many moons their prayer, "Bring her back, O Squamish foeman, bring to us our Yaada flower!" But the silence only answered their despair.

But the men were swift to battle, swift to cross the coastal water, Swift to war and swift of weapon, swift to paddle trackless miles, Crept with stealth along the canyon, stole her from her love and brought her Once again unto the distant Charlotte Isles.

But she faded, ever faded, and her eyes were ever turning Southward toward the Capilano, while her voice had hushed its song, And her riven heart repeated words that on her lips were burning: "Not to friend—but unto foeman I belong.

"Give me back my Squamish lover—though you hate, I still must love him. "Give me back the rugged canyon where my heart must ever be— Where his lodge awaits my coming, and the Dream Hills lift above him, And the Capilano learned its song from me."

But through long-forgotten seasons, moons too many to be numbered, He yet waited by the canyon—she called across the years, And the soul within the river, though centuries had slumbered, Woke to sob a song of womanly tears.

For her little, lonely spirit sought the Capilano canyon, When she died among the Haidas in the land of Totem Poles, And you yet may hear her singing to her lover-like companion, If you listen to the river as it rolls.

But 'tis only when the pearl and purple smoke is idly swinging From the fires on Lulu Island to the hazy mountain crest, That the undertone of sobbing echoes through the river's singing, In the Capilano canyon of the West.

[5] "The Ballad of Yaada" is the last complete poem written by the author. It was placed for publication with the "Saturday Night" of Toronto, and did not appear in print until several months after Miss Johnson's death.



"AND HE SAID, FIGHT ON" [6]

(Tennyson)

Time and its ally, Dark Disarmament, Have compassed me about, Have massed their armies, and on battle bent My forces put to rout; But though I fight alone, and fall, and die, Talk terms of Peace? Not I.

They war upon my fortress, and their guns Are shattering its walls; My army plays the cowards' part, and runs, Pierced by a thousand balls; They call for my surrender. I reply, "Give quarter now? Not I."

They've shot my flag to ribbons, but in rents It floats above the height; Their ensign shall not crown my battlements While I can stand and fight. I fling defiance at them as I cry, "Capitulate? Not I."

[6] E. Pauline Johnson died March 7th, 1913. Shortly after the doctors told her that her illness would be her final one, she wrote the above poem, taking a line from Tennyson as her theme.

THE END

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