Poems of Arthur S. Bourinot, 1893-1969

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Biographical Sketch
01. Bears
02. Ducks
03. Stars at Bedtime
04. Hauling Ice
05. Fish
06. Jack in the Pulpit
07. Patter Feet
08. The Partridge is a Drummer
09. The Snow Man
10. Sliding
11. Moths
12. The Four Seasons
13. Pigeons
14. A Gargoyle
15. Old Man Gravity
16. The Coolest Coolest Spot
17. Farmer Fleury
18. The Pine Tree Swing
19. Chippy
20. When I Was a Little Lad
21. Isles of Sunset
22. Laurentian Roads
23. Absence
24. Star O' the West
25. Autumn Leaves
26. Returning
27. Dreaming
28. Rondeau
29. O Moon That Shines To-night
30. from Invocation
31. Canadian Ski Song
32. And Hillward Lies My Home
33. Whitely Comes the Day
34. Old Age
35. from The Laurentians
36. Immortality
37. Proof
38. Canada's Fallen
39. When Peace Has Come

Arthur S. Bourinot (1893-1969)

Biographical Sketch

Arthur Stanley Bourinot spent his childhood in Canada's capital city, Ottawa. His father, Sir John George Bourinot, was Clerk of the House of Commons, and was also fond of hosting literary evenings, so visitors to their house included some of the most well-known Canadian poets of the time (such as Archibald Lampman).

Sir John was about sixty when his two youngest sons were born (Arthur's mother was his third wife), and he died when Arthur was nine years old. His death forced the family to sell their large house, and move to a boarding house "only a short walk from the old home, / But miles from it in other ways." However, Arthur's mother "laughed and cried / And hope never died / In her soul." She sent Arthur to Mr. Guillet's Primary School for Boys in Ottawa, which was very small but somewhat unusual in its teaching approach. Arthur remembered his teacher this way:

He was ahead of his time,
No reason or rhyme,
But he taught nature studies
Snow sculpture, wood carving,
Clay modelling, country walks;
And once upon a time
He threw me down stairs,
I had been too jubilant with the clay . . .
("To and Fro In the Earth: An Autobiography in Verse")

Arthur later recalled summers at the family cottage in the Laurentian Hills, where (he wrote) "the earth was firm and good / Beneath our feet." He also remembered his time at Mr. Guillet's School as marking "the end" of those secure and innocent years of snow sculpture and country walks. He attended high school in Ottawa, and university in Toronto, graduating in 1915, but he was called almost immediately to serve in what was then called the Great War (World War I). In 1917, his plane was shot down, and he spent the rest of the war in German prison camps.

We might expect that it was during that time that Arthur began his career as a poet, describing his experiences as a Canadian soldier, and his longing to return home. Actually he had already published Laurentian Lyrics and Other Poems in 1915, a collection of twenty-four short poems, mostly about nature. But Poems, published in 1921, was his first truly adult work, and it was dedicated to his new wife, Nora.(One of the poems included in that book, "Canada's Fallen," had won a top prize in the Canadian Literary Competition of 1919.)

The arrival of two daughters, Suzette and Esmé, inspired Arthur to write two collections of "children's verse," Pattering Feet (1925) and Ottawa Lyrics / Verses for Children (1929). He also wrote a book, Rhymes of the French Régime, to help the girls with their history homework.

Arthur had also used his time in prison camp to study law; and when the war ended, he was able to complete law school in one year instead of the usual three. He practiced law in Ottawa for most of the rest of his life. He also became a literary critic, and the editor of magazines such as Canadian Poetry Magazine and Canadian Author and Bookman. He continued to publish books of his own poems, including Under the Sun (1939), which won a Governor General's award in that year; a book of Collected Poems in 1947, and Watcher of Men: Selected Poems, 1947-1966, near the end of his life.

The Toronto Evening Telegram once published a review of Arthur Bourinot's poems, saying that "There is a delicacy and fragrance about them; they breathe the love of nature's wide spaces." Like the changing world in which he lived, his poetry also evolved and took on much of the new, freer, more "Canadian" style that was also seen in visual art. While his earlier poetry was never "flowery," and his first book was described as "polished and clean-cut," it was nevertheless fairly traditional in style and subject matter. Later, Arthur began to experiment more and more with very short lines, and less formal punctuation, even when he was writing about traditional subjects such as tulips:

The tulips
are lamps of gold,
signals of red
and yellow
fed by the sun . . .
("The Tulips Are Lamps of Gold")

The Canadian Poetry Magazine used to feature this quote by seventeenthcentury poet Samuel Butler:

"To write not to be understood is no less vaine than to speak not to be heard. Fooles and Madmen talk to themselves in publique, and he that publishes that which he would have no man understand but himself do's the same thing."

Whether he was writing light verse for his children, or a grittier poem about the Great Depression; acting as legal counsel, or editing the papers of Archibald Lampman: Arthur Bourinot wrote to be understood, and spoke to be heard.

"Words are
Haunting things
And like old clothes
Take character
From those
Who use them."
( "Words")

Poems from Pattering Feet: A Book of Childhood Verses (1925)

01. Bears

When I go up to bed at night
The dark I never fear;
After my mother dims the light
Before she goes down-stairs,
I always call out so she'll hear
"O are there any bears?"

But when I'm going up to bed
I always look behind
And turn so fearfully my head
And peer way down the stairs
To make most sure that I won't find
That there are any bears.

I crawl between the crackling sheets
And feel much more secure
But I can hear my heart's swift beats
And footsteps on the stairs,
And so I shout just to make sure
"O are there any bears?"

02. Ducks

I love to watch the waddling ducks,
They are such funny things,
And see them swim around the pond
And flap their foolish wings.

Sometimes in air their tails stick up,
Their heads way down below
While paddle, paddle move their feet
As fast as they can go.

And when they waddle on the land
Too funnily for words
There really is no doubt that ducks
Are most unbalanced birds.

03. Stars at Bedtime

Before I go to bed at night
Before my mother tucks me tight
I love to climb the window sill
And look outside where all is still
And see the little stars come out
Just like the lamps on streets about
The town.

I press my nose against the pane
And watch with all my might and main
The stars that come out one by one
And twinkle back at me in fun
And blink and wink their little eyes,
To see a boy of my small size

And so I bid them all good night
And mother then puts out the light
And lying in my cozy cot
I see one star, a big white dot,
Who nods at me in mild reproof
Then swinging up above the roof
Is gone.

04. Hauling Ice

In the days before refrigerators and freezers, large chunks of ice were cut from frozen lakes and rivers, and stored in ice houses until they were needed for keeping things cool.

Up from the river all day long
Great loads of ice, great horses strong
Have passed the house,
And I have watched them passing by
And wished and wished that some day I
Might sit upon a cake of ice,
For I think that would be so nice
And drive my team from the river.

For I would be a teamster strong
Who is by horses pulled along,
With smoky breath;
Who holds the reins and gravely sits
And loudly smacks great leathern mitts
Or standing while his horses rest
Swings strong arms across his chest
Hauling the ice from the river.

The ice is beautiful, shiny green
Just like the colour I have seen
Through bottle glass;
And it is cut in squares the same
As woodblocks in my building game,
And always piled in just the way
I build the blocks with which I play,
And hauled from the frozen river.

Sometimes I've seen go past my door
A sleigh behind huge horses four
With frosty flanks;
And as I watch them day by day
I hope that sometime on a sleigh
I'll be a driver great and strong
Who drives four horses all day long
With loads of ice from the river.

05. Fish

The little fish are silent
As they swim round and round
Their mouths are ever talking
A speech without a sound.

Now aren't the fishes funny
To swim in water clear
And talk with words so silent
That nobody can hear.

06. Jack in the Pulpit

Did you know that the North American plant called Jack in the Pulpit is a different species from that found in Europe? If you can find a picture of it, you can guess how it came by its name.

Trilliums and Spring Beauty are wildflowers.
Jack in the Pulpit is the gloomiest old lad
He stands in the forest aisles looking very sad
And preaches to the Violets and little Trilliums
The Spring Beauty blanches and trembles when he comes:

All the little flowers stand quaking in their shoes
For just the very sight of him gives them woolly woos
His dress is staid and proper, hooded is his cap
And hanging from his shoulders droops a long striped wrap.
He's a melancholy man, this Hermit of the Wood
The sermons that he murmurs are never understood
And when the flowers hear him they close their eyes and pray
He'll soon leave the pulpit and let them go and play.

07. Patter Feet

Staccato notes are short and sharp.

There's someone in this house of ours
Who, when the daylight breaks,
Comes pattering along the halls
And all the household wakes,
We call her little "Patter-Feet"
For she is like the rain
That comes with its staccato beat
And sings into the brain.

And all throughout the livelong day,
She patters through the house,
And wanders into every room
A noisy little mouse;
But well we know that time is fleet,
And emptied soon life's cup,
And we will lose our Patter-Feet,
For she too must grow up.

And when the last red streaks the sky,
She patters off to bed,
And Mother tucks her in her cot,
And smooths her golden head,
The House is silence then complete
But with the dawning sun
We'll hear our little Patter-Feet
And know the day's begun.

And when she grows up straight and tall
And no more patters round
Ah! then we'll think of childhood days
And childhood's elfish sound.
And when we hear the echoed beat
Of rain at break of day,
We'll say it's little Patter-Feet
Who's coming in to play.

08. The Partridge is a Drummer

A partridge is a medium-sized bird, often hunted for food.

The Partridge is a drummer
Did you never hear him drum?
If you listen in the forest
You will hear him thrum, thrum, thrum.

He beats it with his brown wings
And his drum's an old Pine stump;
If you listen in the forest
You will hear him thump, thump, thump.

But should you go too closely,
He will very quickly stir
If you listen for his brown wings
You will hear them whir, whir, whir.

And then deep in the forest
Throbs the tom-tom of his drum;
If you stand quite still and listen
You will hear the faint thrum, thrum.

09. The Snow Man

I made a great big snow-man
And stood him on his feet
Where he could watch go past him
The people on the street.

I made him from a snow ball
Which I had slowly rolled
Around the lawn and garden
With fingers icy cold.

I patted him and carved him
And made him white and tall,
And placed him so that standing
He overlooked the wall.

He stood there all the winter
And watched the crowds go by,
He wasn't very friendly
Or maybe he was shy.

I never saw him smiling
At any one who came,
I never saw him frowning,
He always looked the same.

He flourished through the winter.
When March came he was thin,
And with the suns of April
He was but bones and skin.

And one day in the spring time
When I came out to play,
I found my poor old snow-man
Had melted all away.

10. Sliding

There's a great big hill beside the house,
And O, but it's so high,
That when you stand on top of it
You think you're near the sky.
And when the snow has covered it
And made it round and white
I take my sled and slide down it,
And steer with all my might.
And when I reach the end of it
I simply hate to stop,
For then I have to turn around
And climb up to the top.

11. Moths

Before the age of electricity, houses were often lighted by oil or kerosene lamps, with glass chimneys.

The little moths are careless
They always singe their wings
Against the hot lamp chimney
While fluttering round in rings.

They never will learn wisdom
They never will be taught,
That lamp chimneys when lighted
Are dangerously hot.

12. The Four Seasons

In winter we have icicles,
Toboggans on the slopes,
In summer we ride bicycles
And skip with skipping ropes.

In autumn we eat apples, plums,
Bon-fires we build with zest.
In spring when maple syrup comes
We think the spring is best.

13. Pigeons

One morning I woke early
I got up with the sun,
And walked down to the market
For marketing is fun.

I chatted with the farmers
And climbed upon their rigs
And patted yellow pumpkins
And grunted at the pigs.

I bought a pair of pigeons
I thought they're sure to please
My very little sister
Who'll feed them on split peas.

I housed them in the stable
And kept them shut up tight
And watched and fed them daily
And always said good-night.

One day I freed my pigeons
And high in air they flew,
Since then I've never seen them
I wonder, now, have you?

14. A Gargoyle

A gargoyle is a feature of Gothic buildings. It is a sculpted head (human, lion, or other) with a spout in its mouth to carry water away from the roof.

Grim old gargoyle
Why do you frown
At the people
From the steeple
Of the church
In the town?

Grim old gargoyle
I've just found out,
That your trouble
Is the bubble
Of the rain
In your spout!

15. Old Man Gravity

"Blouse and brace" mean "shirt and suspenders."

Old Man Gravity is a rough and tumble chap
Daddy says he 'sponsible for every one's mishap:
      He pulls me from the garden wall
      And tumbles me down stairs
      And never seems to care at all
      How much my clothing tears.

Old Man Gravity must be a very old man
For Daddy says he's 'sisted since the world began:
      He holds the water in the pail
      Which round and round I swing
      And pulls the flower pots from the rail
      And does most everything.

And so when I have fallen and dirtied all my face
And climbing 'mongst the apples broken blouse and brace
      My Daddy gives me this advice
      That I must watchful be
      Or I'll be tumbled in a trice
      By Old Man Gravity.

16. The Coolest Coolest Spot

A veranda is a porch.

In summer when it's very hot
And everyone sits still
I know the coolest, coolest spot
It's underneath a hill.

The summer dairy it is called,
It's dug right underground
And solidly with logs its walled
And there on hears no sound.

Upon its walls are rows of shelves,
And shining pewter pans,
That silent sit and cool themselves
And never need a fan.

Beneath the hill it's cool and dim
The walls are painted white,
The pans are full of milk to skim,
A creamy, cooling sight.

On days of simmering, summer heat,
I like to swim a lot,
Or else I go to my retreat
The coolest, coolest spot.

And when I get down underground
I feel just like a mole
Who burrows down from light and sound
In a cool, darksome hole.

I stay there 'til I'm nice and cool
And when I leave the hill,
I pick a bare veranda stool
And try to sit quite still.

17. Farmer Fleury

Arthur's family had a summer cottage in the Gatineau Hills, the foothills of the Laurentian Mountains, and Farmer Fleury lived nearby.

Farmer Fleury has a beard white and long
And a voice that is loud and blythe
And early every morning I'm awakened by his song
And the cling, clang, clong of his scythe.

When birds in the crooked old apple trees
Greet the sun with their breakfast song
I hear old Farmer Fleury's voice a-singing in the breeze
While his scythe goes cling, clang, clong.

I look out the window to watch him swing
His scythe through the sweet grasses long
And see the blade a-flashing, my, how sharply it does ring
As he whets it with a cling, clang, clong.

Farmer Fleury is a jolly old man
And when I hear his rousing shout
I run down to the meadow just as quickly as I can
To help him toss the hay about.

I'm ready for my food at breakfast time
And race at the ring of the gong,
And when I'm eating porridge I can listen to the chime
Of the scythe with its cling, clang, clong.

18. The Pine Tree Swing

      There's a wonderful swing
      On an old Pine tree
      Made of rope and wood
      Where merrily
Up and then down on the seat I ride
A warrior roaming the country side
      On great black steed.

      And the beautiful boughs
      Of the old Pine tree
      Sway up and down
      Like a rolling sea
As I pull the ropes and swing my feet
And course the air on my charger fleet
      A gallant knight.

      On the wonderful swing
      In the old Pine tree
      I travel oft
      And distantly
And ride with a lance couched in my hand
Crusader bound for the Holy Land
      Like Richard bold.

      On this wonderful swing
      In the old Pine tree
      I journey far
      Over land and sea
For yesterday I galloped to Greece
To-morrow I'll search for the Golden Fleece
      An Argonaut.

      But the wonderful swing
      In the old Pine tree
      However far
      And distantly
I may have travelled to unknown climes
Never forgets when it's my meal times
      And swings me home.

19. Chippy

I have a little squirrel
And Chippy is his name
I brought him up on bread and milk
So he is very tame.

I keep him in my pocket
And there he travels round
And goes with me on journeys
Because he sleeps so sound.

He never stirs in day-time
Unless I pull him out,
For he's a flying squirrel
And knows what he's about.

But when at night it darkens
He opens his big eyes
And jumps around my bed-room
And from the bureau flies.

The owls and bats his playmates,
The moon's his only light,
Beneath the star-lit heavens
He flies in jumping flight.

And early in the morning
He crawls into my bed
And only wakens later
The time when he gets fed.

20. When I Was a Little Lad

When I was a little lad
I slept in a tent in the orchard
Where the pink-white apple blossoms bloomed
And all day long the mad bees boomed
And when the dusk came quietly still
Heard the voice of the Whip-poor-Will
Far away in the thickets.

When I was a little lad
My tent was pitched in the orchard
And the white-faced moon came up at night
And drenched the trees with silver light
And peered inside the opened tent
To say good night before he went
On again on his journey.

Poems from Other Volumes

21. Isles of Sunset
from Laurentian Lyrics and Other Poems (1915)

O silent isles of sunset,
Beyond the hills of dream,
Set in a sea of crimson,
I watch thy white sands gleam.

The far off shores of twilight,
'Midst ebbing tides of day,
Shine like dreams of boyhood
And like them pass away.

Bright are the seas in splendour,
Calm as the after life
My dreams lie in their beauty,
Serene, untouched by strife.

O silent isles of sunset,
Beyond the hills of dream,
When the last bird wings westward,
Gone is thy golden gleam.

22. Laurentian Roads
from Laurentian Lyrics and Other Poems (1915)

Sweet are the paths that the traveller treads,
      O'er the Laurentian Hills,
With a song in his heart the warm wind weds,
      Life to live as he wills.

Cool as the meadows by the winding ways,
      Where bob-o-links take flight,
And the uplands allure the sun's last rays,
      The Northern lights by night.

Dark i' the dusk when the night stills the wings,
      The white moths flutter by,
And under the stars the wayfarer sings
      Roving the hills on high.

White are the ways o' the wanderer's home,
      Hush where the tired heart stills;
O, I will return o'er the roads to roam
      Through the Laurentian Hills.

23. Absence
from Laurentian Lyrics and Other Poems (1915)

"Saffron" means golden-yellow. A lea is a meadow.

I cannot rest,
For the swallow's flying,
And blue-birds with saffroned breasts
Blue the lea;
How can I rest?
Earth with night is lying,
And the white star o' the west
Guides to Thee.

I cannot stay
While the winds are calling
And the wild, white horses play
O'er the sea;
How can I stay
With the red leaves falling,
And ways in their windings stray
But to Thee?

24. Star O' the West
from Laurentian Lyrics and Other Poems (1915)

Star O' the West, White Star O' the West,
      Light of the ev'ning sky,
Brighten the dark of the old hill's breast,
      Rise, for my love is nigh.

Star O' the West, White Star O' the West,
      Lamp of the crimson eve,
Light the little bird safe to her nest,
      Come, ere my love must leave.

Star O' the West, White Star O' the West,
      Donor of sleep and dreams,
Shine o'er my love while her tired eyes rest,
      Glow till the daylight gleams.

25. Autumn Leaves
from Laurentian Lyrics and Other Poems (1915)

O sunset leaves of Autumn,
Flushed by the frost's first breath,
Gone is the green of summer,
Glorious is thy death.

O sweet thy birth in April,
Bursting buds of the spring,
But sweeter far the final,
Last radiance you bring.

26. Returning
from Laurentian Lyrics and Other Poems (1915)

I came once more 'midst the Laurentian Hills,
Where love and I with laughter used to stray,
And wandered o'er green uplands where life stills
And fauns and fairies dance at dying day.
The pallid trilliums nodded fast asleep,
With pale, white faces peering through the gloom;
A sweet and subtle incense seemed to creep
Across the silence of the world's broad room
And breath o' dusk was sweet in lilac time
And dark, brown throated birds burst forth in song,
While through the valley rang the evening chime,
And little stars flowered the skies ere long;
Dreaming, I trod the shadowed, dusty way;
Alas, with dawn, my dreams were dimmed and grey.

27. Dreaming
from Poems (1921)

I saw warm sunlight glancing gold on leaves
Which gently swayed and tossed the light that weaves
The interlacing shadows on the ground;
Once more on uplands lone, wind swept, I found
The solitary pine tree standing bare,
The sentinel of stillness, earth and air.

I dreamed of summer evenings when the hush
Of twilight falls amid the odours lush
Of lilacs sweet, and 'top the highest tree
The vesper sparrow sings his melody
When evening draws too swiftly to its close;
And quiet calm and rapturous repose
Allayed unrest till dawn with streams of light
Dispelled the phantom dreams of fleeing night.

28. Rondeau
from Poems (1921)

There is a note included with this poem: "After the French of Charles d'Orléans, 1391-1465." Charles was the Duke of Orléans (now part of France); he was a poet who also spent many years as a prisoner of war (after the Battle of Agincourt). A rondeau was a form of medieval and Renaissance-era French verse, which was often set to music. English-speaking poets have sometimes adapted the rondeau form as well: examples include Paul Laurence Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask" and John McCrae's "In Flanders Fields."

Although the poem is not long, there are several words that may be unfamiliar to younger students (perhaps echoing Duke Charles' courtly vocabulary). A coverlet is a bedcovering. A panoply originally referred to a suit of armour, but now means a splendid display. To disport is to frolic, and jocund means cheerful, lighthearted.

The world has changed her coverlet
      Of winds that blew so bitterly,
      Donning her April drapery
Of laughing sunlight, flower-inset.

And all the birds and beasts now let
      Their voices praise the panoply:
The world has changed her coverlet.

The river, fountain, rivulet
      Disport in jocund livery
      With drops of silver jewelry:
Earth's creatures fairer garments get,
The world has changed her coverlet.

29. O Moon That Shines To-night
from Poems (1921)

Bourinot wrote this poem at his third prison camp, Holzminden, in 1918.

O Moon that shines to-night,
So softly whitely, bright,
Come to me over the hills of light
      Over the hills of dream.
Into the land of love's delight,
Out of the everlasting night,
      Over the hills of dream.

O moon that shines to-night
With softly whitening light,
Bring to me beauteous dreams and bright
      Over the hills of rest;
Bearing the wished and longed-for sight
Out of the everlasting night
      Over the hills of rest.

30. from Invocation
from Poems (1921)

Revels are lively, noisy parties. Languor is the opposite: feeling so tired that one doesn't even want to move! An ingle is a fireplace. (Those familiar with L.M. Montgomery's books will know "Ingleside" as the name of the Blythes' house.)

O Come once more, calm days of autumn, come,
To this our land where summer's splendor goes
The way of all the winding, wayward years
And life is cool and tranquil, calmly dim.

Leave us no vestige of the vaunted past,
When pomp and pageant filled the summer hours,
For we are tired of revel, carnival,
Wanting the languor, wistful loveliness
Which thou dost bring with passiveness benign.
And we will heap with pine the huge stone hearth
Where all the long, dark, solemn autumn eves
The resinous logs will render warmth and dreams,
And love will haunt the ingle's hushing light
O shed around us days with silence dim,
Thou spirit white of everlasting sleep.

31. Canadian Ski Song
from Lyrics from the Hills (1923)

Susurrus is a murmuring or rustling sound.

The hills lie white and silent sleeping in the snow
The trail lies tracked before us, tramped by other skis,
The sky is blue above us, urging us to go
And glide the mantled meadows, breast the upland breeze.

The Sumac cones glow crimson, red against the white,
A Blue-Jay blue and brilliant screams across the trail,
The snow beneath us crunches, faster grows our flight,
As swiftly o'er the waters glide the ships full-sail.

The energy of freedom fills the veins with fire,
The heart beats fast untrammelled, free as clouds that race
We climb and glide the uplands, found the heart's desire,
The rush of air around us, the wind against the face.

The iron hills surround us, solemn in their sleep,
The susurrus of swishing skis fill the atmosphere,
As rhythmically gliding, swift where slopes are steep
We rush the narrow speed way, dropping sudden, sheer.

The ancient and eternal lure of snow and hill,
Now calls and ever will call, stir our lethargy,
Until we glide the ski-trail free of heart and will,
Free of the earth's great uplands, free as the winds are free.

32. And Hillward Lies My Home
from Lyrics from the Hills (1923)

There's a road that leads you onward,
There's the road that lures to roam,
But the road I love leads homeward,
And hillward lies my home.

The great ships set sail seaward,
The small ships breast the foam,
But the ship I love sweep home-bound
With sails that wing me home.

There's a heart that beats to journey,
There's the heart that beats to roam,
But the heart I love beats hearthward
And hillward lies my home.

The north star glistens coldly,
On night's gigantic dome,
But the star of love glows warmly
Above the hills of home.

The west wind is a pilgrim
The south wind sings depart,
But the wind I love blows hillward
And brings me to thy heart.

33. Whitely Comes the Day
from Lyrics from the Hills (1923)

Blackness changes grey
Grayness silver white,
Whitely comes the day,
Goes the passing night;
Birds in clamorous cry,
Glorious comes the sun,
A wagon rattles by,
Now the day's begun.

34. Old Age
from Lyrics from the Hills (1923)

An apple hanging
On the end of the bough
Shrivelled and crinkled and wrinkled
Dried with the suns of the long swooning summer
Ready to fall with the touch
Of the cold wind of death
From the end of the bough.

35. from The Laurentians
from Lyrics from the Hills (1923)

"Antipodes" comes from Greek words meaning "having the feet opposite." The "antipodes of space" means "the opposite end of everywhere."
The firmament usually refers to the sky or the heavens; it can also mean the whole world.

The first snow fell on the hills last night
And the morning broke, slow and white in the east,
Pallid and gray, misting a sumac light
That grew and grew as the speed increased
Of the rising sun as it rolled from sleep
In the far flung antipodes of space,
And rushed with a flushed exultant leap
Into the breadth of heavens white embrace . . .

The hills remain immutable midst the years,
And men of varying races come and go;
The generations live, holding the fears
Of humanity and the procreant flow
Of life proceeds, and high above it all
Tower the high hills, strong and permanent,
Until the sun and final heavens fall
And God's hand hurls the firmament.

And yet, O hills, I think you understand
The depth and height of love, for in your heart,
Lies the eternal patience which the hand
Of your Creator will someday impart
To us, waiting the time of Beauty's birth
And resurrection in our native land,
When comes the rise of wisdom on the earth
O then, high hills, we'll know you understand.

This final group of Bourinot's poems are especially relevant for Remembrance Day.

36. Immortality
from Laurentian Lyrics and Other Poems (1915)

They are not dead, the soldier and the sailor,
Fallen for Freedom's sake;
They merely sleep with faces that are paler
Until they wake.

They will not weep, the mothers, in the years
The future will decree;
For they have died that the battles and the tears
Should cease to be.

They will not die, the victorious and the slain,
Sleeping in foreign soil,
They gave their lives, but to the world is the gain
Of their sad toil.

They are not dead, the soldier and the sailor,
Fallen for Freedom's sake;
They merely sleep with faces that are paler
Until they wake.

37. Proof
from Poems (1921)

O Men who question Immortality
      Behold the loveliness of earth and sky
And learn that life is not futility
      But promises the spirit will not die.

I know from my brave comrades gone before
      That life must be for more than earthly length,
And death is but the swiftly opened door
      Leading to higher aims and greater strength.

38. Canada's Fallen
from Poems (1921)

Careful readers may notice that this poem and the next one are written in sonnet form. (See "The Sonnet Form" in the notes for Archibald Lampman.)

We who are left must wait the years' slow healing,
      Seeing the things they loved, the life they lost--
The clouds that out the east come, huge concealing
      The angry sunset, burnished, tempest-tossed.
How will we bear earth's beauty, visions, wonder,
      Knowing they loved them in the self-same way--
Th' exulting lightning followed by deep thunder,
      Th' exhilaration of each dawning day?
Banners of northern lights for them loom greener,
      Waving as waves the sea-weed's streamered head;
Where bent the swaying wheat, the sunburned gleaner
      Will find in their remembrance flowers of red.
Oh, life must be immortal for their sake:
Oh, earth will rest them gently till they wake.

39. When Peace Has Come
from Poems (1921)

Swart means dark-coloured.

When peace has come, and I return from France,
      I know the places that I'll long to see:
Those hunch-backed hills so full of old romance,
      Where first frail Beauty's visions dawned for me,
And April comes, swift, dancing like a girl,
      With golden tresses flowing in the breeze,
And where swart, autumn leaves disport and whirl,
      In maudlin dance beneath the naked trees.

And I shall see the cottage on the hill,
      With all the loveliness of summer days,
Whose memories to me are haunted still
      By love's sweet voice, the witchery of her ways.
And I shall climb the path and ope the gate,
      When peace has come, if peace comes not too late.

(Vendôme, France, 1916)

If you enjoyed these poems, you may also want to look for later books by Arthur Bourinot, such as Ottawa Lyrics and Verses for Children (they were combined in one volume), or his Collected Poems (1947).

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