Poems of Archibald Lampman, 1861-1899

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Biographical Sketch
The Sonnet Form
01. Among the Millet
02. from April
03. An October Sunset
04. Spring on the River
05. Why Do Ye Call the Poet Lonely
06. Morning on the Lièvre
07. from The Passing of Autumn
08. Nesting Time
09. Across the Pea-Fields
10. Song of the Stream-Drops
11. Between the Rapids
12. Knowledge
13. In November
14. The Loons
15. Solitude
16. The Dog
17. April in the Hills
18. Forest Moods
19. from Favorites of Pan
20. from The Meadow
21. In May
22. The Bird and the Hour
23. from After Rain
24. from At the Ferry
25. from September
26. A Re-assurance
27. By an Autumn Stream
28. Snow
29. In March
30. To the Cricket
31. A Thunderstorm
32. Indian Summer
33. Good Speech
34. White Pansies
35. Winter Uplands
36. The Sweetness of Life

Biographical Sketch

How did a young man born in Morpeth, Ontario, become one of Canada's most important nineteenth-century poets?

A better question, perhaps, is how he could have done or been anything else.

Archibald Lampman's father was a poetry-loving Anglican priest, whose varying church positions caused the family to move fairly often. His mother, according to Lampman himself, was a woman of "valiant will, / Battling long ago" for the well-being and education of her children. At the age of seven, young Archibald contracted rheumatic fever, reportedly because of the damp rectory (priest's house) they were living in at the time. This illness damaged his heart and also caused him to need crutches to walk for several years.

Lampman was taught at home until he was nine, and he was then sent to private English-style prep schools. When he first began school, he was still recovering from his illness and was not able to participate in sports and games. He did regain much of his physical strength, but it seems that his identity before college was mostly one of a gentle, kind, scholarly boy. When he began studying Classics at Trinity College, however, strange reports started to filter back to those who had known him previously. According to Duncan Campbell Scott's memoir, Lampman had become a popular fellow, "and was to be found foremost in any innocent wildness that was afoot . . . He did not work as hard as many, nor did he play so successfully, but he was accepted without reserve." Archibald Lampman had suddenly discovered how to have fun; and while he did work hard at college (including editing the student newspaper, and writing for a literary journal), his penchant for "innocent wildness," along with his own reading and writing interests that sometimes took priority over assigned books, meant that his grades sometimes suffered. But he did earn his degree, with what were then called second-class honours.

After college, Lampman tried teaching in a high school, but found he was unable to keep order in the classroom. Fortunately, a college friend used his family influence to get Lampman a clerk's position in the federal Post Office Department in Ottawa. That might have sounded dull to some, but for Lampman it was the perfect job, in the perfect place. His friend and co-worker Scott (who was also a poet) wrote:

He found in the strenuous climate of the growing city all that is characteristic of Canadian summers and winters. He was on the borders of the wild nature that he loved, and in the midst of a congenial society. To some extent, if not to the limit, he might now follow his inclination. The result was that he began to apply himself steadily to composition . . . His poems were principally composed as he walked either to and from his ordinary employment in the city, upon excursions into the country, or as he paced about his writing-room. Lines invented under these conditions would be transferred to manuscript books, and finally after they had been perfected, would be written out carefully in his clear, strong handwriting in volumes of a permanent kind.

And for the next sixteen years Lampman worked, got married and started a family; his life was "full of high endeavour and of fine accomplishment, but . . . outwardly placid and uneventful." His annual vacation was usually spent camping in some wild spot. Scott wrote:

The only existence he coveted was that of a bushman, to be constantly hidden in the heart of the woods. There he would neither be solitary nor lonely, for the clear distance and the tangled undergrowth were peopled with companionships known to few men nurtured as he was.

Scott also wrote about Lampman's fascination with nature:

He did not win his knowledge of nature from books, but from actual observation and from conversations with men who had studied the science of the special subjects. Without a thought of literature he would intently observe a landscape, a flower or a bird, until its true spirit was revealed to him. Afterwards, it may have been days, weeks or months, he called upon his knowledge, striving to revive his impression and transcribe it.

For several years, Lampman's poems were published mostly in magazines; but in 1888 he used some of his wife's money to self-publish his first book, Among the Millet. His reputation as a poet grew, and in 1895 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

In the autumn of 1896, Lampman and two of his brothers-in-law took a canoe trip "into Lake Temagami by Lake Nipissing down the Metabechawan River to the Ottawa." He seems to have pushed himself unusually hard during that journey; as with so many things he did in his life, he tried to ignore his physical limitations. Scott wrote,

"For heavy burdens and tasks requiring great endurance his physique was ill-fitted, yet there was in the man that robustness of will and tenacity of purpose that prompted him to lift as if he were a giant and paddle as if he were a trapper."

After his return home, Lampman began to experience severe chest pains. For the last two and a half years of his life, he was sometimes able to work at his job, to finish work on a new self-published book of poetry, and even to go camping again; but at other times he was not well, and he began to realize that his time was getting short. He died in February, 1899, leaving his wife Maud and two young children (another son had died in infancy).

In all, he wrote three books of poems, the last of which (Alcyone) was about to go to press at the time of his death. Duncan Campbell Scott used his influence to hold Alcyone back from publication, because he wanted to publish a larger book which would also contain poems not included in the others; this was published in 1900 as The Poems of Archibald Lampman.

In his memoir of Lampman, Duncan Campbell Scott said that his friend was not at all photogenic; that it was impossible to capture "the fascination of his personality" and his "deep, bright, lucid glance" in a still photograph. This short biography has the same limitations; but if Lampman's spirit cannot be captured in a few words, we still have the delight of getting to know him through his poems.

The Sonnet Form

Archibald Lampman enjoyed using the sonnet form of poetry; of his own sonnets he said, "Here after all is my best work."

But what is a sonnet? It is a type of poem that follows several strict rules about length and rhyme. Sonnets ("little songs") were first written several hundred years ago in Italian, but they became popular in other languages as well, including English. They were originally written to express romantic love, but that is one rule that has changed: they can now be written about any subject (such as "The Dog"). Poets writing about nature (such as Lampman) often choose the sonnet form.

English-language sonnets are usually written in iambic pentameter, which is a fancy way of saying that each line of the poem has ten syllables, with the beat or accent on every other syllable. Try reading these lines from Lampman's "Knowledge" out loud as an example:

      To wander like the bee among the flowers
            Till old age find us weary, feet and wings
                  Grown heavy with the gold of many thoughts.

Lampman often uses iambic pentameter in other poems that are not sonnets (such as "An October Sunset"). But what else makes a sonnet, a sonnet? First of all, the first line should state the theme, or the big question or problem, that the rest of the poem is going to be about. The sonnet must (almost always) have fourteen lines, which can be divided (Italian style, think of pizza) into eight lines which might ask a question or present a problem, plus six that try to answer the question. Another type of sonnet (English style, also called Shakespearean because he liked to write them) has three four-line stanzas, plus two lines at the end that form a conclusion. To make things more confusing, many sonnets are printed with all fourteen lines together, so if you want to know what type of sonnet it is, you might have to examine the rhyme scheme (what lines rhyme with what others).

Sonnets have gone in and out of fashion over the years; for instance, in the eighteenth century hardly anyone was writing sonnets in English. The nineteenth-century Romantics such as Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats helped bring the sonnet back to popularity; and since Keats was one of Lampman's favourite poets, it is not surprising that he also wrote in sonnet form. Other poets known for their sonnets include Helen Hunt Jackson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Robert Frost, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Lampman's "The Loons" is a legend-in-a-sonnet, similar to stories like "Why the Robin Has a Red Breast," which involves the legendary figure Glooscap (a sort of caretaker of creation). It begins with an eight-line stanza that introduces a situation ("Once ye were happy"), tells about what happened to change that (Glooscap left), and then moves to a six-line stanza that shows how things are now (the birds "search and wander querulously," looking for their friend). You may want to examine it to see how closely he followed iambic pentameter (you might have to run syllables together), and look at its rhyme scheme. (Do sonnets need to rhyme? The answer is yes, usually; but the American poet Robert Lowell wrote unrhymed sonnets, and won a Pulitzer Prize for them.)

The Loons

Once ye were happy, once by many a shore,
      Wherever Glooscap's gentle feet might stray,
      Lulled by his presence like a dream, ye lay
Floating at rest; but that was long of yore.
He was too good for earthly men; he bore
      Their bitter deeds for many a patient day,
      And then at last he took his unseen way.
He was your friend, and ye might rest no more:

And now, though many hundred altering years
Have passed, among the desolate northern meres
      Still must ye search and wander querulously,
            Crying for Glooscap, still bemoan the light
      With weird entreaties, and in agony
            With awful laughter pierce the lonely night.

01. Among the Millet

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

Millet is a small-seeded grass. Sward is an expanse of short grass, in this case a place where sheep can graze.

The dew is gleaming in the grass,
      The morning hours are seven,
And I am fain to watch you pass,
      Ye soft white clouds of heaven.

Ye stray and gather, part and fold;
      The wind alone can tame you;
I think of what in time of old
      The poets loved to name you.

They called you sheep, the sky your sward,
      A field without a reaper;
They called the shining sun your lord,
      The shepherd wind your keeper.

Your sweetest poets I will deem
      The men of old for moulding
In simple beauty such a dream,
      And I could lie beholding,

Where daisies in the meadow toss,
      The wind from morn till even,
Forever shepherd you across
      The shining field of heaven.

02. from April

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

The grey song-sparrows full of spring have sung
Their clear thin silvery tunes in leafless trees;
The robin hops, and whistles, and among
The silver-tasseled poplars the brown bees
Murmur faint dreams of summer harvestries;
The creamy sun at even scatters down
A gold-green mist across the murmuring town.

By the slow streams the frogs all day and night
Dream without thought of pain or heed of ill,
Watching the long warm silent hours take flight,
And ever with soft throats that pulse and thrill,
From the pale-weeded shallows trill and trill,
Tremulous sweet voices, flute-like, answering
One to another glorying in the spring.

03. An October Sunset

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

An aureole is a circle of light or brightness surrounding something. "Acold" means to grow cold or chilled.

One moment the slim cloudflakes seem to lean
With their sad sunward faces aureoled,
And longing lips set downward brightening
To take the last sweet hand kiss of the king,
Gone down beyond the closing west acold;
Paying no reverence to the slender queen,
That like a curvèd olive leaf of gold
Hangs low in heaven, rounded toward sun,
Or the small stars that one by one unfold
Down the gray border of the night begun.

04. Spring on the River

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

Eddies are circular movements of water, like whirlpools.

O sun, shine hot on the river;
      For the ice is turning an ashen hue,
      And the still bright water is looking through,
      And the myriad streams are greeting you
With a ballad of life to the giver,
      From forest and field and sunny town,
      Meeting and running and tripping down,
With laughter and song to the river.

Oh! the din on the boats by the river;
      The barges are ringing while day avails,
      With sound of hewing and hammering nails,
      Planing and painting and swinging pails,
All day in their shrill endeavour;
      For the waters brim over their wintry cup,
      And the grinding ice is breaking up,
And we must away down the river.

Oh! the hum and the toil of the river;
      The ridge of the rapid sprays and skips:
      Loud and low by the water's lips,
      Tearing the wet pines into strips,
The saw mill is moaning ever.
      The little grey sparrow skips and calls
      On the rocks in the rain of the water falls,
And the logs are adrift in the river.

Oh! restlessly whirls the river;
      The rivulets run and the cataract drones:
      The spiders are flitting over the stones:
      Summer winds float and the cedar moans;
And the eddies gleam and quiver.
      O sun, shine hot, shine long and abide
      In the glory and power of thy summer tide
On the swift longing face of the river.

05. Why Do Ye Call the Poet Lonely

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

Why do ye call the poet lonely,
      Because he dreams in lonely places?
He is not desolate, but only
      Sees, where ye cannot, hidden faces.

06. Morning on the Lièvre

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

The Lièvre River flows through western Quebec and empties into the Ottawa River. Its earlier name in French was Rivière aux Lièvres, "River of the Hares."

Matins are morning prayers.

In 1961, filmmaker David Bairstow brought this and three other Lampman poems to life in a short film, Morning on the Lièvre, which can be found online (it was produced by the National Film Board). The film shows two men paddling down the river, and the beautiful fall landscape around them, as the poems are read aloud.

Far above us where a jay
Screams his matins to the day,
Capped with gold and amethyst,
Like a vapour from the forge
Of a giant somewhere hid,
Out of hearing of the clang
Of his hammer, skirts of mist
Slowly up the woody gorge
Lift and hang.

Softly as a cloud we go,
Sky above and sky below,
Down the river, and the dip
Of the paddles scarcely breaks,
With the little silvery drip
Of the water as it shakes
From the blades, the crystal deep
Of the silence of the morn,
Of the forest yet asleep,
And the river reaches borne
In a mirror, purple grey,
Sheer away
To the misty line of light,
Where the forest and the stream
In the shadow meet and plight,
Like a dream.

From amid a stretch of reeds,
Where the lazy river sucks
All the water as it bleeds
From a little curling creek,
And the muskrats peer and sneak
In around the sunken wrecks
Of a tree that swept the skies
Long ago,
On a sudden seven ducks
With a splashy rustle rise,
Stretching out their seven necks,
One before, and two behind,
And the others all arow,
And as steady as the wind
With a swivelling whistle go,
Through the purple shadow led,
Till we only hear their whir
In behind a rocky spur,
Just ahead.

07. from The Passing of Autumn

from The Poems of Archibald Lampman, 1900

A censer is a holder for incense, often used by a priest.

Silvery-soft by the forest side--
Wine-red, yellow, rose--
The wizard of Autumn, faint, blue-eyed--
Swinging his censer, goes.

08. Nesting Time

from The Poems of Archibald Lampman, 1900

The bees are busy in their murmurous search,
The birds are putting up their woven frames,
And all the twigs and branches of the birch
Are shooting into tiny emerald flames:
The maple leaves are spreading slowly out
Like small red hats, or pointed parasols.
The high-ho flings abroad his merry shout,
The veery from the inner brushwood calls;
The gold-green poplar, jocund as may be,
The sunshine in its laughing heart receives,
And shimmers in the wind innumerably
Through all its host of little lacquered leaves.
And lo! the bob-a-link--he soars and sings,
With all the heart of summer in his wings.

09. Across the Pea-Fields

from The Poems of Archibald Lampman, 1900

Field upon field to westward hum and shine
The gray-green sun-drenched mists of blossoming peas;
Beyond them are great elms and poplar trees
That guard the noon-stilled farm-yards, groves of pine,
And long dark fences muffled thick with vine;
Then the high city, murmurous with mills;
And last, upon the sultry west, blue hills,
Misty, far-lifted, a mere filmy line.
Across these blackening rails into the light
I lean and listen, lolling drowsily;
On the fence corner, yonder to the right,
A red squirrel whisks and chatters; nearer by
A little old brown woman on her knees
Searches the deep hot grass for strawberries.

10. Song of the Stream-Drops

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

By silent forest and field and mossy stone,
      We come from the wooded hill, and we go to the sea.
We labour, and sing sweet songs, but we never moan,
      For our mother, the sea, is calling us cheerily.
We have heard her calling us many and many a day
From the cool grey stones and the white sands far away.

      The way is long, and winding and slow is the track,
            The sharp rocks fret us, the eddies bring us delay,
      But we sing sweet songs to our mother, and answer her back;
            Gladly we answer our mother, sweetly repay.
Oh, we hear, we hear her singing wherever we roam,
Far, far away in the silence, calling us home.

      Poor mortal, your ears are dull, and you cannot hear;
            But we, we hear it, the breast of our mother abeat;
      Low, far away, sweet and solemn and clear,
            Under the hush of the night, under the noontide heat:
And we sing sweet songs to our mother, for so we shall please her best,
Songs of beauty and peace, freedom and infinite rest.

      We sing, and sing, through the grass and the stones and the reeds,
            And we never grow tired, though we journey ever and aye,
      Dreaming, and dreaming, wherever the long way leads,
            Of the far cool rocks and the rush of the wind and the spray.
Under the sun and the stars we murmur and dance and are free,
And we dream and dream of our mother, the width of the sheltering sea.

11. Between the Rapids

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

Although this poem is longer than others, it has extra relevance for Canadian Year Three students who will be reading about the Voyageurs, those who transported furs by canoe. We hear one man's thoughts about how much he misses his home and loved ones.

The point is turned; the twilight shadow fills
      The wheeling stream, the soft receding shore,
And on our ears from deep among the hills
      Breaks now the rapid's sudden quickening roar.
Ah yet the same, or have they changed their face,
      The fair green fields, and can it still be seen,
The white log cottage near the mountain's base,
      So bright and quiet, so home-like and serene?
Ah, well I question, for as five years go,
How many blessings fall, and how much woe.

Aye there they are, nor have they changed their cheer,
      The fields, the hut, the leafy mountain brows;
Across the lonely dusk again I hear
      The loitering bells, the lowing of the cows,
The bleat of many sheep, the stilly rush
      Of the low whispering river, and through all,
Soft human tongues that break the deepening hush
      With faint-heard song or desultory call:
Oh comrades hold; the longest reach is past;
The stream runs swift, and we are flying fast.

The shore, the fields, the cottage just the same,
      But how with them whose memory makes them sweet?
Oh if I called them, hailing name by name,
      Would the same lips the same old shouts repeat?
Have the rough years, so big with death and ill,
      Gone lightly by and left them smiling yet?
Wild black-eyed Jeanne whose tongue was never still,
      Old wrinkled Picaud, Pierre and pale Lisette,
The homely hearts that never cared to range,
While life's wide fields were filled with rush and change.

And where is Jacques, and where is Virginie?
      I cannot tell; the fields are all a blur.
The lowing cows whose shapes I scarcely see,
      Oh do they wait and do they call for her?
And is she changed, or is her heart still clear
      As wind or morning, light as river foam?
Or have life's changes borne her far from here,
      And far from rest, and far from help and home?
Ah comrades, soft, and let us rest awhile,
For arms grow tired with paddling many a mile.

The woods grow wild, and from the rising shore
      The cool wind creeps, the faint wood odours steal;
Like ghosts adown the river's blackening floor
      The misty fumes begin to creep and reel.
Once more I leave you, wandering toward the night,
      Sweet home, sweet heart, that would have held me in;
Whither I go I know not, and the light
      Is faint before, and rest is hard to win.
Ah sweet ye were and near to heaven's gate;
But youth is blind and wisdom comes too late.

Blacker and loftier grow the woods, and hark!
      The freshening roar! The chute is near us now,
And dim the canyon grows, and inky dark
      The water whispering from the birchen prow.
One long last look, and many a sad adieu,
      While eyes can see and heart can feel you yet,
I leave sweet home and sweeter hearts to you,
      A prayer for Picaud, one for pale Lisette,
A kiss for Pierre, my little Jacques, and thee,
A sigh for Jeanne, a sob for Virginie.

Oh, does she still remember? Is the dream
       Now dead, or has she found another mate?
So near, so dear; and ah, so swift the stream;
      Even now perhaps it were not yet too late.
But oh, what matter; for before the night
      Has reached its middle, we have far to go:
Bend to your paddles, comrades; see, the light
      Ebbs off apace; we must not linger so.
Aye thus it is! Heaven gleams and then is gone
Once, twice, it smiles, and still we wander on.

12. Knowledge

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

What is more large than knowledge and more sweet;
      Knowledge of thoughts and deeds, of rights and wrongs,
      Of passions and of beauties and of songs;
Knowledge of life; to feel its great heart beat
Through all the soul upon her crystal seat;
      To see, to feel, and evermore to know;
      To till the old world's wisdom till it grow
A garden for the wandering of our feet.

Oh for a life of leisure and broad hours,
      To think and dream, to put away small things,
            This world's perpetual leaguer of dull naughts;
To wander like the bee among the flowers
      Till old age find us weary, feet and wings
            Grown heavy with the gold of many thoughts.

13. In November

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

The hills and leafless forests slowly yield
      To the thick-driving snow. A little while
      And night shall darken down. In shouting file
The woodmen's carts go by me homeward-wheeled,
Past the thin fading stubbles, half concealed,
      Now golden-grey, sowed softly through with snow,
      Where the last ploughman follows still his row,
Turning black furrows through the whitening field.

Far off the village lamps begin to gleam,
      Fast drives the snow, and no man comes this way;
            The hills grow wintery white, and bleak winds moan
            About the naked uplands. I alone
      Am neither sad, nor shelterless, nor grey,
Wrapped round with thought, content to watch and dream.

14. The Loons

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

Glooscap is a legendary figure of Mi'kmaw culture who cares for creation and restores balance.

Loons are the provincial bird of Ontario, and they are pictured on Canada's one-dollar coin. They are known for their eerie cries.

Meres are lakes or ponds.

Once ye were happy, once by many a shore,
      Wherever Glooscap's gentle feet might stray,
      Lulled by his presence like a dream, ye lay
Floating at rest; but that was long of yore.
He was too good for earthly men; he bore
      Their bitter deeds for many a patient day,
      And then at last he took his unseen way.
He was your friend, and ye might rest no more:

And now, though many hundred altering years
Have passed, among the desolate northern meres
      Still must ye search and wander querulously,
            Crying for Glooscap, still bemoan the light
      With weird entreaties, and in agony
            With awful laughter pierce the lonely night.

15. Solitude

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

How still it is here in the woods. The trees
      Stand motionless, as if they did not dare
      To stir, lest it should break the spell. The air
Hangs quiet as spaces in a marble frieze.
Even this little brook, that runs at ease,
      Whispering and gurgling in its knotted bed,
      Seems but to deepen with its curling thread
Of sound the shadowy sun-pierced silences.

Sometimes a hawk screams or a woodpecker
      Startles the stillness from its fixèd mood
With his loud careless tap. Sometimes I hear
            The dreamy white-throat from some far off tree
      Pipe slowly on the listening solitude
            His five pure notes succeeding pensively.

16. The Dog

from Among the Millet and Other Poems, 1888

      "Grotesque!" we said, the moment we espied him,
      For there he stood, supreme in his conceit,
      With short ears close together and queer feet
Planted irregularly: first we tried him
With jokes, but they were lost; we then defied him
      With bantering questions and loose criticism:
      He did not like, I'm sure, our catechism,
But whisked and snuffed a little as we eyed him.

Then flung we balls, and out and clear away,
      Up the white slope, across the crusted snow,
To where a broken fence stands in the way,
      Against the sky-line, a mere row of pegs,
Quicker than thought we saw him flash and go,
      A straight mad scuttling of four crooked legs.

17. April in the Hills

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

To-day the world is wide and fair
With sunny fields of lucid air,
And waters dancing everywhere;
      The snow is almost gone;
The noon is builded high with light,
And over heaven's liquid height,
In steady fleets serene and white,
      The happy clouds go on.

The channels run, the bare earth steams,
And every hollow rings and gleams
With jetting falls and dashing streams;
      The rivers burst and fill;
The fields are full of little lakes,
And when the romping wind awakes
The water ruffles blue and shakes,
      And the pines roar on the hill.

The crows go by, a noisy throng;
About the meadows all day long
The shore-lark drops his brittle song;
      And up the leafless tree
The nut-hatch runs, and nods, and clings;
The bluebird dips with flashing wings,
The robin flutes, the sparrow sings,
      And the swallows float and flee.

I break the spirit's cloudy bands,
A wanderer in enchanted lands,
I feel the sun upon my hands;
      And far from care and strife
The broad earth bids me forth. I rise
With lifted brow and upward eyes.
I bathe my spirit in blue skies,
      And taste the springs of life.

I feel the tumult of new birth;
I waken with the wakening earth;
I match the bluebird in her mirth;
      And wild with wind and sun,
A treasurer of immortal days,
I roam the glorious world with praise,
The hillsides and the woodland ways,
      Till earth and I are one.

18. Forest Moods

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

There is singing of birds in the deep wet woods,
In the heart of the listening solitudes,
Pewees, and thrushes, and sparrows, not few,
And all the notes of their throats are true.

The thrush from the innermost ash takes on
A tender dream of the treasured and gone;
But the sparrow singeth with pride and cheer
Of the might and light of the present and here.

There is shining of flowers in the deep wet woods,
In the heart of the sensitive solitudes,
The roseate bell and the lily are there,
And every leaf of their sheaf is fair.

Careless and bold, without dream of woe,
The trilliums scatter their flags of snow;
But the pale wood-daffodil covers her face,
Agloom with the doom of a sorrowful race.

19. from Favorites of Pan

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

Pan is the Greek god of the wild, and also of rustic music (such as, Lampman suggests, the croaking of frogs).

A fane is a temple or shrine.

For, long ago, when the new strains
      Of hostile hymns and conquering faiths grew keen,
And the old gods from their deserted fanes,
      Fled silent and unseen,

So, too, the goat-foot Pan, not less
      Sadly obedient to the mightier hand,
Cut him new reeds, and in a sore distress
      Passed out from land to land;

And lingering by each haunt he knew,
      Of fount or sinuous stream or grassy marge,
He set the syrinx to his lips, and blew
      A note divinely large;

And all around him on the wet
      Cool earth the frogs came up, and with a smile
He took them in his hairy hands, and set
      His mouth to theirs awhile,

And blew into their velvet throats;
      And ever from that hour the frogs repeat
The murmur of Pan's pipes, the notes,
      And answers strange and sweet;

And they that hear them are renewed
      By knowledge in some god-like touch conveyed,
Entering again into the eternal mood,
      Wherein the world was made.

20. from The Meadow

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

Here when the cloudless April days begin,
      And the quaint crows flock thicker day by day,
Filling the forests with a pleasant din,
      And the soiled snow creeps secretly away,
Comes the small busy sparrow, primed with glee,
      First preacher in the naked wilderness,
      Piping an end to all the long distress
From every fence and every leafless tree.

Now with soft slight and viewless artifice
      Winter's iron work is wondrously undone;
In all the little hollows cored with ice
      The clear brown pools stand simmering in the sun,
Frail lucid worlds, upon whose tremulous floors
      All day the wandering water-bugs at will,
      Shy mariners whose oars are never still,
Voyage and dream about the heightening shores.

21. In May

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

Tambours are small drums.

Grief was my master yesternight;
      To-morrow I may grieve again;
      But now along the windy plain
            The clouds have taken flight.

The sowers in the furrows go;
      The lusty river brimmeth on;
      The curtains from the hills are gone;
            The leaves are out; and lo,

The silvery distance of the day,
      The light horizons, and between
      The glory of the perfect green,
            The tumult of the May.

The bobolinks at noonday sing
      More softly than the softest flute,
      And lightlier than the lightest lute
            Their fairy tambours ring.

The roads far off are towered with dust;
      The cherry-blooms are swept and thinned;
      In yonder swaying elms the wind
            Is charging gust on gust.

But here there is no stir at all;
      The ministers of sun and shadow
      Horde all the perfumes of the meadow
            Behind a grassy wall.

An infant rivulet wind-free
      Adown the guarded hollow sets,
      Over whose brink the violets
            Are nodding peacefully.

From pool to pool it prattles by;
      The flashing swallows dip and pass,
      Above the tufted marish grass,
            And here at rest am I.

I care not for the old distress,
      Nor if to-morrow bid me moan;
      To-day is mine, and I have known
            An hour of blessedness.

22. The Bird and the Hour

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

The sun looks over a little hill
      And floods the valley with gold--
            A torrent of gold;
And the hither field is green and still;
      Beyond it a cloud outrolled,
      Is glowing molten and bright;
And soon the hill, and the valley and all,
            With a quiet fall,
Shall be gathered into the night.
And yet a moment more,
            Out of the silent wood,
      As if from the closing door
Of another world and another lovelier mood,
      Hear'st thou the hermit pour--
            So sweet! so magical! --
His golden music, ghostly beautiful.

23. from After Rain

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

A sough is a rushing or murmuring sound, like that made by the wind in tree branches. A rillet is a small stream.

For three whole days across the sky,
In sullen packs that loomed and broke,
With flying fringes dim as smoke,
The columns of the rain went by;
At every hour the wind awoke;
      The darkness passed upon the plain;
      The great drops rattled at the pane.

Now piped the wind, or far aloof
Fell to a sough remote and dull;
And all night long with rush and lull
The rain kept drumming on the roof:
I heard till ear and sense were full
      The clash or silence of the leaves,
      The gurgle in the creaking eaves.

But when the fourth day came--at noon,
The darkness and the rain were by;
The sunward roofs were steaming dry;
And all the world was flecked and strewn
With shadows from a fleecy sky.
      The haymakers were forth and gone,
      And every rillet laughed and shone.

24. from At the Ferry

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

The Gatineau River flows through western Quebec and then joins the Ottawa River at the city of Gatineau.

I watch the swinging currents go
      Far down to where, enclosed and piled,
The logs crowd, and the Gatineau
      Comes rushing from the northern wild.
I see the long low point, where close
      The shore-lines, and the waters end,
I watch the barges pass in rows
      That vanish at the tapering bend.

I see as at the noon's pale core--
      A shadow that lifts clear and floats--
The cabin'd village round the shore,
      The landing and the fringe of boats;
Faint films of smoke that curl and wreathe,
      And upward with the like desire
The vast gray church that seems to breathe
      In heaven with its dreaming spire.

And there the last blue boundaries rise,
      That guard within their compass furled
This plot of earth: beyond them lies
      The mystery of the echoing world;
And still my thought goes on, and yields
      New vision and new joy to me,
Far peopled hills, and ancient fields,
      And cities by the crested sea.

I see no more the barges pass,
      Nor mark the ripple round the pier,
And all the uproar, mass on mass,
      Falls dead upon a vacant ear.
Beyond the tumult of the mills,
      And all the city's sound and strife,
Beyond the waste, beyond the hills,
      I look far out and dream of life.

25. from September

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

An elixir is a medicine or potion.

In far-off russet corn-fields, where the dry
      Gray shocks stand peaked and withering, half concealed
In the rough earth, the orange pumpkins lie,
      Full-ribbed; and in the windless pasture-field
The sleek red horses o'er the sun-warmed ground
      Stand pensively about in companies,
      While all around them from the motionless trees
The long clean shadows sleep without a sound.

Under cool elm-trees floats the distant stream,
      Moveless as air; and o'er the vast warm earth
The fathomless daylight seems to stand and dream,
      A liquid cool elixir--all its girth
Bound with faint haze, a frail transparency,
      Whose lucid purple barely veils and fills
      The utmost valleys and the thin last hills,
Nor mars one whit their perfect clarity.

Thus without grief the golden days go by,
      So soft we scarcely notice how they wend,
And like a smile half happy, or a sigh,
      The summer passes to her quiet end;
And soon, too soon, around the cumbered eaves
      Sly frosts shall take the creepers by surprise,
      And through the wind-touched reddening woods shall rise
October with the rain of ruined leaves.

26. A Re-assurance

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

Yarrow is a plant of the daisy family.

With what doubting eyes, oh sparrow,
      Thou regardest me,
Underneath yon spray of yarrow,
      Dipping cautiously.

Fear me not, oh little sparrow,
      Bathe and never fear,
For to me both pool and yarrow
      And thyself are dear.

27. By an Autumn Stream

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

Mullein is a wild, flowering plant. A gorget is something that covers the throat--sometimes a piece of jewelry or armour, or just a patch of colour.

Now overhead,
Where the rivulet loiters and stops,
The bittersweet hangs from the tops
Of the alders and cherries
Its bunches of beautiful berries,
Orange and red.

And the snowbirds flee,
Tossing up on the far brown field,
Now flashing and now concealed,
Like fringes of spray
That vanish and gleam on the gray
Field of the sea.

Flickering light,
Come the last of the leaves down borne,
And patches of pale white corn
In the wind complain,
Like the slow rustle of rain
Noticed by night.

Withered and thinned,
The sentinel mullein looms,
With the pale gray shadowy plumes
Of the goldenrod;
And the milkweed opens its pod,
Tempting the wind.

Aloft on the hill,
A cloudrift opens and shines
Through a break in its gorget of pines,
And it dreams at my feet
In a sad, silvery sheet,
Utterly still.

All things that be
Seem plunged into silence, distraught,
By some stern, some necessitous thought:
It wraps and enthralls
Marsh, meadow, and forest; and falls
Also on me.

28. Snow

from Lyrics of Earth, 1893

White are the far-off plains, and white
      The fading forests grow;
The wind dies out along the height,
      And denser still the snow,
A gathering weight on roof and tree,
      Falls down scarce audibly.

The road before me smooths and fills
      Apace, and all about
The fences dwindle, and the hills
      Are blotted slowly out;
The naked trees loom spectrally
      Into the dim white sky.

The meadows and far-sheeted streams
      Lie still without a sound;
Like some soft minister of dreams
      The snow-fall hoods me round;
In wood and water, earth and air,
      A silence everywhere.

Save when at lonely intervals
      Some farmer's sleigh, urged on,
With rustling runners and sharp bells,
      Swings by me and is gone;
Or from the empty waste I hear
      A sound remote and clear;

The barking of a dog, or call
      To cattle, sharply pealed,
Borne echoing from some wayside stall
      Or barnyard far a-field;
Then all is silent, and the snow
      Falls, settling soft and slow.

The evening deepens, and the gray
      Folds closer earth and sky;
The world seems shrouded far away;
      Its noises sleep, and I,
As secret as yon buried stream,
      Plod dumbly on, and dream.

29. In March

from Alcyone, 1899

To sunder is to split apart.

The sun falls warm: the southern winds awake:
The air seethes upward with a steamy shiver:
Each dip of the road is now a crystal lake,
And every rut a little dancing river.
Through great soft clouds that sunder overhead
The deep sky breaks as pearly blue as summer:
Out of a cleft beside the river's bed
Flaps the black crow, the first demure newcomer.
The last seared drifts are eating fast away
With glassy tinkle into glittering laces:
Dogs lie asleep, and little children play
With tops and marbles in the sunbare places;
And I that stroll with many a thoughtful pause
Almost forget that winter ever was.

30. To the Cricket

from Alcyone, 1899

Didst thou not tease and fret me to and fro,
Sweet spirit of this summer-circled field,
With that quiet voice of thine that would not yield
Its meaning, though I mused and sought it so?
But now I am content to let it go,
To lie at length and watch the swallows pass,
As blithe and restful as this quiet grass,
Content only to listen and to know
That years shall turn, and summers yet shall shine,
And I shall lie beneath these swaying trees,
Still listening thus; haply at last to seize,
And render in some happier verse divine
That friendly, homely, haunting speech of thine,
That perfect utterance of content and ease.

31. A Thunderstorm

from Alcyone, 1899

A moment the wild swallows like a flight
Of withered gust-caught leaves, serenely high,
Toss in the windrack up the muttering sky.
The leaves hang still. Above the weird twilight,
The hurrying centres of the storm unite
And spreading with huge trunk and rolling fringe,
Each wheeled upon its own tremendous hinge
Tower darkening on. And now from heaven's height
With the long roar of elm-trees swept and swayed,
And pelted waters, on the vanished plain
Plunges the blast. Behind the wild white flash
That splits abroad the pealing thunder-crash,
Over bleared fields and gardens disarrayed,
Column on column comes the drenching rain.

32. Indian Summer

from Alcyone, 1899

"Indian Summer" is a period of warm, dry weather in autumn.

The old grey year is near his term in sooth,
And now with backward eye and soft-laid palm
Awakens to a golden dream of youth,
A second childhood lovely and most calm,
And the smooth hour about his misty head
An awning of enchanted splendour weaves,
Of maples, amber, purple and rose-red,
And droop-limbed elms down-dropping golden leaves.
With still half-fallen lids he sits and dreams
Far in a hollow of the sunlit wood,
Lulled by the murmur of thin-threading streams,
Nor sees the polar armies overflood
The darkening barriers of the hills, nor hears
The north-wind ringing with a thousand spears.

33. Good Speech

from Alcyone, 1899

Think not, because thine inmost heart means well,
Thou hast the freedom of rude speech: sweet words
Are like the voices of returning birds
Filling the soul with summer, or a bell
That calls the weary and the sick to prayer.
Even as thy thought, so let thy speech be fair.

34. White Pansies

from Alcyone, 1899

In 1892, Archibald and Maud Lampman had their first child, a daughter named Natalie; their next child, Arnold, was born in 1894, but he died in infancy. His father wrote this poem in remembrance of his son.

Day and night pass over, rounding,
      Star and cloud and sun,
Things of drift and shadow, empty
      Of my dearest one.

Soft as slumber was my baby,
      Beaming bright and sweet;
Daintier than bloom or jewel
      Were his hands and feet.

He was mine, mine all, mine only,
      Mine and his the debt;
Earth and Life and Time are changers;
      I shall not forget.

Pansies for my dear one--heartsease--
      Set them gently so;
For his stainless lips and forehead,
      Pansies white as snow.

Would that in the flower-grown little
      Grave they dug so deep,
I might rest beside him, dreamless,
      Smile no more, nor weep.

35. Winter Uplands

from The Poems of Archibald Lampman, 1900

This is the last poem Lampman wrote, about a week before his death.

The frost that stings like fire upon my cheek,
The loneliness of this forsaken ground,
The long white drift upon whose powdered peak
I sit in the great silence as one bound;
The rippled sheet of snow where the wind blew
Across the open fields for miles ahead;
The far-off city towered and roofed in blue
A tender line upon the western red;
The stars that singly, then in flocks appear,
Like jets of silver from the violet dome,
So wonderful, so many and so near,
And then the golden moon to light me home--
The crunching snowshoes and the stinging air,
And silence, frost, and beauty everywhere.

36. The Sweetness of Life

From Lyrics of Earth and Alcyone

Marguerites are daisies.

It fell on a day I was happy,
      And the winds, the concave sky,
The flowers and the beasts in the meadow
      Seemed happy even as I;
And I stretched my hands to the meadow,
      To the bird, the beast, the tree:
"Why are ye all so happy?"
      I cried, and they answered me.

What sayest thou, Oh meadow,
      That stretches so wide, so far,
That none can say how many
      Thy misty marguerites are?
And what say ye, red roses,
      That o'er the sun-blanched wall
From your high black-shadowed trellis
      Like flame or blood-drops fall?
            "We are born, we are reared, and we linger
            A various space and die;
      We dream, and are bright and happy,
            But we cannot answer why."

What sayest thou, Oh shadow,
      That from the dreaming hill
All down the broadening valley
      Liest so sharp and still?
And thou, Oh murmuring brooklet,
      Whereby in the noonday gleam
The loosestrife burns like ruby,
      And the branchèd asters dream?
            "We are born, we are reared, and we linger
            A various space and die;
      We dream and are very happy,
            But we cannot answer why."

And then of myself I questioned,
      That like a ghost the while
Stood from me and calmly answered,
      With slow and curious smile:
"Thou art born as the flowers, and wilt linger
      Thine own short space and die;
Thou dream'st and art strangely happy,
      But thou canst not answer why."

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