Spring on Mattagmi

by Duncan Campbell Scott

Duncan Campbell Scott

Far in the east the rain-clouds sweep and harry,
Down the long haggard hills, formless and low,
Far in the west the shell-tints meet and marry,
Piled gray and tender blue and roseate snow;
East--like a fiend, the bolt-breasted, streaming
Storm strikes the world with lightning and with hail;
West--like the thought of a seraph that is dreaming,
Venus leads the young moon down the vale.

Through the lake furrow between the gloom and bright'ning
Firm runs our long canoe with a whistling rush,
While Potàn the wise and the cunning Silver Lightning
Break with their slender blades the long clear hush;
Soon shall I pitch my tent amid the birches,
Wise Potàn shall gather boughs of balsam fir,
While for bark and dry wood Silver Lightning searches;
Soon the smoke shall hang and lapse in the moist air.

Soon shall I sleep--if I may not remember
One who lives far away where the storm-cloud went;
May it part and starshine burn in many a quiet ember,
Over her towered city crowned with large content;
Dear God, let me sleep, here where deep peace is,
Let me own a dreamless sleep once for all the years,
Let me know a quiet mind and what heart ease is,
Lost to light and life and hope, to longing and to tears.

Here in the solitude less her memory presses,
Yet I see her lingering where the birches shine,
All the dark cedars are sleep-laden like her tresses,
The gold-moted wood-pools pellucid as her eyen;
Memories and ghost-forms of the days departed
People all the forest lone in the dead of night;
While Potàn and Silver Lightning sleep, the happy-hearted,
Troop they from their fastnesses upon my sight.

Once when the tide came straining from the Lido,
In a sea of flame our gondola flickered like a sword,
Venice lay abroad builded like beauty's credo,
Smouldering like a gorget on the breast of the Lord:
Did she mourn for fame foredoomed or passion shattered
That with a sudden impulse she gathered at my side?
But when I spoke the ancient fates were flattered,
Chill there crept between us the imperceptible tide.

Once I well remember in her twilight garden,
She pulled a half-blown rose, I thought it meant for me,
But poising in the act, and with half a sigh for pardon,
She hid it in her bosom where none may dare to see:
Had she a subtle meaning?--would to God I knew it,
Where'er I am I always feel the rose leaves nestling there,
If I might know her mind and the thought which then flashed through it,
My soul might look to heaven not commissioned to despair.

Though she denied at parting the gift that I besought her,
Just a bit of ribbon or a strand of her hair;
Though she would not keep the token that I brought her,
Proud she stood and calm and marvellously fair;
Yet I saw her spirit--truth cannot dissemble--
Saw her pure as gold, staunch and keen and brave,
For she knows my worth and her heart was all atremble,
Lest her will should weaken and make her heart a slave.

If she could be here where all the world is eager
For dear love with the primal Eden sway,
Where the blood is fire and no pulse is thin or meagre,
All the heart of all the world beats one way!
There is the land of fraud and fame and fashion,
Joy is but a gaud and withers in an hour,
Here is the land of quintessential passion,
Where in a wild throb Spring wells up with power.

She would hear the partridge drumming in the distance,
Rolling out his mimic thunder in the sultry noons;
Hear beyond the silver reach in ringing wild persistence
Reel remote the ululating laughter of the loons;
See the shy moose fawn nestling by its mother,
In a cool marsh pool where the sedges meet;
Rest by a moss-mound where the twin-flowers smother
With a drowse of orient perfume drenched in light and heat:

She would see the dawn rise behind the smoky mountain,
In a jet of colour curving up to break,
While like spray from the iridescent fountain,
Opal fires weave over all the oval of the lake:
She would see like fireflies the stars alight and spangle
All the heaven meadows thick with growing dusk,
Feel the gipsy airs that gather up and tangle
The woodsy odours in a maze of myrrh and musk:

There in the forest all the birds are nesting,
Tells the hermit thrush the song he cannot tell,
While the white-throat sparrow never resting,
Even in the deepest night rings his crystal bell:
O, she would love me then with a wild elation,
Then she must love me and leave her lonely state,
Give me love yet keep her soul's imperial reservation,
Large as her deep nature and fathomless as fate:

Then, if she would lie beside me in the even,
On my deep couch heaped of balsam fir,
Fragrant with sleep as nothing under heaven,
Let the past and future mingle in one blur;
While all the stars were watchful and thereunder
Earth breathed not but took their silent light,
All life withdrew and wrapt in a wild wonder
Peace fell tranquil on the odorous night:

She would let me steal,--not consenting or denying--
One strong arm beneath her dusky hair,
She would let me bare, not resisting or complying,
One sweet breast so sweet and firm and fair;
Then with the quick sob of passion's shy endeavour,
She would gather close and shudder and swoon away,
She would be mine for ever and for ever,
Mine for all time and beyond the judgment day.

Vain is the dream, and deep with all derision--
Fate is stern and hard--fair and false and vain--
But what would life be worth without the vision,
Dark with sordid passion, pale with wringing pain?
What I dream is mine, mine beyond all cavil,
Pure and fair and sweet, and mine for evermore,
And when I will my life I may unravel,
And find my passion dream deep at the red core.

Venus sinks first lost in ruby splendour,
Stars like wood-daffodils grow golden in the night,
Far, far above, in a space entranced and tender,
Floats the growing moon pale with virgin light.
Vaster than the world or life or death my trust is
Based in the unseen and towering far above;
Hold me, O Law, that deeper lies than Justice,
Guide me, O Light, that stronger burns than Love.

Last updated April 03, 2023