(1849-1937 / Nova Scotia)

By The Bridge

WITH subtlest mimicry of wave and tide,
Of ocean storm, and current setting free,
Here by the bridge the river deep and wide,
Swaying the reeds along its muddy marge,
Speeds to the wharf the dusky coaling-barge
And dreams itself a commerce-quickening sea.

Wide sedge-rimmed meadows westward meet the eye,
Brown, silty, sere, where driftwood from the mills
Is thrown, as Spring's full flood sweeps by,

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And weeds grow rank as on the wild salt-marsh,
And lonely cries of sea-gulls, loud and harsh,
Pierce evening's silence to the echoing hills.

The scene, with all its varied, voiceless moods,
My eyes have looked upon so many years
That like my mother's songs, or the deep woods
In whose mysterious shade I used to play,
Weaving sweet fancies all the summer day,
It has strange power to waken joy or tears.

I love the lights that fringe the farther shore,
Great golden fireflies by a silver mere;
Mysterious torches they, that o'er and o'er
Recall to mind the dear souls gone, not set
Cold-gleaming crystals in God's coronet,
But gems that light our way with ruddy cheer.

Sometimes inverted in the wave they seem
Like orient palace-roofs and towers aflame
With rubies, or those sapphire walls that gleam
Amidst the visions of the holy Seer,
Who by the blue Ægean, with vision clear,
Saw splendours in the heavens he might not name.

When all the river lies encloaked in mist
So far away those trembling orbs of light
They symbol memories fair that still persist,
With glow or glimmer, of the shrouded years
Before we left, for laughter, cries and tears,
That world serene where souls are born in light.

I cannot watch unmoved the sunset here,
When swift volcanic fires of liquid gold
Alight on hills of purple haze appear,
And clouds, deep-crimsoned in the day's decline,
Like snowy festal-garments splashed with wine,
Lie careless, resting fleecy fold on fold.

So deep the meanings in these changing moods
Of earth and heaven, that I who reverent stand
Before a flower, and in the sombre woods
Hear speech that silences the common creeds,
Stand lost in wonder, like a man who reads
Immortal prophecies none can understand.

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