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Poems
Looking Forward
(January 12, 1829 – September 20, 1879 / Canada)

Looking Forward

How busily those little fingers soft
That within mine own are clasped so oft
Have been, throughout this bright summer day,
With pebbles and shells and leaves at play.
They have sought birds’ nests, plucked many a flower,
Have decked with mosses the garden bower,
Built tiny boats, without helm to steer,
Yet floated them safe o’er the lakelet clear.

Ah! a time will come, and that ere long,
When those soft hands will grow firm and strong;
When they’ll fling all boyish toys aside
In the dawning strength of manhood’s pride;
Disdaining the prizes, the treasures gay,
That they seize with such eager haste to-day;
And parting with youth’s joys, hopes and fears,
Seek to grasp the aims of manhood’s years.

Be it, then, thy care, my gentle boy,
That new-born strength to well employ;
Thine hand to raise in defence of right,
To protect the weak ’gainst unjust might;
Or in steadfast toil to spend its power,
That toil—our birthright, our earthly dower—
A God-given law from which none are free,
Whether of lofty or low degree.

And that childish voice, so sweet and clear,
That like music falls on my charmed ear,
Waking the echoes with laugh and song,
’Mid wood and field through the hours long;
Mocking the warbling bird in yon tree,
Or lisping thy prayers beside my knee,
When thy voice shall thrill with a deeper tone,
Say, how wilt thou use it, my child, my own?

To defend the cause of each sacred truth
Thou hast learned to prize in thy early youth,
In kindly word to the sad, the poor,
To those whose cross is hard to endure;
Wilt thou raise it in telling thy Maker’s praise,
In winning souls to His love and ways?
But never in proud or unholy strife,
Or in words with wrong to a brother rife.

And thy guileless heart whose truth, my boy,
Is to me a source of the purest joy,
In whose sinless depths I can plainly see,
That as yet from all thought of ill ’tis free;
When manhood’s down shall have clothed thy cheek,
When pleasure shall tempt and passion speak,
When beset by snares that have others beguiled,
Ah! what wilt thou do with thy heart, my child?

Guard it as treasure of price untold,
In value beyond earth’s gems and gold,
Guard it from breath, from shadow, of sin—
No tempter must foothold gain therein.
Let love of thy God and love of thy kind,
Like tendrils around it closely wind;
Blending those feelings of purest worth
With love for Canada, land of thy birth.

If my prayer be answered, with tranquil breast
I shall go content to my final rest,
When death’s icy finger has touched the brow
That bends above thee so fondly now:
Till then, I will daily ask of Heaven
That, in manhood, it may to thee be given
To devote thy voice, thy heart and thy hand,
To God, thy kind, and thy native land.

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